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Spin Control

Posts tagged: Amber Waldref

New Spokane City Council casts first 4-3 votes

The new majority of the Spokane City Council flexed its muscles twice on Monday in the first 4-3 votes of the year.

Both votes rejected nonbinding efforts to back a state Senate bill designating energy produced at the city’s Waste-to-Energy Plant as renewable.

But council members who cast no votes say they generally support the legislation and were reacting to what they say was a rushed vote with no public notice.

The city has been pushing state officials for years to designate the energy produced at the incinerator as renewable. Energy labeled renewable can garner higher prices, and energy produced at the Waste-to-Energy Plant used to have the renewable classification. The proposal has been in the city’s official lobbying agenda the last few years, including the one that was unanimously approved by the council late last year.

The new 4-3 majority – council members Ben Stuckart, Candace Mumm, Jon Snyder and Amber Waldref – rejected a plea from Councilman Steve Salvatori to rush a vote on a nonbinding resolution supporting the Senate bill. The legislation, introduced by state Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane, will get a hearing in Olympia on Thursday.

Because the City Council nonbinding resolution wasn’t introduced until today, it didn’t appear on the council’s agenda and needed five votes to be considered.

Richard Rush returning to Spokane City Hall

Richard Rush is returning to Spokane City Hall.

After being tossed from office two years ago by Mike Allen, who won by just 88 votes, Rush has been hired by new Councilwoman Candace Mumm to serve as her full-time staff aide.

Mumm called Rush, 62, a logical choice for the job.

“He's very qualified for the position,” she said Monday night following her swearing-in ceremony in council chambers. “We'll be able to get to work immediately.”

Rush served on many of the same city committees Mumm expects to serve on, and has a strong background with Spokane's various neighborhood councils.

Each city council member gets a staff assistant. Next month, the aides will become full-time city employees under the budget deal approved in November, and will be paid $34,181 a year, which is slightly more than council members receive. Currently, the aides are paid $25,635 as part-time employees.

Rush was a sometimes-divisive council member who wasn't afraid to float controversial ideas or buck the administration despite his overall support for Mayor Mary Verner, who was beat by David Condon in the same election that Rush lost to Allen.

Rush once suggested, for example, that the city should get rid of its utility tax — one of the highest in the state — and replace it with a local income tax, which would be impossible without a change in the state constitution. He also complained during the Otto Zehm fiasco that it appeared the council was being given only “filtered” information from the city attorney's office about the case.

14 Spokane City Council votes that would have been different under new majority

So the Spokane City Council will soon have a new, more liberal majority. And while some big issues haven't been decided along easily identified party lines, there likely will be a noticeable change.

To get a sense of the kind of policies that could be affected, here's a review of many of the 4-3 tallies cast since the council shifted to a more conservative bent after the 2011 election. The following votes ended with Republican-leaning Mike Allen, Mike Fagan, Nancy McLaughlin and Steve Salvatori beating out Democratic-leaning Jon Snyder, Ben Stuckart and Amber Waldref.

May 2013

  • Supporting the filing of lawsuits to stop two citizen initiatives from appearing on the ballot, including Envision Spokane’s proposed Community Bill of Rights.

April 2013

  • Rejection of proposal to pull money from reserves to hire 10 police officers.
  • Creation of 13 new public safety departments to allow Mayor David Condon to hire and fire more managers without using civil service rules.

City Hall Scoop: Foot bridges and vegetated roofs

There were enough members for a quorum, but the dais was a bit spare at Monday's regularly scheduled Spokane City Council meeting.

Councilman Jon Snyder, acting as council president pro tem in Ben Stuckart's stead, politely led the charge through the hour-long meeting. Councilman Mike Allen was also absent. 

Members voted on an emergency spending request put forth by Snyder to shift $350,000 out of general fund reserves to pay for comprehensive inspections on 11 bridges, mainly in Riverfront Park. Our previous story here said nine bridges would be checked, but two bridges on the Fish Lake trail were added. 

On his blog, Snyder said the bridges are “vital bike riding and walking links for our City, a City that has precious few places for those using non-motorized to cross our river.”

Kelly Cruz, who failed to get past this month's primary in the race to replace the term-limited Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin, spoke against spending so much money on inspections when he said some of them were thoroughly inspected four years ago by CH2M Hill.

“I just want to make sure we're not spending money on something we've already covered,” he said.

George McGrath, a vocal fixture at the council meetings, spoke against the plan.

It passed 5-0. Usually members light up a screen showing their yea's or nay's, but with Stuckart gone and city Attorney Mike Piccolo befuddled by his first time use of the electronics, Snyder called for a voice vote.

The council also approved a low impact development ordinance, which encourages developers to utilize innovated approaches dealing with stormwater.

