Council Votes In Favor of Ordinance Siting City Facilities

Lisa Gardner, City Council Communications Director, 509.625.6226

Tuesday, August 23, 2022 at 8:11 a.m.

During Monday’s Legislative Session, Council voted 5-2 on Emergency Ordinance C96239, which determines the process and criteria for siting basic City facilities, defined as “police precincts, fire stations, utility facilities, and community centers.” This ordinance codifies that a community process takes place before placing these types of facilities in neighborhoods to ensure that more voices are part of the decision-making process and that the City Council and Mayor work together more closely. 

“City Council listened to the community and started the process of deciding how best to use the vacant library on the campus at MLK at East Central, putting it into the public’s hands,” said Council President Breean Beggs. “This ordinance reopens a path for a conversation about the most impactful use of the space and the potential of a two-for-one solution in the community, with the possibility of an affordable medical or mental health clinic in the former library space that pays rent to cover the cost of a new police precinct in East Central closer to where the crime is reported.”

On June 30th, Mayor Woodward, without a vote of the Council or public notice, announced that the Spokane Police Department (SPD) would occupy the former library building at 524 S. Stone. In May, Mayor Woodward agreed that it was the Council’s final decision on what would occupy the space, but the Administration did not consult Council for approval before placing SPD in the space.

“Mayor Woodward’s assertion that this ordinance is an attack on the Office of the Mayor is inaccurate,” said Council Member Lori Kinnear. “The City Council sets policy. When the Mayor failed to follow a well-defined community engagement framework, the need to clarify policy around siting certain types of City facilities was made clear. The Mayor has failed to follow the City’s Comprehensive Plan, which tells us that we need to utilize a process for locating public facilities. Our City is better served by following our guiding document and creating space to hear diverse perspectives and innovative ideas from community members.”

The ordinance allows the City to be able to follow the process for leasing the former library building as laid out in Resolution 2022-0059, which includes organized public input on specific proposals, collaboration, and cooperation for the successful process of filling the space. The ordinance also requires a similar process for future basic City facilities.

“The Mayor made heavy accusations of this ordinance being in retaliation of her independent authority, when in fact, this action was authorized by the City Charter in response to creating a more inclusive process when siting public facilities in our district neighborhoods,” said Council Member Betsy Wilkerson, who cosponsored the ordinance with Council President Beggs. “As a Council Member for District 2, where the Community Center and former library are located, I do my best to listen to and understand the desires of my community. When Council Members are left out of conversations or decision-making, it indirectly mutes the community they represent. This ordinance is designed to prohibit this from happening in the future and to ensure that community voices are heard. With this vote, East Central can pursue other needed services in the neighborhood without losing its police precinct.”