Police Chief Meidl Confirmed; Ballot issues supported: 10.10.16 & 10.17.16 Council Meetings Recap

It’s been a very busy, beautiful October — too many things to digest and not enough time to report. I look forward to sending out a e-newsletter next week with an overview of everything I’ve been working on — from changes to state foreclosure laws to housing policy to ensuring the best alignment and design of the North/South Corridor project through my District.

Here is an overview of actions at the October 10th Council Meeting:
Our first item was considering whether to confirm Craig Meidl as Police Chief. As you know, the selection of a new chief has been a long process that started back in Jan/February of this calendar year. A national search was conducted and community members and stakeholders were allowed to weigh in a various points with finalists chosen by a selection committee that had community members and Councilmembers participating. The Mayor surprised us all in August when he named Craig Meidl as chief even though he had not applied for the job and had not been vetted by the community. Council and community called for the process to be opened back up again. Mr. Meidl applied and was subsequently interviewed and compared against some of the same and other candidates with community input. I spent over six hours back in August and six hours in Sept. interviewing candidates with a group of other community leaders. The vast majority of the community leaders on all panels recommended Mr. Meidl above other candidates.

This has been a difficult process for me and for many in the community. I had constituents asking me to confirm Mr. Meidl and others asking me not to. Mr. Meidl has been a member of SPD for many year. He said and did some inappropriate things after the death of Otto Zehm and conviction of Karl Thompson. He has apologized to the Zehm family and me and the community. I can forgive him, but there are many citizens who cannot.

After a lot of consideration, I did vote to confirm Mr. Meidl for several reasons. First, he performed well in the interviews and has an excellent knowledge of how we need to continue our SPD moving toward 21st Century model policing. Second, the other candidates were not strong. There seems to be a lack of candidates nationwide for police chief positions (or at least those willing to come serve in Spokane). I am still very concerned about Mr. Meidl’s ability to implement internal cultural changes as someone who has been “inside” the agency for many years. I will be watching this process and ensuring the culture audit findings lead to change. Also, CM Beggs has suggested and is moving forward with a “truth and reconciliation” process that Mr. Meidl has agreed to participate in with the community to rebuild trust. Council voted 5-1-1 (Stratton no, Beggs abstaining) to confirm Meidl’s appointment.

Council expressed support for State Initiative 1464, regarding campaign contributions and having public funding of campaigns (6-1, Fagan no). Council also expressed support for State Initiative 735, which would express Washington State’s support for Constitutional Amendment regarding freedom of speech for people and that corporations are not people. This is regarding the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling several years ago (6-1, Fagan no).

Council supported a resolution in favor of Spokane Transit Authority Prop 1, which would increase transit by 25% over the next 11 years (6-1, Fagan no). For more info, please visit www.stamovingforward.com

Council’s October 17th Legislative agenda was very light. The highlight was approving the issuance of sale of bonds that were approved by voters for improving Spokane Parks and Pools in 2008. The Council approved on a 6-0 vote (CM Kinnear absent) refinancing these bonds at a lower interest rate, which will cost property owners less over the life of the bonds. A great deal for taxpayers!

Riverfront Brownfield Redevelopment Area established: 10.3.16 City Council Meeting Recap

sistercitiescagli City Council welcomed a new Sister City to our October 3rd meeting! Mayor Alberto Alessandri and Assistant Mayor Marco of Cagli, Italy presented Council with a beautiful plate and a book about Cagli. Mayor Condon and Mayor Alessandri signed the official Sister Cities paperwork this past Saturday (see photos I’ve posted to Facebook). We are very excited to learn more about this city and Monday night it was also an opportunity for our guests to learn more about Italian-American heritage and culture in Spokane with a proclamation.

The Council voted 7-0 Monday in favor of establishing the Riverfront Park Brownfield Redevelopment Opportunity Zone and Renewal Authority. These are state designations that allow the City to access cleanup dollars that could be associated with the Riverfront Park redevelopment efforts. Since the Park was a former industrial/railroad site, it is likely there will be some contaminated soil that will need to be removed underneath the soil and grass that was placed there during Expo 74. This will give the City an opportunity to bring State/Federal cleanup dollars to help pay for this expense.

