Category Archives: Neighborhood News

It’s been an honor to serve as your City Councilwoman

Dear friends,

Thank you for your support and for following my blog and Facebook page over the past eight years. It’s a record of almost every Council meeting and important decisions along the way. For my final Councilmember blog post I thought I’d do a “Top Ten” list of favorite accomplishments over the past eight years.

10. Strong advocate for neighborhood planning and engagement, spending years as liaison to the Community Assembly and Plan Commission, attending hundreds of NE neighborhood council and business association meetings, and helping kick-start the Northeast Public Development Authority to guide industrial investment in “The Yard” in East Hillyard.

9. First Councilmember to hold “mobile offices” in the community to meet directly with citizens and get feedback on important decisions.

8. Created the urban utility installation program in the Downtown area and nearby corridors to incentivize reuse of historic buildings. In just two years, eight buildings were renovated and business were able to expand due to this utility upgrade program.

7. Established the City’s first Transportation Benefit District to advance residential street repairs, including oversight by a Citizen Transportation Advisory Board (CTAB).

6. Helped guide multi-sector initiatives like Priority Spokane, which has focused the community’s energy and created lasting change — increasing our high school graduation rate, supporting kids inside/outside the classroom, and preventing family homelessness.

5. Partnered with Council President Ben Stuckart to establish the East Sprague Targeted Investment Pilot, investing public dollars strategically to encourage private investment and revitalization of one of the oldest neighborhoods in Spokane.

4. Championed new policies, state-wide solutions, and a more aggressive City approach to preventing blight and crime due to the proliferation of “zombie” foreclosed homes, especially in the core and Northeast parts of Spokane.

3. Chaired the Public Works Committee for four years, overseeing and guiding the City’s largest infrastructure investment ever to clean up the Spokane River, as well as integrated utility and street projects.

2. Served on the Spokane Transit Board for 8 years, leading the development of the Moving Forward 10 Year Plan and spearheading a successful ballot measure to fund more transit in Spokane County, especially the future Central City Bus Rapid Transit Line.

1. Helped guide the City process to establish the first Joint Council/Administration Strategic Plan — a road map with specific strategies to improve quality of life and economic opportunity for the next 6 years.

I am very proud of my contribution to this community. While you might not have agreed with every vote I have taken, I hope I’ve gotten it right most some of the time! I am confident I am leaving the City organization in a good place financially and with vision and strong leadership for the future. I have aimed to make every decision with great care, and to have served all people with integrity, transparency, and respect.

Thank you for a great eight years. We made it through a recession, a windstorm, and some very divided State/Federal governments. And yet the City of Spokane is stronger now because of the many community leaders, City Staff, and citizens like you who work hard and care about one another. I’m hopeful for my kids’ future here in Spokane. I hope you are, too!

New contract approved to manage East Central Center: 10.16.17 Council Meeting Recap

On Monday, Oct. 16th, Council had the difficult job of deciding whether to approve a contract with a new organization to manage the East Central Community Center. Council did approve a contract with the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center on a 4-2 vote (CM Stratton and Fagan opposed, CM Beggs abstained).

Five years ago, the Administration began a process of transitioning the Center from being a City Department to being managed by an outside contractor. The first contractor to take this on was the East Central Community Organization (ECCO) and they should be commended for taking on this difficult task.

After renewing the contract once with ECCO several years back, the Council decided to go out for an RFP earlier this year. I don’t regret initiating this RFP process because I think it is vitally important that we have high-quality management of the Center with the hundreds of thousands of public dollars invested in the contract.

There is a lot of history over the past 5 years. However, in this RFP process, I took it upon myself to not dwell on the past, but to focus on the two proposals to manage the Center: one from ECCO and one from the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center, which has managed an early learning and family center in the S. Perry area of the neighborhood for over 20 years.

Unfortunately, the review process of the two proposals before a decision came to Council was bumpy. Two different advisory groups gave conflicting recommendations to the Council about which proposal was the stronger one. This caused a lot of hard feelings and a divided neighborhood. The public testimony on Monday night showed this and it made me very sad.

Thus, I focused my review on the two proposals and the criteria laid out by the City. In reviewing the proposals, I found that the MLK Jr Center had the stronger proposal, specifically in three areas: integrating and expanding services; the ability to invest capital into maintenance and expansion of the Center; and a stronger fundraising plan and demonstrated experience raising capital and operating dollars.

I am very frustrated that the Administration-led community review process resulted in hard feelings on all sides. I am hopeful that the community can come together and that, especially, the MLK Jr Center, can reach across with an olive branch to ensure the efficient and healthy transition of leadership at the Center. The ultimate goal is providing a safe place where all are welcome and served in one of our most challenged neighborhoods.

Supporting new housing and commercial development: 8.14.17 and 8.21.17 Council Meetings Recap

Can it be August 22nd already? This summer has really been flying by. And the Council has been getting some very important work done to support targeted multi-family housing and neighborhood commercial activity in our City.

