Spokane Regional Authority for Homelessness, Housing, Health and Safety

A Remarkable Meeting

Last Wednesday, June 28th, the Spokane Regional Collaborative (SRC) held a meeting at the Convention Center from 8AM to 10AM to present its recommendation for the formation of a Spokane Regional Authority for Homelessness, Housing, Health and Safety. Three former City of Spokane officials retired from the Condon administration (the one that preceded Nadine Woodward’s), Gavin Cooley, Rick Romero, and Theresa Sanders, presented their findings and recommendations to a packed audience of around 200, including many elected officials from Spokane County and municipal governments within the county. 

Homelessness is a growing nationwide problem rooted in imbalances in our national and local economy, an issue made painfully obvious to all by the dislocations that surrounded the Covid 19 pandemic. Gavin Cooley characterized the issue of homelessness somewhat optimistically as a symptom of Spokane’s economic success, i.e. Spokane is seen as a desirable place to live, attracting people with money who have driven up home and rent prices that make living space unaffordable for the least advantaged among us. 

The issue of homelessness in our region is highlighted by the controversy that surrounded the existence and manner of closure of the homeless encampment on Department of Transportation land near I-90 and the Freya exit, the encampment that came to be known as Camp Hope. The last residents left Camp Hope on June 9 after an 18 month run overseen by Jewels Helping Hands under the remarkable leadership of Julie Garcia. 

The lead-up to Wednesday’s meeting and presentation by the SRC trio ranged over more than a year and included visits to several other regional programs that are enjoying varying degrees of success. The Houston metro area’s program is cited as the model to emulate. Cooley, Romero, and Sanders, self-described policy and data wonks, assembled a detailed recommendation for the formation of a Spokane Regional Authority as a nonprofit corporation. (Think of the Spokane Transit Authority as a similar regional collaborative effort.) The Spokane Regional Authority for Homelessness, Housing, Health and Safety would bring under one roof the necessary tools and expertise to apply for monetary grants from federal, state, and local programs and coordinate efforts among the many providers in the region. It was an impressive presentation about which there is much more to be said—and which I hope to cover better in later posts. Judging by the number of sponsors, there is the potential for a lot of productive buy-in. 

Shortly after the meeting started there was an incident that could have changed the tone of the whole presentation—but did not, thanks to the timely intervention by compassionate people with lived experience. The story was written up by my friend Dan Simonson. I’ve pasted it below from his Substack ShelterSpokane.

Keep to the high ground,


Compassion vs. Choke Holds: A great story from yesterday’s Homeless Authority meeting

Jewels Helping Hands (JHH) and Julie Garcia to the Rescue

by Dan Simonson 

Jun 29

As the meeting began yesterday, at one point a lady came into the session. She was very vocal, very belligerent. She was yelling about how could we do this, she was homeless, she was denied medication, and many other things. We all held our breath. She was obviously in a mental health crisis – how were we going to react?

Thankfully, Theresa Sanders, who was standing at the podium at the time, came off the podium and asked her gently and sweetly to please take a seat – which she “kinda” did. She withdrew, muttering, off through a side door for a few minutes, but then we could hear her starting up again. It was such an awkward moment – what to do? Murmuring went around as she proceeded to amp up her volume.

Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye and behind me (I was sitting toward the front), I saw a few folks in black JHH shirts moving from their seats to the door and this terribly upset lady. Then I faintly heard Julie’s voice, soft yet straightforward. The yelling moved back down to muttering, and then peace.

Julie, Ken, Maurice – the whole JHH crew – saved this vitally important meeting from a potentially awful scene that would have ruined it. Imagine police or security officers, called in to remove this lady. She was not about to leave without a battle, and the screams would have unnerved us all. Yet Julie and her crew, without yelling, without chokeholds, with simple human persuasion and love, got her under control and calmed her down. They did it with firm yet loving kindness. She deserved to be heard, just not there and then. They saved all of us, not just the poor little lady.

I had to pass on this story. There are saints wandering around this town, and I just saw some in action. Lifted my heart for the whole day. Thank you so much, Julie and the JHH crew!


Addendum: I (Jerry again) was told later by others in attendance that a Spokane policeman was in the back of the hall. At the beginning of the scene, he stepped forward in anticipation, and then, seeing that the JHH team was activated, quietly and wisely stepped back. Maurice Smith later added that he (Maurice) also stood down from the intervention, wisely understanding that a tall man might be perceived as threatening by the distressed woman. I understand the JHH team convinced the woman to accompany them back to the the JHH drop-in center on Springfield Ave where she calmed down and spent part of the day.

