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

Breean Beggs: Strong, well-resourced City Council is working hard for Spokane

By Breean Beggs Spokane City Council

The city of Spokane is moving forward with a new spirit of collaboration and policies based on data and robust input from its neighborhoods, businesses and community leaders.

In the face of a national pandemic and recession over the last year, Spokane has maintained robust budget reserves, increased street maintenance, lowered crime rates, attracted major new employers and construction investment, and continued to be the City of Choice in our region.

Much of Spokane’s success in 2020 was built on the City Council’s adopted 2019 budget, which used unallocated taxpayer dollars more efficiently to employ new policy experts to support the council in researching, creating and implementing better public policy. This budget-neutral move allowed the council to get improved information. With better information, we created better public policy, and that means better results for the people of Spokane.

In November 1999, the voters amended the City Charter and established two branches of our city government: the mayor as chief executive, and the City Council as the legislative and policy-making branch. Under this voter-approved framework, the City Council makes policy, approves budgets and provides oversight, while the mayor is responsible for implementing those policies within budget constraints. It is a classic example of checks and balances, and if done correctly, results in a more responsive, transparent and collaborative local government. This works even better when the council and mayor establish a positive working relationship, which we did in 2020.

Because council members are elected by district, they are closer to the voters and better suited for communicating with residents and businesses on how policies impact everyday people. Having policy experts on staff and a better communication infrastructure supports the City Council in being even more efficient and effective and ensures that we are making policy to improve life in neighborhoods, the business climate, our transportation network and the city’s overall resiliency.

A strong, well-resourced City Council also enhances the effectiveness of the mayor’s operational staff, without duplication. For example, working with the administration in 2020, the City Council fully funded the city’s reserve accounts (replenishing our “rainy-day fund”) and celebrated the highest annual new construction valuation in city history – $585 million. Council staff secured millions in new grants, developed a comprehensive sustainability plan, helped create a new source of funding for affordable housing, and brought home an unprecedented level of financial support from the Legislature for the city and the region. Having a full City Council office has also enabled Spokane to be a leader in policymaking statewide and have a greater impact on what happens in Olympia. A rubber-stamp council wouldn’t have been able to deliver this much for Spokane. Voters look to the City Council to make things happen that improve the lives of everyone in our region, and we are hard at work.

It’s been years since City Council members have had a raise, but adding policy staff at no extra cost to the overall budget empowered the council to fulfill the will of the voters when they approved the mayor-council form of government two decades ago and their continued reaffirmation when they choose new council members every two years.

The City Council recently published a summary of its 2020 accomplishments and the goals we hope to attain in the first 100 days of 2021. We put it on our website for anyone to review at

The City Council’s innovative policy methods, always informed by Spokane values, are propelling Spokane to a brighter future shared by all. Spokane is the second-largest city in Washington and is often leading state policy discussions with our values instead of reacting to policies from outside our region. The Spokane City Council remains committed to further progress by listening to our community, collaborating with our mayor and her staff, and remembering “We all do better when we all do better.”

Breean Beggs is president of the Spokane City Council.