July 31, 2010 in Opinion

Editorial: Billig rises above pack to replace Alex Wood

 

With the departure of Alex Wood from the Legislature, District 3 will be getting a new representative for Position 1. The traditionally Democratic district has four candidates to choose from: three Democrats and a Republican.

The lone Republican is Dave White, who is a sewer inspector for the Spokane County utilities department. He is a newcomer to politics who doesn’t have the public service experience or political knowledge of his rivals.

Of the three Democrats, Spokane City Councilman Bob Apple is the most conservative. He has solid insights into how the state can be too oppressive for businesses, but he’s not clear what should be done about it. For instance, he notes the imminent “unacceptable” rate increases that Labor & Industries is about to impose on businesses to shore up the workers’ compensation fund, but he would not take a stand on Initiative 1082, which would privatize the system. He has a good understanding of the effects of state laws and mandates on local governments, but wants to defer too many decisions to voters.

His Democratic rivals have a better understanding and vision for statewide issues, such as educaton and health care. Louise Chadez has worked in social services for 30 years as a mental health counselor and social worker. Her resume reflects her passion for helping others and for community involvement. She ran unsuccessfully for Spokane County commissioner in 2002. She has served on Spokane’s Human Services Advisory Board. Her views on a variety of issues are a good fit for the district and are similar to those of Andy Billig, who is president of the Spokane Indians baseball team.

What separates Billig from the field is his leadership experience and business background. He deals with the frustrations of bureaucracy, so he understands when government can be a hindrance and when it is working smoothly. He wants to work on education issues, noting the lack of Spokane lawmakers at the table, and economic development, including landing a four-year medical school for Spokane.

He advocates a progressive income tax and wants to lower business and sales taxes. It’s a strategy that would help border cities such as Spokane become more competitve with neighboring states. The people of his district, which is the poorest in the state, would also benefit because they bear an inordinately large tax burden, thanks to the state’s reliance on a high sales tax.

Though a political newcomer, Billig has landed the endorsement of the Spokane Democratic Party.

Billig needs to get up to speed on some issues, such as open government, but he has the right priorities, the leadership skills and the intelligence to shine in Olympia.

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