Council also voted 5-2 in favor of a resolution brought forward by Council President Stuckart in support of peaceful activities in South Dakota to protest the placement of an oil pipeline on traditional Standing Rock Sioux territory with potential burial grounds and archeological sites. We heard testimony from local native peoples who have visited the Standing Rock site and who shared their stories and concerns. The protest, as I understand is being held on Army Corps of Engineers land with the permission of the Corps. The Council supported only peaceful actions in this resolution.

Finally, Council made changes to a developer agreement that was signed a year ago regarding a parcel in the South Perry District. The city originally heard from citizens that they preferred a parking area on this parcel, but after further consideration and feedback from neighbors, Council voted 7-0 to allow Centers and Corridors development on the site, which can include a mixture of housing and commercial activity.

New neighborhoods & a new Sister City; Sept. 19th & Sept. 26th Council Meetings Recap

The Sept. 19th Council Meeting was a “town hall-style” meeting held at the NE Community Center to hear from neighborhoods in my District 1. The Council normally puts aside any business, but we had one item to take care of that was relevant to the residents sitting in front of us. We voted (7-0) to divide the Nevada-Lidgerwood neighborhood into two areas: Shiloh Hills north of Francie Ave. and Nevada Heights to the south. I am very grateful to the neighbors who stepped up to form the new neighborhood and to Alexandra Stoddard, chair of the former Nevada-Lidgerwood area, for her work in assisting the new neighborhood in forming. This will allow both areas to focus more on localized needs, provide additional solid waste clean up dollars to the area, and build upon their neighborhood identities.

Last night, City Council had several resolutions to consider. We voted 6-1 (Fagan against) in favor of a resolution to the Administration, requesting that harassment and sexual harassment policies and procedures be updated and made consistent across the City per the Seabold report that was released last month. Thank you to CM Mumm and CM Stratton for continuing to stand up for employees and ensure that, especially women, are provided a fair and safe workplace and that all employees get a fair hearing if any complaints are brought forward. We will be getting updates from the Administration periodically on how the new policies are being developed and implemented.

We also adopted a resolution (6-1, Fagan opposed) in support of the Central City Line Overlay Plan. This is a plan that, if the Central City Line project is funded through State, Federal grants and local dollars, will help support future land use, housing and transportation changes in support of the bus rapid transit project that connect students, residents and businesses/workers through Downtown Spokane.

Finally, I was honored to have about 20 guests in the room from the Italian-American Club in Spokane. I reached out to them last month after the Council’s vote on indigenous peoples’ day. I wanted to let them know that our decision was one related to the dignity of indigenous people. Some of the local Italian Americans felt slighted by this vote because some have traditionally celebrated Columbus Day as a day for Italian-Americans. After further conversation, they suggested that the Council consider identifying Oct. 1 as Italian American heritage day in the City of Spokane because it has significance for locals — it is the day that their Italian-American Club was formed (celebrating 50 years this Saturday!) and it will be this Saturday that we will sign a sister city agreement with the city of Cagli, Italy. Council voted 7-0 in support of a resolution that locals helped me draft to designate Oct. 1st as a special day for Italian-Americans in Spokane. I’m looking forward to celebrating with our local Italian-Americans on this coming Saturday and every year!

Police Chief search continues; Indigenous Peoples’ Day resolution: 8.22.16 & 8.29.16 Council Meetings Recap

Happy 1st Day of School for Spokane Public Schools and many private schools in the City of Spokane. My husband and I dropped off our daughters this morning (Nora is starting Kindergarten and Karolina is in 3rd grade). The excitement was palpable! I love to see kids so excited about learning and engaging with their teachers and other students.

