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Kate Burke won’t seek second term on Spokane City Council

UPDATED: Thu., Feb. 11, 2021

Spokane City Councilwoman Kate Burke speaks during a Vigil For Gun Violence organized by her, Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action outside of City Hall on Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019. High school speakers and adults alike referenced mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, and called for legislative action meant to prevent future public tragedies.  (Libby Kamrowski/The Spokesman-Review)
Spokane City Councilwoman Kate Burke speaks during a Vigil For Gun Violence organized by her, Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action outside of City Hall on Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019. High school speakers and adults alike referenced mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, and called for legislative action meant to prevent future public tragedies. (Libby Kamrowski/The Spokesman-Review)

Spokane City Councilwoman Kate Burke won’t seek a second term on the Spokane City Council.

Burke, a stalwart progressive, was elected to a four-year term representing the city’s northeast district in 2017.

In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Burke wrote that she is “grateful for the opportunity to serve during this pivotal time in our city’s history and firmly believe our work has positively contributed to a brighter future.”

“I am also confident that I can most effectively contribute to this work by making space for others,” Burke wrote.

Burke’s departure leaves the race for her seat in November wide open.

The only other candidate to register with the state Public Disclosure Commission for District 1, Position 2 is Jonathan Bingle, an entrepreneur who unsuccessfully ran for mayor in 2019.

Burke declined an interview request from The Spokesman-Review on Thursday.

Spokane City Council President Breean Beggs compared Burke to Deanna Troi, the ultraempathetic Star Trek character.

“She raised her voice always, even against lots of opposition, to stand up and speak up for all people,” Beggs said.

At the same time, Burke welcomed opposing views.

“She, more than a lot of council members, was willing to engage and discuss with even our most vocal critics,” Beggs said.

Councilwoman Karen Stratton said she was sorry to see the announcement from Burke, who brought “some energy and some drive to City Council that we didn’t have before.”

“I understand how complicated this career path is, but I think when she’s ready she will be back,” Stratton said.

During her time in office, Burke has been widely viewed as the most progressive on a City Council with a consistent majority that is politically left-of-center.

She has been a regular and vocal critic of the city’s response to homelessness, particularly its enforcement of laws prohibiting camping on public property and sitting or lying on downtown sidewalks during the daytime.

In 2018, she joined other activists who chained themselves together in front of “Camp Hope,” an encampment erected in front of Spokane City Hall in protest of the city’s camping and sit-lie laws.

Last year, she shepherded the narrow passage of a new law that will prohibit the use of “Mosquito” devices, which emit a shrill noise intended to disperse young people and the homeless from public spaces.

She introduced a bill in 2019 to effectively eliminate the city utility bills charged to homeless shelter providers, but the proposal was ultimately shelved.

As a member of the Spokane Transit Authority board, Burke also has been an advocate for increasing access to public transit and eliminating bus fares.

She clashed, at times, with other members of the City Council, including former Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart.

In 2018, she asked the city’s human resources department to investigate if Stuckart had bullied her from the dais.

Burke also sought to increase participation in government, regularly supporting public input in the council’s legislative process and working toward that goal with fellow northeast Councilman Michael Cathcart.

“I’m very grateful that despite our sometimes strong policy disagreements, we have always been able to discuss big ideas, work collaboratively, and always respectfully with one another,” Cathcart wrote in a comment on Burke’s Facebook announcement.

Last year, Burke also supported the creation of the city’s Flag Commission, which is reviewing proposals for the first new city flag in more than 40 years.

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