Update on Windstorm cleanup and power outages

I’ve been busy posting to Facebook and Twitter the last 6 days during this unprecedented storm and power outage. Thank you all for your incredible patience and support of your neighbors during this difficult time. Things were moving too fast to update my blogsite…but I thought it would be important to post the latest update. I will continue posting to Facebook and Twitter…so be sure to follow me @amberwaldref!

Here is the Monday, Nov. 23rd Emergency Management Update:

– Forecast looks better than previous predictions. An estimated inch of snow Monday-Tuesday rather than two inches. Snow will begin Monday night and taper off by Tuesday.

– On Tuesday winds will be 15-25 MPH with gusts up to 35 MPH from the N.E.. Winds are expected to diminish Wednesday night.

– Avista still has 33,500 outages down from 38,000. 95 crews are working on restoration today.
Modifying approach to include schools fire stations and hot spots.

– Avista is estimating that most customers will have power by Wednesday at 11:30pm, but they said some customers will be without power during Thanksgiving. South Hill is area with most outages. The Avista website is not completely accurate with the estimates.

– SPD are increasing their patrols in neighborhoods without power and said there was a 9% uptick in property crimes during the outage time period with most of these Commercial burglaries. They will continue to put out safety message especially regarding stop light outages.

– SRHD is messaging around mental fatigue (warning signs, etc) and the need for us to continue working as a community and helping one another.

– Frontier Behavioral Health has been receiving over 100 calls a day on their 211 line. The zip codes where most calls are coming from are (in rank order): 99205, 99223, 99207, 99201 and 99202. Most calls have been about timeframe for power coming back online and debris removal.

– State Emergency Management Division will be in town next week; Information will be collected on damaged buildings, equipment use and time, overtime and building inspections for purposes of reporting to FEMA.

– 14 traffic signals out currently (7 with generators).

– 43 volunteers went door to door this morning. Capacity for one hundred volunteers.

– United Way put together list of Thanksgiving meals that people can access (for those without power, etc).

– Fire Dept. still receiving 100 more dispatches than they typically receive; but it’s trending back downward.

– Spokane Public Schools still has five warming centers open. Feeding between 5-300 people at each site.

– SPS still has 6 schools without power, and another 8 schools without fiber (phone and Internet). The school district will be discussing whether to open tomorrow at 3:30pm today, with a decision to be announced before 5pm.

– A “food group” meeting will be happening at 12:30pm today among Emergency Management planners and partners to gather more info on access to food during Thanksgiving.

– SNAP will be handling deployment of blue tarps for emergency covering (e.g. Hole in roof) due to windstorm. This will be coordinated via 211.

– Next EM meeting is tomorrow at 10:30am.

THEZONE quarterly update

THEZONE held its quarterly update last week. There were more than 80 people in attendance (at a very early-morning meeting, no less!), making it the initiative’s best-attended group meeting so far. That’s a good indication that THEZONE is really picking up steam and capturing the imaginations of Spokane’s Northeast neighborhoods.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with THEZONE, I encourage you to check out the project’s website, which has lots of information on its vision, goals and achievements so far. In a nutshell, THEZONE looks at six different aspects of any community—education, economy, health, housing, safety and resident engagement—and puts all the actors (e.g., organizations, businesses, residents, government) who can address them in dialogue with one another to think up creative solutions to help everyone thrive.


At the very start, facilitator Deanna Davis told us that this quarterly meeting had a “very ambitious agenda” because of the many new developments and participants in THEZONE.

Next, THEZONE Director Andre Wicks spoke about how it was “absolutely critical to be aligned” — not just for the people and organizations who are involved in the initiative but also how they choose to address the six different community aspects mentioned above. He talked about how this alignment was essential to the incredible growth of the project in terms of scope and diversity, noting that some attendees had been involved with THEZONE from the very beginning, whereas many others have joined in the effort more recently. Of course, Andre also reminded us that not everything coalesces as quickly as it has so far. Future partnerships and accomplishments will take time to develop.

Mayor Condon took some time to talk about how the City is trying to help get THEZONE into the federal budget—specifically, as part of President Obama’s Promise Zone initiative through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)—in order to make sure that it can deliver its services more effectively.

“We wouldn’t be able to have this success if the community leaders weren’t doing what they’re doing,” he said, and he made a special point of thanking me as well as my District 1 counterpart on City Council, Mike Fagan, for working together to seek funding for THEZONE and initiatives that share its aims. The mayor drew parallels between THEZONE’s collaborative philosophy and the criteria that led to Spokane being selected as an All-America City in 2015.

Amy Smith and Nathan Strege spoke on behalf of Senator Patty Murray and Senator Maria Cantwell to voice their support for THEZONE. They said the senators will be partnering on the upcoming Promise Zone application — which is a strong showing of Washington State support in Washington, D.C. for this Northeast Spokane initiative!


Raju Hegde from the Community Colleges of Spokane (CCS), Jean Farmer of the Northeast Community Center (NECC) and Sima Thorpe of Gonzaga University rounded off the meeting by explaining their organizations’ roles and efforts in THEZONE. Raju cited the CCS GED program for ten parents of Regal Elementary students made possible in conjunction with District 81 as an example of “finding ways to partner with other organizations to create stronger opportunities to increase access for more people.”

Jean said that the NECC’s involvement in THEZONE shared its aim of addressing multiple community aspects. By looking at ways to mitigate the “affordable housing crisis,” the NECC was also tackling problems with education. “Kids can’t focus on education if they don’t know where they’re going to sleep that night,” she said. Since June the NECC has worked with 14 families to get them into long-term affordable housing.

