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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spin Control

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.

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

Passing an ordinance takes a good process of input from the community, experts, city staff, and other local leaders. Because of the time that takes the first ordinance I will work on as a council member will be something I am already working on at my current job. This year Futurewise hosted a series of summits in response to issues that neighborhoods around the city have been bringing up. Neighborhood leaders and neighborhood council chairs were invited to bring their ideas for policy changes that will make things more fair for neighborhoods to two summit meetings.

The meetings were well attended and it seems that current city council members are interested in the effort. At the beginning of our second meeting we had a quorum of council members present. We had to ask that one of them leave. Our goal was to choose one issue and reform it by the end of the year. The issue that rose to the top was neighborhood notification and neighborhood standing in land use, permitting and environmental processes. Futurewise worked with a sub committee of summit attendees to articulate the exact
changes that neighborhoods need. We are now working with Council President Ben Stuckart and city staff to determine what codes, policies and procedures need to change to give neighborhoods sound footing in important decisions that directly affect them. Whether I become a council member or not, we will bring forward a package of ordinances clarifying notification requirements and neighborhood
standing late this year.

3. Explain your political philosophy.

I think any good public servant evolves with their community, and being open-minded, inclusive and remembering to take the big picture long view is how to evolve.

Several years ago I heard the following at a Rotary Club meeting I was speaking at: Developing acquaintances is an opportunity for service; Maintain high ethical standards; Recognize the worthiness of all useful occupations; Apply the ideal of service in personal, business, and community life; Work to advance understanding and goodwill. It really stood out to me. I try to use a variation of their four way test when I consider information, positions, viewpoints and courses of action: Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and a better community? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

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

The council is the policy-making body for the city responsible for making decisions about which direction the city is going, creating the budget that balances residents’ demand for city services with available revenues and abilities to pay, creating and funding programs, etc. The council acts on behalf of all residents to promote the good of the entire community. A council member acts on behalf of the
constituents of their district for the good of the entire community.  The council is obligated to achieve the greatest good for the greatest number of people within the community in all its decisions while protecting the rights of individual people.

Individual city council members play an important role in the community. In addition to serving on boards, committees, and commissions, listening to and trying to resolve residents’ concerns they need to be responsive, fair, problem solvers who act in the best interests of the community, and be knowledgeable about community activities. To be effective they need to stay current and gather information from community members, experts and other communities to learn best practices and get exposure to great ideas. A council member has to be able to work with other jurisdictions to plan for the future and find solutions to problems. Council members must be ready to learn about new ideas and situations that require them to stretch their existing knowledge and skill levels.

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?

I think we have reason to be hopeful. We still have the bulk of the reform work before us. Change didn’t and can’t just come from within the Spokane Police Department. The Otto Zehm tragedy was the last straw that forced long overdue reforms. It seems like we are still in an “us versus them” pattern. Officer Thompson’s conviction and the settlement of the civil case got the ball rolling, starting with the crisis intervention training that the settlement called for and a police ombudsman with independent investigative powers that voters called for. Our community is still waiting for some of the recommendations from the Mayor’s Use of Force Commission to be addressed. It remains unclear whether the process our Ombudsman and a person with a serious unresolved complaint has to go through to get an independent investigation is too long and unwieldy to be effective. And we have yet to see how or if the nearly formed Ombudsman Commission will help achieve more independent oversight.

Now the SPD is moving forward with body cameras, and combined with other reforms, this could have excellent results, but the creation of the pilot program has to be a transparent process. The public needs to understand exactly how it will be used to make us safer and hold our police more accountable. This fall the U.S. Department of Justice should be finished with their federal review. I hope that having that last piece from the Otto Zehm case fall into place will be helpful for current reform efforts and point the way forward. But we also need to address the root causes of problems in our community to make a difference over the long term. For example, it is progress that our police have all had crisis intervention training and can identify when they are dealing with someone in need of mental health care, but the beds in our psychiatric hospitals remain full, and psychiatric boarding in ER’s has been problematic and may be unlawful. Our police need someplace other than jail to take people. I think our city’s community court and the county’s drug, mental health and veteran’s courts are good programs that we can expand on for connecting non violent offenders to services, but we also need to make sure the providers of those vital services have adequate resources and capacity.

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

The Integrated Clean Water Plan does not address every water quality issue on the Spokane River -- it’s not meant to. I think the process of developing Spokane’s Integrated Clean Water Plan was very good. It brought together the Spokane Tribe, environmental organizations, and the multi-stakeholder Toxics Task Force to develop a very innovative plan to address the impacts of both combined sewer overflows which discharge raw sewage into our river during rainstorms and non sewered storm water runoff. Studies have shown that these discharges are the largest source of toxic PCBs into the Spokane River. The plan addresses this impact in a manner that is cost effective to all of us who pay sewer bills, while ensuring that the City is meeting both its legal obligations and its obligation to the community to ensure that we have a healthy Spokane River.

