NEWS BRIEFS: A state court upholds Spokane's voter-approved camping ban

Plus, Liberty Lake edges toward more book banning; and a bikeway Christmas miracle

In November, Spokane passed a ballot initiative to ban homeless camping within 1,000 feet of schools, parks, playgrounds and child care facilities with an overwhelming 75% of the vote. Opponents of the ban — including Mayor-elect Lisa Brown — had argued that it wouldn't solve the root problem and would likely face legal challenges. But last week, Washington's Court of Appeals ruled that the newly passed homeless camping ban is, in fact, legal. The lawsuit against the proposed ban was first filed in August by Jewels Helping Hands director Julie Garcia, and Spokane Low Income Housing Consortium director Ben Stuckart. They argued that the ban conflicted with state law and superseded the City Council's authority over zoning matters. The pair unsuccessfully tried to stop the initiative from appearing on the ballot and appealed when the request was denied. When asked how she would handle enforcement of the law if legal challenges fail shortly after her election in November, Brown said a "law is a law," and that the issue would be a "top topic" for her transition team. "My goal would be to come up with a way where we can do outreach and offer places to be," Brown said. (NATE SANFORD)

IRON GRASP

Last week, the Liberty Lake City Council voted to solidify its grasp on the city's library. In a 5-2 veto-proof vote, the council updated its ordinance on the Liberty Lake Public Library, essentially rerouting all final policy decisions to the City Council. The library board, which is made up of five appointed members, will still be able to propose new policies or changes to old ones, but the final say lies in the hands of the City Council. This power struggle stems from a citizen complaint about Gender Queer, a memoir where the author explores their nonbinary gender identity. This increased focus on public libraries and the books they contain isn't new though. Libraries across the country have been subjected to heightened censorship attempts over the past few years. Just last year, the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom recorded nearly 1,300 demands to censor library books and resources. Many of the opposed books were written by or about members of the LGBTQ+ community or by and about Black people, Indigenous people and other people of color, according to the ALA. (COLTON RASANEN)

$12 MILLION FOR BIKES, PEDS

Good news for those who don't want to drive everywhere: On Monday, Spokane said it would spend $12 million in coming years to make Spokane's roads safer for people on bikes and foot. The money largely comes from a $9.6 million federal grant, as part of 2021's $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, that is paired with $2.4 million from the city. Bikeway infrastructure makes up a large part of Spokane's work, at $3.8 million. Among the projects is a connected, protected bike lane network in downtown Spokane built on First, Sprague, Second and Third avenues, and Washington and Stevens streets. Outside the city core, Broadway, Mallon and Sharp avenues will get new or improved bike lanes. For pedestrians, the spending has $2 million to build sidewalks and improve shared-use paths. Another $2.8 million will be used to install crosswalks, bumpouts and ADA ramps. Finally, $2.84 million will be spent on building more signalized intersections for safer walking and bicycling conditions. Work is expected to begin in 2025 and be complete in 2027. The spending comes on the heels of city leaders raiding the traffic calming fund of $1.8 million to help finance the police department. (NICHOLAS DESHAIS)

Death Cafe with Samantha Potter @ Hillyard Library

Sun., April 14, 1:30-3:30 p.m.
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