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Mapping the Vote: Council races suggest conservative/progressive split in city

For more than a generation, Spokane city politics divided mainly on geographic lines. Tuesday’s election suggests those lines may be disappearing and new coalitions are redrawing the electoral maps.

Business-friendly, conservative, trending Republican voters once held sway south of the river or Interstate 90. Blue-collar, leaning Democrat voters had their strongholds north of those lines of demarcation.

Those broad generalities held true in most municipal races, even though city offices are nominally non-partisan. Sometimes on ballot issues for big projects that needed tax support there was a strong overlay of downtown business establishment versus neighborhood populists, but the north-south split stayed strong. When the general election for mayor was between two known Republicans, as it was in 1985, or two Democrats, as it was in 1989, the trends held. 

There was also that odd constant in city politics: Mayors do not survive re-election, regardless of political leanings. 

That went out the window Tuesday as David Condon, whose Republican credentials are so solid he once ran point for U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, was re-elected mayor carrying all but a dozen of the city’s precincts. Because of a combination of retirements and defeats, a mayor hadn’t been elected to a second term since 1973.

Council President Ben Stuckart, a progressive Democrat who heads the veto-proof majority on the City Council, got a second term in a similar landslide, winning all but one precinct.

Easy victories by such different incumbents over weak opponents don’t reveal much about the body politic. But the races in the three city council districts probably do. They were closer, and generally matched a progressive against a conservative with a broad range of service on their electoral resumes.

Councilman Mike Fagan, who describes himself as a traditional conservative, has served a full term on the council and was a fixture in city politics before that. He was matched against Randy Ramos, a political newcomer endorsed by County Democratic Party.

Karen Stratton was also an incumbent, but appointed last year to fill an empty seat; she has a good political pedigree, as her mother was a longtime legislator who represented some of the same areas in Council District 3. She faced another newcomer Evan Verduin, who had Condon’s endorsement and campaign support in the mayor’s effort to end the veto-proof majority on the council.

 The third seat, an open position in South Spokane’s District 2, featured LaVerne Biel, who had the support of conservatives and Condon, and Lori Kinnear, who has served as an aide to two progressives on the council.

Fagan, Stratton and Kinnear all won, and as of Wednesday’s tally, all had about 54 percent of the vote in their district.

When the council votes for all city precincts are analyzed and compared with a few other ballot measures, an interesting pattern emerges. Conservative council candidates had the upper hand in Spokane’s Northwest neighborhoods around Whitworth and Indian Trail, and the upper South Hill from Comstock to the edges of the Moran Prairie. They also had a good handle on Hillyard and the areas around Francis and Division, although those are often light voting precincts where a dozen votes can tip the scales from one candidate to another.

Progressive candidates won many of the middle areas, including West Central, Logan Neighborhood and downtown, the strongholds in Browne’s Addition, Kendall Yards and the lower South Hill. 

Comparing the council vote totals with several other items on the ballot tend to support the pattern. Initiative 1366, the latest plan to force the Legislature into approving tax increases with a supermajority, was denounced by many progressive groups and supported by many conservatives groups. It passed easily countywide, but failed in a band of Spokane precincts north and south of I-90 that went for progressive council candidates.

City Proposition 1, the Worker Bill of Rights, an idea spawned by the progressive group Envision Spokane, failed overwhelmingly. The biggest margins against Prop 1 – precincts that could be characterized not just as “no” but “no freaking way”– are in the heart of those districts that went for conservative council candidates. The few precincts that gave it slim margins of approval were some of those with the strongest margins for progressive council candidates.

One election doesn’t rewrite the campaign map, and some could argue that Fagan and Stratton owe their victories at least in part to the name familiarity incumbents enjoy. It’s likely more of a gradual evolution than a tectonic shift in Spokane politics. But it points out some patterns for political activists to consider as a much bigger election year approaches. Conservative candidates can find success in North Spokane precincts, which are not an automatic gimme for Democrats. Progressive candidates who have found success just south of I-90 can pick up votes even farther up the hill in areas once safe for Republicans.