More REIN(S)

The National Republican Agenda to Trash Regulation

Last Monday I wrote of U.S. Rep. McMorris Rodgers’ (R-CD5, eastern Washington) crowing over the recent passage of the REINS Act (Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act) by the U.S. House. Voting Yea on REINS appears to be an article of faith for Republicans, since REINS received a Yea vote from every single Republican U.S. Representative. Take note. This is clear example of where Republicans would take us if they ever again hold the presidency and working majorities in the House and the Senate. We have only to examine what happened in 2017, the first year of the Trump presidency and (thankfully) a rare time of a Republican two-year-long trifecta. Back then a slightly different REINS Act also passed the U.S. House, again with every Republican voting in favor— including McMorris Rodgers. With their trifecta Republicans were so excited to get REINS passed that they rammed it through in just one day, January 5th, 2017, only two days after the bill was first introduced at the beginning of the 115th Congress. Fortunately, Senate Republicans, perhaps because they were so focused on repealing the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), never found an opening to bring REINS to the Senate floor. 

The recent (June 14, 2023) passage of the newest REINS Act barely registered in non-right wing media, either because reporters and editors were otherwise distracted or because they despaired of adequately explaining to the general public the threat that REINS represents. However, in 2017 at least one writer, Carl Pope, took note of REINS. An astute reader of The High Ground provided a copy of Pope’s article from the Jan 10, 2017, Huffington Post. I’ve copied it below. Pay attention. REINS would be a sure thing if Republicans ever again take control of the federal government. McMorris Rodgers enthusiastic vote for REINS in 2017 and again this year are ample reason to replace her in 2024.

Keep to the high ground,


The Most Dangerous Bill You’ve Never Heard Of Just Passed The House

By Carl Pope


Last, week, under the cover of a media bliss-out except among Koch funded right-wing channels, the House of Representatives passed a bill which would effectively repeal future standard setting under every important environmental, public health, consumer protection, labor standards, occupational safety and civil rights law on the books.

The bill, called the REINS Act, requires that any future major regulation adopted by an Executive Agency — say a new toxic chemical standard required by the recently enacted Chemical Safety Act, or a new consumer protection rule about some innovative but untested kind of food additive — must be approved by a specific resolution in each House of Congress within 70 days to take effect.

To give a sense of the scale of this road-block, in 2015 there were 43 such major federal regulations passed to protect the public; among them were food safety regulations, the Clean Power Plan regulating pollution from electrical generating facilities, net neutrality rules protecting the internet from monopoly, restrictions on predatory lending and energy efficiency standards for appliances.

If the REINS Act had been in effect, it’s unlikely that the Tea Party-dominated Republican caucus in the House would have approved of any of these rules. Future standard setting under the entire body of legislation enacted over the past 40 years to protect the public, from the Clean Air Act to the Dodd Frank financial sector reforms, would be frozen. Over time, as new health, safety, consumer and labor protection issues arise, all of these laws will effectively have been repealed, with no public debate and no accountability. It will also be impossible to restore them as long as the REINS Act is in effect, because by requiring Congress to approve every regulation, it makes it impossible to pass technically complex and scientifically valid rules on any topic of controversy.

As one example, the REINS Act would totally neuter the new Chemical Safety Act, just passed by the Republican Congress last year. The Act requires EPA to review and set standards for 10 widely abused chemicals in the next six months alone. The Act passed only because in exchange, states gave up much of their power to protect their citizens from toxic chemicals; without that incentive, the Tea Party will certainly act to prevent EPA from restricting the use of these chemicals. But the states only agreed to give up in exchange for the promise that EPA would act. But the REINS act neuters this promise.

Even if the House Republican caucus was willing in theory to consider such rules, there is simply no way Congress could add 10-40 new pieces of legislation to its work load in the chemical safety area alone. In fact, the House also just passed legislation to allow it to REPEAL all of President Obama’s regulatory acts in the last eight months of his term in office with ONE vote. Why? Because House members said there was not time for individual votes on each rule — exactly the requirement they just established for new rules.

Worse, Congress totally lacks the technical competence to review these kinds of complex rules. Do we really want members of Congress deciding whether a chemical can safely be used in food packaging? Or the proper procedures for approving new drugs as safe and effective? Or setting the allowable safety standard for heavy metals in drinking water?

The vote was 237-187. All Republicans voted for it; only two Democrats, Colin Peterson of Minnesota and Henry Cuellar of Texas, joined them. A Google search five days after the bill passed the House revealed no mention in major media except one Reuters story with limited pick-up and a Washington Post op-ed by one of its major supporters. Even on-line virtually all of the commentary was from the backers of the REINS Act; the only significant alerts of the danger came from the Blue Green Alliance and DeSmogBlog.

Progressives may be counting on the fact that the Senate has previously refused to pass the bill, and that it’s broad over-reaching will doom it. But these are not ordinary times and past behavior is far from reliable in predicting today’s politics.

It’s time — past time — for a massive mobilization to make clear to Congress and the new President that a wholesale repeal of 40 years of progress in environmental protection, civil rights, labor standards, health and safety and consumer protection is a third rail, and that pretending that the REINS act increases accountability is a fig-leaf that public scrutiny must shred.

