It’s Official: Lisa Brown for Mayor of Spokane
It’s Time to Pitch In
Last Thursday, March 2, at the historic Woman’s Club of Spokane at 9th and Walnut, Lisa Brown made official what has been rumored for months: she is running for Mayor of the City of Spokane. Ms. Brown is a welcome and formidable challenger to the incumbent Mayor, a local former TV news broadcaster. In contrast, Lisa Brown comes with an impressive résumé of administrative and legislative experience at the state and local levels.
Most recently, Lisa Brown served, mostly from her home in Spokane, as the Director of the Washington State Department of Commerce, an administrative position from which she was able to help direct millions of dollars of state funds to actually address the long term issue of homelessness in Spokane. (The issue of homelessness is one that the Washington State Department of Commerce is structured to address.)
In contrast, under Mayor Woodward’s administration, the executive branch of government of the City of Spokane couldn’t get its act together to take advantage of six million dollars in available federal funds. Under Woodward’s leadership, the City’s Department of Neighborhood, Housing and Human Services lost two Directors, one (Cupid Alexander) in seven months and the second (John Hall) in just three months of their hiring, hamstringing the Department by frequent turnover. (See RANGE Media’s article Passing on the Bucks for details). That Ms. Woodward couldn’t retain a Director for NHHS shouldn’t surprise anyone familiar with her now infamous quote, “I think we need to get to the point where we’re working to make homelessness less comfortable and get people connected to services.”
Lisa Brown had extensive executive and legislative experience prior to her four year stint at the Department of Commerce. She served between 2013 and 2017 as Chancellor of Washington State University Spokane. From 1993 to 2012 she represented Legislative District 3 (which largely corresponds to the boundaries of the City of Spokane) in the Washington State Legislature, first in the House and, starting in 1997, in the State Senate. From 2005 to 2012 she served as Majority Leader of the Senate, retiring to become Chancellor of WSU. While Chancellor she oversaw the establishment of the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine here in Spokane, which opened in 2015. Amidst all of this, Ms. Brown taught as an associate professor in Gonzaga University's graduate-level organizational leadership program from 2001 to 2012.
Incumbent Mayor Woodward announced her candidacy for a second term eight months ago, on July 26, 2022. It was bizarre timing, coming, as it did, in the midst of others’ pleas for campaign contributions right before the Spokane County Commissioner election primary (part of the “Midterm Elections” generally). In those eight months Woodward’s campaign has recorded only 176 total donations (business and individual), many of them high dollar donations from wealthy real estate personalities you might recognize. For example, Larry Stone pitched in $1000. Mr. Stone can afford it. His is the money behind “Curing Spokane”, the strategically-timed, thinly-veiled electioneering video on YouTube ginning up homelessness and crime that was likely instrumental in getting Woodward elected in 2019. Mr. Stone is also the owner of the Trent Homeless Shelter or TRAC, aka Woodward’s Warehouse, the building put forward by Woodward as the out-of-downtown site to put homeless people. Taxpayer dollars lease the building from Mr. Stone at an expected cost of at least $1.6 million over the lease’s five-year term.
This fall we have a chance to put Spokane on “A Better Way” by electing Lisa Brown Mayor of the City of Spokane. We have a choice between a candidate with long proven administrative skills and deep roots in Spokane and an incumbent who has presided over a wobbly executive branch that cannot organize itself to take advantage of available funds and relies on law enforcement threats and lawsuits to lump together, characterize, and coerce the most vulnerable among us.
A few years ago only ten percent of registered voters in the United States had ever made a contribution to a political campaign. (At the time I looked that up—in 2017—I was one of those 90% of voters who had never contributed.) While we may lack the resources to contribute thousands of dollars, we have strength in numbers. It would make a powerful statement, regardless of the dollar amounts, if Lisa Brown’s campaign gathered a couple of hundred individual donations in the first week or two. As Emry Dinman suggested on Sunday in the Spokesman, this will likely be a hard fought campaign. In such a campaign early money makes a big difference. Go to lisabrownformayor.com, hit the donate button and make a contribution of what you can to this campaign as a way of showing that we’re paying attention.
Keep to the high ground,
P.S. I was stimulated to make early contributions to local political campaigns not only by the debacle that was our 2016 presidential election, but also by a new awareness of the meaning of the name of an organization I had long heard of but which I never really studied closely, EMILY’s List, a group formed in 1985 to encourage pro-choice women to run for elective office. When I, very belatedly, learned that EMILY stands for “Early Money Is Like Yeast” early donating—and its value—suddenly made a huge amount of sense to me. It sends a signal. It gives a campaign a better idea of its finances. It allows a campaign the time to invest in infrastructure on which to build success.
Mind you, I would much rather that less money needed to be spent on political campaigns in the U.S. in order to get good people elected. That is only going to happen with the reversal the right wing Supreme Court decisions that declared corporations are people and money is speech. In the meantime we have to play the hand we’re dealt in order to regain a position from which such change is possible.