As we're getting close to the election, candidate forums and meetings are held in some part of town almost every day. Going to a few of them, you begin to recognize the questions - and soon after that also the answers. This election hasn't been that spicy, having been relatively low on personal attacks. That's probably good. What's also good is that we are left with six candidates in three races, with some clear differences in background, policy and opinions. We e-mailed them all a list of questions about Spokane issues and personal ideas. Here are their responses, woven in with quotations from the panel hosted by the League of Women Voters at City Hall last Thursday night.
Brad Stark vs. Ava Becks
Position One, District Two (South Hill)
There's a huge contrast of personalities in this race. Brad Stark is 24 years old and works as an executive for the Boy Scouts in Spokane. He has the makings of a career politician, all the way down to the Gonzaga degree -- not that there's anything wrong with that.
His opponent, Ava Becks, is running on the I've-gotten-off-the-hamster-wheel-and-focused-on-my-family platform. The former TV reporter and news producer says she left KXLY-TV for a minimum-wage job at a dollar store so she could spend more time at home with her children -- not that there's anything wrong with that, either.
Stark says Becks is running on platitudes about safe streets and a better world for kids.
Becks says she is (almost) old enough to be Stark's mom, so she has a much better knowledge of the community and much more experience than he has.
Stark says that "the greatest issue facing Spokane is the need for continued and comprehensive economic vitality efforts." To solve the city's economic challenges, Stark wants to clean up the permitting process at City Hall, promote the development of the University District -- in tandem with already existing higher education institutions and medical facilities -- and seek annexation within the city's urban growth area.
Becks sees several key issues:
"The biggest issues that are facing Spokane are safety, lack of livable-wage jobs, a city government that does not have the faith of the people and the lack of support for local businesses, and of course poor streets," she says.
To resolve some of these issues, Becks proposes to support local businesses better so they can afford to pay a livable wage. She is for a street repair bond -- the city council just passed one on Monday -- and wants to see more fire fighters and more police on the streets "to provide a safer community."
When asked if he believes the city has chosen the right path in the River Park Square controversy, Stark says the city must continue toward mediation. The city is in mediation and stuck there, at least until April
"We must make every attempt to mediate this dispute and avoid a prolonged federal trial and the appeals that would be sure to follow," says Stark. He adds that people forget that RPS has resulted in "$1.1 billion of private investments that have been made in downtown."
Answering the same question, Becks has this to say:
"It's hard to say at this point [if the city has chosen the right direction] because the issue hasn't been resolved. I would support more mediation, but if that doesn't work then we need to throw it back to the courts."
River Park Square is already in several courts, and the city has committed itself to continued mediation until April of next year when the court date is set.
Becks and Stark prefer to work with different strong mayors.
While Becks has been campaigning in tandem with Tom Grant, often working at his picnics, even outside of her own South Side district, Stark prefers James West.
"I'd endorse Tom Grant -- he will be a great mayor," says Becks. "Tom in his grassroots campaign has reached out to thousands of citizens, and he knows what the people want."
Stark -- who has worked for Democratic state senator Lisa Brown -- says he'll be voting for West.
"Though Jim and I do not share the same political ideology, he possesses leadership skills that will greatly benefit the city," says Stark. "I witnessed his leadership abilities firsthand [in the state Senate]. He was able to hold together a fractious caucus and build an agenda around their shared values, as opposed to focusing on differences."
So far neither Stark nor Becks have endorsed city council president candidates.
There has been much discussion about whether the city council should hire more of its own staff.
Becks says this is a hard question to answer because she isn't a council member yet.
"If [the one secretary] is overworked, then I might possibly support more staff," she says, adding that "from the outside at this point it seems like a waste of money."
Stark is more direct in his answer.
"I don't believe there to be a need to hire council staff," he says. "The key, however, will be to have a collaborative council and mayor willing to exert the effort to work with the council so that all interested stakeholders will be informed and a part of the decision-making process."
What does that mean? Something along the lines of as long as people speak nicely to each other we don't need more staff.
Both candidates support a regional effort when it comes to solving issues such as the need for a wastewater treatment plant.
They also both support light rail.
"That's only one component of a transportation system," says Stark. "We must have fast buses, too, and expand our arterial system."
Becks says she rides the bus a lot, and that she's often alone on it.
"Light rail is a good fix," she says, "but it's years ahead. We need to support and promote our bus system first. Or perhaps we just need to give up our cars for awhile -- that would be better for the environment, too."
We asked both candidates what they are likely to do on a free Saturday.
"Spend time with my children, hopefully outdoors," says Becks.