Last night at our August 21st Council Meeting, Council had three different ordinances to consider related to land use and development. First, we voted 7-0 in favor of updating our Multi-family Tax Exemption (MFTE) areas and making changes to the rules for receiving the 12 year exemption for including some affordable housing (now, you can receive the higher incentive for providing housing to people at 115% of the Area Medium Income). Council added the Division Street and Market St. corridors. This program has worked well in creating market-rate housing in areas where the City supports greater density. I am hopeful it will also now incorporate more affordable housing in these areas through this updated incentive program.

Second, Council voted 7-0 to adopt a threshold docketing process for deciding when comprehensive plan amendment proposals will be added to the City’s annual comp plan amendment work program or periodic update. This is a convoluted way of saying the City will now have an “early review” of proposals to amend our Comp Plan instead of putting every proposal through the year-long process, which is sometimes not the appropriate use of time on the part of developers or the City. Many other cities in WA State that plan under the Growth Management Act have iterations of an early review. I want to thank CM Candace Mumm for her work in bringing this forward for consideration and I look forward to testing out this new process this Fall!

Finally, Council voted 7-0 in favor of allowing existing neighborhood commercial structures to be used for specific commercial purposes even if they are located in a residential zone. Click here for more details and a map of the 90 or so properties that are covered under this ordinance. Years ago, these structures, many of which were corner grocery stores or small operations within residential areas were “downzoned.” Some remain in commercial use today, but many were vacated and then became empty buildings or were turned into residences, sometimes unsuccessfully. CP Stuckart has been working hard with small developers and property owners to allow these buildings to be used again (think Rockwood Bakery or Batch Bakery as examples of neighborhood retail in a residential area). After a lot of study and input from citizens, I think the Council has come to a good decision on this matter, including requiring more public input and a hearing examiner decision for buildings on residential streets that fit this criteria to ensure compatability with the neighborhood. I look forward to seeing how these buildings become reused and activated in our neighborhoods.

On a minor note, I have been working with Council and Administration on a joint Strategic Plan for the City. Out of this process, we have decided to update our Council Committee structure to be more aligned with the Strategic Plan. We voted 7-0 to create 4 new committees with new chairs and vice chairs that will lead discussions in the 4 strategic areas. We will kick off the new committee structure in October.

Monday, August 14th we held a fairly short Council meeting, but had a lot of folks show up for open forum on a variety of topics, including concerns about homelessness as well as issues with cleanliness and safety under I-90. Blessings Under the Bridge and the City continue to discuss options for their food and clothing distribution and where these activities might be most appropriate for the community. I’m happy to report that after last week’s meeting, the City, Lewis and Clark HS principal and board members and executive leadership of Blessings Under the Bridge have met and progress is being made on ways to assist those in need and keep the area clean and safe under I-90. More to come soon!

Council did approve appointing pro and con committees and the preparation of fiscal impact statements concerning the two citizens initiatives that are on the ballot this November (6-0) and approved the authorization of a grant contract between the Spokane Airport and the U.S. Dept of Transportation Federal Aviation Administration for airport improvements and a Master Plan for Felts Field. I’m excited about the opportunity this Master Plan brings to future development in the Chief Garry Neighborhood around Felts Field!

New 3-year utility rate schedule adopted: 7.24.17 and 7.31.17 Council Meetings recap

On July 24th, I presided over the Council meeting in CP Stuckart’s absence. Council took action on a variety of issues, including adopting a new Uber/Lyft MOU on a 5-1 vote (Fagan against, Stuckart absent). For the past several years, Council has taken an approach of creating an MOU with these transportation network companies to come to agreement on how they operate in Spokane rather than developing regulations similar to taxis. There are several reasons for this, but mainly because the State Legislature should but has not yet adopted state-wide regulations. Council has heard a lot of frustration from taxi drivers in Spokane about Uber and Lyft not honoring the terms of the MOU. After three years of waiting for the State to enact law around TNCs, Councilmembers Fagan and Stratton have said they are willing to work on moving forward regulations by the end of this calendar year. Because of this, Mr. Fagan made a successful motion to have this MOU be effective only until Dec. 31, 2017.

The other topic of interest on our agenda was the decision by Council whether to place a citizens’ initiative on the ballot that would aim to regulate certain types of coal/oil shipments through Spokane. Our citizens’ initiative process is pretty clear — if an initiative has enough signatures (independently verified by the County auditor), then Council can either pass the initiative directly into law or place it on the ballot for the voters to decide. Council voted 5-1 (Fagan opposed, Stuckart absent) to place this initiative on the ballot, as it had received the necessary minimum number of voter signatures.

The focus of our July 31st Council meeting was a hearing on a three-year rate structure for water, sewer and garbage utility services. The proposal was to increase each of these rates by 2.9% for the next three years. As Chair of the Public Works Committee, I can verify that Council spent the last 3 months discussing these rates and suggesting changes to the Administration. It was a very collaborative process that resulted in several adjustments and changes. Council voted 7-0 to approve the rates. We continue to look for ways to ensure equity and affordability in our rates. Council will vote in several weeks to establish a Senior/Disabled credit for those who qualify under the County reduced tax program in order to ensure greater equity for those on a fixed income in our community.