Housing Advocate Provides Strong Challenge To Spokane State Representative
Sixth District Republican Representative Mike Volz is running for a second term in Olympia. His day job is as chief deputy treasurer in Spokane County. Even though he’s a financial professional, he says education is the reason he first ran.
“My wife’s a teacher, my dad was a teacher. He was a union rep for public school employees. My mom was a teacher,” Volz said.
And so he was surrounded by education talk while growing up.
“The education process, the testing, all the changes that were going on, McCleary unresolved," Volz said. "So it was a big issue that compelled me to run, I think between a commitment to public education and a strong finance background.”
During his first term, Volz served on the Education and Appropriations Committees during the debate about how to answer the state Supreme Court requirement that the state spend more for public education. Ultimately, the legislature agreed to raise state property taxes to increase the state’s share of public school spending, while lowering local school property taxes.
“And I tell people, is it the best solution that we could have come up with? The answer is no, but it’s the best solution that we could come up with that would meet the requirement of the Supreme Court, which I think is an unfortunate situation to be in,” Volz said.
With the major education crisis taken care of, Volz says he has two other main priorities. One is helping the legislature to change state law so that legislators aren’t exempted from the state public records requirements that other governments must follow. Volz says he’s serving on a small committee that’s working on that issue.
“I’ve lived under the public records law in the treasurer’s office and STA [Spokane Transit] for 20 years now," he said. "It’s a different environment in there and there are some different challenges, but we need to get a fix. We have a good vehicle. There is some whistleblower stuff. There is some sensitive stuff. We get emails from victims of all sorts of crimes and stuff and should that really be pumped out into the headlines? I think most people would probably agree that there should be some sensitivity to these folks that were victims or in horrible situations.”
Volz’s other priority is in the arena of mental health, public safety and drug overdoses. He believes the best solution is to strengthen local institutions.
“I think there’s a role for the big Eastern State and Western State Hospitals that can’t be met in any other setting," Volz said. "But I think it’s a partnership approach and it really starts with these community-based, whether it’s government or non-profits that are in their communities. They k now their clients way better than we ever will in Olympia. They know who should be there, who shouldn’t be there. They know their names, they know their addresses. That’s where the focus ought to be is getting resources to these folks on the frontlines that are dealing with this.
Mike Volz’s opponent is Democrat Kay Murano. Murano has been the executive director of the Spokane Low Income Housing Consortium for three years. She says she talks with a variety of groups about the need for more low income housing and issues related to that.
“I provide education and some of that is to developers, to say here are some funding sources you might not be aware of or some other ways you can look at zoning we have and is that going to work with what you’re trying to build, especially as we have changes coming through, changes in legislation, changes in city ordinances,” Murano said.
She interacts with lawmakers at different government levels. She was active during discussions in the last legislative session about putting more money into the state’s Housing Trust Fund.
“And I thought it was going really well, especially talking to state legislators about why we need more money in the Housing Trust Fund, which is part of the capital budget,” she said.
She says leaders from both parties were on board with a proposal to add about $70 million. She says Spokane area legislators wrote letters making those requests.
“And I thought, ‘Yes, this is perfect. I’ve done my job.’ But that capital budget was never passed. It never came to the floor for a vote because it was held hostage over the water rights bill,” Murano said.
More state money for housing projects had to wait.
“So, for the first time in the state history, we didn’t get a capital budget. And I thought, you can’t do that. You’re lawmakers; you have two things to do, pass laws and you write budgets. How do you not do half your job and stay employed?" Murano said. "So I was complaining to my family and they said what are you going to do about it? And I went, I can take action. I don’t have to just sit back and try to educate and then let someone else take over. I can step up and run.”
So she has. In addition to housing, Kay Murano says she’s also interested in looking more closely at education spending and improving access to health care.
“I would love to see some kind of universal health care come through at the federal level. That would obviously be the best choice," she said. "Not something I can do as a state legislator, but I can certainly encourage them and say please go that direction.
"If they can’t, however, bills have been in place through the federal government that say states can look at doing that within their own state borders and, as a legislator, that is something I would certainly want to pursue," Murano said. "Could we do some kind of universal health care within the state of Washington similar to what Canada first did, because they are actually provincial. It’s not a nationwide program.”
She suggests a system that’s similar to what the Veterans’ Administration operates.
Mike Volz won the August primary by about a half-percentage point after trailing on Election Night. So far, Kay Murano is outspending him. She has raised $91,000 for her campaign. Volz has raised about $50,000.