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Former pastor Jonathan Bingle discusses platform for Spokane mayoral run

Mayoral candidate Jonathan Bingle sat down with KREM to discuss his qualifications and his ideas for Spokane.

In a field of five candidates running for mayor, Jonathan Bingle may not be the most well-known name. 

But the former pastor and current business owner hopes to make up for that with hard work, as he told KREM political reporter Casey Decker during their sit-down interview on Wednesday afternoon.

He discussed his experience and his policy proposals for homelessness, crime, and the economy.

The stand-out excerpts of the interview are featured in the video above. 

Below is the longer transcript of the full interview, edited lightly for brevity and clarity.

It's the second in a series of interviews KREM will be conducting with the candidates for mayor over the course of the next two weeks.

RELATED: 'It all goes back to listening': Spokane mayoral candidate Nadine Woodward discusses platform

KREM political reporter Casey Decker's questions are written in bold, while Bingle's responses are written as normal. 

So I'll just start off with a very basic question. Sure, what makes you uniquely qualified to be Spokane’s next mayor?

I think I'm uniquely qualified because of the candidates running, I'm the only one who has executive experience. Others have great work experience, political experience, whatever it is, I'm the only one who actually is the head of an organization. I started my business about 10 years ago, I've been doing it full time really ever since. And so when there is an issue, or direction that needs to be set, there's not anybody else that I can go to. It stops with me. And that is unique to me and me alone. And I have about 10 years of that experience, and nobody is there at or has executive experience.

What’s the business you run?

My wife and I have an events and entertainment business. It's called Bent Events. Right now, for example, is wedding season. Wedding season is in full swing for us, we have like DJ and photo booths and MCs and coordinators, all kinds of stuff.

So what kind of experience are you going to take from that job and apply to being mayor?

Well, again, being an executive, when you're looking at the future of your company, what you have to do is not only are you running a budget you have to make sure that things make sense, you're taking dollars, finding creative ways to spend them so that you can save more money so that you can allocate them to investments in the future. That's a big deal. How to handle your money, how to project the usage of your money, how to find ways to save money on things that you thought were going to be expensive, but you find ways to save money on it. Payroll is a big part of what I do.

When you're determining, okay, do we take a step forward here, in our business? Are we going to be looking toward the future, or is this a time that we take a step back, and we just accumulate until the next step comes when there's something more valuable? And so all of those qualities would be would be easily translatable into this. It's the same basic position, just in a smaller scale.

There are some pretty well known names in the race. You’re going to be a new face to a lot of voters. How do you hope to distinguish yourself in this field?

There are some big names in the field. But what I do know is that I went to Rogers High School, and people didn't think that you were going to be successful if you came out of Rogers. I started a business, I started a church with my dad, I got married. There's been a lot of mountains, big things that have been presented to me or directions that I've set my life in. And we've been crushing it.

And so even though there are some really big names in the race, and people who I like. I don't even necessarily dislike any of them. But to beat them just requires, if you don't have the same advantages they have, the only way to overcome that is really hard work. And so that's how we're overcoming all of that is just by out hustling everybody else. Nobody will say that they worked harder than I did.

What inspired you to run in the first place?

Okay, so I actually didn't want to run in the first place. My wife and I, we run a business together, we have a great life, I really love my wife. Somebody had approached us about running for city council, and it was a pretty hard to know at first because again, my life is pretty great. I always knew I was going to be a politician. I just never knew when. And so I've been preparing myself for the time. But it was something that I didn't really want to do right now. But my wife and I, we are pretty prayerful and considerate people. And we prayed on it for a few months, and after the end of a few months, for whatever reason, just felt like now was the right time, and that mayor was the office that I was going to run for. So once we decided this is what we're doing, there wasn't any more questioning after that. We just made it happen.

Is there any particular reason why you decided to go from here rather than city council? 

Again, that's just the decision that was made in prayer, as you're thinking and pondering. People meditate, people have these gut feelings. Whatever it is, I believe it's a the Holy Spirit ministering to me. And so as I'm sitting there, and I'm praying and just felt like this was the right thing to do. And my wife agreed, and so that's why.

