Category Archives: Public Safety

Council approves hire of new Fire Chief; requests State funding for Police Academy: 6.2.17 Council Meeting Recap

The City Council Chambers were full on Monday, June 5th, to celebrate the beginning of Pride Week with a proclamation from the Mayor and the Pride Flag raised over City Hall. Also, we had guests coming to testify on behalf of Brian Schaeffer, the Mayor’s nominee for Fire Chief.

We presented several of the Mayor’s proclamations, including one to Refugee Connections in honor of World Refugee Day, coming up on June 20th.

The Council agenda was fairly light, but we did vote 7-0 to authorize the use of reserve funds from our Comcast account to be used for renovations of City Council Chambers, specifically the installation of new technology equipment. This was our last meeting in our Chambers until after Labor Day. New paint, wall coverings, window shades and technology will be installed over the next 12 weeks and we will hold our meetings in the City Council Briefing Center, just down the hall. I am looking forward to brightening up the space. I don’t think many things have been replaced or cleaned for almost 30 years!

I was very happy to support Brian Schaeffer, our assistant fire chief since 2005, in moving up to the role of Fire Chief. Council heard some great testimony from other local Chiefs and citizens in favor of approving the mayor’s nomination of Mr. Schaeffer. I have enjoyed working with Brian over the past 7.5 years and I know he is well-prepared to take over in this new capacity. It was clear that he was shoulders above the other applicants the city received for the position. Congrats to Brian — the Council gave him a 7-0 vote of approval.

Finally, I brought forward a letter urging State Senators to approve supplemental budget funding for the Police Academy classes throughout Washington State, but especially here at our Spokane Academy. The letter was approved 7-0 and will be sent today. Spokane is counting on having an Academy class here this summer to train new police officers and get them out on the street as soon as possible. Cities and Counties are desperately trying to fill our retired and open positions. We need officers now. It is critical that the State fund an additional $2.4M to hold 18 classes over the remainder of this 2017 calendar year in WA state to certify officers. The cost is small compared to the investment in public safety that is matched by local communities. I will be following up with our local state senators to encourage them to fund this item and to also continue to fund the Basic Law Enforcement Academy trainings in the next biennium.

Council weighs in on labor negotiations with Police and approves two moratoriums: 4.10.17 Council meeting recap

After a spring break, Council was back in session on April 10th to address several items, some of which were emergency moratoriums.

First, Council voted 6-1 (Fagan opposed) to establish a “decision matrix” for City staff to use during the scoping phase of construction projects specifically for Centers and Corridors and Targeted Investment areas. The matrix will help capital programs staff weigh the input of neighborhoods, businesses, adjoining neighbors and City Planning documents when they are doing initial design of a project in key areas of our City slated for growth. These areas are denser with a mixture of businesses and residents, making the construction projects more complicated and requires more input prior to applying for grants. The need for this has been driven by the concerns over the Monroe St project, which was driven by neighborhood planning, but did not receive specific feedback on design prior to going out for funding. I’m confident this matrix will be a valuable tool for future capital planning and allow all voices to be heard earlier in the process.

Council also enacted a new policy that addresses how asset forfeiture dollars can be spent by the Police Dept., voting 5-2 (Fagan and Stratton against) to requiring approval by the Council for how the dollars are spent. I voted in support of this ordinance, brought forward by CM Beggs, because I believe in transparency and in the Council being able to consider all sources of revenue when establishing our annual budget and strategic priorities.

Council unanimously adopted a letter to Mayor Condon outlining the City Council’s goals and objectives for the upcoming collective bargaining negotiations with the Police Guild. CM Kinnear worked hard to collect the priorities of all the Councilmembers and come up with a list of items, including improvements to police oversight and changes to overtime, that Council could all agree to. The negotiations have been stalled and Council hopes this letter clearly identifies our priorities so the Mayor can begin negotiations in good faith with the Guild.

Finally, there were two emergency moratoriums unanimously adopted by Council. These are items not normally noticed prior to the meeting because they address current planning and permitting and require a public hearing within 60 days. First, CM Kinnear brought forward a moratorium on demolition permits in the Browne’s Addition neighborhood in order to allow the Neighborhood Council and City to complete a historic overlay plan that supports infill growth, yet addresses the need to preserve the historic character of this beautiful neighborhood.

I brought forward a moratorium on issuing permits for off-premise signs (i.e. billboards) in the Center and Corridor zone of Historic Market St. in Hillyard. Normally, there are no new permits for off-premise signs allowed in Spokane in order to retain the character of neighborhoods and reduce sign clutter. However, there is an interesting clause in our sign code that allows billboards that are taken down due to a public works project to be relocated on the similar corridor. I recently became aware of this because of the North South Corridor development. Signs that used to be on Market St near the railroad tracks are potentially moving to the historic Market St. corridor — right on top of historic buildings. Two permits are already in the works. My concern is that this is not consistent with the pedestrian-oriented nature of this beautiful street and this moratorium allows City Planning to review this part of our code with the community. In the meantime, these billboards could still be relocated to the General Commercial areas of Market St north and south of the historic center.

Public Hearings on these two moratoriums will be held on Monday, May 22nd at our 6pm legislative session.