As Councilwoman Amber Waldref said on her blog, “developers will be able to manage stormwater onsite either through traditional methods like swales OR choose rooftop gardens, rainwater collection or rain gardens on their properties. These will be optional, but it is a start for Spokane.”

We wrote about all of this earlier here. Check out the city's website on it here.

Bart Mihailovich, with the Spokane Riverkeeper, said the LID ordinance was an example of the city working across departments to solve problems. 

As for dealing with stormwater on site, Mihailovich said, “This is certainly the trend.”

It also passed 5-0.

Another resolution before the council regarding the appointment of committees to “prepare statements advocating voters' approval or rejection” of this year's ballot propositions was delayed for two weeks.

Finally, next week's meeting has been canceled in lieu of Labor Day.

Waldref cruises to Bloomsday win

Congratulations to Councilwoman Amber Waldref, this year's top Bloomsday finisher among elected leaders (at least among those whose time we checked).

She easily beat out the rest of her City Council cohorts, though in defense of the others, she is the youngest elected official we located who ran the race.

Spin Control also offers the following trophy-less awards:

Participation Award: The Spokane County Commission. All three members finished the race. They are a shining example to the legislators serving the Third Legislative District. None of them completed the race even though the race is in their district.

Doomsday Hill Award: Jon Snyder, barely beat out Michael Baumgartner for the fastest time up Pettet Drive.

Here are the finishers we found. They are a bit slower than last year when former county commissioner and mountain climber John Roskelley ran the race.

In parenthesis are the official's age, followed by his or her final time, per-mile pace and his or her time on Doomsday Hill.

Ethics Commission drops complaints against Stuckart, Waldref

The Spokane Ethics Commission on Wednesday dismissed complaints against two City Council members who were accused of improperly using city resources to promote their positions on propositions on the ballot in last month’s special election.

Council President Ben Stuckart and Councilwoman Amber Waldref acknowledged that they sent an email newsletter advocating their positions on election issues that appeared to have been sent from their city email accounts. But both said that their newsletters were actually sent from a different address through an online newsletter service.

Stuckart, Waldref apologize for violations

Two Spokane City Council members have apologized for using their city email accounts to send campaign messages.

Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart and Amber Waldref sent electronic newsletters to supporters recently that included their opinions on the three proposed measures that will be decided by voters in the city’s Feb. 12 special election.

The messages were sent via their city email accounts.

Lori Anderson, spokeswoman for the state Public Disclosure Commission, said government officials should not use government email accounts to promote or oppose items on a ballot.

Council adopts Condon’s budget in predictable split

Spokane’s city government is shedding 92 jobs.

The Spokane City Council on Monday voted 4-3 to freeze the city general fund budget, largely accepting the recommendations of Mayor David Condon.

Condon proposed a $161 million general fund, which pays for police, fire, parks, libraries and other services paid with taxes. The total budget, including utilities like trash and water, will be $615 million.

The mayor’s budget eliminates the arts, and weights and measures departments. It will fund the equivalent of 2,033 full time jobs. It removes 19 police officer positions that already were vacant. It shrinks the on-duty firefighting force from 61 to 58 and removes the first-response firefighting capabilities of Fire Station 9 on the South Hill.

The council split was predictable. Republican-leaning council members, Mike Allen, Mike Fagan, Nancy McLaughlin and Steve Salvatori, voted for the budget. Democratic-leaning members Jon Snyder, Ben Stuckart and Amber Waldref opposed it. The same 4-3 split rejected Stuckart’s plans to shift money to pay for public safety positions or items that the city’s Use of Force Commission is expected to recommend to improve police services. They also reject for the second time in less than a month a 1 percent increase in property taxes.

Roskelley edges McKenna among Bloomsday politicians

Among the elected leaders and politicians running for office, it should be no surprise that John Roskelley won the race.

Roskelley, a candidate for Spokane County Commission, had the best Bloomsday time among all elected Spokane and Spokane Valley city leaders; state House and state Senate candidates for districts within Spokane County; Spokane County commissioner candidates; and gubernatorial candidates.

Roskelley is, afterall, a world-renowned mountain climber.

Here is the list of local politicians (plus a governor hopeful) who completed Bloomsday:

  1. John Roskelley, D, candidate for Spokane County Commission, 0:59:00
  2. Rob McKenna, R, candidate for governor, 1:00:21
  3. Amber Waldref, Spokane city councilwoman, 1:07:52
  4. Marcus Riccelli, D, candidate for state House, 1:08:27
  5. Steve Salvatori, Spokane city councilman, 1:17:00
  6. Amy Biviano, D, candidate for state House, 1:17:16
  7. Dennis Dellwo, D, candidate for state House, 1:20:08
  8. Tom Towey, Spokane Valley mayor, 1:28:14
  9. Brenda Grassel, Spokane Valley city councilwoman, 2:13:47
  10. David Condon, Spokane mayor, 2:41:52
  11. Michael Baumgartner, R, state Senator and candidate for U.S. Senate, 2:47:31

Council rejects recommendation to limit corporate political spending

Most Spokane City Council members said Monday that they don’t like the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 decision that prevents lawmakers from limiting some forms of political spending by corporations.

