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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Council Likes Gang Prosecution Plan County Does Too, But Must Wait Until Incorporation Decided

Months ago, he struck out with the Spokane County commissioners.

Monday night, he got a hit off the City Council with the same pitch.

Prosecutor Jim Sweetser moved a little closer to plans for a gang prosecution team when the council unanimously agreed to donate legal services to the county.

Sweetser is trying to form a special unit that would work with police and sheriff’s deputies of the city-county drug and gang task force.

Linking enforcement and prosecution tells gang members “we all speak with one voice, that gang activity and gang violence will not be tolerated in Spokane,” Sweetser said.

Commissioners have told Sweetser they love the idea but just can’t afford it.

“I have to tell you the commissioners just aren’t in a position to contribute the funds necessary,” said Commissioner Skip Chilberg.

All three commissioners joined the council for the special meeting about the proposed prosecution team.

Council members agreed to donate $10,000 worth of legal services - in effect freeing up money for gang prosecutions.

Under the proposal, legal aid comes in the form of city attorneys representing police officers and deputies jointly involved in civil suits.

The city uses its own attorneys to defend officers, but the county hires outside legal help. Instead of having two attorneys fight the same case, a city attorney would represent the deputy, too.

The plan shares resources, saving taxpayers’ money, said City Attorney James Sloane.

Commissioners applauded the council’s efforts, saying they’d like to follow along. But with a vote on Spokane Valley incorporation less than a month away, they can’t promise Sweetser money that soon might not be there.

Valley incorporation would reduce county revenues by 25 percent, said Chilberg.

“It would be irresponsible to commit any more money until the issue of Valley incorporation is decided,” he said.

Commissioners promised that no matter the outcome, once incorporation was settled they would reconsider the matter.

“We’re putting the ball in the county’s court,” said Councilman Joel Crosby. “Gangs don’t care whether the Valley incorporates.”

Also Monday, the council:

Set a hearing for May 22 on a proposed downtown and parking improvement district.

About 500 downtown business and property owners signed a petition in favor of creating the district.

The district aims to bring back about 300 parking meters and spend about $675,000 a year to attract more shoppers and maintain downtown.

More than 1,000 cities across the country have created such self-taxing districts to revitalize their downtowns, proponents say.

Opponents say it will benefit a select number of business involved in a proposed retail shopping complex on Main between Post and Lincoln.

The proposed improvement district would create three taxing areas based on their proximity to the downtown core.

If the plan is approved, the city would contribute about $200,000 each year from parking meter revenue.

Approved a short-term contract leasing the north span of the Howard Street Bridge and the north bank of the river in Riverfront park to the Spokane MarketPlace.

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