Spokane Valley Online
The Spokane Valley News Herald
City of Spokane Valley, WA
Mielke challenged by Roskelley for commissioner post

10/26/2012

By MIKE HUFFMAN
Managing Editor

 

Experience, it would seem, is not the issue.

Todd Mielke, the current chairman of the Board of Spokane County Commissioners, is looking to begin his third term in office. The Republican was the man who got the job after Democrat John Roskelley, his challenger, stepped away to serve a six-year term on the Growth Management Act Hearing Board. Roskelley had been on the board serving District 1, which predominantly lies north of Spokane Valley, from 1995 to 2004.

Roskelley may be known more for his exploits as a mountain climber, photographer and author as his time in public office. Mielke has served stints in the Washington state Senate and House of Representatives.

Both want to see Spokane County’s budget – and the overall economic presence of the region – climb over the next four years. But each has a unique way of reaching those goals.

Todd Mielke

SVNH: Age?
Todd Mielke: 48.
How long have you lived in Commissioner District 1?
Except for about six months of living just south of the district, my entire life. I was born in Spokane and have lived in northwest Spokane my entire life. My family has been in Spokane for five generations.

What strategies do you envision to balance the county budget/grow reserves going into the future?

There are two parts to this response. First is the budget piece. We need to continue efforts to bring fast growing costs, especially health-care costs, in line with county revenues. We also need to control costs associated with the criminal justice system -- the largest funded program in the county budget. Second is the economic development side. Spokane County's investment in this effort in the past decade has brought 46 new companies to the area, resulting in more than 1,700 additional jobs and an additional $3 million in county tax revenues. We need to continue those efforts to support economic growth.

What surprising issues are people bringing up as you door-knock or meet folks at campaign stops?

I'm not sure I've heard anything surprising, except that while people expect fiscally sound decisions in government, they also have programs they want funded. They have been especially supportive of funding programs for public safety and programs for the mentally ill. People also find it interesting that county general fund spending has actually gone down while I've been in office.

The city of Spokane Valley counts on/contracts with Spokane County for important services like animal control and public safety.  What relationship do you see the County and city of Spokane Valley having in the years going forward?

Spokane County and the city of Spokane Valley have had a long, positive relationship, and it continues to improve. Both are elected officials and senior managers communicate frequently. In the future, I believe we will continue to identify challenges facing both jurisdictions. Where we can identify common objectives, I believe we will explore common ways to address those challenges. It might include more coordination, or it might involve jointly pursuing a strategy. I believe both jurisdictions get high marks for looking at government efficiency from what benefits our citizens, rather than what benefits the individual government entities. Spokane Valley is easy to work with because we are both attempting to get the biggest bang for the buck in providing services to area residents.

Why should people vote for you instead of your opponent?

I have been a county commissioner during the most difficult economic times most people have ever experienced. Yet I never made that an excuse to do nothing. Leadership is about thinking outside the box and finding solutions. As a county commissioner I have worked to bring back Crime Check (my opponent got rid of it), construct the most technologically advanced waste water treatment plant, rebuild our emergency communications system for first responders, construct a new Southside aquatics center, and provide more programs for the mentally ill. Even after doing all of this, county spending has actually gone down while I've been in office.

My opponent has focused his entire campaign on why he opposed many of those past decisions. But he has never presented his plan for addressing those challenges. We need a leader focused on the future, not one fixated on the past.

 

John Roskelley
SVNH: Age?
Roskelley: 63.
 How long have you lived in Commissioner District 1?
Twenty-eight years.
Why did you decide to file for this office at this time?
Our community is in serious need of CPR and a shot of adrenalin. We were just named No. 1 in an article in Business Insider entitled, “The 10 Worst Cities for Finding a Job.” That’s not where we want to be. My campaign is about looking to our county’s future, a broader vision. Government needs to be defined by what’s possible, not limited by what’s required. Putting the budget in order is my priority. Everything -- jobs, public safety, quality of life, roads, land use, providing for the elderly -- hinges on taking a whole new look at the revenues we receive and how to pay for the priorities. Since leaving office in 2004, I have seen a steady decline in the county’s customer service and a strategic and systematic increase in our sales and property taxes by the current county commissioners. That has to change.

