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Talking Points 

Three people are running for a county commission seat, but they’re all saying the same thing

click to enlarge O\'Quinn, Romeyn, and Chase
  • O\'Quinn, Romeyn, and Chase
Daryl Romeyn is taking a chance. The small-scale organic farmer, former weatherman and Democrat is vying for a spot on a commission long controlled by Republicans, and he’s doing it with some of the same promises as his Republican opponents.

Romeyn is facing Republicans Rob Chase and Shelly O’Quinn for the Spokane County Commission District 2 seat, which covers southeast Spokane and Spokane Valley.

Commissioners run the county’s budget and operations, and help determine zoning policies in the county. Spokane County Democrats Vice Chair Dave Koch says Republican control of the commission has left his party’s values ignored, and he’s hoping Romeyn can change that.

“We seem to be building a lot more strip malls. We seem to be getting a push toward land development,” he says. “We’d like to see more control and better use of the resources of the taxpayers.”

But all three candidates identify the same problems at the county and have similar talking points about how to fix them: They all say a tight budget will be the county’s biggest challenge and promise they’ll find ways to save money instead of raising property taxes to fix it.

Romeyn says his top idea to save money is to cut off the county’s annual funding of Greater Spokane Inc., the regional economic development council and chamber of commerce where O’Quinn works. He calls it unnecessary spending on a group that should fund itself.

O’Quinn says the county’s money to GSI funds only economic development — not chamber activities — and brings in enough job-creating development to be worth it. (GSI wouldn’t provide a copy of its final budget by press time, but funding request documents GSI says it sent to the county show it plans to use $225,000 of county money to attract businesses to Spokane.)

Romeyn, who lost a race against Cathy McMorris Rodgers for the 5th Congressional District in 2010, started out his campaign saying he’d lower property taxes, but now, like his Republican counterparts, he’s promising just not to raise them. He says he plans to “follow the money trail to identify the savings and solutions” once in office.

He says there’s money to be saved in the Sheriff’s Office, including finding more efficient home and work-release programs. (One idea, he says, is a small-scale garden and orchard to be tended by inmates.) An update to the county’s parks plan could make it eligible for more grants, Romeyn says, and opening Gateway Park at the state line as a visitors center could create jobs and boost tourism revenues.

“It’s a little part of the economy we can stimulate while we wait for the Boeings and the Caterpillars,” Romeyn says.

O’Quinn, 37, is currently the director of education and workforce at GSI. She’s taken heat for being an insider, but says her job makes her better for the commission than her opponents.

“Where have they been for the last five years?” she says. “I understand and have been actively involved in what we’re working on to move Spokane forward. … We’re trying to make Spokane a better place.”

O’Quinn, who lost a bid for state representative in the 2010 primary, is a Spokane native who studied at Whitworth University and the Monterey Institute and has worked with nonprofit organizations in Honduras and Florida. She’s got the support of the three current commissioners, the Republicans of Spokane County, the Spokane Association of Realtors and the Kalispel Tribal Economic Authority, which is among her biggest donors with $1,800 in contributions.

She’s polished and has dramatically out-raised and out-spent her competitors. O’Quinn’s spent almost $31,000 of her total $41,079 raised. Meanwhile, Chase brought in about $7,400; spent about $4,600; and Romeyn hasn’t spent any of his $900 raised.

O’Quinn’s campaign emphasizes job creation through attracting large-scale projects like the Caterpillar distribution center that will open later this summer, but she also says she’ll cut expenses by making the county more efficient with “lean standards.” Her examples range from better organized offices to faster permitting processes.

Chase isn’t convinced she’s what every Republican wants. The current county treasurer calls himself a “generalist” and says his work experience, from manufacturing at Hewlett-Packard to customer service at Safeco Insurance, means he can better represent people across the county.

The 58-year-old libertarian and Eastern Washington coordinator for the Ron Paul campaign is from Kellogg, Idaho, and says he’s lived in Spokane since the ‘70s. He studied operations management at Eastern, which he says emphasized efficiency — something he, too, promises to bring to the county. His only specific idea to accomplish that so far is to avoid replacing employees who retire, unless it’s absolutely necessary.

He quotes Alexis de Tocqueville, blames bank bailouts for people’s distrust in government and promises to fight for legislation that would eliminate fees for late property taxes.

“I don’t know that Shelly appeals to all Republicans or Daryl appeals to all Democrats,” he says. “I want to give voters a choice.”

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