There were no real bombshells or gaffes in the nearly two and a half hours five City Council hopefuls were grilled Tuesday night.
Instead, Kevin Anderson, Amy Biviano, Rod Higgins, Linda Thompson and Samuel Wood checked the necessary boxes – yes, they were all for future business development while retaining Spokane Valley’s unique identity; no they were not in favor of looking to raise taxes to increase revenue at this time – as they answered three questions from each of the six council members.
The council plans on appointing one of the five to replace Brenda Grassel, who has moved out of the city, at next Tuesday’s meeting at 6 p.m. at Spokane Valley City Hall, 11707 E. Sprague. He or she would then be on the council until the results of the November general election are certified.
First up was Anderson, currently serving on the Planning Commission and a retired manufacturing manager. He said he is not looking “to start a political career” at his age, but he does want to make sure tax dollars are “spent wisely.”
“You should match expenses to revenues,” Anderson said. “I wouldn’t support a tax increase or fee increase.”
Anderson said government should be seen as a “service provider,” and that while ongoing efforts to preserve the city’s roads are to be commended “I don’t think any city is going to be able to meet the demand.”
When asked by Mayor Tom Towey why he did not list any references on his application – instead Anderson noted he would provide names if the information would be redacted from council packets – Anderson stated he did not have time get permission to do so.
“I’m aware of the public meetings act and public meetings laws,” he said. “I have no fear of them.”
Biviano – a CPA who ran an unsuccessful campaign against 4th District Rep. Matt Shea last fall – said the council could stand to have a woman’s and mother’s point of view now that Grassel is gone.
“I feel I bring a unique perspective,” she said, but added, “We don’t need diversity for diversity’s sake.”
Biviano fielded a question from Council Member Dean Grafos about the Spokane Valley culture, saying that it is more “laid back” than Spokane’s but it also needs to have a thriving business base.
“I must admit I’m selfish,” she said. “I want my kids to stay here.”
She also said that the City Council could connect with its citizens more by having “mobile offices” in locations such as CenterPlace.
She added that Spokane Valley should play up its abundance of green space when attracting new business and that it should continue to contract with the sheriff’s office for public safety.
“It makes no sense to leave the current system or reinvent the wheel,” she said.
Higgins – also on the Planning Commission and the most visible at council meetings – complimented the council on the “good job” it’s done fiscally and for business development.
When asked by Council Member Dean Grafos how he would handle it publicly if he were overruled by the majority of the council, Higgins said, “Majority rules…that’s the way it is.”
Higgins keyed on the necessary replacement of the western section of the Sullivan Road Bridge as priority in the coming year, especially finding the $4 million remaining to get the project started. When asked by Deputy Mayor Gary Schimmels if Higgins would “gamble” by using city funds – not grant dollars – to get the work done sooner, the applicant was resolute.
“I don’t like the word ‘gamble,’” he said. “Yes, I would.”
Higgins – who has the blessing of Grassel, named as a reference on his application – also said he would entertain the idea of council members serving by district.
Thompson, whose appearances before the council in the past have been motivated by her role as director of the Greater Spokane Substance Abuse Council, said growing up in Spokane Valley motivated her to want to seek office. She added that the most important job of a council member is to represent the citizenship.
Thompson said she has made many connections through her role in GSSAC and is up to speed on the issues facing the council this year.
“I could jump right in,” she said.
She said that the city should continue to “leverage partnerships” rather than looking to raise taxes to increase revenue.
When asked by Grafos what she thought Spokane Valley would look like in 20 years, Thompson said that it would be a “great city that other would want to emulate.”
She added that she would like to motivate more people to become interested in what Spokane Valley government is doing.
“I want to be on the City Council,” she said. “I want to serve.”
Real estate appraiser Samuel Wood said he has “never run for public office” but would – as the other candidates also indicated – run for office in the fall for a four-term on the City Council.
Wood said the most important job for a council member is to listen to its constituents.”
“God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason,” he said.
Schimmels noted Wood’s role on the Carnhope Irrigation District board since 1992 and asked if he could ever foresee a time when that utility – or any others in the city – might have to merge with other entities, including the city, to continue to provide service.
“Inevitably, that will happen,” Wood said.
Wood also said he is an advocate for private property rights and a continued emphasis on public safety. He said he was also pleased with the recent passage of interlocal agreements to pave the way for a regional animal-control system provided by Spokane County.
“We’re all after the same thing,” he said. “That more of us that can work together to do that the better.”