At last night’s council meeting, we adopted updates to the City’s Comprehensive Water System Plan on a vote of 5-1 (with Councilmember Fagan voting against). I worked on this issue with Councilmember Mumm, Councilmember Waldref and staff for the last year to ensure that the plan was a significant improvement over our current 6-year plan, and includes a stronger framework for conservation of water and ways to address water system loss that results in billions of gallons lost every year due to aging infrastructure. Conservation efforts and proactive system loss measures are critical to the health of the Spokane River and the Spokane-Kootenai County Aquifer. Everyone who contributed to the H2KNOW campaign played a huge rule in this improved plan as well. You can read more about H2KNOW here. This plan is a great start but we still how much work to, especially since we are looking at the possibility of two years in a row of drought in our area. The Water Plan will now be submitted to the Washington Department of Health and will be adopted pending their review. Read the rest of this entry »
Last night’s council meeting was a short one: we had two items on the agenda. The first was a resolution authorizing the sale of surplus property owned by the City of Spokane. The Community, Housing and Human Services Department will seek qualified buyers to redevelop the land. This item was unanimously approved. The other item was a first reading ordinance relating to the vacation of a portion of Pearl Street from the north line of Sharp Avenue to the south line of the alley between Sinto and Sharp. Final action will be taken on the vacation on a later date.
To see what’s on next week’s Council agenda, click here.
In an unusual night every vote except one was a split vote. The Council started off with a vote on a Spokane Investment Pool self-loan for the fleet department which will save us money by pushing forward upgrades for equipment in regards to the Nelson Service Center now, instead of waiting for a few years. In a low interest rate environment this makes sense instead of using reserves. The vote was 4-3 with Stratton, Fagan, and Allen voting against.
We were set to vote on an action to sell some surplus houses that were purchased with federal funds, but the Council voted 6-1 to defer for a week. I was the lone vote against as I saw no reason to delay this. There was also a split vote on a labor standards ordinance that would make easier for the City to avoid contractors who have violated labor law in other states. This passed 6-1. Councilmember Fagan, who has been a reliable vote against actions that support labor or working families, was the lone vote against.
As you may have heard I have brought forward an ethics complaint against Councilmember Fagan for revealing some of the contents of a confidential legal opinion regarding a recent anti-immigrant initiative. The Ethics Committee requested a viewing of the confidential document in order to process the complaint, which meant the Council had to vote to allow them to view it. This passed 5-1, with Councilmember Fagan voting against and me abstaining (for the first time ever) because I made the complaint. You can see the full complaint linked here.
The only unanimous action last night was the passage of the fee structure for the short term rental ordinance.
Last night there was an attempt to overshadow the City Council’s Town Hall meeting of Northeast Neighborhoods by anti-Muslim activists. Efforts to disrupt the meeting failed and supporters of Muslim families who came for a salutation honoring the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) gave these community members an ovation for being brave enough to run the gauntlet of right-wing activists demonstrating against Muslim-Americans in front of the community center. I have received some of the most vitriolic and bigoted emails in my years on Council in relation to the CAIR salutation yesterday. On the flip side I can only confirm one of these emails actually came from Spokane. As you may recall the salutation we gave was in response to a hate crime committed against the Bosnia Herzegovina Heritage Association Center. You can read more about that here.
After hearing from North East neighborhood council we had two legislative agenda items. The first was a resolution forming a advising committee for the Central City Line. This passed 6-1. Mike Fagan was the sole vote against. My has been a dependable vote against busses and transit since joining the Council and tonight was no different. He has even voted against improving transit in his own district where it is desperately needed. The second item was a neighborhood notification ordinance that aims to improve communication with neighbors regarding upcoming developments. The system is notoriously arcane now and often leads to mis-communication and misunderstanding. This item passed 5-2 with Councilmembers Allen and Fagan both voting against the process improvements.
At last nights council meeting, the Council unanimously voted to approve a partial vacation of Pearl Street between Sharp and Sinto, and Sinto and Mission. The vacation was partial to preserve neighborhood connectivity. Council also unanimously adopted amendments to the City of Spokane’s Economic Development Strategy, which was a collaborative effort between staff, the Mayor and Council to solidify the city’s economic development incentives and strategies. You can read the original resolution establishing our economic development strategy here.
