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Three Community-Focused Candidates Face Off in District Two

In Spokane there are three city council seats up for election. In district two the winner will replace Mike Allen, who has finished his term. The candidates are LaVerne Biel, Lori Kinnear, and John Waite, each having some experience with city council elections.

The three candidates all boast small business experience, each as owners or operators. Their differences come down to their background and priorities for the city. We’ll start off with their background.

LaVerne Biel
Credit Campaign
LaVerne Biel

LaVerne Biel ran unsuccessfully for this district in 2013 and otherwise is a business woman who owns telecomm company Access Unified Networks. She has been involved with Associated Builders and Contractors, East Spokane Business Association and East Central Community Association. She’s also active in the Quaker Church.

For campaign priorities, Biel says she wants to bring the council back in line with their mission statement.

Biel: “They are supposed to be looking at efficient and effective services… and so if things that you look at aren’t provided by the city or it’s not going to increase the economic development of the area, then it shouldn’t be evaluated.”

She also wants to finish implementing the Use of Force Commission report, where a cultural audit of the police department is left incomplete, and wants implementation of the street levy money to be transparent.

Credit Facebook
Lori Kinnear

Another candidate, Lori Kinnear, has worked as a city council legislative aid for more than six years. She has helped research and write resolutions and created Spokane’s community garden program. Kinnear is also involved with the Friends of Centennial Trail, the Manito-Cannon Hill Neighborhood council and Spokane Preservation Advocates.

She prioritizes public safety topics like replacing aging fire department equipment, wants to create economic development incentives, and wants historic neighborhoods to have a voice in development.

Kinnear: “That people who live in the neighborhoods know what’s going on, so they’re informed if there’s going to be a cell tower, for example, going up next door, or a big development.”

Credit Facebook
John Waite

One more candidate for district two, John Waite, has run for city council twice, unsuccessfully. Waite knows small business in-and-out as the operator of Merlyns Comics for 30 years, the owner for the past 20. He studied local politics for several years as the producer of a community radio show called Make Gov Work.

Waite says his top three priorities have a theme: they promote social responsibility and economic responsibility.

Waite: “One of my big things is I want to work on bringing high-tech and digital jobs and entrepreneurs to Spokane, and it’s kind of the perfect place at the perfect time right now with all the commercial property we have available, we have a lot of dark fiber for internet access. I am a big proponent of municipal wifi.”

Other top projects would including a concept called Housing First that assists homeless individuals, and reforming the justice system by focusing less on incarceration and more on community courts and neighborhood policing.

Being small-business minded people, we asked Biel, Kinnear, and Waite about the proposal to require paid sick and safe leave in Spokane, and each had differing hesitations. Biel starts with the qualification that she provides sick leave for her nine employees, but…

Biel: “I think it’s a national discussion, I also think it’s a state discussion… city wide it’s not a good or service that the city provides, so I’m going to go back to the mission statement.”

Kinnear says it’s a public health issue and the community needs to address it, however…

Kinnear: “I disagree with some of the council members that they want to go quickly with this. I don’t think this is a quick fix, I think it needs to be thoughtful. I think we need to engage business probably a little bit more, and we also need to be talking specifically with the workers who are going to be affected by this and hear their stories as well.”

Waite says conceptually he supports sick and safe leave, and social services in general.

Waite: “If they’re talking about big box and Walmart and Target and McDonalds so be it, those companies make billions of dollars and can afford it… but they need to make sure that they protect the small businesses that are, some of these small businesses don’t make money.”

The council proposal is in a draft format now.

The district two candidates each have local business experience and knowledge of city council, but differing priorities.

Copyright 2015 Spokane Public Radio

Ballots are in hand, and due by August 4th

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