The race for Spokane county commissioner district number two pits the incumbent Republican Shelly O'Quinn against newcomer Andrew Biviano, a Democrat.
Current Commissioner O’Quinn has served for one term on the panel. Before that, she had a varied career, working for Greater Spokane Incorporated, Habitat for Humanity, and the Inland Northwest Community Foundation.
Her challenger this year is Andrew Biviano, a former assistant US attorney, mental health counselor, and Yale Graduate.
Biviano says it’s time the County Commission takes on some new blood. He describes the council’s makeup as mostly folks form the business community, with ties to Greater Spokane Incorporated. “Either people come directly from GSI, or they leave and go back to GSI, and there’s the business community. I don’t think anyone, a business owner, I am one myself, would argue they are not getting a voice on the county commission. The problem is with that lack of diversity, were not getting perspectives about the other critical issues."
Shelley O’Quinn defends her background as Director of Education and Workforce development at GSI, and the organization itself. “I mean yes, they are a business development organization, but there also community initiatives, creating opportunity for our local economy to grow. And if you can grow your local economy, you grow your tax base, and you can then provide additional services to the community without having to raise taxes.”
Andrew Biviano says he has a different philosophy from the current council in that he feels there is too much focus on saving money when government can take more steps to improve living conditions for citizens. “What we really need to focus on is doing the right thing, and creating jobs and paying our bills the right way. But when we’re looking at jobs and finances first, we often step over a dollar to pick up a dime. Where we're just trying to satisfy one constituency. Like I’ve lowered your taxes, but if lowering your taxes means I‘ve decreased your services or made the public less safe and increased property crime, I’ve not done you a favor.”
The issue of how much government can do seems to be a real philosophical difference between the two candidates. One issue both candidates agree on is the needs for criminal justice reform. The issue consumes 75 percent of the county budget. Both candidates agree that the criminal justice reform efforts already underway through the regional law and justice council could go a long way to reducing the amount of money spent on incarceration, by focusing on the criminals that pose the biggest threat to society, while treatment programs and home monitoring can be utilized more. Both also agree that the state legislature needs to focus on cracking down on repeat property crime offenders.
One issue of disagreement is the newest STA proposal on the ballot, that would increase sales tax by up to two tenths of a percent for a myriad of STA improvements in services.
Biviano totally supports the latest proposal. “Any great city in the world has a great transit system, and I think the money we spend on that, especially with the federal incentives that were offered, and a lot of the different ways we are being helped at the state and federal level,it was a missed opportunity, and an unfortunate mistake, when it was not supported last time by my opponent, and it failed.”
For her part, Shelley O’Quinn says she is a “huge advocate” of public transit, but like the last time STA put a proposed tax increase on the ballot, feels improvements can be made without going to a full 2 tenths increase. “I don’t have the confidence in the board in collecting only what they need, and not what they want. And so rather than doing the full two tenths, with a sunset, I would have rather advocated for the one tenth without a sunset and said show us that you are capable of implementing these and come back and demonstrate to the public that you are good starts and come back and ask for another tenth if you need it.”
Full interviews with candidates: