There’s been a lot of talk about regional cooperation from local leaders this year, but recent incidents spotlight continued tensions between the city of Spokane and Spokane County.
Last week, county officials expressed frustration that the city had decided to explore the possibility of opening its own jail after the county has spent nearly four years planning to open county facility. Despite that friction, Mayor Mary Verner and Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich were able to agree enough by the end of the week to make a joint statement that they would continue to work together.
A Monday night confrontation between Spokane City Council President Joe Shogan and Spokane County Commission Chairman Mark Richard may be harder to patch.
Richard had come to the City Council to ask the city to join a board that will determine how to spend money aimed at preventing homelessness. Richard said Spokane was the only local government that had not yet agreed to join. Verner and the city’s Human Services Advisory Board had advised the council to use a city-run process to decide how to spend the city’s portion of the homelessness money, which is raised by fees on recording at the county auditor’s office.
Richard addressed the council a few times and got up to speak to a point made by city staff when Shogan demanded that he sit down. Richard paused and remained standing for several seconds, before walking out.
To read the transcript, continue on ….
Shogan: “Commissioner you can have a chair ‘til I get done. You can have a chair commissioner!”
Shogan: “Commissioner you can have a chair.”
Shogan: “You can have a chair.”
Shogan: “It’s my meeting. You run your meeting.”
Shogan: “Sit down, commissioner!”
Richard: “I wouldn’t run it that way, Mr. President.”
Shgoan: “Well, it’s not your meeting.”
Richard then walked out of the meeting.
“He treated me with complete disrespect and arrogance,” Richard said in an interview shortly after he left the meeting. “Rather than reduce myself to his level, I had to leave.”
Richard added: “If you can’t have a reasonable conversation without being asked to sit down or leave the room it’s pretty tough to have a conversation about regionalism.”
Asked about Richard’s concerns after the meeting, Shogan said: “I don’t care.”
“It was my meeting,” Shogan said. “We treated him as a guest. We afforded him a lot of leeway.”
Later, Shogan asked to clarify his thoughts and said he shouldn’t have said, “I don’t care.”
“I was disappointed that he did not follow the rules of decorum,” Shogan said. “I asked him to sit down three times. He did not.
City Councilman Steve Corker called the exchange “unfortunate.”
“That’s not the type of dialogue that’s going to generate the type of cooperation we need,” Corker said.
He added that the disagreements between the two governments should have been worked out beforehand.
Councilman Bob Apple said neither Shogan nor Richard tend to back down from a fight.
“Joe runs his meetings his way,” he said. “He has the right to make those calls.”
After the blow-up, the council voted 7-0 to accept Verner’s recommendation that city homelessness prevention money not be governed by the county’s regional board after this year.
“How do you partner?” Richard said. “I’m finding it more and more difficult.”
Councilman Nancy McLaughlin said she supported the recommendation but hopes the city follows through on promises that it will remain open to joining a regional effort in the future.
“I’m going to fall tonight on the side of trusting our Human Services Department and the mayor saying that her desire is to truly seek out some regional model because I feel like the whole region is going to benefit the most with these dollars,” McLaughlin said. “I hope we haven’t done more damage than good here tonight.”