SPOKANE, Wash. — Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward delivered her first State of the City address on Friday afternoon, outlining her goals as she moves forward in office.
The speech, given at an event for Greater Spokane Incorporated, lasted for a little over 30 minutes and also featured new City Administrator Wes Crago. Woodward spoke mostly about her plans for the future in four main areas: homelessness, housing, economic development, and public safety.
“Today isn’t necessarily a day to talk about track records, it’s going to be looking at our vision looking forward for the next four years,” Woodward said.
Before Woodward began speaking on the four pillars of her future plans, she spoke about her first days in offices and told an anecdote about taking a ride-along with, Dave Beardslee, who has driven a snowplow for the city for 34 years. She also spoke about how she will be listening to the needs of those in Spokane as mayor.
Woodward touted business growth in the city during the last year of David Condon’s administration.
Woodward then introduced her Crago, who she chose to be her City Administrator.
Crago spoke briefly about his excitement to work in Spokane.
“I absolutely cannot wait to dig into every aspect of this amazing community,” Crago said.
Crago said that it is important for the mayor’s office and the city to listen to their constituents needs, as both they and media will hold them accountable for their actions.
Woodward took back to the podium after Crago’s remarks, saying that through the process of speaking with citizens on the campaign trail and once in office, she came to the conclusion that the four most important areas were homelessness, housing, economic development, and public safety. She also said, before she started talking about the points specifically, that all of the areas are intertwined and have to be addressed together.
“You can’t look improve housing without a strong economy. You can’t look at homelessness without considering housing. And a stronger economy and a growing metro area requires supporting and increasing our public safety,” Woodward said.
She also said community groups would be formed to work on these areas.
Woodward said she is bringing homelessness to the forefront of her administration’s priorities after she heard from a longtime city service partner told her he prayed homelessness would become a focus for the city government.
The city will continue to provide options for those who are experiencing homelessness, but will also look to strike a balance between the homeless and business owners, she said.
“A key goal will be to move toward finding balance between the needs of all of our citizens, those who are experiencing homelessness, throes who work, shop and recreate in the core of our city, and those who own property or operate businesses,” she said.
Woodward also said that the city’s goal will be to not just supply temporary housing for people. But to help them be self-sufficient going forward, which she also mentioned heavily on the campaign trail.
“We simply cannot just provide shelters; we have to look for long-term solutions that will prevent people from experiencing homelessness in the first place,” she said.
When it comes to the system of providing bed space, Woodward said the city needs to keep more accurate counts on the amount of space available and the city needs to be accountable when it comes to money spent on homelessness programs.
Woodward added that the city shouldn’t be using general reserve funds every winter and that Spokane can’t be responsible for homelessness as a regional issue.
“It can no longer be one government’s responsibility to fund a regional issue,” she said.
Spokane City Council President Breean Beggs said he supports the idea of not using the city's general fund.
"She also mentioned, which I strongly support is that we need to get general fund from the county, city of Spokane Valley and deer park and Cheney. Those groups right now are kind of sending their folks to downtown Spokane. We need their contributions. I'm proposing a per capita basis--we all put some in," he said.
Switching to housing, Woodward first mentioned the city’s Comprehensive Plan, first adopted in 2001, which identified housing as a long-term issue for Spokane.
She said the plan points out housing should be available to everyone.
“As the plan point out, affordable housing of all types needs to be available, regardless of income level, in an environment that is safe, clean and healthy,” Woodward said.
Woodward plans on forming a “Housing Task Force” to tackle questions relating to housing. Some questions she listed where if incentive programs are working, if the city is encouraging a variety of housing developments, and if the system is broke.
She also touched on two laws relating to tenant’s rights that were proposed last year which were postponed until March 1.
Woodward said the city needs to address landlords that take advantage of tenants, but that those landlords are rare.
“We know we need to address those few landlords who are taking advantage of vulnerable tenants and are offering substandard living conditions, we need to act on those,” she said. “Thankfully, it is very few. But we also have to make sure we are not wrongfully punishing those who are providing fair and safe conditions in rental opportunities.”
When moving to the topic of economic development, Woodward said that the city has made good progress on quality of life. She also took a moment to thank Condon for working to improve areas such as the Spokane River, work on neighborhoods and infrastructure projects.
Businesses should be welcomed all across the city, not just downtown, according to Woodward. She also claimed that in the fourth quarter of 2019, 1,000 new business licenses were filed in Spokane, with a majority being for business with less than 10 employees.
To keep improving economic growth, Woodward said I-90 needs to be improved in a way that makes people want to come into Spokane.
She also gave a nod to neighborhood councils for coming up with ideas to help the individual neighborhoods thrive.
Woodward again touted public safety as one of the most important issues facing the city, and said that her administration is close to moving the Spokane Police precinct in the Spokane Intermodal Station to a location closer to the heart of downtown.
She said that although she wanted to make the announcement that the move was finalized during the State of the City, that there were a few more steps that needed to be done.
As the Spokane Metropolitian area grows, Woodward said that public safety has to be a high priority if Spokane is to thrive.