Q&A with Lori Kinnear, the soon-to-be newest member of Spokane City Council

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On Election Night, Lori Kinnear received a call from Patty Murray, one of Washington's U.S. Senators, congratulating her on her election to the Spokane City Council. Kinnear heard the message on voicemail having missed the call as she celebrated her victory along with Council President Ben Stuckart at David’s Pizza.
Lori Kinnear
  • Lori Kinnear

Kinnear, backed by Stuckart, beat out her opponent LaVerne Biel, a small business owner who had the backing of Mayor David Condon. Her race was viewed as being potentially pivotal in determining the balance of power, not only on the city council, but also between Stuckart and Mayor David Condon.

Kinnear says she was also heartened by news of Councilwoman Karen Stratton keeping her seat, resulting in four out of the council’s seven seats being occupied by women. “I thought, "Oh this is fabulous,'” recalls Kinnear.

A legislative assistant for Councilwoman Amber Waldref, Kinnear will soon join her boss as the newest member of council. The Inlander asked Kinnear about her thoughts on the election, where she disagrees with Stuckart and what comes next.

Inlander: What conclusions do you draw from the election?

Kinnear: I think that voters are being circumspect when they make decisions and they are choosing more carefully than people assume they are. I’m heartened by that, and the reason I say that is if you look at my race there is a large number of undervotes. There are several reasons for that: They didn’t know, they didn’t have an opinion on it, but maybe they are focused on something else like the mayor or the Worker Bill of Rights or the county’s Proposition 1.

I just think that people are picking their battles. If they are not aware or not paying attention, they would rather not vote than get it wrong.

Why did you win? Do any factors stand out?

I think first of all, I had a huge number of volunteers, and they got out and really worked hard and they were dedicated and they were focused.

I think my message was consistent. I talked about property crime and funding the fire department and our neighborhoods. When you keep the message consistent, it resonates with voters over time.

The council will now have a 6-1 liberal majority. You campaigned closely with Ben Stuckart. How closely are you aligned with Stuckart?

[Laughs] That’s like the when-did-you-quit-beating-your-wife question.

Our styles are very different. I’m a very methodical person, and I’m measured so I want to make sure that I don’t leave any stones uncovered and be as inclusive as possible and not rush through things and I think that’s the biggest difference between us.

Philosophically, my priorities are different from his. We may end up with the same end result but on a different timeline. So on property crime, I’m going to pursue smart justice reforms that don’t seem to be on anyone else’s radar. It doesn’t seem to be a priority of Ben’s right now.

So I don’t know if you can put that liberal label and make it stick in and of itself. I think each of us is concerned with maki
Ben Stuckart on election night
  • Ben Stuckart on election night
ng the community a better place.

Are there any substantive policy issues you disagree on?

[Pause] At the GSI forum that was a question too, and I think sometimes council has poked at the tiger just for the sake of poking the tiger.

When you do a council resolution or a salutation it needs to be more thoughtful. We need to ask what are we trying to accomplish? What is the goal? Sometime it ends up being very controversial and we need to be thoughtful about the resolutions and salutations.

Any examples of that?

I don’t want to give an example right now. I want it to be an overarching comment.

What’s an example of Stuckart being too hasty with something?

Well, we saw earned sick and safe leave was deferred until January, and I think that Ben thought it was supposed to be passed months before now. But when you think about the impact for everyone I think that timeline was a little short. I think that’s why council members pushed back.

What ordinances will you introduce?

I worked on human trafficking six or seven years ago because it was a huge problem. It’s still a huge problem.

I want to reach out to police officers and say, if you wanted to craft an ordinance, what tools would you need?

It’s under the radar because we are dealing with other things. But we are the drop-off place as people are being taken to Seattle and Portland.

What’s your relationship like with the mayor?

It was fine before the election, but the mayor endorsed my opponent, which was awkward at best. So I think he may be the first to ever endorse in a council race, and this may be a trend, but it kind of took me by surprise.

I think [Councilwoman] Karen Stratton and I felt like we had two opponents instead of one in the general election. We need to do some mending.

What do you think about the idea of splitting GSI?

I’ve been so wrapped up in my campaign I haven’t really studied it.

But let me tell you, what I’ve been hearing from small businesses, because Amber and I have been reaching out to them, some small businesses don’t feel they are represented by GSI because GSI is so focused on larger businesses. So these smaller businesses are in limbo, saying who is in my corner? So I’m wondering if there is an opportunity to help the small businesses. What tools do they need for marketing help? What incentives do they need?

I was the business advisor for the Women’s Business Center. What they were telling me is they don’t have an advocate; they don’t have anyone helping with training or recruiting. The Greater Hillyard Business Association brought in a person just to help with merchandising and marketing.

Small businesses hire local employees, they are not bringing in outside people.