Local news

Spokane County commissioner

David Elton

Personal: 44. 17-year resident. Married. Five children, ages 18 to 21.

Education: Some college.

Career: Among other things, Elton says he is a researcher, writer, “investigative specialist,” caterer, and a guitar and chess instructor.

Political: Republican. Ran for Spokane Valley City Council in 2002 and for Spokane City Council last year.

What is the biggest challenge facing this office?

In the past, Spokane has the habit of simply solving problems by raising taxes and fees. This is, in my opinion, wrongheaded thinking. In my mind, the best thing is almost always to lower taxes and lower fees. This causes one to cut back instead of expand. I am a strong proponent of small government. Therefore, I believe in the theory of “starve the beast.” Lower taxes and cut back all the time. No exceptions. The government does not exist to employ people. It should not be a welfare state. It should be minimalist. Potholes and police. Very little more.

Does Spokane County need to replace Geiger Corrections Center? What would you do?

Yes! Immediately! I almost died there! I would seek out cheap land on the border of Stevens County and build a cost-effective and safe facility. Away from the city. Work crews. Education. No cable TV. Just books. No weights. Just schooling and religion (if chosen).

What would you do about the Spokane County Raceway?

I would move forward and make it safe and profitable while seeking sale in a few years.

How would you cut costs or increase revenue in 2011 if the general fund is again unable to sustain current services?

I would immediately execute across-the-board cuts of at least 20 percent. Hopefully more. The county is fat and ripe. Time for a fiscal diet.

Al French

Personal: 59. 33-year resident. Married. One adult daughter.

Education: Bachelor’s degree in architecture, University of Idaho.

Career: Architect, real estate investor, investment consultant.

Political: Republican. Served maximum eight years on Spokane City Council, 2001 through 2009.

What is the biggest challenge facing this office?

County tax revenues are declining as a result of the economy and annexations while expenses continue to climb. The county must find new ways to deliver services while living within its revenue. We must start regionalizing services and eliminating the duplications between the cities and the county where practicable. We must also enhance local economy through adjusting regulatory climate to attract/expand business base and job creation.

Does Spokane County need to replace Geiger Corrections Center? What would you do?

The Geiger Corrections Center needs to be replaced for a variety of reasons: originally built as a barracks and not a jail, unsafe conditions for both inmates and staff, violates state and federal building standards and ADA requirements, impairs development and expansion of airport complex. I support the acquisition of the Medical Lake site and constructing a new jail facility in pods as needed. I support the community corrections center to be located adjacent to the existing jail and courthouse. I support remodeling the existing jail to correct building and safety concerns and developing treatment programs to stop the cycle of repeat offenses and curb recidivism.

What would you do about the Spokane County Raceway?

I would pursue developing a complete cost analysis of the operational and capital improvement cost for the raceway and develop a strategy for getting the racetrack back into the hands of the private sector and off the backs of the taxpayers.

How would you cut costs or increase revenue in 2011 if the general fund is again unable to sustain current services?

City and county budgets in the region will continue to be stressed as the economy lags and competition persists for revenues between the cities and the county. We need to regionalize services where practicable and remove the duplication of efforts and waste of taxpayer dollars. We need to redesign government functions based upon available revenues. I will also advance legislation to enhance business creation and expansion and build our tax base through new growth, not new taxes. Until these measures are done, government will need to return to prioritizing its core functions: public safety, judicial system, roads, infrastructure and basic government services.

Jeff Holy

Personal: 54. 27-year resident. Married. Two teenage children.

Education: Bachelor of science in psychology, Washington State University. Juris doctorate, Gonzaga University.

Career: Attorney, Robert Cossey & Associates. Spokane Police Department, 1984-2006, retiring as a detective.

Political: Republican. Precinct committee officer. Spokane County Republican Party executive board, 1999-2000. County freeholder candidate. Finalist for appointment to replace state Rep. Steve Hailey last year.

What is the biggest challenge facing this office?

Discussions with almost every group I have had the honor to visit with resulted in a challenge to reconnect the disconnect between the residents of Spokane County and their government. People identifying themselves as frustrated voters and taxpayers have been consistent with their experiences and opinions. They believe that they are not being heard. Many expressed frustration in lack of even a simple response to what were often multiple contacts.

Restoration of the belief that our county government is listening and responsive will result in a sense of truly being represented. Your leaders have to actually listen to you to be able to represent you. I will listen. I will respond. My office will return a phone call.

Does Spokane County need to replace Geiger Corrections Center? What would you do?

We do need a new jail facility. I don’t believe the public has been presented all available options. The projected cost of the proposed single facility is significant. Let’s reopen discussion on what can be done to provide a better value for the taxpayer dollar. Also not discussed is the issue of public perception in having a prison next to Interstate 90 at the Medical Lake exit, providing an undesirable first impression to those arriving in our community.

