The general election in Spokane this November has the chance to flip the city’s political script. Due to term limits, the city is guaranteed a new mayor and City Council president. Additionally, three positions on the Spokane City Council are on the ballot, including in District 1 — which includes Gonzaga University and the Logan Neighborhood — where a new face will be elected to represent the area.
In the upcoming weeks, The Gonzaga Bulletin will profile three of these elections that will have the most impact to the GU community.
For the first time in eight years, Spokane’s nonpartisan City Council will have a new president leading the legislative affairs.
Running to head the seven-person council tasked with representing the interests of Spokane’s citizens are Breean Beggs, an attorney and city council member from District 2, and Cindy Wendle, a north Spokane business owner and real estate manager.
Beggs and Wendle advanced from a primary election that included four candidates with Beggs receiving 36% of the votes and Wendle collecting 30%.
The previous City Council leader, two-term president Ben Stuckart, was restricted from seeking reelection due to term limits and is now making a bid to be Spokane’s mayor. The mayoral candidates will be previewed in next week’s edition of the Bulletin.
Spokane city affairs was nothing new to Beggs when he was appointed to fill a vacant seat on Spokane City Council in 2016 and subsequently reelected in 2017.
He spent time as the executive director for the Center for Justice in Spokane, a local advocacy group empowering marginalized populations in the city, where he volunteered with community groups and lobbied the City Council on issues from water quality to criminal justice.
Now, in the spirit of Robert Kennedy’s message, “Some men see things as they are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were, and ask why not.”
Beggs wants to be Spokane’s City Council President.
“I thought we needed a little more of the ‘Why not?’ for Spokane, especially given some of our problems,” Beggs said.
The list of goals and initiatives Beggs champions with his mindset are extensive including driving economic benefits into neighborhoods, encouraging a community approach among Spokane’s police force and reforming the county-run criminal justice system through his role as the designated representative on the council to various county commissions.
“We could really, I think, move the needle on that in terms of reducing crime and getting people out of this carousel of into the jail, out, reoffend,” Beggs said. “We could do some great things on that.”
He supports reducing overcrowding by increasing home electronic monitoring for city prisoners, expanding community and therapeutic problem-solving courts and opening more homeless shelter beds.
Beds are just the start for how Beggs plans to assist those experiencing homelessness. He encourages spending from the city’s financial reserve, setting standards for city shelters that include 24/7 services and providing access to basic human dignities like showers, laundry and storage.
“I’ve been a voice all along for a couple of things, the first is we are going to need to spend some of our financial reserves to get this right, because it takes money,” Beggs said.
Before individuals can get off the street, they must have a place to go and right now Beggs said Spokane does not have the low-income housing to meet this need.
He supports smart growth including building up in city centers, utilizing alternative housing options and working hard with the Washington State Legislature to obtain funding for more low-income housing.
“It is tricky, because if you are on council you are hearing from everybody that they want it differently and some people don’t want change,” Beggs said.
While on council, Beggs has chaired both the public infrastructure committee and the sustainability action subcommittee, where he led the push to bring Lime bikes and scooters to Spokane, helped plan Spokane’s switch to 100% renewable energy by 2030 through a unique a partnership with Avista Utilities and developed a plan to fix neighborhood sidewalks, although he has yet to receive support from other council members to move forward with the project.
On Spokane’s streets, innovative techniques and materials are being used as roads continue to be repaired and replaced.
“In the last maybe 12 years, with some extra money from the taxpayers, we have totally redone about half of the arterials, so that tells you we have half to do,” Beggs said.
If elected, Beggs wants to integrate GU and other university students into Spokane’s community development work as members of committees or through special projects.
“[College students] have a lot of passion, they have a lot skills older generations don’t have and they see the world differently and it is just a great way to get stuff done in a way that everyone benefits,” he said.
When living in an urban environment like what surrounds GU, Beggs said it is important to understand that every aspect of your surroundings is controlled by the city, so if you want less crime or if you’d like more arts and entertainment or restaurants, engage with city leaders.
“Where you’re living and where you’re working and where you’re playing and where you’re learning, the atmosphere is provided by the city,” Beggs said.
Motivated by the issues she witnessed impacting businesses and customers at the Northtown Square shopping center she co-owns and manages real estate for, Wendle wants to be the voice for those in Spokane who feel unheard.
Campaigning on the platform of “Putting People First,” Wendle, who is making her first run for any political office, said she won’t be driven by political agendas which she feels are behind the City Council’s current decisions.
“My key initiatives would be from the people I talk to at the door, because really it is not about me, it is really about what people want,” Wendle said.
When doorbelling at thousands of doors across Spokane, Wendle said her and her team have heard homelessness and feeling safe are the top issues to citizens.
Wendle said she would use data-driven research to determine what we are dealing with and why people are in a state of homelessness.
“We aren’t going to make a difference if we don’t really figure out at a deeper level,” Wendle said. “Maybe put ourselves in the person that is experiencing homelessness, put ourselves in their shoes to figure out what is it that they need to be successful.”
With the city spending $22 million to resolve homelessness every two years according to Wendle, she said citizens are left wondering where the money went and are frustrated by what she described as a worsening situation.
“We can’t solve it, we’ve always had some element of poverty and some element of homelessness,” she said.
Without data to know about the problem at hand, Wendle said she does not have any specific goals to improve the situation, although she said building relationships and showing compassion would be fundamental.
“People in this town I think feel helpless right now, they want to help, but they want to help in a way that is helping people be healthier,” Wendle said. “We don’t want to push [those impacted by homelessness] away, we don’t want to move them along, that is not the goal, the goal is to engage people back in the community.”
As Spokane continues to grow, Wendle said the city’s low household median income is impeding economic development, a problem which she said can be fixed through good paying manufacturing and industrial jobs for families.
For the city to attract businesses and jobs, she said it will be fundamental to provide the basics, including reliable infrastructure, transportation and regulatory environments.
“It may not be the prettiest side of economic development, but it is the most necessary,” she said.
A housing shortage is also a crux for Spokane and Wendle is disappointed little has been done to prepare for the situation which she described as “abysmal.”
Wendle favors both outward and upward growth for Spokane by using smart policies to increase density that will be attractive to retailers and businesses.
If elected, Wendle said she wants to grow the pride and connection Spokane feels toward the city’s colleges and university.
“The students are spending their money here, they are volunteering their time in our community … their experiences matter and their feedback matters, because we can’t really provide the best city that we can without it,” Wendle said. “Vote or no vote, that shouldn’t be an elected official’s goal to only talk to voters, it should be everybody.”
Wendle encourages students to take advantage of the accessibility of local politicians, because most are willing to make time for discussion with students.
“I think it is a great opportunity, I think so much happens at the local level that you can see a direct and immediate impact,” she said.