The City has been using every resource we have to address the needs of homeless individuals in our community, but the needs are many. The lack of affordable housing continues to force people into shelters and keeping those shelters open 24/7 is a significant investment. Council President Stuckart requested that the Council hold a special meeting to discuss the community’s concerns about housing and how to support those who find themselves homeless or in danger of being homeless. What can we do better? How can we work as a community to address this issue?
I was so impressed at the wide range of ideas and comments we received at the Forum. The Inlander actually did a pretty good overview of the topics we covered and solutions offered that you can find here.
Here are a few ideas that I captured from the meeting. Council will start investigating these with the Administration and identifying resources for 2018:
Fund $37,000 for “Hope Works” job program.
Fund SOAR program to speed up eligibility for SSI payments.
Fund lockable storage lockers for possessions of homeless individuals.
Add shelters just for veterans.
Create an LGBTQ-friendly shelter for adults, especially needed for trans community.
Create low density shelter options for those that can’t be around several people at once.
Diversify shelter locations to minimize disease outbreaks (e.g. norovirus).
Fund midnight to 7am Frontier emergency mental health team.
Add medical access on-site at the shelters.
Fund $300K/project to increase points for tax credit housing projects.
Create more affordable housing by infilling empty lots and changing zoning rules to increase density.
Rehabilitate the zombie foreclosure houses and return them to affordable housing inventory.
Add more micro-apartments.
Create tiny house community project(s).
Increase motel vouchers.
…and many other ideas!
After have a Monday off for the Labor Day holiday, Council reconvened on Sept. 11th for a short legislative agenda. The highlights were: 1. accepting several grants to invest in a DUI Candidate Court and part of a police officer to do DUI emphasis (7-0); and 2. declaring the City of Spokane’s intent to work with the County to better integrate 911 Emergency Communications.
I also gave a report from our Public Works Committee that highlighted the emerging recommendations for a new snow plan to be adopted in October, as well as an update on an water intertie agreement with Medical Lake that the City has been working on.
On Monday, Sept. 18th, Council held the last town hall meeting of the year at the Northeast Community Center. This was bittersweet for me, as the neighborhoods that I work with so closely were represented there and it was last time to see all of them in one room before I term out of City Council at the end of this year! I was very proud of all the good work that District 1 neighborhoods have accomplished in the past year, especially the HUGE amount of solid waste and trash that two neighborhoods in particular were able to haul away. Kudos to Minnehaha and Logan for some very well-organized dumpster events. The other major topic of discussion was place-making and planning in neighborhoods to be impacted by the North-South Corridor development over the next 8 years.
Could did take action after the Town Hall on some legislative items. One in particular was sponsored by me: creating a utility fee credit for nonprofit providers of long-term housing for developmentally disabled persons. I worked on this for about 2 months with housing providers. It is so important that we provide an opportunity for those with developmental disabilities to live as independently as possible so as to have productive lives and engage with their neighbors. This utility credit will most likely impact about 50 housing units in the City where there is not increase coming from the State to keep these folks housed. I’m hoping this small credit will at least keep the utility costs steady and keep these housing units affordable.
I was on deck to preside over another Council Meeting on March 13th. We had some healthy discussions regarding several public safety laws and adopted a resolution that I introduced to support updating the City’s Snow Plan.
Council voted 5-1 (Fagan opposed) to move money from the Rental Rehabilitation Fund to the City’s reserves in anticipation of making a $1.75M loan for the rehabilitation of the old Ridpath Hotel in Downtown Spokane. The Council will be spending the next month reviewing the loan proposal and all the requirements before making a decision to invest these Federal dollars in this project. I personally support the direction of the project — to provide more affordable housing units in Downtown Spokane for individuals, students, working people. It’s important to fill up some of our empty buildings downtown, but not everyone can afford market rate apartments.
I brought forward a joint resolution with the Administration that was adopted 6-0 in support of the City updating our snow plan and ensuring better mobility for our citizens during winter weather events. It has been a long, tough winter. I personally believe the City Plows need to be more nimble and we need to consider purchasing or borrowing more equipment to clear streets in a more timely manner. As Chair of the Council Public Works Committee, I’ve been working with our interim Streets Director and Public Works Director to put together ideas from citizens and the Council to improve both our Snow Plan and our pothole fixes. The goal will be to discuss these ideas and the finances necessary over the next two months through our Public Works Committee so we can be ready to make changes this year.
CM Lori Kinnear brought forward several minor code changes related to public safety that were adopted 6-0. She also brought forward a new crime of “vehicle trespass”, which was adopted 6-0. This creates a new misdemeanor crime that can be enforced by our Police Dept. When someone is in a car that does not belong to them and without permission, the Police can arrest this individual. The goal here is to prevent vehicle theft and to be able to get folks who are perpetuating these crimes to engage in our criminal justice system in a positive way. That is, through our community court or other alternative courts with the goal of reducing their likelihood of committing another crime. The City has been working diligently during this legislative session to get State funding for supervision of property crime offenders in Spokane County, specifically vehicle crime offenders. We won’t know if the State allocates funding until later in the Spring, but this would pair well with this vehicle trespass ordinance.
Next week City Council holds a town hall meeting at the East Central Community Center to hear from Southside neighborhoods.
After a long meeting on January 30th, City Council settled in for a few shorter meetings on Feb. 6th and Feb. 13th.
On February 6th, Council voted 7-0 to approve several traffic calming projects to be built in 2017. These projects range from adding new sidewalks near schools, to traffic speed feedback signs near parks. Council also approved a resolution (7-0) in favor of recognizing the Lincoln Heights District Center Master Plan. This has been a plan two years in the making, with the input of many property owners, neighbors and stakeholders aiming to create a more connected and safe district where people and businesses can thrive. Read more about the Master Plan here.
On February 13th, Council was visited by Mayor Condon for his annual State of the City Address. The Mayor presented accomplishments from 2016 and presented some of the draft strategic planning ideas that Council and Mayor have been working on jointly over the past 5 months. I’m looking forward to getting your input on these draft strategies to support economic growth and increased quality of life in Spokane…stay tuned for ways you can get involved in March! You can read more about Mayor’s State of the City and the strategic planning for the future here.