In the Conservative-Conservative battle for the No. 5 seat on Spokane Valley City Council, will voters choose a well-known candidate on Councilor Pam Haley, or will they choose a political underdog best known for being the? Governor Jay Inslee’s order to stay home disregarded? during the pandemic?
Haley has served on the Spokane Valley City Council for six years. She is generally considered to be one of the more conservative members, sometimes voting in the minority alongside Councilors Rod Higgins and Arne Woodard in 4-3 council resolutions. Haley, who has spent much of her adult life running daycare in Spokane, said her top priorities will be public safety, infrastructure and homelessness if she is re-elected to the council.
Your challenger Wayne Fenton has never held an elected office, but he’s not entirely unknown. He made headlines during the pandemic when the Black Diamond, the bar he owns with his son and city council candidate Brandon Fenton, stayed open despite the governor’s mandate.
Fenton said Spokane Valley’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic inspired his candidacy for the local office. He called himself a one-topic candidate who aimed to fight back against the government’s abuses.
“The subject I’m focusing on is the freedoms that are being taken from us at the federal and state levels,” said Fenton.
City guides don’t have the power to ignore state or federal laws, but Fenton said that shouldn’t stop the city from taking a stand.
“I think the council here should fight Inslee and Washington DC for the things they do that don’t fit our area,” said Fenton. “There will be nothing left if we allow Olympia and Washington DC to take away all of our freedoms.”
Fenton added that not only will he fight back against the government’s abuses, but he will also focus on tackling homelessness and reducing crime if elected.
The results of the primary elections suggest that Fenton will find it difficult to depose Haley.
In the August primary, voters heavily favored incumbent Haley, who gave her 47% of the vote, compared with 26% for Fenton. Pat Stretch, who died before the primary but was on the ballot, got 13% of the vote and Mary Butler-Stonewall got 14%.
Butler-Stonewall said she is not in favor of Haley or Fenton because they are not calling for homeless shelter in the valley within the city limits, or fighting to clean up the Spokane River. She is still running as a candidate for registration.
Where they stand on the streets
Spokane Valley officials say the city’s roads are now in good shape, but to keep them from falling apart in the decades to come, the city must increase its annual road maintenance spending from $ 8 million to $ 16 million -Dollars increase each year. Preventive maintenance is far cheaper than completely rebuilding a road, say city guides.
The city council has yet to decide how to raise another $ 8 million a year, or even increase road maintenance spending by that amount.
Haley said she wasn’t sure the city staff’s estimates of road maintenance costs were correct.
“The staff originally said $ 8 million, not $ 16 million, so I’m curious to see if the numbers are correct,” she said.
Recently, Spokane Valley has had annual budget surpluses. Part of this surplus went to road projects.
For now, the city should keep using those surplus funds on roads, Haley said.
“We have extra money in our budget right now and I think we need to use that money before we give more money to our citizens,” she said.
If the budget surpluses stop, the city may have to use general funds to pay for road maintenance, Haley said, but for now it wants to keep using excess money to pay for roads.
“I can’t see too far, but right now we have the money to fix the roads,” she said.
Fenton said he believed the city spent too much money on roads and done unnecessary construction. Instead of developing a new way of financing road maintenance, the city should simply do fewer projects.
“Where it (the money) comes from is less important than how much you spend,” said Fenton.
Projects that use state or government grants aren’t always a good idea, either, Fenton said, even when those grants cover the cost significantly and Spokane Valley only has to pay a fraction of the work.
“No matter where it (the money) comes from, it comes from the people, and it doesn’t just come out of nowhere as they think,” said Fenton.
Fenton said he is not against the city using general funding for road maintenance since all road projects are funded by taxpayers anyway.
There aren’t many reliable long-term statistics available, but anecdotally, the number of homeless people in the Spokane Valley has risen significantly in recent years.
Despite the growing problem, there are no homeless shelters in the Spokane Valley city limits. Instead of sponsoring an urban emergency shelter, Spokane Valley sends $ 1.5 million to Spokane County every 2 years. This money goes to the Spokane homeless aid that Spokane Valley shares.
Fenton said he doesn’t know if Spokane Valley should have shelter, and he’s not sure if the city should spend money fighting homelessness.
