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The Condon Years

By Jonathan Brunt, Nicholas Deshais, Kip Hill, Rebecca White and Adam Shanks
The Spokesman-Review

David Condon's improbable election comeback in 2011 sparked a major shift in Spokane’s government. In his eight years as mayor, Condon pushed for major changes in nearly all departments.

DAN PELLE / WASHINGTON POST

2011

MAY 1 — Condon, his wife Kristin, and supporters walk Bloomsday wearing “Elect David Condon” T-shirts, the first public indication that Condon had decided to run.

AUG. 16 — Condon comes in a distant second in the primary, earning 34 percent of the vote, moving him to the general election against incumbent Mary Verner, who won 59 percent.

SEPT. 6 — Condon calls the city's handling of the 2006 in-custody beating death of developmentally disabled janitor Otto Zehm, who had been falsely accused of theft, "an indictment" on city government and calls for greater police oversight.

SEPT. 12 — The Spokane City Council approves higher water rates, highlight rate changes enacted at he start of 2011 that significantly increased costs for water customers who use the most water, a decision that would be highlighted by Condon in the final weeks of the campaign.

OCT. 5 — The police department’s spokeswoman announces that the department’s property crimes unit was being disbanded, citing a lack of resources. “It totally sucks for everybody in the community," she said. The decision would be another rallying cry for Condon supporters.

NOV. 2 — A federal jury in Yakima convicts Spokane Police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. of needlessly beating Zehm and then lying about it to cover up his actions.

NOV. 8 — Condon defeats Verner, 52 to 48 percent.

NOV. 15 — Condon announces that his transition will be led by Theresa Sanders, the city’s former economic development director. She becomes his city administrator six weeks later.

DEC. 30 — Condon takes oath of office on his family Bible (though he doesn’t officially become mayor until Jan. 1st in front of the Clocktower at Riverfront Park.

2012

JAN. 28 — Condon hosts his first “Our Town Gala,” a mayoral ball he uses to raise money for local charities. The first one raised about $20,000 for the Chase Youth Foundation.

MARCH 1 — Condon fires City Attorney Howard Delaney.

APRIL 16 — New City Attorney Nancy Isserlis fires Assistant City Attorney Rocky Treppiedi, who had led the city’s controversial handling of the Zehm case, fulfilling a Condon campaign promise.

APRIL 23 — Spokane City Council approves Condon’s proposal to revamp water rates, significantly lowering bills for those who use the most water.

MAY 15 — City announces it has agreed to settle a lawsuit from the Zehm family for $1.67 million. The following month Condon hand-delivers letter from the city apologizing to Ann Zehm, Otto Zehm's mother.

AUG. 22 — Condon announces that he has chosen Indianapolis’ Director of Public Safety Frank Straub as Spokane’s next police chief.

OCTOBER — Condon lays off the city’s last weights and measures employee, handing over to the state the authority to ensure gas pumps and store scales are accurate. He also lays off the city’s arts director, moving the function to a nonprofit agency.

OCT. 10 — Condon’s first budget is approved by City Council on a 4-3 vote. Facing a multimillion-dollar deficit, the budget reduced the number of city jobs by 92.

2013

FEB. 8 — In his annual State of the City speech, he pledges to make Spokane “the city of choice in the Northwest,” a phrase he would continually use throughout his administration.

FEBRUARY — Fire officials say they have been implementing changes so that large fire trucks no longer go to all medical calls, an effort to save money on gas and truck wear. The change is one Condon pushed for.

APRIL 8 — An attempt to hire more officials outside of civil service rules, the City Council creates six new departments in the Police Department and seven new departments in the Fire Department, giving Condon the ability to appoint a director and assistant director of each department. His administration later will propose similar changes in other parts of city government, sparking a battle over civil service.

AUGUST — Condon’s $600 million budget proposal would hire 25 more police officers.

NOVEMBER — City Council elections are described as an ideological battle for control of the City Council. Members of the conservative majority try to preserve their 4-3 advantage, and have backing from prominent Republicans, but liberals with backing of some high-profile Democrats prevaile and take the 4-3 edge.

2014

AUGUST — Condon revises city employment applications to no longer ask applicants about their criminal background. By “banning the box,” Spokane joins nearly 70 other cities doing the same.

OCTOBER — Condon’s budget proposal includes raises for himself and a majority of his 13 cabinet members. The pay raises are eventually stripped from the budget by council. Condon later says he would not take the $7,000 raise called for in his budget.

Condon inherits $1 million from philanthropist Myrtle Woldson, who was “another grandmother to me,” he said.

NOVEMBER — Condon supports the $64 million bond measure to renovate Riverfront Park. The same ballot has a roadwork levy. Both pass overwhelmingly.

Spokane issues its largest bond in city history. The $200 million in municipal “green” revenue bonds, which would largely be spent over the following three years in a dash to beat a federal deadline to clean up the Spokane River.

