Tuesday night’s 4-1 vote to appoint Chuck Hafner to the Spokane Valley City Council plugs the final hole in the governing body’s lineup – at least until voters get their say next fall.
Hafner -- a retired Central Valley School District consultant, administrator and principal -- was sworn in even as he continues to make plans for his election campaign. He announced in February that he would seek a seat on the council. However, after his good friend Bob McCaslin passed away in March, Hafner said he felt it was appropriate to seek an appointment to McCaslin’s vacant Position 5 seat.
Hafner will now hold the job until voters make their selection in November. If elected, he will fill out the remainder of McCaslin’s term until 2013. Last week, while interviewed by council, Hafner hinted he did not intent to stay in office longer than that.
Hafner conceived the “Positive Change” political stance in 2009 in the waning weeks of that year’s failed disincorporation movement. While he never sought the city’s dissolution, he put the wheels in motion to seat four new City Council members and re-elect a fifth who bought into Hafner’s ideology of simpler Valley values and the destruction of the Sprague-Appleway Revitalization Plan.
Hafner – who voted against incorporation in 2002 -- supported fellow Positive Change council newbies Dean Grafos, Brenda Grassel, Tom Towey and McCaslin in their successful campaigns in ’09. Also on board with Hafner’s ideology was Gary Schimmels, a council member since the city incorporated in 2003.
Grafos, Grassel, Schimmels and new Council Member Arne Woodard all voted to appoint Hafner. Towey recused himself from the meeting because of his long friendship with Hafner, plus the mayor had also contributed money to his election campaign.
Bill Gothmann, the lone council member outside the Positive Change camp, supported Ben Wick to be appointed to the council and was outvoted.
Hafner first went toe-to-toe with the previous City Council over zoning concerns in his Ponderosa neighborhood. Two years ago, Hafner got involved with the informational campaign to restore Crime Check, the nonemergency law-enforcement reporting line, to Spokane County.
After he was sworn in, Hafner’s first vote was in consensus with the rest of the council to grant a 60-day extension to work out a developer’s agreement for a potential low-income senior apartment complex south of St. John Vianney Parish, located at 503 N. Walnut.
Later in the meeting, during a discussion on upcoming road projects, Hafner questioned why the city wasn’t putting more money away for street maintenance and preservation. It’s been estimated the city requires about $4 million a year for street maintenance – some of which is paid for through Spokane Valley 6-percent telephone tax -- and another $4.2 million for preservation.
“We haven’t been able to take care of it,” he said. “It’s been that way for eight years.”
The subject is expected to be discussed further at a June 14 daylong City Council workshop at CenterPlace.