Every year, the Spokane City Council members get to change their roles on various boards and committees at the city and around the region. Unless there's a big change on the council with new members, things usually don't change much.
This is one of those in-between years. There was no election, but the resignation of Steve Salvatori and the subsequent appointment of Karen Stratton solidified the liberal majority on the council to veto-proof status.
Most of the committee appointments proposed by Council President Ben Stuckart don't change much, with one exception: the board of the Spokane Transit Authority.
If the council approves the changes next month, Councilman Mike Allen will be taken off STA's board, and replaced by Karen Stratton.
This swap is of note for a couple of reasons. First, it's not the first time STA has had revolving members due to the political leaning of the City Council. In 2010, after the council shifted to the left, Nancy McLaughlin was stripped of her seats on the STA board and the Spokane Regional Transportation Commission in favor of Councilman Jon Snyder. A year later, after the dynamics of the council shifted slightly right, Snyder was stripped of his STA seat in favor of McLaughlin. When McLaughlin left the council due to term limits, Allen got the seat. Now, with the music of 2014 ending, Stratton gets the seat first and Allen is left standing.
Allen's mentioned to me that he's not too worried about the change, noting that it's politics as usual for committee memberships.In 2012, council's new, more conservative majority flexed its muscle in its first meeting of the year when it voted 4-2 to strip an automaticappointment of the Spokane City Council president to the Spokane Airport Board. At the beginning of 2014, the council unanimously approved allowing the council president to assign board and committee duties.
Second, the makeup of the STA board is notable because of an upcoming April vote to fund the agency's Moving Forward plan. Voters will decide if sales tax should be increased by 0.3 percent to fund a plan that would extend hours and expand service to new areas, as well as fund a trolley-like fixed route between Browne's Addition and Spokane Community College. While the board vote to send the measure to county voters wasn't really close, and Allen voted in its favor, he did speak critically of a lack of "accountability" in the plan and convinced the board to retire the tax increase after ten years. In related matters, STA's downtown transit plaza has been the focus of ire for powerful downtown interests, and the agency will likely face more push-back as it begins its $4.95 million renovation to the building.
Stratton will sit on the board with Council women Candace Mumm and Amber Waldref, who both sit on the board already. A three-person bloc of like-minded, pro-transit members on the STA board is no small gesture from the council.