Hovde, Gravelle vie for mayor

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Ryan Lancaster/Columbia Basin Herald Candidates for Soap Lake City Council and Mayor positions settle in before the start of a forum held Tuesday at Masquer's Theater.

SOAP LAKE - Incumbent Soap Lake Mayor Wayne Hovde and challenger Raymond Gravelle demonstrated their differences in perspective at a recent candidate forum.

For Gravelle, the top issues facing Soap Lake include a need to implement the downtown revitalization plan, raise revenue through a widespread tourism campaign and get the community more involved with fighting crime.

"We all need to understand what it takes so our police department with their limited resources can be more effective," he said.

Hovde agreed the city has issues, but noted a lot is already being done with the help of community members. Graffiti was much worse a decade ago when volunteers helped paint over the problem, he said. Volunteers have also helped build up the beaches and parks over the years and must be called upon now to watch out for each other's property.

"It takes you out there to step up and help protect your city and your property," he said.

When it comes to public safety, Hovde said the city designates 57 percent of the general fund to the police department and recently joined a county-wide gang task force. He'd like to bring on more reserve officers and get witnesses of crimes to report them more readily.

Gravelle's main public safety concern is the rise in crime and gang activity. He did credit the current council for moving to join the gang task force.

As to where the city might get more funding for the police department, Gravelle said the city budget has already been squeezed to its limit and the city must raise more money via marketing.

"The answer is not to shift what's already there, the answer is to increase the revenues," he said.

Hovde said he's witnessed a lot of talk from Gravelle and other challengers about finding new funding sources for police services, but didn't hear any specifics.

"When they were asked the question, 'Where is the money going to come from?' They don't know where," he said. "What else don't they know?"

In response to a question about city water rates, Gravelle said a recent $17 jump in rates warrants concern, especially after the current council reportedly refused to gradually step up the rate because it would mean too much paperwork.

The city's rates are some of the best in the county, Hovde countered, saying Soap Lake is in good shape and residents have more water available to them than most people.

The council could support more Soap Lake events by spreading the word about what Soap Lake has to offer via a well-designed website, Gravelle said.

Such a site already exists in the form of Soaplakeforlocals.com, Hovde said; adding the city must make sure any events it attracts are family-oriented.

In closing, Hovde said he has the education, knowledge and money-management skills to get things done over the next four years.

"I hear the Fabulous Five here have got a lot of ideas, which is great," he said, referring to Gravelle's "Five for the Future" group. "They're really great ideas but they don't know how to do them or where the money comes from."

Gravelle ended by noting the differences between his group and the incumbents, saying the election comes down to a choice to "stay the course with the existing regime" or "change the course, hope for a brighter future with some new energy, new ideas, new drive, excitement and a commitment to keep the citizens involved in all aspects of the city governance."

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