Friday, February 17, 2012

CITY HALL EYEBALL: Stuckart & Co.'s first town hall

Posted By on Fri, Feb 17, 2012 at 12:00 PM

A trio of Spokane City Council members Thursday evening floated the prospect of creating library and fire taxing districts.

The ideas came up at the council's first "Talk About Town" session, held at Browne Elementary School. It wa an informal face-to-face bull session meant to connect voters with the mighty elected, an idea first floated by Council President Ben Stuckart in his run to join the council. 

None of the other media outlets showed up last night, but the intrepid staff at The Inlander was on hand to witness the magic. (Stuckart said the broadcasters promised to show up, but alas...)

A library taxing district about $8 million to Spokane city libraries, according to Stuckart. It would not be a tax increase, because the city would collect $8 million less from its property tax assessments. And it would give the library more stability, according to Stuckart.

"You'd basically depoliticize the library system," he says. 

While saying she didn't necessarily support the taxing district, it was Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin who proposed the idea to the approximately 30 people gathered for the meeting. Councilman Steve Salvatori also attended the meeting.

McLaughlin says she's interested in the model because the library competes against the police, fire and streets departments for dollars from the city's general fund.

"If you can imagine there's a wrestling match, there's a little lightweight, they're up against a heavyweight and bam, they get hit . . . and we're cutting libraries again," she says. "Our public safety and streets usually rise to the surface as a top priority."

McLaughlin says that during a conversation last year to shut down the East Central Library branch, both Republicans and Democrats in the audience lobbied to save it. 

No one in the audience gave an opinion, and the idea of a fire taxing district wasn't discussed at length. A library taxing district idea wouldn't happen for at least a year, according to McLaughlin, since it would take a change in state law.

For more City Hall Eyeball, head over here.

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