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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Shawn Vestal: It seems likely City Council will keep its liberal majority

In the wake of last week’s primary election, there is a much more interesting question than whether Mayor David Condon will hang on for a second term. Will the City Council’s liberal, veto-proof supermajority stand? Or will it be demoted to a simple majority? Or will it be bolstered even further, to a “super-duper” majority?

Spokane City Council toughens penalties for wage law violations

Low-wage workers got a break Monday night, and maybe some overdue overtime pay, when the Spokane City Council stiffened penalties for businesses that violate wage laws. Council members backed the proposal on a 6-1 vote, with only Councilman Mike Fagan dissenting. The new law will make it a misdemeanor for employers to violate wage laws and allow the city to deny or revoke business licenses from workplaces violating minimum wage, overtime and other compensation rules.

Spokane City Council requires two firefighters on calls for help

At least two firefighters must respond to a call for help, the Spokane City Council decided Monday in a surprise decision that not even the fire chief was briefed on until just prior to the vote. The requirement raises questions about the future of the city’s “Alternative Response Units,” which were formed in 2013 in response to long-standing concerns that the department was over-responding to minor medical emergencies with multiple firefighters in gas-guzzling firetrucks. Fire officials had long argued that they needed to be in firetrucks so they would be ready for any call. But they said that position shifted with the increasing load of medical calls and budget crunches.

Workers Bill of Rights proposal qualifies for Spokane ballot

Enough signatures have been collected in Spokane to put a proposed Workers Bill of Rights charter amendment on this November’s ballot. If passed, the newest measure put forth by Envision Spokane would amend the city charter to require large employers to pay workers a “family wage,” ensure equal pay for equal work regardless of gender or race, and make it more difficult to terminate workers. The measure would make the rights of a corporation secondary to people’s rights.

Spokane City Council sends immigration initiative to county for verification

Upward of 200 people converged on Spokane City Hall Monday night to voice both support and concern with a police department policy that says the immigration status of an individual “shall not be the sole basis for a contact, detention or arrest.” The policy, which has been on the books for a decade and was  reaffirmed by the Spokane City Council last fall in a city ordinance, has come under attack by people who argue it turns Spokane into a “sanctuary city” and encourages lawlessness. Detractors have gathered signatures to place a repeal of the immigration law on an upcoming ballot.

Political balance before Spokane voters

For the past year, the debate at Spokane City Hall often has devolved into two camps, the mayor versus the City Council. Or, more directly, David Condon versus Ben Stuckart. It’s true that Mayor Condon, who hails from Republican circles, doesn’t always agree with the City Council, which has held a left-leaning, veto-proof voting bloc since last summer. And it’s true that at times Condon and Council President Stuckart have entered into public political fisticuffs over issues including how much Condon’s inner circle at City Hall should be paid and an informal handshake deal between Condon and hotelier Walt Worthy to use city funds to pay for environmental cleanup.

City to use utilities funds for street projects

The city of Spokane owns about 45 percent of the property within its borders, including parks, plants, lots and government buildings. And more than half of the land it owns – about 11,000 acres – is streets, sidewalks and alleyways.

Dolezal ousted from ombudsman commission

Rachel Dolezal, the embattled former leader of Spokane’s NAACP branch, was removed this afternoon from the city’s police ombudsman commission.

Three members of police oversight panel, including Rachel Dolezal, asked to resign

Spokane’s independent police oversight panel is in turmoil. Three of its five members, including former Spokane NAACP president Rachel Dolezal, likely will be removed by the City Council if they don’t immediately resign following an investigation that found multiple instances of misconduct including records tampering, disclosure of sensitive information, demeaning treatment of city employees and attempted overstepping of their authority.

Spokane looks to relax parking rules for neighborhood businesses

There’s a house across the street from Wisconsinburger. And kitty-corner to it. And behind it. The restaurant – known for its wide selection of mustards and deep-fried cheese curds – is ensconced in its East Central neighborhood.

Shawn Vestal: Pot peeks out of closet as revenue fills coffers

Less than a year after marijuana became available in stores, it is no exaggeration to say that it’s booming. Each new month brings increased sales and tax revenues. Marijuana bucks have already become a key element in state budget negotiations. Hundreds of licenses have been issued to retailers, growers and processors.

Spokane forming incentive program for developers

Seeking to quell any more criticism over the handling of city money going toward the Davenport Grand Hotel, Spokane Mayor David Condon and City Council President Ben Stuckart announced Monday the creation of a program that would offer city incentives to developers in a “uniform and transparent way.” Condon noted that discussion for such a program has been happening at the city for a couple of years, but the issue came to the fore when the City Council pushed back against Condon’s informal agreement in 2013 offering Walt Worthy up to $2 million for environmental cleanup at his new hotel. Earlier this year, Worthy asked for $318,000 for pollution mitigation.

City Council will discuss River Park Square expansion plan

A plan that would effectively expand River Park Square needs more than brick and mortar. It needs city property. Centennial Real Estate Investments, a sister company of River Park Square, announced earlier this year that it hopes to tear down a building it owns adjacent to River Park Square to build a new structure that would house Urban Outfitters. The plan calls for the city to vacate 17 feet of city right-of-way along Wall Street to allow for a larger store.

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

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 Sprag

Spokane City Council approves buying land for bridge

Supporters call it iconic and necessary, detractors use terms unfit for print, but the University District bicycle and pedestrian bridge inched closer to construction Monday as the Spokane City Council approved spending nearly $1.7 million to purchase 20 parcels of land. With the land acquisition, city and university district officials now wait for the state Legislature to make a decision on the final $8.8 million needed to build a 120-foot-tall cable-stayed arch bridge.

City Council creates panel to craft paid sick leave legislation

Requiring employers in Spokane to provide workers paid sick leave took another step forward this week. 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.

Protesters call for $15 minimum wage

Marchers took to the streets of the nation’s cities Wednesday evening in support of a $15 an hour minimum wage, following a similar if much smaller rally in Spokane earlier in the day. About 25 people gathered outside of the Fred Meyer store in the East Central Neighborhood of Spokane at 9 a.m. The rally lasted just a few minutes before demonstrators boarded a Seattle-bound bus, where people from around the state gathered for a larger protest.

Condon pushes for vote on salary

The issue of how much Spokane’s top elected official should be paid was revived Monday by Mayor David Condon, who challenged the City Council to “look to solutions rather than just the problem.” Condon called on the City Council to put a measure on the “next available ballot” asking voters to approve a plan to have the city’s Salary Review Commission set the mayor’s pay. The commission currently determines compensation for City Council members and Municipal Court judges.

Spokane City Council hires Brian McClatchey as legal adviser

An ally of Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart has been chosen to replace city attorney Mike Piccolo as the council’s legal adviser, a move designed to assert the council’s independence from Mayor David Condon’s administration. Brian McClatchey, a local attorney with ties to regional tribes and experience on the city’s Plan Commission, was picked by a unanimous vote of council members Thursday afternoon.

Sen. Maria Cantwell promotes oil train safety bill

With trains rumbling on the BNSF viaduct behind her and flanked by uniformed Spokane firefighters, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Washington, called for greater federal oversight and stricter regulations for the nation’s railways carrying crude oil. Cantwell – who was joined by Spokane Mayor David Condon, Council President Ben Stuckart, Fire Chief Bobby Williams and Spokane Valley Deputy Chief of Operations Andy Hail – stood in front of Spokane Fire Station No. 4 and said Spokane had a particular interest in oil train safety but was not unique in its concern.