But if the city is looking to spend money, it should go straight to Spokane Valley nonprofits that work with the homeless, Fenton said.
“Let the charities take care of them,” he said.
Haley said it could be a mistake to send money to Spokane through the county.
She said she was not against a shelter for the homeless in the Spokane Valley city limits, but there shouldn’t be any accessible shelter.
People affected by homelessness in Spokane Valley are afraid to use the Spokane accessible accommodations, Haley said. She said if Spokane Valley had a place to stay, people should only come in if they were not using drugs or alcohol.
“I think we have to create something that is safe for everyone and not somewhere they are afraid of,” she said.
Parks and trails
In the past few years, Spokane Valley has made a number of purchases that add to or improve the city’s park and walkway system.
In 2020, the city spent $ 2.1 million on 45 acres of vacant land on the north bank of the Spokane River south of the Euclid Road-Flora Avenue intersection. That year, the city spent $ 1.6 million on 18 acres of vacant land in the Ponderosa neighborhood.
The city council unanimously approved the purchase of Ponderosa, but several council members initially rejected the purchase of the riverside property. Haley was one of the opponents.
“I think our timing was pretty bad,” she said.
The land was owned by the Washington State Department of Transportation and the city had a right of first refusal on the property, Haley said. She said the city could have waited until after the pandemic to buy it.
“There was no rush,” she said. “I feel like we should look into some of these practical, not-so-fun things like roads, infrastructure, and public safety first. That’s what the city does. “
Haley also noted that she would like the city to focus less on adding parks than on adding benches, bathrooms, and other amenities to the pathways and parks that already exist.
Fenton said he was generally against the city buying more parkland.
“The city council just has to stop spending money on parks and other unnecessary things and just care about the citizens,” he said.
He added that the city already has plenty of parking space and that “the parks are not being overrun by users, but rather by homeless people and criminals.”
Instead of buying new land, the city should team up with schools and turn playgrounds into public parks, Fenton said.
“These schools are everywhere,” said Fenton. “If you keep buying parks, it just means you have to maintain them in the future, you have to try to keep the homeless out and patrol them for crimes.”
Converting school playgrounds into public parks would not be dangerous for school children, as the playground parks are mostly used in the summer and evenings when the children are out of school, Fenton said.
Spokane Valley doesn’t have a law enforcement agency of its own, though these sky-blue, specially painted police cruisers suggest otherwise.
Instead, the Valley is paying the Spokane County’s office to help meet the city’s law enforcement needs. All Spokane Valley Police Officers are part of the Sheriff’s Office.
Spokane Valley leaders have long debated whether the city should create its own law enforcement agency instead of continuing to contract with the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office. As Spokane Valley grows and the sheriff’s office struggles with staffing shortages, the city council can resume the conversation.
Fenton said he doesn’t know whether Spokane Valley should have its own police department.
Regardless of the city’s law enforcement, citizens must take crime control into their own hands, Fenton said.
“Instead of having to wait for a police officer to come out, we should be able to have citizens ready and ready to come forward,” said Fenton. “I’m not telling people to chase them (criminals) down the street with their cars, but there are too many petty thefts and it has to be stopped and citizens have to interfere.”
Neighborhood surveillance programs should be improved, Fenton said. He stressed that people should not rely on the police to fight any type of crime.
“We can’t rely on the police for everything,” he said. “If (crime) happens to me, I will arrest a person, I will not just call the police.”
Fenton previously said he would like the city to consider an incentive program that would encourage more residents to buy guns as the increase in gun ownership will deter crime.
Haley said the city should continue to contract the county for law enforcement purposes. There is no reason for the city to have its own police department, she said.
“Our sheriff’s department does a great job and I think it’s cheaper than if we had our own,” said Haley. “They do their best with the staff that they have. I’m really proud of the sheriff’s department. “
If the Valley set up its own law enforcement agency, the sheriff’s office deputies working in the Valley could leave the county and join the city, Haley said. Poaching district MPs to form a city police station should be avoided, she said.
At the same time, Haley said that as Spokane Valley grows, the city may be forced to create its own law enforcement agency.
“If we get bigger, maybe we have to, it can just become a reality,” she said. “But right now I’m very positive about our relationship with the sheriff’s department.”