Mapping the Vote: Spokane Council Dist 1

Incumbent Spokane City Councilman Mike Fagan received strong support from his home base in Hillyard and other northern precincts in to build his lead toward re-election in the city's District 1 race.

Randy Ramos did better in the Logan Neighborhood and other precincts in the southern part of the district, but that's not likely to be enough to overtake Fagan in the later ballot counts.

WATCH: Fagan on “illegal aliens,” Allen and Stuckart push back

In today's paper, we reported on the Spokane City Council's recent decision to add some wage protections for low-earning workers.

As the article said, Councilman Mike Fagan was not a fan of the new law, and was not shy about telling everyone. His issue with the proposed ordinance was that he saw it as adding protections for undocumented immigrant workers, who he suggested would unlawfully benefit from the ordinance.

“We’re actually extending protections to illegal aliens once again,” Fagan said. “Those people are not supposed to be here to begin with. Those employers should not be employing those people, so why are we even discussing that?”

Council President Ben Stuckart and Councilman Mike Allen both pushed back against Fagan's claims, which you can watch below. 

In the end, Fagan was the only council member to vote against the ordinance. It passed 6-1.

Bob Dellwo, former councilman, dies

Bob Dellwo’s record of public service was long, colorful and varied. He spied on Soviet spies during World War II, ran for Congress in the 1950s, served as a Spokane park board member and city councilman in the 1980s and a plan commissioner and freeholder in the 1990s.

But Dellwo, who died Tuesday at 97, was known for other things in other circles, too. He was a champion for Native American rights for decades, serving as attorney for several Northwest tribes.

A runner long before it became chic or even common, he built a reputation as Spokane’s fastest senior citizen, winning his age category in Bloomsday for many years and holding records in the senior category for national competitions. Among them was being the oldest man to run a mile in under five minutes, his son Dennis Dellwo said.

Born in Poulson, Montana, in 1917, Dellwo came to Spokane to attend Gonzaga, graduating from the university in 1940 and Gonzaga Law School in 1942. Accepted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation right after finishing law school, he was stationed first in Washington, D.C., and later Denver and Portland.

One of his jobs during World War II was tracking Soviet spies who were sent to Portland under the guise of securing war supplies from U.S. allies. The FBI knew that some of the Soviet delegation had backgrounds in chemistry and physics, and they were sent to get information on activities at Hanford. Dellwo bugged their apartments, meeting rooms and cars; he posed as a telephone repairman to bug the offices of the Communist Party in Portland.

He also posed as an engineer for the Columbia Basin Irrigation Project, and took some Soviets on a tour of Eastern Washington, but kept them well away from Hanford, Dellwo told The Spokesman-Review in a 1995 story, shortly after details of that World War II spy program were declassified. When they asked what was going on at Hanford, “we told them it has to do with hydroelectric power,” he recalled.

After leaving the FBI in 1948, Dellwo settled in Spokane, where he and his wife Madeline raised eight children. The Spokane County Democratic chairman, he ran against Rep. Walt Horan, the long-time Republican incumbent, in 1950 and 1952. He built a law practice that involved government law and representing tribes like the Coeur d’Alenes.

 “He was instrumental in fighting for the sovereignty of the tribe,” Ernie Stensgar, Coeur d’Alene tribal chairman, said in a 2004 ceremony at GU Law School.

He was appointed to the city Park Board in 1983 and the City Council in 1986 to fill the vacancy created when Vicki McNeill was elected mayor. He was elected to the seat in 1987. Politics ran in his family: his father was the House speaker in Montana, his son Dennis served in Washington’s House of Representatives.

After losing his council seat in 1991, Dellwo stayed active in local civic affairs, serving on the city Plan Commission and later winning a seat as a freeholder in an effort to write a new county charter. And he continued to run, in Bloomsday, of which he was an early supporter, and in other competitions.