The City is counting on $60 million in state funds to ensure that this Plan is implemented. We will find out if it does enough to prevent toxics from entering the river as more of it is put into place, and the city will have to adjust accordingly. I will do all I can to work with the Mayor, members of the Legislature, and others to ensure that the City receives the commitment of funding from the State to move forward with the Plan.

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?

Yes, though the tactic has its critics who call it heavy handed, the Pedestrian Plan is an important part of putting the TBD fund to work. The TBD fund allocates 10% to sidewalk infill. It is difficult to prioritize where that sidewalk infill will go if we don’t finish the pedestrian master plan. I think it is very reasonable to expect it to be finished by the two year sunset. I was on the citizens advisory committee for the plan and it was nearly finished before it was stalled and rolled into a larger planning process which has also stalled (let me know if you would like more background).

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?

Funding for Spokane’s integrated clean water plan.

Vesting reform that ensures that land use changes that are out of compliance with the GMA don’t go into effect while they are being appealed or found to be out of compliance. A reform bill passed out of committee in the house last year but failed, largely because it was seen as a Spokane issue. That is not right.

Bring the state food assistance program benefits back up to 100% equivalent with federal assistance program. (In recent years it was cut to 50% and is now at 75%.) This will help legally residing immigrants like our local Marshallese community of roughly 2,000 people keep food on the table.

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

That’s a lot of pressure to put solely on the mayor. Winning funding for Spokane is a big tent effort with several stakeholders that play a part. Any one person has a small part to play even in the design of the projects -- and wouldn’t it be nice if all that mattered were the merits of the project? In the system we have there is only so much that can be done by local leaders to influence our state and federal decision makers. Transportation and infrastructure maintenance and investment should not be a partisan issue, but partisan politics are holding us back. In addition to great project proposals, public support and great advocacy efforts, we need our local legislators and members of congress to be advocates for Spokane’s transportation and infrastructure projects. We need leaders who will to work toward real solutions to our state’s transportation revenue problem, and work to break the gridlock in congress to avoid another temporary reauthorization of the outdated Federal Surface Transportation Program.

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

Spokane’s parking meters raise revenue for a very limited number of things such as parking enforcement and downtown streetscaping, they do not raise revenue for the city’s general budget. The purpose of the meters is to provide short term parking for downtown businesses. Limiting the time that people can occupy on street parking spaces ensures that downtown businesses have adequate parking for customer turnover available during business hours. There are more than 9,000 off street parking spaces available in downtown. People seeking a good deal on parking have several options. There are also park and ride and arena park and shuttle programs for downtown commuters.
11. What's the most underutilized revenue source in Spokane?

I don’t have enough information answer that question definitively, but we have a formidable amount of vacant land and buildings in our city that are not living up to their potential and capturing value for the property owners or the community. If these properties were to be developed as zoned they would create jobs, generate sales tax, and generate more property tax revenue.

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

That depends on who his opponents are.

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

We have wasted too many resources ineffectively enforcing laws against marijuana use and distribution. I support the decriminalization of marijuana. We are still in a gray area about whether it is legal given the federal law. I would also support the decriminalization of marijuana on the federal level. For now, in Washington, the Liquor Control Board did its best to develop policies and procedures to make the law that ended up on the books somewhat viable, but I think most people agree that it will need some reworking after we see how this plays out over a few years.

14. Council President Ben Stuckart has made clear that he wants the appointed council member to be reelected. 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?

My plan is to make city council my full time job, work hard to get as much as possible done for my constituents and our community, and to get out there and interact with people in my district as much as possible during the remainder of this term.

More to the point though, as a former constituent of hers I observed that Nancy McLaughlin diligently got around and talked to everyone, not just her conservative base. She has an uncanny memory for names, faces and details. That and her constant familiar presence made her very likable. I will take a page from her and create as many opportunities to meet with constituents and go to constituents as possible. Neighborhood councils, churches, clubs, community centers, whoever will have me, I will visit them and listen.

I will adjust my priorities and strategies to reflect those of my district as they develop. District 3 has quite a bit of diversity, West Central, for example looks nothing like Five Mile either visually or demographically. I have to get to know every one of the neighborhoods in my district, connect the dots and balance their needs. In my work at Futurewise I have spoken to several of the neighborhood councils in my district and I can already say that we all want to live in a city with safe neighborhoods, good infrastructure, good schools and affordable taxes and utility bills. I can think of no reason why we can’t achieve those things.

Of course Ben Stuckart and Candace Mumm also won my district. But no matter what, my parents live in my district, so I can count on at least two votes!

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.

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