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Spokane City Council District 3 Race Heats Up

nshepard via flickr

The District 3 race for Spokane City Council pits an appointee in the current position with a newcomer to politics.

The incumbent in the District 3 seat was appointed to the seat by the current council to fill the shoes of Steve Salvatori, who moved his business to Texas.

Karen Stratton  was a former aide to Mayors Jim West and Mary Verner and a legislative aide in the Washington state House. She also worked at Washington State University-Spokane and the Community Colleges of Spokane. 

Stratton says she considers her biggest accomplishment on the council to be helping create a rule that says when a city department head wants to create an exempt position, they have to have council approval. She says several exempt positions were filled with people who did not have as much experience as current city employees.

“Then you’re bringing in someone who doesn’t have experience, who is making $106,000, who is supervising and managing civil service employees who have been there a long time, and then you see morale going down and down.”

Stratton, who has worked as a volunteer on several boards , including Mid-City Concerns, St. Joseph Family Center, and the Spokane Human Rights Commission, says she has special concerns for the homeless, and low income residents of the city. When it comes to talk of requiring sick leave pay for all city employees, Stratton says there are some merits to the concept:

"We have to look at the fact we have people that are going to work sick, that are serving you food in restaurants, that are serving your elderly parents or taking care of kids in daycare, that can’t take a day off when they are sick, and there is something wrong with that for me.”

At the same time, Stratton tempers that concern by saying she doesn’t want businesses to think city leaders would force a sick leave policy “down their throats” without some input.

As far as economic development, Stratton says the process that has been going on in planning for centers and corridors has made great strides in preparing individual neighborhoods for more businesses:

"So if you look at what has happened to the Perry district, and new shops and restaurants coming in, neighborhoods becoming more bicycle and pedestrian friendly, the important thing is to partner with those neighborhood and make sure they get through the process and make sure they see what has become a reality with their planning.”

Stratton also defends her family’s jump into the marijuana processing business this last year:

“I don’t think it’s any different if I owned a winery or smokeshop, this is an industry I feel we are pioneers, and the interest of my family is more on the medical side, I have Lupus and MS that runs heavily in my family.”

Stratton's opponent is architect Evan Verduin, who currently serves on the city’s plan commission, and has served on the “Sounding Board” for the Downtown Spokane transit alternative analysis.

Verduin sys his primary goal is to get businesses to relocate to inside the Spokane city limits to help create jobs and bolster the city’s tax base.

Like Stratton, he likes the idea of comprehensive zoning for specific neighborhoods to be able to tailor themselves to the businesses they seek by getting an individual center and corridor code for specific neighborhoods, again much like the Perry district rehab that Stratton mentioned:

“I think it will provide more flexibility for the business, and I think it will allow the people the neighborhood to influence and attract other local businesses.”

When it comes to the proposal for mandated sick leave for businesses, Verduin thinks city officials are overstepping their role:

“I support the concept of what they’re trying to accomplish with the sick leave ordinance. I just don’t believe it’s the city councils role to mandate that on small business."

Verduin also takes issue with other progressive actions the council has taken, like to endorse the police department  policy of not asking for proof of immigration status when they make traffic stops or other inquiries:

“When there’s something that was already a policy within the police department, for them to make it a formal city policy, again it caused more division. Now we have factions taking sides.”

Verduin has gained an endorsement from Mayor David Condon in this race, something that Stratton views as cronyism. Verduin believes he is more in the mold of businessman Steve Salvatori and would bring a more conservative stance to the current council.

Steve was part of the Spokane Public Radio family for many years before he came on air in 1999. His wife, Laurie, produced Radio Ethiopia in the late 1980s through the '90s, and Steve used to “lurk in the shadowy world” of Weekend SPR. Steve has done various on air shifts at the station, including nearly 15 years as the local Morning Edition host. Currently, he is the voice of local weather and news during All Things Considerd, writing, editing, producing and/or delivering newscasts and features for both KPBX and KSFC. Aside from SPR, Steve ,who lives in the country, enjoys gardening, chickens, playing and listening to music, astronomy, photography, sports cars and camping.