New contract approved to manage East Central Center: 10.16.17 Council Meeting Recap

On Monday, Oct. 16th, Council had the difficult job of deciding whether to approve a contract with a new organization to manage the East Central Community Center. Council did approve a contract with the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center on a 4-2 vote (CM Stratton and Fagan opposed, CM Beggs abstained).

Five years ago, the Administration began a process of transitioning the Center from being a City Department to being managed by an outside contractor. The first contractor to take this on was the East Central Community Organization (ECCO) and they should be commended for taking on this difficult task.

After renewing the contract once with ECCO several years back, the Council decided to go out for an RFP earlier this year. I don’t regret initiating this RFP process because I think it is vitally important that we have high-quality management of the Center with the hundreds of thousands of public dollars invested in the contract.

There is a lot of history over the past 5 years. However, in this RFP process, I took it upon myself to not dwell on the past, but to focus on the two proposals to manage the Center: one from ECCO and one from the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center, which has managed an early learning and family center in the S. Perry area of the neighborhood for over 20 years.

Unfortunately, the review process of the two proposals before a decision came to Council was bumpy. Two different advisory groups gave conflicting recommendations to the Council about which proposal was the stronger one. This caused a lot of hard feelings and a divided neighborhood. The public testimony on Monday night showed this and it made me very sad.

Thus, I focused my review on the two proposals and the criteria laid out by the City. In reviewing the proposals, I found that the MLK Jr Center had the stronger proposal, specifically in three areas: integrating and expanding services; the ability to invest capital into maintenance and expansion of the Center; and a stronger fundraising plan and demonstrated experience raising capital and operating dollars.

I am very frustrated that the Administration-led community review process resulted in hard feelings on all sides. I am hopeful that the community can come together and that, especially, the MLK Jr Center, can reach across with an olive branch to ensure the efficient and healthy transition of leadership at the Center. The ultimate goal is providing a safe place where all are welcome and served in one of our most challenged neighborhoods.

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.

Sept. 25th Council Meeting: Homeless Forum

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!

Back to School and Northeast Town Hall: 9.11.17 and 9/18/17 Council Meetings Recap

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.