Posts tagged: Spokane City Council
The progression of thought for some politicians about the wisdom of the voters can be as predictable as it is ironic.
At the end of the first campaign, most winners are honored – and sometimes pleasantly surprised – at being chosen by voters. It is the rare first victory speech that doesn’t include the phrase “humbled by the trust the people have placed in me”, or words to that effect.
Over time and subsequent victories, that evolves for many into the certitude that the voters are making the wise decision. Later, some decide that voters smart enough to elect them aren’t smart enough to make other decisions that might be laid before them.
The journey goes from “Let the Voters Decide!” to “What do they know?”
City Council members seem dangerously down this road. . .
The city may have grounds to challenge two proposed charter amendments and seek court orders to keep them off the ballot, lawyers have told the Spokane City Council.
Groups supporting the initiatives say that would be “a direct subversion of the democratic process” but the
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Signatures on petitions in support of two proposed citizens’ initiatives in Spokane will be counted and verified. But council members hinted Monday that they may block the proposals from the ballot even if activists collected enough support.
The Spokane City Council voted 6-0 on Monday to ask the Spokane County Auditor’s Office to verify the signatures collected for Envision Spokane’s Community Bill of Rights and Spokane Moves to Amend the Constitution’s initiative that would, in part, outlaw people representing corporations from discussing legislation with elected leaders in private settings.
Both groups have collected significantly more signatures than necessary to place the initiatives on the November ballot, but some City Council members said they believe the proposals are unconstitutional.
Spokane County’s loss of more than $1 million in a land deal with the Spokane International Airport was completed Monday by the Spokane City Council.
In 2008, the county paid $3.2 million for nearly 400 acres between the airport and Fairchild Air Force Base to relocate a rail line that crossed the base and protect the base from encroaching development. County commissioners agreed to sell the land to the airport late last month for $1.75 million.
The Spokane City Council, which along with the Spokane County Commission must approve major airport financial decisions, unanimously approved the deal on Monday. The airport’s ownership is shared by the city and county.
Last night’s City Council meeting boiled down a debate on the definition of shall.
The Spokane City Council’s creation of 13 new public safety departments appears to violate the City Charter. But city attorneys insisted that “shall” does not always mean shall, at least not in the way the three City Council members on the losing side of the issue or perhaps a standard dictionary would define it.
Section 25 of the Spokane City Charter, at least on its face, appears to say that the City Council can’t create a new department except when it approves the annual budget – usually in December.
Here’s the exact language: “Administrative departments shall be created or discontinued by the city council at the time of the adoption of the annual budget, as the public business may demand. The rights, powers, and duties of the departments shall be prescribed, distributed, assigned, established, or discontinued by ordinance.”
Council President Ben Stuckart asked the council to defer the vote. He argued that shall means, well, shall.
Councilman Mike Fagan was within his rights to call Gov. Jay Inslee “a lying whore,” the Spokane Ethics Committee ruled on Wednesday.
The committee voted unanimously that the slur, which was part of a letter signed by Fagan and two others, didn’t violate city ethics rules because of the inability to establish that it harmed the city. They also said that Fagan’s free speech rights likely trump the ethics code.
“We can’t really tell a public official what they can and cannot say,” said Committee member Monica Holland. “Political speech is one of the most protected types of speech that we have in this country. So while the conduct may be perceived to be unprofessional and unbecoming to a publicly elected official and perhaps reflect badly on our city, I don’t know that we can really enforce anything, because it’s free speech at the end of the day.”
The most contested race in this year’s three races for Spokane City Council seats is almost certain to be in the Northwest council district.
One seat in each of the three districts will be on the ballot this year, but the position in the Northwest district already is attracting the most candidates.
That’s largely because incumbent City Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin is term limited, leaving the seat open. The other two seats on the ballot are represented by council members Jon Snyder and Amber Waldref, who are running for reelection.
As of Thursday, two candidates had announced candidacies with the state Public Disclosure Commission for the seat representing South Spokane (District 2), three candidates had filed for the seat representing Northeast Spokane (District 1) and four had filed for the seat representing Northwest Spokane (District 3).
The fight for McLaughlin’s seat should be all the more contentious because of the close split on the current City Council between members with backing from the Republican and Democratic parties. There have been several high-profile 4-3 votes in the past year that favor the Republican-leaning members.
Read on for info on the four candidates who have announced their intentions to run for the seat.
Spokane Mayor David Condon has issued statement criticizing a letter signed by City Councilman Mike Fagan that calls Gov. Jay Inslee “a lying whore.”
“Words like this have no place in public discourse,” Condon said in a prepared statement released this afternoon by the city. “This language doesn’t represent the community we all live in.”
When asked about the letter on Thursday, Condon said he wanted to talk to Fagan about it beforre making a comment.
Five Spokane City Council members, Mike Allen, Steve Salvatori, Jon Snyder, Ben Stuckart and Amber Waldref, also have condemned the letter. City Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin is on vacation and attempts to reach her have been unsuccessful.
