All Mayor Mary Verner has to do to keep her job, strictly speaking, is qualify in the primary and win an election. But this is Spokane, and winning would also mean that Verner would become the first mayor to be re-elected since the 1970s.
Four contenders are determined to stop this from happening. Their day in the race is Aug. 16, after which only the top two will vie in the general election on Nov. 18. Be it Verner or someone else, there’s a budget to balance, utility rates to negotiate and unions to engage.
David Condon keeps in touch with his high school friends, and he does not like what he hears. Those who have moved away tell him they miss Spokane, but they don’t come back because there are no jobs.
Employment is a main focus for the Condon campaign, and if elected, he says he would establish a board for small businesses and an ombudsman to help businesses navigate the city bureaucracy.
“My vision is to have a city that does produce more jobs so more of my high school classmates can come back to Spokane and have the lives they want to,” Condon says.
He would also impose a pay and hiring freeze on the city administration, he says, and then begin auditing city departments to fix any that are inefficient. Condon, a 37-year-old South Hill resident, is the race’s top fundraiser, bringing in more than $110,000 so far. He’s served in various support roles in the Army and also as a deputy chief of staff to Eastern Washington’s congressional representative, Cathy McMorris Rodgers. As to whether his former boss’s conservative politics would impact his regime if elected, Condon says the issues facing Spokane are nonpartisan, and his platform conforms to no party’s ideology.
Robert Kroboth’s “spectrum of philosophy” is so extensive, he writes on his website, that he refuses to give interviews to the press. When reporters inquire, he emails them a link to the site, which lays out his platform.
Kroboth is against public-private partnerships, water fluoridation and incinerators. He also has problems with the police, who he says are “Nazi-Fascist.”
His website rails against debt, saying that elected officials who leave debt to the next generation are “child molesters.”
Other facts gleaned from Kroboth’s website:
He does not accept campaign contributions, has no respect for the status quo and will not be called a “good ol’ boy.”
Kroboth, who came in last in the 2007 mayoral primary, says he does not consider himself a radical but instead someone who is fed up with the city’s politics.
The website concluded by answering criticisms Kroboth has received for not dressing like a candidate. “When was the last time you saw a doctor wearing a suit and tie in surgery?” he says.
Barbara Lampert is running for mayor because she’s never done it before. Lampert likes running for office. She claims to have run in an election every year since 1996.
“I tried a bunch of different hobbies, and found out I just love running for office,” says Lampert, a 65-year-old retiree, adding that she can’t remember all the offices she has run for.
She is also upset at the city after being snowed in for 43 days last winter. As a taxpayer, she feels the city could have done more to clear the snow from around her street.
Lampert wants to bolster the police force’s ranks by hiring 100 more officers, she says, and would pay for these by laying off supervisors in the city administration.
Though she serves as the Democratic precinct committee officer for her neighborhood near Westview Grade School, Lampert says she would not allow her affiliation with that party to affect her duties if elected.
She points to her love of elections as an asset for her campaign.
“I think you could do worse than get someone who does it as a hobby,” Lampert says.
Michael Noder is a small-government man, believing that the city administration’s largess is stifling businesses and driving up utility costs.
“We can’t afford the government we have, with the rates continuing to go up and the taxes going up,” Noder says. “We’re crushing our economic vitality.”
Noder, 53, is a self-employed South Hill resident and has previously worked in the construction and demolition industries. He came in fourth of five candidates in the 2007 mayoral primary.
If elected, one of his priorities would be to eliminate city departments that “are more like charity and entitlement programs,” he says, such as youth services. Instead, community groups and charities should substitute for these programs.
Noder says he eschews the ideology of both the Republican and Democratic parties and will focus instead on the city’s accounting to ensure that it is as efficient as possible.
And Noder won’t be fundraising either, he says, because that would compromise his ability to act on the behalf of the citizens, rather than his donors.
One event that Noder does plan to hold is a showing of The Undefeated, a documentary on former Alaska governor and vice-presidential candidate, Sarah Palin.
All funds from this event, tentatively set for Aug. 4 at the Bing Crosby Theater, will go to charity.
“I’m the only fiscal conservative in this race,” Verner says.
She points to her first term as mayor, in which she says she closed $34 million in budget deficits. She did that without introducing any new taxes, she says, but instead by winning concessions from labor unions and making cuts in the city administration.
Citizens are not interested in raising taxes, Verner says, and she will not be pursuing these if re-elected. But the mayor still plans for a 2012 budget that would bring on 13 new police officers, paid for by continued administrative cuts and no new concessions to unions.
Verner says she would also continue to assemble teams from various city departments to brainstorm how to create a more efficient city administration.
In her re-election fundraising, Verner is behind Condon, but still has drawn almost $70,000 from donors. She has received donations from several former Democratic lawmakers and others prominent in the party. But she says she has behaved in a nonpartisan fashion, as mandated by her job title, and will continue to do so if re-elected.