2015

JAN. 25 — Jan Quintrall, the city's director of business and development services, takes some employees to lunch at the Spokane Club on the city’s dime. She resignes three days later. Condon’s spokesman says her decision to leave city was not influenced by Condon.

APRIL — Condon calls for a vote “on the next available ballot” about how elected officials’ salaries are set, relenting to public pressure about pay raises during his administration. The measure allowing the city’s Salary Review Commission is put on the August ballot.

JULY — After the council votes to “reaffirm” a police department policy that says a person’s immigration status "shall not be the sole basis for a contact, detention or arrest," Condon says he agrees.

SEPTEMBER — Straub is forced out by the mayor following public complaints from the lieutenants and captains association, citing personal attacks, emotional outbursts, scare tactics, threats, retaliation, inappropriate language and untruthfulness. It is later revealed that Straub had been accused of sexual misconduct by the city’s police spokeswoman. Straub denies any wrongdoing, and files a $4 million claim against the city.

NOVEMBER — Condon easily defeats challenger Shar Lichty to win re-election with 63% of the vote. He becomes Spokane's first two-term mayor since 1973.

The Salary Review Commission cuts Condon’s salary by 6%.

The city withholds public records related to Straub’s removal until after the election, and releases them Thanksgiving week. They show that Condon knew of misconduct allegations against Straub in April. The revelations lead City Council President Ben Stuckart to say Condon and other city administrators “lied.” Four ethics complaints against Condon are filed before the end of the year.

DECEMBER — Condon and the council agree to hire an independent investigator to look at the Straub case.

Condon refuses to sign a city law allowing people to erase previous marijuana possession convictions because he is “uncomfortable excusing crimes that occurred when the law was in place.” It goes into effect anyway.

2016

JANUARY — Condon reorganizes city government again, with the creation of a new Public Works Division and the dissolution of the Business and Developer Services Division, which he created in 2012.

APRIL — Condon vetoes another ordinance passed by the council, this one allowing the city to use tax dollars to fund public transportation. Again, council overrides the veto - the third time in six months.

JULY 9 — Ground is broken in the Gondola Meadow for the $64.3 million renovation of Riverfront Park.

JULY 28 — A report from an independent investigator is released, finding that members of Condon’s administration withheld the release of potentially damaging records about former Police Chief Straub’s dismissal until after the 2015 election.

AUG. 2 — Condon announces Craig Meidl will lead the Spokane Police Department, after interviewing several outside candidates.

SPET. 14 — A Yakima County judge tosses the recall case against Condon filed by a local Democratic Party organizer.

NOV. 2 — Condon and Stuckart announce that the Salvation Army’s House of Charity will serve as a 24/7 homeless shelter, ending a policy that only opened warming shelters when the temperature fell to a certain point.

2017

AUGUST — Condon says he won’t sign a City Council law calling for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and recognizing climate change as human-caused, citing environmental work already done in Spokane to clean up the river and reduce energy usage.

OCTOBER — At a meeting with EPA officials in Washington, D.C., Condon discusses the likelihood of the city receiving a reprieve from pollutant runoff standards the city is struggling to meet, despite $360 million worth of improvements Spokane is making to reduce discharges to the Spokane River. Some members of the council and environmental groups cry foul.

DEC. 8 — The new ice skating ribbon in Riverfront Park opens with scores of skaters, becoming the first attraction to open in the revitalized Riverfront Park.

2018

APRIL 25 — The final outstanding ethics complaint against Condon stemming from the Straub case is dismissed by the city’s Ethics Commission.

JULY — Condon says he’s in talks to bring a minor league soccer team to Spokane if a new stadium is built on the north bank of the Spokane River. City lawmakers and the Spokane Public School's board later refuse to put the stadium on the ballot, instead opting for an advisory vote that fails.

NOV. 5 — Condon vetoes a City Council ordinance that would have blocked the city’s ability to join a combined dispatch center. That veto is one action in a months-long battle over the mayor’s ability to direct employees, and whether the city should outsource dispatch services to another organization, instead of using city employees.

2019

JANUARY — Condon says he opposes new levy to pay for firefighters and police officers with new property taxes, saying the city should spend within its means. City Council puts in on the ballot and voters approve it a month later.

JULY — Spokane Regional Emergency Communications launches without the city of Spokane as a partner. Condon, who had advocated the city join the new communications agency but was rebuffed by the City Council, utilizes it anyway for emergency communications and dispatch services.

AUG. 21 — Condon joins the call for state Rep. Matt Shea, a Republican, to resign, after allegations surface the far-right lawmaker from Spokane Valley was discussing surveillance of political opponents.

SEPT. 6 — The U.S. Pavilion, a centerpiece of the city's substantial renovations to Riverfront Park, reopens.

SEPT. 25 — Condon and the City Council hold dueling news conferences to trade blame after the latter rejected the mayor's proposal to name the Salvation Army as a homeless shelter operator.

OCT. 31 — The City Council signs off on Condon's request to buy a building on South Cannon Street for $415,000 to operate as a warming center for the upcoming winter.

Sources: Sports-Reference.com, college sports information departments