Sima gave an update on GU’s Mapping Assets and Promoting Strengths (MAPS) project. MAPS takes a place-based approach using asset-based community development, or ABCD, to identify neighborhood strengths, assets and potential areas for collective action. It “has been a major collaborative project for the university,” she said, that has “encouraged us to look at our neighborhood through different lenses.”

Before wrapping up the meeting with an issues/solutions feedback exercise, Andre highlighted some goals beyond the Promise Zone initiative that he dubbed “The Hopper”. These include Washington Gang Reduction, Intervention and Prevention (WA-GRIP), the EPA’s Local Food Local Places program, and a “wild housing” idea. You can read more about them (as well as THEZONE’s current projects) here.

It was great to see so much excitement and interest around this growing and potentially far-reaching collaborative effort!

John Wayne Trail & Comp Plan changes: 10/19/15 and 10/26/15 Council meeting recap

On October 19th City Council unanimously passed a resolution in favor of the State preserving and investing in the John Wayne Pioneer Trail. Councilman Snyder brought forward the resolution after there were concerns that parts of the trail might be given to adjoining property owners. The trail, which traverses the entire State and connects with the Fish Lake Trail to Spokane, is truly an amazing treasure and the longest “rails to trails” line in the Northwest. By passing the resolution, the Council brings awareness to the need to keep this trail preserved and to support on-going maintenance and investment so it can be better used for bike tourism that benefits small towns in Central and Eastern WA.

On Monday, October 26th, the Council approved an update to the city code related to removal of junk vehicles (6-0, Snyder absent). The main item on the agenda was to hear from the public on three Comp Plan Amendments. Changes to the Comprehensive Plan Land Use Map are only accepted annually per the Growth Management Act. This year, Council is considering four changes, but we heard testimony on three land use changes last night and will hear testimony on the 4th, a text change related to mobile home parks, next week. Council plans to take action on all four comp plan Amendments next week.

The three land use changes are in three Districts of the City — one up near Market and Illinois, one near Wellesley and Maple, and another in the South Perry District.  Council did receive several letters from residents of the South Perry District who were concerned about the land use change that would expand the Center and Corridor zone into the single family zone.  I have concerns about this comp plan change, but I also know that the developer would like to expand his development and provide more parking for adjacent buildings. Knowing that several Councilmembers have concerns about this comp plan change and a vote could potentially fail next week, I offered up a proposal to rezone the area as a CC4 transition zone. This motion failed and Council will consider options next week.

Next week Council will discuss and vote on the four Comp Plan amendments and consider the Pedestrian Master Plan, which outlines priority pedestrian areas and improvements for the City.

Council opposes I-1366, adopts new water plan: 10/12/15 Council meeting recap

City Council held its Public Works Committee off-site on Monday at the Spokane River Water Reclamation Facility, commonly referred to as our wastewater treatment plant. The purpose of this meeting was to tour the “campus” and understand past, current, and future upgrades to the facility. It was a gorgeous day and some of the most gorgeous views were of the Spokane River from the top of the “egg-shaped” digesters that handle the solids at the facility. Lars Hendron and Mike Taylor, head city engineers, provided us with a great tour. The City is building a new digester (seen in the photos) as a replacement/back up when the other digesters need to be cleaned or are particularly full. One of the other notable stops on the tour was to the test facility where two membrane technologies are going head to head to determine which is chosen for our third level of treatment that is tasked with removing additional phosphorus and PCBs before water reenters the River. This third level of treatment will be placed at the far south area of the site and most be working by 2019 and showing it can remove and reduce the necessary pollutants by 2021. If you drive by the facility on Aubrey L. White Parkway, you will soon see some new landscaping in front with permeable pavement — one of the city’s pilot projects to test the material.

It was fitting that Council toured the wastewater plant on Monday because we voted to approve our Water System Plan later in the evening (5-1, Fagan no and Allen absent). The Water System Plan is required of all water purveyors in Washington State by the Dept. of Health. The Plan describes our system, how it works, who it serves, our capital plan, how we set our rates, how we conserve and/or reduce water loss in the system, etc. Council has been working on this Plan with the Administration for over a year. Many thanks to the Utilities staff, Legal staff and City Councilmembers Mumm and Snyder for digging in and updating this document to reflect today’s utility policies and environmental goals. We will now hopefully do small updates annually so it won’t be so much work in the future!

Finally, our agenda also included a resolution that I sponsored in opposition to State Initiative 1366. Council voted 5-0 in favor (Fagan abstaining and Allen absent). This initiative, sponsored by Tim Eyman, tries to force the legislature to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot next year that would require 2/3 majority vote for all tax measures. If the legislature does not place it on the ballot (it takes 2/3 majority of both bodies, so I’m highly doubtful it will), the state sales tax will be reduced by 1%, which would equal 8 billion dollars in reduced revenue to the state in the next six years. These sales tax dollars are critical to not only meeting our McCleary basic education requirements, but they also fund higher education (helping keep tuition rates low and funding our medical school), social services like mental health, public health operations and parks. There is also a constitutional question about this initiative and it is likely to be challenged, costing the state millions of dollars in legal fees if it passes.

Every so often the Council weighs in on state-wide initiatives when there is a local impact. I would say there DEFINITELY would be a local impact on I-1366. I hope voters will carefully consider this and other initiatives on the ballot this fall.