Mayor Dean Grafos started the year smoothly enough Tuesday night with a quartet of Planning Commission appointments but was questioned when it came time to name picks to the Spokane Valley Lodging Tax Advisory Committee.
The application deadline for the Planning Commission – which is charged with reviewing and making recommendations for future development to the City Council – was extended in December. Commissioner Bob McCaslin announced he would not be returning as he will be heading to Olympia on Monday to begin the 2015 legislative session as the newest representative from District 4. And Commissioner Christina Carlsen resigned due to scheduling conflicts.
Replacing them with one-year terms will be Susan Scott -- the current co-owner of River Valley Inc. and longtime Valley resident and volunteer -- and Timothy Kelly, owner of Business Life Cycle Solutions. He has lived the Valley for seven years.
Two three-year term appointees were also needed. The first was filled by incumbent Commissioner Michael Phillips, a land surveyor of Clarence Simpson Engineers, who was reappointed, along with newcomer Heather Graham, a Central Valley school nurse, who will replace outgoing Commissioner Steve Neill. Graham has lived in the Valley 14 years.
The council made the appointments unanimously.
“I agree with your recommendations, you did a good job,” Council Member Ed Pace told the mayor.
That collective feeling was not shared, however, when it came time to vote on the latest makeup of the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee, which is responsible for allocating tax dollars collected from “heads in beds” at local hotels and motels and distributing the money to various organizations that help bring visitors and tourism to the area.
Grafos recommended that Lee Cameron of the Mirabeau Park Hotel, who currently serves on the committee, remain for another term as a representative from a business that collects the tax. The mayor then named Peggy Doering, Valleyfest organizer, to serve the next term instead of also-applying incumbent Keith Backsen of Visit Spokane as a representative from an organization qualified to collect the funds.
The only other applicants from a group receiving lodging tax funds were Brian Rolshoven, also representing Valleyfest, and Chuck Stocker, former East Valley School District superintendent and current board member of the HUB Sports Center.
“Can you tell me what your thought process was?” Council Member Ben Wick, who serves as chairman of the committee, asked the mayor. “It comes as a little bit of a shock.”
Grafos said he chose the appointees based on attempting to create “a balance” on the five-member committee, which includes Herman Meier of the Spokane Valley Heritage Museum and Jeff Fiman of Sterling Hospitality/Quality Inn.
“We’ve had a lot of discussion about sports,” Wick said, referring to the city’s efforts to expand the sand volleyball courts at Browns Park to attract regional tournaments and the accompanying tourists. “We have a candidate with a strong sports background.”
Grafos said he would stick with his choices and called for the vote. Wick was on the losing end of a 4-1 decision. Council Members Chuck Hafner and Bill Bates were not present.
Doering, who has served previously served on the committee, and Cameron will each serve two-year terms.