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Roads, internet at forefront of issues for Medical Lake City Council candidates

Oct. 7, 2021 Updated Wed., Oct. 13, 2021 at 10:44 p.m.

Candidates for Medical Lake City Council say they want to keep the city debt-free and focus on improving public services.

While one candidate advocated for road and park improvements, the other said the city should focus on extending internet access.

Despite their different backgrounds, incumbent member Donald Kennedy and his opponent, Howard Griffith, agreed wise spending was important for the city of 5,000.

Kennedy, who ran for council in both 2015 and 2017, became a council member in 2019 when he was appointed the last two years to fill a fellow member’s unexpired term. He said he wanted to continue being a voice for fiscal conservatism.

Griffith, who works as an endpoint systems engineer at Eastern Washington University, said his campaign centered on bringing a nonincumbent voice to the council.

“To be perfectly honest, I am a complete newbie to the political arena,” Griffith said. “It seemed that the City Council had been there for quite some time, at least in Medical Lake, with the exception of one position. I wanted to contribute to my community in several different ways.”

Griffith moved to Medical Lake two years ago, in contrast to Kennedy, who is a 20-year resident .

“My main focus is that everything is run responsibly, and no crazy spending on things,” Kennedy said.

With his computer engineering background, Griffith said he could help the council look at its decisions through an analytical lens. One of these issues, he said, includes the issue of wider internet access in Medical Lake.

“That’s one area that is causing a lot of turmoil right now with people having very different levels of service or overall capability,” Griffith said.

Kennedy said he also recognized the need for improved public works, specifically beautifying local roads and parks.

“The roads need to be spruced up. We have some roads that are not in good shape,” Kennedy said. “We have a regular schedule for road maintenance and things like that, but I don’t think that covers all the streets that really need to be upgraded.”

The issues Medical Lake faces are coupled with its challenging location, Kennedy said. The city finds itself surrounded by state and federally owned lands that complicate building new residences or even attracting new storefronts in Medical Lake, he said.

“We don’t get traffic flow. Airway Heights has a highway pass through it, Cheney has the college and tons of people go in that way,” Kennedy said. “Other businesses I think could work here – architects, surveyors, the businesses that don’t depend on foot traffic – somebody has to go out and get them, and they have to see some incentive for coming here.”

That incentive should not come from the City Council, Kennedy said, whose role stops at ensuring a smooth permit process for businesses.

Griffith said he wanted to see Medical Lake maintain its small-town charm and lean into the potential tourism of the town’s surrounding waters – namely the nearby Medical, West Medical and Silver lakes .

“We’ve got, like, four lakes and other bodies of water in our immediate area, so I think they should go for the folks that want to come out and commune with nature because it’s all around us,” Griffith said.

Whether Medical Lake adopts its own local police department also remains a key issue for the community. The mayoral race is characterized by the candidates’ different views on the issue. Mayoral candidate Terri Cooper wants to bring back a Medical Lake law enforcement agency; incumbent Mayor Shirley Maike said it’s not financially feasible.

Griffith and Kennedy agreed in principle with Maike. Griffith said the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office has provided good law enforcement services to the city. Kennedy said he knew from the time on the council the city could not pay for a local police force.

“I don’t know that it’s fiscally responsible to do that. That’s one of the things I think we’ll need to see,” Griffith said.

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