Category Archives: Transportation

Transportation Benefit District reauthorized, street projects approved: 11.20.17 Council recap

I hope everyone enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving! Many thanks to everyone who helped out with the various free Thanksgiving dinners around Spokane. Last year I served at the UGM dinner at the Convention Center and it was a very special experience. I met some wonderful people.

I’m finally posting about the Council meeting on Monday night after taking a break from City Hall for a few days. On Monday, Nov. 20th, Council approved (6-1, Fagan no) several actions related to our Transportation Benefit District(TBD). We renewed the TBD we have for another 7 years. We approved continuing the $20 car tabs to fund residential street improvements/maintenance, and we approved the City Council being the official board of the TBD.

Back in 2010, I was part of a Council majority that approved establishing a TBD for the City after it became clear that a regional TBD was not in the cards. The State allows cities, counties or multiple jurisdictions to create TBDs to fund transportation improvements. We are allowed to fund TBDs with a variety of funding mechanisms including property tax, sales tax and car tab fees. Currently, a TBD Board can choose to impose up to $40 car tab fee. Other taxes or anything higher than $40 has to go to a public vote.

I am very pleased with the amount of street maintenance work we have accomplished at the City using these car tab fees (we collect approx. $2.2M/year). You can visit our TBD page to review most of the work accomplished to date (I believe they will be updating it to capture the latest projects completed very soon). I helped create the Citizens Transportation Advisory Board (CTAB) that oversees the project selection and ensures the dollars are spent wisely and to the benefit of all areas of the City. I want to thank all the volunteers who have served on this Board over the years. They work hard for all of us!

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.

Parklets & The Yard Master Plan: 10.2.17 and 10.9.17 Council Meetings Recap

I was honored to run the Oct. 2nd Council meeting in CP Stuckart’s absence. We received a lovely report from Dr. Caputo from Gonzaga University who led a trip this past summer to Spokane’s newest sister city, Cagli. The photos looked absolutely beautiful! And it was appropriate to receive this report near Oct. 1st, which is the anniversary (one year ago) of the establishment of the sister city relationship….also, Italian-American heritage day in the City of Spokane!

Our agenda was fairly short, but we did recognize by resolution (6-0) the Yard Redevelopment Master Plan as a record of the community’s ongoing desire and effort to encourage and invest in development, job creation and quality of life improvements in the East Hillyard (The Yard) and surrounding area. I have been working with an interdisciplinary group inside/outside City hall to ensure that the City funds the Northeast Public Development Authority so it can hire a director that is focused on implementing this Master Plan!

Council held a hearing and adopted 6-0 (Stuckart absent) an ordinance introduced by CM Lori Kinnear related to licensing for parklets and streateries. You might ask, what are such things? The City has been experimenting with local stakeholders and businesses in using the public right of way in small business districts and in Downtown Spokane in unique and fun ways. Instead of a loading zone in front of a business, a parklet with potted plants and seating can be arranged in the on-street parking area to provide a place to gather, listen to music, serve food outside a restaurant (becoming a “streatery”). Now restaurants that meet certain conditions can apply to accommodate and support a parklet through an official permitting process of the City. I’m excited to see more of these pop up throughout Spokane this coming summer!

On October 9th, Council held a very short legislative session. We appropriated funds (7-0) to the Hope Works Homeless Services project, that will provide a way for those who are on the street and panhandling to earn a stipend and connect to services. Council also voted 7-0 to extend two moratoriums for another six months: one related to relocating off-premise signs (billboards) in the Hillyard area and another that halts demolition permits in the Browne’s Addition neighborhood while a historic overlay zone is being developed. Finally, Council adopted a resolution on a 7-0 vote to recognize the Spokane Falls Building Heights Working Group report, which provides direction for future downtown planning activities and code amendments related to building heights along Spokane Falls Blvd. The goal being to support growth and infill development, while still protecting views and preventing massive shade on Riverfront Park.

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.