You're also a former pastor.

Yes, very much so.

How would you apply that to the role of being mayor?

What I loved about being a pastor is I loved helping people. I mean, there are a lot of people in our community that need help. There are people who are hungry, there are people who are struggling to pay their bills. There are all kinds of needs in this town. And the thing that I loved about being a pastor is that people allowed you to help them. People gave you access to their life to say, “How can I help you?," and I loved that. And I think that government has a similar role, albeit in a in a different fashion, but where people, when they’re looking for help they look to city's leadership to help. And I think that those are very similar positions.

As mayor, what would be your first step to addressing the homelessness issue?

First thing I’d do is I’d create a homeless coordinator. This would just be a position that we've created in our in our government. Their entire job is to take the organizations who are already doing a very good job, and if we helped each other coordinate to get people from just basic needs of housing and food and clothing and all of that, and then start to work the way up the ladder of needs to safety and belongingness and self actualization. If we had all of these organizations, I believe, working in concert with each other, I think that we could find some really successful situations to help the homeless.

Isn't that kind of similar to the existing EnVision center?

I believe that it's pretty similar. Yeah.

And so you would basically be wanting to expand upon that?

Correct. Absolutely. If you add more government to the pot of people helping, I don't think that you're going to be able to make a significant difference. I think what you do is you just take the organizations like UGM, and Adult and Teen Challenge, and Family Promise, and VOA, and all the really great ones that are doing really good work here. You lean into them. They already have a passion for this issue. I don't understand why we need to create something more, we just find a way to equip them better to do what they're already doing.

But the homelessness coordinator would be a government employee who would be overseeing the coordination between all these nonprofits?

Yes. Because in nonprofit world, they all are happy that they're helping, but there is a little bit of competition, because there's only so many donation dollars that are being given. And so if you can find a way to say “okay, listen to me, you're adequately going to be funded, and so you don't have to compete in that anymore, now find a way to be to be best friends, and you're going to work together,” I think that you would find an even more significant group of people who are doing great work, doing even better work.

Some argue that some of these programs enable drug addicts. What’s your take on that?

I think that there are some programs that enable drug addicts. I don't think any of the ones that I just mentioned are enabling any drug addicts.

Could you expand on the view that you have on your website a little bit, about the different kinds of people experiencing homelessness?

Sure. So you have the people who are temporarily homeless. They had a bad bill, and I don't think anybody in Spokane has any problem helping those people who are working hard, they're trying to make their way in the community. Everybody's very generous, they would happily help those out.

Then you have those who I call the sick. Those are your mentally ill and those who are addicted to substances. Now, this is an area where I think that Spokane might be able to make a significant contribution, because I think most of the chronically homeless are in these two categories, either mentally ill or addicted to a substance.

And so if we swim upstream a little bit, and we try to help them with their addictions, get them into the addiction programs, and fund those addiction programs. Because that's the big deal, right? You have to have the money and the people to do it. So funding those, fully funding those would be a way that you can, instead of just giving somebody housing, you can actually start to change their life.

And so would that require new revenues? 

Absolutely not.

How would you pay for it?

What we would do is we would take 1% of the current budget right now, we would do just a 1% cut across the board. And then we have several million dollars that we're able to then reallocate those funds in that way.

Do you have any particular programs that you would be targeting?

No particular programs.

Government is, I think, good-hearted in many ways. But being a business owner, I know how to be much more efficient with dollars. And I know that coming into government, I can find ways where we are not being efficient or effective with our dollars, and we can find ways to save money in absolutely every area.

Now, you mentioned two categories. There’s a third on your website, you classify it as the “anti social.”  You said that we need to improve the accountability there, although they are still obviously people and deserve basic human rights. 

Totally. Absolutely.

If you are not willing to contribute to society in some way, if you're not going to treatment, if you're not trying to better your life, if you're not trying to better the community, I don't think that the city has a responsibility to help you. That's not to say that you don't matter, because you're still a human being, and there are lots of great organizations in town that would help you. But I don't believe that it is the taxpayers responsibility to help somebody who's not interested in helping themselves.

