Originally published by the Inlander (http://www.inlander.com/spokane/out-of-excuses/Content?oid=2189850)
by Heidi Groover
From behind the wheel of a rental car on the edge of Chicago, Spokane City Councilman Steve Salvatori sounds tired. He’s on vacation, but his mind is at City Hall.
“I’m worn out. I’m ready to go,” Salvatori says in his signature no-nonsense tone. “The bananas are turning brown.”
Salvatori says he’s “out of excuses” for citizens who ask why Proposition 1, a measure passed overwhelmingly in February to give the Office of Police Ombudsman expanded powers, hasn’t yet resulted in actual changes. The city says such changes — among them, independent investigative powers and a commission to choose future ombudsmen — will be included in a new contract with the Spokane Police Guild, but the two sides haven’t reached one in 20 months of negotiations. As it stands, the ombudsman can sit in on the department’s Internal Affairs investigations, but can’t launch his own. The proposition outlined expanded powers and mandated that future police contracts allow for them.
Now Salvatori plans to bring forward an ordinance implementing the powers outlined in Proposition 1, despite arguments that such changes have to happen through negotiations. (He’ll present it to a council committee Monday and for a vote by the end of the month.)
Politically, it seems an easy move: Proposition 1 passed with 70 percent of the vote in a city where the public, the police chief and the mayor say they favor more oversight. But a similar move a few years ago ended in an unfair labor practices complaint and a state decision that sided with the guild. For Salvatori, the risk is worth it.