Rail crossings, marijuana and visions for the future – but, surprisingly, no queries concerning the existing law-enforcement contract with the sheriff – were all touched on, and more, during Tuesday’s interviews with six Spokane Valley City Council applicants.
The four remaining council members questioned the half-dozen hopefuls for nearly two-and-a-half hours, with each candidate getting a trio of questions, with follow-ups, from each member. The council will meet next Tuesday at 5 p.m. to discuss qualifications, and it is expected they will fill vacant council posts 2 and 5 at the regular 6 p.m. meeting at City Hall, 11707 E. Sprague.
The council is expected to fill a third vacancy next month.
First up was Jonathan “Caleb” Collier, a letter carrier who also serves as a Republican precinct committee officer, who said he wants to “get the city out of the way of business.”
A father of four with another on the way, Council Member Sam Wood asked if Collier would have the time necessary to the council and the various boards and committees that members serve on.
“I time-manage very well,” he said. “I have the full support of my wife and family.”
Collier also said a focused identity is “essential to Spokane Valley” as the rest of the state is often “dismissive” to the city in the shadow of Spokane.
Next up was Pamela Haley, who owns businesses both in Spokane and Spokane Valley, who said that the city should be more communicative with its constituents via social media.
“We don’t do as well as we could do,” she said.
A self-described “budget nerd,” Haley said that she believed in keeping a limited-growth budget but added, “I don’t know if you can never, ever say no to new taxes.”
The quality of Spokane Valley schools and its business-friendly environment, she added, make the city enticing to new residents.
Frank Hutchinson – co-owner of Hutchinson Solutions, a business consultant, and a U.S. Navy retiree – said he did not believe the city needed to change much but he hoped to “make things better.” He also said it is important for the council to be mindful that its decisions have consequences. He used Flint, Mich., and its water crisis as an example.
“There were consequences they didn’t realize,” he said.
Hutchinson also stressed that the council stay in touch with its constituents.
“You need a system for people to give you feedback,” he said. “People need to know that you are listening to them and that you will respond.”
After a short break, Michael Munch, president of Able Construction, also assured the council that he would be able to devote plenty of time to his duties if appointed. He also said that the city should follow the state’s lead as far as legalized marijuana is concerned.
“To me, it’s just like any other regulated industry,” Munch said. “People have a right to open a business. As long as it’s properly zoned, they should be allowed to do it.”
Munch also said it isn’t the city’s job “to pick winners and losers” as far as what businesses thrive in Spokane Valley.
Michelle Rasmussen, a former administrative assistant for the city, said she was a recent victim of a property crime brought up the issue of public safety along with the existing contract with the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office. She said that there should be performance standards built in to be met.
“Without performance measures, the public doesn’t know how it’s working,” she said.
She agreed with the other applicants that a proposed grade-separation at the Pines Road railroad crossing near Trent Avenue should be a “will of the people and vote” if they wished to pay $1.6 million in bonds annually to have the work done.
David Wiyrick, a retired undersheriff and public information officer for the sheriff’s office, said that the “Bridging the Valley” grade-separation program for the various rail crossings should be a goal as it is a public-safety concern if first-responders cannot get through because they are stopped for trains.
“(The railroads) should step up and take responsibility,’ Wiyrick said.
He also said that the city should “start looking at annexation” to bring in additional revenue to help pay for services over the next two decades. He added that more “family friendly” features such as the Centennial and Appleway trails will entice new residents to the city.
Those not selected for the two open council seats – created when Dean Grafos and Chuck Hafner resigned in April – have the opportunity to apply for the third vacancy on the council due to the resignation of Bill Bates for health reasons.
Applications for Bates’ position are due no later than 4 p.m. Friday, July 1. Interviews are planned for July 19 with a formal appointment scheduled for July 26.
Applications can be found at the city’s Web site, spokanevalley.org, or by calling 720-5102.