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Spokane council president candidates discuss issues, get personal about diversity in forum

The League of Women Voters hosted the four candidates in the 2019 election for the city's second-highest elected office.
Credit: Me
The four candidates for Spokane City Council President at a forum hosted by the League of Women Voters at City Hall. The candidates, from left to right, are Breean Beggs, Mike Fagan, Phillip Tyler, and Cindy Wendle.

The four candidates running to be Spokane's next city council president gave their stances on policy and their attitudes towards leadership in a forum hosted at City Hall by the League of Women Voters on Thursday night.

The bulk of the conversation was on typical Spokane policy issues, such as homelessness and public safety.

The candidates spoke, for instance, about their ideas to increase affordable housing in the city.

"The cure for a lot of our ailments, including homelessness, is more units," said current council member Breean Beggs. "Increase that density without losing neighborhood character."

"Expand multi-family tax exemption areas in the city, where you don't have to pay taxes for eight years if you build multi-family," he said.

Councilman Mike Fagan said developers and builders need to be more involved in the conversation.

"We need to get those types of folks to the table, to let us know where it is in our development regulations, where it is in our incentive or disincentive packages, that we need to adjust," he said.

Former Spokane NAACP president Phillip Tyler, who has been accused by multiple ex-wives of domestic violence and who has denied those accusations, said that to get more housing, you need more builders.

"We're so focused on STEM education these days that we're forgetting about the trades," said Tyler. And they'll tell you that that's the missing piece in order to build our way out of it. There [are] not those skilled individuals out there that are willing to build."

Businesswoman Cindy Wendle wants to make sure whatever action is taken doesn't force out small landlords.

"Our landlords are a key element with this," said Wendle. "We have so many what I call mom and pop landlords in this town... I don't think people realize the importance of what they do."

Candidates were also asked questions on topics ranging from the police ombudsman to climate change.

But the most heated moments of the night revolved around diversity in Spokane.

Tyler criticized the moderators for removing a question on the subject from the agenda; they later did ask about it.

In his response, Fagan said that the next council president will need intricate first-hand knowledge of city government.

"Experience counts. You're going to have to hit the floor running," he said.

Tyler took issue with that language.

"To use the term 'experience' for new candidates who are running for office is colloquialism for privilege," he said.

Fagan responded to that comment in his closing statement.

"Here we are talking about this thing 'white privilege.' I am being misidentified here," he said. "I am more Japanese than I am anything else. I have been the only diversity on the Spokane City Council for the last seven years."

The primary election will be held on August 6th. The top two candidates will then move on to the general election in November.

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