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2011 Election Endorsements 

Our picks for the fall ballot

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Spokane Mayor

√ MARY VERNER

Spokane and its mayors. Yeah, it’s complicated. For decades now, the story’s been the same. The mayor’s swimming along just fine when some strange creature comes up from the deep to sink his or her career.

For Jack Geraghty, River Park Square erupted and sucked him under. It was the same for his replacement, John Talbott, who thought he’d mastered the mall. Then John Powers came along, and it was death by chocolate-covered strawberries. Jim West… Moto-brock… ’Nuf said. For Dennis Hession, it felt like a cruel political parody: A few neighbors who wanted their garbage picked up in the alley did him in. Seriously.

You can be doing great on 85 percent of your job as mayor, and Spokane may still kick you to the curb. You can pay the bills on time and keep the toilets flushing, but if you get that one big thing wrong, you’re dead to us.

For Mary Verner, that one big thing is Otto Zehm. Read more

Spokane City Council President

BEN STUCKART

Either Dennis Hession or Ben Stuckart will be an improvement in this post, so Spokane is due for an upgrade here. Under the strong mayor system, the City Council should function as a counterpoint to the mayor and become an independent power center that can push its own agenda when necessary. Our Council hasn’t worked like that, but it needs to move in that direction to provide effective leadership in these challenging times.

Stuckart gets the nod here for the chance to bring a fresh perspective and a catchy enthusiasm to the Council. He will build coalitions among his existing connections on the Council, but he’s also shown he’s not bound by convention and will break through the political logjams. Stuckart will be a dedicated fighter for a better Spokane.

Despite his hefty edge in experience, Hession is too identified with the past. He was right about a lot of things as mayor — and we endorsed him four years ago — but time has shown that Hession also had some big blind spots. The fact is, as mayor he never quite connected with the citizens. And after sitting at the mayor’s desk, going back to council president may not be a good fit.

Spokane City Council, District 1

DONNA MCKEREGHAN

District One is a puzzle, as apathy and economics add up to the consistently lowest election turnouts among the city’s three districts. The impact of this situation in this election is that the two best candidates for this job — John Waite and Luke Tolley — lost in the primary.

Still, Donna McKereghan is the obvious choice, as she is poised to join the Council to help find solutions for the citizens.

Based on his work as an anti-government activist — pushing statewide initiatives that curtail public services, decrying anything progressive as a one-world-government plot — Mike Fagan would either add nothing to the process or be a disruptive force on the Council.

Spokane City Council, District 2

RICHARD RUSH

He’s consistently the most thoughtful, outside-the-box member of the Council, but Richard Rush and all his potential can also be the most frustrating. He’s right about New Urbanism and the city’s future, but turning it into policy has been a challenge. The cerebral stuff is great, but action is what Spokane needs. Clarity and simplicity on issues could make his second term even better.

Mike Allen has some great ideas, like means-testing proposed city policy, but in the end the kind of wisdom and ideas that Rush brings to the job are too valuable to pass up.

Spokane City Council, District 3

STEVE SALVATORI

When Steve Salvatori moved here, he got involved in volunteering and helping small businesses succeed at his business incubator. If only every recent transplant had that passion. Salvatori strikes us as a flexible, open-minded conservative. His business acumen will be an asset on the Council, especially in helping make Spokane as business friendly as possible, without sacrificing important standards.

Joy Jones has shown a lot of promise in her first campaign, and in time she could continue to develop as a leader on the local scene.

√ NO on City of Spokane Proposition 1
(Community Bill of Rights)

Envision Spokane did improve this measure since we last voted on it two years ago — they trimmed it down from nine planks to four. But over those two years, our economic picture has gotten worse, making the idea of climbing out on a limb to prove a point even more dicey for voters.

There are some great things in Prop. 1. We agree that corporations should not be given the same rights as people. But will that debate really be settled here in Spokane? We agree that, for too long, our neighborhoods have been steamrolled by developers. But can’t we solve those problems collaboratively and by enforcing the Comprehensive Plan, and not in the courts? We agree that the Spokane River is an irreplaceable asset. But haven’t we seen a lot of progress on the river, from industrial changes, to new regulations and even the addition of a Riverkeeper?

As we wrote in 2009, as admirable an impulse as this is, it’s “too much Utopia and not enough reality.” Implementing a host of new rights will wind up in the courts, to the point where it likely would prevent the kind of progress Envision Spokane wants.

