It was at 3 am last night that Rose Dempsey — tossing, turning, sleepless — decided to resign from the Spokane Valley City Council.
“I realized that I could have no effect for the next 11 months,” Dempsey says. “That’s when my term is up. The council members that have come on, their minds are already made up. ... I’m extraneous. So for professional reasons, I can’t take it any more.”
This morning, at about 8 am, she typed a letter of resignation and delivered it to council members.
“I made up a very short letter that said I was resigning, official on Friday. I said 'God bless all of you.'”
Last night, the Spokane Valley City Council passed an emergency ordinance to eliminate the specialized zoning that would have created a city center around the University City area. An amendment from Councilman Bill Gothmann that would have simply shrunk the city center and allowed the Pring Corporation to build a car lot in the area was rejected.
It was a major blow to the Sprague-Appleway Revitalization Plan, a long-term, massive overhaul of zoning and planning intended to give the city stronger cohesion and economic vitalization.
Gothmann and Dempsey voted to maintain the SARP plan but they were out-voted, as they have been on many major city issues.
“There’s no give and take,” Dempsey says. “There’s just take.”
In January, the Valley Council was filled with four new “Positive Change” candidates — Dean Grafos, Brenda Grassel, Bob McCaslin, and now-mayor Tom Towey. They campaigned together, they won together, and they promised to defeat SARP together. (Gary Schimmels, already on the council, tends to side with the "Positive Change" contingent.)
“There is no compromise on SARP,” Grassel says. “I ran to repeal SARP on many different levels.”
SARP went into effect in October of 2009. The new anti-SARP city council was elected in November.
“Dean Grafos made a motion — the first meeting that he was at — to scrap the SARP,” Dempsey says.
Oddly enough, back then, Dempsey was open to getting rid of SARP. In fact, she supported several of the “Positive Change” city council members in their race
“She endorsed my campaign. She endorsed Dean’s campaign,” Grassel says. “I’d say if anything she’s the one who has changed her opinion.”
But for Dempsey, the intractable nature of the new council was frustrating.
“They’ve got this solid voting block that they will not break, on a decision they made at Yoke’s before the election,” Dempsey says. “Lots of times they don’t even discuss anything.”
Mayor Towey disagrees with that characterization.
“All of us worked hard in trying to get or solicit information on both sides of the story,” Towey says.
Still, he adds, he's sorry to see Dempsey go.
“I just got in the office. I just opened up the envelope. … I am sorry to hear that Rose has resigned,” Towey says. “She was a vital part of our council. I really think that Rose had a passion for helping the city.”
He says there is an interview process to replace her.
Gothmann says the council has been tough for Dempsey.
“Rose has been subject to numerous insults by people on the council,” Gothmann says. “Last night, she was called something. I can’t remember what it was.”
But still, he didn’t see this coming.
“I’ll be honest. It’s something that’s surprised me,” Gothmann says. He wishes her – his last regular political ally – well.
“She’s a minister’s wife. She’s a very caring, very loving woman,” Gothmann says. “She cares very deeply about things.”
With her new free time, Dempsey says she's thinking about being the music director for Trinity Lutheran church in Coeur d'Alene.