An NPR member station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Beggs, Dunau Compete for Spokane City Council Seat

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

Credit Doug Nadvornick/SPR
Andy Dunau is challenging Breean Beggs for his Spokane City Council seat in the South district.

Breean Beggs is running to retain his South Spokane city council seat; his challenger is Andy Dunau.

Andy Dunau touts his background as one of partnership and collaboration. For thirty years he has managed Dunau and Associates, which currently runs three nonprofit organizations, the Spokane River and Lake Roosevelt forums, and the Foundation for Water and Energy Education.

Dunau, who describes himself as a fiscal conservative and a moderate on social issues, says he believes his experience with those nonprofits would allow him to be a good fit as someone who could get things done on the council.

“I believe we are living in an era where people are being told why need to choose either going to the left or right,” he said. “My experience to find common sense solutions. You actually have to find a way to get to the middle and work from the middle out.”

The current city councilman in this race came to the position to fill the seat being vacated by outgoing councilman Jon Snyder. Breann Beggs had worked as an activist attorney and was known for his work with the family of Otto Zehm, who died at the hands of the Spokane police, and also for his work on the police ombudsman issue.

One issue where the two candidates disagree strongly is over support for Proposition 2, the ballot measure that would regulate oil and coal trains passing through the community.

Dunau says if passed, the measure will wind up in legal limbo.

“It’s clearly unconstitutional,” he said. “If the initiative is passed by the voters, it will put the city in an expensive litigious situation and the city will clearly lose. And as it moves through the courts for four or five years, you are not improving public safety.”

Breann Beggs worked as a consultant for the group that created Prop 2. He believes the law is clear in that local communities can weigh in on issues involving rail transportation safety.

“That’s been misunderstood,” he said. “Congress passed a law that said local jurisdictions can pass safety laws about trains if it’s a unique danger and not too burdensome. And the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that law. So the thing that’s in front of voters is simply what Congress wanted to happen, and the voters decide.”

Andy Dunau says the current city council makeup, which he describes as five progressives and one conservative, means there is no constructive debate taking place over some issues.

“What you need to know about that majority is that it acts like an echo chamber. It lacks vigorous debate, so when an idea like rocks under the freeway comes in, other members remain silent, rather than saying that doesn’t sound right to me,” Dunau said.

Breann Beggs argues that the makeup of the council is more nuanced than his opponent is making it sound.

“Anyone who doesn’t believe there is debate in the council must not have been coming to our meetings and certainly not our committee meetings,” Beggs said. “I’ve never seen Mr. Dunau at a committee meeting, and we debate everything. The deal is, by Monday night, we have gone through the debates. Actually our votes aren’t six to one, they’re seven to zero, as we’ve had the debates and come up with the solutions.”

Dunau says Beggs is a classic example of a tax and spend liberal, and cites several proposals made by the councilman in recent months as a good example.

“In his 18 months in office he has floated the sugar tax, a proposal for a fee to park in front of your house in a congested neighborhood, and he has started a campaign a few weeks ago to write a ballot initiative so we can increase the property tax to make sidewalk repairs,” Dunau said.

Beggs denies those proposals were part of his own agenda, but rather, input from community members.

“What I do do is something Mr. Dunau says is a good idea, which is to collaborate and get all the stakeholders together to deal with problems,” Beggs said. “And so other people brought to me all those problems, and so have I led the conversation? Yes. Have I said which way we should go? No, because that’s a voter conversation.”

One item that Beggs touts as an accomplishment is the amount of resources the city council has poured into road repair in recent months.

“We’re spending more money fixing roads now than we ever have. We have more construction value investment in this town in the last couple years than we ever have. Essentially since the new council took over in 2014,” he said.

Andy Dunau argues that the amount of money spent does not tell the whole story.

“They’re not talking to the public about any of the priorities and decisions, so they’re just spending more, so they’re doing better,” Dunau said. “What the public wants to know is, are you doing better? Just spending more and having more miles of road doesn’t mean you are doing better.”

The ballots to Spokane voters have already been mailed out. They are due back by Election Day, Tuesday, November 7.