√ YES on Spokane County Measure 1
(Animal Control)

Measure 1 is good for Spokane County, but it may be sunk for simply asking for any funding in a down economy. That would be too bad, as it solves a nagging problem with relatively few dollars. The plan to combine a variety of animal control services under one roof, and save all jurisdictions real money, is a glimpse at what combined government can do. As we adjust to doing more with less, regional government is fast becoming a necessity; our leaders deserve credit for acting on this chance at eliminating duplicated services. (Some communities have combined their police departments to save money that can be spent putting more cops on the streets.)

But the suddenly huge need for a larger animal control facility speaks to a community that is not controlling its animals well — and that means you, citizens of Spokane County. Personal responsibility regarding our pets is in short supply — we need more pets to be spayed, and we need all pets to be licensed. We are swimming in unwanted pets, and it’s a shameful mess.

There are lots of dedicated workers and volunteers involved in animal control, and we need a modern, larger facility to do the job. And this window of opportunity will not stay open long; if Measure 1 fails, the various animal control operations will go their own ways, and our chance at better, cheaper government will go with them.

NO on Washington Initiative 1125
Regarding tolls to pay for roads

Tim Eyman’s latest initiative aims to micromanage how the state can fund transportation projects via tolls. He says he’s not against them; he just wants the Legislature to be in charge of setting those tolls, not the state’s governor-appointed Transportation Commission. (The Legislature already is called upon to determine whether a project can or can’t use tolls to pay its way.)

Or maybe Eyman is out to kill toll roads, as I-1125 could well have the effect of ending the state’s ability to fund road projects that way. Public finance experts say putting the decision in the political arena would make potential investors in the public bonds worry, therefore the interest rate the state would pay would be higher to reflect the risk. They may become too expensive to pencil out.

This is really a Western Washington fight, as the Puget Sound region struggles to keep up with growth relying on a gas tax revenue stream that’s mostly tapped out. Now they want to do some road projects paid by tolls. In other words, local Seattle drivers would pay for those local projects. For Eastern Washington, this is much preferred to an expansion of the statewide gas tax that would pay for roads we rarely drive on. Keeping the option of toll roads available to Western Washington transportation planners is in our best interest.

YES on Washington Initiative 1163
Regarding long-term health care workers

We supported this initiative when it was I-1029 and it passed in 2008. Now I-1163 is here to reiterate the need for better training and more rigorous background checks for long-term health care workers. The state has so far declined to fully enact I-1029, citing the state’s budget problems — if there’s no money, there’s no money. Still, reaffirming as the will of the people these changes to protect our most vulnerable citizens is important. When the state’s financial outlook improves, the Legislature can enforce I-1163

NO on Wash. Initiative 1183
Regarding state-run liquor sales

Here's a second do-over of the 2011 initiative season — the effort to move the sale of hard liquor from the state to private businesses. You’ll recall we voted on this last year, when two similar initiatives (1100 and 1105) confused everyone. Both failed.

Behind the scenes, this is a battle between businesses large and small, involving issues both arcane (how alcohol is distributed in the state) and conspicuous (how we pay for our state government). To the average consumer, it’s a question of keeping hard liquor sales in about 300 state run outlets or expanding it to 1,500 or more.

But behind the scenes is where you need to look closer. Put on the ballot by retail giants like Costco and Safeway, this change in the law would be very good for them — not only by giving them a whole new product line to sell, but also by allowing them to take control of distribution. There’s nothing wrong with allowing business to flourish, but we must consider the known costs and uncertainties. While I-1183 puts new fees and taxes on liquor, there’s no telling whether this will wind up being a net gain or net loss for the state of Washington. Remember: Instead of having an income tax like California, Washington taxes things we consume, especially liquor and cigarettes, to pay the bills. The proponents’ claim that 1183 will cut the price of liquor is also just speculation.

What is true, however, is that Washington has a 96 percent rate of compliance in selling liquor only to adults; the average grocery store in the rest of the nation hits more like 75 percent — meaning 25 percent of underage kids are at risk. Such statistics have led the Centers for Disease Control to advise against the privatization of liquor sales where it is under consideration.

If I-1183 is passed, big-box retailers would be given a big edge over small businesses. In fact, only retailers with 10,000 square feet and above would be allowed to sell hard alcohol. That’s the problem with having interested parties write public policy — they inevitably pick winners and losers. And we have too much to lose on this one.

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 8. Spokane County ballots will start to be mailed out on Oct. 21.

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