'Life Has Value'

A possible tax for Spokane Police; plus, efforts to end the death penalty

Taxing Police

After taking an axe to police and fire budgets this year — with close to a $10 million city budget shortfall — Spokane Mayor David Condon may be easing off his no-higher-taxes spiel.

Condon is reportedly considering the prospect of higher property taxes or a city bond to help fund the Spokane Police Department. The money would likely go toward implementing a commission’s suggestions on how to reform the department, but Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart says it may also be used to hire more officers. The mayor has begun talking about it at committee meetings as a bond or levy put to a public vote in August, he says.

But Stuckart wants any proposal to further: “I just think it needs to include both police and fire and think we can’t just go in for police.”

City Administrator Theresa Sanders confirms the mayor’s cabinet is “developing a strategic plan which may result in our asking the citizens for additional investment, particularly in law enforcement.”

Sanders says she doesn’t know if the package would be a bond (which would need over 60 percent in a public vote), a tax levy (which would need over 50 percent), or both.

Sanders says the mayor’s cabinet will give Condon a recommendation on what to put forth in a few months.


The Turning of the COG

In 1952, a new building at Gonzaga University was dubbed the “Circulus Omnium Gonzaga-orum.” The Latin title quickly became shortened to COG, an abbreviation students have used for nearly six decades.

That may soon change. At Gonzaga’s firework-heavy 125th anniversary celebration last week, President Thayne McCulloh announced the COG dining center would likely be torn down to make way for a new, fancy University Center.

Still in its inception phase, the multi-story building is planned to include not only a dining center, but also an 800-foot ballroom, a 200-seat auditorium, a new (alcohol-free) pub/cafe and housing for student clubs. Gonzaga expects the center to be built to environmentally-friendly LEED Silver specifications and cost around $60 million.

“It will shift the center of campus,” says Gonzaga spokeswoman Mary Joan Hahn. “It will have a dramatic impact on the experience that students have here.”

Thanks to a gift commitment, she says, the school could officially announce the project on Gonzaga’s anniversary to drum up enthusiasm. In April, the administration will present the plan to its Board of Trustees.

“We’re moving forward to the design and drawing phases,” Hahn says. “Go forth and draw.”


Pursuing Clemency

Washington state lawmakers introduced two companion bills to eliminate the death penalty this week, arguing execution remains a brutal and expensive form of criminal punishment.

State Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, introduced House Bill 1504 earlier this week alongside several other legislators. State Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle, introduced matching Senate Bill 5372.

“We believe the death penalty is immoral, unfairly implemented, and appeals to society’s most violent instincts rather than love and compassion,” Carlyle says in a joint statement. “And it is financially draining, as we expend far more on the appeals process for death row inmates than lifetime incarceration.”

Rep. Timm Ormsby, D-Spokane, has also signed on to the House bill, which would strike out all state laws outlining procedures for capital punishment. Those found guilty of aggravated murder would instead face life in prison without the chance of parole.

Carlyle’s statement suggests the bill has strong opposition in Olympia, but several lawmakers feel they may be able to find common moral ground.

“At a time when our state is striving to come together on major policy issues,” the statement says, “we feel there is meaningful value in uniting behind our shared conviction that life has value and that the death penalty is below us as a civilized society.”


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