Betsy Wilkerson

Council President-Mid-Year Review

Betsy Wilkerson, City Council President, 509.625.6255

Wednesday, July 3, 2024 at 4:11 p.m.

Council President Introduction

Betsy Wilkerson

As we reach the year's midpoint, I am deeply committed to serving as your newly elected Council President. We are on a journey toward a productive year filled with collaboration, progressive legislation, and dynamic leadership, all aimed at keeping Spokane moving forward.

So far, the Council has faced new opportunities, welcomed new faces in our council office, and welcomed a new administration. I am optimistic and eagerly look forward to continuing our city’s stewardship with my new Council Members and the new Mayor. Together, we will develop strategies, innovation, and forward-thinking that will inspire us to think comprehensively and continue to make Spokane a place we love and want to grow.

In 2023, we witnessed the severe consequences of regional economic instability, leading to increased homelessness, a surge in opioid use, and a dangerous rise in Fentanyl usage. Fortunately, with the administration's support, the council allocated ARPA funds to areas where our community needed it the most.

Let's continue to work together to overcome these challenges and create a better future for all of us. With our collective efforts, we can make Spokane a shining example of progress and prosperity.

City Council Welcomes New Members

Former Council President Breean Beggs departed to become Spokane's Superior Court Judge, and Council Pro Tem Lori Kinnear took his place as the first woman to hold the position of City Council President. This led to a vacant seat on the Council occupied by Council Member Ryan Orlrich for three months.

Meanwhile, the 2023 campaign season was underway; Council Member Michael Cathcart retained his seat as the Council Member for District 1. Council said farewell to Councilwoman Karen Stratton, who served on Spokane’s City Council and as a City of Spokane employee for a total of 18 years. Council Member Stratton provided sound and grounded judgment on the Council, always in a humorous and lighthearted manner.

In the election to fill Council President Kinnear's position, Paul Dillon won the District 2 race, and Kitty Klitzke was elected as the new Council Member for District 3, replacing Karen Stratton.

Lori Kinnear concluded her term as Council Member and Betsy Wilkerson made history by becoming the first woman of color to be elected as Spokane City Council President. Two months later, Lili Navarrete was appointed to take over Council Member Betsy Wilkerson's position for District 2.

  • Paul Dillon

    Paul Dillon

  • Kitty Klitzke

    Kitty Klitzke

  • Lili Navarrete

    Lili Navarrete

City Budget Progress

In May, The City's Chief Financial Officer, Matt Boston, presented an overview of the budget, with a discussion on specific concerns such as the General Fund, Special Revenue Funds, and the City’s Enterprise Fund. Most of the conversation concentrated on public safety spending, vacant positions, shelter spending, and other areas to explore regarding cost savings and budget efficiencies. Council is adamant about being fiscally conservative with the 2025 budget, focusing on funding core city government functions but willing to make strategic adjustments to city services. Historically, the Council has always warned against overspending. It has been a department that has had departmental budget cuts in the last four years, recently deciding to eliminate the Sustainability Initiative Manager position.

The Council and Administration are not just committed to ongoing budget meetings, but also to fostering a culture of collaboration. They are actively seeking community input on top priorities and long-term goals. This includes scheduled meetings in every neighborhood, with a special focus on impacted communities, and participation in community events throughout the summer. A community survey is available online.

Public Safety

Spokane Police Car

Council Members Betsy Wilkerson and Zack Zappone partnered with Senator Andy Billig, Representative Timm Ormsby, and Representative Marcus Riccelli on securing $1.4 million dollars of funding in the State’s budget for the renovation and expansion of the Spokane Law Enforcement Training Center during this past legislative session.

Additionally, in a mutual agreement between City Council, Administration, and the Guild, together will work to provide the public with efficient and courteous service, encourage good attendance of employees, and promote a climate of labor relations that will aid in achieving a high level of efficiency in the Spokane Police Department.

