Posts tagged: Spokane City Council
The Spokane City Council on Monday will consider rushing its normal voting procedure to condemn the proposed Spokane Tribe of Indians casino on the West Plains.
Councilman Mike Fagan is sponsoring the resolution to put the city on record as opposing the casino and has asked that the council to suspend its rules so it can vote on the matter on Monday instead of giving the public more than a week’s notice before a vote.
“I feel that there’s a sense of urgency,” Fagan said.
The public usually gets well over a week’s notice about any issue on which the City Council conducts a vote. Notice for the resolution, however, wasn’t released until Thursday when Monday’s agenda was distributed.
Fagan said that the council’s schedule wouldn’t allow a vote on the matter until April 9 unless a vote is taken on Monday because the March 26 meeting is focused on neighborhoods and the April 2 meeting has been cancelled.
In order to suspend the rules, five of the seven council members would have to approve voting on the matter on Monday.
City Council President Ben Stuckart, who supports the tribe’s casino project, said there’s no reason to rush the resolution.
“If it’s an important enough issue, you should give the public time to know about it, be knowledgeable and prepare testimony,” he said.
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.
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.”
The Spokane City Council will hit the road Thursday in a new monthly event meant to spark dialogue on city issues.
City Council President Ben Stuckart promised in his campaign for the office last year to hold regular forums outside Monday City Council meetings so council members could answer constituents’ questions more fully.
The forum, called “Talk About Town” will start at 7 p.m. at Browne Elementary School, 5102 N. Driscoll Blvd.
Stuckart said the new forums will allow for “two-way dialogue” that will be more conducive to topics that aren’t on the regular City Council agenda. For example, he noted that several childcare providers came to Monday’s meeting to discuss concern about state regulations, but council members didn’t have time to provide much feedback.
“We can have more of dialogue rather than just me giving a few statements after seven of them speak,” Stuckart said.
The forum will be held just before the start of the Northwest Neighborhood Council meeting.
The next time it snows, think twice before tossing snow from a driveway into the street.
The Spokane City Council on Monday voted 5-1 to outlaw the dumping of snow into public streets or other public property with the exception of planting strips or snow berms created by city plows. Private plow companies caught breaking the law could face a $513 fine. Businesses could be fined $257 and homeowners $52.
Street officials say the law was needed because some plow companies have disregarded requests to stop moving snow into the street.
City Councilman Mike Fagan cast the lone vote against the law. He argued that it is hypocritical for the city to impose fines on people for moving snow into the street when city plows often push snow berms onto private property and sidewalks.
The council nixed a plan to lower the fine for not shoveling sidewalks from $103 to $53. City officials said the proposal to lower the fine was a mistake and requested to maintain the same penalty.
Councilman Mike Allen was absent at Monday's meeting.
Spokane Police Guild officials announced in a news release Monday that the union “embraces” a police reform resolution that the Spokane City Council is likely to approve tonight.
“The Guild wants to thank the Council members for recognizing that many of the steps presented in the resolution may affect the working conditions of represented employees and would need to be negotiated with the affected unions,” the news release said. “The City Council can expect the Guild to negotiate in good faith.”
The guild agreed to the city's first rules that created the police ombudsman but successfully challenged an update to the job's powers last year. The resolution in front of City Council tonight calls not only for the reinstatement of the ombudsman's independent oversight powers, but for the police chief to be able to use ombudsman reports when considering discipline.
Interim Police Chief Scott Stephens has said he would support the upgraded ombudsman rules.
“I believe the officers actually developed kind of a favorable opinion of that (the stronger police ombudsman ordinance that was repealed). The guild of course is taking a look at this and just saying, 'We don't have objections to that in principle. Again we just want to make sure that if you're going to do this we want to be at the table.' They felt like things were being done to them without their input and I think that's why they threw the roadblock up there.”
A call to Guild President Erinie Wuthrich was not immediately returned.
A historic building slated for the wrecking ball could get a friend in the Spokane City Council.
