Heating Up

The Spokane City Council calls out Condon; plus, Washington's gun initiatives

Haves and Have-Nots

In a day of dueling press conferences Friday, the mayor and a majority of the city council clashed over next year's BUDGET. At issue are raises for the mayor and some of his cabinet members and a handful of unfunded council requests. Under Mayor David Condon's budget, members of his cabinet, including the police and fire chiefs, would get raises ranging from 2 percent to 5 percent. According to the city charter, the mayor's salary should match the highest paid city employee, so he would also get a raise to $179,484 a year under the plan.

Condon argues legal and contractual issues mandate the raises. Cabinet members are hired at various points in their pay plans and guaranteed raises after a certain amount of time on the job, and the police chief's pay is linked to lower ranking officers, whose raises were approved by the council in contracts this year. Council President Ben Stuckart calls that argument "ludicrous" and points to former Mayor Mary Verner, who took a salary lower than what was required by law. Condon said he planned to donate the amount of his raise next year and Stuckart said he wouldn't take the raise he's scheduled to get.

Among the council's asks that didn't get funded in the mayor's budget are $60,000 for the COPS program, an additional city planner and a council attorney who is independent from the administration's legal department. (HEIDI GROOVER)

Ahead in the Polls

Although both of Washington's conflicting gun-control measures are losing support, the majority of voters still prefer INITIATIVE 594, the measure to expand criminal background checks for all gun sales, according to a new poll by Elway Research.

In the latest poll, released earlier this week, 60 percent of voters surveyed said they would "definitely" or "probably" vote for I-594. Meanwhile, 39 percent said they were more likely to support its rival measure on Election Day, Initiative 591, which would prohibit the state from enacting any additional background checks except those mandated by the federal government.

Support for the competing measures has been declining since April when voter majorities paradoxically favored both. This change may indicate that voters are less confused about the similarly titled initiatives than they were six months ago.

The Yes on 594 campaign, run by the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility, has benefited from large cash infusions in recent weeks. Ex-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and his wife Connie donated another $250,000 to the campaign earlier this month, bringing their total contributions to more than $1 million. Last week, Everytown for Gun Safety, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg's advocacy group, pledged to invest another $1 million in support of I-594. (DEANNA PAN)

Still Waiting

A federal judge last week denied a request from mental health advocates to order state psychiatric hospitals to reorganize staffing and wards to more quickly admit and evaluate people with mental health issues now sitting in jail cells. An ongoing CLASS-ACTION LAWSUIT alleges the state Department of Social and Health Services has failed to provide timely treatment for those waiting months in jail competency evaluations — often in solitary confinement and without treatment.

U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman voiced sympathy for people awaiting treatment, but stopped short of issuing a temporary restraining order that would have forced hospitals to immediately change how they prioritize and admit such individuals. The judge instead ordered an accelerated trial timeline.

Advocates with Disability Rights Washington and the ACLU of Washington argue the constitutional right to proper health care should not be subject to available funding at state hospitals. DSHS officials say state hospitals already operate at capacity and immediately admitting additional jail inmates would undermine the treatment of other patients.

Both sides have until Monday to put together requests for proceeding to trial on the lawsuit, which references multiple Spokane inmates as well as several other individuals from across the state. (JACOB JONES)

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About The Authors

Heidi Groover

Heidi Groover is a staff writer at the Inlander, where she covers city government and drug policy. On the job, she's spent time with prostitutes, "street kids," marriage equality advocates and the family of a 16-year-old organ donor...

Jacob Jones

Staff writer Jacob Jones covers criminal justice, natural resources, military issues and organized labor for the Inlander.

Deanna Pan

Deanna Pan is a staff writer at the Inlander, where she covers social justice, state politics and health care. In her cover stories, she's written about mass shooting survivors, NGRI patients and honey bees...