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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Condon’s final days as mayor marked by clashes with City Council over homeless shelter, division of power

The Downtown Spokane Partnership will honor former Spokane Mayor David Condon and three others during its annual meeting Thursday. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)

As many of his signature initiatives came to fruition or were shelved, Mayor David Condon’s final six months in office were marked by routine and pointed conflict with the Spokane City Council and enduring struggle to provide shelter to the homeless.

With little warning, and after months of fruitless searching for a solution, the proposal dropped on July 1.

In a request to the City Council, Condon’s administration called for the city to purchase the former Grocery Outlet property at the corner of Sprague Avenue and Havana Street. The City Council approved a down payment on the property and sensed it had potential, but the public backlash was almost immediate.

Ultimately, the city failed to win the funding support of its envisioned partners in Spokane County and Spokane Valley. The outcry from the planned shelter’s neighborhoods, including a nonprofit that serves disabled adults, was too sharp to overcome. Condon’s administration dropped the plans.

But by September, the weather began to turn cold, and the city had yet to introduce a Plan B. The angst among homeless individuals, their advocates and service providers was palpable.

Facing regular criticism from city residents at its meetings, the City Council held a news conference in September to announce a new resolution that called on the mayor to present a plan. Whatever it entailed, the council promised to fund it.

Reporters were wrangled by the mayor’s staff to his office, where he held a news conference of his own, lashing out against the City Council for what he described as “political theater.”

Ultimately, the two parties would find a solution in purchasing a new warming center on South Cannon Street, but the dueling news conferences were a harbinger of conflict to come.

In December, the two branches of government clashed again when the City Council unveiled a series of revisions to the mayor’s proposed $1.1 billion budget for 2020. The council’s plan redirected funds to expand its own office, adding several policy analysts and a spokesperson.

The council announced its plans in a news conference and, as had happened two months before, the mayor called one of his own.

Ultimately, the council adopted a veto-proof budget and got its way.

As he prepared to leave office, Condon chose one final fight: to protect the strong authority of his office and limit the size of government, much as he had pledged when he was elected eight years ago.

Adam Shanks has been the City Hall reporter since he joined the newspaper in summer 2019.