Council Recap 5/12/15: Interim Ombudsman Resolution & Respect For All Neighborhoods

You know it’s a slow news night when this story leads a local news broadcast last night. For the record the Council has not taken a vote to ban any words from Council meetings. Part of the responsibilities of the Council President is to ensure decorum. Last week the Council President, at the request of Councilmember Stratton, asked that a citizen refrain from using the term “Hookerville” to refer to the East Central neighborhood. I support Council President Stuckart. This was a simple matter of respect. No neighborhood should have to listen to citizen call them derogatory names on City Cable 5.

Little did we know that this simple request would create a legion of 1st Amendment victims who would come down to celebrate their right to call the East Central neighborhood “Hookerville.” Council listened patiently as several speakers said the Council President’s request for respect was tantamount to shredding free speech protections in the Constitution. One gentleman said he was “enraged” that we were “violating constitutional rights” and even offered this missive:

I have been in countries around this world. I know what tyrannical behavior looks like… I know what terroristic behavior looks like. I know what tyrants sound like. I know what they hide behind. And you know what? Citizens of Spokane, Councilmembers; tyrants don’t live long. They don’t. I saw one swing at the end of a rope in Iraq.

I have to thank Councilmember Stratton for speaking up for respect on this issue. I have to admit that after hearing the same angry and vitriolic rants each week for five years from another gentleman, a frequent proponent of the term “Hookerville,” I have gotten a bit numb. I sometimes forget how intimidating speaking at a Council meeting can be for folks. What if you come to a meeting for the first time and your one memory is of your neighborhood repeatedly being called “Hookerville”? The gentleman in question has been asked to leave the podium too many times to count by both Council Presidents I’ve served under. The rule violations range from not adhering to comment time limits, electioneering in a public facility, personal attacks on other citizens, and heckling other citizen’s public comments. Clearly he enjoys the attention.

I wish last night a little more attention had been paid by the free speech advocates to actual free speech issues in our area; How about the Coeur d”Alene school district’s banning John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men?

In actual Council business the Council approved an emergency budget ordinance to create a new Civil Service position to handle backlogs in testing and processing. We also approve a resolution I brought forward asking the Ombudsman Selection Committee to delay no further in naming a list of 3 qualified candidates to be available as interim Police Ombudsman. This is the only important position at the City with no immediate succession plan and the City has been without an Ombudsman for six months now and it will still be months before a permanent Ombudsman in the future. This list of three candidates could also be used in the future in the event of a sudden vacancy. See the text of the measure below. Both measures passed unanimously.



A resolution relating to candidates for the position of Interim Ombudsman.

WHEREAS, on December 17, 2012, the Spokane City Council approved Resolution No. 2012-0105 placing Proposition No. 1 before the Spokane electorate for a vote. The Spokane’s electorate voted in February 2013 to amend the City Charter to add a section creating a Police Ombudsman Commission and an Office of Police Ombudsman that has independent investigatory authority; and

WHEREAS, the City of Spokane has been without an Ombudsman since December 31, 2014; and

WHEREAS, the presence of an Ombudsman is crucial to the overall functioning of the Office of Police Ombudsman and continued civilian oversight; and

WHEREAS, the Selection Committee of the Office of Police Ombudsman Commission is accepting applications for the position of Interim Ombudsman now and in the future; and

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the City Council of the City of Spokane requests the Administration and the Selection Committee of the Office of Police Ombudsman Commission to produce, as soon as possible, a list of three candidates from applications received thus far for the selection of an Interim Ombudsman.

ADOPTED by the City Council this _______ of May, 2015.

Council recap

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