After outcry from dispatchers and the city’s firefighters union, the Spokane City Council overrode the mayor’s veto and blocked the city’s participation in a planned regionwide 911 integration that critics say may not improve public safety.
Mayor David Condon called the council’s earlier unanimous vote to require city dispatchers to only work with city police and firefighters an overstep. It would not allow them to join the new Spokane Regional Emergency Communications center.
The regional commications center would combine county emergency communications, Crime Check, Sheriff’s Office dispatchers and radio employees with city and fire dispatchers into a new center with a governing board made up of local public safety employees and administrators. The new system was set to go live next year.
Condon said the council did not have the authority to regulate or manage employees. And regardless of the outcome of an override vote, he still planned to continue to work toward 911 integration.
In a letter accompanying his veto, he acknowledged that the new center has not yet released financial information, but said he anticipates integrating emergency communications with the county would save money, improve call capacity and the data gathered through Crime Check.
During Monday’s meeting, every council member except Lori Kinnear, who was absent, voted to override the mayor’s veto. Council members, including President Ben Stuckart, said the mayor’s office has not shared information about how 911 integration would improve service and save money.
Councilwoman Karen Stratton said the city had received numerous emails from employees and members asking for the council to override the mayor’s veto.
She said the mayor’s office was ignoring both the employees’ and the council’s concerns.
“The biggest thing I’ve learned from those emails is this administration has completely ignored employees with 15- or 20-plus years of experience,” she said. “At some point, we need to stop and look at these employees and learn from them and listen to them.”
Randy Marler, president of the Spokane Firefighters Union, which represents about 300 fire employees for the city of Spokane and Spokane International Airport, penned a critical letter to the mayor’s office outlining how employees were excluded.
He called the lack of public financial information and data “perplexing” and asked the mayor to slow down the integration process to make sure it makes sense.
In an interview earlier this month, the director for the new system, Steve Reinke, said he hoped the council still would be open to integrating once members received a complete financial report.
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