Colfax accountant Bob Biagi is not concerned about aquifer levels around Colfax.He said people in the county have ideas and want to put them to work. County government should be the peoples’ greatest advocate, not make decisions without taking their views into consideration.
He does want businesses to move into downtown Colfax, and he wants them to stick around.
Biagi said retail should follow enterprises such as Pullman’s Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, and not become the foundation of the tax base for the city and county.
“Frankly, we don’t have the people to support much more retail in our smaller town,” Biagi said. “We need to bring in new industries. That will bring people and, in turn, more retail.”
The candidates running for the Whitman County commission District 3 seat have professed their stance on everything from community centers in the outlying towns to the Snake River waterways.
But the main issues that continue to pop up tend to focus around growth — how much, what kind and where it should go. Democrat Nathan Weller and Republican Michael Largent both want the county to grow wisely. They agree biofuels, high-tech and niche industries should be pursued, and they both want affordable housing and to preserve the scenery of the Palouse.
They have totally different ideas on how the county commission can achieve that goal.
Weller favors more government to attract and establish new businesses, while Largent favors little government intervention.
Weller and Largent expect the sitting county commissioners to approve some form of the new rural residential zoning laws they’re currently mulling over, and areas for potential biodiesel plants and new housing subdivisions should be determined when the victor takes office in January.
The incoming commissioner must work with his constituency to put new businesses and homes in those locations.
Weller wants to offer health care for the entire county as a draw for businesses and people. He said small businesses are great, but the area needs businesses that will provide 100 or more jobs. He said new businesses would set up shop in an area that provides free health care and tax breaks for businesses.
“We’ve been so anti-growth for so long, we need bigger business here,” Weller said. “And we need to work with the small businesses to see what they need.”
Largent said the idea of free health care is great in a perfect world.
“It just won’t work,” Largent said. “Especially at a county level. The county can’t even afford to hire a new sheriff’s deputy.”
Largent wants the county’s 25 small communities to come together to share resources.
He said if one town has a new sewage lagoon system engineered, there’s no reason why another town that needs a new system can’t use the same designs.
Largent said the key to growth is the people. He said the town of Palouse provides the area with a great example of how to play to a community’s strengths.
“They have a forward-thinking mayor and people willing to work,” Largent said. “They are right between the two universities and there were several weekends when that little town was just packed.”
Largent said Whitman County has grown and people are being creative and working to bolster its economy.
Weller said if the ideas and direction of the county do not change, the area could plummet into poverty.
“People need to choose,” Weller said. “Are we fine, in which case we will continue to fall down the sloping hill, or do we all work together to make it better?”
Largent said people don’t need more government to succeed. They need room to be creative.
He said government can be creative and provide opportunities, but the people must make it happen.I've discussed this race before. There's also an article about the commissioners race in today's Daily Watermelon. I give Weller credit for resisting what must be great pressure from his party to support the proposed changes to the rural housing ordinance, especially the ban on hilltop development. But "providing free health care and tax breaks for businesses?" That really shows Weller's naivete and lack of experience.
If we want business growth in Whitman County, let's see what Weller's boss and the most successful businessman in the history of Whitman County, Ed Schweitzer has to say:
[Schweitzer] recommended taxpayer money, in government incentives, not be put toward "elephant hunting," or seeking only big business, but that zoning be open to all business.Michael Largent understands this and that's why he will be our next Whitman County Commissioner.
"It would be a big mistake if we were not to welcome a barbershop as well as a plane manufacturer," Schweitzer said. "If (Whitman County) does that, they will come."