Ask your favorite public interest organization what it is doing today to stop the REINS Act in the Senate.


Critical Legislation You’ve Barely Heard Of

Never heard of the “REINS Act” (H.R.277)? If you haven’t you wouldn’t be alone—but it is time to pay attention. “Our” U.S. Representative, Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-CD4, eastern Washington) and every one of her Republican colleagues in the House voted Yea to pass REINS on June 14th. (Fortunately, this bill will languish in the Senate, at least until the next Congress is seated in 2025—a good reason to pay attention and be sure that Republicans never again attain a federal “trifecta”.)

That every Republican voted for REINS and every Democrat voted against it (save one) ought to flag REINS as indicative of what would happen if Republicans ever again have control of all three branches of the federal government. (The last time they achieved marginal control of all three branches was in 2017. Then they very nearly repealed the Affordable Care Act. Had they succeeded, millions of Americans would have lost their health insurance.)

Enacting REINS would be far more subtle than repealing the ACA. For as long as any of my readers has been alive, the pattern of federal government function has been this: Congress passes (often after long argument) enabling legislation, for example, legislation establishing the Environmental Protection Agency (1970). The legislation specifically endows an agency with circumscribed powers to develop regulations consistent with the mission the agency. In the case of the EPA, for example, these regulations include setting nationwide standards for clean water and clean air. Regulations are developed in a lengthy process that includes extensive hearings that include testimony from stakeholders that would be affected by the new rule. Note: In the current scenario, Congress already possesses the power to override a regulation an agency constructs—but such an override requires actual congressional action

REINS would turn that process on its head. With REINS, a painstakingly developed executive agency regulation would wither and die in the absenceof Congressional action. This is passive aggression at its best. Agencies could still develop regulations by the same meticulous process described above, but one might wonder why they would go to the trouble. REINS would empower Congress to block any and all new regulations (of a certain minimal magnitude) by simply ignoring their existence—essentially a passive aggressive “pocket veto”. Considering the level of disfunction that Congress habitually demonstrates, enactment of REINS would bring the function of the federal government to its knees. REINS would require Congress to act twice on every major regulation, first by passing enabling legislation and, second, by requiring affirmative approval of every “major” regulation the established agency developed. Any regulation that might cost the business interests that fund and control Republican members of Congress would have to await Democratic majorities in both chambers of Congress to take effect.

How do Republicans expect to sell this POS to the American public? They would do so simply by relying on ignorance and propaganda. The sales pitch starts with the name, REINS. It stands for “Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny”. The appeal relies on decades-long Republican/Libertarian think tank propaganda nurturing distrust in the federal government. (Think back to the drumbeat of Republican propaganda around the “spotted owl” as just one example.)

McMorris Rodgers’ propaganda wing spun REINS with this disingenuous statement to her targeted email audience of followers on June 16th: 

I [McMorris Rodgers] made a promise to bring an end to President Biden and House Democrats’ reckless spending, which is why I helped pass the REINS Act this week to finally put a check on the president’s executive actions that are costing taxpayers billions of dollars anddriving inflation through the roof. We still have a long way to go before we erase our nation’s historic debt, but holding the administration accountable for the economic crisis it created is a great place to start so we can get our country back on track. [the bold is hers, not mine]

Huh? What? McMorris Rodgers, the entire Republican/Libertarian Party, and their business allies and funders deserve a prize for disingenuous salesmanship that is just barely distinguishable from a bald-faced lie. Characterizing the REINS Act, a radical attack on the function of the federal government, as being an act that would rein in inflation and save money for taxpayers is horse manure at it finest, a characterization sold to an audience of brainwashed true believers. 

REINS is the embodiment of Steve Bannon’s and Grover Norquist’s “deconstruction of the administrative state”. While most of America and all the major media paid no attention, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was lobbying hard for the passage of REINS, suggesting that it would publicly score members of Congress for their vote on Act. The Chamber statement uses words like “transparent, cost-effective, and rational” to obscure the full intent of REINS to deconstruct the administratively managed regulatory process that has brought us clean water and clean air—among many other benefits. 

The fact that REINS was packaged with H.R.1640, the disingenuously (i.e. lyingly) named “Save Our Gas Stoves Act”, is telling. (The regulation trashed by H.R. 1640 has nothing to do with existing gas stoves.) If REINS were to become law, individual laws blocking regulations of things like the unhealthy emissions from gas stoves would become totally unnecessary. Instead, such agency-proposed regulation could just be ignored (assuming that anyone would make the argument that such regulation would have a minimum of $100 million dollars worth of effect anywhere in the economy).

You can be sure that if Republicans ever hold the presidency and simultaneously achieve working majorities in the both houses of Congress (a federal “trifecta”) they will immediately pass a REINS bill and make it law. Once enacted as law these bills would cripple the function of the Executive branch, concentrate power in Congress, and devolve power to the individual states, a profound re-arrangement of our governing structure. 

