by Inlander Staff Spokane City Council -- District One: Bob Apple -- This race is a study in contrasts. Terrie Beaudreau sat on the school board; Bob Apple owns a tavern. If you prefer someone more predictable, Beaudreau's your candidate. If you want someone who understands and could accurately represent the Northeast District, Apple has the edge. This is not to lump the entire district together, but it has a strong working class core, with issues to match. Apple could be a voice for that widespread but disenfranchised group. And Apple has come a long way since he first ran for public office, showing a knack for kind of hitting an issue right on the head. But he also appears prone to distraction on issues that he may or may not have any real power over once in office. River Park Square comes to mind.
But there's also the matter of gender. If our endorsed candidates all win, that would leave Cherie Rodgers as the council's only woman. We don't consider gender in our endorsements, but a vote for Terrie Beaudreau would be a vote for a better mix on the council. (The City Council will also have a chance to add a woman in January, when it replaces either Dennis Hession or Al French.)
District Two: Brad Stark -- Perhaps Brad Stark is a little green, but he's dedicated, driven and up-to-date on the issues -- and that's exactly what's needed. The 24-year-old Boy Scout executive promises to work on solving the city's economic challenges by cleaning up the permitting process at City Hall, promoting the development of a University District and by seeking annexation within the city's urban growth area.
Another of Stark's recurrent campaign themes is to stop the so-called "brain drain." Considering that he has firsthand experience with friends leaving this area for better jobs and opportunities, Stark may just be the right person to help the rest of City Hall, the Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Council understand what needs to be done to keep young people in town.
District Three: Joe Shogan -- If running for office was enough to get you elected, Barbara Lampert would be a U.S. Senator by now. But it doesn't work that way, and while we applaud her civic spirit, we find that Lampert is too unpredictable, and often unnecessarily focused on odd details. (Rodent control?)
Joe Shogan, on the other hand, promises to work on solving the River Park Square controversy while at the same time protecting federal Housing and Urban Development funding for other community development projects. He's got his eye on the big picture.
He has served as chairman for the Northwest Neighborhood Council twice, an indicator that he has an understanding of what's going on in his district as well as experience in working with the neighborhood council.
Shogan, who is an attorney with his own practice, wants to encourage the EDC and the Chamber of Commerce to work together more, as well as to pursue unusual channels and personal contacts when trying to get employers to locate here.
Back when Washington and California decided to create workplace rules related to ergonomics, it looked like the rest of the country would end up doing the same thing. That was in an entirely different economy, and in the years since then, the movement has lost steam.
Rules like these need to be enacted at the federal level. The problem lies in the twin issues of actual competitiveness and perception about competitiveness. Actual competitiveness comes into play when Washington state firms doing business across the nation or internationally have to compete for business with firms that don't have to live by the same rules. The costs of complying can be enough to keep local businesses from winning contracts through competitive bidding, as their fixed costs may be higher than for firms located in other states. The ergonomics rules may not have manifested themselves as hard costs yet, but many business owners believe they will. Which leads to the issue of perception about competitiveness.
Part of Washington's problem is that, fairly or not, it has been pegged as an unfriendly place to do business. (It's worth pointing out that the way-over-the-top pro I-841 TV ads seem to confirm this reputation, leading us to wonder what the heck they were thinking when they created them.) Perception is a funny thing. You can scream until you're blue in the face that Washington really is a great place to do business -- and produce all the evidence available to support that claim -- but as long as that perception is out there, it's as good as real. And in business circles, whispers are amplified. This is part of the reason so many firms have threatened to move out of state or, like Boeing, actually have done so.
The point is, to change this perception, which is quite important to this state's future, the fodder for such perceptions must be eliminated whenever possible. That doesn't mean that the many worker protections enacted over the past century-and-a-half are fair game, too. This simply appears to be one small thing, not even fully enacted yet, that could make a big difference. Besides, if you listen to state officials, it sounds like they don't plan on enforcing the rules much anyway.
If the federal government enacts ergonomics rules, that would be the fairest way to go; all firms would be treated equally. But today Washington can't afford even the perception that it is unfriendly to business.