How do you efficiently determine which [category] people are?

You have to have counselors trained in those areas able to determine who is trying to better their life.

And in those cases, if you determine that somebody is not, how would you effect that accountability? Would you turn them away from certain services?

I think you would have to turn them away from certain services, because at some point, you have to be willing to say no. That this is not our responsibility anymore. Your success is not my responsibility. I want you to be successful. I want you to have everything necessary to do it. But in the end, it's not my responsibility. And if you're not interested in bettering your own life, I have a hard time seeing how that's my responsibility.

What's the first step you would take as mayor to affect property crime?

I think the city has done a great job, the police chief and the mayor were just in Olympia, working on a supervision program, which I think is really great. I think that that's going to be super helpful, to help people when they're done serving their time, instead of them going into a position where it's just “all right, go for it.” Now they're being supervised by people. And so for a couple months, or whatever it is, they're able to have somebody with them to say “okay, this is what's right, and this is what's wrong.” And so I think that that's going to be really great.

I think the other thing gets back to a big deal with homelessness as well. If we can attack the addiction in this town. I mean, drug use, as we all know, is a big problem in this town. If we can attack drug use and addiction, I think that many people who are committing a lot of the property crime are committing to perpetuate a habit that's not good for them.

Do you think that more police officers need to be hired in order to affect property crime? Or is focusing on the drug treatment program going to be enough?

I think that if we focused on the drug treatment, you would be able to significantly reduce crime. There was just the story that came out the other day that crime was down across the city. Downtown, it was up, but city-wide it had gone down. So I think that if we continue to attack the addiction in this town that you could you could effect change.

How do you hope to create more jobs and bring more businesses to Spokane?

I think that taxes play an important role in in any economy. The general rule of thumb is anything you want to get rid of, you tax. So if we're continuing to tax businesses, you shouldn't be surprised when businesses are leaving. If you want to start taxing income, for example, that's going to negatively incentivize people to be making money.

And so first thing I would is I would look at all the different taxes that are being imposed on businesses and I’d find ones that are unnecessary and get rid of them.

What you want to do is you want to have a wide tax base bearing the burden, not just a few paying a lot of taxes. And the way to attract businesses and successful people to this town is to make it to where you get to keep more of your own money. And that's the area I would take to build the economy, is finding ways to get rid of taxes that that don't make sense, that are actually hurting the community rather than helping.

Have you identified any of  those taxes so far?

I think the B&O tax is a is a pretty terrible, terrible idea. Again, I'm not sure that we can affect that at the at the city level, but there are taxes along those lines that are just… it doesn't make sense.

As a business owner, are there taxes you're seeing, that you're having to pay, that you think we should get rid of?

The tough thing here is that a lot of these are statewide. It's really tough. The paid family leave, the safe and sick leave, a lot of these new taxes are being imposed from the state level. My businesses is a  service business; our taxes were just increased at the state level.

You have a budget. You have to be able to work within that. You have certain margins that you have to work within, and it makes it a lot more difficult.

So anything on the city level that we can affect are things that I would seriously consider reducing.

Do you have other ideas for appealing Spokane to businesses besides offering fewer taxes?

I think that's a pretty appealing one. I'm a business owner. If somebody told me I got to keep more of my own money. That's a that's a pretty big deal for me.

How can you assure voters that as mayor, you will be listening to them?

I think I'm demonstrating this now, as I'm out campaigning. The question that I ask is “how can I earn your vote?” Because I think it's important that people realize that in city government or in any government position, you are not here to be served, you are to serve. And I want that to be clear in who I am as a person, that I'm here to serve people. I think that that's come out in our campaigning so far.

But to be open to the people I think is a big deal because their hopes and dreams sort of rest on your shoulders, in a way. I would always be open to the public. I think social media helps us out a lot with that. I think with Facebook Live and a few different other areas, you can have people commenting and giving their feedback and their perspective in a way that really hasn't been available to the world before. So technology really helps to increase those.

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