Two old political rivals are at again in the race for Spokane County commissioner.
Incumbent Kuney represents the Board of County Commissioners District 2 – which includes the Spokane Valley and Liberty Lake areas – after being appointed by Gov. Jay Inslee last year after Shelly O’Quinn resigned to take a job as CEO of the Inland Northwest Community Foundation.
Kuney, however, was defeated by current county Treasurer Rob Chase for re-election in 2014. Chase now is vying for Kuney’s commissioner seat.
Family? How long living in the area? Married 38 years to my wife Chris, I have lived in Spokane County since Expo '74.
Why did you want to file for candidacy? I believe we need more transparency to the public, and as commissioner I will work to achieve that. When I ran for treasurer in 2010 I took a two-term pledge, and I am honoring that by endorsing Michael Baumgartner for treasurer and running for commissioner. Several people asked me to run for commissioner because I had already proven myself as being a good treasurer.
What are your goals for the board over the next four years? More transparency and finding enough efficiencies to keep us from raising taxes. I would also like to find ways to involve the public in our decisions.
What, in your mind, is the biggest issue facing Spokane County in the immediate future? The acquisition of Avista by Hydro One of Ontario. Drastic rate increases would threaten our tax base and it is a security issue to allow foreign entity to control our rates and assets of our local utility. There is no public benefit and the board of Avista will split $50,000,000 on signing.
What surprising issues are people bringing up as you door-knock or meet folks at campaign stops? Nothing surprising. Nine out of 10 people complained about the large influx of people moving to Spokane County and the infrastructure was not in place to handle them. People are especially upset over arterials and freeway being jammed more than ever.
What differences separate you from your opponent? My donations come from the average resident whereas my opponent's hefty donations come from the special interests of the business community. My donors want good government for everyone while my opponents donors see their donations as a business investment.
Family? How long living in the area? I have been married to my husband, Max, for 25 years. We have two children.
As a child growing up, my family first moved to Spokane in 1973. I graduated from Central Valley High School and Gonzaga University with my degree in accounting. Altogether, I’ve lived in Spokane for approximately 40 years.
Why did you want to file for candidacy again? When Shelly O’Quinn resigned her commissioner seat she, along with many other community leaders, elected officials and county employees encouraged me to put my name forward for the appointment. I was at a point in my career where I had accumulated the knowledge, experience and wisdom to be a county commissioner.
Once appointed, I was able to hit the ground running and play a significant role in putting together a balanced budget for 2018. I am running to retain my seat, so I can continue working on behalf of the citizens of Spokane County.
This position is about service, which is something I’ve been doing for decades. I have been volunteering in the Spokane community for 30 years, helping the youth of Spokane. This includes Hutton Settlement, where I have served on the board 10 years and am the current president; Boys and Girls Club board of directors; Boy Scouts Troop Committee chairwoman; Junior League; and the HUB Sports Center. All these organizations provide opportunities for kids and teach them to be valuable members of our community. This is important because we need to break the cycle that our vulnerable children are in, so they do not end up in jail, raising the costs of the entire legal system, and using more of our tax dollars.
It is this service to our community that I want to continue as county commissioner.
What are your goals for the board over the next four years? Note that I am running to complete the remaining two years of this term.
No. 1 public safety – This must be our top priority at the county. Altogether, public safety is approximately 75 percent of our budget when you include the sheriff’s office, courts, clerk, jail, etc. If we have a safe community, people will want to live here, companies will want to locate and grow here. All of this will lead to a strong economy and good paying jobs. I am endorsed by Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich.
No. 2 economic development: Having a strong, vibrant economy is vital for our county. I’m working hard to promote economic development throughout the county that will bring in new and better paying jobs. I was the lead commissioner to stand up and defend the Barker Road interchange when certain interests that don’t like roundabouts tried to kill it. Stopping this project would have placed major business developments in Spokane Valley in jeopardy. As you may know, roundabouts are dramatically safer for the public, reducing traumatic collisions.
No. 3 Getting county departments to work together to improve services for the citizens: In my 2.5 years as chief deputy auditor for Spokane County, I oversaw financial services for the entire county. As such, I worked with all departments across the county. This gave me a chance to see how, in many cases, departments are not working efficiently together. In my 11 months on the commission, I have been breaking down those silos to improve efficiencies and services.
What, in your mind, is the biggest issue facing Spokane County in the immediate future? The biggest issue facing Spokane County in the immediate future is our budget. Currently it is both an opportunity and a concern. The county is seeing a rise in sales tax revenues due to the tremendous new construction occurring.
While increased revenues are welcome, we also need to recognize that sales taxes are not a long-term, sustainable revenue source. During this time of increased revenues, there is an opportunity to provide additional one-time resources to areas of greatest need. We will be looking at our infrastructure needs, public safety, as well as other county services.
However, we must ensure we are making long-term, fiscally sustainable decisions when spending the taxpayers’ dollars.
What surprising issues are people bringing up as you door-knock or meet folks at campaign stops? Although it is an important issue, I was surprised that the No. 1 issue people asked me about when I was door-belling was the five-commissioner bill. Many people had questions and concerns about the effect on the county. I have been very vocal in my opposition to this bill. My opponent supports the five-commissioner bill.
Currently, you vote for commissioners by district in the primary, and then vote for all three commissioners in the general election. All three commissioners are elected county wide, so all three are looking out for the greater good of Spokane County.
Under the five-commissioner bill you will only be able to vote for one of the five commissioners in both the primary and general elections. Each commissioner will only answer to 20 percent of the county voters and will logically be focused on their district. This is a flawed form of government, as there will not be anyone elected county wide to ensure the commissioners (elected only by their district) are working for the good of all the citizens of Spokane County.
In addition, this legislation will cost $500,000 to set up and an annual cost of another $500,000 per year. I would rather put more sheriff’s deputies on our roads than pay for two more commissioners. This is an unfunded mandate from state government, forcing us to enact and pay for a costly expansion of county government that our local voters have already rejected.
What differences separate you from your opponent? I've been a Certified Public Accountant since 1993, with local and national experience. This includes 10 years as a Washington state auditor, two of which I was auditor-in-charge of the Spokane County audit.
My background as a CPA and auditor gives me the unique financial expertise to help guide Spokane County through the challenging budget years ahead. I’ll bring fiscally responsible solutions that protect the public, grow our economy, and maintain our infrastructure.
Throughout my career as a CPA, state auditor, chief deputy auditor of Spokane County and Spokane County commissioner, my management philosophy has been and will continue to be bringing people together to find solutions. My inclusive management style has already brought significant results, including a full-time resource officer for Freeman and Liberty school districts and working towards electronic permitting for residential and commercial construction.
I’m honored to receive bipartisan support from current and former county elected officials including Sheriff Knezovich; Commissioners French, O’Quinn, McCaslin and McLaughlin; Auditor Dalton; Clerk Fitzgerald; and Assessor Horton. These elected officials are the ones who know what the job of commissioner entails and that I’m the best choice for the job.
I’m also endorsed by every major business group (AGC, ABC, Homebuilders, Realtors) and labor group (Spokane Regional Labor Council, Firefighters, Laborers, Carpenters) that have endorsed in this race. These elected officials and groups come from many different perspectives; combined with the grassroots support from numerous individuals, they have all agreed I am the best choice for common sense, responsible county government.