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. If you want a window on how REINS is being sold to our neighbors by Republican/Libertarian media I recommend “House passes legislation to rein in the administrative state” from the Washington Examiner, a totally online, free-to-read conservative/libertarian mouthpiece owned by mega-billionaire Philip Anschutz, whose wealth is rooted in oil-drilling.

McMorris Rodgers’ Machine

Daniel Walters Ignited Something

On June 8 the Inlander published an article by Daniel Walters entitled “How a network of politicos tied to U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers are pulling behind-the-scenes strings to tar up local liberals”. I provided an annotated version of Walters’ article here in hope of clarifying the cast of local characters. Two more articles have since been published in the Spokesman. Apparently, Walters’ article jangled a nerve. First, on June 18, the Spokesman published Shawn Vestal’s “Team Cathy helps drive local politics, but mum’s the word”. It is a great read. Vestal’s writing alone is reason to subscribe to the Spokesman. It is pasted below. 

Then yesterday, June 22, the Spokesman published Sue Lani Madsen’s “Shocking news – there’s politics in government”. I encourage you to click and read it, it is a study in classical Republican “whataboutism” with a dose of “I’m just asking questions.” Instead of “What about Hunter Biden?” or “What about her emails?”, Sue Lani brings whataboutism to the local level. She raises “What about Brian McClatchey?” and “What about the Smith-Barbieri Progressive Fund?”. What does she allege? That Democrats communicate with Democrats (perhaps in pursuit of real solutions for real problems—like providing shelter to unsheltered Spokanites). Oh my! Sometimes Democrats actually contribute money to Democratic candidates. Horrors! Sue Lani herself admits this “Could be another nothingburger”—the fact of which a careful reading of her article as much as proves.

Sue Lani pretends equivalence—both sides do “this”, it’s just politics as usual. But Daniel Walters’ Inlander article details multiple efforts pushed by the McMorris Rodgers Machine not toward constructive solutions for problems, but efforts to undermine by accusation. McMorris Rodgers-associated-operatives are coaching the filing of dubious “ethics complaints” to be brought against Spokane City Council President Breean Beggs and former City Council President Ben Stuckart. Chud Wendle, former district director for McMorris Rodgers, is cozying up to Spokane Chief of Police Meidl for to extract body cam video to use against Council Member Betsy Wilkerson (District 2, South Hill). This is not constructive. It is precisely the opposite—it is a desperate smear campaign to gain Republican power over Spokane City government. It is not equivalent politics—and don’t let Sue Lani Madsen get away with pretending that it is. (I encourage you to read or re-read Daniel Walters’ article as you consider Ms. Madsen’s non-equivalent proposition. Shawn Vestal’s article pasted below wraps it up.) 

Keep to the high ground,


Shawn Vestal’s “Team Cathy helps drive local politics, but mum’s the word

Sunday, June 18

If the Cathy McMorris Rodgers machine is hand-puppeting some of the fund-raising, policy-making and PR ploys of conservative politics in Spokane city government – an undercurrent that was illuminated in detail last week in the Inlander – the question is: Why do the local politicians she’s helping tie themselves into knots to keep it quiet?

It’s not really a difficult question. The congresswoman is an electoral juggernaut in Eastern Washington, but the city of Spokane is one place in McMorris Rodgers Country that is not McMorris Rodgers Country.

Consider the indigo cast of recent elections among city voters (according to a breakdown by Logan Camporeale, a local elections data wonk and historian working on a project identifying racist housing covenants in Eastern Washington).

Among voters in the city, McMorris Rodgers trailed Lisa Brown by 17 percentage points the 2018 race. In 2022, the congresswoman trailed Democratic challenger Natasha Hill by 11 points.

The city went for Hillary by 10 points and Biden by 17.

You see the pattern. We’re an island in a district McMorris Rodgers’ mostly dominates. Which is why city candidates and office-holders on the right – from former Mayor David Condon to current Mayor Nadine Wodward to the conservative candidates who are pretending not to be conservative – have done their best to obscure their connections to the congresswoman and GOP politics, often pretending to be mere ideological blanks, pure and unopinionated non-partisans whose only values are “common sense” and “safety” and who are disgusted by how political other people are.

The Inlander story outlined a network of consultants with ties to the congresswoman, as well as current and former staffers, operating as the wind beneath the wings of political activities on the local right. That has included helping put together the appearance of support for the misbegotten Trent shelter (putting millions into the pockets of a Woodward donor) to organizing PR for a push to expand laws sanctioning homeless sweeps to coordinating criticisms of the participation of Councilman Zack Zappone in the redistricting process.

This web also threads into the email bombardment of City Council members by a small group of wealthy property owners, as well as the cozy, favor-granting relationship between that group and Police Chief Craig Meidl.

The resulting picture is that of a political machine gliding on the surface of city politics like a swan, while paddling furiously and constantly under the water.