What strategies do you envision to balance the county budget/grow reserves going into the future?
We have this pot of money, which is still shrinking (tax and fee revenue); and then we have this list of services, which is steadily taking more money (expenses); then we presently have three commissioners who believe they can spend more out of the pot then is there to pay for services. When these same commissioners suddenly realize they’ve overspent, they ask the taxpayers for another tax claiming public safety or some other scare tactic. My first priority would be to kick start what I would call a depressed county government by evaluating and perhaps replacing executive management with an executive with recent experience running a large business, new ideas, and enthusiasm. Spokane County is locked up in the 20th century and we need new blood to move us forward. I would then take the pot of money, make no-brainer line-item expenditure priorities ; create at least two, if not more, user-fee based enterprise funds from departments that currently feed off the general fund or would free-up another fund; explore alternatives to the county’s present health care plans; hire a full-time grant writer to take advantage of every state and federal dollar; ensure the commission makes legal land use decisions to eliminate millions in settlement and outside attorney costs; and start using the tax money authorized by the citizens for the purposes they were intended, not every willy-nilly need the present commissioners overspend on.

What surprising issues are people bringing up as you door-knock or meet folks at campaign stop?
The racetrack issue is front and center, whether I’m doorbelling or answering questions at forums. There’s a deep-seated resentment among our citizens that Todd and Mark wasted millions of taxpayer dollars on a facility that will be a financial drain on the county for 20 years. When I tell them that the county is paying $560,000 a year for the next 17 years from the only two funds available for county facility improvements, their jaws drop. The two commissioners never mention that fact, nor do they mention that buying the property without it being on the county’s capital facilities plan failed to follow state law. They tell the news media and citizens only what they want them to hear and leave out the real costs. The other issue that comes up frequently is the huge jump in their property tax since Todd took office. The taxpayer’s aren’t sleeping out there. They’ve noticed Todd and the other commissioners have raised their property tax 13.5 percent in just six years. Todd has a reputation among knowledgeable voters for being a “tax-and-spend Republican”. He’s living up to his reputation.

The city of Spokane Valley counts on/contracts with Spokane County for important services like animal control and public safety. What relationship do you see the county and city of Spokane Valley having in the years going forward?
The city of Spokane Valley and Spokane County are neighbors and always will be. I see a strong relationship with Spokane Valley’s mayor and council in the future because anything less hurts the entire community. We should be partnering in public transportation, development regulations, signage control, planning, and perhaps other services or regulations, not just animal control and public safety. If combining or sharing resources makes financial sense for both communities, then we should be at the table and working on solutions.

Why should people vote for you instead of your opponent?
I have a nine-year record on the county commission as being fiscally responsible, working to find solutions with my fellow commissioners, protecting our quality of life, and being proactive to keep our regulations in line with technology. I was on the commission when we adopted the first GMA compliant comprehensive plan and critical areas ordinance; I was instrumental in controlling the proliferation of cell-phone towers; I jumped in and adopted an ordinance to protect our aquifer from catastrophic gas tank failures; I worked with the schools to help fight childhood obesity; and adopted a state-leading ordinance to police exotic dance and zone sex-related businesses. I look for solutions to problems without turning to the citizens for more money. There are three Republicans in the commissioner’s office now. They’ve sold the community four sales taxes and raised our property tax 13.5 percent and not once did the voters hear from them why they shouldn’t vote for the tax. They even tried to sell us a property tax on a $15 million bond for an animal control facility that is now down to $5 million after it was turned down by the voters. Obviously, we need another voice on the commission to tell the other side of the story. We need a democracy, not a single-party form of government.


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