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The Price of Popularity 

South Perry contemplates parking options; plus, helping homeless teens

click to enlarge Josh Kerns split with his fellow Spokane County commissioners and opposed their final 2018 budget. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Josh Kerns split with his fellow Spokane County commissioners and opposed their final 2018 budget.

THE PERRY PARKING PLIGHT

The transformation of South Perry into a thriving businesses district has been one of the most celebrated successes of the city's Centers and Corridors plan, filled with beloved businesses like the Shop, Casper Fry and South Perry Pizza. But popularity can create headaches as well.

City Councilman Breean Beggs says frustration has been building about PARKING in the popular neighborhood.

"I get emails or phone calls from people whose driveways are being blocked," Beggs says. But he also says there's a lot of internal disagreement about how the city should respond to the challenge.

"One house wants more parking lot spaces," Beggs says, as an example. "Their next-door neighbor doesn't want that."

The city parks department, according to a press release last week, has been exploring several options to increase parking in the area, including by adding diagonal parking along 11th Avenue or expanding the existing Grant Park parking lot, behind the Lantern restaurant.

But some neighbors, Beggs says, don't want more parking at all, preferring that the neighborhood focus on walkability. Beyond just more parking lot spaces, Beggs floats other solutions he's heard. Clear lines could be painted near some neighborhood driveway entrances to clarify where visitors aren't allowed to park. Signs could direct some visitors to park on the lot in the northwest corner of Grant Park, and a brightly lit trail would point the way to the Perry Street businesses. "To me, that's part of the solution, for sure," Beggs says. (DANIEL WALTERS)

SEASON TO GIVE

Spokane Public Schools' Homeless Education and Resource Team (HEART) program is asking for the public's help in getting gift cards for each of the nearly 200 HOMELESS HIGH SCHOOLERS in the district who don't have parental support.

Many of them live with other relatives or friends, and may have to move from place to place, explains Sarah Miller, a liaison with the HEART program.

HEART helps all of the roughly 850 K-12 students who are homeless to make sure they can access education and resources, but with the gift card drive, the program focuses in particular on aiding high schoolers, who are less likely to get help through other seasonal programs.

"We really try to focus on those youth who can't access things like Toys for Tots, or who may not be connected to an organization who does the Tree of Sharing," Miller says.

As they know the students well, HEART will match each gift card with each student's needs and interests.

"Some of them, the best thing we can give them is, 'Hey! Go grab a burger at McDonald's, here's a $5 gift card," Miller says. "And others we would match up with $50 at Walmart so maybe they could get clothes or food, or maybe something they just want for themselves."

The most desirable cards are for big box stores with more options, though gift cards to anywhere in any amount are welcome. Those who want to donate are asked to drop off or mail the gift cards by Dec. 15 to the SPS administration building, care of Tina Aguilar, 200 N. Bernard St., Spokane, WA 99201. (SAMANTHA WOHLFEIL)

MONEY GAMES

After months of back-and-forth over how to handle a $9.4 million budget shortfall for Spokane County in 2018, county commissioners voted 2-1 to APPROVE A BUDGET on Monday that mostly avoids cuts to public safety.

Josh Kerns, however, voted against it because he thinks the county is balancing the budget with what he calls a "gimmick" that takes millions of dollars for road construction to use for next year's operating expenses. He says the county should have instead made deeper cuts or been more creative in finding ways to save money.

"Eventually we gotta quit kicking that can down the road," Kerns said.

Kerns tells the Inlander that instead of approving the so-called road shift, commissioners should have asked county departments to potentially cut more than the 7 percent that commissioners initially asked for. "We need to push the departments further to see what efficiencies are really there," Kerns says.

Commissioner Al French pushed back against the idea that deeper cuts should have been made. He and Kerns both decided earlier this year not to ask voters for a property tax increase to pay for the budget deficit, and French was under the impression that Kerns would support using the road money to help make up the difference. He says the budget approved Monday maintains quality of life and is fiscally responsible.

"It's much more than just a race to the bottom in a budget process," French says. "It's about making sure we provide quality services to everybody in this community." (WILSON CRISCIONE)

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