City Council 2020 Year-End Summary
Lisa Gardner, Director of Communications and Community Engagement, 509.625.6226
Tuesday, February 9, 2021 at 11:55 a.m.
A message from Spokane City Council President Breean Beggs
We started the year with no idea that 2020 would bring a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic that would upend life as we knew it. Spokane City government quickly pivoted to meet the challenges of COVID-19 despite numerous procedural and substantive obstacles. With vaccines in hand and real hope for a real recovery for our lives and community, Council thought we would share some of the many highlights of our work this year that were unrelated to responding to the pandemic. The crisis brought almost all of us within the City of Spokane closer together because that was the only way we would get things done. The Mayor and Council met more regularly, we incorporated new council staff members to achieve our goals, and still managed to engage the community on a multitude of accomplishments despite meeting only virtually and expending the necessary resources to keep Spokane safe and re-open its schools and economy. We are now turning to the development of our 2021 City Council goals and would love to hear from you with your dreams and requests for a safer and more vibrant Spokane. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your ideas.
City Council President
Like most organizations, the Spokane City Council faced numerous challenges in 2020. Yet, the City Council and the City as a whole emerged more adaptive, resilient, capable, and service-oriented than ever before.
Council Member Breean Beggs took office in January as the new Council President, leaving a vacancy in the South Hill’s Council District 2. Following a public application and interview process, longtime resident and business owner Betsy Wilkerson was appointed to serve out the remainder of the term Until Council Member Wilkerson’s appointment, the City Council had not had a Black Council member since Roberta Greene’s term ended in 2003.
2020 ushered in several other new faces at City Hall with the advent of a new mayoral administration as well. The Council confirmed 14 employees to leadership positions in the new administration.
Council also began filling the newly created central policy staff to serve the entire Council. By using unused staff budgets from elsewhere in the city, the City Council’s central policy staff positions were filled with subject matter experts in Transportation, Sustainability, Housing, and Equity policy. This added to the Council’s resources in Communications, Budget, and Government Relations, giving the City Council a full suite of policy support for the first time and the ability to seek specialized grants to support initiatives important to Spokane.
By February, the extent of the COVID-19 pandemic and the means necessary to address it had become painfully apparent. The City declared a state of emergency, as did Governor Inslee, and imposed moratoria on residential evictions and foreclosures. By the end of March, Council meetings went virtual and were no longer held in Council Chambers at City Hall, complying with the prohibition against public gatherings. The Council meetings, and all City board and commission meetings, would remain virtual for the rest of the year. Meanwhile, Council members continued to serve on their respective boards and commissions virtually as well, such as Spokane Transit Authority, Spokane Regional Health District, Downtown Spokane Partnership, GSI, Spokane Regional Transportation Council, Aging and Long-Term Care of Eastern Washington, the Plan Commission, the Park Board, Lodging Tax Advisory Committee, and many more.
Major policy actions taken during 2020
The City Council worked to calibrate and adjust our overall public safety response to protect everyone in a balanced and thoughtful way.
- Council worked to negotiate the best way forward in the City’s contract with the Police Guild, after unanimously rejecting a proposed agreement that lacked the required role of civilian oversight as mandated by the voters.
- Council prohibited the use of so-called “mosquito” devices, which emit very high-frequency noise to control loiterers on private property used primarily in the downtown area.
- Council established guiding principles for the City of Spokane's role in the criminal justice system in Spokane County, including advocating for reforms of pre-trial release and received over $60,000 in a grant to help fund a DUI court and nearly $200,000 for a branch of the community court in the East Central neighborhood.
- Council disapproved of military-type training of our police officers intended to dehumanize suspects.
- Council improved regulations of for-hire vehicles, such as those operated by Uber and Lyft, and continued to work to clarify the method for delivering City-wide and region-wide 911 dispatch services.
- Council accepted a nearly $500,000 grant from DHS to provide better personal protective equipment for our firefighters as they work to help people during the pandemic.
- Council allocated nearly $200,000 for regional mental health efforts.
- Council condemned the organization and assembly of private armed militia groups that are prohibited under state law and asked City legal department to incorporate some of those prohibitions into the Spokane Municipal Code.
