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Mielke, Richard flush with raceway money

I see county commissioners voted last week to feed more of our money into the Spokane County Raceway near Airway Heights.

This time, as outlined in reporter John Craig’s revealing news story, the park was given $250,000 for some “safety and accessibility improvements.”

Flush.

This latest payment is in addition to the 200 grand the commissioners put into this boondoggle back in April.

Fluuush!

Now, $450,000 might seem like a lot of dough. Especially in this lousy economy when most regular folks are hurting.

But the first lesson every politician learns once he or she descends into office is just how fun and easy it is to spend the public’s money.

I’m betting County Commissioners Todd Mielke and Mark Richard had a high-octane blast two years ago when they bought Spokane County Raceway in an auction for $4.3 million.

FLUSH!!

Mielke and Richard aren’t tycoon wheeler-dealers, so far as I know.

I’m guessing that on their own they would have never been able to come up with the significant scratch it takes to purchase, fix up and then operate such a dubious enterprise as a racetrack.

To be honest, I’m not sure if Mielke and Richard could locate Thursday on a wall calendar.

Only through the miracle of government could these two realize such a risky racetrack dream.

Good thing for Mielke and Richard that the county owns it.

Spokane County Raceway has suffered some early setbacks that could have caused even a well-heeled private entrepreneur to crash and burn.

First a polluted well was found on the site. The cleanup for that may cost a bundle.

Then the first track operator turned out to be as effective as sand in the gearbox.

This created a lot of ill will. Plus the county is still on the hook over $1.1 million in unpaid bills stemming from that fiasco.

No doubt about it. Running Spokane County Raceway would be nightmare if you didn’t have the pockets of helpless taxpayers to pick.

To her credit, Commissioner Bonnie Mager has always been an unwilling hostage on this political joyride.

She didn’t have anything to do with the buying of it.

And the other day she termed it “outrageous” that the raceway continues to be a money-sucking priority, especially when the county’s juvenile justice system is in desperate need of more manpower.

Mager pointed out that buying Spokane County Raceway could eventually tag us for $7 million once the debt service is factored in.

The poor woman obviously doesn’t know what it’s like to be overcome with motorsports fever.

Look, I have nothing against racetracks.

I just don’t want to pay for one.

Too bad we can’t hand over Spokane County Raceway to the Northern Quest Resort & Casino, which is located just a short drive from the raceway.

I may be a bit biased since I work from time to time as a reporter on televised Northern Quest poker tournaments. But everything I’ve seen tells me that the casino knows how to run things in an efficient and classy way.

Mielke and Richard would never let their raceway baby go, of course.

There should be a special place for county commissioners like those two.

Flush.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by e-mail at dougc@spokesman.com.


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