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Tuesday’s two Spokane City Council primary races yielded one landslide and one battle too close to call. Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin easily topped a list of five challengers for her seat representing northwest Spokane, winning 56 percent of the vote. Counting was not complete Tuesday night, but McLaughlin likely will face Karen Kearney, a community volunteer, in the November election.
A new district will siphon new tax revenues for 25 years from in and around the University District in Spokane to pay for pedestrian improvements, beautification and other projects. The Spokane City Council on Monday unanimously approved the creation of the Spokane University District Revitalization Area.
A neighborhood vote this week smooths the way for the biggest retail center the South Hill has seen in decades, if not ever. The Southgate Neighborhood Council ended its long battle to prevent big box development along Regal Street near the Palouse Highway. Members of the council said they will give up their legal fight to focus on holding developers to a series of agreements, which they approved Wednesday 15-0 with two abstentions. The same agreements are expected to be approved Monday by the Spokane City Council.
With one week until the primary, Spokane city races are mostly low-budget affairs, with half the candidates for City Council planning to spend so little they don’t have to make regular reports. Incumbent Nancy McLaughlin has raised the most, about $30,200, in an effort to retain her northwest Spokane council seat. That’s nearly twice what any other candidate has raised and more than three times the amount raised by fellow Councilman Mike Allen, who is seeking to hold on to the south Spokane seat to which he was appointed last year.
Whether they realize it or not, the Spokane City Council is asking to cook the books on the Community Bill of Rights charter amendment and skew the results of the November vote. They’re using a strategy campaigns sometimes use to get the outcome they want. This newspaper’s longtime pollster Del Ali cautioned us years ago that one can skew the results of a poll not just by what’s asked, but by the order of the questions. It’s advice we still use to evaluate polls before reporting them.
Only four of the dozen candidates running for Spokane City Council say human activity contributes significantly to global warming. The rest – including two incumbents – question what has become the consensus among climate scientists, or say they don’t know enough about the topic to give an opinion. Global warming has been a hot topic in city government since then-Mayor Dennis Hession signed the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement in 2007, aiming the city toward reducing carbon emissions to 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.
A group fighting to place a list of rights into Spokane’s charter is accusing city leaders of tampering with that initiative and has hinted that it may file a lawsuit against the city. Late Monday night, the Spokane City Council decided to ask voters if the city should raise taxes or fees “as needed” to pay for Envision Spokane’s Community Bill of Rights. Separately, the council decided to ask if residents would rather have the city reduce services to cover any costs.
Spokane voters will decide in November if they want to continue paying extra property taxes to buy fire equipment and build new fire stations. But residents may cast their votes at the same time city leaders prepare to close a fire station and lay off firefighters to deal with a forecast $7 million deficit.
Spokane City Council members Monday spoke loudly against a proposed initiative that would create nine rights the city would be required to enforce. But their dislike of Envision Spokane’s “Community Bill of Rights” didn’t stop them from letting residents make the call.
It’s not easy to goad Nancy McLaughlin into a fight. Even during the most passionate Spokane City Council debates, she’s among the least likely of the seven members to shout, go on the attack or personally criticize her colleagues or audience members.
Mike Allen was the surprise choice of a divided City Council when he was picked to fill an empty seat 18 months ago. At the time, Allen said he didn’t plan to run for the District 2 seat after the term expired. But earlier this year, Allen gave up his job as Eastern Washington University’s corporate and foundation relations director to run for a full term.
A lane of travel in a block of a downtown street will be eliminated this summer to make way for a bigger parking lot. The Spokane Public Facilities District next week plans to start construction on a new lot across from the INB Performing Arts Center to replace a hodgepodge of lots currently on the site.
Jobs with great pay and excellent benefits can be hard to come by in a recession – but not necessarily at City Hall. The city of Spokane hasn’t stopped filling openings, and those lucky enough to land jobs will get solid pay with raises on the horizon, two taxpayer-funded retirement plans and premium health insurance. It's a package that city officials, including the mayor and City Council members, have started to view as unsustainable.
A bike and pedestrian trail almost two decades in the making will see significant progress thanks to federal stimulus money accepted Monday night by the Spokane City Council. The 10-mile Fish Lake Trail will connect Spokane with Fish Lake County Park and the Columbia Plateau Trail, which goes to Cheney and the Tri-Cities.