This overlap of national and local politics came amusingly to light recently when the mayor’s campaign account sent out a tweet boasting “I am proud to have led the passage of the HALT Fentanyl Act two weeks ago in the House” above an image with the word, “Cathy.” It was obviously meant to appear on the account of McMorris Rodgers; apparently a social media staffer working for both of them made a simple mistake.

Not a huge deal. Just an enlightening one.

The most illustrative example in the Inlander piece about the participation of Team Cathy in city politics – as well as the lengths people go to hide it – involved an ethics complaint filed in May 2022 against former City Council President Ben Stuckart.

The complaint was advanced by Councilman Jonathan Bingle, who charged that Stuckart had improperly participated in discussions about a homeless shelter operator when he was up for a job with one of the candidates. It might have seemed strictly like a case of inside baseball at City Hall.

Local politics at it localiest.

But in fact the complaint was carefully attended by Team Cathy – which Bingle denied when the Inlander asked him about it last year. In fact, the complaint and a news release announcing it were worked on by three separate people with ties to the congresswoman.

Emily Strode, a consultant who was a former campaign manager for McMorris Rodgers, helped put together the complaint and news release. Another consultant and former longtime McMorris Rodgers finance director, Dawn Sugasa, “reviewed and tweaked,” the news release, the Inlander reported. And the congresswoman’s deputy chief of staff, Patrick Bell, helped doctor up the “quotes” from Bingle in the news release.

You might say that all politics is built on connections and associations, and you’d be right. You might note that political consultants of all stripes tend to swim in the same ideological pond, and you’d be right. You might point out that news releases are heavily doctored propaganda, not instruments of truth – and you’d be right.

You might also point out that city politics – while technically non-partisan – have been obviously divided into partisan camps for a while now. The members of the liberal majority absolutely have connections in the world of Democratic politics.

Still, the extent of Team Cathy’s involvement in local politics is unusual even in that context, both in the degree of involvement and the efforts to keep it out of sight.

There’s plenty of help for those who want to join the team. But mum’s the word.

Woodward’s Warehouse

Make them “less comfortable”

These words of City of Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward might be her credo: “I think we need to get to the point where we’re working to make homelessness less comfortable and get people connected to services.” [the bold is mine]

Woodward uttered that sentence in April of 2022 as she defended a plan to lease, at an exorbitant fee, a large building on east Trent from Larry Stone, a local developer, major campaign contributor, and the instigator and money behind “Curing Spokane”.* Woodward’s experience with homelessness consisted of a brief, televised campaign stop in 2019. She visited a site where volunteers were serving food to people living without conventional shelter downtown. From her 2019 campaign onward Woodward’s plans were focused more on moving the visible unsheltered out of downtown than they were on questioning and dealing with the “why” of the unsheltered population or on offering them a lifeline to becoming sheltered.

Advocates with actual experience working with people living unsheltered raised concerns that trying to warehouse hundreds of people in a one-size-fits-all shelter would produce more problems than it would solve. Ignoring those with actual experience—and a City Council resolution making the same point, Woodward pushed forward with plans for the Trent Shelter (aka TRAC, aka “Woodward’s Warehouse”). 

Woodward’s Warehouse is the embodiment of the “less comfortable” solution: Entering the TRAC shelter means giving up most of one’s limited independence to live far from services, crammed together with hundreds of other unsheltered individuals with varying levels of mental stability, drug use, and sexual predator tendencies in a facility without indoor plumbing. In exchange, Woodward’s Warehouse offers heat and the minimal assurance that police and city workers won’t sweep you away and throw your belongings in a dumpster. 

The 2018 U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit case, Martin v. Boiseprohibits government from enforcing anti-camping restrictions unless there are shelter beds available. Were it not for Martin v. Boise one has the feeling that the Woodward administration wouldn’t have pursued any expansion of shelter capacity whatsoever. After all, behind the “less comfortable” mindset is the worldview that people only leave their derelict ways and seek betterment when being unsheltered becomes sufficiently miserable. Offer them some help—but don’t make it too easy for them to access that help—after all, that would rob them of initiative. In Woodward’s worldview, finding oneself without shelter is a moral failing—the result of “bad choices”. For the Woodward crowd the “bad choice” of drug use is what leads to losing one’s shelter. She cannot consider that the reverse might be true, that the despair, the hopelessness of living unsheltered, shunned, and demeaned might trigger drug use as the only visible escape from one’s predicament. 

One of Woodward’s most glaring failings as a Mayor is her insistence that it is her way or the highway. She seems incapable of collaboration, incapable of acknowledging what advocates for the unsheltered population keep telling her: 1) that each unsheltered person has their own story, their own barriers, their own despair, and 2) that a one-size-fits-all congregate shelter of hundreds of people is a potential nightmare. For Mayor Woodward, former County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, and Spokane Police Chief Craig Meidl, the people of Camp Hope were a threat to be cleared, pushed out, made invisible. Even though the Woodward administration did not possess and could not offer shelter, Woodward, instead of offering collaboration, spent our “hard-earned taxpayer dollars” (to highlight Republican buzzwords) to fund legal challenges threatening the residents of Camp Hope with forceable clearance. Simultaneously, the administration engaged in passive aggression by refusing to offer a water hook up, threatening neighbors who did, and withholding police assistance from Camp Hope, even when Camp administration requested help. 

