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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spin Control

O’Quinn: Local politics bad for business; newspaper OK

During a televised debate Monday, Spokane County Commissioner Shelly O'Quinn seemed to point some blame at The Spokesman-Review for the county's economic woes. "Divisiveness all over the paper," she said, has deterred employers from setting up shop here.

On Tuesday, however, O'Quinn said her remarks were misinterpreted. The local political environment is unwelcoming to businesses, but the Spokesman isn't to blame for that – nor is any newspaper, she said.

"I'm not attacking the newspaper," she said. "You guys are printing what's happening. It's purely the divisiveness in the politics."

Specifically, O'Quinn said, business leaders have been discouraged by the political controversy surrounding Spokane Mayor David Condon. She added she's glad Condon and City Council President Ben Stuckart have come to a "truce" in recent weeks, as the council prepares to vote on Condon's police chief appointee.

"I was trying to leave people's names out of it," O'Quinn said.

I sat on a panel of reporters during the debate, questioning O'Quinn and her opponent, Andrew Biviano, in the KSPS studio. I then wrote a story about the debate for Tuesday's paper. O'Quinn said the story mischaracterized her remarks, adding she would have liked more time to explain her position.

You can watch the debate above. At the 38:40 mark, O'Quinn gives this response when asked about barriers to economic growth in the county:

The biggest challenge we face in economic development is the fact that we're a border community. And so we are competing not only with other areas in the state ... but we're also competing with North Idaho. So we're working very actively to recruit companies to this region. And I have to tell you, when they read the newspaper and what they see is divisiveness all over the paper, it doesn't help us when we're trying to get them to come here. I was in a recent meeting with a large company that moved here about five years ago, and their headquarter company had said, "We would not have relocated in Spokane County if the newspaper headlines that we see today were the ones that were in the paper five years ago." We have to do everything that we can as a community to make sure that we are creating the business climate that is attractive to businesses coming to this community, and make sure that we are working collaboratively together, versus always fighting over issues ...

Biviano gave a rebuttal, and O'Quinn rebutted his rebuttal. I then asked her for clarification: "What newspaper headlines could be deterring businesses from coming to this region? Could you be more specific about that?"

She responded:

Yeah, so the article  the headlines that are actually being referred to were right at the time when we were going through the conversations around – I would say, the city was going through the conversations around the recall, and I think it's one thing for there to be newspaper articles printed about the recall – absolutely. It's another when there are divisive – when leaders in this community are using that as a political platform for their own political gain versus trying to just come to a resolution on the issue.

I know I wasn't alone in my interpretation. But in the interest of fairness, I ask readers: What do you think?

The Spokesman-Review's political team keeps a critical eye on local, state and national politics.