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Posts tagged: Spokane City Council

PCB-conscious Spokane ends use of yellow agenda paper

Changes already are being made under Spokane City Hall's new focus on going PCB free.

Copies of the weekly advance City Council agenda, which traditionally have been printed on yellow sheets of paper to differentiate them from the current week's agenda, now are being printed on basic white paper. Council agendas for the current week are still being printed on blue sheets of paper.

The switch came after June 2 testimony about studies showing that yellow paints and dyes still contain trace PCBs, a cancer-causing compound that was banned by the United States in 1979. It still is found as a manufacturing byproduct, however, particularly in certain types of products and at higher allowable levels than what environmental regulators are mandating be cleaned out of the Spokane River.

Industrial and municipal waste accounts for only about 43 percent of the PCBs in the river. One of the potential sources of the other 57 percent of the toxic compound is from residual PCBs in everyday products that can get washed into river during rain storms and with melting snow.

Has the Dream of the ‘90s found its way to Spokane?

Spokane's latest push to expand urban farming opportunities had at least one councilman wondering if TV sketch comedians Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein might be lurking nearby.

“Sometimes when I'm reading this ordinance I feel like I've landed in an episode of “Portlandia,'” Councilman Mike Allen said during this week's debate over allowing small livestock such as goats, sheep and pigs to be raised in residential neighborhoods. “People are trying to create something that may or may not be good for an area.”

The urban farming plan was approved Monday night by the City Council and was described by supporters as a way of helping Spokane residents to embrace more sustainable lifestyles.

Allen, who raises chickens, supported plans to ease restrictions on growing and selling fruits, vegetables and produce in residential areas but opposed plans to allow backyard livestock, though he was out-voted.

Whether that means “The Dream of '90s” is now alive in Spokane remains to be seen.

 

Condon asks Police Guild for contract changes

Spokane Mayor David Condon is heeding the advice of Spokane City Council members who have pushed him to reopen contract negotiations with the Spokane Police Guild.

The mayor and guild agreed to a tentative four-year labor contract last fall, but that deal was rejected by the City Council in November. It was nearly rejected a second time in December before the council opted to delay a vote until Feb. 3.

City officials confirmed this week that administrators have sent proposed changes to the proposed contract to the mediator working with the city and guild. Condon met in a private session with the City Council on Monday to talk about negotiations with the guild. City spokesman Brian Coddington said he could not provide details on the city’s most recent proposal.

Early this year, City Council President Ben Stuckart sent a letter to Condon urging him to reopen negotiations to spare the council from rejecting the deal again.

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.

Snyder on signature: I’m left-handed

Yesterday, I asked readers to guess which Spokane leader uses this signature.

It belongs to City Councilman Jon Snyder. The above example comes from this letter.

Snyder claims the signature is simply a big J.

Me: “Is it a backward J?”

Snyder: “I'm left-handed.”

He says the simplified signature is the result of laziness, not an attempt to make a statement. It's illegibility came in handy about 15 years ago, he said, when he was the target of identity thieves who forged his signature in a way that was legible.

Since it isn't likely to affixed to dollar bills any time soon, don't expect it to change.

Guess which elected official uses this signature

Hint: It belongs to a Spokane City Council member.

(The three dots that are at the bottom of this image are not part of this official's signature.)

Stuckart relents on supermajority rule

Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart will soon be handing out duties to the city’s six other council members.

The Spokane City Council on Monday unanimously agreed to give Stuckart the power to chose which members serve on what boards.

But Stuckart abandoned his proposal to require a supermajority vote to make future changes in the rules for how the council governed.

Each January, council members are assigned to sit on a variety of boards, including those that govern the city park system, the Spokane Transit Authority and the Spokane International Airport.

The change returns the rules to how they worked until the council revoked that right from former council President Joe Shogan.

Even though Stuckart will select a slate of council members to fill positions, the council still must vote on his picks. He said the process won’t change much.

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.

Council delays police votes

The Spokane City Council voted late Monday to delay a police ombudsman ordinance and a labor contract with the Police Guild in a pair of voice votes.

The city clerk this morning confirmed that the vote to defer the ombudsman ordinance passed 5-2 with council members Nancy McLaughlin and Jon Snyder voting no. The vote to defer the contract passed 4-3 with McLaughlin, Snyder and Councilman Mike Fagan voting no.

Both issues were deferred until Feb. 3 to give more time for parties to reach an agreement that meets language of a voter-approved city charter amendment calling for independent ombudsman investigations of police wrongdoing.

 

 

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.

