The city of Spokane will invest more in small businesses, devote police power to combating car theft and improve customer service options in 2017, Mayor David Condon said Friday in his annual State of the City address.
“We must give ourselves permission to be great,” Condon said at the Spokane Convention Center to a crowd of about 400 people attending an event sponsored by Greater Spokane Incorporated, the area’s chamber of commerce. The mayor is scheduled to deliver the address again at the Spokane City Council meeting Monday night, and the remarks were televised on City Cable Channel 5.
The city will make targeted investments out of its Community Development Block Grant fund, totaling $425,000, to assist small businesses in the community, Condon said.
The money will “build and expand commercial development in and around our neighborhood and business centers that create, retain and attract good-paying jobs directly accessible to our low- to midlevel-income residents,” the mayor said.
Jonathan Mallahan, the city’s director of neighborhood and business services, said the spending would become “a new annual investment” into small-business creation and retention, coming out of funding the city had been spending on other capital projects. No money will be taken from the federal grant dollars that are divvied up among neighborhoods, he said.
“It’s just changing how we spend federal money,” Mallahan said.
In his address, Condon also announced the creation of a new motor vehicle theft task force within the Spokane Police Department.
“Property crime dropped citywide again last year, but vehicle theft continues to be a challenge,” Condon said before announcing the new task force.
The Police Department’s weekly crime stats haven’t been updated on the city’s website since the beginning of October because of a reporting-system change, but at that point car thefts were up 22 percent in Spokane compared to the year-to-date figure from 2015. Condon said the new task force would combine the efforts of three units within the department – the Anti-Crime Team, the Targeted Crimes Unit and the Chronic Offender Unit – to “aggressively pursue prevention and prosecution of crimes related to vehicle theft.”
Condon also announced the debut of the MySpokane 3-1-1 hotline for all city services, a department that was approved as part of the budget process this year. The shift puts all requests for city services under one phone number, Condon said.
“Instead of weeding through hundreds of city numbers, all you need to know is 311,” the mayor said.
Carly Cortright, director of the program, briefed City Council members earlier this week on the change. She said her office, which employs 10 people, had already been taking the brunt of phone calls during the city’s three big snowstorms this winter.
“Our goal is to help get citizens to the right place faster,” Cortright said.
Condon took some questions from audience members after his presentation. Among the largest challenges for the city in 2017 will be finding funding to help the homeless, following the announcement of a 24/7 shelter model last year, the mayor said.
“Some of the key issues is getting our arms around the resources for those that find themselves homeless in the core of our city,” Condon said. “Making sure we have those resources to make them self-sufficient. We’re going to need the community to do that.”
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