He’d slowed and become frail with age in recent years, Dennis Dellwo said, “but he hadn’t been sick at all.”

On Monday night he went out to dinner with his wife and some family members at one of their favorite restaurants, Linnies, formerly The Shack, on Third Avenue. “He went to bed and didn’t wake up,” Dennis Dellwo said. “He looked so content.”

Bob Dellwo is survived by his wife Madeline, four sons and four daughters and numerous grandchildren. Services are pending.

Spokane City Council wants people to stop saying “Bridge to Hookerville”

Declaring it offensive, Spokane City Council members last night banned the term "Bridge to Hookerville" from use during meetings.

The decision came during the weekly open forum portion of Monday's council meeting after civic gadfly George McGrath used the term — again — to describe the planned pedestrian bridge spanning a wide rail corridor to link the north and south ends of the growing University District. The southern side of the district includes a stretch of East Sprague Avenue that's historically included a lot of prostitution activity.

Council member Karen Stratton halted McGrath's comments during the open forum, saying "we're all getting tired of the term." She added that it's disrespectful, asking that it be declared offensive and prohibited from being used during council meetings. Council President Ben Stuckart and others agreed.

Council rules require that members and meeting participants conduct themselves in ways that demonstrate mutual respect, and provide the council president with wide latitude to enforce them. Although council member Mike Allen expressed concern about prohibiting an entire phrase from further use, he agreed with the others that it was disrespectful.

McGrath expressed frustration, however, and accused the City Council of trying to censor him.

The planned pedestrian bridge has been panned by fiscal conservatives because of its estimated $16 million pricetag, though city officials have since trimmed it by at least a third and some within Spokane's legislative delegation are trying to get state money allocated to help with the cost.

Spokane council creates panel to craft paid sick leave legislation

The Spokane City Council on Monday approved the formation of a committee comprising health, labor and business representatives to help craft a paid-leave law.

Despite asking business organizations to take part in the discussion, council members are being accused of already making up their minds on the policy. Critics of the council, including some of its own members, say sick leave will lead the way to raising the city’s minimum wage. Council President Ben Stuckart said the council would not raise the minimum wage this year. Read more. Nicholas Deshais, SR

Today’s fun video: Mixing Council politics with The Beatles

Someone decided to mix "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" with the current flap over whether to remove Councilman Mike Fagan from the Spokane Regional Health District Board.

How funny you think it is may depend on where you stand on the issue.  How long it remains up on YouTube may depend on how diligent the lawyers are for the owners of The Beatles' copyrights.


Harpman Hatter renders Dr. Evil

Rick Bocook, a perennial figure at Spokane City Council meetings, has just a few issues he rails on at City Hall. Freedom for street musicians. The tyranny of the city's sit-lie ordinance. Sidewalk chalk drawings.

Bocook, AKA Harpman Hatter, was in fine form on this last front last night, as he rendered a perfect Dr. Evil - pinky and all - on an issue stemming from an article I wrote last month.

Now, I won't comment on his spelling, or delve into any similarities between Mayor David Condon and the characters from the Austin Powers film series. But I will note that any time anyone says, "One million dollars," I can definitively say that the phrase rings in my head with the sound of one voice. And I usually have the desire to raise my pinky and an eyebrow.

Stuckart’s defense wasn’t “convincing” says Ethics chair, but still considers matter closed

Troy Bruner, head of the Spokane's Ethics Committee, said City Council President Ben Stuckart's leak of a confidential email had the ability to hurt the city, but there was no evidence of it doing so.

“Certainly there was a potential for harm to be done to the city,” Bruner said. “We had no evidence that harm was done, so we figured that the penalty should be minimal.”

In a unanimous decision by the committee last night, Stuckart was fined $250 for leaking a confidential email dealing with an open lawsuit. 