"I love to plan little daytrips throughout the area and explore new towns and festivals. Two Saturdays ago, I traveled to Maryhill Winery to see Emmylou Harris," says Stark, who also spends free time reading and running.
Speaking of free time, we also asked what the candidate's favorite Spokane spot is.
"The Manito Greenhouse because it's Hawaii all year round," says Becks.
"The Rockwood Bakery and the atmosphere it exudes. It's unique in that it can be both calming and energetic at the same time," says Stark. (Oh, come on, Brad -- you go there for the pastries just like the rest of us do, so just admit it.)
When it comes to local leaders, Becks says she really admired Mayor Jim Chase.
Stark admires Jeff Gombosky for his ability to delve deep into policy issues and communicate them in a comprehensible manner.
Joe Shogan vs. Barbara Lampert
Position One, District Three (Northwest Spokane)
This race pits perennial political candidate Barbara Lampert -- who, in her own words, has a platform ready for any political office, from U.S. Senator to city council member -- against lawyer and neighborhood activist Joe Shogan, who's running for city council for the first time.
At the debate sponsored by the League of Women Voters at City Hall last week, Lampert fired off one of those statements that make her an interesting -- for lack of a better word -- candidate.
When asked what she'd propose to do to protect the aquifer and reduce water use, this is what she said:
"You can't continue to increase the population of people and animals to the extreme. Perhaps people should think of other things to do than spending their time with rampant reproduction."
OK, we've never heard that one before.
Yes, Lampert does support a preservation education program as well.
Shogan has a more traditional answer to the water preservation question.
"Protecting the aquifer is a regional concern," he says. "We should provide more education on how to preserve water. We must realize that we don't have the ability to use as much water as we want to."
Shogan believes the biggest issue facing Spokane is the resolution of the River Park Square controversy without jeopardizing HUD community development funds.
"I plan on supporting the new mayor in his efforts to bring this matter to an end, while concentrating on negotiations with HUD," says Shogan.
Lampert says the biggest issue is unemployment.
"We have more people than jobs. When unemployment or underemployment hits home, it is a personal disaster," she says. More employers would move here if the city provided better essential services and a better infrastructure, says Lampert, and that would bring the jobs so desperately needed.
When asked if she thinks the city has chosen the right path in resolving the River Park Square controversy, Lampert has a quick answer.
"A controversy involves two parties. The City of Spokane can only choose half of the path," she says, recommending that Spokane "stay the course until current legalities have been resolved."
Shogan says he would have pushed harder for a negotiated settlement before the bondholders filed their lawsuit.
"I will support efforts to resolve the controversy as expeditiously and fairly as possible, again without jeopardizing HUD community development funds," says Shogan.
Shogan endorses neither a mayoral candidate nor a city council president candidate, saying that's a matter of campaign policy.
Lampert supports West, but won't say why.
"West is the best," is how she elaborates on her choice.
She'd like to see Al French "lead the bench" on the city council, as she puts it, and sees no need for the city council to hire more staff.
"I think the city council should have sufficient staff to do its job," says Shogan. "Duplicating staffing is not necessary if the new mayor and his staff works with the council in partnership."
When it comes to regional collaboration on a wastewater treatment plant, Lampert says she'll follow city hall staff's directions.
Shogan would prefer a regional facility, "if it's cost-effective and practical. I would favor a regional facility because protection of the aquifer and the Spokane River is a regional necessity."
Throughout his campaign, Shogan has emphasized the importance of the neighborhood councils.
"I will attend the monthly meetings of the neighborhood councils in my district to bring their input to the city council," says the former two-term chairman of the Northwest Neighborhood council.
Lampert puts her faith in existing policy.
"The ordinance that created neighborhood councils included provisions for communication," she says.
On a free Saturday, Lampert says she's likely to do yard work in the summer and housework in the winter.
Shogan works in his yard as well, but he also likes to listen to a Cougar game or go to a lacrosse match at Gonzaga.
"Away from home, I think the Gonzaga University campus is my favorite spot in Spokane," says Shogan, "because it has some beautiful views of the river and downtown Spokane."
Lampert prefers hanging out at the Shadle Library.
"Papers and magazines and books to read, Internet computers to touch the world, etc." she gives as an explanation.
Among local leaders, Lampert says she's inspired by Gwen Emehiser.
"Because she did the work of two people and was unusually generous," she says.
For once, Shogan's answer is shorter than Lampert's.
"Tom Foley," he says. Is any explanation necessary?
