The only conservative serving on the Spokane City Council announced Tuesday that he will make a bid to lead it.
Spokane City Councilman Mike Fagan, who is finishing his second term representing northeast Spokane, said he will run for Spokane City Council president.
His entry will provide voters clear choices on different ends of the political spectrum. Fagan is a prominent anti-tax activist who has questioned the likelihood that human activity is a significant factor in global warning as well as the benefits of vaccines.
Fagan’s likely top competition for the job is City Councilman Breean Beggs, a civil rights attorney who is a leader in opposing oil trains and a critic of Border Patrol activity at the city’s Intermodel Center.
The City Council president’s seat is the only one on the council to be elected citywide and is held by Ben Stuckart, who is running for mayor.
Fagan said he hoped to refocus the council’s efforts on what he sees as the city’s biggest issues – solving property crime, fixing streets and homelessness – instead of spending time on immigration issues or environmental legislation.
Fagan has opposed the majority liberal City Council on several issues, such as keeping immigration enforcement out of the Intermodal Center, where law enforcement boards buses and questions bus riders about their immigration status.
Fagan linked undocumented immigration to drugs and said U.S. Border Patrol agents should be able to do their job.
He also has sided with the mayor against the city’s sustainability law, which will require the city to use renewable energy and reduce carbon emissions by 2030.
He said constituents in his council district, or citywide, are likely more concerned about streets and finding long-term solutions to reduce property crime, than social issues.
“Social justice issues are important, hearing from all your constituents is important,” Fagan said. “But I don’t think that the social justice issues that we’ve had occasion to hear up until this particular point in time deserved the amount of priority and attention that they had been given.”
He said the city also has responded to the growing visibility of homelessness in Spokane by “shooting from the hip” and spending millions of dollars on things like warming centers, yet hasn’t equipped police officers to address the issue, leaving them demoralized.
Fagan also says the city’s plan to purchase one or more buildings for a 24/7 shelter should include behavioral health or other services on-site to ensure people have easy access to assistance that may help them get out of homelessness. He said homeless activists who regularly testify at City Hall have repeatedly asked for more services without the expectation that people staying in shelters work to change their own circumstances.
“I’m compassionate, I am kind, I have taken in the homeless,” he said. “At the end of the day, I have no problem doing that as long as I am assured of getting something in return. That would be just a simple commitment that you are going to do what you can to change your condition, to change your life.”
Fagan, an Army veteran, co-hosts a conservative radio show and has worked with anti-tax activist Tim Eyman to launch several statewide initiatives.
He was a longtime neighborhood leader when he first won his seat on the council in 2011. He was re-elected in 2015, taking 54 percent of the vote against Randy Ramos.
Besides Beggs, Fagan is expected to face former Spokane NAACP leader Phillip Tyler, who has been accused of domestic violence by multiple ex-wives. Tyler has denied abusing women. Tyler announced he was running in November and said he was encouraged by the many Democrats who won seats in the midterm elections and hoped to bring different parties together.
Tyler could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
Beggs said he was looking forward to running a campaign against several candidates, but he believed most of Spokane shared his values toward criminal justice and the need for affordable housing.
“I’m a big believer in voters having choices,” he said. “So three people is good, we all have different approaches. But I believe I’m the most qualified to bring the city and council together.”
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