Bruner said the matter was closed, but noted the committee will write a “strongly worded statement showing our disapproval of his actions and admonishing him.”

Stuckart, who publicly apologized for his actions, said he regretted forwarding the email. In his defense to the ethics committee, Stuckart said the information in the email was already public knowledge.

Bruner rejected Stuckart’s claims, saying they “weren’t convincing to us.”

“He said the email wasn’t bad because its contents were public knowledge. There was no way for us to know that,” he said. “He said you should be able to dismiss this because there was no harm to the city. We had no way to know if there was harm done to the city.”

Bruner said he was convinced that the matter had been resolved, even though he had an unanswered question.

“One personal observation I have, President Stuckart really wasn’t able to provide a compelling reason why he forwarded the email in the first place. That’s something I still don’t have an answer for,” he said. “But he was apologetic for his behavior and he did affirm that he would not engage with such disclosures in the future.”

Spokane backs WSU medical school plan over UW proposal

Spokane City Hall is backing crimson over purple.

The city announced this week it will help Washington State University lobby the Legislature for money to begin establishing its own medical school on Spokane’s Riverpoint campus. The WSU request for $2.5 million in startup funding over the next two years is among the city’s top three legislative priorities for the upcoming 2015 session.

Although the city also is supporting the University of Washington’s pledge to expand its medical education program in Spokane, it’s not among the top priorities.

The state’s two leading universities, after partnering for years on a shared medical education program with a branch in Spokane, are parting ways and will battle it out in the Legislature next year for money to pursue their own vision of how best to train doctors.

WSU wants its own Spokane-based medical school that relies on forging community partnerships with hospitals around the state to train physicians who’d be encouraged to practice in under-served regions of the state. The UW, which has one of the best medical schools in the country for primary care training, proposes aggressively expanding its Spokane satellite branch, which currently operates in facilities that WSU wants to use for its medical school.

Spokane has long sought expanded medical education opportunities at the Riverpoint campus as part of an overall push to strengthen the local economy and help ease physician shortages in rural communities.

But until now, city and other community leaders had largely avoided taking sides.

Sewage researcher discusses potential Spokane THC test

University of Puget Sound professor Dan Burgard says the academic response to his study of drugs in waste water has been a mix of curiosity and bewilderment.

"Everybody thinks, 'Wow, you can do that?'" Burgard said in an interview Wednesday. "Then they say, 'Wait, what else can you find?'"

Burgard's research on the presence of amphetamines and other drugs in the sewage at college campuses prompted American Civil Liberties Union attorney Alison Holcomb to suggest Spokane look at his process for testing marijuana use trends Tuesday. Burgard said he's intrigued by the idea, but there would be many logistical hurdles to scale for his direct involvement and the numbers would not be as illuminating as if sewage prior to retail shops opening could be tested.

"You can still watch trends over the next couple of years," Burgard said. "As more stores open, do we see more (THC), or do we see the same old, same old?"

To read the rest of this item, go inside the blog.

City Hall Scoop: Domestic Violence and a New Councilwoman

Another Monday, another Spokane City Council meeting at which Councilman Mike Fagan speaks eloquently on the injustice of domestic violence.

Okay, so not every council meeting has Fagan on the dais, detailing the horrors of "Spokane's ugly, dirty little secret," telling attendees and viewers that domestic violence is not simply violent, but also "a crime of control, of coercion." He doesn't always read a list of crimes associated with domestic violence, or educate people that it can happen between more than man and wife, but between lovers, or friends, or inflicted by a parent or grandparent.

But it happened last night, as council members discussed amending city law as proposed by Council President Ben Stuckart and Councilwoman Amber Waldref to protect victims of domestic violence against discrimination, while also creating a fund to help prevent such violence and prosecute offenders. We covered the issue when it first arose.