In stark contrast to Woodward’s my-way-or-the-highway confrontational approach Washington State’s Right of Way (ROW) Safety Initiative (early 2022) offered help in a collaborative manner. Funds voted by the legislature and administered through the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) were directed at providing shelter and housing options to those encamped on WSDOT-owned lands in four counties, including Spokane. Woodward would rather that no one understand that the ROW Safety Initiative provided two million dollars to support Woodward’s Warehouse (aka TRAC, aka the Trent Shelter). Jewels Helping Hands, the organization that managed Camp Hope, led by Julie Garcia, received 1.56 million dollars via a subcontract with Empire Health Foundation (EHF). The 1.56 million part of the 3.47 million is shown in the table below. (From the 1.56 million, Julie Garcia, as founder, chief officer, and in-the-camp administrator of Camp Hope, billed EHS for less than $40,000. All the rest of the money supported the basic functions of Camp Hope.)

Bottom line: While the Washington State legislature via WSDOT was providing funds in a collaborative way to tackle a large and growing problem, Mayor Woodward was spending City money on threats and lawsuits and withholding City assistance, all in an attempt to sabotage an effort that conflicted with her pre-conceived notions. This is no way to run a city. 

Keep to the high ground,


* “Curing Spokane” was a widely circulated, 17 minute YouTube video modeled after “Seattle is Dying”. Both videos showcase the unhoused population of each city with emphasis on footage of the mentally ill and the most depraved individuals the videographers could find, footage meant to demonize the entire unhoused population. Both offer punitive or inane solutions. (Example: put the Spokane downtown bus station underground.) Both videos are essentially campaign ads for candidates favoring sweep-them-away, get-them-out-of-sight policies. Since neither explicitly names candidates, the people financing these productions manage to dodge campaign finance regulations while (mostly) concealing their names.

The Legacy of Camp Hope

A Community of Hope and Mutual Aid

Camp Hope closed June 9th, weeks before its agreed-upon, scheduled closing date of June 30. For eighteen months the people of Camp Hope occupied a barren city block near I-90 and Freya Ave. owned by the Washington State Department of Transportation. The block is one of many cleared of low income housing decades ago in anticipation of freeway expansion. The people of Camp Hope, brought their worldly belongings. They lived in tents, cars, and old campers. For most of those eighteen months camper numbers far exceeded the beds available in city shelters, even after the opening of Trent Shelter (TRAC)—originally advertised as offering 250 beds. 

We would do well to recognize what was accomplished at Camp Hope, and the why and the how of it. Many left Camp Hope with housing in spite of harassment, legal and physical threats, misinformation, and the purposeful withholding by Mayor Woodward’s office of easily offered basic necessities (except for a few dumpsters) from the people of the camp. The Mayor, it seemed, was unable to comprehend that many of the residents of Camp Hope preferred struggling with the cold in the Camp Hope community over trying to adjust to life in a warm warehouse with hundreds of other people. (Neither Camp Hope nor the TRAC shelter has indoor plumbing.)

Julie Garcia, Executive Director of Jewels Helping Hands (JHH), was a tireless Camp Hope organizer and advocate for the people of the Camp. For eighteen months she dove into all the issues of Camp. She developed connections with the camp’s residents, learning of their lived experience, and working to understand the personal barriers they faced. She acquired and managed funding provided by the State of Washington’s Right of Way Initiative, funding that was funneled locally through the Empire Health Foundation. She directed that money toward a variety of programs in the camp, recognizing, developing, using and rewarding the skills of many of the campers themselves in helping other campers and the community of Camp Hope. 

There have been several newspaper articles that covered the closing of Camp Hope, but the best account of the closure of Camp Hope comes from Julie Garcia herself in the press release she composed with her thumbs on her smartphone the day the camp closed. I have been privileged to get to know a little of Julie and her story. No one is more compassionately dedicated to helping those living outdoors to obtain permanent, supportive places to live than she. Instead of making pronouncements from the Mayor’s office or press releases from an office in Washington Trust Bank, Julie was present on site, hearing their stories, understanding the barriers faced by those living outdoors, and working hard to offer help, encouragement, and a way out and up. That many are housed who were not is a testament to her dedication and the dedication of many who worked alongside her. 

Keep to the high ground,


Camp Hope Closes

by Julie Garcia

June 9, 2023, the last resident of Camp Hope 2.0 left camp. He leaves housed and hopeful.

