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Condon backs change to initiative process

Changes to the way citizens can sidestep elected leaders to pass their own laws received the endorsement on Wednesday of Mayor David Condon.

But there will be more steps before the new rules become law if some citizens have their way.

Ian Moody, a marijuana reform advocate and candidate for Congress filed a referendum in hopes of preventing the ordinance, which was approved by City Council on April 30, from becoming law.

Supporters of the referendum will have until June 14 to collect 6,262 signatures of registered voters in the City of Spokane – 10 percent of the number of people who voted in the last city election – to prevent the rules from becoming law on June 15. If enough signatures are verified, the City Council will reconsider the ordinance. If the council upholds its decision, voters would have the final say in November 2013 election – though the City Council could opt to hold the election sooner.

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

Condon says he won’t raise taxes to close $10 million hole

Another year, another multimillion dollar deficit at Spokane City Hall.

Spokane Mayor David Condon pledged that his 2013 general fund budget proposal will not include higher taxes despite a forecasted deficit of up to $10 million.

“Our citizens expects us to live within our means Their incomes have not increased and ours is not going to either,” Condon said at a news conference on Tuesday, his 101st day in office.

The city’s general fund is made up of the services mostly paid for with sales, property and utility taxes. They include the fire, library, police and parks departments.

The deficit could improve soon. That’s because about $2 million of the deficit is based on a prediction that the state will slash revenue-sharing tax money with cities. The state’s budget, however, isn’t finalized.

Condon undecided on gay marriage resolution

Spokane Mayor David Condon said Monday that he still is considering what his position will be on the two hottest topics for next week's City Council meeting.

Those issues are Councilman Jon Snyder's resolution in support of the state's gay marriage law and Councilman Mike Fagan's proposal to change the city's initiative process.

Two Republican-leaning council members, Mike Allen and Steve Salvatori, have said they likely will support Snyder's resolution.

The state approved same-sex marriage this year, but opponents are expected to collect enough signatures to force the issue on the November ballot.

Although supportive of the law, Salvatori has questioned the purpose of the council weighing in on gay marriage since it's not an issue that will be decided at the city level. He doubts the City Council will change anyone's mind on such a passionate topic.

“If I wanted to be in state Legislature, I would have run for the state Legislature,” Salvatori said.

The council has taken up several non-binding resolutions this year, including ones focused on federal marijuana law, the proposed Spokane Tribe of Indian's casino on the West Plains and campaign finance.

City Council President Ben Stuckart said while some of the issues may not be considered City Council business, they are important topics that affect the citizenry. He added voting on a resolution provides a forum for local residents to debate high-profile issues.

“Being an elected official means you have a voice, and you should us that voice,” Stuckart said.

A new mayor, a new budget deficit

Another year, another deficit.

Spokane Mayor David Condon is holding a news conference this morning to discuss the city's forecasted deficit for 2013.

As of a couple weeks ago, administrators were forecasting a gap of about $10 million between the revenue the city expects to collect in 2013 and the cost of maitaining current services and employee levels. Some of that deficit is based on predictions of revenue-sharing cuts from the unfinished state budget, so the final number may not be as dire.

We are used to the the annual spring deficit alarm bells, which have sounded the last four or five years. While the deficits usually hold somewhat true by the end of the year, the dire cuts have largely been avoided. Employee levels aren't much different than they were before the start of the 2008 recession. All the library branches still are open. Police officer levels are less than if the city had implemented the neighborhood policing plan promised by former Mayor Dennis Hession, but that plan never was implemented anyway. The number of officers in the Spokane Police Department has hardly changed — if you consider numbers over the past decade.

So will 2013 be the year that the sky falls? Or will union concessions, reserves from whatever fund happens to be overfunded, a sales tax windfall, bonus utility taxes or some other money plug the gap?

Condon’s water rate plan to be released today

Spokane Mayor David Condon will present his plan to revamp the city's water rates today.

Condon highlighted the city's restructured water rates in his campaign last year. The change, approved in 2010, lowered rates on those who use less and increased rates on those who use more.

City Council President Ben Stuckart said earlier this week that he had seen Condon's plan and likely would support it.

Condon condemns casino

Spokane Mayor David Condon has added his name to the list of local leaders opposed to the Spokane Tribe of Indians’ proposal for a casino on the West Plains.

Condon joins Republican U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and state Senate Democratic Majority Leader Lisa Brown among those who have formally opposed the casino.

