The state of Spokane County isn’t as bad as it might have been and things are looking up, County Commission Chairman Al French said Friday.
French told some 215 business and civic leaders that Spokane County finished 2010 in better financial condition than other counties in the state and the nation.
The county’s current budget was adopted with minimal use of reserves, French said in his State of the County address at a breakfast meeting of Greater Spokane Inc. at the Mirabeau Park Hotel and Convention Center in Spokane Valley.
French said some people worried unnecessarily last fall – when he defeated incumbent Democrat Bonnie Mager – that having three “good-looking Republican men” as commissioners would eliminate disagreements.
He said he and Commissioners Todd Mielke and Mark Richard have disagreed twice, “and I’ve forgiven them both for being wrong.”
Actually, French said, Mielke and Richard have moved the county forward on a variety of issues and programs despite declining revenues. He cited efforts to overcome regulatory obstacles to a new sewage treatment plant and to overhaul the criminal justice system, among others.
French also tipped his hat to former Spokane Valley Mayor Rich Munson, who died Jan. 1, and to Bob McCaslin, a Spokane Valley city councilman and former state senator who is recovering from an illness that cost him a leg.
Housing industry problems elsewhere in the nation were a drug on Spokane County’s economy, and recovery of the industry should be a tonic, French said.
“To that end, the board has already started the process of adjusting some of our zoning regulations to make us more business-friendly without jeopardizing our quality of life,” French said.
He said county commissioners won’t consider any fees that could impede economic recovery, and predicted that lean government budgets are here to stay.
“We need to be more aggressive in our pursuit of regional partnerships” to reduce costs, French said.
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