Camp Hope, the largest Homeless encampment in the State of Washington, with the assistance of the Department of Commerce Right of Way funding, is officially decommissioned and closed. The one-block site shows no sign of the two-year struggle between local city administration on one side and campers, health care providers, and Spokane’s housing activists on the other.

Camp Hope was not closed by police sweeps, litigation, or political will. It was closed based on the success of life-saving legislation, the State’s “Right of Way” solution, by providing temporary shelter in place while housing professionals created better situations for the residents of Camp Hope. It was closed in a trauma-informed, peer lead, intentional, collaborative, compassionate, and humane way.

It started with an unscripted protest on the steps of City Hall highlighting the lack of low barrier shelter capacity in our community in the winter of 2021.

The City administration threatened to sweep the protest away. In response, 68 of the protesters moved onto the lot on the corner of 2nd and Ray, in the City of Spokane onto state-owned property we today refer to formally as Camp Hope.

The population of Camp Hope hit its peak count of 689 during the hot summer of 2022. Early on the Camp was rowdy and unruly. Complaints from campers and neighbors were fierce. Then the State passed the ROW legislation and funding arrived along with a promise to allow campers to temporarily stay. In response, the camp closed its gate to new residents, badged those already living within the perimeter, established rules and obtained an agreement from every camper to adhere to the rules or leave. The administraJon fought back: no water, no electricity, no police coverage.

The hard work began: helping campers obtain essenJal identification documents for people long without basic documentation, identifying and remediating health and social barriers, finding — even creating — real housing options, and developing a much needed Sobering Center. Services provided on-site covered behavioral/mental health services, access to medical care on side, sobriety services, harm reduction, criminal justice assistance, basic personal needs, and an army of peer/housing specialist/caseworkers.

During the second half of 2022, local authorities promised to sweep the Camp and bus, jail, or simply disperse the campers back into alleys, overpasses, and whereever people without homes or shelter can briefly exist. In response three campers and Jewels Helping Hands filed a federal lawsuit to stop an illegal raid. Federal Judge Bastian granted the Camp a restraining order, based on the rights of those experiencing homelessness established under Martin v. Boise and Blake v. Grants Pass.

The success of the ROW Initiative did not come easily. But as of today we reach our ultimate goal: safe, humane, and legal closing.

The story is compelling.

In the last 18 months 200+ people experiencing chronic (i.e., multiple years of) homelessness have been housed through the ROW Housing opJons supported by Empire Health Foundation, Department of Commerce funds and on-site providers, Revive Counseling, Jewels Helping Hands, Compassionate Addiction Treatment and Spokane Low Income Housing Consortium.

In the last 18 months 150+ campers were employed. Programs teaching skilled trades were implemented, lived experience opportunities were implemented, employment specialists engaged, and second chance employment programs were utilized.

The data collected during the existence of Camp Hope will prove beneficial to other communiJes struggling to move the needle in their Chronically Homeless Populations. This data is a snapshot of chronic homelessness not only in Spokane but anywhere in the nation.

The model created at Camp Hope can be replicated with successful outcomes and appropriate intervenJons. The successful closing and creation of the Camp Hope model — using people- centered methods — proves that low-barrier, trauma-informed, peer-led, data driven solutions that honor the self-determination of the people experiencing homelessness works. This model can be used to provide services to the members of any community experiencing chronic homelessness.

Many lessons learned from Camp Hope, but the five main ones are.

  1. Politics has no place in homeless services.
  2. Peers and workers with lived experience are the experts in the room.
  3. Collaboration of Services and Service Providers are the keys to successful outcomes.
  4. 600+ people in any neighborhood has a gigantic impact.
  5. We can move the needle in homeless services as a community.

There is much still to be done. Over 200 badged Camp Hoper residents are unaccounted for. Most probably remain in the community. The reengagement of that populaJon is the next priority. In the meantime, Jewels Helping Hands will continue to follow our housed campers and assist in maintaining and sustaining their housing and reengaging those that fell through the cracks.

Thank you to the residents of Camp Hope, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Transportation, Revive Counseling, Compassionate Addiction Treatment, Spokane Low Income Housing Consortium, Empire Health Foundation, on and off-site service providers, churches and community volunteers, Housing Navigators, Catalyst and Catalyst employees and all those who participated in aiding ROW funded providers to close this encampment successfully and compassionately. Special thanks go to the architects of the ROW initiative and the tireless state officials who made sure that funding was dedicated to Spokane as well as the State’s west-side cities. Commerce director Lisa Brown was the key to Spokane’s success in obtaining funds.

Today, we will celebrate the hard work, hard won victories, the care and compassion, the community and collaboration, and the Camp closing. Media is allowed on site for quesJons from 12-3pm. Staff from Revive Counseling, Jewel’s Helping Hands, Spokane Low Income Housing Consortium, Compassionate AddicJon Treatment and Empire Health FoundaJon will be on site to answer quesJons.

