Spokane Valley City Council candidates Bo Tucker and Tim Hattenburg both hope to encourage growth if elected, but disagree about whether the city needs to pursue inclusion and diversity initiatives in the future.
Hattenburg, an author and former library trustee, said raising taxes is a last resort but that the city needs to commit to a long-term plan to pay for road repairs.
Tucker, a chiropractor, said he supports expanding the tax base and economy first, though he acknowledges the city may have to ask voters for more money if citizens needs services that can’t be paid for in any other way.
Spokane Valley’s budget is nearly $90 million, and the city has a population of nearly 100,000 people. Tucker and Hattenburg are running to replace outgoing councilman Sam Wood, who has been a member of the council since 2016. Wood said it was time to “give someone else a turn” and said he didn’t plan to endorse either candidate. He said he’s been sitting on boards since 1990, is now 73, and was ready to move on from city politics.
Tucker said the city needs to keep families in mind as it looks to develop the city further. Apartment complexes that are built on busy corridors also need to have planned green space that families living in large developments can use. He said the housing shortage also includes single-family homes and that the City Council needs to include them when they discuss development in the future as well.
“I’ve been in places where there’s an apartment building, and it’s just an apartment building, right on a busy street,” Tucker said. “When you go downtown to metropolitan areas, there’s no availability for people, families to get out and do anything, … It’s unacceptable. We need to not over regulate, and provide that for residents of the city.”
Hattenburg said there have been several successful apartment complexes on busy corridors and he supports those types of projects in those locations, but not in residential areas. He said duplexes however, can sometimes fix into residential neighborhoods and be better for the neighborhood than leaving a single family home in that location.
He said a house in his neighborhood that was known for drug use and nuisances was replaced by a duplex, which has brought up the values of the surrounding properties. He said the developer has also landscaped the surrounding area.
A few apartments in a duplex, especially if they are senior apartments, can be far better than the single family home that was there before it, Hattenburg said.
Tucker said he would consider duplexes, or all other proposed developments in residential areas, on a case-by-case basis.
When it comes to assisting the homeless population in Spokane Valley, Hattenburg said he still hasn’t given up on working with other governments in the area.
“It’s a regional issue,” he said. “Looking at the short window we have now, especially the way the weather is now, that would be our best way.”
Collaborating with other groups can help reduce homelessness long-term and short term, he said, noting he is also open to the idea of someday opening a shelter in Spokane Valley. He noted, though, that the city should study the issue to understand where its money would be spent best.
Tucker said government can never replace the role of individual citizens to care for their neighbors and that he has volunteered and taken time to get to know people who are homeless, such as volunteering at the mobile shower trailer.
“The government needs to be involved, but the resources of taking care of the homeless could take a huge amount of our budget away, which I don’t think is appropriate.” Tucker said. “I think a lot of humanity, physical needs, can be managed from community efforts.”
Tucker said he does not yet have a specific proposal for how the city should address homelessness but that the city might eventually need to invest in a shelter.
“If it makes the most sense to provide a shelter, then I think the city needs to think about that and figure out what options are there,” he said. “I don’t have that answer, because I haven’t studied the issue well enough. I have studied the issue of how do I help my fellow man, my whole life. That, I’m pretty firm at what we need to do.”
If elected, Hattenburg said he would like to review the city’s inclusion policy. He said he didn’t understand why some council members reacted so strongly against the proposal, when current councilwoman Linda Thompson suggested the city look into improving equity and inclusivity.
“The reaction from some of the city council members, that it’s offensive to even bring it up, I don’t even understand that reaction,” he said. “You claim it’s an inclusive city already. What’s the problem of looking up the wording of something just to make sure we’re on board, especially the issues that have happened locally and nationally with white supremacy?”
Hattenburg said equity is important, and personal to him, in part because he has two mixed-race children, who he said have been racially profiled before, though not necessarily while living in Spokane.
Tucker said if there were a demonstrable case of discrimination at the city, then it should take action. But if it isn’t a current issue, and there are already protections under state law, the city should not write a new policy.
“Why would we engage in something that isn’t necessary?” he said. “Because in my mind, that’s like increasing regulations.”
Tucker has won support from current council members, including Spokane Valley Mayor Rod Higgins, who said he’s looked at both candidates’ backgrounds and that Tucker’s views most closely resemble his own.
“He’s the best candidate,” Higgins said, adding that Tucker “ is closer to the mentality I have. It was an easy choice.”
Hattenburg is supported by both of his former opponents in the primary election. Both Pat Stretch and Shaun Stanfield said they agreed with Hattenburg’s comments on housing.
Stanfield said he also agreed with Hattenburg’s approach to homelessness, while Stretch said he was supporting Hattenburg in part because he is not endorsed by Rep. Matt Shea, a controversial Spokane Valley Republican.
This summer, Shea described Tucker as a “ dedicated family man” and called his opponents “moderates” or “Marxist-leaning.”
The Legislature has hired a private firm to investigate whether Shea has promoted political violence. Some donors withdrew their support for Shea after he took credit for a manifesto that condemns same-sex marriage and calls for the death of those who violate “biblical law.”
Tucker said he has not sought Shea’s support or received any personal communications indicating Shea has endorsed him. When asked if he had a personal relationship with Shea, attended his events or was familiar with his recent activities, Tucker said he did not want to discuss Shea and was focusing on his own campaign. He said he also did not want to speculate on activities that are still under investigation.
“Why should I speculate on something that doesn’t concern the city of Spokane Valley, policy-wise?” Tucker said.
Tucker said he would prefer to focus on what he sees as the main question of this race: whether voters prefer a progressive candidate or a conservative one.
“That’s what the people of Spokane Valley are deciding,” he said. “It’s between a conservative individual, and a Democrat.”
Spokane Valley City Council races are nonpartisan, but Hattenburg has run as a Democrat in other races in the past, including against Shea in 2008.
Hattenburg said some local Republican leaders are supporting him, that he is fiscally conservative and that party is not relevant in a nonpartisan race.
“It doesn’t have anything to do with being a Republican or a Democrat,” he said. “It’s about the budget and infrastructure. All of those things are nonpartisan on both sides.”
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