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Spokane council codifies climate position; plus, new authority will manage airport-area development

click to enlarge The city, county and Spokane International Airport are teaming up to manage development around the airport.
  • The city, county and Spokane International Airport are teaming up to manage development around the airport.

GREEN GOALS

Back in 2010, the city of Spokane passed an aspirational resolution: The city would seek to reduce the level of CARBON EMISSIONS to 30 percent under 2005 levels by 2030. While the city has made major strides in reducing its emissions since then, it was only on Monday night that the council — by a 6-1 vote — made the goal an official part of city policy.

"It is the law of the city to pursue it," Councilman Breean Beggs says. "It should be reflected in our budget."

Much of the rest of the ordinance is purely symbolic. It codifies that the city recognizes "the occurrence of human-caused climate change," "the vast scientific consensus regarding this matter" and the potential that the "impact of climate change poses a real threat to the health and well-being of Spokane's citizens."

The debate over the ordinance included a nearly half-hour-long lecture by Councilman Mike Fagan, complete with two videos, in an attempt to dispute the effectiveness of the Paris climate accords and general scientific consensus around climate change.

Even some who acknowledged the consensus, however, worried that the ordinance would result in expenses for the businesses and the city in the future.

The financial cost — if any — of the city focusing on reducing emissions is unknown at this time. But Beggs says it's unlikely that the city will turn into a regulator to try to enforce emissions policy, noting that's generally seen as the state and federal government's role. Instead, he says, the city will focus on leading, facilitating and education, rather than regulating.

Council President Ben Stuckart, meanwhile, acknowledges that the city will need to wrestle with the costs and benefits in order to meet the emissions reductions.

"If we start really looking at how to meet those goals in 2030, then we are going to have discussions about trade-offs and how we spend our resources," he says. "This makes it a much more realistic conversation to have." (DANIEL WALTERS)

A NEW DEVELOPMENT

A new public entity formed to streamline development around Spokane International Airport and on the West Plains has partners at the city, airport and Spokane County excited about the future.

After years of work, the partners came together to form a PUBLIC DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY, a public body that can manage federal grants and will handle the majority of increased tax income generated within the boundaries set out in the agreement.

Instead of competing to annex land around the airport, the groups will agree to share in the benefits of new development. The goal is "to attract new manufacturing and aerospace development that will grow jobs in the area," according to a press release.

At the same time, the PDA takes on the liability of new deals in the area, sheltering the partners from the risks of new business.

The 20-year agreement, announced July 10, received final approval from Spokane City Council on Monday night.

"I just want to thank our partners at the city, the county, and at the airport for this, because it's going to pay huge dividends in economic development in the future," Council President Ben Stuckart said before a unanimous 7-0 vote to sign onto the PDA.

The PDA will be governed by a seven-member board, which will include representatives from the Spokane Airport Board, county, city, airport, and two at-large members, and will hold public meetings. (SAMANTHA WOHLFEIL)

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