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Clearing the Field 

Brown takes aim at McMorris Rodgers; plus, proposed tax abatement could spur growth in downtown Spokane

click to enlarge Lisa Brown is gathering early momentum in her congressional run.
  • Lisa Brown is gathering early momentum in her congressional run.

TAKING THE FIFTH

It's difficult to undersell just how much of an underdog any Democrat will be going up against U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers. A Democrat hasn't held the seat since 1994, and in the past decade, Democrats haven't topped 41 percent of the vote. The Cook Political Report considers the 5th District of Washington to be noncompetitive, as it leans 8 points more Republican than the rest of the nation. That's an even bigger gap than Speaker of the House Paul Ryan's district.

But this month, McMorris Rodgers opponent LISA BROWN got two good pieces of news: First, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced that McMorris Rodgers' seat was on their list of targeted races. It means the Democrats will lend staffing support — though not necessarily financial support — to the race.

And second, at a Whitman County fundraiser Sunday, Brown's last remaining Democratic opponent, 24-year-old Washington State University graduate Matthew Sutherland, announced he was dropping out of the race.

"We're facing a lot of fracturing in our party," Sutherland says. "That message of unity was extremely important."

In keeping with that commitment to unity, Sutherland declined to say whether he voted for Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, and also declined to say if he would have supported Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart over Brown if Stuckart had remained in the race.

"It's all fighting for the same goals," Sutherland says.

Instead, Sutherland will run for the state House of Representatives in southeast Washington's 9th Legislative District. He says he's been bringing people from the westside over to rural Eastern Washington, drawing on more resources to improve the Democratic Party in the state's southeast.

"I wanted to build up Eastern Washington politics," he says. "Help strengthen the infrastructure as far as the Democratic Party goes." (DANIEL WALTERS)

LOTS OF DEVELOPMENT

Leaders in Spokane hope they can incentivize development on empty properties and surface-level PARKING LOTS throughout downtown by passing a new state law.

The proposal would save developers tax money by holding the local portion of their property tax the same for 10 years, says Andrew Rolwes, public policy and parking manager for the Downtown Spokane Partnership.

The idea came about at a presentation on the recent uptick in developers using a similar tax credit for new multifamily housing, Rolwes says.

"It kind of sparked the idea where if we want to see some transition in the fairly extensive use of surface parking lots in downtown, perhaps the best way to go would be to provide for a tax abatement," he says. "They are commonplace and used fairly often by cities across the United States."

The goal is to put the land to better use, rather than just one level of parking. As written, the city's drafted legislation would apply only to cities with 150,000 to 250,000 people, Rolwes says.

City Council President Ben Stuckart is working with the DSP to try to sell the plan to local legislators and find a sponsor as they prepare for Olympia's legislative session to start in January.

Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane, says he passed the city's draft to the Department of Revenue for edits and suggestions, which have since come back. He and his seatmates in the Third District — including Sen. Andy Billig, this week elected deputy majority leader, the second-ranking position in the leadership of the Democrats' impending Senate majority — will wait to see what the city's legislative priorities are before talking about what the next steps might be.

"I'm still in discussion with my seatmates and the council to see where this falls on their legislative agenda, and if it makes sense," Riccelli says. (SAMANTHA WOHLFEIL)

MOODY CLOSES

Spokane's MOODY BIBLE INSTITUTE, an evangelical Christian college, will shut down at the end of this academic year as part of structural changes by Moody Global Ministries.

"We're trying to ensure we have long-term viability and that we have sustained growth," says Moody Global Ministries spokesman Brian Regnerus.

The school opened in 1993 just north of Gonzaga in a period when Moody saw ever-increasing applications. But those days are gone, and recently, interest in biblical-based education nationally has dropped, Regnerus says.

Moody Global Ministries will focus its efforts on its campus in Chicago and strengthen its radio network.

Moody Bible Institute's Spokane campus has 442 undergraduate students as of this fall, compared to more than 1,500 students on the Chicago campus.

The Spokane campus will remain open through graduation in spring 2018. The students who do not graduate will have a chance to complete the program, either in Chicago or online. Moody Aviation, which is based in Spokane and provides education on aviation technology, will remain open.

As for the Spokane faculty, Moody would not release how many jobs would be cut as part of the changes, though Regnerus says about 10 percent of Moody faculty will not have their contracts renewed. (WILSON CRISCIONE)

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