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Four candidates run to replace Spokane City Councilwoman Lori Kinnear

Donahue and Treloar photos by Savanna Rothe/SPR; Naccarato and Dillon photos supplied by candidates

The Spokane City Council will have at least three new members next year. One will replace two-term incumbent Lori Kinnear in District 2, which covers the southern sector of the city.

There are four people in the race.

There’s general agreement about the issues the candidates, including Paul Dillon, consider most important.

"Really, the three top issues in my race, and you’ll hear the other candidates say that as well, although we all have different ideas around what are the solutions, are public safety, housing and homelessness," he said.

Dillon is the vice president of public affairs at Planned Parenthood.

His opponent, Cyndi Donahue, has a business background. She worked for several years for Ignite Northwest. That’s a business development non-profit organization. She has served on local business-related boards of directors.

“When I knock on doors and I ask people what’s the most important issue happening in Spokane, they’ll either say crime, and sometimes by that they mean property crime in District 2, and this morning, at 5 am, we actually had a prowler at our house, someone walking down the street with a rolling cart, looking for cars to break in. It’s a huge issue," she said. "And with the crime downtown, there’s just not enough resources to really deal with property crime, so it’s a resource issue.”

Public safety in Spokane also has a relationship issue, says Katey Treloar. Treloar was a public school teacher in Spokane who now owns her own business. She works one-on-one with people diagnosed with ADHD to help them develop life skills. Treloar says the city needs to improve the relationship between police and the people whom officers serve.

“There’s a great program called PALS, the Police Activities League, and they do great work in the summers with camps, working in different parks and different communities and I think if we can just continue to build those good relationships with our police department and then allow them to do their work by providing them with the tools and the equipment that they need to hold people accountable for their choices," she said.

The fourth candidate, Mike Naccarato, also touts a more positive relationship with officers. He supports a community-policing approach and working closely with businesses to help them improve their security. Naccarato works as a business purchaser. We weren’t able to arrange an interview with him, but he submitted written answers to several questions.

While the candidates express overall support for police, Paul Dillon questions how the department deploys its people. Too many officers downtown, not enough in neighborhoods, he says. He also questions how police enforced city noise ordinances when anti-abortion protestors congregated outside Planned Parenthood a few years ago.

“There would be numbers of officers out there and code enforcement not really empowered to do a lot of the work on decibels and noise complaints and to me, it would be great to not have police be here. Maybe a few to make sure that everyone’s safe and to monitor, but code enforcement could really be empowered in that situation," he said.

Three of the four candidates support giving the police ombudsman more authority to investigate individual officers. We didn’t get Naccarato’s views on this.

In addressing homelessness, all of the candidates support a coordinated effort that involves the county and all city governments. Cyndi Donahue says she was inspired by the recent announcement of a regional homelessness authority.

“The questions I still have are the financing and in the money and how that’s supposed to work. There’s a lot of trust that has to be built between the different cities and the county and especially the providers, the service providers that are out there helping our homeless. But I appreciate the effort of collaboration. I appreciate that everyone wants to help solve and to help people," she said.

When it comes to housing, each of the candidates say Spokane needs more of it and a greater variety of places where people can live. Mike Naccarato says the city should provide incentives to developers and work with non-profit organizations to help them find money for more affordable housing projects.

That was a common refrain, but Katey Treloar says the city also has a role in ensuring that there’s some order as new housing goes in, especially in growing neighborhoods like Latah Valley.

“We need safe roads. We need water. We need a fire department. And so, I think, as a city council member, it’s really important to, yes we need housing, but we also need to be transparent in that housing and then provide all of the things that are necessary to make that housing successful," she said.

The state legislature this year authorized cities to change their local ordinances and allow more multi-tenant housing, especially in areas close to mass transit.

As more and larger housing units are built, there will be pressure to protect the character of existing single-family neighborhoods. Cyndi Donahue doesn’t think it will be a problem.

“No one’s going to tear down a home on Manito Boulevard and build a four-plex. It doesn’t, quite honestly, pencil out. And so I think it’s not something to worry about," she said.

Paul Dillon agrees the city has a role in helping to preserve neighborhoods, but says it should not get in the way of the changes that are inevitably coming.

“Keeping in mind some of those design standards is really important for some of our historic neighborhoods. We do have a lot more opportunity to support infill that we have not really taken advantage of yet," he said.

One of the themes of this year’s municipal races in Spokane is the frayed working relationship between the mayor and city council. Supporters of the current mayor are pushing to reverse the 5-2 progressive tilt of the current council and give her a working majority.

Officially, all of the races are non-partisan, but it’s clear, at least in some cases, which way the candidates lean. Dillon’s past political experience is as an aide to former Spokane City Councilman Jon Snyder, a progressive, and to Democratic State Senator Andy Billig. Dillon hasn’t been shy in expressing his support for the progressive mayoral and council president candidates and his criticism for the incumbent mayor.

“I know that I’m going to get attacked for being a critic of the mayor, but that’s called accountability," he said.

As of July 11, Dillon reported nearly $35,000 in contributions, some of it from the most prominent names in Spokane and Washington state Democratic politics.

Cyndi Donahue has received money from some of the same sources and many of her endorsements are from traditional Democratic supporters. She has reported nearly $24,000 in contributions. But she’s downplaying the partisan angle.

“Residents all say, when I knock on doors, they say, ‘I am a moderate this-or-that, right? I’m in the middle. I just want it to be less politicized and I want city council and the administration to work together to solve the issues that we have,’” she said.

Katey Treloar is one of a handful of council candidates who are emphasizing the term “non-partisan” in their campaign signs and literature.

“I am going to come to the table with every vote and every policy, recommendation, with an open mind, and really use community input, data, research, and I will come up with my own decision every time and that’s going to look, sometimes it will align with the two and sometimes it will align with the five, but it won’t always be the same," she said.

Treloar has reported about $100,000 in contributions, including money from traditional Republican sources, including bankers, realtors and developers and local conservative politicians. She also has the endorsement of the Spokane Police Guild.

The fourth candidate, Mike Naccarato, has reported no contributions. He says he is concerned about the amount of money spent in this race and that it calls into question who the candidates would represent if elected. He writes, “We need fresh faces, fresh perspectives, and individuals who are unafraid to say ‘no’ to the allure of money."

The top two candidates in the primary will move on to the November general election.

Doug Nadvornick has spent most of his 30+-year radio career at Spokane Public Radio and filled a variety of positions. He is currently the program director and news director. Through the years, he has also been the local Morning Edition and All Things Considered host (not at the same time). He served as the Inland Northwest correspondent for the Northwest News Network, based in Coeur d’Alene. He created the original program grid for KSFC. He has also served for several years as a board member for Public Media Journalists Association. During his years away from SPR, he worked at The Pacific Northwest Inlander, Washington State University in Spokane and KXLY Radio.