by DOUG NADVORNICK & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & M & lt;/span & ayor Dennis Hession's relationship with Spokane neighborhood leaders has certainly had its rough patches since he took office in 2005. In no particular order, the list of issues that aroused anger in the neighborhoods includes: last year's decision by the city to cut down street trees while re-paving Bernard Street; the summer 2007 decision by the city to move garbage collection in the Corbin Park neighborhood from alleys to streets; the mayor's proposal to change the way the city distributes federal Community Development Block Grant money to the poorest neighborhoods; the mayor's decision to fire Community Development Director Mike Adolfae -- popular among many neighborhood leaders -- for not sharing his vision for CDBG funding.
"I don't think the mayor had any idea" what the reaction to the Adolfae firing and the proposed funding change would be, says Emerson-Garfield chairwoman Rusty Vlahovich.
"Dennis thinks he's right and that he's answering his vision of what a strong mayor is," says Rockwood chairman John Prosser. "The mayor's acting according to 'his' vision, but he didn't share that vision with anyone first. A lot of us in the neighborhoods think the mayor should be elected to follow through on [the citizens'] vision."
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & T & lt;/span & he Inlander sent an e-mail survey to Spokane's 27 neighborhood chairpersons, asking them which issues they would raise if they had the chance to talk with Hession and fellow mayoral candidate Mary Verner. Twelve responded. Some of the questions refer to issues on the list above.
"I would ask about their views and plans about community development and block grant funding at the neighborhood level," answers Riverside chairman Gary Pollard. Even though the funding formula was left alone for the next year, "neighborhood leaders are still worried about that -- that the city will change things without going through the neighborhoods."
Pollard says he would also ask about funding for future neighborhood planning. The mayor and city council recently allocated $500,000 from last year's budget surplus for the 27 neighborhoods to share as they create their own land use plans.
Dennis Anderson in the Manito/Cannon Hill neighborhood wants to know the candidates' views about street trees, especially with the city's proposed re-paving of well-treed South Lincoln Street nearing.
"I think they've learned from Bernard Street," says Anderson. "The city told us they were not going to touch trees, maybe four max. The issue for us is widening the planting strips along Lincoln Street -- and maybe narrowing the road a bit -- so that the big trees can be replaced with big trees."
"I would ask the mayor about his vision for Hillyard," says Hillyard chairman Dave Griswold. "We're more than just abandoned vehicles and unpaved roads."
Hillyard leaders have submitted what they believe is the strongest proposal for the future operations of the five-acre Mann Hall Army Reserve Center on Market Street, which the army plans to deed to the city as surplus property. Griswold says Hillyard business leaders want to use the site as a worker education and job retraining facility, as well as a community entertainment venue. "We envision a farmers' market, maybe a covered outdoor ice skating rink, even an open arena for concerts," says Griswold. So far, he says, the mayor hasn't shown much support for the proposal.
While Griswold is trying to generate growth in Hillyard, Craig Culbertson is trying to control growth in his North Indian Trail neighborhood.
"The centers and corridors provision in the city's comprehensive plan is designed to promote density close to employment centers," says Culbertson. "Our neighborhood is a residential area out at the edge of the city. It's already tough for our people to get in and out. The roads are clogged here.
"I want to know why the city has allowed [multi-family housing] tax exemptions for builders, which raises our property tax bills. There's no need for high density here," he says. Culbertson says crime rates in his neighborhood -- among the lowest in the city -- are starting to creep up.
Growth is also on the minds of the chairs of the Southgate and Peaceful Valley neighborhoods. Southgate chairman Patrick Moore wants to know if the city will designate the area around 44th and Regal as an employment center. "We need neighborhood planning here before the city allows any more development," says Moore. He says his neighborhood offers a South Side version of the growth that's occupying the Five Mile Prairie.
"Both of us have stormwater issues and traffic," says Moore. "Developers are building new houses, but there are no streets to handle all of that. Regal can't be widened."
In Peaceful Valley, council co-chairs Patty Norton and Lori Aluna say high-end development is driving long-time residents out of their working class neighborhood.
"We want to know if the candidates will commit to using the property tax exemptions to build sustainable, attractive housing for low-income people," says Norton. "Will they give landlords incentives to build low- and moderate-income housing?"
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & T & lt;/span & he mayoral candidates shouldn't expect endorsements from neighborhood councils. None of the leaders we talked with said their councils would make endorsements. But some made clear their individual preferences. John Prosser and several others believe Mary Verner will be better for neighborhoods. They say Verner has worked harder to stay current with their issues, and many think she's a better listener. Culbertson says Hession, not Verner, is the candidate who is most in tune with his neighborhood's needs.
The one common request neighborhood leaders voice is the desire for the mayor to take them and their concerns seriously.
While she gives the city's code enforcement office credit for becoming much more aggressive at enforcing the nuisance-related ordinances, Rusty Vlahovich thinks "right now the city council is pulling the most weight" when it comes to neighborhood issues. "They're the people sitting on the boards and the commissions, trying to solve the problems out here."
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