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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Should Commissioners Have Control Over Elected Posts?

Doug Floyd Interactive Editor

Although they control the county purse strings, Spokane County commissioners don’t necessarily control county government - not all of it in any event.

Several other county officials are elected in their own right and are accountable only to the voters. For a while there, however, it looked as though new Commissioner Kate McCaslin might want to alter that.

On Tuesday, the commissioners increased the salaries for the county assessor, auditor, clerk and treasurer to $59,000. Before they did, though, McCaslin had suggested singling out Assessor Charlene Cooney whose performance, McCaslin said, hasn’t all been that good.

Does that make any difference? Commissioner John Roskelley noted at Tuesday’s meeting that the commissioners should be setting the salary for the job, not the person filling it.

That approach leaves it to the voters, not the county commissioners, to decide whether Cooney is earning her pay or somebody else should take over. Is that what the public wants, or would you like the county commissioners to hold disciplinary authority over other independent elected officials?

Fight fire with fire

Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt seems to have the solid backing of environmentalists for his plan to encourage, rather than fight, certain forest fires. Babbitt says fire is nature’s way of thinning forests and restoring its role in natural resource management is like returning wolves to their role in the balance of nature.

He even plans to ignite fires as needed to burn the right areas.

Do you wonder how the idea of torching timberlands squares with the same environmentalists’ outright contempt for grass farmers who do the same thing to their fields in the fall? Readers are invited to join the discussion.

Safe housing or no housing?

By their nature, many low-income housing units are older structures which were built to standards that wouldn’t pass today’s codes.

Although the tighter standards might be waived for those buildings under “grandfather” clauses, owners often have to do extensive - and expensive - upgrading when they modernize the older units.

A recent fire at the Otis Hotel showed what can happen when standards are relaxed. But what happens to low-income housing, and the people who need it, if strict code enforcement makes buildings too costly to operate?

, DataTimes MEMO: “Bagpipes” appears Tuesdays and Thursdays. To respond, call Cityline at 458-8800, category 9881, from a Touch-Tone phone; or send a fax to 459-5098 or e-mail to dougf@spokesman.com. You also can leave Doug Floyd a message at 459-5577, extension 5466.

“Bagpipes” appears Tuesdays and Thursdays. To respond, call Cityline at 458-8800, category 9881, from a Touch-Tone phone; or send a fax to 459-5098 or e-mail to dougf@spokesman.com. You also can leave Doug Floyd a message at 459-5577, extension 5466.

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