Homelessness, renting reforms and criminal justice among priorities of Spokane’s mayor, City Council in 2023

The City Council returns to work Monday after a weeks-long end-of-year recess, and both council members and Mayor Nadine Woodward’s administration say they have big plans for the year ahead.

Those priorities include significant infrastructure projects, investments in public safety and affordable housing and changes in how the city addresses homelessness, criminal justice and more.

Some items will be addressed in just the next few weeks, including a major and controversial package of landlord-tenant reforms, which will be voted on Jan. 23 after weeks of work led by council members Karen Stratton and Michael Cathcart to find a compromise.

Several council members have also expressed a desire to build on a recently announced reorganization of the Spokane Police Department, moving dozens of officers to the patrol division and assigning patrol teams to one of four precincts to give officers a sense of ownership over particular areas of the City.

A community conversation group launched in 2021 to discuss police reforms will hold its final meeting at the end of the month. Council members have also discussed providing additional funding to the department to move closer to a neighborhood-policing model, further narrowing the geographic areas that patrol officers would cover and increasing opportunities for relationship-building.

On Monday, the City Council will consider whether to seek proposals from community organizations interested in leasing the East Central Neighborhood Library, which controversially was converted into a police precinct last year.

“Before the debacle happened back in the spring, we were going to request information from local entities to speak before the council and say, ‘This is how we feel we could partner and be a part of (the library),’ ” said council member Betsy Wilkerson, who has taken a lead on the issue.

High on the list of priorities for the year ahead, both for Woodward and for the City Council, is the formation of a regional homelessness group, combining resources from the county, city of Spokane and other neighboring municipalities.

Multiple council members are also eyeing using some American Rescue Plan Act dollars to create new Business Improvement Districts across the city, and moving forward on a new Municipal Justice Center, among other goals. Some are considering how best to incentivize the development of affordable housing, including by converting surface parking lots into multifamily housing.

There is also widespread support for the implementation of speed cameras near some city parks and hospitals, as well as other traffic calming measures.

There will be dozens more key projects for 2023, and though many have broad support, some were most highly anticipated by particular members. In most cases, success on any of these goals would require support from a majority of the council.

Mayor Nadine Woodward

In a video to the public, Woodward laid out three key priorities for the new year.

  • Push the state legislature to make changes to recent police reforms.
  • Invest in mental health services, particularly for youth.
  • Form a regional homelessness coalition.

Council President Breean Beggs

Law Enforcement:

  • Create a Spokane Municipal Justice Council with community members to discuss how to reduce crime, reduce costs and increase rehabilitation of those involved in the criminal justice system, restarting the work previously done by the Spokane Regional Law and Justice Council.


  • Continue implementing the multi-year Spokane Sustainability Plan.

Utilities and other infrastructure:

  • Enact “responsible bidder best practices” for public works projects, as proposed by a labor-contractor stakeholder group.
  • Update three-year city utility rates.
  • Complete studies on a 20-year water infrastructure plan and fluoridation feasibility.

Jonathan Bingle

Votes declaring the council’s positions on certain topics:

• Pass a resolution asking for the Legislature to respond to the state Supreme Court’s Blake decision by increasing penalties for drug possession.

  • Pass a resolution opposing dam removal on the Snake River. Bingle is working with area tribes on compromise language. “Even if they don’t fully support it, if I can get something that isn’t offensive to their desires, that’s my hope,” he said.
  • Pass a resolution declaring the city’s opposition to the quick speed at which the state is moving

to ban natural gas utilities in newly constructed buildings


  • Pass a resolution in support of a sales tax increase that county commissioners have asked voters to approve which would pay for a

new regional law and justice center


  • which would include a new jail and other criminal justice facilities.


  • Support the development of transportation infrastructure in the Latah area in order to encourage more residential development. This would include adopting a frontage plan and coming up with local matching dollars so the city can go after grants.

Michael Cathcart

Redistricting reforms:

  • Amend the city’s charter to take away authority for redrawing city district maps away from City Council members. “I’m not sure how it would be formatted, but in some way to remove elected politicians from drawing the boundaries of their own voters,” he said.

Systemic changes to city budgeting:

  • Adopt a supplementary budget system, giving the City Council one mid-year opportunity to make broad adjustments to the year’s budget, rather than try to make regular spot fixes through the special budget ordinance process.
  • Adopt a process so that, when the city budgets for the next year, budget projections are made for the following year as well.

Law Enforcement:

  • Consider how the city can more cost-effectively enforce laws about improperly permitted and “substandard” RVs.

Lori Kinnear

Transportation infrastructure:

  • As chair of the Spokane Transit Authority, oversees the launch of the City Line rapid bus route, and shepherding the process as STA looks at development of rapid bus route on the Division corridor.

Law Enforcement:

  • Work with city staff to restart a graffiti abatement program with neighborhood volunteers.


  • Pass an ordinance capping how much the city can spend on homelessness services from the general fund.


  • Encourage development on vacant land currently held by the Washington State Department of Transportation.
  • Encourage clustered development in certain areas.
  • Update impact fees and general charges facility along the US 195 corridor.
  • Consider adjusting parcel sizes to increase density in new construction.


  • Finalize a city tree-planting plan and include funding in the 2024 budget.
  • Support the development of a “memory garden,” a community garden specialized to serve dementia patients.
  • Encourage the creation of the Manito Boulevard Historic District.

Karen Stratton

Stratton has worked for weeks to push the landlord-tenant reforms past the finish line amid heated debate, and she said she hopes to focus in 2023 on issues that aren’t as politically divisive. Most of her stated goals in 2023, such as moving the city toward a community policing model, are widely shared by her colleagues.

She and Wilkerson have said they want to push the state Legislature to set aside money to build a permanent home for the American Community Indian Center, which has had to move numerous times since its founding in 1967.

Betsy Wilkerson

Advocate for state action:

  • Advocate for state funds to build soundproof measures for the Spokane Civic Theater due to noise issues from the nearby stadium.
  • Advocate for state funds for HVAC upgrades for the East Central Library.
  • Advocate for state funds so that Frontier Behavioral Health can build a primary care clinic on their main campus. Also consider allocating American Rescue Plan Act funds for this project.
  • Advocate for state funds for a police training facility.
  • Advocate for state funds for the design of suicide prevention measures on the Monroe Street Bridge. “In my time on city council, I have seen about five suicide attempts. It’s traumatic and preventable,” she said.
  • Calling on the state Legislature to prioritize funding of the North Spokane Corridor.
  • Advocate for the state to adopt condo liability reform to incentivize the development of condos.

Zack Zappone

Transportation infrastructure:

  • Launch a bike and pedestrian pilot program on Howard Street near the arena, including possibly narrowing the street lanes and installing protected bike lanes, among other components.


  • Launch a school-based health care system using American Rescue Plan Act funding, similar to the Community Health Association of Spokane clinic at Rogers High School.

Law Enforcement:

  • Fund the purchase of mobile law enforcement cameras that can be stationed around hot spots downtown, such as in parking lots near bars.