But there wasn’t a majority who supported asking lawmakers to do anything about it.

The council rejected a nonbinding resolution asking Congress and state legislatures to amend the Constitution to reverse the decision in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission. In that case, the Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment barred Congress from creating spending limits on corporations in political campaigns, though the court left intact the ability to limit direct donations to candidates.

Councilwoman Amber Waldref, who sponsored the resolution, Councilman Jon Snyder and Council President Ben Stuckart supported the resolution. Council members Mike Allen, Mike Fagan and Steve Salvatori rejected it. Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin was absent.

More than a dozen testified in support of the resolution. Only a couple of people, including a representative from Greater Spokane Inc., spoke against it.

Council may call for Constitutional amendment

Spokane City Council members next week will tackle an issue that goes beyond city limits.

They will consider a nonbinding resolution asking Congress and state legislatures to amend the Constitution to give lawmakers the authority to limit corporate political spending in campaigns.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, ruled in 2010 that the First Amendment barred Congress from creating spending limits on corporations in political campaigns, though the court left intact the ability to limit direct donations to candidates.

Critics of the decision say it allows elections to be manipulated by the rich and powerful and point to the “Super PACs' that are pouring millions of dollars into the presidential election.

The resolution is sponsored by Councilwoman Amber Waldref. She said Monday that she expects a close vote.

“I really thought that these were values that we all shared,” Waldref said.

Councilman Mike Fagan opposes the resolution.

“The Constitution is not a living document,” Fagan said after Monday's council meeting. “In my opinion, it would take something earth-shattering in order to warrant a Constitutional amendment.”

Fagan publishes false endorsement

Spokane City Council candidate Mike Fagan has listed a couple of surprising endorsements on his campaign website: Endorsements given to his opponents (one of which is false).

“It is our understanding that opponent L. Tolley was endorsed by the Unions, and opponent J. Waite was endorsed by Amber Waldref,” his website says.

Waldref, a city councilwoman who beat Fagan to win her seat in 2009, confirmed Thursday that she hasn't endorsed John Waite or any of the other five candidates in the race for the open Northeast Spokane City Council seat and won't at least until after the primary.

Fagan said Friday that the information was “erroneously passed on to me by a trusted person.” He said he would remove the information from his site. It was still posted as of 11:30 a.m.

(The statement about candidate Luke Tolley is accurate. He got the nod of the Spokane Regional Labor Council.)

Waldref gives birth to healthy girl

Spokane City Councilwoman Amber Waldref gave birth on Monday to a girl. Waldref missed Monday’s City Council meeting and delivered shortly after 6 p.m. at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center, said city spokeswoman Marlene Feist. Waldref and her husband, Tom Flanagan, named their daughter Nora Cecilia Waldref Flanagan.

Nora weighed 6 pounds, 7 ounces and was 19 inches long at birth, Feist said.
  

Waldref expected to have baby soon

Spokane City Councilwoman Amber Waldref missed Monday's council meeting because of the pending birth of her second child.

Spokane City Council President Joe Shogan said Waldref was in the hospital on Monday and was expecting to give birth soon.

Waldref's due date isn't for a few weeks, but she alluded last week to the possibility of giving birth earlier when the council decided to delay a vote until March 21 on new contracting rules that Waldref had proposed.

“We'll see if the baby is willing to wait a few weeks,” Waldref said. “I hope I'm around in two weeks to debate this with you.”

In an interview a few weeks ago, Waldref said she and her husband were waiting to find out if they were having a boy or girl.

City Council rejects ‘Do Not Mail’ concept

Post Office employees are fighting back against a proposal to allow people to “opt out” from receiving bulk mail.

On Monday, the Spokane City Council rejected a non-binding resolution asking the state Legislature to create a registry that would allow people to decline bulk mail.

Spokane Postmaster Karen Fairlee and several postal workers testified against the idea, as did a few owners of local print shops.

A new year, a new Spokane City Council

The results of the November election were on display for the first time Monday in the Spokane City Council chambers.

The three council members who won seats in November, Nancy McLaughlin, Jon Snyder and Amber Waldref, were sworn in by City Clerk Terri Pfister. The brief ceremony was mostly for show because each had already been sworn in for their new terms.

Waldref said while the council members may disagree on certain topics, there’s full agreement on the top issue for 2010: preparing for the city’s forecasted $10 million deficit in 2011.

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About this blog

Jim Camden is a veteran political reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Jonathan Brunt is an enterprise reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Kip Hill is a general assignments reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

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