Housing Initiatives

Governor Inslee Visits Spokane 2024

In January, Council and Mayor welcomed Governor Jay Inslee to present the city with the 2023 Smart Communities Award. Spokane was among 11 communities recognized for exceptional land use planning and development and effective implementation of the state’s Growth Management Act. Specifically, Spokane was celebrated for its innovative approach to housing through the transformative “Building Opportunity and Choices for All” (BOCA) program, which offers hope for housing solutions. City Council first passed an ordinance in 2022 to adopt BOCA as a pilot program. In November 2023, the Council voted unanimously to extend the interim ordinance to update development standards and make amendments that increase housing diversity in the city.

During the 2024 Legislative Session, SB 6175 was passed that allows the City to establish a tax deferral program for converting underutilized commercial properties into affordable housing. Initially, the intention was to provide a more comprehensive property tax incentive, but the Department of Revenue raised concerns about its constitutionality. Consequently, the bill was revised to include a sales and use tax instead. This bill offers Spokane an additional tool to encourage more housing development. Council Member Bingle and Economic Development Director Steve MacDonald's team went above and beyond to ensure the passage of this bill.

Equity Initiatives

Wilkerson Equity Initiatives

In 2024, Council continues building the foundation for our belonging and anti-racism work. Building off 2023, we continued to engage community members to improve our work at the council office by the way we engage community members and look at policies.

Normalize: A shared understanding of the terms and definitions that allow us to speak about race and a shared analysis of racial inequities that allow us to demonstrate the urgency of the problem and prioritize racially equitable solutions.

Organize: To achieve racial equity, local and regional government must work both internally and externally with a network of partners: institutions, business, education, philanthropy, among others, and center the work with communities of color.

Operationalize: Tools must be used to change the policies, procedures, and practices that are perpetuating inequities, as well as used in the development of new policies and programs. Data obtained at the programmatic and community levels must demonstrate measured results.

In January, Council passed a resolution condemning Antisemitism and Islamophobia proclaiming that the Council will continue their education and understanding of diverse cultural communities and calls on City Administration, businesses, educational institutions, and other institutions to also proactively educate and act against all antisemitism and Islamophobia in Spokane.

And in solidarity with the community, Council members united to stand against anti-Black and anti-LGBTQIA+ vandalism and graffiti found in Spokane. Council Member Lili Navarrete issued a strong statement condemning hate and Council Members joined with the Mayor in a video to remind Spokane that hate of any kind is not welcomed. As well as a press conference to bring awareness of the vandalism of the Pride Crosswalk.

Traffic Initiatives

Traffic Calming

The Council office has dedicated itself to using the traffic calming fund solely for traffic calming purposes and remains steadfast. The Council also passed legislation permitting additional speed radar cameras near schools, hospitals, and park property to underscore safety for those specific populations. Installation of the extra cameras is set for spring 2024, with revenue benefitting the traffic calming fund starting in fall 2024.

The City has been advocating for years to authorize noncommissioned officers to issue traffic camera violations, which will help to reduce costs and free up resources for other law enforcement needs. HB 2384 has been approved and grants this authority. It allows traffic cameras on state routes within city limits, such as Division Street, work zones, bus lanes, and other locations with higher collision rates. The fines are capped at $145 but can be doubled in school zones. Additionally, the bill has an equity component, making first-time infractions committed by people receiving public assistance eligible for a 50 percent reduction. Council Member Zappone worked closely with the Association of Washington Cities to make this bill more favorable for Spokane. For more information on Traffic Calming, please visit the City’s Traffic Calming page.

In April 2024, Council Members on the STA board voted on a historic promotional rate fare to celebrate Expo ’74 50th anniversary. Council committed $100,000 of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to STA to help offset the cost of offering free bus service on the weekends from May 4 – July 4. For more information on STA routes and fares, visit the STA Expo '74 website.

Community Engagement

Town Halls

Council Members Zack Zappone and Kitty Klitzke have launched a series of town hall meetings in District 3 to connect with residents about various neighborhood concerns, including traffic calming, land use, public safety, and more. These town hall meetings will be held throughout the district, and all residents are encouraged to participate.

We look forward to a productive year with my fellow City Council Members and the Mayor’s team. There is much work to be done to make sure that Spokane continues down the road to become a City where we truly all belong.

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