Category Archives: Tuesday Council Recap

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!!

Fair Chance Hiring Adopted: 11.27.17 Council Meeting Recap

Last night, Council chambers was full and the stories that were shared by the people in the room were sometimes painful, sometimes transformational, but very powerful. The topic was a proposed ordinance by CM Beggs that would require employers to remove the criminal record box from job applications and inquire about criminal record later in the hiring process. This effort is called “ban the box” or “fair chance hiring.” Council voted to approve this policy on a 5-2 vote (Fagan and Mumm no) after hours of public testimony. The ordinance goes into effect in 2018, but there are no fines or penalties for at least one year to allow a period for education and outreach and to allow businesses time to adjust application materials, etc.

To be honest, before 2014 I was not aware of how “the box” impacted people in the City or in my own neighborhood. If you have never been convicted of a crime, you don’t check it, you move on, and you hope to get a call back for an interview. If you have been convicted of a crime, however, that box can be a barrier to ever getting an interview and ever getting a job. Each person’s story is unique: what crime was committed, whether or not there was a victim involved, how many years ago, etc. Over the past several years, I have taken the time to listen and better understand the stories and hear from people who have criminal records. And there are many in our community — thousands of people. They are my neighbors. They are parents. Many want to work. They want to prove themselves and provide for their children. But the barriers can be high to reentering the community if they need to create new support systems, get a higher education, find housing, and find employment. The box can be a barrier to some if not all of these needs.

I believe in the right of businesses to decide who they want to employ and to check into potential employee’s history and background. And there are jobs where the Federal Government says you CANNOT have a criminal history (teachers, working with children, law enforcement, etc). But are we putting up an artificial barrier to employment when we force people to check a box before we’ve considered their resume? I’ve thought long and hard on this. I’ve listened. I’ve read studies from around the country. I voted to support this ordinance because I believe in opportunity. To truly provide opportunity to all people, even those who have committed a crime and done the time, it is time to remove the box as an initial screening tool.

The other reason I supported the ordinance is purely practical and financial. I’ve supported a lot criminal justice reform practices at the City, like providing alternatives to jail for non-violent offenders. I’ve supported Community Court and triage programs for homeless individuals and veterans. I’ve supported apprenticeship programs and reentry job training programs. I’m on the Board of Priority Spokane where we are working to stabilize families at Logan and Deer Park elementary schools by ensuring they have safe housing and access to employment, nutrition and education resources.

We invest millions of public dollars in jails. We also invest millions in evidence-based practices that are proven to prevent recidivism and to offer a greater opportunity to kids who have struggled with inequity based on income, race and growing up with an incarcerated family member. However, after all this public investment and retraining and reform, if someone or someone’s parent is going to be screened out of most opportunities by a box, we are wasting a lot of time and public dollars. Especially when that person and his/her family ends up on public assistance. That’s the practical part of me speaking. I hate investing public dollars and not getting the outcomes our community needs. We need people working and we need our economy to be strong.

Will passing this ordinance mean everyone with a record will find work? No. Will passing this ordinance mean you have to hire a felon? No. But taking the box off the application will give people a more equitable opportunity to get hired. It’s still up to our community to navigate these issues. This is just one policy and it is a reactive more than a proactive strategy. We have a lot more work to do to PREVENT crime and incarceration, especially in lower-mod income neighborhoods in NE Spokane. We need to roll up our sleeves and focus on the kids and young adults in our neighborhoods and ensure every child reaches his/her full potential despite what zip code they grow up in. This is the promise of the future!

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!

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