True to his word, Fagan was "more than happy to vote in the affirm" and the ordinances passed 7-0, despite conservative gadabout George McGrath admonishing the council for letting government overreach to continue. McGrath did agree that domestic violence should be "contained (and) curtailed" but warned against overreaction, such as when a man flicks a toothpick at his wife. Councilman Mike Allen seemed to have had enough at that remark, tearing off his reading glasses and shooting an exasperated look to the council. Regardless, McGrath's three minutes soon were spent, he returned to his seat and the council carried on, as usual.

Continue reading, and see Fagan talk about domestic violence, after the jump.



Spokane City Council passes crosswalk ordinance 5-1

As a follow up to an earlier post, the Spokane City Council voted 5-1 at last night's meeting in favor of Councilwoman Candace Mumm's crosswalk ordinance aimed at making the city safer for pedestrians, bicyclists and others in the most pedestrian heavy parts of town. This is an important step forward for the city and continuation of the hard work on Complete Streets and the Comprehensive Plan

On Spokane City streets, between 2003 and 2012, 28 pedestrians were killed. Part of this ordinance was born out of the old tenets of our City's engineering bible that required crosswalk planning to identify the number of pedestrian collisions at an intersection over the course of three years before giving consideration. “If five people were hit, they had to build a crosswalk,” Mumm told the Spokesman over the weekend. “We need to make decisions based on where people want to walk the most, not where people are hurt.”

The new crosswalk ordinance applies to reconstructed, rehabilitated, or resurfaced streets, and other situations where funding can be secured for a marked crosswalk. 

City Hall Scoop: Lilac Queen as Councilwoman

Steve Salvatori was a fiscal conservative from California. Karen Stratton is a political unknown and lifelong Spokanite. Together, they will complete one term on the Spokane City Council.

Stranger things have happened in Spokane. Like when Stratton was named Lilac Queen in 1977 and posed with Grizzly Adams. Or when Jimmy Marks put a curse on the entire city. Or when Mark Hamilton, who was kicked off the ballot last year in a bid for City Council, compared the politicized nature of Spokane politics to apartheid (which also happened last night).

Regardless, as we detailed in today's Spokesman, the City Council appointed Stratton to the seat left vacant by the resignation of Salvatori, who left the council earlier this year for work in Texas. She will fulfill the final 15 months of his term and run for re-election in 2015.

Keep reading after the jump.

Q&A with council finalist Karen Stratton

Today, Spin Control is releasing throughout the day the answers to a Q&A we received from the five finalists to fill the Spokane City Council vacancy created by the resignation of Steve Salvatori. The council is scheduled to pick one of the finalists on Monday.

Here are the answers from Karen Stratton, who works in the City Clerk's office and is the former executive assistant to former Mayor Mary Verner:

1. What is your top priority and how specifically would you achieve your top priority?

I want to ensure that the residential character of Northwest Spokane is preserved and properly balanced with business development.  I have lived in the Audubon Park neighborhood for over 20 years. Our home is close to the downtown core; Riverside State Park and Downriver Golf Course. Audubon Park and the Dwight Merkel Complex are within walking distance from my house. Small businesses have established themselves along Northwest Boulevard and the neighborhood has become a place where one can enjoy a long walk in the park, a bike ride along the river or a cup of coffee or lunch at the neighborhood café. However, as development continues on the Five Mile Prairie and to the west toward Suncrest, there has been a corresponding increase in traffic on the arterials within District 3 which threatens the pedestrian and bicycle-friendly activity in the area. I hope to preserve the residential character with careful attention to traffic planning and support for traffic calming endeavors.

Read on to find out her positions on police reform, taxes, parking meters and more.

Q&A with council finalist Kitty Klitzke

Today, Spin Control is releasing throughout the day the answers to a Q&A we received from the five finalists to fill the Spokane City Council vacancy created by the resignation of Steve Salvatori. The council is scheduled to pick one of the finalists on Monday.

Here are the answers from Kitty Klitzke, the Eastern Washington program director for Futurewise:

1. What is your top priority and how specifically would you achieve your top priority?

Lift people out of poverty and into self sufficiency.