There’s been a lot of activity on the City Council in August. I continue to work on researching housing policy issues with CM Stratton and participating in the Mayor’s Housing Quality/Affordability Task Force, which should wrap up in the next several weeks with a list of recommendations for the Mayor.

As part of my work on housing issues, I continue to engage with city staff and community stakeholders to address abandoned properties and address the very difficult legal issues and community impacts of foreclosure. I’m hoping to bring forward some state legislative changes that will positively impact our community. Stay tuned!

My other priority on the Council has been working to establish our state legislative agenda, hiring a lobbyist to assist the City in meeting our goals, and ensuring continued communication with the Mayor on this topic so we can have a successful session in Olympia.

At last week’s Council meeting (August 22nd), Council deferred a resolution regarding confirmation of Mr. Meidl as the new police chief. As you might have heard, the Mayor has agreed to continue the chief selection process to consider multiple candidates. Meidl can apply and he will be compared to other finalists who were narrowed down in the process that occurred earlier in June/July. Thus, the Council voted to defer any confirmation vote for a future date.

What happened? I took your comments and the input of many citizens over the past week. So did other Councilmembers. I was very concerned about voting to confirm/ not confirm a candidate who had not gone through the application process and citizen review process of other candidates. The need for a fair and transparent process was a constant concern I heard from citizens.

I reached out to the Mayor (as did other Councilmembers) and asked him if he would consider continuing the chief selection process and encouraging Meidl to apply so he could be considered against other candidates. I felt this would be very important for the good of the City, the future of the Dept, and for the confidence of citizens in a future chief.

The Mayor agreed to work with the Council to continue the process and last night, on Monday, August 29th, we approved the process jointly between Mayor and Council. The selection committee will have the top 10 applicants, plus Mr. Meidl to consider and narrow down to 3-4 by the middle of September, public forum and panel interviews in late September, with the Mayor making a choice by the end of September.

I am hopeful that this approach will produce a better opportunity for public input into this extremely important position at our City.

At the Monday, August 29th Council Meeting, we had a full house to discuss a proposed resolution establishing the 2nd Monday of October as “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” in the City of Spokane, which was approved on a 6-1 vote (Fagan opposed). I appreciate JoAnne Kaufmann for bringing this resolution forward to the Council for consideration and to CP Stuckart for introducing it. The dialogue with the community over the past two weeks on the topic has been challenging and I’ve learned a lot. At the Council meeting I heard some amazing stories shared about the native American experience, as well as stories of Italian American struggles and contributions to Spokane.

Many people have asked, why not keep Columbus Day and choose a different day to celebrate indigenous peoples? Oct. 12, 1492 was an important day not only for Europeans, but for indigenous peoples. It was the day that enslavement and oppression began to change the lives and cultures of native peoples throughout the Americas. In 2011, the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians (“ATNI”), representing 59 Tribes from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Northern California, Western Montana and some Alaskan Tribes, passed resolution #11-57 to “Support to Change Columbus Day (2nd Monday of October) to Indigenous Peoples’ Day”.

Many NW tribes, including the Spokane Tribe, have come together and have asked us to consider the 2nd Monday of October as a day to honor and remember the stories of indigenous peoples and I voted last night to honor this request. The Mayor was also supportive of this resolution.

While we as a Council aren’t in a position to change the Federal holiday of Columbus Day, we can honor the incredible stories and culture and history of indigenous peoples across the Americas here in the City of Spokane on the 2nd Monday of Oct. As a city with one of the largest populations of native Americans in the United States, it is important for us to listen, learn and be mindful of our past as we build our future together.

I am excited that Spokane will soon have a sister city from Italy. I welcome our new Italian friends and neighbors who will be coming in October (Italian-American Month!) to celebrate the incredible shared history, both painful and joyful, of indigenous peoples and white peoples and all peoples of color and the beautiful natural resources that brought us together in this place. I look forward to celebrating, learning and challenging ourselves to increase our understanding of each other and specifically to value the contributions, history and unique cultures of indigenous peoples not just on the 2nd Monday of Oct. but every day in Spokane.