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Growth, public safety key issues in race for Liberty Lake City Council

Oct. 14, 2021 Updated Thu., Oct. 14, 2021 at 4:02 p.m.

Liberty Lake’s lone contested race for City Council features two candidates who are focused on preparing the city for continued growth.

Jamie Freeze Baird has served on the City Planning Commission since 2017. In that role, she’s part of a board that makes recommendations to the City Council, but now, she wants to serve on the council and help make final decisions about the city’s future.

Mike Behary, a city planner for the city of Coeur d’Alene, has lived in Liberty Lake since 2015 and said he is at a point in his life when he can run for elected office and serve the community.

Neither candidate has held elected office before.

They are vying to replace Odin Langford, the long time council member who was first elected in 2007 and decided not to seek re-election this year.

Baird believes her experience on the Planning Commission makes her well-suited to make the leap to City Council.

Overall, she said the city’s done a great job of planning out the community and trying to anticipate its growing pains, allowing it to handle the influx of new residents in recent years.

“We’ve laid a lot of great groundwork,” Baird said.

Projects just recently completed, like the widening of the Harvard Road Bridge, took years to piece together, she noted, demonstrating how important it is to be looking ahead.

“Our city is growing by leaps and bounds. Everybody wants to be in Liberty Lake, but we just need to make sure our infrastructure can handle and welcome those new residents without causing additional points of concerns,” Baird said.

Behary has built a career on planning, including code rewriting and economic development.

“I have over 18 years of city planning experience and I’ve done everything there is to do with city planning,” Behary said.

Behary said he’s heard from voters who believe the city’s growth needs to be better managed. Every city is different, Behary said, and a city like Spokane is likely better served by dense development than a city like Liberty Lake, whose residents tend to prefer a community oriented toward single-family home development.

The city’s growth is “going to be hard to manage, but if you plan for it, you’ve got a better opportunity to make good decisions,” Behary said.

Baird said voters want to ensure Liberty Lake remains a safe community, and that with growth comes a natural strain on its police department.

The city needs to continue to prioritize funding for the police department, she said, but it also needs to rekindle its community watch efforts and Spokane’s Sheriff Community Oriented Policing Effort, or SCOPE, programs.

“I’m really interested to see how we can re-energize our SCOPE programs and get that additional police coverage to make sure we’re able to keep an eye on our neighborhoods,” Baird said.

Baird said she wants to make Liberty Lake the best place to live in Spokane County.

“The biggest thing I tell people when I’m out doorbelling is that I consider myself a good listener. Even if I disagree with you, I will take the time to listen to all sides and make an informed decision,” Baird said.

For many residents, traffic is a concern, Behary noted, and they are perturbed by motorists speeding through residential neighborhoods.

Public safety “definitely needs to be a top priority,” Behary said.

“We need to make sure we have adequate police to patrol the streets,” Behary said.

Baird also wants to find ways to make Liberty Lake government more accessible. Not everyone has time to sit through a long council meeting on a weeknight, she said, so she’d like to make it easy for people to watch a recap or see a synopsis.

“We can work smarter and not harder, and reach a wider audience,” Baird said.

Behary described himself as collaborative and focused on gathering information before making a decision. He said he would be fiscally responsible and make sure the city’s not overspending or creating new taxes.

Behary said he would dive into the city budget to determine what needs to be cut and what needs an increase in funding.

“I wouldn’t want to be in favor of raising taxes or anything like that,” Behary said.

The two will face off at the polls in November.

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