A look at the demographics of Spokane and the demographics of my district makes this question easy to answer. Spokane has a high rate of poverty, especially in my current neighborhood and the area of Spokane I grew up in. This holds our whole city back. With everything I work on I will look for opportunities that lift Spokane’s people who are poor out of poverty.  Economic development and growing our
local higher education programs is important. We need more jobs, better jobs and access to quality skills training. But the working poor also need affordable housing, transportation, and childcare if they are to have any hope of accessing jobs.

Poverty is a complex issue. I have been involved in Priority Spokane and its Community Indicators Project from the beginning and recently the group identified mental illness as one root cause of poverty and homelessness in Spokane and chose it as the top issue to address. I look forward to working with Priority Spokane and local experts and stakeholders as a council member as they gather and track available data, find solutions and create new community indicators to measure progress. I will do everything I can to support the effort. Helping people whose mental illnesses keep them in poverty to gain access to treatment, safe housing and services that help them get back on their feet must be a goal in a city with our demographics and where loitering and panhandling gets so much attention.

Read on to find out her positions on police reform, taxes, parking meters and more.

Q&A with council finalist E.J. Iannelli

Today, Spin Control is releasing throughout the day the answers to a Q&A we received from the five finalists to fill the Spokane City Council vacancy created by the resignation of Steve Salvatori. The council is scheduled to pick one of the finalists on Monday.

E.J. Iannelli, a freelance writer and chair of the Emerson Garfield Neighborhood, declined our request to participate in this Q&A.

Instead, he provided the following statement:

"Out of respect for the City Council’s application process, I am declining to answer your questions at this point in time. While my answers might provide voters with additional campaign information between a primary and general election, in this appointment process the value to decision makers is unclear. Had councilmembers deemed these topics decisive, they would have broached them during the public interview session. Many of your questions will be answered in due course should the City Council appoint me to the District 3 vacancy."

Q&A with council finalist Julie Griffith

Today, Spin Control is releasing throughout the day the answers to a Q&A we received from the five finalists to fill the Spokane City Council vacancy created by the resignation of Steve Salvatori. The council is scheduled to pick one of the finalists on Monday.

Here are the answers from Julie Griffith, a personal finance educator with Money Management International:

1. What is your top priority and how specifically would you achieve your top priority?

My top priority will be to understand the progress and needs of the commissions, neighborhood associations and to address the most urgent and long-term needs of the city.  For any new council member there will be some time devoted to absorb as much information as possible from all sectors, most importantly the people you serve.  I have already started the process by meeting with department staff, small business owners, commercial real-estate developers, and my neighbors in District 3.

Read on to find out her positions on police reform, taxes, parking meters and more.

Q&A with council finalist Adrian Dominguez

Today, Spin Control is releasing throughout the day the answers to a Q&A we received from the five finalists to fill the Spokane City Council vacancy created by the resignation of Steve Salvatori. The council is scheduled to pick one of the finalists on Monday.

Here are the answers from Adrian Dominguez, an epidemiologist with Spokane Regional Health District:

1. What is your top priority and how specifically would you achieve your top priority?

My ultimate goal is to increase the health and well-being of all residents in the City of Spokane and to view all policy as health policy, regardless if a policy has a direct or indirect effect on health. We should be evaluating policy in terms of its impact on health, specifically concentrating on economic development, social opportunities, income, education, resources, and the physical environment. We should make it a priority that all residents in Spokane have a chance for success and increase their standard of living. This can only be achieved by engaging all community members and partners, which include residents, community centers, businesses, legislators, faith based-organizations, schools and universities, non-profit organizations, hospitals, and public health. We need to strengthen the individuals and communities role and voice in collaborative efforts that will lead to healthier communities. Much of my work as a researcher has involved organizing various groups to address complex and diverse issues. I have sought public input, worked closely with relevant city staff, consulted a broad variety of interest groups, and collaborated with other council members, the mayor’s office and other relevant officials in order to achieve community sourced solutions.