The Spokane City Council will debate tonight if it also will condemn the proposal.

Condon said he’s concerned that its proximity to Fairchild Air Force Base could hurt the future of the base and force the military officials to move training operations away from Fairchild because of noise and other issues.

“If you can do the same training out your back door, it’s much better,” Condon said.

Condon wrote a letter last month to the Bureau of Indian Affairs expressing his opposition. In an interview last week, he said he has asked city staff members to examine the plan to determine if the city should officially oppose the casino, as well.

The mayor said he’s concerned that a second West Plains casino could divert business from within city limits, which would result in lost tax revenue.

“In an environment where the city already is required to trim its budget an expenditures on essential functions, a futher hit would have significant negative impacts on the city,” Condon said.


Documents:

Public comments invited on police chief

Anyone with opinions on the qualities they would like to see in the new Spokane police chief is invited to attend a committee meeting on Thursday.

Spokane's Police Advisory Committee will hear comments Thursday at its meeting at 5:30 p.m. at the West Central Community Center, 1603 N. Belt St.

The Spokane Police Department and the Officer of Neighborhood Services hopes to provide a second public comment opportunity in April. Citizens can also email comments to the City of Spokane at  policechiefsearch@spokanecity.org.

The City plans to advertise for the police chief position again by the end of this month.

Applications were collected between November and mid-February, but Mayor David Condon said Wednesday that he would like “a larger and more diverse pool” from which to select.

Condon encourages citizens to express their views.

“Restoring public confidence in the Spokane Police Department is my highest priority, and I want to ensure that citizens have an opportunity to tell us what they think is important as we continue with the hiring process,” Condon said in a prepared statement.

Quintrall starts new job at the city on Monday; salary: $118,494

Mayor David Condon on Monday announced he's hired local BBB CEO Jan Quintrall to be in charge of the city's Business and Developer Services office. 

That office used to have the name of Economic Development Division. Theresa Sanders, the current city manager, headed that division in the administration of previous mayor Mary Verner.

Quintrall's job starts Monday; she'll earn $118,494 if approved by the City Council. 

Filling in as interim CEO of the Spokane Regional BBB will be Elea Katzele.

The official release said the new division will include building, planning, engineering services, capital programs and workforce development. Quintrall said her focus will be in eliminating red tape and making business activities and projects less cumbersome.

The key job task is “making sure the people who work (in the department) have the right tools to do their jobs effectively,” she said.

While Verner and other mayors have vowed to simplify the permitting and business application process at the city, Quintrall said the system has a ways to go.

She added, “The bureaucracy breeds on itself. There is still a lack of clarity” in how people go through the business development process, she said.

Where Condon and GOP-leaning city leaders stand on race for president

With the race for the Republican nomination for president heating up and candidate Ron Paul headed to Spokane, Spokane Mayor David Condon said he doesn't plan to endorse a candidate.

“I'm not going to get involved in national politics,” he said.

Condon said he hasn't decided if he will participate in the March 3 Washington caucus.

Meanwhile, other Republican-leaning elected Spokane officials haven't solidified their presidential picks.

Council members Nancy McLaughlin and Mike Fagan said this week that they are trying to decide between Paul and Rick Santorum.

Councilman Mike Allen said he's leaning toward Mitt Romney, and Councilman Steve Salvatori said he's undecided.

Send your questions for Condon and Stuckart to KSPS

Spokane Mayor David Condon and City Council President Ben Stuckart will appear on a live call-in show on KSPS on Wednesday.

KSPS is accepting questions for the duo at cityhall@ksps.org. The show starts at 8 p.m.

I'll be on the panel for the show, Talk to City Hall, so feel free to post suggested topics here, as well. 

Condon presents goals for first 100 days

Spokane Mayor David Condon unveiled his 100-day action plan on Friday with only 58 days left to complete his list.

Among his promises for within his first 100 days in office:

- Providing training to police and firefighters for working with “vulnerable” populations.

- Form a committee to advise the mayor on small business issues.

- Work with Spokane County to create committee to analyze possible government consolidation opportunities.

- Analyze the city’s 1,600 pieces of real estate and consider selling some of it.

- Assign police officers to attend neighborhood council meetings.

- Improve the city's permit system.

Some items of the initiative are carry-overs from Mayor Mary Verner’s administration, such as improving the permitting system. Some ideas have been around for decades, like government consolidation. Some are new, such as the small business group.