The City Council championed water conservation and stewardship and continued to build capacity to mitigate the local effects of climate change.
- Council approved permit changes to protect our city water supply and improve our water use accountability and conservation efforts.
- Council affirmed the City’s commitment to addressing climate change by joining the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy and reinstate the City’s membership in Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI-USA).
- Council adopted a new water conservation management plan and approved amendments to the Little Spokane Water Resource Inventory Area (WRIA) 55 Watershed Plan.
- Council also voted not to deforest a natural habitat area outside the city for a water pipe extension.
Setting the foundations for a prosperous future for Spokane.
- Council changed the City’s investment formula for the University District Revitalization Area (“UDRA”) to allow a greater ability to build the infrastructure the U-District will need for Spokane’s burgeoning health sciences campus.
- Council extended permits expiring due to the lack of personnel at City Hall to process them and approved new assessment rolls for the Downtown and East Sprague Business Improvement Districts.
- Council extended the term of the West Quadrant Tax Increment Finance District for an additional 15 years, to enable portions of the West Central, Riverside, and Emerson-Garfield neighborhoods to benefit from increased property values and fund needed infrastructure and housing.
Caring for the most vulnerable in our community and marshalling resources to respond to the pandemic.
- The City allocated approximately:
- $350,000 to a regional mental health partnership
- $50,000 for emergency shelter capacity
- $3,300,000 in funding from HUD
- $600,000 from FEMA
- $1,600,000 from Spokane County for homeless shelter costs
- $10,000,000 in federal CARES Act grant dollars in partnership with the Washington state Department of Commerce, to help with immediate the pandemic response needs for housing, small businesses, and the arts and creative economy.
- Council allocated $280,000 to help with the development of very low-income housing at the Carlyle and the Home Yard Cottages.
- Council also adopted a specific framework for how CARES Act grant dollars are to be spent.
- Council set new City policy for the operation and maintenance of nightly shelters in Spokane, to ensure that there is a humane and appropriate baseline for helping our most vulnerable neighbors and
- Council allocated nearly $1 million for rental assistance from funding the City received in the Housing and Essential Needs (“HEN”) program.
- Council allocated over $900,000 to help fund the construction of a dental clinic at the MLK Center at East Central in partnership with CHAS.
- Council approved a new four-year plan for community development, including an annual action plan to guide the City’s use of various federal pass-through funds from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, allocating more than $650,000 to rental assistance for some of the most hard-hit and vulnerable households in our community in response to the pandemic.
Neighborhoods, Community, and Equity
Renewing our commitment to BIPOC and marginalized communities and protecting access to health wellness opportunities throughout Spokane.
- Council renamed the East Central Community Center as the “Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center at East Central.”
- Council renamed Fort George Wright Drive to “Whistalks Way,” in honor of the wife of an area tribal chief and Native women warriors in all fields, past and present.
- Council affirmed Spokane’s solidarity with communities of color across the country demanding police reform following the death of George Floyd, and supported students of color at Gonzaga University and at all educational settings in Spokane in the wake of racist “Zoom-bombing” incidents.
- Council authorized an additional $110,000 to help SCRAPS meet its obligations to manage animal protection.
- Council adopted a two-year-long pilot project to reduce speed limits to 20 mph near several parks throughout the city, to make it safer and easier for people to walk to parks and amended the rules for events at our city parks.
Growing Spokane, building better.
Major construction of the City Line Bus Rapid Transit began in May. This is the largest transit project in Spokane’s history, at an estimated cost of $92 million. The City Line will be the first all-electric Bus Rapid Transit System in the northwest which will run for 6 miles from Spokane Community College into downtown Spokane beginning in 2022.
The City began the reconstruction of the 100-year old Post Street Bridge.
- Council also approved a grant agreement signed by the Mayor and a private foundation under which the City will receive up to $4,000,000 to assist in costs associated with beginning community water fluoridation.
- Council also improved the U-Help program to help low-income residents with their utility bills during the economic disruption caused by the pandemic, and updated the rates and methods for solid waste and wastewater collection, to help ensure the system is sustainable and effective for residents of Spokane.
