Spokane Mayor Dennis Hession responded to recent criticism and shared his vision for Spokane at a meeting last Tuesday with Journalism students from EWU.
Hession, who has thrown his hat in the ring for this year’s mayoral race, responded to criticisms leveled by opponent Al French (who met with students earlier in the month) by saying that many issues have been blown out of proportion.
French criticized Hession for delaying the release of a $260,000 publicly funded Efficiency and Effectiveness Study. French said it was an example of Hession’s predisposition as a lawyer to be secretive.
Hession, who released a modified version of the report after it had been leaked to The Spokesman-Review, said the attack was politically motivated. He said he only withheld information he felt was inaccurate.
He condemned French’s call to release the draft version of the report, saying any inaccuracies found in the draft version would give critics a reason to dismiss the whole report. “Secretive for secretive’s sake?” Hession said, “No. I think that’s irresponsible to just throw out inaccurate information to the public.”
The mayor also responded to criticism that he inappropriately withheld information regarding the whereabouts of Deputy Mayor Jack Lynch. Lynch has been on medical leave for several months due to an unspecified illness.
Hession said federal law prohibits him from asking about or disclosing the nature of Lynch’s illness.
Lynch has been surrounded by controversy following reports by The Spokesman-Review that linked him to unlawful activity at High Bridge Park. Hession called the Review’s story “unconscionable,” saying they ran the story even after they had been informed by his office that the information was unverifiable. “I’m troubled by the way The Spokesman-Review uses its reporting to editorialize,” he told students.
Students who attended the meeting said they enjoyed their up-close look at city government.
They said it was beneficial to contrast views from opposing candidate Al French. Many students said they were taking a closer look at The Spokesman-Review’s coverage of Hession to decide for themselves if the stories had a slant.
Hession said his plans for 2007 include working on a number of initiatives – including an open government initiative and an initiative to lease city property – and implementing the recommendations of the Efficiency and Effectiveness Study. He said the goal of the report is to extend outstanding customer service and value to the citizens of Spokane.
He said, “Our goal is to be best in class in the country.”