Late last year, Washington State University-Spokane announced it would sell a 102-year-old warehouse called the Jensen-Byrd building so a development company could tear down the brick building and erect student housing.
Last month, the city-county Historic Landmarks Commission determined the building is eligible to be placed on historic registries. That will create procedural hurdles for tearing it down, but doesn’t prohibit demolition as long as a new building takes its place.
On Monday, the Spokane City Council will consider a non-binding resolution requesting that WSU reconsider the decision.
Councilman Steve Salvatori, co-sponsor of the resolution, said the structure is sound.
“It could be an iconic, signature part of the campus,” Salvatori said. “It could be the most iconic, signature landmark on that campus.”
The Spokane City Council unanimously agreed Monday that marijuana should be able to be possessed legally by people who have a legitimate medical need for the drug.
The council approved a nonbinding resolution endorsing a letter that Gov. Chris Gregoire and Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee sent to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration in November requesting that marijuana be reclassified from being a “Schedule 1” drug to become a “Schedule 2” drug.
Schedule 1 drugs, such as heroin, are illegal. Schedule 2 drugs can be legal with a prescription.
Last year, dozens of medical marijuana dispensaries shut down, voluntarily or by force, in Spokane County after federal authorities warned that they were violating federal law.
Spokane’s only tax revenue geared specifically for sidewalks won’t be diverted for street paving by the City Council’s new membership.
The council last year narrowly approved a $20-per vehicle tab tax and mandated that 10 percent be spent on sidewalks while the rest be spent on streets.
A majority of members on the more conservative City Council elected in November already said they didn’t support repealing the tax. On Tuesday, it became clear that the sidewalk set-aside is safe, too.
The council voted unanimously to approve two sidewalk construction projects for this year using tab fee revenue. A third sidewalk project was approved on a 6-0 vote with Councilman Mike Allen abstaining because he lives across the street from where the sidewalk will be installed on 29th Avenue.
The projects were recommended by the Citizens Transportation Advisory Board.
Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin, who voted against setting aside money for sidewalks and the creation of the tab tax last year, said while sidewalks aren’t her first transportation priority, she recognizes that the city has a problem with large sections of missing sidewalks.
“I lost that vote,” she said. “It’s time to move on. I want to help make as good decisions as possible with these dollars.”
New Spokane City Council President may have lost an automatic seat on the Spokane Airport Board on Monday, but he still has the power to create a seating chart.
And he exercised that right by shuffling the seats on the dais that already were reshuffled by term limits and by voters last year.
Stuckart's predecessor, Joe Shogan, sat in the middle seat. Stuckart has chosen to sit at the council seat farthest to left to viewers (farthest to his right) and will sit next to City Administrator Theresa Sanders during afternoon council briefings. He shifted Assistant City Attorney Mike Piccolo to the seat next to him for the evening meeting.
Stuckart said he chose to sit to the side so he could have “a clearer view” that doesn't require looking both ways.
“I can actually see everybody's facial features and non-verbals, as well,” he said.
Next to him is Amber Waldref. He said he placed her there because he wanted to be seated next to someone with experience and that he was consulted her frequently on council business.
Former Spokane City Council President Joe Shogan was well-known for his vigilance enforcing a ban on people wearing hats when testifying to City Council.
So any long-time observers of the City Council may have wondered if newly elected City Council President Ben Stuckart would be as strict, especially since Stuckart was extremely critical of Shogan's dealing with the public during his campaign.
The first test case was provided, not surprisingly, by Henry Valder, a frequent council attendee who often was ordered to remove a hat by Shogan. He approached the dias tonight with a hat on to speak about rules baring bottles and cans at Spokane Public Facilities District venues.
Stuckart didn't ask him to remove his hat.
But when Valder spoke a second time, on the council's appointment to the Spokane Airport Board, Stuckart ordered the hat removed.
After the meeting Stuckart said Assistant City Attorney Mike Piccolo leaned over and advised him to ask Valder to take off the hat.
He said he will clarify with Piccolo about the rules because it was not his intension to enforce a hat ban.
