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Spokane mayor pitches tax ask, pledges to move House of Charity during first State of the City address

May 1—Spokane Mayor Lisa Brown held her first State of the City address after taking workplace earlier this yr with a speech on Tuesday that highlighted the work of metropolis workers and tried to persuade the crowd of a whole bunch, with many enterprise and property house owners, to assist her proposal to elevate property taxes to broaden companies and keep away from deep cuts.

The occasion, hosted by enterprise improvement group Greater Spokane Incorporated, offered a possibility for Brown to present an replace on her administration to a room of some of the most influential figures in the metropolis, in addition to representatives from the state Legislature and different cities. She lauded the metropolis’s facilities and tradition and celebrated its folks and pure options.

She additionally praised the efforts of metropolis police, firefighters and workers from different departments together with waste administration earlier than ultimately transitioning to lobbying for a big tax improve she is looking for to forestall layoffs and to broaden the companies that metropolis workers can present. On Monday, the Spokane City Council voted to place the property tax levy, which might elevate about $38 million yearly in perpetuity at a price of round $377 for the common home-owner, on the August poll.

She prefaced the speech’s huge pitch by itemizing a couple of funds cuts she was making, together with asking her cupboard to take two unpaid furlough days this yr, and promised that extra have been coming in the coming weeks. But filling the roughly $25 million gap in the metropolis’s funds couldn’t be responsibly accomplished with cuts alone, she argued.

“I don’t believe we can do this response all on the cut side, especially as calls for service are up and we are a growing city,” Brown mentioned. She pointed to outcomes from inner surveys of workers at the metropolis’s hearth and police departments.

“They asked, ‘Stop asking us to do more with less, and ignore the politics and do what is right,’ ” Brown mentioned. “I believe what is right for our community is investing in community safety and fiscal responsibility.”

Not fairly 5 months into her first time period, there have been few substantial accomplishments that the freshman mayor might tout during her first State of the City address. Brown primarily highlighted the planning her administration has accomplished in its early days which will yield fruit later this yr, although she additionally pointed to efforts to streamline metropolis allowing and to entice a extra sturdy aeronautics sector in the Spokane space.

She additionally held up the historic work accomplished to change zoning inside the metropolis and permit for larger residential density — these reforms occurred below the administration of her predecessor, former-Mayor Nadine Woodward, although it was to Brown that Gov. Jay Inslee offered an award for the work earlier this yr.

Brown additionally floated tasks she hoped to full earlier than the finish of the yr, together with one Woodward pledged to accomplish during the 2022 State of the City address however could not end: shifting the Catholic Charities-run homeless shelter the House of Charity out of the troubled space close to Second Avenue and Division Street.

Almost two years in the past, Woodward, who argued {that a} focus of homelessness and habit therapy companies in a small space downtown had led to city blight there, named the “House of Charity 2.0” undertaking amongst her prime priorities. She pledged to move Catholic Charities into a bigger house out of downtown, doubling the shelter capability in the course of, and to assist discover state funding and operational assist to do this.

Nothing got here of that undertaking, nonetheless. No potential websites for the new House of Charity constructing have been disclosed by the metropolis or Catholic Charities, and by the summer season of 2023 the nonprofit was criticizing Woodward’s partnership.

On Tuesday, Brown continued Woodward’s initiative to disperse companies out of the downtown core, calling to shut the present congregant shelter and open a facility modeled after one other Catholic Charities undertaking, the Catalyst constructing in the West Hills Neighborhood. That transformed Quality Inn, which opened December 2022 with vital monetary assist from the state Department of Commerce, which Brown led at the time, now supplies previously homeless folks particular person rooms with devoted psychological well being and peer assist companies as they transition into everlasting housing.

Unlike her predecessor, Brown is recommending backing the move with over $2.6 million of tax {dollars}.

The Spokane City Council is in the course of of clawing again over $7.5 million of COVID-19 aid funds that had been allotted to numerous functions however stays unspent. Those funds should both be contracted by the finish of the yr or returned to the federal authorities.

On Monday, during a council train to gauge every member’s priorities, the mayor’s proposal to spend $2.65 million of these funds to move the House of Charity was amongst the prime rating gadgets. Rated even greater by most members was one other $1.8 million to additionally move the neighboring Compassionate Addiction Treatment facility, which Brown additionally teased during the State of the City address.

A vote on how the metropolis will use the final of its pandemic aid funds might be held on May 13, in accordance to City Council President Betsy Wilkerson.

“We have heard and been challenged with Second and Division for years,” Wilkerson mentioned. “There are other items that I would have also liked to have funded, but we have prioritized this.”

As with two years in the past, the new websites for these moved services stay to be recognized, wrote metropolis spokeswoman Erin Hut in a Tuesday textual content.

“At this time no specific plans for that transition have been agreed to or funded,” wrote Catholic Charities Eastern Washington CEO Rob McCann.

McCann believes that this time might be completely different, he added in a short interview.

“The biggest single difference this time around, this current administration has proposed a process and a plan to determine a new House of Charity facility that fits into the broader system,” McCann mentioned. “We were interested two years ago, but in hindsight now we see was a political stunt with no real effort behind it.”

“I have every reason to believe that a House of Charity transition can and will happen under this administration,” he mentioned.

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