Lisa Gardner, Director of Communications and Community Engagement, 509.625.6226
Wednesday, January 12, 2022 at 2:55 p.m.
City Council President
For most of our community, 2021 was a year of recovery. Stepping into yet another year of a global pandemic, filled with additional uncertainties and instability, many organizations and businesses had to adapt and pivot to accommodate the unexpected challenges and changes we faced as a city. The City of Spokane and City Council stood resilient, adaptable, focused, and determined to serve all of Spokane’s community members with productive and measurable outcomes.
City Council passed a resolution establishing the framework and guiding principles for the deployment of funds received from the federal American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. The City of Spokane has been allocated $80 million in recovery funds in addition to more than $190 million for other jurisdictions across Spokane County.
Public Safety is a top priority for the City and Council and funding for fire, police, and housing services continues to take the bulk of discretionary City funding. The City-sponsored focused Community Conversations meetings between police and local leaders to bridge gaps in the current practices and relationships between police and the neighborhoods. This included the implementation of new statewide reforms as well as ideas on how to be more effective in responding to mental health calls for service. The Mayor and Council successfully negotiated and approved a police guild contract that reflected the concerns of constituents and guild members. Overall, the budget for policing and fire services increased while using extra funds for community-based delivery of services.
Council Members and staff had a phenomenal year of community engagement with the formation of several committees and subcommittees. Council approved 3 new volunteer-based subcommittees with focus areas in housing, equity, and environmental justice. These subcommittees will gather professional and lived experiences from community members to help guide, shape, and set forth future policy in areas of housing, sustainability, diversity, equity, and inclusion.
In a historic first, the Council voted unanimously to establish the City’s first Office of Civil Rights, Equity, and Inclusion (OCREI). OCREI will provide citywide leadership and guidance in the areas of civil rights, equity, and inclusion and will promote the removal of historical and existing barriers to access to services within the boundaries of the City of Spokane and work to eliminate discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations while increasing opportunities for participation for all people.
Other major actions taken during 2021 include:
2021 was the final year of service for both Councilmembers Candace Mumm and Kate Burke. Councilmember Mumm was instrumental in the activation of the free Summer Youth Passes in partnership with Spokane Transit Authority (STA). Additionally, Councilmember Mumm was a vocal advocate in COVID-19 vaccination and spearheaded Council’s partnership with Spokane Fire Department for vaccination clinics at local firehouses in all Council Districts. Her leadership, tenacity, a keen eye for the details, and her relenting work ethic were second to none.
Councilmember Burke was spearheaded the formation of the City’s Flag Commission and helped lead the commission’s work, resulting in the adoption of a new City flag this year. She continued to be an advocate for the unhoused and to bring light to women’s health issues. Her unwavering compassion, humanistic outlook on social issues, and steadfast determination will be sorely missed on Council.
In 2022, Council welcomes two new Councilmembers, Councilmember Zack Zappone of District 3, and Councilmember Jonathan Bingle of District 1. I look forward to their contributions to the Council and to the City of Spokane.
In the last five years, City Council has demonstrated that when Spokane leads, the State of Washington often follows with balanced public policy improvements. 2022 starts out with a short legislative session and the City of Spokane’s legislative agenda focuses on continuing the progress we have made in previous sessions, especially in the areas of improving public safety, transportation, and housing.
Improve public safety, reduce recidivism, and lower criminal justice costs by establishing a pilot program that enables the Spokane region to use Accelerated Rehabilitation and Community Safety (ARCS) diversion services for certain property and drug crimes.
Safeguard pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers by permitting the City of Spokane to expand the use of automated traffic safety cameras near schools and parks. Dedicate revenue from infractions to fund traffic calming measures that will help reduce speed and enhance the street environment for non-motorists.
Distribution of American Recovery Plan Act Funds
City Council just approved the first $14 million of $80 million in ARPA spending for housing, childcare, small business support, and city parks enhancements. Council will continue to roll out additional funding priorities and work closely with the Mayor’s Office to solicit vendors to distribute the actual program funds.
Increased Housing Choices
City Council will be working closely with the Planning Department and the Plan Commission to expand housing choices throughout the City, especially in neighborhoods that have robust bus service. This will be accomplished by providing financial incentives to builders, reducing development fees, and changing existing land-use laws that will allow more units on the same amount of land while being sensitive to neighborhood design standards.
Improved Traffic Calming Program
City Council has substantially increased the funding for neighborhood traffic calming projects and created a new process that will kick off this year for each neighborhood to prioritize and request projects on a rolling four-year basis.
Updating City Water System
The City has begun a major study of its water system needs for the next twenty years and will also be working on updated smart water usage practices in 2022. The goal is to plan financially for new water system infrastructure while reducing usage and costs in support of meeting our legal obligations to maintain Spokane River flows and ease the burden on ratepayers.
Financial Reforms to Improve Public Safety
The City will be tackling reforms in its overtime and vehicle purchases and usage to free up more money within fire and police to provide more direct services to the public. Council and the Mayor’s Office will be utilizing new studies in each area so that we can increase the number of public safety personnel deployed in Spokane and use them more effectively.
Increased Shelter Beds
The City Council has budgeted substantial funds in 2022 to build and operate more year-round shelter beds that are designed to save people’s lives and move them into permanent housing.