In deciding the Spokane County treasurer’s race, voters first must determine the appropriate job description.
In the primary, the two challengers criticized incumbent Rob Chase for being an activist. The job, they said, requires the training and acumen to review municipal finances and manage the county’s investments. Politics and policy should be left to others.
We agreed and endorsed Republican Mary Kuney, who finished third. Now we’re endorsing Democrat Amy Biviano, who, like Kuney, is a certified public accountant and has greater expertise in finance than the incumbent. She is a Yale graduate with a master’s degree in business administration from Gonzaga University.
Chase is not a CPA, but his top lieutenants are. However, he sees the job in more political terms. He has run for state Senate, Congress and the Spokane County Commission. In a remarkable upset, he turned a write-in candidacy into victory in the treasurer’s race four years ago.
He’s managed the office fairly well, but his penchant for going rogue in the policy arena is cause for concern. He identifies as a Republican, but thinks more like a libertarian or constitutionalist. He supported failed legislation to elevate gold and silver to legal tender status. He’s mentioned changing state law to allow the county to invest in those metals.
As treasurer, he appeared at a Spokane Moves to Amend the Constitution rally, speaking out against current campaign finance laws. His response is that changes would lessen partisanship, but that misses the point. It is a charged political issue, so he should have stayed above the fray.
On one policy issue, we supported Chase. He was able to push through the Legislature a bill that allows partial payment of property tax bills. However, we were persuaded by his opponents that the political lifting should have been done by county commissioners, with the treasurer serving in an advisory role.
If elected, Chase says he wants to pursue another bill aimed at the high penalties facing those who are behind in their property tax payments. He may advocate for more personal-property tax exemptions, too. Again, we see this as the role of policymakers, not the treasurer.
Though Biviano was once chairwoman of the Spokane County Democrats and a state legislative candidate, she has vowed to keep politics out of the job. She says the office can play a greater role in financing and lending and that a treasurer with greater technical expertise can better spot these opportunities.
The Sullivan Road Bridge Project is one example where the office might have been able to help, she notes.
As we said in the primary, if this were a job interview rather than an election, Biviano’s resume would rise above Chase’s. If you believe the position should be nonpolitical, that’s a powerful reason to vote for her.
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