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Bonnie Mager seeks return to county commission seat

Former District 3 commissioner seeks to create greater transparency in county government


Asked what compelled her to return to the political arena, Cheney-area resident and former Spokane County Commissioner Bonnie Mager cited a comment from Washington Sen. Patty Murray that “it’s better to be in the middle of things than yelling at the TV.”

Mager announced April 30 she is running for the District 3 seat on the county’s Board of Commissioners currently occupied by Al French — who unseated her by 2,700 votes out of 173,000 cast in a contentious 2010 election. Mager ran as a Democrat then, but is running as an independent in 2014 because she feels it’s the best way for her to focus on what she feels is needed most in government — transparency.

“I want to shine a light on things,” she said in an April 30 interview. “I felt I did a good job (of that) the first time.”

If elected, Mager said one thing she would do is continue the work she began on revamping the county’s criminal justice system. She believes there are better measures the county can take to reduce crime and recidivism, such as funding for diversionary courts, than seek to build an expansion of the jail, estimated at $245 million six years ago but subsequently trimmed to $199 million.

Mager said there are too many unknowns about a proposed jail, and that there are numbers of people locked up for non-violent crimes that could benefit from other less punitive measures.

“We shouldn’t be in the business of locking people up,” she said. “We should be in the business of doing smart justice.”

Mager also takes issue with the county’s ownership of Raceway Park, something she opposed when in office. She said the racetrack will always be a drain on county resources, especially if the state Department of Ecology seeks to have them clean up a well located on the property that has likely been contaminated over the years.

Mager is a proponent of the Spokane Tribe of Indian’s economic development project — which includes a casino — and contends county commissioners’ and other area business organizations concerns over the project’s encroachment on Fairchild Air Force Base operations have already been satisfactorily addressed. The commission is currently spending $300,000 to oppose the development, and Mager contends French played a key role in getting the county removed from an interlocal agreement with the tribe and the city of Airway Heights to remain neutral on the project, a move she claims could cost the county in revenue should STEP be approved.

“It will literally lose millions of dollars to fix streets, social services and do other things that government is supposed to do,” Mager said.

As an example of how out of touch the commission is with its constituents, Mager points to its a plan announced March 19 to spend $5,125 on a set of 300 commemorative coins that will be given away to local power brokers and visiting dignitaries. It’s similar to a plan adopted by city of Spokane Mayor David Condon.

“That’s a poke in the eye to people who are struggling,” Mager said.

Mager would like to see more small to medium sized local businesses in the mix of West Plains’ economic development. She said this would keep revenue here at home and create better abilities to weather economic downturns.

Mager said she would also like to see the county pick up the process of locating another aquatics center on the West Plains, a process it dropped in favor of purchasing the racetrack. While sympathetic with the desire to see State Route 904 expanded between Cheney and Four Lakes, she wonders what the county can do when area representatives can’t even get money to finish Spokane’s North-South Corridor.

“We’re going to have to become more prosperous to move that up the chain,” she said.

Mager will be in a three-way race in the August primary with French and Mary Lou Johnson, who announced May 1 that she is running for the seat as a Democrat.

John McCallum can be reached at

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