What would you do about the Spokane County Raceway?

I would not have purchased the racetrack when other essential services weren’t being adequately funded. It’s all about failing to make the priorities of government a priority.

To protect county tax dollars, we now must avoid the mistake the city of Spokane made with the purchase and subsequent desperation sale of Playfair Race Course, where lack of adequate planning caused a multimillion-dollar loss.

The racetrack is an enterprise fund facility, as are golf courses and the fairgrounds. I want to explore combining enterprise fund surpluses, so that a surplus from one site can be used to offset the cost of another facility, before additional tax dollars are spent. Spending our tax dollars should be a last choice when other options are possible.

How would you cut costs or increase revenue in 2011 if the general fund is again unable to sustain current services?

Enhancing revenue through tax increases is unacceptable. Creating a model business-friendly environment allowing business growth to increase the revenue stream is my goal. Reality is that forseeable future budget projections will demand continuing fiscal restraint. Limited budget spending will be prioritized according to the priorities of government, starting with public safety and infrastructure. These priorities comprise the social contract that we the people have with our government, and will be the last to be cut.

Bonnie Mager

Personal: 59. 23-year resident. Married. Three children, ages 17 to 32.

Education: Associate of arts in fashion design, Los Angeles Trade-Technical College.

Career: Co-founder, former director of Neighborhood Alliance of Spokane County. Former executive director of Citizens for Clean Air. Former Eastern Washington coordinator for the Washington Environmental Council for 10 years.

Political: Incumbent Democrat. Served on the county’s Solid Waste Advisory Committee for 12 years.

What is the biggest challenge facing this office?

Trying to maintain as many current services as possible in the face of a 2011 budget that is going to need another $3 million cut.

Does Spokane County need to replace Geiger Corrections Center? What would you do?

With crime drastically down from four years ago and falling, we need to invest in a yearlong pilot program that includes juvenile court, diversion courts, early case resolution, pretrial and community corrections to bring the recidivism down as much as possible so we can “right-size” whatever facility we build.

What would you do about the Spokane County Raceway?

The raceway continues to drain hundreds of thousands of dollars of needed revenue away from the county coffers. It does not even make enough to pay the interest on the debt service. I would stop throwing money at the raceway and do my best to find a buyer so we could recoup our losses if possible.

How would you cut costs or increase revenue in 2011 if the general fund is again unable to sustain current services?

I have been an advocate for priority budgeting since joining the council – even spending $7,000 of my own money last year to bring in a specialist to work with our elected officials and department heads and create efficiencies where possible. With a $3 million deficit going into 2011, another early retirement was offered to cut positions, but there will be more cuts needed and the levels of service will have to go down as well.

Steve Salvatori

Personal: 56. Moved here from California in 2007. Married. Two adult children.

Education: Bachelor of science in business administration, University of Northern Colorado. MBA from San Diego-based National University.

Career: Founder and chief executive officer of Spokane Entrepreneurial Center and Salvatori-Scott Inc. Former Pfizer broker manager.

Political: Republican. No experience.

What is the biggest challenge facing this office?

The budget. The county must balance the services provided with the revenue received. We have to face reality in our personal lives, and so must the county.

Does Spokane County need to replace Geiger Corrections Center? What would you do?

Geiger is a World War II barracks, never designed to be a jail. It is unsafe and noncompliant with governmental standards. With the uncertainty surrounding crime rate statistics, it’s impossible to gauge the need for jail cells 20 years out. The Medical Lake site enables us to add cells in modules, and at lower cost than building an entire tower at once, ensuring we build only what we need, when we need it.

I support the community corrections programs at the downtown campus. We need a successful program to reduce recidivism and successfully reintegrate offenders. There is not enough money on Earth to build endless jail cells. It costs more to keep a prisoner overnight in jail than it does at the Marriott. We need a comprehensive approach to ensure adequate jail cells, while funding programs that reduce prison populations.

What would you do about the Spokane County Raceway?

We should convert it to an enterprise fund, and ensure it breaks even on an operating basis. Future capital expenditures must be funded from the track’s proceeds, not out of the general fund. I feel that the new operating agreement is solid, as opposed to the previous one which was deeply flawed. I support the agreement with Airway Heights to convert the northwest parcel into a regional sports facility in exchange for bringing water and sewer to the track and splitting the admission ticket tax. However, the commissioners must actively monitor the track’s performance and ensure the new operators are meeting their obligations.

How would you cut costs or increase revenue in 2011 if the general fund is again unable to sustain current services?

Taxpayers have been clear that they are against increased taxation. The county must encourage growth by streamlining regulation, focusing on essential services, and encouraging small business formation. Our largest sources of county revenue are sales and property taxes, and as we create economic growth, we will see increased tax revenue without raising taxes. We need to limit spending and live within our means. Businesses and households make tough decisions every day and the county must do the same. My top priorities are public safety and roads.

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