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Posts tagged: Spokane City Council

Spokane County loss on land deal finalized

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.

Did the City Council violate City Charter?

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.

Ethics Committee: Fagan has right to call Inslee “lying whore”

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.”

Race heating up for McLaughlin’s Spokane City Council seat

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.

Condon weighs in on Fagan letter

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.

Allen, Salvatori call on Fagan to apologize

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.

Spokane legalizes pot possession

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.

City Council debates right to debate gun laws

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.

New Spokane official will rule on building plans, dangerous dogs

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.

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.

Snyder questions if city is ready for pot legalization

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.

Condon relents on ombudsman

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.

Condon approves repeal of West Central alcohol zone

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.

Council will consider repeal of beer restrictions

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.

Spokane shrinks tax subsidy area

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.

Condon pays to fly four to Spokane to back Straub

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.)

Council may fight Condon on Burns’ dismissal

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.

Council calls for coal study

About 40 people on Monday urged local leaders to find out how vastly increased train traffic could cause health problems in Spokane.

After hearing from them, the Spokane City Council unanimously approved a nonbinding resolution asking state and federal officials to study the environmental effects of significantly increasing the amount of coal traveling by train through Spokane. They also requested that a hearing on the matter be held locally.

“As these trains come through, there’s going to be an impact,” Councilman Mike Allen said. “We just need to know the entire ramification.”

Council adopts easier-to-enforce noise law

Testimony at Monday’s Spokane City Council meeting included the sounds of William Cruz on guitar and trumpet as some downtown buskers argued against proposed noise restrictions.

But Spokane City Council members said the new rules, which they approved 6-1, protect free speech while making the law easier to enforce when buskers or other sound makers infringe on other peoples’ rights.

The ordinance will replace a law that was approved in 2010 that required an officer to take a decibel reading of the noise in order to issue a violation. It bases most noise limits on how far away the sound can be heard, a standard that many other Washington cities use.

Performers or anyone else making sound on public rights-of-way such as sidewalks will be barred from making noise that is “plainly audible” 100 feet away if other factors are at play, such as if the noise is rattling windows or includes “heavy bass frequencies.” If a performer were playing between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. they also can't make noise that is “plainly audible” on adjacent private property. The distance limit for noise from private property was set at 50 feet or the property line, which ever is shorter.

Spokane City Councilman Steve Salvatori, who co-sponsored the ordinance with Councilman Mike Allen, said the 100-feet distance may the longest distance that any city in Washington allows for noise. He also stressed that the new law, unlike the old one, requires police officers to give offenders a chance to stop making the noise before issuing a citation.

“This is a kinder, gentler ordinance,” Salvatori said.

After his brief, amplified performance Cruz called the 100-foot limit “a joke.”

He and others argued that the standard is less subjective than using decibel readings and could open the city to lawsuits for infringing on people’s free speech rights.

Gonzaga law professor George Critchlow likened the ability of police to issue noise violations without a decibel reading to issuing speeding tickets without using a radar gun.

Stuckart will wait to propose new gay marriage resolution

Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart said Tuesday that he's unlikely to propose a new resolution in support of gay marriage until opponents earn enough signatures to force the issue on the ballot.

At Monday's council meeting, Stuckart warned that he might repeatedly bring a resolution forward until the council takes a stance on the resolution, but he moderated that position today.

Stuckart said that since the City Council has previously taken positions on state ballot items, there is precedent for reconsidering the resolution if repeal of gay marriage makes it to a public vote.

If forced to take a vote on the resolution, council members agree it would be approved in a 5-2 vote. But two supporters of gay marriage, Mike Allen and Steve Salvatori, say the council shouldn't vote on it. They argue that it's not a local issue.

When he requested to table the resolution, Councilman Mike Fagan pointed to a council rule that says, “The Council shall not consider or pass any ordinance or resolution the subject matter of which is not directly related to local affairs or municipal business.”

Stuckart said the overflow turnout at the meeting, which attracted about 300 people — 93 of whom testified — is proof that the issue is local and affects the citizenry.

“I can't see why that's outside the city's business,” he said.


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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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