A full list of Condon’s 100-day plan is here.

Condon’s ball raises more than $20,000 for Chase Youth Foundation

Addressing the crowd at his inaugural ball, Spokane Mayor David Condon said he will strive to be like Jim Chase, the popular mayor who led the city when Condon was a boy.

More than 400 people attended Condon's $75-a-plate Our Town Gala on Saturday night at the Lincoln Center in North Spokane. Proceeds will go to the Chase Youth Foundation, the financial arm of the youth commission that Chase fought to create when he was mayor in the 1980s.

Condon praised Chase for the stability he brought to the city as well as his gentle nature. He said the event, which was attended by many political, business and other leaders, raised more than $20,000 for the foundation.

Last year, former Mayor Mary Verner opted to eliminate the city's Youth Department, which oversaw the Chase Youth Commission. Condon supported the decision because of the city's financial problems. But Saturday, he vowed that the city would maintain a strong relationship with the commission even if taxpayer funding is much smaller.

“I am unwilling to let budget pressures push aside” the commission, he said.

Three Chase Youth commissioners addressed the crowd after a buffet-style dinner.

Verner agreed to new fire contract, but new council will have final say

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. 

Condon will host inaugural ball to benefit Chase Youth Foundation

Spokane Mayor David Condon will host a formal dinner and dance on Jan. 28 to celebrate the start of his mayoral term and raise money for the Chase Youth Foundation.

Erik Nelson, president of the foundation, said invitations will be mailed soon but that the event will be open to anyone willing to pay the $75-per-person price. The foundation will get all the revenue, some of which will be used to cover costs.

The ball will be held Jan. 28 at the new McKinstry building, which is a renovated railroad building along the Spokane River near Washington State University-Spokane. 

It will be called the 2012 Our Town Gala, Nelson said. Condon used the slogan “This is our town” throughout his campaign.

The Chase Youth Foundation will take on greater responsibility this year after Verner and the Spokane City Council opted to eliminate the city's Youth Department, which worked with the foundation and Chase Youth Commission on youth programs and events.

Folks who don't get invitations but want tickets to the gala can email Nelson at chaseyouthspokane@gmail.com.

Stephens named interim police chief

(Top) Scott Stephens takes questions after Mayor David Condon names him the interim police chief at a press conference Tuesday. (Bottom right) Former Spokane police Chief Roger Bragdon, right, and Lt. Joe Walker, center, listen during a press conference where Condon, far left, appointed Stephens. (SRphotos/Christopher Anderson)

A 26-year veteran of the Spokane Police Department will lead the troubled agency, at least for the next few months.

On his first business day as Spokane’s mayor, David Condon appointed Major Scott Stephens interim police chief, and announced plans to review the department’s use-of-force policies and training.

Stephens replaces Chief Anne Kirkpatrick, who retired effective Monday, at a time of low morale and deep division within the department.

Read the rest of Jon Brunt's story here.

Stephens leading police department — at least until 1 p.m.

Spokane Mayor David Condon confirmed this morning that he will name his selection for interim police chief at a news conference at 1 p.m.

The current acting chief, Scott Stephens, declined to say if he will still be chief by the end of the day in a brief interview after he left a meeting at City Hall this morning.

Condon said last week that Stephens would be acting chief “through the weekend.” Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick's retired effective Jan. 2.

Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich has requested the position in hopes that the city would consider contracting with his department. Former Spokane Mayor Mary Verner started a national search for a new chief with Condon's blessing.

The interim chief will inherit significant obstacles, including the possibility of other officers facing federal criminal charges related to the handling of the Otto Zehm matter, low morale and recent budget cuts.

PM: Condon Becomes Spokane Mayor

In the shadow of the Riverfront Park Clock Tower , David Condon is sworn in as the Spokane's 44th mayor by Judge Mary Logan this afternoon. Condon's wife, Kristin, right, holds the bible for the Oath of Office ceremony.  Story here. (SR photo: Dan Pelle)

Mandyke, Webster out at City Hall

Spokane Mayor-elect David Condon has decided to replace two long-time administrators at Spokane City Hall.

Public Works Director Dave Mandyke and Administrative Service Director Dorothy Webster announced their retirements Friday.

Gerry Gemmill, the depurty director of public works, will be acting director of the department, city spokeswoman Marlene Feist announced in a news release.

