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Monday, November 18, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion >  Editorial

Editorial: Choose new leaders for Spokane mayor and council president

Spokane will have a new mayor and council president after the November election, but there’s new and then there’s new. Two candidates are seeking promotions from their current elected offices. The status quo has left Spokane stalled on too many critical issues. We therefore recommend newcomers Nadine Woodward for mayor and Cindy Wendle for council president over those office climbers. They will bring much-needed balance to city leadership.

The majority of the current council receives heavy backing from public employee and other unions. That has tied leaders’ hands when it comes time to make tough decisions about personnel and organizational structure. Spokane has seen that play out when it comes to everything from homelessness to the controversy over a combined dispatch center.

The city needs council members who bring business sensibilities and understand the challenges of building an economy in a border county 250 miles from the Interstate 5 corridor. That’s not to say that the city should be run like a business. It’s a government. But diverse management views are missing.

Nadine Woodward for mayor

As a former news anchor at KXLY, Woodward has closely observed city government. It shows. Her campaign has avoided the pitfalls that catch many first-time candidates, and she has put forward sober plans for pressing issues. She also brings strong ethics and a journalist’s commitment to transparency and fairness.

On homelessness, Woodward has the sensible view that taxpayers should not subsidize the lifestyle of those who are unwilling to get help. To that end, she has suggested a seven-point plan to address homelessness that is big on not just compassion but also personal accountability.

She is not, however, a single-issue candidate. On issue after issue, she has staked out pragmatic positions.

Make no mistake, though. This race is in no small part a referendum on her opponent, Ben Stuckart, who has served as council president for the past eight years. His abrasive, confrontational approach at council meetings should serve as a huge red flag to voters. Stuckart’s past is so littered with troubling incidents, his campaign felt it necessary to try to explain away the top-10 controversies.

Woodward would be able to develop new approaches to the city’s challenges free from the political baggage that would inhibit Stuckart. We encourage voters to support her for mayor.

Cindy Wendle for council president

Like the mayoral race, the race for council president pits a political newcomer against a current officeholder seeking to climb the ladder. Wendle, the newcomer, is the better choice.

Wendle has made public safety, homelessness and bringing some common sense back to City Hall cornerstones of her campaign. As someone who has been engaged in local property management and working with small businesses, she has terrific credentials as a businessperson who can help steer the city toward a vibrant economy.

What Wendle lacks in political polish, she makes up for with an approach that would eschew state and national political agendas in favor of developing collaborative local solutions to the city’s challenges. That shift in focus would be a welcome change to a council that at times has prioritized issues that are really the purview of state and federal government and has tried to cram Seattle and Olympia solutions onto Spokane challenges.

Like the mayoral race, this one is also a referendum of sorts. Wendle’s opponent is Council President Pro Tem Breean Beggs. While his campaign touts ways that he and the current council have spent money to address public safety, transportation and homelessness, residents can see for themselves how successful that has been.

Choose Wendle for council president.

Gender and politics

Observant readers will note that in both of these races we recommend the female candidate over a tenured male. In the past quarter century, a woman was mayor for only four years, and it’s been at least 20 years since a woman was elected council president.

While voters should base their decisions on the quality of the candidates and their ideas regardless of gender, it is striking that City Hall’s top echelons have been so overwhelmingly male in recent decades. That says something about our community, and this election is an opportunity to say times have changed.

Endorsements are made solely by the ownership group and publisher of this newspaper. As is the case at most newspapers across the nation, The Spokesman-Review newsroom and its editors are not a part of this endorsement process.

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