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

Does Woodward deserve 4 more years? Incumbent, Brown, Archer and McKann make their cases for Spokane mayor

Four of the five candidates running for Spokane mayor on the Aug. 1 primary ballot: incumbent Nadine Woodward, Lisa Brown, Tim Archer and Patrick McKann.

Four years ago, Nadine Woodward, then best known for her decades on Spokane-area TVs as a local news anchor, promised voters that, as mayor, she would revitalize downtown, boost public safety and tackle increasingly visible homelessness in the city.

In short, she promised to make sure Spokane didn’t “end up like Seattle.” It was a response to the controversial profile of Washington’s largest city, “Seattle is Dying,” that went viral in early 2019 and colored elections in Spokane and across the state.

Woodward won that election, narrowly edging out her opponent, former City Council President Ben Stuckart. Now, seeking re-election, she says she is accomplishing her mission and is ready for another four years.

She touts her consistent, vocal support for police and police Chief Craig Meidl in particular. She points to initiatives to reprioritize police resources and reduce response times, to clamp down on property crime and public drug use downtown this summer and her support for recriminalizing drug possession, among other law-and-order priorities.

Despite her opposition toward low-barrier homeless shelters on the 2019 campaign trail, she pivoted after the groundbreaking Martin v. Boise court decision and later the creation of the Camp Hope homeless encampment, creating the largest low-barrier shelter in Eastern Washington. That shelter along Trent Avenue has had its fair share of controversies, including the property’s affiliation with developer Larry Stone. It’s now the cornerstone of the city’s homeless services, a place where people can not only find a bed for the night but also connect with help.

Woodward also argues that her administration’s support for a regional approach to homeless helped pave the way for just such an organization, which, despite many unanswered questions, has started to coalesce.

Amid unprecedented challenges in the past four years, Woodward blames any shortcomings on crises outside her control, like the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic during her first year in office or having her “hands tied” on Camp Hope by the state, including Lisa Brown in her recent role as director of the state Department of Commerce. Woodward argues that her administration and the staff she oversees did as well as could have been expected.

The question come November is whether voters will agree.

Woodward is facing opposition from her left, her right and somewhere in between. Other candidates for mayor argue she has been an ineffective leader, quick to blame others for her failures, or that she is not tough enough on crime and the homeless, not responsive enough to neighborhoods, too beholden to politics or else not approaching big problems with bold solutions.

The incumbent will face four opponents in the Aug. 1 primary election, including longtime Democratic politician Brown, former Spokane Firefighters Union President Tim Archer, yurtmaker and former CHAS Health business analyst Patrick McKann, and city streets worker Kelly Stevens, the last of whom has not responded to requests for an interview.


While Woodward is sometimes derisively referred to as a Republican by her Democratic-affiliated critics, who point to her affiliations and shared campaign messaging with U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, former Spokane fire union president Archer argues that Woodward lacks conservative values.

“My pitch to the conservative voter is that they’re not represented right now,” Archer said. “Nadine Woodward is a right-leaning moderate, at best.”

As evidence, he points to support from the Spokane County Republican Party, boasting that members voted to recommend him over Woodward in this year’s mayoral election.

Archer, who lost his job in 2021 after 20 years with the Spokane Fire Department because approval for his religious exemption to the COVID-19 vaccine was rescinded by the city, has said he felt betrayed by Woodward, arguing that she deferred to West Side approaches to the pandemic rather than fight to keep unvaccinated city staff employed.

Despite Woodward’s regular public defenses of Meidl amid controversy over his communications with business officials, Archer believes Woodward hasn’t been aggressive enough in her support for the police chief.

He says Woodward’s pivot on low-barrier shelters was really her waving the white flag of surrender. He argues the city should have used the full force of the police to clear Camp Hope and fight the Martin v. Boise decision, which limits a city’s ability to enforce certain laws if there aren’t open shelter beds, up to the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Though Woodward has said she hoped the Boise precedent would be overturned, she has argued that the city shouldn’t be the entity getting embroiled in that lengthy, expensive legal imbroglio.

But Archer thinks he’s the fighter that can take on that challenge.

“I’ve watched our city deteriorate worse than during the 2008 recession, and it’s the product of low-barrier shelters and soft-on-crime legislation,” Archer said. “Those things need to be fought very, very aggressively.”

Unlike Woodward, Archer firmly opposes a regional homeless coalition, arguing it would become a further drain on taxes.

Despite having even larger political disagreements with Brown, who is widely believed to be Woodward’s likely competitor in the November general election, Archer speaks of Brown’s background with admiration.

“Brown is a proven administrator and legislator, she has a track record and she’s a formidable opponent that I take very seriously,” Archer said. “And I truly believe that I can give her a better contest than Nadine Woodward.”

