Three Spokane City Council positions are up for grabs on the Nov. 5 ballot. These are very competitive races with strong candidates and no easy decisions. Each choice involves tradeoffs depending on what matters most to voters.
Should voters look for quick fixes or long-term strategic thinking? Should they prioritize bringing ideological balance to what has been an overwhelmingly liberal council majority in recent years? Maybe they want more business acumen (they should) or someone who can collaborate with colleagues and the public.
Then there are the issues. Homelessness, transportation, housing and economic development all will challenge the new council. Certain candidates also will continue to want the council to wade into state and national issues, too.
The most important is the most simple: Which candidate in each race will better help Spokane move forward?
Having studied the candidates, watched them debate and considered that fundamental question, we recommend Michael Cathcart, Lori Kinnear and Andy Rathbun.
District 1, Position 1 – Northeast
Tim Benn arguably has deeper roots in the local Northeast community. Michael Cathcart has broader connections across the entire city. Council members might come from a district, but they need a broader perspective. In a close race, voters should choose Cathcart for this open seat.
This race comes down to experience more than anything else. Cathcart has the wider experience and skill set that will allow him to serve the community well on council. He has an extensive background in city governance. He’s never held elected office but has served on multiple city committees and is executive director of Better Spokane and government affairs director for the Spokane Homebuilders Association. He also possesses a demonstrated commitment to government transparency as the person behind Proposition 1 on the November ballot, which would open public union bargaining to public scrutiny.
District 2, Position 1 – South
Lori Kinnear is the incumbent candidate in this race. Voters looking for a continuation of the work the current council has done can cast their ballot confidently for her. More important, she provides a principled commitment to long-term, strategic planning as embodied in the city’s comprehensive plan. It encourages support for many modes of transportation and higher-density development along major corridors. Density might not appeal to everyone, but predictability in long-term planning should.
Her opponent, Tony Kiepe, has a lot to commend him. He would bring valuable business experience to the council and a focus on economic development. He also would be an ideological counterpoint to the current liberal council majority. The problem is that he would bring more than balance. Electing Kiepe would throw a conservative firecracker onto the council. Voters need look no further than his regrettable comments in support of State Rep. Matt Shea’s outlandish and conspiratorial ideas to wonder what Kiepe’s real priorities are.
Kinnear is the stronger choice.
District 3, Position 1 - Northwest
Of all three races, this one presents the clearest opportunity to bring new perspectives and opportunities for collaboration to the council by electing Andy Rathbun. His opponent, incumbent Karen Stratton is accessible to residents, but when it comes to working with other elected officials, especially the mayor, things have been rockier.
Stratton’s priorities might appeal to some voters, but they hinder economic development and resident-focused governance. She has fought development in Northwest and has been strongly allied with city employees, perhaps because she once was one. That defense of city workers included opposing a regional emergency communications system. She doesn’t like it because it could cost city dispatcher jobs. Never mind that it would save taxpayers money and improve service.
Rathbun, on the other hand, has a history of working collaboratively to solve problems. With more than 20 years of community service, most prominently as a leader of the West Central Community Center, he knows how to bring people to the table, listen to all sides, and find a way to get things done. He also will bring balance to council, helping moderate its tendency to veer into issues that have little direct impact on Spokane.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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