A majority of the Spokane City Council is calling on Councilman Mike Fagan to apologize for the letter he signed calling Gov. Jay Inslee “a lying whore.”
The council's three Democratic-leaning members issued a statement condemning Fagan's letter this morning.
Now two of the council's Republican-leaning members, Steve Salvatori and Mike Allen also say he should apologize.
“I know Mike believes in the intent of his message, but his choice of words were inappropriate and unprofessional, and in my opinion, he should issue an apology,” Allen said.
Following the lead of state voters, the Spokane City Council on Monday legalized the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by anyone 21 and up.
Councilman Jon Snyder, who has led the effort on the City Council to consider the impacts to the city from marijuana legalization, said that Monday’s unanimous vote was a routine matter to keep city law consistent with state law. But bigger decisions are ahead as officials consider if they should regulate pot more strictly than what was approved in Initiative 502, the law that legalized marijuana, he said.
To take a stand or not to take a stand.
That was the question hotly debated by the Spokane City Council Monday night on two nonbinding resolutions related to gun laws and gun rights.
The results were a curious lesson in the unpredictability of a sharply divided council.
The Spokane City Council on Monday selected attorney Brian T. McGinn as the city’s new hearing examiner.
He will replace Greg Smith who is retiring and has worked for the city since 1977. He has been the hearing examiner for more than 20 years, said City Council President Ben Stuckart.
McGinn, 44, is a Spokane native who graduated from Gonzaga Prep and has a law degree from Gonzaga University. Since 1994 he has worked at the Winston and Cashatt law firm, the same firm where City Attorney Nancy Isserlis practiced before she went to work for the city. He specializes in real estate and land-use law.
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.
Spokane City Councilman Jon Snyder said he's concerned that the city isn't prepared for the major shift in the law.
He's proposing that the council form a committee to examine the law and suggest if further regulations are needed.
“It's time to sit down with the text of the initiative and find out where the policy holes are,” he said.
Snyder, who didn't take a public position on the initiative, said the proposal approved by voters was thoughtful but that he still has concerns about a proliferation of locations selling pot. He said the City Council should consider zoning regulations.
Spokane’s first police ombudsman will keep his job for another year.
Mayor David Condon decided in August not to renew Ombudsman Tim Burns’ three-year contract. The move angered some City Council members, who questioned why Condon was willing to let the city go without an ombudsman even as the city works through recent scandals involving police misconduct.
Condon argued that it didn’t make sense to rehire Burns for three more years until the city’s Use of Force Commission makes its final recommendation about a new oversight model. The city’s ombudsman law only allowed for three-year terms.
After outcry from the City Council, however, Condon soon reversed course, offering to let Burns stay until the end of the year, and the council changed the law to allow flexibility in the length of ombudsman’s tenure.
On Monday, the City Council approved unanimously a deal between Condon and Burns that allows Burns to continue leading the city’s police oversight program until Aug. 2.
Spokane Mayor David Condon has agreed to dissolve the zone that could have led to restrictions of high-octane beer sales in the West Central Neighborhood.
The Spokane City Council voted 4-3 earlier this month to remove the neighborhood’s designation as an Alcohol Impact Area. The close vote meant that Condon had the power to veto the decision.
The West Central Neighborhood Council wanted restrictions on the sale of high-octane beer and now it doesn’t.
But while council members used the council’s support as a reason to create a voluntary Alcohol Impact Area in West Central, the neighborhood’s change of heart won’t make an open-and-shut case when the Spokane City Council considers a repeal next month.
It will be harder next year to qualify for tax subsidies to build apartments and condos in Spokane.
The Spokane City Council on Monday reauthorized Spokane’s multifamily tax exemption for another five years. The decision significantly reduced the areas that will qualify for the subsidy and set lower limits to qualify for bonus exemptions when building affordable housing for rent.
Owners participating in the program paid $1.4 million less in property taxes this year because of the exemptions.
Under the program - first approved in 2000 and updated in 2007 - condo and apartment developers pay property taxes only on their land and the value of improvements before starting construction.
Tired of hearing negative things about the man he selected to be police chief, Mayor David Condon and his top administrator personally paid to fly four Indiana residents to Spokane to vouch for him.
The four, including the former editor of the Indianapolis Star and the leader of the Indianapolis fire union, told the Spokane City Council on Monday night that Condon’s pick, Frank Straub, is a hard-working, caring reformer who listens to the community. Straub last month left his job as Indianapolis’ public safety director after a controversial two-year tenure.
After the four Hoosiers and 10 others testified, the council appointed Straub as Spokane’s new director of law enforcement in a 6-0 vote. (Councilman Steve Salvatori was absent.)
The Spokane City Council appears ready to challenge Mayor David Condon’s decision to release the city’s police ombudsman.
Condon has decided not to renew Ombudsman Tim Burns’ three-year contract. His last day is Oct. 31, though he’ll be using up vacation for the last month.
Council President Ben Stuckart said Friday that he is sponsoring a resolution requesting that Condon keep Burns on as ombudsman at least until a new police oversight system is in place. He hopes to win at least five votes for the proposal so a vote can take place on Monday.