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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Democrat seeks second term on Spokane Valley City Council, faces off against conservative challenger Rob Chase

Tim Hattenburg, the only Spokane Valley City Council member affiliated with the Democratic Party , is running for re-election against Rob Chase, the former Republican representative who has advocated for the gold standard and splitting Eastern Washington into a 51st state.

Hattenburg, 70, has been politically active for decades. A longtime teacher in the Central Valley School District, he won election to the City Council in 2019.

While he’s the only elected Spokane Valley politician who lacks connections to the Republican Party, Hattenburg gets along well with his fellow City Council members.

For example, Mayor Pam Haley in 2022 appointed him as the city’s representative on the Spokane Transit Authority’s board, a coveted assignment. Haley gave Hattenburg the job while simultaneously stripping council members Ben Wick and Brandi Peetz – both precinct committee officers of for the Spokane County Republican Party – of their influential committee seats.

Hattenburg said he enjoys the nonpartisan nature of the City Council and doesn’t see the point of getting into fights with his more conservative council members.

“I know my conscience, and I’ll speak my conscience, but then I’ll move on,” he said. “Just to drag things out and hold a grudge, it doesn’t accomplish anything. It just makes people dig their heels in more.”

Chase, 70, spent eight years as Spokane County treasurer and served in the state Legislature from 2020 to 2022.

He did not respond to multiple requests for comment, but his campaign slogan is “Truth Matters,” and his pitch to voters on his website reads: “This election, DON’T vote for a politician and the status quo. Vote for a statesman. Vote for a Patriot.”

While he’s held office as a Republican, Chase has libertarian leanings, even running as a libertarian for Congress in 2002 against Republican Rep. George Nethercutt. He’s known for holding several fringe views and promoting election and vaccine misinformation.

Hattenburg called Chase’s positions on the gold standard and statehood for Eastern Washington “regressive.”

On his campaign website, Chase doesn’t delve into his views on Valley-specific issues. Instead, he touts the 93% rating he received from the Conservative Political Action Conference for his work as a state lawmaker and an award he received from the Citizens Alliance for Property Rights.

Here’s a look at where Hattenburg stands on key issues the city is facing.

Should Spokane Valley form its own police department?

Hattenburg is a major proponent of Spokane Valley’s contract with the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office for law enforcement, and he has the endorsement of Republican Sheriff John Nowels.

To an outside observer, Spokane Valley appears to have a police department of its own. Dozens of custom-painted SUVs marked “Spokane Valley Police” patrol the city’s streets, after all.

But in reality, the Valley pays Spokane County to police the city, and the Spokane Valley Police Department is an extension of the Sheriff’s Office. Dave Ellis, the Valley’s police chief, works for Nowels.

Hattenburg said contracting with the Sheriff’s Office serves the city well. Splitting off and forming a standalone police department would be a waste of money, he said.

“It’s almost comical that some of the people that want to have their own police force are some of the ones that say they’re fiscally conservative,” Hattenburg said.

Should the Valley create new taxes to pay for roadwork?

Hattenburg is unafraid to acknowledge Spokane Valley needs to impose new taxes to pay for future road maintenance.

Spokane Valley’s roads are in good shape, according to city staff and road asphalt assessment metrics.

“Our roads compared to the entire region are very good overall,” Hattenburg said, “very good.”

But the city isn’t spending nearly enough to keep them good.

Today, Spokane Valley spends about $8 million a year on road projects. According to staff, the city needs to spend about $16 million annually to ensure its roads don’t gradually fall into disrepair. Preventive maintenance is the fiscally prudent move, experts say, since repairing an existing road is far cheaper than rebuilding a dilapidated one from the bottom up.

Hattenburg said Spokane Valley should impose a fee on license plate tabs, in order to generate more revenue for road maintenance. A small sales tax could be a good idea as well, he said.

“I think to maintain what we have, it’s worth paying a little bit more,” he said.

Does the Valley need homeless shelters?

Spokane Valley, compared to Spokane, has long had a hands-off approach to homelessness. But the city has taken on a more direct role in addressing the issue in the past few years, creating several new staff positions dedicated to housing and homelessness issues.

Despite those investments in new staff, Spokane Valley continues to lack a homeless shelter – although Family Promise is creating a small one for families.

Hattenburg said he believes the Valley should have shelter beds. The city allows the creation of shelters so long as they’re a mile or more apart and contain 20 or fewer beds.

The former teacher said large shelters, which aren’t allowed under city law, should be avoided.

“I don’t believe they work,” he said, “and throwing money at a problem isn’t going to work.”