Voters in Cheney will choose between two experienced candidates when they cast a vote for the City Council’s position 6.
Two-term incumbent Jill Weiszmann, 70, is facing her first contested election after being appointed to the council in 2011. Her challenger, Allan Gainer, 57, is no stranger to Cheney politics after serving as the city’s mayor from 2006 to 2009 before losing a re-election bid.
The former mayor decided to return to city politics after feeling like the council had become yes-men and -women.
“I want to make sure when we pass something, I’d like to think about what we are passing,” he said.
Cheney has struggled in recent years with water shortages and water quality problems.
For Gainer, a Navy veteran, former Cheney business owner and current advertisement salesman with The Spokesman-Review, this starts with the water situation, which he said could have been avoided if city staff listened to the people on the city’s front lines. He vows to not raise taxes as he works toward a solution.
“The water needs to be dealt with more, and we need to be proactive,” Gainer said. “I have that background and know what is going on. I won’t take what staff is telling me right away. I’ll ask questions.”
Weiszmann said that the water situation in Cheney is better than it has been in almost a decade, but she will continue to seek funding to transition the city toward water reuse.
“The difference is incredible, and it is noticeable,” she said.
As a member of the Spokane County Growth Management Steering Committee of Elected Officials since 2012, Weiszmann said she is prepared to tackle growth in Cheney. Weiszmann said she has a trust in Cheney’s planning department, mayor and city administrators to find solutions and ideas for growth.
“The biggest thing for Cheney is to make sure we grow smartly,” she said.
Gainer sees room for growth in Cheney and wants to ensure it is the “right growth” for the city. As more companies move to the West Plains, Gainer wants to accelerate Cheney’s population by encouraging the construction of more affordable housing.
“This is a big issue, and I want to be right there involved in the decision-making process of it, and it’s no easy answer either,” Gainer said.
Neither candidate has a solution for Cheney’s lack of an emergency response unit south of the railroad tracks when a train blocks the crossings.
“We’ve got to dive in and attack it,” Gainer said “The way we did things in the past isn’t going to work, we’ve got to think of new ways. The train isn’t going anywhere.”
He encourages brainstorming a solution, but said a satellite station on the south side is most probable, despite the high costs.
Weiszmann was grateful to the citizens of Cheney for approving public safety and EMS levies that allowed the city to update its fire equipment, boost training and add three police officers and a student resource officer to the force.
If re-elected, she would continue to accrue funding for safety, but also Cheney’s infrastructure, including the city’s street-to-sidewalk preservation program, which she says keeps Cheney’s streets among of the best maintained in the county.
“When you have low revenue and a low tax base, every bit of funding that we can get is incredibly important,” Weiszmann said.
Gainer said he’d like to improve Cheney’s parks by adding something that is more interesting to the children of today, and he wants to reinvigorate Cheney as a Tree City U.S.A. community, an initiative which he pursued when he was mayor.
“It seems to have been put on the back burner, and I’d like to bring that back because that beautifies the city,” Gainer said.
Both candidates pledged to be fiercely involved if elected.
Gainer will push for increased transparency including advocating for video streaming council meetings for the public to view and listen to the voices of the community.
“I would definitely be there for the people,” he said.
Through various committees and meetings, she attends, Weiszmann said she will stay informed and actively engaged.
“I want to continue serving our citizens,” she said.
Four seats on Cheney’s seven-person City Council on on the Nov. 5 ballot.
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