Other items the council approved include an emergency budget ordinance to create an additional accounting position in the Parks Department, an emergency budget ordinance for positions to help implement next level of treatment projects at Riverside Park Wastewater Reclamation Facility, a resolution establishing a regular meeting time for the City Council Community, Health and Environment Committee, a resolution approving the appointment of Katherine Miller as Director of Integrated Capital Management, a sole source contract with Branom Instrument Company to purchase IT gas monitoring system components, a resolution setting a hearing to vacate a portion of Grandview Ave and a resolution expanding the function of the Citizen Transportation Advisory Board. All of these items were approved unanimously.
Two items from last week were deferred to an upcoming council meeting: a resolution regarding a $5 million Spokane Investment Pool (SIP) loan to make capital expenditures for the Spokane Central Service Center and a resolution regarding a “in camera” review of confidential attorney-client communication by the Ethics Commission.
At next weeks meeting, council will be voting on Council President Stuckart’s neighborhood notification ordinance. To read about it and other items on next weeks agenda, click here.
Our agenda last night included four items: two emergency budget ordinances (EBOs) and two resolutions. The first EBO allocated funding to Spokane Police Department’s Community Outreach Programs, which includes programs such as Restore Our Kids, the Zone, and the Junior Kids Academy. (To read more about SPD’s community outreach programs, click here). The second EBO was for the purchase of mobile data computers. Both EBOs passed unanimously.
We voted 5-1 (Councilmember Fagan voting against) on a resolution to request that the Administration and Downtown Spokane Partnership implement a 60-day parlet demonstration project in downtown Spokane. Jose Barajas with You Express Studios gave the Council a presentation on the parklet concept, which has been used in places like Seattle and San Francisco. Finally, the resolution to amend City Council rules for the inclusion of a new standing committee meeting (Community, Health and Environment) passed unanimously.
(In our afternoon briefing session, the Council voted 5-1, with Councilmember Fagan voting against, to allocate funds for the Division Triangle Project on Spokane Falls Blvd. across the street from the Convention Center. Council President Stuckart was not at the Council meetings, as he is traveling on city business).
At last nights council meeting, every agenda item passed unanimously except for one: Councilmember Allen brought forward a resolution stating that the City of Spokane will not require new single family-residential properties or townhomes to have fire supression systems (fire sprinklers) installed. The State Building Code Council adopted a provision in 2008 that would have required statewide adoption of this requirement, but amended the code in 2009 to give local jursidictions the option of approving the requirement. The resolution was passed on a 6-1 vote, with Councilmember Mumm voting against. Read the rest of this entry »
Last night all Councilmembers were present and all actions were unanimous. We had one emergency ordinance regarding the extension of the Cell Tower Moratorium. We are making good progress on an improved ordinance that balances aesthetic concerns with connectivity, but we still need a bit more time. We will likely wrap this up early in the fall. We also made a few additions to the Planning Commission work-plan which included a review of the Cell Tower Ordinance.
Other actions included a change to minor architect and engineering contracts, a change to landscaping requirements, direction to the salary commission as a result of the recent public vote, a street vacation on a portion of Calispel street, and a change to solid waste statutes regarding tires.
One thing that was added to our agenda late was approval for $300K of lodging tax money for a bid for another major ice skating event, the inaugural Figure Skating Team Challenge Cup, which would be an international event. This also passed unanimously.
Last nights council meeting had a packed agenda. The Council voted 6-1 (Councilmember Fagan against) for an Emergency Budget Ordinance to fill the position of Education Coordinator for the Water Department. This position will inform water customers about ways they can conserve water. We also voted 6-1 (Councilmember Fagan against) for an ordinance that makes wage theft a gross misdemeanor and gives the city the ability to revoke or refuse to issue business licenses for businesses found guilty of wage theft. I was happy to support both of these ordinances, as they address critical issues facing our community and the city right now.
