Controversies

I have served as your Council President for the last six years. I’ve made mistakes in that job. I have a few votes that I regret. There are issues, some controversial, that deserve clarity and frankness. I want to address some of the issues that I have heard about from you over the last few years.

 

1. You gaveled two meetings to a close when you disagreed with someone.

I have presided over 700 different meetings at City Hall in the last 6+ years and had two instances where meetings had to be gaveled closed. Closing the meeting had nothing to do with the speaker’s content. The meetings were gaveled to a close because the audience or speaker continually violated the Council Rules of Procedure (adopted unanimously by the City Council) or Robert’s Rules of Order. I provide a brief outline of the rules of procedure at every meeting. These rules are also on our Council agenda. I always give the rules violator a chance to comply. 99.9% of the time, everyone complies with the Council’s rules. The instances I gaveled the meeting to a close was when the people’s business could not proceed due to a deliberate and continuous effort to violate the Council’s rules. I encourage you to watch a Monday night meeting to see how the meetings run on a typical Monday!

 

2. You put the rocks under the freeway to make homeless people move.

The rocks were heavy-handed and were not deployed in an appropriate way. Although this was a City administrative project (not a Council initiated project), I voted yes along with other six colleagues to fund the landscaping project that included the basalt rock project. I regret this vote and I regret not pushing for a more appropriate way to ensure public safety in that area. I answered the phone when the press called. They deserved an answer. You deserved an answer. As a result of the deserved public outrage, I sponsored a Council forum on homelessness that resulted in many new ideas from the public on how to address homelessness. Because of that forum, we have set aside $2 million to begin addressing affordable housing issues. We are pursuing stronger protections for tenants. We have increased human service funding to nearly $2 million and funded new job programs. There is an awareness about affordable housing issues at the City of Spokane like never before. I made a mistake. The City made a mistake. But the input from the public has led to positive action on these critical issues. I am grateful for the public backlash over this project. And I am proud that compassionate non-profit leaders like Fawn Schott from Volunteers of America are supporting my campaign and believe we can do better in addressing our homeless resident issues.

 

3. In 2014 you were found guilty of an Ethics Violation. You forwarded an attorney-client protected email to another city employee.

I admitted to the citizen’s Ethics Commission that I forwarded an attorney-client protected email to another City employee. This broke the attorney-client protection. I paid a self-imposed $250 fine to the City Treasury and learned a valuable lesson about the attorney-client privilege process.

 

4. You have admitted to smoking marijuana even though it is illegal under federal law.

Marijuana is legal in the state of Washington and I stand with the majority of the City of Spokane citizens who voted to legalize it. I sponsored and the Council passed an ordinance that would vacate misdemeanor marijuana convictions for people convicted in Spokane Municipal Court. I believe in the medicinal value of marijuana and I believe there should be strong safety regulations in its distribution and use. Like many, I have smoked marijuana in the past. I inhaled.

 

5. Your policies are anti-business and are driving people from Spokane.

We have seen record investment in the city of Spokane. We have seen record sales tax growth. Businesses thrive when a city and its residents thrive. I have proudly sponsored or supported pro-people policies such as paid safe and sick leave and fair-chance hiring. These policies haven’t hurt our local economy. They have strengthened it. I am proud to have the support of business leaders such as Ron Wells, Luke Baumgarten, Mike Allen, Rob Brewster, and Doug Yost.

 

6. You want to tax gun purchases.

As an elected official, gun violence absolutely terrifies me. But what terrifies me, even more, is the idea that the only way to be safe is for everyone to have a gun. I reject that idea. Due to state law, cities have very limited tools to address gun violence. One of the only tools we have is a taxing authority to pay for new police or to offset the costs of gun violence. I threw that idea out there based on conversations with two strong moms who are concerned about the gun violence happening across our country and right here in our community. Based on feedback from my colleagues and the public, I did not bring this idea forward for a vote. I believe there are many ways to deal with the issue of gun violence. I will actively participate in those conversations.

 

7. You have limited the public forum to once a month.

The City Council voted to limit open forum participation to once a month, but citizens can still speak on any and all pieces of Council business. This change was made after the Council heard that open forum dominated by the same voices each week is a deterrent to coming to Council and participating. This change has allowed others to participate in the Council’s Open Forum. We typically have all ten slots filled for open forum each week. We have seen new participation and citizen attendance at Council meetings.

 

8. You passed legislation to censor shows like COPS and LivePD

The Council worked closely with our attorneys to ensure that any regulations guiding reality-based police shows address the privacy rights afforded under state law for citizens. The regulations adopted by the Council have nothing to do with the content of the show. I believe and the Council voted to confirm the right of a person to consent before their image is exploited for profit.

 

9. You filed to run for Congress but backed out.

In June of 2016, I filed to run for Mayor of Spokane to continue the work I’ve done since being elected as your Council President. That November, with the election of Donald Trump, I felt passionate that I needed to use my legislative expertise in the other Washington, so I filed to run for Congress against an incumbent who I feared would be a rubber stamp for Trump’s destructive policies.

But then life happened.

With my mother, and then my brother, facing serious health challenges, I felt I had no choice but to step down from the race and focus on helping them and continuing to be the best Council President I could be.

The decision was incredibly hard, but in the end, it was straightforward:

Throughout my life and career, I have always worked passionately to better the lives of my family and my community. Starting with those closest to me and working outward, trying to make as big of a difference as I can in as many peoples’ lives as possible. But family always comes first, and so I decided to get off the campaign trail, stay in Spokane, and focus on the health and well-being of my loved ones.

My family is still facing challenges, but the worst of it is passed, so I’m re-dedicating myself to being your next Mayor so we can continue the fight to make this incredible place into the city we all know it can and will be.

 

10. “I’m a better legislator than an administrator”

When I decided to run for Congress, I made an off the cuff remark that Congress was a better fit for me than being Mayor because “I’m a better legislator than an administrator.”

It’s true that there’s something special to me about creating legislation. Being able to hear from fellow citizens about their hopes and hardships, then working to write laws and policies that will make their lives better.

The truth is, though, I am a very effective administrator as well, and my career backs that up:

After an early phase of my career working for the Oakland Raiders and the Sydney Olympics, I returned to Spokane in 2001 to become the Regional Director of TicketsWest, where I oversaw 50 people and a budget of 26 million.

Importantly, I want to effectively enforce the laws and policies your Council has adopted. In the same way that I focus on legislation that has massive impacts on people’s lives, I want to bring stability and compassion back to the Mayor’s office for the hundreds of city employees who have struggled with the constant shake-ups and uncertainty of the past decade.

I’m incredibly proud of the work we’ve done as a City Council, and I’m incredibly excited to bring the same culture of listening and change-making to the mayor’s office.

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