An NPR member station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Spokane mayor-elect Brown outlines transition plan, asks for community input

Spokane mayor-elect Lisa Brown speakers to supporters and journalists at the Catalyst Building, Tuesday, December 4.
Screen capture from Facebook Live stream
Spokane mayor-elect Lisa Brown speakers to supporters and journalists at the Catalyst Building, Tuesday, December 4.

With less than four weeks left before Lisa Brown becomes Spokane’s 46th mayor, the mayor-elect announced her transition team and committees tasked with studying and offering suggestions for the city’s pressing issues.

“I talked to hundreds of people from all parts of the community over the last several months,” Brown said at a press conference Tuesday morning. “And what I consistently heard…is that people love Spokane. They’re here for a reason. And they think it can be better.”

Brown said she wants to know what Spokanites’ major priorities are and hinted at a triage approach, in which topics could be organized by their urgency and need for action. Areas of concern Brown outlined in her remarks included better police response, a “better path” for the city’s unsheltered population, pathways for good education and jobs, and what Spokane’s future may look like.

The feedback helped lead to a transition strategy built on five committees, each focused on a realm of civic interest: public safety, housing and homelessness, the regional economy, support for families and neighborhoods, and sustainability.

Arts educator and administrator Ginger Ewing was selected to serve as co-chair for the families and neighborhood committee. It is her first time participating in a mayoral transition.

“The committee work is meant to engage voices from across the community and tap into the huge wealth of knowledge and expertise in Spokane,” she said. “It is a mayor’s job to listen to the people they are serving, and when we center as many voices as we can, we become better leaders.”

Ewing said the approach reminds her of a trend in cultural and nonprofit organizations that she said emphasizes the community over individual organizations, approaches its work holistically, and values equity and social justice.

The five panels include dozens of people, but they don’t include every voice, Brown said. She invited Spokane residents to read more about her goals, learn about the committees and submit their own suggestions online at BetterWaySpokane.com.

Brown acknowledged the significance of addressing homelessness, a key topic in the election campaign. She said getting people into reliable housing is a top priority, but exactly how to accomplish that will depend in part on the transition committee’s recommendations.

Brown did provide some clarity about what to look for in the initial months of her term. For instance, the TRAC shelter in east Spokane will not be closed right away.

“During the campaign, I was clear that I did not think it was a best practice or the right facility, so I believe there will be a transition,” Brown said. “But I’m certainly not going to second-guess the current city council and administration who are sort of struggling with closing out the budget, and leaving whatever plan in place for the early part of next year.”

Brown said her approach to addressing homelessness will be shaped by a proposed regional coalition, the city’s own resources, and whether there’s strong coordination among local government and homeless service providers.

“People are looking for a plan they can be part of, and that’s what we need to put together,” Brown said.

Brown also spoke about the impending retirement of Spokane Police Chief Craig Meidl. She met with Meidl and Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer recently. Brown offered no details about their conversation, but described the meeting as “very productive.” She said she would soon announce an interim police chief and unveil a plan to find and hire Meidl’s permanent successor. His last day is December 31.

Brown will be sworn in on New Year’s Day.

Brandon Hollingsworth is your All Things Considered host. He has served public radio audiences for fifteen years, primarily in reporting, hosting and interviewing. His previous ports-of-call were WUOT-FM in Knoxville, Tennessee, and Alabama Public Radio. His work has been heard nationally on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Here and Now and NPR’s top-of-the-hour newscasts.