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They Swear 

New leadership takes over in Spokane, promising change

click to enlarge David Condon at his swearing-in ceremony last week, with his mom, Carolu (right), and wife, Kristin - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • David Condon at his swearing-in ceremony last week, with his mom, Carolu (right), and wife, Kristin
areas.”

There was a moment last week when Spokane Mayor David Condon rode a plastic horse in circles.

Then he moved forward, decisively, in a series of statements from City Hall announcing the appointments of a new city administrator and acting chief of police, and the retirements of two long-time department heads.

On Monday, Condon’s first day in office, he made a few more announcements that could affect the police, including the reigning in of assistant city attorney Rocky Treppiedi.

“Immediately today, Rocky is no longer the police adviser,” Condon says. He added that he still didn’t trust Treppiedi’s legal opinions, but that the longtime, and controversial, city attorney’s employment status is not yet settled.

All of this came on the heels of his official swearing-in as the city’s new mayor in front of the clock tower in Riverfront Park. From there, he made haste to the Looff Carousel, where he rode in circles, and then to the headlines.

Last week marked the beginning of a new era in Spokane city government. A large majority of the city’s elected officials are new to City Hall, and all took their oaths of office in the last days of 2011. It was a three-day stretch of five speeches, all of which engaged in the platitudes of getting along and working hard for the people.

But within the puffy pronouncements, they all agreed something big is happening. Like the new police chief and Treppiedi’s suggested impending dismissal, change is coming.

A two-piece jazz band is quickly surrounded at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, where incoming City Council President Ben Stuckart will soon put his hand on the Bible and swear to uphold the laws of the land. The trumpet’s wail and the thumping bass melt into the cacophony of well over 100 people.

Stuckart’s milling around in a gray suit and the same tie he wore to his wedding 10 years ago (minus a day). He just turned 40, won an election, and he’s excited.

“It doesn’t get any better than this,” he says. At the podium, he soaks in the applause before admitting his voice is a “little shaky.” While thanking his wife and parents, his voice cracks. But soon enough, his bombast emerges.

He says he’ll change how council meetings are run by allowing people to testify at the beginning of the meeting, rather than waiting hours until the end. Every month, he’ll stand before reporters and citizens alike to take any question fired at him. With Condon in the audience, Stuckart reasserts his vision of the council being “an independent branch of government” that doesn’t just react to the mayor, but leads.

“Optimism is a political act,” he says, vowing not to let despair and cynicism impede problem solving. He says he’ll fight to build trust within the police department — by funding it adequately, reinstating its property crimes division and making sure there’s truly independent oversight of the how the department polices itself.

The crowd gives him an ovation.

In the basement of City Hall, three new council members see their names on the sign in the council chambers: Mike Allen, Mike Fagan and Steve Salvatori. The crowd here is wholly different than the one at Stuckart’s ceremony. Where Stuckart’s event included luminaries of the progressive community, this swearing-in features Al French and Todd Mielke, Republican county commissioners. Matt Pederson, the head of the county GOP, and Michael Cathcart, top aide to Republican state Sen. Michael Baumgartner, are also here.

Fagan holds his dictionary-sized Bible aloft after taking his oath, looking something like Rocky Balboa.

“Do I look like a deer caught in the headlights here?” he says. “’Cause I feel like it.”

Soon, he mentions Stuckart’s promises to make the city “open, transparent and accountable.”

“I’m going to stand right there next to him,” Fagan
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