“I actually don’t have a problem with people wearing hats,” Stuckart said.
Former Mayor Mary Verner and the leadership of the city's fire union tentatively agreed to a new contract in the final days of Verner's term.
But the deal still will need to be ratified by the union's membership and the new City Council.
Former City Administrator Ted Danek confirmed Friday that a deal was struck, but said under an agreement with the union, details can't be released until membership ratifies it and it's ready for City Council consideration.
Union President Mark Vietzke said the deal was reached on Dec. 29. Negotiations started on April 1. He said membership was presented the contract this week. Voting will close next week.
Last month, Mayor David Condon and some incoming City Council members protested Verner’s decision and the City Council's approval of a three-year contract extension for the city’s largest union, Local 270 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Even though members of that union will get no cost-of-living increases in 2013, 2014 and 2015, Condon noted that Local 270’s contract wasn’t set to expire until the end of 2012 and said the deal allowed the union to forgo working with him as the newly elected mayor.
The firefighters' contract, however, expired on Dec. 31 and Condon and newly elected City Council members will get a say on the deal reached by the Verner administration.
“This council and this mayor get to see it and decide it,” Vietzke said. “This is not a 9th-hour decision whatsoever.”
City spokeswoman Marlene Feist said Condon currently is reviewing the proposed contract.
The Spokane City Council rejected Councilman Richard Rush's proposal to ask voters if they want to eliminate the city's utility tax on trash, sewer and water early this morning on a 5-2 vote.
Rush did get one other vote of support, from Bob Apple.
The vote, the final one on the council for Rush, Apple, Council President Joe Shogan and Councilman Steve Corker, took place just after 1 a.m.
If Spokane voters approve a new tax to repave a new round of crumbling streets, walkers, wheelchair users and bicyclists won't be ignored when streets are rebuilt.
The Spokane City Council late Monday, in the last meeting before four of the members will be replaced, voted 5-2 in favor of a “complete streets” ordinance.
The new rule will require that when streets are reconstructed, pedestrian and bike infrastructure already called for within the comprehensive plan – the city's long-term growth guide — must also be included as part of the construction. That extra infrastructure, however, wouldn't have to be included if the cost to add it equaled 20 percent or more of the total project cost.
A plan to raise parking ticket fines at parking meters from $15 to $25 or $20 if paid within six days won't be decided until a new City Council is sworn into office.
Spokane City Council President Joe Shogan has pushed to raise the fee, arguing that Spokane's fines are low compared to many other cities of similar size. But the council has resisted and has said raising the fine is premature. Tonight, during the last meeting of the year, the council voted to push the decision on a fine increase to next summer.
The council voted for a delay after Councilman Jon Snyder said city employees believe that the costs associated with maintaining the city's parking system is more than revenue brought in from fines. However, he said, the city is making changes next year to save money. He argued that the council shouldn't vote on the plan until it's clear if current fines will cover costs.
The above map shows the outcome of Spokane County Proposition 1, which was rejected overwhelmingly in the November election. (Map by Jim Camden.)
The rejection county voters gave last month to a tax for a new animal shelter led the Spokane City Council on Monday to stick with SpokAnimal C.A.R.E.
The council voted unanimously to approve a two-year contract to pay the nonprofit group about $753,000 a year to continue to handle animal control services within city limits. The contract is an increase of about 3.4 percent from the amount the city will pay the group in 2011. SpokAnimal will continue to return a portion of dog and cat license fees to the city, about $200,000 each year.
Mayor-elect David Condon likely will have to win a second term if he wants to tinker with the pay and benefits of nearly half of the City Hall work force.
The Spokane City Council on Monday approved three-year contract extensions for Local 270 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and for the city’s prosecutor’s union a full year before their existing labor contracts were set to expire.
The deal for Local 270, which was tentatively agreed to by Mayor Mary Verner, will freeze salary levels in 2013, 2014,and 2015. Retirement, medical and other benefits won’t change, nor will an already approved 5 percent raise for workers with at least 4 years of experience in 2012.