- Council added three new zones in which golf carts may be operated on City streets, and improved safety measures on their use.
State and Federal Legislative Affairs
We flexed our muscles in Olympia and delivered results.
- Council’s legislative affairs committee led the way for the City of Spokane to have a very successful 2020 legislative session, obtaining passage of several important policy bills and a record amount of funding for projects. Some of the most important policy achievements were:
- HB 1590: authorizing the city to impose 0.1% local sales and use tax for housing and related services without voter approval
- HB 2497 allowing the funding currently generated by community development financing tools including tax increment financing (TIF) to be used for the development of permanently affordable housing within those designated taxing districts
- HB 2797 making improvements to last year’s HB 1406 so counties and cities including Spokane can take full advantage of the state sales tax credit for affordable housing
- HB 2405 providing a new funding mechanism for seismic retrofitting, energy efficiency upgrades, and more, and creating a Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy and Resilience (C-PACER) program, allowing certain loans to be attached to the property instead of the owner, making retrofitting projects such as rooftop solar easier and more affordable
- HB 5811 adopting California’s strict zero emissions vehicle standards and requiring that at least 5% of auto sales are electric vehicles, increasing to 8% by 2025.
- Council was instrumental in obtaining $3,500,000 in funding from the capital budget for the following projects:
- $1.548 million for Waikiki Springs Nature Preserve
- $1.5 million for Crosswalk Teen Shelter
- $200,000 for Spokane Sportsplex
- $100,000 for If You Could Save Just One
- $100,000 for Transitions TLC Transitional Housing Renovations
- $25,000 for Five Mile Roundabout Art Project
- Council helped preserve the funding for completion of the North Spokane Corridor and obtained over $5,200,000 in funding for the replacement of the Trent Avenue Bridge and to help fund Spokane Transit Authority’s battery infrastructure for electric buses.
- Council adopted a legislative agenda for the 2021 state and federal legislative sessions, on onboarded new federal legislative advocates for the upcoming 117th Congress.
Improving connectivity for a smarter and more capable city.
- Council added a second franchise agreement for cable services with TDS Metrocom, to increase competition and consumer choice in Spokane.
- Council renewed and approved a new ten-year franchise agreement with Comcast Cable.
- Council authorized the purchase of hybrid and fully electric vehicles for use in our City’s fleet and was awarded a $2,500,000 grant from the Department of Commerce for the installation of electric vehicle charging infrastructure, in collaboration with Avista and SRTC.
Engaging the community to move our city forward.
- Council considered and approved six amendments to the Comprehensive Plan and received a $100,000 grant from the Department of Commerce to fund the development of a housing action plan and a housing needs assessment in Spokane.
- Council continued its strong partnership with Spokane Public Schools, assisting the siting of a new middle school in northeast Spokane by vacating streets and engaging in a planning process for the area to help enable the construction of that new school.
- Council helped the Comstock Neighborhood Council re-imagine the neighborhood and commercial center at 29th and Grand, by approving the community’s plan for that neighborhood center.
- Council adopted a new sub-area plan for the South University District area, located near the south landing of the University District Gateway Bridge, to help the U-District continue its development into a world-class center for health sciences and biomedical research and education.
- Council approved the Plan Commission’s annual work program, after having added planner positions in the prior year’s budget to increase capacity in advance of an anticipated economic recovery.
Building housing for everyone.
- Council enacted a new 0.1% sales and use tax to build or acquire new units of housing which are affordable for people earning 60% of the area median income (“AMI”) or less. This action followed the City’s multi-year effort in the state legislature to obtain passage of HB 1590, which allowed the City to enact the funding method for affordable housing.
- Council approved the sale of surplus land near Gonzaga Prep to Catholic Charities, to enable to construction of permanent supportive housing, and authorized a sub-area planning process in that area to help with needed redevelopment in that area.
Continuing financial stewardship.
- Council updated the funding formula for the Spokane Employee’s Retirement System to help support our retirees and maintain the sustainability of our pension system.
- Council updated the annual 1% property tax levy to help ensure the stability and sustainability of City services.
- Council adopted the City’s 2021 annual budget, including the adoption of three final amendments proposed by the administration and over 50 amendments proposed by the Council.