Condon hinted early on that Mandyke may not stay on in his administration when he selected City Engineer Mike Taylor to be the City Hall representative on his transition subcommittee examining utilities even though Taylor has no oversight of any of the city's utilities.

Sanders named city administrator

Spokane's former Economic Development Director Theresa Sanders will be the top City Hall administrator under Mayor David Condon.

Many city employees had speculated for months that Sanders would get that top job if he beat Mayor Mary Verner in the November election. Sanders was active in Condon's campaign.

Condon declined to comment earlier today when asked if Sanders would get the job, saying he still had a meeting planned with City Administrator Ted Danek. The announcement was made late this morning in a news release.

 Sanders was hired at City Hall by former Mayor Dennis Hession but quit after two years, citing an inability to “change the culture.” Sanders, 51, previously worked at Microsoft and has a bachelor's degree from Eastern Washington University in government.
  

Stephens named acting police chief but only through weekend

Mayor-elect David Condon said today that Acting Assistant Police Chief Scott Stephens will lead the Spokane Police Department, but his appointment so far is extremely temporary.

Condon, who will become mayor at midnight on Jan. 1, said he has agreed to have Stephens lead the department “through the weekend.”

Stephens was a major in the department under retiring Chief Anne Kirkpatrick until Kirkpatrick named him acting assistant chief this fall after Assistant Chief Jim Nicks went on sick leave.

Condon transition team member resigns

The portion of the Mayor-elect David Condon’s transition team devoted to public safety has decided to keep its discussions confidential.

Tim Connor, communicaitons director for the Center for Justice, announced in an email to Condon this week taht he resigned from the committee as a result of the decision to keep deliberations secret.

Condon will take oath at Clocktower, Stuckart at MAC

Mayor-elect David Condon will take the oath of office in front of the Riverfront Park clocktower at 10:30 a.m. Dec. 30, the city announced this morning in a news release.

A reception will follow in the Carrousel.

Council President-elect Ben Stuckart will take his oath on Dec. 28 at the Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture, where he serves on the board.

Council members-elect Mike Allen, Mike Fagan and Steve Salvatori will take their oaths at 3:30 p.m. Dec. 29 in the City Council Chambers at City Hall, 808 W. Spokane Falls Blvd.

None of the new city officials will officially take office until midnight on Jan. 1, but under state law they must take the oath of office within 10 days prior to that time.

Council approves union deals, despite Condon’s objection

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.

City union agrees to contract extension

(This post was updated at 4 p.m. Saturday.)

City Adminstrator Ted Danek said Friday that the membership of Local 270, the city's largest union, voted overwhelmingly this week to approve a three-year contract extension.

The contract currently expires at the end of 2012. The proposal will take the contract through 2015. The deal doesn't change employee benefits. It also doesn't change raises that already were in the contract for next year. But it does freeze wage levels in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

Mayor-elect David Condon has criticized the proposal because it means he won't be part of shaping a contract. (A letter he signed along with four members of next year's City Council is printed in full at the end of the post.) Others argue that three years of no raises is a great deal that might be hard to achieve if Condon was at the table because unions might not be as willing to come to an agreement with a mayor who campaigned, in part, on how city workers were overcompensated.

City administrators also note that Condon will have plenty of other deals to work on. Outgoing Mayor Mary Verner hasn't come to agreements with other unions that have contracts that expire at the end of the year, including with the city's administrators union. So those agreements will be up to Condon to make.

The 270 contract, along with a nearly identical contract extension for the city's prosecutors union, will be considered by the City Council on Monday.

Monday's meeting is pretty full, but one big issue may fade without a decision. Council President Joe Shogan said it appears that the City Council doesn't have enough votes to make a change to the water rate structure. So that issue likely will wait until next year. Condon said this week that waiting until he and the new council is sworn in is what the council should do.

(Keep reading if you want to read the letter from Condon.)

Read the complete list of Condon’s transition team

 

Mayor-elect David Condon tonight released the names of about 80 people who will serve on five committees that make up his transition team.

Here are the names, pretty much cut and paste from the announcement (except a couple spelling fixes):

Public Safety

Captain, Nancy Isserlis; City Staff – Police, Scott Stephens; City Staff – Fire, Bobby Williams; City Staff HR – Heather Lowe; City Council – Mike Fagan; Roger Bragdon; Jim McDevitt; Tony Hazel; Tobby Hatley; Cliff Walter; Mick McDowell; Alexandra Stoddard; Pat Devries; Lisa Rosier; Tim Conner.