Spokane City Councilman Richard Rush said this afternoon that he has decided against paying for a hand recount in his race against Mike Allen.
Rush said after further consideration of the results of the machiine recount, as well as the hand recount that was completed in the 4th Legislative District Senate race, it was highly unlikely that a hand recount would change the outcome.
The hand recount had been scheduled to start on Tuesday.
The council race for the city's south district was recounted by machine because the gap between Allen and Rush was only 88 votes and less than half a percentage point. After ballots were run through the counting machines again, Allen's lead increased to 91. In the hand recount in the state Senate race that was paid for by losing candidate Jeff Baxter, results barely changed.
“That was valuable information that I hadn't been able to thoroughly process,” Rush said.
Rush had been concerned about the number of voters in the district who opted not to make a choice in the contest and requested the hand recount, which candidates can request at their expense. State law requires races to recounted by hand at government request only when they are within a quarter of a percentage point.
Donors gave more than $6,000 to the Spokane County Democratic Party to cover the cost of the Rush-Allen hand recount.
“I don't think the manual recount would be a wise use of their money,” Rush said.
He said he left a message for Allen this afternoon to congratulate him.
Asked what his plans are, Rush said: “I plan to think about my plans.”
“It's a relief to put this behind me and think about the future.”
Former Councilman Mike Allen's lead over incumbent Richard Rush grew by three to 91 on Wednesday after a recount of the Spokane City Council election for the city's south district.
The race was recounted by machine because the result from the first count was within half of 1 percentage point. Rush said he still plans to pursue a hand recount, which the Spokane County Democratic Party has agreed to finance.
Results of a hand recount in the 4th Legislative District senate race, which also was completed Wednesday and was paid for by candidate Jeff Baxter, may not give Rush much hope for much change.
Baxter paid more than $1,700 to have 10 precincts recounted in his race against state Sen. Mike Padden. Election workers who tallied the ballots Wednesday morning found two errors. Baxter lost a vote, and one vote that had been counted as blank was changed to a write-in, for the candidate “N/A.”
In the Rush-Allen race, Rush's tally was found to be too high by two and Allen gained a vote after a ballot that had been counted as blank was found to have been marked for Allen.
Election Manager Mike McLaughlin said he can't say for sure why Rush's count fell by two. One possibility is that after paper jams occurred in the machines, ballots that already had been counted may have been sent through a second time, he said.
Each campaign involved in the two recounts had observers at the Elections Office.
Baxter lost to Padden by 3,638 votes. He said he paid for the recount with his personal money and did so because results in some precincts conflicted with data campaign workers collected when going door-to-door. The outcome hints that in a future race volunteers need to do a better job reaching voters when they're home, he said.
“I didn't think anything insidious was going on,” Baxter said. “I'm just saying that we need to work a little harder in different precincts.”
Baxter said he hasn't decided if he will run again next year.
Last week, Rush indicated that Baxter may have paid for a recount to prevent Rush's race from being recounted by hand. Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton originally requested that the City Council race be counted by hand to test new scanners in the county's voting machines. But she changed course after Baxter opted to pay for a recount in his race.
“It had absolutely nothing to do with his race,” Baxter said. “I don't have the time to be playing those games.”
Land along the steep Monroe Street hill in North Spokane will be able to hold up 30 homes or apartments per acre under a plan approved Monday by the City Council.
The council voted 6-1 late Monday to change the comprehensive plan to allow up to 30 residential units per acre on a little less than two acres of land on the West side of Monroe between Courtland and Glass Avenues. The vacant property is owned by the city.
City officials say the designation provides for more flexibility in designing the site, and that it is highly unlikely that any project will include the maximum number of residences. The city’s Community Development Department hopes to partner with a nonprofit group to develop and sell the vacant land.
Many neighbors opposed the change, in large part because the city doesn’t have specific plans for the site.
The council voted to require that any development on the site be reviewed first by the city’s Design Review Board. Councilman Jon Snyder argued that the process would give neighbors an extra step to consider plans.
Councilman Steve Corker cast the lone vote against the proposal.