Leadership, Not Politics

by MARK RICHARD & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & D & lt;/span & uring my time in office, I have been a champion for improving how elected officials work together to resolve differences. This has led to a more unified vision, the regionalizing of services and fewer lawsuits between jurisdictions. It is perhaps because I have worked so hard to build bridges across political lines and work with all points of view that I feel the need to respond to last week's editorial ("A Question of Racing" by Spokane County Commissioner Bonnie Mager). I stand for accountable, forward-thinking leadership, not politics. I offer this to you for consideration: the distinction between politics as usual and community leadership.

The public is better served when we replace politics with leadership. I have been dedicated to the important challenges and opportunities before us, such as the return of Crime Check, addressing our overcrowded jail, reforming our criminal justice system, building services for the addicted and the mentally ill, and strengthening the local economy.

Three years ago, I established the Council of Governments, which brings every policy maker in the region to the table. I have taken deliberative steps to invite and understand cultural differences in our community. Together, we have raised the bar for how government serves all people and interests with integrity. Debate and compromise are what define politics; at the end of the day, this is how leadership moves the community forward, not political sound bites.

Within County government, I have gone to great lengths to remove the good-ol'-boy ways of doing business. I have insisted that our employees are empowered to voice their opinions and to ensure decisions are fair and transparent. We have worked hard to remove inappropriate influence on processes and decisions. I have been dogged in my pursuit of higher ethical standards such as our new no-compete clause that prevents employees from going directly to work for businesses they served as a county employee. I have initiated independent financial and performance audits of several county agencies to ensure our County government is accountable to the taxpayer.

& lt;span class= "dropcap " & W & lt;/span & ith regard to the raceway property, we do have a vision. That vision is to provide baseball and soccer to the West Plains, where the kids currently play on the polo fields. We plan to build a regional law enforcement training facility so our Sheriff can generate revenues while training his officers for free, to help offset the growing costs of public safety. And yes, we do have visions of a thriving multipurpose racing facility that could include sprint boats, bicycles, go-carts and public concerts as well as motorcycles and cars.

We studied this decision for nearly a year. Only time will tell if we got it right. Today, the facility has momentum, and our goals of stimulating the economy in a season cut short by litigation and infighting are already being realized. It is estimated last weekend's event filled 200 hotel rooms and pumped over $150,000 into the economy!

As for the future, I cannot help but believe some level of NASCAR event is within our reach, given our passion for spectator sports and our rich racing history.

If it is true that you are defined by the company you keep, then my diverse and prominent list of supporters will speak louder than I ever could about the accomplishments we have achieved over the past four years. Our community will only move forward when we elect leaders, not activist politicians.

Mark Richard is a Spokane County Commissioner. He is running for re-election this fall.

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