East Central Town Hall & Human Rights Ordinance: March 20 and March 27, 2017 Council Recap

It’s been a quieter Spring Break week at the Council offices. We took Monday, April 3rd off to allow Councilmembers with school-aged children some vacation time (although everyone thought we had canceled the meeting to watch Gonzaga play in the National Championship Game!). What an exciting March for Spokane and Gonzaga University. Congratulations to both the Men and Women for making the tournament and for the men’s incredible run at a championship!

On March 20th, Council held our southside neighborhood Town Hall Meeting at the East Central Community Center. I very much appreciated hearing from all the neighborhoods who are working, each in their own way, to develop new connections, address safety, and improve quality of life. I was particularly impressed by the work of the East Central and Rockwood neighborhoods to prepare welcome packets and update their meetings to better accommodate more participation.

On Monday, March 27th, Council approved Gary Kaesemeyer as the new Director of our Streets Department. I look forward to working with him on addressing potholes, updating our Snow Plan and working to maintain and update our streets over the busy upcoming construction season. The major item on our agenda was an update to our Human Rights ordinances at the City. After over 90 minutes of public testimony, the Council adopted the update on a 6-1 vote (CM Fagan opposed). Many thanks to CM Karen Stratton for her work in creating a new “Title 18” in our municipal code and collecting all the human rights-related protections in one place. This will make it much easier for people to access information and ensure their rights are protected.

One new protection that I worked on with CM Stratton was housing non-discrimination based on source of income; that is, you cannot discriminate against renting to a tenant solely based on how they pay (cash, housing voucher, etc.).

Several years ago, through the work I had been doing with community partners to address homeless families in our school system through Priority Spokane and homeless families in NE Spokane through the Zone Project, I became painfully aware that individuals and families who receive housing assistance have a lot of barriers to being able to access safe and affordable housing in our community, especially with the low vacancy rates right now.

I interviewed a local resident, Melissa, for my Council Connection show, which is now airing. She and her partner and son have been searching for housing with their voucher and they are almost up against the 4 month mark. She has a good credit history, she has a good tenant history. She has researched apartments all over the city and county that are in the price range allowed by her voucher.

If a tenant is able to pay the full rent with a voucher and other sources of income, has good credit and no poor tenant history, is it right to reject her outright before she has had a chance to present herself and sources of income? That is, solely on her income status? I don’t believe that is who we want to be in Spokane. I know we believe in choice and opportunity for all and in breaking down barriers to even low-income members of our community to access quality, affordable housing, which is why I strongly supported this addition to our municipal code. I did make a motion to hold off on making this particular section enforceable until July 1st, which will allow a few more details to be worked through with tenants, landlords, the Housing Authority and the City to ensure the new rules are easy to understand and enforce.

Council votes to confirm Mike Ormsby as City Attorney; Adopts Budget Priorities: 5.16.17 and 5.22.17 Council meetings recap

On Monday, May 15th, Council considered the appointment of Mike Ormsby, our previous U.S. Attorney for Eastern WA, as our new City Attorney. Unfortunately, I caught a very nasty bug and was home sick. I did manage to call in for about an hour of the City Council meeting and did vote to confirm Mr. Ormsby (4-3 – Fagan, Mumm and Beggs opposed). We heard testimony from a variety of perspectives, pro and con. Mr. Ormsby is born and raised here in Spokane, was the youngest person ever elected to the Spokane School Board, and has had a long, successful career in private practice and as the U.S. Attorney. Some concerns were shared about his role as an attorney in the River Park Square loan arrangement with the City. Also, an attorney who sued his office related to discrimination. Others who have worked with him praised his leadership and mentorship.

I spoke with Mr. Ormsby previous to the vote about these concerns and he addressed them thoroughly with me. I am confident he can lead our office of attorneys very effectively and ensure Council and Mayor communicate frequently about potential litigation so we can avoid conflicts. I welcome Mr. Ormsby to City Hall!

On May 22nd, Council adopted its 2018 Budget Priorities (6-1, Fagan opposed), which can be found here. I worked hard with the Councilmembers over the past two months to sponsor a prioritized list of priorities to kick off conversations with the Mayor. This has been an effective tool the past two years in finding alignment and making the budget process fairly smooth for citizens, Council and staff.

This year, we prioritized investments that align with the City’s draft strategic plan, which focuses on three areas: Safe, Healthy and Compassionate City, developing our Urban Advantage, and creating Sustainable Public Infrastructure. Highlights include hiring additional police personnel; ensuring 24/7 homeless shelter funding with community partners; developing revitalization plans to spur private development in key business centers and corridors; and increasing funds for improved snow removal and street repair.

Our water system plan calls for us to do an annual review of applications for water service outside our retail water service area. We had eight applications for service. After holding a public hearing and hearing from property owners and staff, we approved two based on our water system and Comp Plan policies.

Finally, we held public hearings on two moratoriums that were put into place in March 2017: one on demolition permits in Browne’s Addition and one on relocating billboards to Centers and Corridor/Historic Zones. Both these moratoriums were approved by Council (6-0, Mumm absent) and will be in place for 6 month while the community and staff can study the code and bring forth changes as needed.