I brought forward a resolution that allows the City to use excess photo red funds to bond out for $1 million and find matching funds for the completion of the Mission Street Gap Bridge. If the City cannot find matching funds for the project, then the money goes back in to the Traffic Calming fund. This project has been in the works for several years due to the vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian safety issues that arise with the Centennial Trail at street level near Witter Pool and the Avista Campus. The resolution received letters of support from the Friends of the Centennial Trail and Spokane Bicycle Club, as well as a near unanimous vote from the Community Assembly. It was passed by Council on a 5-2 vote (with Councilmembers Allen and Fagan voting against).
Several items passed unanimously. These items included a resolution establishing an economic development strategy for the city, a resolution acknowledging the completion of Northeast Public Development Authority development strategy and brownfield business plan, Hillyard Infrastructure Assessment and Needs Analysis and the YARD Heavy Freight User Analysis, a resolution approving the settlement of a claim, a resolution relating to the Airport Board’s acquisition of 10.39 acres of unimproved land for long-term aviation development and approach protection, and an ordinance that amended the Spokane Municipal Code language on infraction penalty amounts to reflect changes made at the state level.
The Council deferred an ordinance relating to labor standards and city procurement of goods, services and works, and an ordinance that would amend the process for filling vacancies in the position of Police Ombudsperson.
(To read the full text of the resolution regarding funds for the Centennial Trail Mission Gap Bridge, click here)
Our three and a half hour meeting last night was packed with decisions, many of which elicited lots of public testimony. An extension of our contract with Uber and Lyft had both taxi drivers and rideshare drivers speak out in favor of their industry sector. This 18 month contract extension ads new background check requirements for rideshare drivers and institutes a new complaint protocol. It passed 6-1 with Councilmember Stratton voting against saying she was concerned that the new agreement still did not level the playing field between taxi drivers and rideshare companies.
We had one emergency ordinances that was not on the agenda last night: this ordinance now requires Alternative Response Units, ARU’s, to have two firefighters on board instead of one. We heard numerous concerns about how angle-person staffing had put firefighters in jeopardy and possibly lowered the quality of patient care and we felt compelled to act. The ARUs were always meant to be a pilot program that would be evaluated by Council. When the Mayor and the Fire Chief did not provide Council with evaluation data the Council then requested that data at the June Public Safety meeting. That same month the ARU program was suspended for safety concerns. Evaluation data was supposed to be presented by the Chief at the July Public Safety meeting. When the Chief requested that the data be delayed until August I granted that request as Chair of Public Safety. But late last week some Councilmembers learned that the ARU program was to be resumed in a matter of days without presentation of the evaluation data and a chance for Council to look at the safety issues. This is a complete violation of the spirit of the pilot program that was presented to us by the Mayor and the Chief. ARUs were supposed to either save the City money or improve service delivery—hopefully both. Without any analysis it is unclear whether they have met either objectives. The emergency ordinance passed 5-2 with Councilmembers Allen and Fagan voting against.
The next big item was the latest Envision Spokane Worker Bill of Rights initiative. The initiative has had its signatures validated and by the County and passed the minimum threshold. The Council voted unanimously to put the initiative on the November 2015 ballot. But there was a split vote on a subsequent action to add two advisory questions to the measure. Even though I do not support the Envision Spokane initiative, I feel the advisory questions are unnecessary and prejudicial. I don’t think the Council should be playing favorites with the initiative process to influence the outcome. This has been my position in the past and it remains my position. The advisory questions passed on a 4-3 vote with Councilmembers Waldref, Mumm, and myself vote against.
In a related action that was not on our agenda Councilmember Fagan requested that we send the Anti-Immigration initiative that failed to get enough signatures back to the County to be checked again. But Fagan prepared no wording before hand and could not articulate actually what he wanted us to ask the County to do. Was it just to recount signatures that could not be verified? Was is to recount and re-verify all 3,000 signatures again? For lack of direction from Fagan this was deferred to Thursday.
Council also approved a new County way-finding and signage system. I voted against this because no one could give me a good. answer as to way bicycle signage was omitted from this system. I was the only vote against.
Our unanimous decision including a resolution honoring the life and contribution of late WSU President Dr. Elson Floyd, appointment of Scott Simmons as Business and Development Services Director, creation of a new Neighborhood Council in the northwest district (Downriver), and approval of the City’s Human Services grant funding priorities.
Next week there is no Council meeting. See you in two weeks.