By THE INLANDER & r & & r & Spokane Mayor & r & DENNIS HESSION & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & A & lt;/span & fter all the excitement surrounding the demise of Jim West, the future of the strong mayor system in Spokane was cast in doubt. That's why this race has been so rewarding. No matter who wins, we've seen a spirited public debate, affirming that politics can work in Spokane. Aside from a few slips into absurdity, Dennis Hession and Mary Verner have treated us to the kind of campaign a big city should expect when it's choosing a leader.
But after all the forums and all the he said/she saids, it's still quite hard to choose. A lot of burning issues have flared up along the way, but upon closer inspection, there's more smoke than fire. No, Hession will not disband the Spokane Fire Department, and no, Verner will not deny all permits for new construction.
Because it's so hard to see their differences, the community is trying to find simple stereotypes to attach to these candidates. The fact is, they are quite alike; if they were running for Congress, both of them would be Democrats. So it's really a question of style over substance. Verner even admits she's not challenging Hession's competence; she's just offering the city a different approach to solving its problems.
And Verner does win an edge over Hession in knowing how to bring people together -- even people who don't want to be brought together. Listening is an important skill for a mayor, and if Hession loses this election, it could be traced to not spending enough time connecting with the street-level concerns out in the neighborhoods. Fixing that should be at the top of his to-do list if he wins a full term.
Hession has, however, spent his 22 months on the job learning the inner workings of an organization with a dizzying array of moving parts, including some 2,000 employees. Despite never planning to be mayor, his tenure has been solid. He has made several important hires, including Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick and Chief Operating Officer John Pilcher. While the jury is out, as both are still relatively new, they appear to have been good choices. With a team in place and an accidental apprenticeship under his belt, Hession would step into a full term with a running start.
One of the key traits a successful strong mayor must possess is an ability to communicate, and neither Hession nor Verner is quite there yet. Over the past 22 months, Hession often struggled to explain his decisions to the public, especially during his first year. He has done better while running for office, so maybe he's getting the hang of it. And Verner's campaign has lacked an edge; it falls to her to argue why Spokane should make a change, yet instead of making a clear, compelling case, she's been vague and has seemed to pull her punches. Verner gave one of the great Spokane City Council speeches ever when the River Park Square settlement was debated, so she has what it takes. Whoever wins this race needs to do better at sharing a vision and defending decisions.
Spokane's economy has been on a relative roll lately, which brings us to the question any incumbent-versus-challenger race asks: Do we need a change?
Spokane has been quick to answer yes to that question, still waiting to rehire a mayor since Dave Rodgers during the 1970s. (Hession, technically, is not running for reelection; this would be his first term.) Many of those mayors deserved their fate; others did not.
Have we gained by changing horses so frequently? That's a basic question for every voter to ask him- or herself when casting a ballot. Spokane is coming off a very tumultuous decade, politically speaking. Ten years ago, John Talbott was elected mayor, then John Powers, then Jim West, who was soon recalled, with Hession stepping in to finish his term. It's been a wild ride, and necessary in many ways. In spite of that rocky road, Spokane has soldiered on. But are we at a point when we could benefit from a more stable situation at City Hall? We think the answer to that question is yes; in the final analysis, there just isn't enough reason to make a change. We recommend electing Dennis Hession.
Whoever wins, it's a victory for Spokane. After the Jim West debacle, this city did not melt into a heap of self-doubt; it has come back stronger than ever, with two talented candidates capable of leading the city. The invigorating feel of politics in the air -- that's what we've gotten from this election. And that feels good.
Spokane City Council President & r & JOE SHOGAN & r &
& lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & he Spokane City Council president is the one member of the City Council who must represent the entire city, and Joe Shogan can do that. And he might as well be running unopposed, as Barbara Lampert is a habitual candidate, running for just about everything. She has never served in an elected office; Shogan has served well and has earned the job.
Spokane Proposition One: Park Bond YES & r &
& lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & n one of many cases of deferred maintenance in Spokane, our community's swimming pools have been pushed well past the brink. Now, with this $43 million public investment, we can update five outdoor pools and build a brand-new sixth pool. The funds would also create 10 splash pads at city parks, replacing the old wading pools. Additionally, the money will start the ball rolling on the long-overdue makeover of the property surrounding Joe Albi Stadium into a more complete sports complex. The bond payments will replace a previous property tax expiring at the end of the year, so there will be no increase in property tax rates. Spokane's parks are one of the keys to our quality of life, and this investment will maintain these treasures the way past generations have done.