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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Incumbent Liberty Lake City Councilman facing two challengers in upcoming election

Voters get to choose between an incumbent city councilman, a former city councilman and a retired civil engineer in the race for Liberty Lake City Council position No. 3.

Six of the seven existing Liberty Lake City Council seats will be up for grabs in the November general election, but only one has more than two candidates and a contested primary election in the August primary.

Challengers Keith Kopelson and Larry Marshall are hoping to unseat longtime incumbent City Councilman Dan Dunne.

Dunne has served on the City Council for more than a decade. He currently works as an engineer for Washington Trust Bank and spent more than 20 years as a mechanical engineer for a handful of different companies.

Kopelson was a Liberty Lake City councilman from 2012 to 2016. He has decades of experience as a property manager and also co-owns a laundromat, security guard company and weight loss clinic.

Marshall is a retired civil engineer and land surveyor. Other than serving on the board of directors for a water and sewer district in Montana, he’s a newcomer to politics.

The three candidates aren’t making any lofty campaign promises or pitching detailed outlines of what they’d like to accomplish if elected.

Dunne said he was encouraged to run for re-election by residents who are worried about the future of the Liberty Lake Municipal Library.

The Liberty Lake library has been a frequent topic of debate at City Council meetings for over a year. The controversy began following a citizen-led effort to ban “Gender Queer,” a graphic novel that deals with gender identity.

“Gender Queer” is one of dozens of books that have inspired censorship debates throughout the country in the past few years. While it’s won numerous awards, its detractors argue it’s inappropriate for kids because it includes pictures of oral sex. The library’s board of trustees and the City Council decided against banning the book.

But the City Council has since attempted to change Liberty Lake law in order to give itself more authority over the library board, which is made up of volunteers appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the council.

A four-member majority of the City Council this spring voted to give the council final say over library board policies and book decisions, but the proposal failed after Mayor Cris Kaminskas vetoed it.

The debate isn’t over, however. Councilman Chris Cargill has vowed to vote against all of the mayor’s library board appointees until the council has more oversight over the board, and the issue will likely re-emerge at future City Council meetings.

Dunne was among the council’s minority during the library board debate. Politicians shouldn’t have any say over what books belong in libraries, he said.

“That process has no business being in the hands of elected officials,” Dunne said.

Kopelson said he has “mixed feelings” about the library board debate.

“I think the library board and the head librarian, they can make decisions on books,” he said.

Kopelson said he doesn’t want kids to be able to check out inappropriate materials, the same way they can’t get into R-rated movies, but also doesn’t want to trample on the First Amendment.

Marshall said he simultaneously agreed with the City Council majority and Kaminskas’ veto. He said he agrees the library board needs more oversight but also feels the City Council needs more time to refine its proposed ordinance.

Aside from library issues, Dunne said he’d like to focus on increasing available housing, improving public safety and further developing the city’s parks.

Liberty Lake has a housing shortage, Dunne said, while acknowledging he doesn’t yet know what ability the City Council has to address it.

“This jurisdiction, like the rest of them in the region, is enduring an incredible high-cost-in-housing crisis,” he said. “That crisis drives behaviors that break down our community, in my opinion.”

Kopelson said he’s running in large part because he’s a conservative and feels the City Council has become a bit too liberal.

He said he’d be a champion of fiscal conservatism if elected. Kopelson specifically stressed that he dislikes it when the city acquires property.

“The real estate purchases really bother me,” he said.

In addition to generally opposing real estate additions, Kopelson said he disapproves of the city’s decision to spend millions of dollars on a new clubhouse for the Trailhead Golf Course.

He also said he believes Liberty Lake is growing too fast, and wishes the city hadn’t approved some recent apartment complexes.

“I think we should have slowed down,” Kopelson said.

Marshall said he’s running because he feels his perspective as a civil engineer would be a boon on the City Council. He said he’d be eager to work on long-term planning for transportation infrastructure.

In hindsight, the city could have made better transportation infrastructure decisions, Marshall said. For instance, he said two intersections that recently received stoplights should have been converted to roundabouts instead.

“It’s too late now,” he said.

Marshall said he’d also focus on improving public safety and potentially getting more security cameras for the Liberty Lake Police Department.