In northeast Spokane, Council District 1, Position 2 will be getting new leadership, with Amber Waldref hitting the two-term limit.
Kate Burke finished first in the primary, ahead of Tim Benn and Kathyrn Alexander. We preferred Alexander, who struck us as a refreshing, independent choice, but she finished third.
As campaigners, Burke and Benn say similar things, but they have support from opposing political forces. Voting for either will require a leap of faith if the goal is to place a nonpartisan, moderate person on the council.
Burke, 28, is a legislative assistant to Democratic Sen. Andy Billig and has demonstrated a passion for public service. She was co-founder of the Spokane Edible Tree Project, which connects the unused fruit from trees to food banks. She’s also been involved with the Lands Council and Project Hope. She has impressive networking skills, as evidenced from her array of endorsements and the amount of campaign money raised.
Waldref has endorsed Burke, who could possibly end up as an ally to council liberals. On the other hand, Burke says residents in her district cannot afford new taxes, such as a levy on sugar. She is concerned that Proposition 2 – an initiative that would assess fines on rail cars carrying oil and coal – colors outside the legal boundaries.
Her greatest concern is that residents of the district, who may not have the time for advocacy, be treated equitably by the city.
Tim Benn, 39, has run for the state Legislature a couple of times as a Republican. His involvement in the district is unquestioned. He has owned a day care facility with his wife for nearly 20 years and is chairman of the Minnehaha Neighborhood Council. He was successful in getting safety lights installed near Cooper Elementary School.
He says the Police Department needs more officers and more recruits, and he likes the idea of a limited commission for a lower tier of officers. We like that idea, too. He wants to push for better street maintenance, so that jobs are done right the first time. He also does not want to raise taxes, and believes the city can raise revenue by being more business friendly.
Benn talks about partisan issues being a distraction, but he’s been active in trying to get an initiative on the ballot to overturn a city ordinance that prohibits police officers from contacting, detaining or arresting a person based on their immigration status alone. Fortunately, a judge tossed Proposition 1, and that ruling was upheld on appeal. The city ordinance reflects long-standing police practice, and we see no ill effects from it. Immigration is a federal matter.
As it is, the current City Council engages in too much extracurricular activism, which leads to hot-button issues widening divisions. Benn has demonstrated his willingness to do the same, but from the other side of the political spectrum.
Burke says she isn’t looking to expand the parameters of the job, and we hope that is true. Voters should give her a chance.
The Spokesman-Review Editorial Board
Members of The Spokesman-Review editorial board help to determine The Spokesman-Review’s position on issues of interest to the Inland Northwest. Board members are:
2017 editorial endorsement,
Spokane City Council,