Fire District safe from Ahern

In the KSPS debate that aired earlier this month on KSPS City Council candidate John Ahern spoke in confusing terms about the area served by the city's Fire Station No. 9 on the South Hill. So confusing, apparently, that Spokane County Fire District No. 9 has issued a clarification:

Here's a portion of the district's press release sent today from Fire Chief Jack Cates:

In his rebuttal, John Ahern stated that “another area I think we really need to shore up is Fire District 9.” Furthermore he felt that that area was only half-staffed at this time and indicated he had been knocking on doors talking to taxpayers in that area. The context of Mr. Ahern’s rebuttal appears to indicate that he was actually referring to the area around the old Fire Station 9 on the south hill area in the City of Spokane. He even referred to the Eagle Ridge neighborhood near Highway 195.

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.

Park department reorganization vote delayed

The Spokane City Council won't vote on proposed changes to the city's park department tonight.

Park Director Leroy Eadie pulled the proposal at the last minute after discussions with City Council President Ben Stuckart, who is opposed to the changes. 

Under Eadie's proposal, more senior department employees would be placed outside of Civil Service protections, and therefore be appointed by a mayor. Currently, just Eadie falls under such rules since he runs the department without an assistant.

Stuckart approached Eadie about delaying the vote after learning that Eadie wanted to come back with a similar proposal to further change the department. Now Eadie says he nwill wrap all his changes in a later ordinance.

Read our Sunday story on the proposed changes here.

Spokane Council 2: Snyder v. Ahern

South Spokane voters will pick between two familiar candidates for the Second District council seat this fall.

Incumbent Jon Snyder will face former State Rep. John Ahern in the general election.

Snyder finished Tuesday night's count with nearly 56 percent of the votes; Ahern had just over 24 percent. Political newcomer LaVerne Biel finished third with about 19 percent.

Spokane Council Dist. 3 Mumm v. Cannon

Candace Mumm will face Michael Cannon this fall in the race for the open council seat in Northwest Spokane's 3rd District.

In Tuesday night's count, Mumm was easily in first place with 56 percent of the vote. Cannon was solidly in second, with 27 percent of the vote. Curt Fackler had 10 percent and Kelly Cruz 6 percent.

Today’s fun video: Could Spokane council boost ratings like this?

Up in the Yukon, the Whitehorse City Council knows how to draw folks into the live broadcasts of its meetings. Maybe the Spokane City Council could get more viewers to its sessions if it had a commercial like this.

Of course, a snappy commercial is only good to get a person to tune in once. After that, the council would have to hold viewers based on the actual content of its meetings.

Hamilton says he’s city resident in new court filing

City Council candidate Mark Hamilton says he hasn't lived at his address in the city of Spokane since November and barely lived in the home since September as a result of construction in the home.

But Hamilton, a real estate agent and the pastor of 1Body Ministries, also said that from the time he acquired the dilapidated home at 217 E. Pacific in May 2012 until September he usually spent about four nights a week there. Utility records show the home had no water or electricity the first month he lived there. He claims to have slept on a cot at his newly-purchased home rather than at his other home outside city limits.

“I actually slept on the premises beginning on May 15, 2012, on a camp cot in the upstairs bedroom. There were no utilities at the time, but I was concerned about the homeless and transient persons in the area and lack of security,” Hamilton said in a court declaration. He said he bathed at a friend's home or at his other home outside city limits.

Last month two residents who live in Hamilton's council district filed a lawsuit arguing that Hamilton wasn't qualified to appear on the ballot. He is challenging Councilwoman Amber Waldref in her bid for reelection.

In February, responding to questions about whether he met residency requirements to run for Spokane City Council, Hamilton said he had spent the majority of his nights since May at the home on Pacific.

When Hamilton voted in November, he was registered to vote an address outside city limits. That's one of many factors noted in the lawsuit as reasons Hamilton doesn't meet residency requirements.

The Spokane City Charter says “a person must be a qualified voter of the City of Spokane and have been a resident of the City, and of the appropriate council district, for the one year immediately preceding the time of filing as a candidate for, or the time of appointment to, the office of mayor, council president, or council member.”

 Hamilton's attorney, Dustin Deissner, argues that the line in the charter does not require a candidate to be a qualified voter “for the one year immediately preceding the time of filing” (last month). That time requirement, he said, only applies to being a resident. He said it was an oversight that Hamilton was registered to vote at an address outside city limits.

The lawsuit and Hamilton's response is attached to this post.

Hamilton has said he will no longer respond to requests for comment from The Spokesman-Review and in a Facebook post last month called on pastors to rise up against the newspaper. He also called S-R reporters “demonic soothsayers.” To see his full post, written soon after this column appeared in the newspaper, keep reading this post.


Documents:

Some politicians trust the voters only so far

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. . .

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, click here to continue inside the blog.

Lawyers say city could challenge charter changes before election

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 Spokane Home Builders Association is urging the city to go to court.

To read the rest of this item or to comment, continue inside the blog.


Documents:

Council considers blocking citizen initiatives

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.

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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.

Nick Deshais covers Spokane City Hall for The Spokesman-Review.

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