Category Archives: Public Utilities

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!

City Budget & Strategic Plan Adopted, School Zone Safety: 12.11.17 and 12.18.17 Council Meetings Recap

This is my last Council meeting recap! Can you believe it? I will be doing one last Councilmember blog post next week, discuss my next steps, and send out my new contact info…so stay tuned!

The last two Council meetings were very eventful, including adopting the 2018 Budget and the City’s first Joint Strategic Plan, along with a list of strategic investments for the next two years.

On Monday, December 11th, Council voted to adopt a Budget and a City Strategic Plan on 7-0 votes. There were some motions to adjust various positions in the Utilities division budget by CM Stratton. I supported some of these and opposed some of these, but in the end Council was able to unanimously approve a budget that includes funding for 10 more police officers, funding to grade alleys, pave some unpaved streets, and finish building the underground tanks to keep pollutants out of the Spokane River, just to name a few significant items.

Council and Administration have been developing a City Strategic Plan for the past 16 months. It’s truly been a collaborative effort. I have lead the effort from the Council side and Rick Romero on behalf of the Mayor. We had a wonderful leadership team that helped guide the development of the Plan, which pulls goals from our Comprehensive Plan, prioritizes strategies and aligns the City across departments. I have confidence that this Plan will be implemented because it is already underway and Council has created the process through our committees and legislative process to stay focused on outcomes and deliver real results to our citizens. You can read my blog post about why a strategic plan matters to you!

Not only did we adopt the Plan by resolution (7-0), but we also attached a list of $51M+ in strategic on-time investments over the next 2 years in our streets, public safety, trails and housing using various funds and reserve dollars at the City. Watch the video for more info!

On December 18th, City Councilmembers and staff put together a very nice reception for me prior to the Council meeting and gifted me my own “WALDREF” nameplate signed by Mayor, Council and Cabinet members. That was so special!

On the agenda, Council approved (7-0) the traffic calming projects across the City for 2018 using the Photo Red and school zone revenues. We also approved a new resolution that sets the parameters for use of the school zone camera dollars only for school-related safety improvements. Council also expanded (6-1, Fagan opposed) the school zone cameras to two new locations where speeds are the highest in the City — both in the Northwest neighborhoods.

We approved (7-0) changes to the Spokane Employees’ Retirement System (SERS) to increase both the employee and employer contribution rates in order to ensure sustainability of the fund.

I worked with CP Stuckart to pass a resolution (7-0) to ensure Freya St in East Hillyard (Garland to Francis) will be completely rebuilt in the next several years. This is a key economic development area with the North South Corridor being built over the next 10 years.

Finally, Council approved changes to our elections code per the advocacy of CP Stuckart (6-1 Fagan opposed). It will cap contributions to campaigns at $500 per election. It will also limit campaign contributions with companies who are contracting with the City. It will also require more transparency of Political Action Committee (PAC) top donors.

Happy Holidays!!

Budget Hearings & Power contract for WTE: 11.6.17 and 11.13.17 Council Meetings Recap

City Council has been holding hearings on the Administration’s Proposed 2018 budget. On Nov. 4th, we heard from our Fire and Police Chiefs about hiring potentially 10 new officers, as well as continuing to focus on property crime/vehicle theft and other specific initiatives. The budget process is literally a year-long process that starts in the early part of the year when the Finance Dept closes the books on the previous year and begins to make projections for the next. Council discusses and then adopts Budget priorities by April and then the Mayor’s Finance staff begin the long process of engaging with each department throughout the spring and summer, developing a draft programmatic budget to deliver to Council and the community in August/Sept. Then Council begins weekly study sessions to ask questions and get clarity on changes and provide guidance back to the Administration. The Mayor delivers the final budget in October and Council then holds hearings in November and must vote to adopt a balanced budget by the end of December.

This year, because of the development of the Strategic Plan, Council has been able to engage on a whole new level, helping shape both operational investments as well as strategic one-time investments in top Mayor-Council strategic initiatives.

I wanted to note that on Nov. 4th, several individuals came down to comment on the need to share sexual harassment stories and call out leaders who may not be listening or supportive. Unfortunately, our 3 minute Council open forum is not the best opportunity for folks to share long stories…and it is important for the community to hear these stories! I have suggested that the Human Rights Commission provide time on its agenda when Councilmembers and citizens might be able to openly discuss these issues and hear from each other in a more conducive forum. I hope this will be scheduled soon.

