Spokane District One County Commissioner Race: Candace Mumm vs. Josh Kerns

Sep 22, 2016

The race for Spokane County Commissioner for District One pits a current Spokane City Councilmember against a newcomer.  Incumbent Nancy McLaughlin, who was appointed to fill the seat of outgoing Commissioner Todd Mielke, did not advance in the primary.

Listen Now: Full interviews with both candidates below

Candace Mumm is the best known of the two candidates as a current member of the Spokane City Council. Josh Kerns has worked as a legislative aide to Republicans Jeff Holy and John Ahern.

Mumm is hopeful that she will bring a different perspective to the All-Republican commission.

She says Todd Mielke's departure to work for Greater Spokane Incorporated shows the long standing ties between that organization and the commission. For her part she would like to see the county donate money to other similar organizations.  She explains, "There are other several other big organizations in the community that do similar work, [but] not exactly the same type. We have the Garland Business Association and Spokane Valley Chamber West Plains Association that are doing doing good work."

Those feeling are shared by her opponent Josh Kerns, who says the county has given as much as 370 thousand dollars a year to GSI to attract new business to the community.  “I would like to go further and make sure the west plains chamber and valley chamber are involved in these discussions.”

As far as attracting jobs to the area, the two candidates have differences of opinion on how best to proceed.

Kerns feels special tax breaks should be on the table, depending on how much a business can offer the community. “If it’s a business that has a proven track record of being able to generate  revenue back to the county--a proven track record of employing people with good paying jobs--that is something that we will see as a community pay off in the long run.  I would support something like that.”

Mumm is more cautious about reducing taxes for a prospective new business.  “I don’t think we should do these one-at-a-time incentive breaks. Because what can happen--and I’ve seen it happen in this community--is a new business will come in and bring in all these jobs.  And two years later they will move out."

Mumm feels more should be done to help support current businesses by improving the centers and corridors that already exist, like improving sewers or streets.

For his part, Kern says his experience as a legislative aide means he would be able to testify in Olympia for any legislation that might increase jobs here in Spokane.

Similarly, Kerns says he would support efforts in the legislature to deal with one major issue: property crime. “I’m going to be someone who will go to the state legislature and help Senator Padden get that bill passed about the sentence enhancements for chronic repeat offenders that will make a huge dent in our property crimes.”

Kerns cites $300,000 allocated by state legislators to deal with the property crime problem.

Mumm agrees the state needs to do more and calls the property crimes issue, a “catch and release” situation, in that repeat offenders are not sentenced to longer terms than first time offenders, and are not monitored after release. She cites a 1 million dollar grant from the MacArthur Foundation for criminal justice, as well as  the recent work the city and others have done on the “blueprint for reform,” which she says will help reduce costs by jailing those that are the most dangerous.

Mumm says, “Having that upfront assessment and intervention--before we spend a lot of money putting them up in full-service jail--is working in other communities.  And the grant came to us saying, 'You have an opportunity here, and it will take a while to implement.'”

One area where the candidates disagree is the latest STA proposal to fund transit improvements that will be on the November ballot.

Mumm, who sits on the STA board, thinks the latest proposal is a winner.  “It’s more flexible; it’s less of a sales tax; and I really think there are more improvements.  There is a 25% improvement system-wide.”

For Josh Kerns, the new STA proposal is just too expensive. He states, “My main concern is the cost , 200 million dollars of a sales tax increase is too high. I get the idea of having this iconic route from Browne's Addition to the community college, but I don’t think we need an iconic vehicle to create this iconic route.”

Two seats are up for grabs on the county commission this year. The other race pits incumbent Republican Shelley O’Quinn against Democrat Andrew Biviano.

Steve Jackson interviews candidates Candace Mumm and Josh Kerns for the open county commissioner seat in District 1.