Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spin Control

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.

2. What is the first ordinance you will bring forward on council?

I would like to bring forward an ordinance to address blight issues that affect the quality of life for individuals and families, businesses, and the city.  The city already has a foundation for addressing some code-related issues, such as fire hazards, illegal dumping, graffiti, and so forth.  Nearly every aspect of city government plays a role in overcoming visibly depressed neighborhoods.

For example, Monroe Street north of downtown to the Garland District could be a vibrant, active street with small businesses, restaurants, and services.   If the city would allow for street improvements, that would help to encourage walkers, provide parking, offer bike lanes, designate bus pull-ins and add more green space.   I use this stretch of Monroe Street daily; street improvements will slow traffic to what it should be - 30 mph (as most go 40). 

3. Explain your political philosophy.

I always tell people that I am probably not a politician’s favorite because I do not identify with any party.  I feel as a voter that I need to pick the best candidate based upon their abilities, ideals, and commitment to the people they serve – not their party.  We’ve seen in all levels of the government what doesn’t get done because most politicians are not willing to work across the aisle. 

4. What is the role of City Council? Of council members?

The role of the city council is to understand the immediate and long-term needs of the people, businesses, and city departments in Spokane and to enact policy to meet those needs.  City council members are to assess and act upon those needs, provide leadership to the Spokane community, city staff and mayor, and to be ambassadors of the city of Spokane. 

5. What are your thoughts on the Spokane Police Department and its efforts at reform? Do you think they go far enough, or too far?

As a citizen, my information has been limited as to the progress we have made as a city in reforming the Spokane Police Department.  It would be helpful to have more transparency within the department so that citizens are aware of the positive steps that have been taken as well as to bring to the forefront the issues that cause concern and need to be addressed.  The ombudsman program should help with the transparency and communications, but I understand the ombudsman has had difficulty in establishing an effective stream of communication with the police department staff –even over the course of his five-year tenure.

6. Do you think the mayor's Integrated Clean Water Plan does enough to prevent toxins and pollutants from entering the river?

While I appreciate the steps the mayor has taken to ensure the health of the Spokane River, there are some missing elements to the Integrated Clean Water Plan.  The plan addressed a few concrete items that the city of Spokane will work towards, which will greatly help what is then sent down the river from Spokane. However, for the river to be healthy the plan must include working with neighboring communities that have waterways that eventually feed into the Spokane River.  I did not see any mention that the city is working with Northern Idaho communities to address the health of the rivers that feed Lake Coeur d’ Alene, and ultimately the Spokane River.  The city also needs to enact policies to ensure that industry and commercial and private property owners are also doing their part to keep toxins and pollutants from entering the river.

7. Do you agree with Jon Snyder's action to dissolve the Transportation Benefit District and its annual $2.5 million in funding unless the city finishes its Pedestrian Master Plan?

I agree with Councilman Snyder’s position as one that is protecting the intent of the funding – to address all systems of transportation, including a Pedestrian Master Plan.  I do believe this will prove to be effective strategy in to getting the city to work very quickly to finish the Pedestrian Master Plan so that we can move beyond this issue, thereby protecting the overall intent of the funding. 

8. Each year the Spokane City Council approves a legislative agenda, which is essentially a wish list of legislative changes for the City of Spokane to actively lobby for in Olympia. What are two to three items you would like to see included on the list for 2015?

  1. I would support requesting funding for the establishment of small-business zones. The funding would help in providing support to areas that typically have been small-business friendly, but the areas may be struggling with blight (i.e. East Sprague, North Monroe Street, Third Avenue downtown, and possibly Northwest Boulevard).  Funding may be used to create road improvements, add green space, accessible parking, and/or provide business loans to rehabilitate dilapidated buildings.
  2.  The North-South Freeway has to be on the list. Many of our transportation issues, including the Pedestrian Master Plan, need the freeway to ease the current traffic on our routes north of the city.

9. Do you think the mayor has done enough outside lobbying to bring funding to Spokane projects, such as the North Spokane freeway?

I spend time in Olympia every session working with our state legislators.  I have not crossed paths with the mayor during these visits, and do not personally know how much time he has spent on this issue.

10. Are parking meters a good way for the city raise revenue?

Parking meters are a necessity in every city.  The additional meters that are being installed will not raise a significant amount of revenue. 

11. What's the most underutilized revenue source in Spokane?

City departments should seek ways to capture funding to support their departments. This could be done through grant supports, added services, and fees and fines.  For example, code enforcement could actively capture revenue through code enforcement fines.  The fire department could offer the public a service of fire prevention audits to private and commercial property owners. 

12. Do you support David Condon's re-election?

There is no opponent as of yet; it would be premature for me to support any candidate at this time. 

13. Did you support the legalization of marijuana, and do you think the state's marijuana regulatory scheme is appropriate?

Yes, I do support the legalization of marijuana as the people made this choice. The Washington State Liquor Control Board was extremely cautious and took their time in regulating this product. 

14. Council President Ben Stuckart has made clear that he wants the appointed council member to be re-elected. How would you ensure that you could run and win in District 3, which twice elected conservative former Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin by very high margins?

The people in District 3 have made it abundantly clear that they vote for the person, rather than the party.  Many within District 3 also have elected (within the 3rd state legislative district) state representatives that are all Democrats. I would work to win District 3 by understanding and acting upon the needs of the people and businesses within my district.  Nancy had a heart for what she did and worked hard for the people in District 3. That is what people want their elected leaders to do.  I would emulate that standard.

Nicholas Deshais
Joined The Spokesman-Review in 2013. He is the urban issues reporter, covering transportation, housing, development and other issues affecting the city. He also writes the Getting There transportation column and The Dirt, a roundup of construction projects, new businesses and expansions. He previously covered Spokane City Hall.

Follow Nicholas online: