I’ve been a bit behind in my blog posts this year. So many national issues swirling, plus the WA State legislature in session and a great trip to St. Louis for the Smart Growth Conference last week. Here’s my recap.
It was standing room only at the January 30th Council meeting. Most folks were there to weigh in a resolution introduced by CP Ben Stuckart stating the city’s opposition to a religious registry; that is, a way to track people based on religion. This idea was promulgated by President Trump when he was on the campaign trail last year. While this had not yet been acted on by the President, the 7-country travel ban and ban on refugees entering the country that was issued on Friday the 27th had everyone on edge and concerned about targeting individuals based on religion. (This ban has since been put on hold in the courts).
I have never seen so many people turn out to a Council meeting in my seven years. It was an incredible showing of people eager to share their concerns, their desire to protect fellow citizens and ensure discrimination has no place in our city. After hours of testimony, Council voted 7-0 in favor of the resolution and Mayor Condon has since signed the resolution.
It is very important to listen to the pulse of our community and it was important for me to be on the record and send a message as the City of Spokane to the region/country. I thanked the people who took hours of their time to come down and share their thoughts and asked them to come back — to come back and help us address other issues of discrimination in housing in our community and to defend basic human rights for all those who live and work in Spokane. Taking care of our own means caring for all people in our community and those who desire to enrich our community, including refugees, immigrants, people of many backgrounds, faiths and colors. I would urge you to read my Facebook post from June 16, 2016 where I describe the deep joy and excitement of refugees from Eritrea becoming citizens of Spokane. I don’t know if I would have the courage and fortitude to survive war, genocide and persecution for years and then come to an entirely new country where I don’t speak the language and make a whole new life for myself, sometimes without my close family members. These refugees have incredible stories to share.
The other agenda item that was somewhat unplanned was something Council moved from our afternoon consent agenda — a contract extension for the East Central Community Organization (ECCO) to continue running the East Central Community Center. A panel of community members recommended that we put out a request for proposals for running the Center this year. There was disagreement last week on the Council about how to extend this contract. ECCO has had some challenges in meeting its contract requirements, but there was concern about future transitions and the need for stability for the staff and users of the Center. We heard some great testimony from youth, parents, School District officials and others about new life and opportunities at the Community Center. I’m excited to see that things seem to be moving in the right direction. Council voted 7-0 to extend the contract for a year, with a request for proposals to go out in the next month. I am hopeful that ECCO’s new energy and commitment to meeting the goals of the Center will help them win a new contract and contribute even more to bringing stability, a safe place, and opportunities for all people through this vital Center.
Other items on our agenda — a resolution recognizing the work of the Mayor’s Housing Quality Task Force (adopted 7-0) that I introduced. I participated in this task force for about six months last year with CM Karen Stratton. She and I are beginning to implement some of the housing policies that are recommended in the final report.
Also, the City of Spokane Federal Legislative Agenda was adopted on a 7-0 vote. I spearheaded this work to identify Federal priorities for the City and I appreciate all the excellent input from the Mayor and Councilmembers. You can find our state and federal legislative agendas here, on our Council “Items of Interest” web page.