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Spokane council approves budget, new civil rights office

Spokane City Cable 5 screenshot

The Spokane City Council approved a new city budget for 2022.

It includes an extra $3.5 million to cover unexpected overtime in the fire department. And it increases spending by 6% for the police department, a point made clear by Councilwoman Karen Stratton.“This is just my time to say to the community and I will be answering all of the emails. We are not, we have not talked about it, and we have no plans to defund the Spokane Police Department.”

The council approved the budget, 6-1, with the lone vote against cast by Michael Cathcart.

"We should have crafted a budget that was a little bit more focused on economic development and a lot more focused on public safety," he said. "That's just my preference and I'm not going to suggest that this in any way defunds. You're right. It does increase funding. I just don't think it does it enough. I think with a lot of what we're seeing right now in the community more investment in public safety would be really, really beneficial."

The council also voted Monday to establish a new Office of Civil Rights, Equity and Inclusion. Council President Breean Beggs says it will have three employees available to answer questions from the public, “a place where you can make a complaint, where you can get an investigation, where you can get education about what your rights are, whether it’s based on your race, on your gender, your identity, your refugee status, your veterans status, your political speech," he said.

"I just want to reaffirm that this office is just not an office for people of color," said Councilwoman Betsy Wilkerson. "Civil rights affects everyone, whether it's your housing, your employment, your disabilities. So people who try to couch this in that manner, that's not true. This will impact everyone, no matter what your religion, race, creed, color."

Beggs says the new office will also be a resource for city employees.

The Spokane County Commissioners also approved a budget for 2022. They say the spending plan adds 21 employees to patrol and crime investigation to the sheriff’s department, as well as money to improve roads and renovate county parks and golf courses.