Though Woodward has spent the past four years in City Hall, she came to the job with little administrative experience, Archer said. In his case, he notes that he served in the Army for seven years as an active-duty officer, spending time as a commander, executive officer, operations officer and protocol officer. He believes his experience as union president will make him a better negotiator, able to find creative ways to get bilateral agreement on contracts that don’t just involve possibly unsustainable increases in compensation packages, which he calls “lazy.”

He has a huge fundraising deficit to overcome if he’s to get his name in front of a significant number of voters. As of Friday, the state Public Disclosure Commission reported that he had raised less than $5,000, while Woodward and Brown have collectively raised nearly $600,000. Archer said Wednesday that he had recently made a $25,000 donation to his own campaign that will soon appear in PDC reports, a personally significant investment that he hopes shows voters he is “deadly serious” about his candidacy.


While Brown is firmly associated with state Democratic politics, she didn’t argue to The Spokesman-Review that Woodward was too far to the right for Spokane.

Instead, she’s arguing to voters that Woodward is incompetent. To the extent she brings up what she calls Woodward’s “D.C.-style politics,” it’s in the context of arguing the mayor is quick to blame Democrats for her own inability to respond to difficult problems or to plan for the future.

The two clashed repeatedly over Camp Hope, with Brown arguing that Woodward had turned those living there into a political football while Woodward argued that the encampment could have been closed far sooner if the state Commerce Department, then helmed by Brown, hadn’t dragged its feet in an attempt to embarrass Woodward. In a Friday interview, Woodward claimed the protest that evolved into Camp Hope was “orchestrated” in part to help Brown get elected, and that it was kept around long enough for service providers like Jewels Helping Hands to extract every possible dollar from Commerce contracts.

Brown calls this a baseless diversion tactic, saying that it was Woodward’s failure to provide sufficient shelter that created Camp Hope, and that the encampment could have been closed humanely and more quickly if Woodward had focused on “coordination, not litigation.”

Brown believes that Woodward’s key initiative to provide shelter to those staying at Camp Hope, the Trent shelter, has been a costly “disaster” that has put the city’s finances at risk.

“It was entered into without planning and forethought and fiscal due diligence, and we’re suffering the results of that right now,” Brown said. “I think there are a lot of resources in the system that are not very well-coordinated, and so I think we can get a lot more results out of the current system.”

Brown also points to the closure of the Cannon Street shelter, a property that, unlike the Trent shelter, is owned by the city, which she called chaotic and further evidence of poor planning. A thoughtful plan should have been in place ahead of time to either renovate the shelter, possibly into a respite facility for medically fragile homeless people as was suggested by the City Council, or sell the building and use the proceeds to provide services elsewhere.

In June, as Woodward unveiled her plan to boost law enforcement activity in downtown ahead of the summer tourist season, Brown released her own public safety plan, saying the city under Woodward was in “free fall.” Brown has pointed to police statistics such as response times – misleadingly, Woodward has argued – that she says show the mayor has failed to keep her promises to improve public safety.

As the city faces increasing financial uncertainty, Brown believes Woodward has relied heavily on one-time infusions of federal or state funds to temporarily paper over a growing structural gap in the budget, where rising expenses outpace increases in revenue. Conversely, Brown says she helped lead a bipartisan effort in the Legislature to create a state-level rainy day fund in 2007, as well as a four-year budgeting plan to help foresee upcoming fiscal cliffs.

“This is one of the things I’m most concerned about for the city’s future. We’ve cruised through our reserves at the same time we had all this federal ARPA money,” Brown said, referring to federal pandemic relief. “I’m really worried about what the future looks like if we don’t start having that dialogue with the public.”

Brown acknowledges that some in the community are wary that she won’t be supportive enough of downtown Spokane, or is anti-police.

But she points to her work to save the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox in 2000, her involvement in the region’s chamber of commerce, Greater Spokane Incorporated and her advocacy for the nearby University District and the creation of Washington State University’s medical school in the city toward the end of Brown’s term as chancellor of WSU Spokane. She also says she supported a levy in 2019 to increase police funding, which Woodward opposed at the time.

“The police really haven’t been set up for success over the last four years because they haven’t been staffed to take on everything that’s out there,” Brown said.

Notably, as the City Council mulls introducing a new levy to voters this November to pay for increased compensation for police and other city staff, Woodward now says she supports putting that to the voters. When Brown was asked whether she supported it, she demurred, saying a new tax should be the last option considered and blaming Woodward for not coming up with a plan that doesn’t require a tax increase.

Brown argues that she, not Woodward, is the one with the track record of positive results for Spokane.

“No matter where you go in the community, there’s something that I’ve had the privilege to be engaged with,” Brown said. “I get results, and I’m not going to go just blaming other people if things don’t go well.”


McKann is coming to the race with no electoral experience and, he argues, an outsider’s perspective. He didn’t mention any of the other candidates during an interview with The Spokesman-Review, and his policy proposals are a mix of the grandly ambitious, the highly technical and, occasionally, the quaint.