Budget Reform

Captain, Brian Benzel; City Staff CFO – Gavin Cooley; City Council – Nancy McLaughlin; City Council – Amber Waldref; Chris Cargill; Jason Thackston; Kate McCaslin; Kim Zentz; Bob Cole; Stanley Schwartz; Heidi Stanley; Mary Ann McCurdy.

Infrastructure

Captain, Latisha Hill; City Staff Public Works – Mike Taylor; City Staff Parks – Leroy Eadie; City Council – Steve Salvatori; City Council – Mike Allen; Joel White; Susan Ashe; Dave Clack; Susan Meyer; Mike George; Dallas Hawkins; Mark Aden; Mike Petersen; Frank Tombari; Marty Dickinson; Kris Mikkelsen; Roger Flint.

Jobs/Economic Opportunity

Captain, Mike Senske; City Staff ED – Mike Edwards; City Staff Finance – Rick Romero; City Council – Ben Stuckart; Joel Crosby; Mike Tedesco; Bill Savitz; Jim Hanley; Cheryl Kilday; Ty Barbery; Tom Simpson; Ellie Aaro; Jim DeWalt; Jim Quigley; Kim Pearman-Gilman; Jerry Dicker.

Quality of Life/Social Services

Captain, Arlene Patton; City Staff – Jonathan Mallahan; City Staff – Joanne Benham; City Council – Jon Snyder; Jean Farmer; Victor Frazier; Julie Honekamp; Andy Dunau; Sheila Geraghty; Judith Gilmore; Antony Chang; Lee Taylor; Arne Weinman; Rob Crow; Chris McCabe; Michael Cannon.

Condon names more transition leaders, including former school superintendent

Spokane Mayor-elect David Condon today announced in a news release the leaders of five task forces that will make up his transition team.

Nancy Isserlis, attorney and former chairwoman of the Spokane Ethics Commission, will lead the public safety group.

Mike Senske, chief executive officer of Pearson Packaging, will lead jobs and economy.

Brian Benzel, former Spokane Public Schools superintendent, will lead budget reform.

Latisha Hill, former Washington Transportation Commissioner, will lead the group focused on improving utility infrastructure without having to greatly increase rates.

Arlene Patton, former director of the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Eastern Washington office, will lead the quality of life and social services group.

Why Verner lost: Part 3: Otto Zehm

It’s hard to imagine how Mayor Mary Verner could have lost so much ground between the primary and the November election without concerns about the Otto Zehm case eating at her base.

With some members of the Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane expressing the possibility of sitting out the election or even casting a vote for a Republican who served a conservative member of Congress, it became clear that Verner had a problem, a problem that became more pronounced when Tom Keefe, a former Spokane County Democratic Party chair endorsed now Mayor-elect David Condon.

There were two key questions that Verner would not answer, at least completely, for most of the campaign:

- Why did the city file a response to the lawsuit from Otto Zehm’s family indicating that officers followed proper police policies when they confronted Otto Zehm, who died from injuries he suffered in that confrontation, even though the man who led the department at the time of the confrontation, Assistant Chief Jim Nicks, felt differently?

- Was she informed about the request by Department of Justice officials to meet regarding their concerns about the behavior of the city attorney’s office?

After the now infamous “FAQ” news conference that was overshadowed by Councilman Bob Apple, Verner had what may have been her worst few weeks as mayor, including a ‘60-Minutes’-style, chase-down-the-sidewalk-while-the-politician-refuses-to-answer-questions segment that ran on KREM-TV, fresh with a moment when she put a hand over the camera complaining of the bright camera light.

The David Condon Twitter stream

You like Twitter streams, right?

So we're going to run this stream over the weekend: the David Condon stream.

Anyone tweeting about Mayor-Elect David will land on the stream and you'll get a chance to comment, reply, do nothing if that's your choice.

Have a good weekend, Spokane and Idaho!

GOP Spent $63,000 On Spokane Race

Washington State Republican Party poured at least $63,000 into the campaign of victorious Spokane mayoral candidate David Condon in the closing days of the race, helping to defeat incumbent Mary Verner. Although the office is non-partisan, Condon has extensive ties to GOP politicians, while Verner has ties to Democrats. Verner is crying foul about the big contributions from the GOP, calling them a “turning point” for local politics in the state's second largest city/KXLY. More here.

Question: Can you blame Spokane Mayor Mary Verner from crying, “Foul”?