Category Archives: Public Health

Council urges State Legislators to Pass Capital Budget; Accepts Main Ave. Visioning Study: 8.28.17 Meeting Recap

City Council continues to meet in our Briefing Center while our Council Chambers are undergoing renovations. I realize the sound quality is not great for those watching at home. Please be patient with us, as we will be back in Chambers soon (hopefully Sept. 25th)! And at our 6pm Sept. 25th Council meeting, our goal will be to devote our entire session to a town hall discussion on homelessness. The City has been investing in a diversity of efforts to provide 24/7 shelter access, build permanent housing, and to discourage outdoor camping in public access areas. I have received a lot of input on this challenging issue in our community and there are many ideas to share. I invite you to come down to express your desires and hopes for our community as it relates to housing and addressing homelessness.

On Monday, August 28th, Council voted 6-1 (Fagan opposed) in support of a resolution I co-sponsored by Councilmember Beggs and Mumm, requesting the State Legislators adopt a Capital Budget. This is the longest time in the history of the State that we have gone without a capital budget and from what I hear, there is not a lot of disagreement about many of the capital items that would benefit Spokane. I have been working with legislators on both sides of the aisle who have been very helpful in getting projects for Spokane on the list. What there is disagreement about is an unrelated policy issue — the effects of the Hirst court decision that impacts how jurisdictions can issue permits for exempt wells and access to water. While the impacts of Hirst are concerning and the State should create procedures by which property owners in limbo can apply for water rights, it makes no sense to hold up a vote on a capital budget.

Council heard testimony from many people representing numerous organizations who are anxiously awaiting a decision from the State to help fund many worthy projects that will provide access to quality health care, justice, education and public trails and parks. CHAS and Providence sent representatives to speak out for the dental clinics they are working to open in the next year in Spokane (including one at the City-owned East Central Community Center) to serve low-income adults who have no access to care. Also, the YWCA is awaiting funding for its Family Justice Center, which serves victims of domestic violence. EWU is awaiting $30M for a new science building. Public Schools in Spokane and across the state are looking for state bonding dollars to assist them in updating classrooms and increasing space to meet McCleary requirements. And the City is awaiting critical matching dollars for trail and park projects in Peaceful Valley and the Southgate neighborhood. These are just a few of the over $100M in funds that would be invested in long-term outcomes in Spokane. I sincerely hope the Legislators will listen to their constituents and come together for another special session to pass a capital budget as soon as possible.

Council also voted 7-0 to approve the Main Ave. Visioning Study as a component of future downtown Spokane planning efforts. This study can be found on the City’s website (just search for “Main Ave Study”) and was a joint effort between property owners, business owners and the City to identify ways to revitalize Main St. in the future.

Council voted 7-0 in support of establishing a new “Senior or Disabled Residential Customer Credit” for utility services that becomes effective Jan 1, 2018. This is to provide yet another way to manage rising utility rates for those on a fixed income in our community. Those who qualify for the County property tax deduction would also qualify for this $10/month credit toward the utility bill. You can contact 311 for more information.

Affirming climate change goals; Chief Garry Park Neighborhood Plan: 7.11.17 and 7.17.17 Council Recap

After Council took a brief break to celebrate the July 4th holiday, we were back on Monday, July 11th for a short legislative agenda. The highlight was the adoption on a 7-0 vote of the Chief Garry Park Neighborhood Action Plan. I want to congratulate Colleen Gardner, the stakeholder chair, and all the business and neighbor leaders who participated over 2 years to produce a a very readable, focused plan which very doable actions to improve the neighborhood. For example, creating a signed walking loop through the neighborhood, supporting growth in the Napa/Mission and Greene/Mission business areas. Well done! Now we have to get to work implementing!

Prior to the Council meeting, we heard a presentation from Parks staff, Board and consultants involved in the Design work for the Pavilion area of the Park. There are many concerns about how this area gets redeveloped as a gathering place and how to create covered events, yet retain views of the River. I look forward to seeing more designs come forward after Council and citizens provide more input!