Read on to find out his positions on police reform, taxes, parking meters and more.

Two Spokane council changes make it a bit less expensive to build a new home

Spokane's City Council adopted two changes to the building code this week, both making it easier for home builders to put up new homes.

The first was removing the mandate that water service lines had to be done with copper pipe.

That deal came out of work with the Spokane Home Builders Association, who has suggested the city should allow pipes go in with less expensive High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) pipe.

Copper is still an alternative but not required. That change to poly is based on the high cost of copper, its attraction to site thieves and poly'srelatively simpler installation.

The second change requires new water meters for homes to be placed within 3 feet of the property line and no longer in basements.

The change will make it easier to read and access meters. Additionally, meters located outside will no longer be required to be housed inside an expensive concrete vault; the ordinance allows installation in a plastic PVC box.

The city's Water Department has said roughly 80 percent of builders already install water meters at the property line, which has been the typical rule in neighboring jurisdictions.

Both changes mean home construction costs can be kept reasonable, allowing more new homeowners to buy, said Phil Folyer, a past president of the Spokane Home Builders Association.

The association also cited a study by the National Association of Home Builders asserting that in the Spokane area, a $1,000 increase in the cost of a new home will price about 244 families out of the market.

City Hall Scoop: Hoofing It

The gavel pounded not even 30 minutes into last night's Spokane City Council meeting, and Council President Ben Stuckart erupted at attendees for cheering and applauding. He called for a five-minute recess and warned the crowd that another "outburst" would send the rest of the meeting behind closed doors where no one would be allowed to testify.

The issue at hand: someone testifying in favor of repealing the controversial city ordinance passed last year that made it illegal to sit or lie on public sidewalks.

When he returned and the council was back in session, Stuckart said "the minute" the sit-lie law was passed, problems ceased downtown. Stuckart's right. Those problems, which reached a fever pitch last summer, have largely subsided, but activists find fault with law as a constitutional affront, not a safety measure.

Council member Candace Mumm hosts council connection on crosswalks

Well, this is a very different Council Connection. The monthly cable television program featuring Spokane City Council members as hosts was always filmed in council chambers - sort of like Wayne's World meets C-SPAN, making Spokane the only place where you'll find such a program. But Council member Candace Mumm from District 3 took it another direction by getting out there and interviewing community stakeholders about crosswalks. 

On September 8th, she'll introduce an ordinance aimed at improving pedestrian safety on some of the area’s busiest roads, focusing on the painting of crosswalks. 


City Hall Scoop: Plazas and Trolleys

The Spokane Transit Authority is its own government entity, but it got a good going over at last night's Spokane City Council meeting.

Two items passed by the council dealt with public conveyance: a resolution supporting the $5.8 million renovation of the STA Plaza, the downtown hub for public transportation; and a resolution supporting a trolley-like electric bus connecting Browne's Addition to Spokane Community College.

Both items had supporters, and both items found an enemy in George McGrath, who speaks at almost every council meeting during almost every public testimony. 

Read more after the jump.

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.

Interview with Councilman Jon Snyder in Smart Growth America

Smart Growth for America
posted an interview with our very own Councilman Jon Snyder regarding complete streets in Spokane. It goes into how he got a Complete Streets ordinance passed, Photo Red funding, and engaging with your local government. It's a good read and quite an honor. Here's an excerpt:

To Snyder, Complete Streets fits into a larger vision to preserve the best parts of Spokane without draining the city’s resources. “Spokane is a really awesome mid-sized city,” he explains. “It has the benefits of a small city—such as lack of congestion—and a big city, such as terrific arts and culture and high-quality education opportunities. Spokane also boasts incredible access to the outdoors, often in downtown-accessible locations. Here anyone can get an idea off the ground and we can recognize the heartfelt efforts of one person.”

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.)