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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Hession cuts number of top staff meetings

Appointed Spokane Mayor Dennis Hession on Tuesday told his top administrative staff he doesn’t need them to show up at his office every morning at 8 for daily briefings.

Hession, who was appointed by the City Council on Monday night to replace recalled Mayor Jim West, wasted little time in paring the daily meetings to two days a week. Under West, the “cabinet meetings” were mandatory every day for 15 top officials in city government.

Already, Hession is putting his stamp on city government. The move to cut the number of morning briefings came as no surprise to senior staffers, although some of them had argued in favor of three to four morning meetings each week instead of Hession’s new Tuesday-and-Friday schedule.

“He’s the boss,” said Fire Chief Bobby Williams.

Others appeared relieved. Marlene Feist, the city’s public affairs officer, said, “There are days, don’t get me wrong, that that extra hour will come in quite handy for me.”

During Tuesday’s briefing session, Hession was told that a planned increase in hours at five neighborhood branch libraries probably will not be implemented until early February to give the library administration time to hire and train new staff.

Branch libraries had been cut to two- and three-day schedules in 2005 as part of sweeping cuts across the city’s tax-funded services, including reductions in police and fire operations. A voter-approved increase in property taxes for 2006 included money for increased library hours.

“It’s very important to get down to doing the business of the city,” Hession said in an interview on Monday.

He said he expects to take a more aggressive approach to annexations and growth planning along the city’s boundaries. Some annexations may be achieved by enforcing agreements, known as covenants, in which property owners approve annexations in exchange for receiving city sewer or water services.

A tax-rich strip on the west side of Division Street and north of Francis Avenue could be annexed into the city under covenant agreements, a move that has drawn Hession’s support in the past.

Hession, 55, the city’s outgoing council president, is expected to serve as the city’s acting mayor until he takes his mayoral oath on Jan. 3. He will then complete the remaining two years of West’s four-year term.

West, 54, lost a December recall election, 65 percent to 35 percent.

Hession is expected to earn a salary of $143,000 a year, which matches the salary of Williams, who is the city’s highest-paid non-elected employee.

Hession declined to say how much he currently earns as a private business lawyer in Spokane, but the City Charter requires him to give up his law practice to become a full-time mayor. “I’m not going to talk about my personal finances,” he said.

West, during the recall fight last fall, sought to reduce his salary to $113,000 a year. But under the City Charter, the mayor must be paid the same as the next highest-paid employee.

Council President Pro Tem Joe Shogan took the council gavel on Monday from Hession, and will get a salary increase from $18,000 a year – the amount regular council members earn – to $40,000 a year in his current temporary job.

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