North Notes
Spokane North Rotary Club Bulletin
October 10, 2016
          On deck: 3rd District State Legislature candidates visit the club Oct. 17 and Superior Court candidates visit Oct. 24.  Mail ballots are due by Tuesday, Nov. 8, Election Day.
Commission candidates share backgrounds and views   
          The four finalist candidates for Spokane County’s two open commission seats all said the commission should be expanded to five members.  And each thinks some city and county agencies could be merged.  They shared their backgrounds and views at the Oct. 10 luncheon.
            In one race, Candace Mumm, now a Spokane City Council member, faces Josh Kerns, a state legislative aide to Rep. Jeff Holy, R-6th.
            In the second race, incumbent Commissioner Shelly O’Quinn is opposed by civil rights attorney Andrew Biviano.  Mumm and Biviano are Democrats; O’Quinn and Kerns are Republicans.
            The meeting followed the familiar format of brief introductory remarks followed by each candidate visiting club member tables for about five minutes.
            Kerns said his work in the Legislature “has given me a good perspective on things that are important in the community.”  He said his main interest is “protecting and growing jobs” in the county and he lamented that “so many of our college graduates leave our area,” lacking job opportunities.  He said the West Plains in particular, “with rail, freeway and air access,” offers such opportunity.
            Kerns is a lifelong county resident and graduate of Mead schools, Spokane Community College and Whitworth University bachelor’s and master’s programs.
            Mumm said “I’m literally running for office.  I got here at 12:01 p.m.,” after a City Hall meeting with the new police chief.  She added: “I’m proud of the process and where we want to go.”
            Mumm said the rate of property crime and car thefts in Spokane “is worse than other areas of the state” and one problem is that the state “no longer is providing enough funding to supervise criminals.”
            She also said to get controlled growth in the county “we need to ensure that everyone’s at the table, including the school districts.”
            Mumm, in her third year on the Council, was a two-time president of the City Plan Commission.  Her ancestors, pioneer Washington wheat farmers, arrived in 1876.  She and husband, Steve, are small business owners.
            Biviano said the presidential debate the previous night was “a cautionary tale about what not to do in politics.”
            He said his first job following college was as a mental health counselor for youth in Seattle.  Biviano related the story of an Hispanic youth convicted of robbery.  “He was seriously drug-addicted and had no place to sleep – and he was only 12 years old,” Biviano said, using the story to illustrate the need for recuperative programs.  “Within a year, he was a normal kid again,” Biviano said.
            Biviano said he arrived in Spokane Valley with his family “when I was six weeks old.”  A graduate of St. George’s School, Yale, and GU Law School, he previously worked in counseling at Frontier Behavioral Health and was an assistant U.S. attorney.
            O’Quinn, waiting her turn, said, “I’ve been reading that banner (with Rotary’s four-way test) and been thinking about last night’s debate.”
            She added: “I am door-belling now, and there is discontent on both sides of the aisle, Republican and Democratic.  But it’s local issues that matter.”
            O’Quinn recalled her time working for World Vision in Honduras and other social service positions.  When then-County Commissioner Mark Richards took a downtown business agency position in 2012, he asked her to consider the commission and she accepted.
            Of legislative issues, she said “in 2008 Olympia was helping local businesses close their doors,” so she directed efforts at countering that.
            She said “lean management” will be needed because county-wide revenues are rising just 1 percent a year, while expenses are climbing at 3-4 percent.  “The lines will cross,” she said.
            O’Quinn, born and raised in Spokane, is a graduate of Central Valley High, Whitworth and has a master’s degree from Middlebury Institute in Monterey, Calif. In Spokane she has worked for Habitat for Humanity, the Inland Northwest Community Foundation and Greater Spokane, Inc.
            At one table of club members, Biviano said he supports a five-member county commission, adding “it’s good that the county gets to decide, not the commission (itself).”
            He said he would work to merge mental health resources among the municipalities.  “The cities and the county should co-operate.  They are not doing that now,” Biviano said.  Citing “an ounce of prevention” direction, he said paying a counselor $28,000 a year could save “half a million dollars a year” in making sure clients “had their meds and took them.”
            He said agencies need to be “tougher and smarter on (dealing with) crime.”  He added, “There is a lot of frustration listening to the public, especially about streets and schools.”
            Kerns, at a roundtable discussion, said “eventually the county will need five commissioners.  I voted ‘yes’ last year (when the measure failed).”  He added: “There are 137,000 residents in each legislative district, where you have a senator and two representatives – three people.  In the county you have three commissioners serving 500,000 people, so access is far more limited.”
            He favors merging planning and permitting agencies because now “there are different guidelines” in the cities and county.  Kerns cited the “good example of Spokane International Airport.  The airport is jointly operated and runs efficiently.”
            Merging departments or agencies, Kern said, “comes down to education and showing cost savings.”
            Asked about the state’s tax system, Kerns agreed that the business and occupation tax might be changed – perhaps a net instead of gross tax.  “It will come down to a party shift, meaning Republican control,” he said, adding, “We haven’t had a Republican governor in 34 years.”
            O’Quinn said at one table, “I believe in five commissioners, but the voters wanted (to keep) three; they see it as growing government.  And it didn’t help that the board was split.”
            She added: “I don’t support a charter county, where commissioners run by district in the primary, then are elected county-wide.  It’s hard to go county wide.”
            O’Quinn cited the example of “bridge and road decisions being made by the greatest need county-wide, not district by district.”
            She said a merger might work well in pre-trial services and probation offices – settling differences between municipal and superior courts.   Also, having a “one-stop shop” is getting planning permits could work well, O’Quinn said, adding “every jurisdiction would need to align.”
            Mumm favors a five-member commission “if they are responsible for their districts.”  She recalled when City Council members all were elected at-large “and the South Hill got all the better stuff.”  She added: “With city districts now, it’s on a fair-share basis.”
            Merger possibilities, Mumm said, include “emergency management and diversionary courts.”  One “efficiency in justice,” she said, since about half of those jailed have mental health issues, would be “a 16-bed mental health facility built next to the jail,” facilitating “a 72-hour hold on those arrested, so they could get on the right meds.  This works in Yakima and King County,” she added.
            Mumm said county budget belt-tightening is needed, “since we are $3 million down.”  Cutting deputies, however, is not the answer, “since we are down about 34,” she said.
The bulletin producers:
Bulletin editors: Chuck Rehberg and Sandy Fink
Program coordinator: Brad Stark