Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward is running for re-election.
Woodward, 60, announced Tuesday she will run in the November 2023 election for another four-year term. She first took office in 2020 just a few months before COVID-19 arrived in Spokane, forcing her to shift many priorities toward the city’s pandemic response amid statewide restrictions.
“It’s hard to do all of the things you want to accomplish in one term without a global health pandemic,” she said Tuesday. “We’ve got great momentum in the first two and a half years.”
Woodward, a former TV anchor, won in her first run for public office in 2019 against former City Council President Ben Stuckart.
Several of Woodward’s accomplishments over her first term have centered on public safety.
She relocated the Spokane Police Department’s downtown precinct to a more central location, collaborating with the Spokane City Council to fulfill one of her campaign pledges. More recently, Woodward opened a new police precinct at the former East Side Library to more mixed reviews as members of the City Council and the community have expressed consternation over how the precinct was sited without council approval or, in their eyes, sufficient public input.
Woodward also established a new Violent Crime Task Force earlier this year with the Spokane Police Department to help address increases in violent crime rates by targeting repeat offenders. The city is also embroiled in initiatives aimed at curbing the presence and abuse of fentanyl in Spokane County, a region regarded by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration as a crisis area for local drug crimes.
Woodward said she supports increasing police staffing to levels Spokane police leaders have expressed are sorely needed.
Earlier this month at a meeting of the City Council’s Public Safety and Community Health Committee, Spokane Police Chief Craig Meidl cited FBI data that reports the national average of sworn officers per capita is 2.4 per 1,000 inhabitants. Spokane is just more than 1.5; others in the department have said the situation creates unsafe working conditions, poor morale and critically low staffing levels, Meidl said.
Just getting halfway to that 2.4 figure would take more than 70 additional officers, Meidl said – reinforcements that Woodward said she supports.
“I really want to build on that momentum in my second term to build on public safety, and that means I fully support staffing up our police department to the level it should be,” Woodward said. “That’s going to take several years to be able to accomplish.”
Beyond public safety, Woodward said other priorities include improved housing affordability and accessibility, regionalizing efforts to address homelessness and increased access to mental health services.
Woodward touted how she endorsed using $3 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funding awarded to Spokane toward youth intervention and behavioral health resources. The funding was included in the spending plan approved by the City Council in March for a $12.1 million portion of the $81 million in federal COVID relief funds awarded to the city.
The mayor also formed a mental health task force that met for the first time in March. Formed of around three dozen health care, education, youth services and government officials from across the region, the group’s goals include removing stigmas associated with mental health care, assessing the region’s levels of need and spreading awareness for available programs and resources.
With housing, the mayor announced a housing emergency in July 2021 around the same time the City Council adopted a Housing Action Plan. Woodward’s administration and the City Council worked in step to address some of the housing plan’s action items by implementing a one-year interim zoning ordinance to allow duplexes, triplexes, quadplexes and townhomes in all residential zones citywide.
Woodward said she wants to see the city set a goal for creating a certain number of housing units per year.
“Even though we’ve had some challenges with the council, the fact that we worked together and by a 7-0 vote approved the interim zoning for housing is huge,” she said. “We were able to do things other cities have not been able to do, and I hope to keep that momentum going.”
The city has committed to working with Catholic Charities of Eastern Washington to relocate House of Charity to a larger location outside of downtown Spokane, an effort regarded as “House of Charity 2.0.” Woodward announced the effort during her State of the City address in April.
It was Woodward’s administration, meanwhile, that identified the East Trent Avenue warehouse that officials are working to open as a new 150- to 250-bed homeless shelter sometime next month. The warehouse emerged as an option after previous attempts to locate a new shelter never gained momentum due to sharp community pushback.
Woodward said her priorities moving forward will include establishing a “regional homeless authority,” similar to models in other cities, so “the city isn’t doing all of the work on addressing homelessness for the entire region.”
“Working together, we have delivered tremendous outcomes in a short time,” Woodward said in a statement announcing her re-election run. “We established impactful partnerships because we have sought collaboration, listened and stayed steadfast in our commitment to delivering what the community expects.
Public Disclosure Commission records show Woodward and comedian Deece Casillas are the only two mayoral candidates filed to date.
“I am excited about the momentum we have gained in these first two and a half years,” she continued, “and look forward to continuing our work on behalf of all of Spokane.”
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