He promises to encourage monthly game nights with the City Council and the city’s police chief “so that we can all become best friends,” he wrote in an email.

He wants neighborhood councils to have more influence in city policies, arguing that they are the venues most-suited for average citizens to interact with their government, though he’s frustrated most of them won’t let him make that pitch during their meetings.

McKann also wants the city to buy up vast tracks of land, in part to create a greenbelt throughout north, south and west Spokane to preserve and expand wildlands while theoretically reuniting the Dishman Hills and Beacon Hill moose populations. But he also proposes developing significant quantities of that land into housing that the city would not rent like traditional public housing, but instead sell for less than $200,000 per unit.

He proposes offering subsidies for police officers if they live in high-crime neighborhoods. He says he will strengthen incentives for low-income housing, and lower the threshold of affordability so poorer households can take advantage of what the city incentivizes. McKann wants to create new incentives for large-scale apartments and condos along the City Line rapid transit route, set to be launched later this month.

McKann also believes the city should be more creative with traffic calming funds and more responsive to neighborhood requests for infrastructure to mitigate safety issues from traffic.

McKann said he was prompted to run by years of frustration with what he feels is an unresponsive city bureaucracy. As a member of the traffic-calming subcommittee of the Lincoln Heights Neighborhood Council, he and others in his community have for years called for stop signs, crosswalks and other measures along what some have dubbed the “11th Avenue Speedway,” a wide stretch of road where some residents say city infrastructure has funneled a large number of speeding drivers.

“It has been for five years, and the city has yet to offer any other alternatives,” he said. “This is a no-brainer for me. It has been for five years and the city has yet to offer any other alternatives.”

He said he isn’t particularly familiar with the city’s budget and wasn’t aware that Spokane County voters will decide this November whether to fund a new jail. He believes that the city is probably spending money inefficiently but says he doesn’t know enough to identify where those cuts should be made.

“But I think, given my background in business intelligence, once I got into the nuts and bolts of the budget, I could probably speak more intelligently to this issue,” he said.


Woodward says she has produced real results for Spokane during her first term and looks forward to continuing that work for another four years.

She touts endorsements from Republicans and Democrats alike, including former county Democratic Party chair Tom Keefe and Republican Sheriff John Nowels, arguing that she works for voters, not a political party.

Like in 2019, she’s running on improving public safety, addressing homelessness and increasing the community’s housing stock. She argues she has been a fierce supporter of Meidl and the police department, advocating for increased funding and staffing while fighting police reforms in the state Legislature that she believes hampered law enforcement’s ability to do their jobs.

Woodward believes an initiative she launched alongside Meidl earlier this year to reorganize the police department and sharply increase patrol officers despite staffing issues is a direct answer to concerns she hears on the campaign trail. She notes her advocacy for a city-level criminalization of drug possession and public drug use when the state Legislature stalled on the issue.

“I, as the law-and-order mayoral candidate, am on the right side of those issues,” she said. “What I hear, too, is that voters want a council that works alongside me to be able to get those things across the finish line and to support police officers.”

While Woodward attacks Brown as never seeing a tax she didn’t like, she argues that she has fought hard to prevent tax increases, including by vetoing a property tax increase last November by the City Council, though the left-leaning Council supermajority overrode that veto.

Though she acknowledges that the Trent shelter has been financially burdensome, she believes it was a necessary but temporary bridge solution needed while more affordable housing and other measures are implemented. She has called for adding more services at the shelter, including by creating a virtual court system. Though she wasn’t ready to unveil it Friday, Woodward said she would soon have a major proposal to build some of these needed facilities using affordable housing money the city has been banking.

In the meantime, she is proud of the shelter beds added to the region under her watch, though she says that voters want to see more accountability for those receiving services.

“I agree,” Woodward said. “If we’re going to fund programs, they want outcome-producing programs.”

She points to her support for relaxing zoning restrictions in the city, allowing for additional units to be built in areas that once only allowed for single-family homes, and says she wants to build on initiatives from the City Council that will encourage the conversion of surface parking lots into housing.

Woodward has the support of the Spokane Association of Realtors and the Spokane Association of Builders and Contractors, evidence, she argues, that she is the candidate best situated to tackle the city’s housing crisis.

Her biggest regret of the last four years, she says, is that it took so long to close Camp Hope.

“Our hands were tied in many different ways, and the state tied our hands,” she said. “We did everything that we possible could. It was complicated, and the state made it more so.”

But the creation of the Trent shelter also has allowed the city to crack down on homeless people unwilling to engage in services, she argued.

Woodward is likely to break fundraising records before the August primary, already reporting over $380,000 in contributions, which she says is evidence of a groundswell of support and a possible sea change this year that will usher in a City Council more amenable to working with her.

“People are happy with the way I’ve led through incredibly unprecedented, challenging times,” she said. “I’ve done everything I can to represent the city, for those who voted for me and those who didn’t.”