Spokane North Notes
A weekly bulletin of the Spokane-North Rotary Club
October 12, 2015
Editors: Chuck Rehberg and Sandy Fink
Photos: Eric Johnson
Program coordinator: Brad Stark
          See you soon: President Lenore Romney said the board has approved quarterly leaves of absence for club members Mark Visintainer (career changes) and Melody Farance (illness).
          Early start: Fund-raising coordinator Jodi Harland said she and Robbie Jackson are preparing a letter which members can share with potential corporate donors for the club’s fund-raising efforts for needy children, especially at Holmes Elementary School.   “Many companies set their 2016 annual budgets during the fourth quarter,” Harland said.  “This may help them commit a larger gift, perhaps up from $250 to $1,000, for our projects.”
Candidate ‘speed dating’ part two: City Council Districts 2 and 3
          Continuing the successful format – dubbed “speed dating” -- that the club used to hear from mayoral and council president candidates, the four people vying for City Council posts shared their positions and ideas with the club Oct. 12.
Karen Stratton, who was appointed to the position vacated when Steve Salvatori moved from Spokane, and challenger Evan Verduin, are vying for the District 3 seat in Northwest Spokane.
          Newcomers Lori Kinnear and LaVerne Biel are seeking to replace Mike Allen, who chose not to run again for the council in District 2, which covers the large city area south of the Spokane River from Eagle Ridge to East Central.
          The program format allowed for 5 minute “stump speeches” from each candidate and then 5 minutes with club members for each candidate at each of four tables.
          In opening remarks, Stratton said she has been involved in local politics since age 6, when she door-belled with her councilman dad, Al Stratton, and later with her mom, State Rep. Lois Stratton, D-3rd.
          Karen said that if unwelcoming occupants slammed the door in her face when she was 6, she would just stand at the door and cry until the tenants relented and took the campaign brochure.
          “Elections were city-wide then, not by district,” Stratton said.  “I think a lot about my dad.  He said that you have to serve people where they live and help them understand what their tax dollars are being used for.  That’s something I still believe in.”
          Stratton said she had worked for 10 years for WSU-Spokane until 2005, when Mayor Jim West called and asked her to join the city staff.  “Those times proved we could get through anything,” she said.  Stratton later worked for Mayor Mary Verner and then in the city clerk’s office.  Her husband, Chris Wright, chairs the Park Board and they also operate a marijuana-growing business.  Asked after the meeting if their business is something voters ask about when she door-bells now, Stratton said that comes up very seldom, and usually then just from elderly residents who ask about medical marijuana.
          Kinnear told the group she is a fourth-generation Washingtonian with a background in journalism, advertising and public relations.  She worked for State Sen. Andy Billig, D-3rd, and as a legislative aide to Council member Amber Waldref.  Kinnear said she helped start the community garden program, which has grown from two gardens to 12.
          Kinnear said she wants to focus on public safety, noting that Spokane has one of the highest property crime rates in the nation, and that our recent extended fire season shows that “we need full staffing in the Fire Department.”  She also said that small business, “the backbone of Spokane,” needs support.
          Verduin said the best part of campaigning is “going to people’s homes and the small group discussions with five to 10 residents.”  He said when door-belling he “brings his wife along, with their four-month old strapped to her chest, so people don’t slam the door.”
          “An outside perspective at City Hall is great,” Verduin said, “but so is experience, so we’ll let the voters decide.”
          The Spokane native, who grew up in the Shadle Park area, said “we need to encourage small business to grow” and he pushed for “more accountability, so it’s easier to see how we vote (on council issues).”
          Biel said she “is the mother of five and grandmother of 10, who lives, works and volunteers in the East Central neighborhood.”
         She said she and her husband started their business in the home, then moved to their garage and now has rented commercial space.  “My whole field is organization and revitalizing the East Sprague corridor,” Biel said.  She has served as president for the East Sprague Business Association and Associated Builders and Contractors and she is a board member of the East Central Community Organization.
          “We need long-term, sustainable business,” she said, adding that “business owners are under-represented on the Council.”
          At one of the table visits, Kinnear said public safety is a top priority “because people need to feel safe.”  She said recently-resigned Police Chief Frank Straub “was on the right track, focusing on property crime with ‘hot-spots’ data.”  She added: “We need to put people in jail, but they seem to be right back out on the streets.”
          She said Fire Department hiring “has been flat for the last three years,” adding that since 85 percent of the calls are medical, the city needs more small, AR units, rather than sending large fire trucks to medical emergency calls.  “We just have two (ARs) and we need more,” Kinnear said.   She noted that the city’s fire rating “went from a 2 to a 4,” resulting in higher insurance rates for homeowners.  A club member who resides in the Eagle Ridge area agreed.
          Asked his top priorities, Verduin said “public safety is always a focus” and added that by passing more ordinances the council seems to be “micro-managing the business community.”  He said Proposition 1 could raise minimum wages to $18 to $23 an hour.  Verduin added, “it may sound cruel, but mandating paid sick leave should be off the table.”  He said he put off off hiring his first employee for his own small business, fearing mandated benefits and wage scales.
          Of the police chief issues, Verduin, who has been endorsed by Mayor David Condon, said, “it didn’t come to my level, so I couldn’t say if it was handled correctly or incorrectly.”  He added: “(Interim) Chief (Rick) Dobrow has been helpful on neighborhood level issues, but he doesn’t have a college degree, so he wouldn’t qualify (for the post).”
          “The council is way too political and too partisan,” Verduin said.  Even during the Expo ’74 years (the last time a Spokane mayor was re-elected), he said, “People butted heads, but they got along.”
          Given her involvement in East Spokane issues, Biel was asked about efforts to curb prostitution along East Sprague.  “Business owners calling in reports on hookers has had a definite effect,” she said, adding, “they have moved further east (toward Havana St.).
          The police chief episode, Biel said, “has been a tragedy for Spokane.  The trust with citizens has been broken.  Straub did a good job while he was there.”  For a replacement, she said, “We should look internally, but still need to look regionally and even nationally.”
Ballots will be mailed to voters in the next several days and must be returned by Nov. 3.