I was out of town on a vacation and was not able to be present at the Nov. 13th City Council meeting. However, I do know that at my suggestion, Council voted to put off a decision on the water intertie agreement with Medical lake until next year to allow time for a study session on the aquifer and River to be held and more opportunity for Council to engage with stakeholders and River advocates on water conservation strategies, among other topics.

Also, Council passed an emergency ordinance (6-0, Waldref absent), to enter into a new 5 year contract with Avista to purchase energy generated by the Waste to Energy plant. The urgency was due to entering into the agreement before a new tariff was to be put in place, which would lessen the revenue to the City and to Avista.

It is my understanding that after several issues arose with the Mayor’s proposed 2018 budget, Council voted 6-0 to keep the hearings open and delay a vote on the budget until Monday, Dec. 11th to allow for time to get questions answered and resolve some concerns, mainly around the utilities budget.

So here we are

Why does the City of Spokane need a strategic plan? (Plus Oct. 23 and Oct. 30th Council meeting recaps)

The last 8 weeks have been the busiest in my almost 8 years on City Council. I guess it is trying to wrap up many issues, projects and policies I’ve been working on before the end of my Council term on Dec. 31st. The time is near!

Strategic Plan
One thing I am VERY proud to have been a part of over the past year is developing this City’s first Joint Mayor/Council Strategic Plan. (Yes, I’ve been known to carry copies of it in my purse and hand to folks I speak with at the grocery store). Here is a link to the Plan and a way for you to provide your input: StrategicPlan@spokanecity.org

Why should you care about (yet another) plan? Don’t we have a Comprehensive Plan that we just updated as a community? We have an amazing Comp Plan that sets out big goals and vision, but not a shorter term strategic or “action” plan that implements these ideas. I noticed this the first year after I was elected. Often times we were chasing our tail or reacting to needs rather than proactively working to develop solutions to our greatest challenges and investing in/marketing our greatest assets. Sometimes Council would be chasing an idea, sometimes the Mayor…but we weren’t always aligned. When Council and Mayor began to sit down and discuss where we had shared vision and outcomes in implementing our Comp Plan, we found a lot of commonality.

To advance greater prosperity and resiliency in our city, we need to build up on our assets and recognize where we trail behind, and then we need to work differently (regionally, across city departments, with neighborhoods and community groups and businesses) to get to the outcomes we all want and deserve — safer city, greater household income, increased connection to our city/neighbors, etc. So not only do we have to work differently (and budget differently), we need to set targets and performance measures and track our outcomes…and share this with our citizens. For me its about accountability, transparency and moving the needle. This takes focus, patience and constant communication with our community members.

So please, click on the link to see the visual document that shows the timeline and strategies and provide me your feedback. Did we miss anything? We’ve already aligned our Council committees to focus on the four goal areas. Teams are developing tactics and measures for each strategic area (if they haven’t already been identified). I’m excited to leave the Council and Mayor at the end of this year with this roadmap to guide the focus of future budgets and policy decisions.

Oct. 23rd and Oct. 30th Council Meetings
Last week, I was able to receive a scholarship to attend a truly amazing conference called Meeting of the Minds in Cleveland, OH (more to come on what I learned!). But because of this, I missed the Oct. 23rd City Council meeting. Luckily, there were few items of note on the agenda and one item did get deferred until Nov. 13th — consideration of a water intertie agreement with Medical Lake. After requests from community members for more time to review and engage on the proposed agreement, Council agreed and I have been spending significant time speaking with Spokane River stakeholders and getting their input.

This Monday, Oct. 30th, Council opened our first night of budget hearings. We heard from our Economic Development, Planning, Housing and Human Services Division. We also provided a forum to educate the community on revenue sources to the City (where does the money come from to invest in City services and how much of your property tax dollar/sales tax dollar actually goes to the City?). We kept the budget hearing open and next week we will be hearing from our Police and Fire chiefs to discuss changes for 2018 in their budgets. Council also voted 6-0 (CM Kinnear absent) to set a hearing for Nov. 20th regarding renewal of the Transportation Benefit District, which is currently funded with a $20 car tab to pay for residential street repair.