Will it be the man who knows CV or IT?
The question won’t be answered until next Tuesday.
Until then, former Central Valley School District administrator Chuck Hafner and current information technology specialist Ben Wick will just have to wait and ponder how they did in Tuesday night’s interviews before the majority of the Spokane Valley City Council.
Hafner – whose “Positive Change” ideology helped put five members on the council – and Wick, who helped collect signatures that brought the 2002 incorporation question to a vote, are the only two who were interviewed to fill the late Bob McCaslin’s vacant council seat. One other, Steven Neill, dropped out of running in order to apply for a spot on the city’s Planning Commission; he got the nod from the council Tuesday (see separate story).
Deputy Mayor Gary Schimmels led the quizzing of Hafner and Wick, as Mayor Tom Towey recused himself from the interview process. Towey is a longtime friend of Hafner’s and donated money to Hafner’s upcoming election campaign.
Hafner announced earlier this year he would run for council but did not throw his hat in the ring when Council Member Rose Dempsey resigned for personal reasons back in January. Wick, however, did seek the post and was interviewed by the council last month – but the position went to Arne Woodard, a commercial real estate agent.
Hafner, who encouraged his friend McCaslin to run for City Council in 2009, said Tuesday he is only interested in filling out the remainder of McCaslin’s term, which is up in 2013. The chosen appointee will have to run for council in November, however, in order to give voters their say.
During the interview, Hafner said the No. 1 priority facing the city is the budget, which forecasts declining revenues in coming years.
“Our greatest issue is to be austere in our budget,” Hafner said. “It will be an extremely difficult decision.”
Council Member Bill Gothmann – the only remaining council member not elected under the Positive Change banner and who will not seek re-election in November – wanted to know Hafner’s plan to streamline the building permit process in Spokane Valley.
Hafner said contractors and builders want to get their permits and get started in their work on a “timely basis.”
“I’m not insinuating that staff is doing a bad job,” he said. “But staff needs the latitude to make those kinds of decisions.”
Hafner said the city does need to improve its communication with its citizens – a problem “going back to the dark ages” – and that any vision of the future is “hypothetical” until council members can develop a new vision to replace the recently jettisoned Sprague-Appleway Revitalization Plan.
Eventually, the city will need its own city hall rather than renting space for $450,000 a year, he said – but not now.
“We need to get some revenue,” he said. Generating sales tax will also help solve the ongoing problem of street maintenance, he added.
“We’re a service city,” Hafner said. “If road preservation is (a service we provide), that’s going to be in the budget.”
Wick was next up to be questioned, and his first interviewer was Woodard, who was chosen over Wick for Dempsey’s seat. The city’s newest council member wanted to know what No. 1 on Wick’s priority list was.
“Coming up with some sort of long-term goal,” Wick said. With SARP’s dissolution, the council now must come up with a new plan to help fill vacancies on the deteriorating commercial corridor. “We need a vision.”
In order to achieve that goal, Wick said it would take a collaborative process by not only the council working together but involving the community, as well.
“We need everybody coming to the table,” he said. “It needs to be inclusive, or it’s not going to be successful.”
As for the $4 million a year needed for continued street maintenance, Wick said he believes money that the city is currently paying for the septic-tank replacement program and for full-width paving of the affected streets could be reallocated to the road fund, since sewer work in the Valley is anticipated to end this year. That money, along with the $1 million already being put aside annually, could reach as high as $3 million a year.
Hafner or Wick will be appointed to the council next Tuesday, May 17, 6 p.m., at Spokane Valley City Hall, 11707 E. Sprague.