Council held a July 17th City Council meeting to consider several legislative items, including adopting the City’s 2009 Sustainability Action Plan and goals by City Ordinance. Council voted 6-1 in favor (Fagan opposed).
I was very pleased to support this ordinance because it recommits the City to the Sustainability Action Plan and the goals that the City set back in 2009 to reduce carbon emissions. I believe strongly that we should continue to play a leadership role in the region and in the nation at the City of Spokane in reducing carbon emissions, using alternative energy sources, reducing our energy use (and reducing our costs to the citizens), as well as helping the alternative energy market grow in our area.

Being sustainable financially and environmentally makes sense for our City and ensures we are resilient in the face of climate change and other global and economic impacts to our region.

I look forward to using the framework and goals we adopted to work with our citizens, business and other governments and agencies to identify strategies we can all use in this community to reduce the impacts we our actions have on climate change. I am also committed to working at a State and National level to ensure our strategies support greater national and global efforts.

Council also took a monumental step forward by voting 7-0 to establish a West Plains Public Development Authority with both the County and the Airport. This is the first time in our County we have established a PDA with three partners and I am thrilled that, after 3+ years, we have come to an agreement to share revenue and reinvest it in this area (a large swatch of land next to and adjoining Airport property). The goal will be to establish a Board that will direct the investment of tax funds that are collected already back into the area mostly in infrastructure improvements so we can attract good-paying aerospace and manufacturing jobs to our area. A very exciting step for our community!

Spokane Updates its Comprehensive Plan; 6.19.17 and 6.26.17 Council Meetings Recap

How is it that I was the lucky Council President Pro Temp to preside over the longest Council meeting (so far) of the year? It was a marathon night on June 19th. We had a full agenda and a packed house to provide public input into our Six-Year Comp Street Program, adopting our 2017 Comprehensive Plan update (after 3 years of work by the community), and providing emergency dollars to fund our 24/7 homeless shelter, among other topics.

Each year by June 30th, the City is required by State law to adopt a six-year schedule of street construction/maintenance projects. Council voted to adopt the 2018-2023 Street Program on a 5-1 vote (Fagan no, Stuckart absent). I want to thank all the citizen volunteers and staff who work diligently to vet are street needs and ensure we are investing our dollars in high priority projects. You can view the street program and see which streets are planned for work here.

The main act for June 19th was to review a long list of proposed changes and updates to the Comprehensive Plan, which is our City’s guiding document for growth under the State’s Growth Management Act. This is the first time our community has updated our Plan since it was adopted back in 2001. For those of you watching our meeting, it might have seemed confusing due to the many changes and additions that were being considered by motion. The City is very committed to a transparent and open process for updating our Comp Plan and after 3 years of work to rewrite sections and add new sections, we wanted to ensure that all major changes to the draft document were handled in an open session and could be considered by the public before final adoption. Thus, after making a series of endless motions to accept or reject various language changes that had been brought forward by Councilmembers and the public, we voted unanimously to continue the hearing for another week to allow for a once and final review of these changes.

I was out of town on June 26th on a planned vacation, so I cannot speak firsthand about the details of the Council meeting. However, I do know that Council accepted motions to make some small adjustments (taking away language only) and adopted a final Comprehensive Plan Update. (I hear it was a much shorter night than June 19th!). You can find the full, new version of the City’s Comprehensive Plan here. Please take a moment to review it! It is a wonderful vision for our community that will help lead us forward for the next 5-7 years before we do our next update. Congratulations to Jo Anne Wright, Lisa Key and the entire Planning staff team, along with hundreds of community members who put in thousands of hours to update our city’s plan. We may not have gotten everything perfect, but I am confident we deliberated over the most important changes (including a new transportation chapter and new language related to public safety and criminal justice reform). We did vote to retain the “old” Transportation chapter 4 in order to ensure none of the goals would be forgotten as we use this document to make future policy and budget decisions to shape our City for the future.

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.