Category Archives: Public Health

Council approves loan for Ridpath Affordable Housing & Central City Line Application: 4.17.17 and 4.24.17 Meetings Recap

Council had a fairly short legislative agenda on Monday, April 17th. We did vote to approve the Spokane Human Rights Commission’s 2017 Work Program on a 7-0 vote. Congrats to the members of that group for their detailed plan and for the strong participation of its members. Some of the areas they are addressing in 2017: human trafficking, educating regarding LGBTQ rights, housing policies.

On Monday, April 24th, Council addressed several exciting proposals and voted to approve them. First, Council considered a resolution in support of an application for Federal Transit Administration Small Starts Funding for the Central City Line project.

After several years of work preparing the application and many community conversations, STA is finally ready to send in a full application for the bus rapid transit project to the Federal government to be rated against other projects across the country. Council voted 5-1 (Beggs absent, Fagan opposed) in support of sending in the $50M+ application to match state and local operating dollars. I’ve been the chair of the Central City Line Steering Committee over the past 18 months and I can tell you that STA and its contractors have done a great job making the case for funding for this project, which will run from Spokane Community College, through the U District and Downtown to Browne’s Addition and will feature all-day, frequent service with comfortable stations and quiet electric buses.

Council also voted to approve a loan for the development of affordable housing in the old Ridpath Hotel. After 8 years of closure and at least 5 years of blight and ownership problems with this building, there is a proposal by Ron Wells, a local housing developer to develop 179 units of affordable housing with a mixture of financing, including private loans, state affordable housing loans and tax credits. The city’s financial investment would be a long-term, low-interest loan of $1.75M in federal housing dollars that were used to fund redevelopment of affordable units and were paid back to the City over the past 25 years (some of those were paid back by Mr. Wells for previous housing efforts). These are Federal dollars designated for affordable housing redevelopment and cannot be used for other city services.

Council spent many weeks reviewing the information regarding this loan and having conversations with staff and community members. I received comments from constituents in favor of providing the loan because of a desire to have more affordable housing options in the price range that will be offered at the Ridpath (for example: 1 bdrm max rent of $705 including internet and utilities). Also, the Ridpath has been a blight on an entire Downtown City block, which has prevented adjoining properties from being redeveloped. Positive activity and long-term residents would bring a new energy to this corner of Downtown. I also received comments from constituents who were concerned about making the loan for a variety of reasons. There was fear that the loan would not be paid back to the City if the project went under. Also, if the money wouldn’t be better spent in other parts of the City.

In the end, I voted to approve the loan (5-1, Fagan opposed, Beggs absent). I was convinced that this was the best chance the City has had to redevelop the building and ensure 20+ years of affordable housing for working people, students and single young professionals in Downtown. It is truly a historic building and and opportunity property. I believe directing the Federal dollars that were paid back to the City towards this project is an appropriate and strategic approach to growing additional investment and increasing safety and housing for a key demographic in Downtown Spokane.

A new year for Council; U District Ped Bridge Contract: 1.9.2017 Meeting Recap

Happy New Year! I’m excited to start my 8th years as a City Councilmember from District 1. After a nice Holiday break, Council was back in session to take care of some 2017 business.

Two main items that were covered: appointing Councilmembers to Boards and Commissions (approved 7-0). This year, I am coming off the Board of Health after 7 years and handing the mantle over to CM Karen Stratton. I’m also coming off the Downtown Spokane Partnership Board to allow CM Lori Kinnear a chance to serve. I will continue to serve on the Spokane Regional Transportation Board, Spokane Transit Board, the Growth Management Steering Committee and several other commissions. I will also continue to chair the City Council’s Public Works Committee.

Council also voted to approve (6-1, Fagan against) the low-bid award of contract to Garco Construction for the U District Bike-Ped Bridge. The bid came in at $9.5M to build this Gateway Bridge, which will be a key connection within Spokane’s University District. Once completed, the bridge will allow connectivity over the BNSF railway and MLK, Jr. Way and increase the viability for business and residential development on the south side of the bridge, connecting to the medical community. The funding for this bridge has come primarily from state and federal funds.

I look forward to a productive and successful new year at the City. You can click here for more of my goals for 2017 in my e-newsletter.

Library levy lid placed on ballot; sick leave ordinance amended: 11.14.16 Council Meeting Recap

Council had a busy Monday evening this week of November 14th, 2016. First, Council approved placing a renewal of the library levy lid lift on the ballot in April 2017 (6-1, Fagan no). Voters will have an opportunity to vote to renew this small levy lid lift at the same rate as today for another 7 years. This keeps the libraries operating at the current level of service. I’m very pleased at how the dollars generated by the previous library levy have been spent to increase hours at smaller library branches at 40 hours/week, plus opening Shadle on Sunday afternoons.

Council also continued our hearing on the proposed 2017 City Budget. We discussed and voted 7-0 to increase the property tax by 1% in 2017 with the dollars continuing to be dedicated to capital needs for public safety (fire trucks, safety equipment). We are using these dollars to pay back a low-interest loan from our Spokane Investment Pool to purchase equipment. We plan on voting on the operating and capital budgets next week.

Finally, we held a hearing on changes to the Sick & Safe leave ordinance that passed in January 2016 and becomes effective Jan. 1, 2017. A group of business leaders, city staff, Council and labor and community stakeholders had been meeting for the past 6 months to clarify parts of the law, which allows workers in the city to earn sick/safe time based on the number of hours worked, up to 24 hours for very small businesses, and up to 40 hours for businesses with more than 10 employees. Council voted 6-1 (Fagan no) to adopt some changes that clarified several parts of the ordinance, as well as created enforcement mechanisms. Due to the State law that was recently adopted by voters that allows workers to earn up to 7 days, Council included a sunset clause that sunset’s the City’s rules when the State rules become effective — which will most likely happen sometime in 2018. Council also clarified that the goal will not be to penalize businesses in 2017, but educate and provide all opportunities needed for businesses to comply in good faith. Please visit the City’s website for updated info.

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.