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Spokane County Commissioner Shelly O’Quinn said Tuesday she supports a proposal to swell the ranks of the three-member board by two members. “I’ve been on the fence about it in the past,” O’Quinn said at an afternoon meeting of the commission. “I’m not on the fence anymore.”
Spokane County voters on Tuesday were turning down a 0.3 percent sales tax increase to pay for improvements to public transit. But the measure still was too close to call, according to supporters of Proposition 1 from the Spokane Transit Authority.
The Republican commissioner, who is in the midst of a public disagreement over transit funding with colleague Al French, said Tuesday she supports a measure to add two members to the Spokane County Commission.
The fissure is growing among the three Republicans serving on the usually lock-step Spokane County Commission. A political battle over the proposed sales tax increase to fund public transit has prompted allegations by Al French that his colleagues used personal cellphones to circumvent public meeting laws. Commissioners Todd Mielke and Shelly O’Quinn deny those claims and say the political cracks may run deeper than a controversial ballot measure.
Opponents of Spokane County’s plans to expand areas where urban growth can occur say they’re concerned about the hiring of an attorney with strong ties to developers. In January, county commissioners approved the hiring of Stacy Bjordahl to consult with them on growth planning matters. The private practice land-use attorney is paid $200 an hour for services including mediation, negotiation and settlements.
The usually monolithic Spokane County Commission showed signs of cracking Tuesday as Shelly O’Quinn and Todd Mielke took colleague Al French to task for using a monthly TV program to highlight a ballot measure that would increase taxes for bus service. French said the program was meant to be informational, not an endorsement or condemnation of the proposed 0.3 percent sales tax increase that would fund several proposed Spokane Transit Authority projects through 2025.
The relatively monolithic Spokane County Commission showed signs of dissent Tuesday, as commissioners argued about their stance on a proposed sales tax increase to fund changes to the area's transit system.
The state’s largest county road system has its next chief. The Spokane County Commission on Tuesday selected Mitch Reister as the county engineer, who oversees more than 2,500 miles of roads. Reister replaces Bob Brueggemann, who retired earlier this month after working for the county since 1977 and holding the top engineering job since 2006.
Spokane County voters likely will decide this year if a sales tax that pays for juvenile detention services should be maintained. But county commissioners disagree when to put the one-tenth-of-a-cent sales tax measure on the ballot.
Two Spokane County commissioners heard an earful from residents young and old living near a proposed 354-unit apartment complex near Wandermere Golf Course on Tuesday night. The biggest ovation of the night came following an impassioned plea from Jonathan Baird, a 13-year-old student at Northwood Middle School, who said allowing the construction of the apartments would be a “disaster” for the overcrowded, aging facilities of the Mead School District.
Once again, Spokane County commissioners will hear a proposal to increase their ranks by two. Community activist Karen Kearney announced her intention to bring the idea to the all-Republican commission last week. Kearney said she has no intention of running for one of the seats if the proposal comes to fruition, and that her request is not politically motivated.
Envision Spokane, the twice-failed initiative seeking to bolster environmental protection and neighborhood and labor rights, will be before voters again, after a decision Thursday by a state appellate court. The ruling reverses a 2013 decision by a Superior Court judge to remove the controversial measure from that year’s general election ballot. The court ordered the city to put the measure on the next available ballot.
Two members of the seven-member committee who will help choose the next CEO of Spokane County are campaign contributors to one of the likely candidates for the job, County Commissioner Todd Mielke. The two commissioners who aren’t interested in the job, which pays about $160,000 a year, say they’ve created a fair selection process and chosen strong leaders to help them name a new CEO.
Spokane County CEO Marshall Farnell plans to retire this year after more than 40 years working in county government. County Commission Todd Mielke is a possible candidate to replace him.
Battle lines were drawn early by transit officials in a four-hour-long meeting Thursday afternoon, but the eventual 6-3 split sending a 10-year, $300 million project to the ballot wasn’t clear until the vote was called and hands were raised. Voters will decide in April if they want to increase sales tax by 0.3 percent to fund a plan that would extend hours and expand service to new areas, as well as fund a trolley-like fixed route between Browne’s Addition and Spokane Community College.
Spokane County’s building director won’t be helping Spokane City Hall. Randy Vissia told county commissioners Tuesday he was approached last month by officials at the city’s Business and Development Services Division to serve as a consultant on an “as-needed” basis over the next two years. The overture came after the contentious departure of city Planning Director Scott Chesney, whose ouster drew the ire of many of Spokane’s most prominent developers.
Spokane Transit Authority’s board of directors, under criticism from the business community over downtown loitering, will face its critics on Thursday while also considering a 10-year plan to improve transit service. Mark Richard, president of the Downtown Spokane Partnership, is scheduled to present a list of recommendations from business leaders to tame loitering in and near the STA Plaza, 701 W. Riverside Ave.
The future of a neighborhood in north Spokane County has become one of the most debated topics in this year’s race for County Commission. Al French and his fellow Republican Commissioner Todd Mielke say expanding the urban growth boundary to include the area along U.S. Highway 2 is necessary to protect the Little Spokane River from sewage runoff seeping from aging septic tanks. The extension of the growth boundary, a designation that enables governments to extend services such as sewer lines, would solve a problem before it gets out of control, they said.