Bob Apple vs. Terrie Beaudreau
Position One, District One (Northeast Spokane)
Bob Apple is a local contractor and bar owner with very solid roots in his Hillyard neighborhood. Of course his favorite spot "away from home" is at his bar, the Comet, on North Market Street. Terrie Beaudreau says the purple blood of Rogers High runs in all of her family; she grew up and raised her family in the district.
But you are not very likely to find her at the Comet.
"I love to visit any of our parks," she says about her favorite Spokane spots. "We have beautiful parks that are so well kept and offer a variety of things to do from play equipment for our grandsons to squirrel-watching for me."
Squirrel-watching? That's a new one.
Beaudreau says the biggest issue facing Spokane is jobs.
"People need good paying jobs, access to basic services and safe neighborhoods," she says. "This is possible only with a strong economy that provides businesses the opportunity to be profitable and grow. A strong economy [also] provides a stable tax base for the city."
Apple says the city, more than anything else, needs jobs that allow people to support their families.
"I'd like to see our city encourage industry, both our existing local industry to grow, and outside industry to see Spokane as a viable place to locate," he says. To get there, the city must "provide comparable services and local government costs," he adds.
As far as the River Park Square controversy goes, Apple says things should never have gotten this far out of hand.
"Our city had no place in this specific public-private financial arrangement. Since our city has determined wrongdoing has occurred, because we have not fulfilled the financial obligations as directed in this voluminous contract, our only option was to prefer criminal charges against those who misrepresented this project and created our now-accepted appearance of wrongdoing," writes Apple, in the e-mail he sent us.
He adds that depositions and the collection of evidence that has already taken place makes it impractical to change the city's position at this point.
"We should attempt to negotiate a settlement [among] the 11 parties involved, realizing the costs will mount as the various court cases proceed," he says.
Beaudreau says that the city may not have chosen the right path in the River Park Square issue, but since it's the one that we have committed to, we should stay with it.
"Unless mediation is successful," she says, "the courts will solve the issue."
Beaudreau endorses West for mayor.
"I believe he will be a strong mayor that is experienced and committed to the very best for Spokane," she says. "I'm not endorsing a council president candidate."
Apple is not endorsing any candidates, choosing to focus on his own race and leaving the choice up to voters.
Beaudreau is not sure whether the council needs to hire more of its own staff .
"I would prefer to wait until the new mayor has had a chance to transition," she says. "I expect that an evaluation of services and needs will occur at that time."
Apple says he understands why one secretary shared by seven council members might constitute a difficult job for the secretary. Since he's not yet on the council, he says it's hard to evaluate what the needs are.
"Obviously this is a daunting task for one secretary and seven council people," he adds.
When it comes to regional planning, both Beaudreau and Apple would like to see a regional wastewater treatment plant.
"However, I would want to pursue the most cost-effective approach," says Beaudreau. "I don't have enough information to know what that might be at this time."
Apple says the city already has invested a lot in wastewater planning and management and that he wants to see a final solution that gives the city some credit for that work.
Beaudreau is a champion of strategic long-range planning, a process she'd like to involve the neighborhood councils in.
"It would be my intent to visit all of the council meetings in my district to establish relationships and strong communication," she says. "Through long-range planning, the community will set its own goals. In my 18 years of service to the school system, I've become used to handling large budgets and complicated rules. I think having that experience makes a difference."
Apple has participated in the development of neighborhood councils, he says, and he remains a strong advocate and supporter of community development and neighborhood councils.
"I listen to my neighbors," he says. "This city also has a crime and drug problem. We are not safe in our own homes. Especially the people who manufacture drugs need to be put away. We must provide jail space for that."
On environmental issues, the two differ a little.
Beaudreau says she was a conservationist before the recycling program even hit town. When it comes to water preservation, she says that thorough education, the collection of rainwater for watering purposes and a volunteer effort will go a long way.
Apple agrees, and would also like to cooperate with North Idaho and Spokane County.
"Quite frankly, most of my neighbors don't use a lot of water on their lawns, because they can't afford it," he adds.
On a free Saturday, Apple is usually engaged in some project, he says.
"This Saturday, I will be helping the Lions Club and their Golden Ears Program in front of the Albertson's store on Northwest Boulevard," he says.
Beaudreau likes to spend free time with her family.
"Spend time spoiling my grandsons," is one of her favorite ways for spending a free Saturday. "And gardening and camping in the summer. Cooking, reading and crafts in the winter."
She says she is inspired by Gary Livingston.
"Confident yet humble, he inspires people to do their best," she says. "He is more concerned with the health of his organization than he is with getting credit for his hard work."
Apple says he is inspired by Luke Williams, a Spokane civic leader and business owner.