Julie Garcia

Executive Director/Founder Jewels Helping Hands


The McMorris Rodgers’ Machine Calling the Shots Locally

Apparently, All Politics are more National than the old adage suggests

Five years ago I pointed out in a blog post entitled “Things I’ve Learned” that flipping a Congressional District like CD5 (eastern Washington) from an incumbent of one major party to the other almost always happens by a small vote margin—and, once that the flip occurs, the new regime uses federal money (around 1.3M annually, the MRA, above the 174K Representative’s salary) to provide salaries for staff and offices—a training ground for like-minded, future political operatives and candidates for office. Of course, money is fungible. If outside, separately funded “think tanks” like the Washington Policy center and the American Legislative Exchange Council do a lot of your policy development, that leaves more money from the MRA to hire and train the inexperienced. 

Republican George Nethercutt beat U.S. Speaker of the House Tom Foley in the 1994 election for his eastern Washington (CD5) House seat by a mere 4000 votes out of roughly 200,000 votes cast. Then, in 2004, building on the new dynasty, Nethercutt anointed Cathy McMorris Rodgers as his successor. Since then her office has become a hatchery for Republican candidates and local right wing political operatives. Scratch the surface of many a local Republican and you find a period of service in McMorris Rodgers’ local offices—or in the Washington Policy Center, the right wing, Koch-funded state-wide “think” tank, part of the State Policy Network (based in Arlington VA) that coordinates right wing ideology nationally.

Last week the Inlander published a landmark investigative article by Daniel Walters that expands the detail on McMorris Rodgers’ machine’s meddling in local politics. It would be one thing if the involvement were positive support for candidates and rhetorical support on issues, but this is something else entirely. Contrary to the smily, wholesome soccer mom figure McMorris Rodgers tries to project in public, political operatives and consultants attached to or with skills honed in her office are actively working to shape attacks on non-Republican officials through lawsuits, public information requests, and offerings to local media—a mirror image of current day national Republican strategy applied to local, nominally “non-partisan” politics.

Of course, digging up dirt based on accusations and innuendo is infinitely easier than actually proposing, writing, and passing effective policy, i.e. actually governing. 

The only issue I have with Walters’ article is that unless you’ve been paying attention to local politics for a while it presents a blur of names. I’ve copied the article below and inserted bold and bracketed notes that I hope will help in keeping the cast of characters straight. I encourage you to routinely check out Daniel Walters’ work in the Inlander. There is no paywall. Of course, there are ads. 

Keep to the high ground,


How a network of politicos tied to U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers are pulling behind-the-scenes strings to tar up local liberals

by Daniel Walters

June 8, 2023

Just weeks after Spokane City Council member Jonathan Bingle [District 1, NE Spokane] submitted an ethics complaint against former Council President Ben Stuckart last year, Bingle faced an ethical dilemma of his own. 

In his May 4, 2022, press release announcing the complaint, Bingle condemned Stuckart for being involved in discussions about selecting a homeless shelter operator, when one of the candidates was proposing giving Stuckart a $150,000 job should it be selected.

“The citizens of Spokane deserve to know that the process to select a new shelter has integrity and that their hard-earned taxpayer dollars are being stewarded appropriately,” Bingle is quoted as saying in the press release.

But, back then, when the Inlander asked him if anyone else besides his council aide was involved in writing the ethics complaint and the subsequent press release, Bingle had to decide whether to tell the truth.

He didn’t. Instead, he argued, repeatedly, defensively, that no one else was involved. “The complaint, the press release, all of that is my language,” Bingle insisted, more than once.

Now, more than a year later, confronted with new evidence, Bingle admits that wasn’t true. Not for the complaint, not for the press release.

“That is not something I wrote alone,” Bingle says.

To start with, he says, he had the help of Emily Strode, a consultant who’d worked on his 2021 campaign. Along with consulting for numerous political candidates, including Al French, she worked for five years under U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, most recently as the Republican congresswoman’s campaign manager in 2021.

Last week, thanks to a live link to a collaborative Google Docs file where Bingle’s press release was drafted, the Inlander was able to see that the involvement of Strode and other McMorris Rodgers veterans went far deeper: Bingle’s press release draft was reviewed and tweaked by Dawn Sugasa, Strode’s boss at the local consulting firm, Town Square Strategies, who had spent 14 years as the finance director for the McMorris Rodgers fundraising operation.

And the supposed quotes from Bingle about the importance of “hard-earned taxpayer dollars” being “stewarded appropriately” was language added by Patrick Bell, McMorris Rodgers’ current deputy chief of staff. [Note the tested Republican buzz-phrase “hard-earned taxpayer dollars” used by McMorris Rodgers as though it were a single word.]

“I have occasionally provided thoughts or edits on documents relating to local government matters,” Bell says in a text message, after multiple requests for comment.

Strode did not return phone calls. Sugasa emailed back to decline to answer questions about clients.

In fact, some of Strode and Bell’s drafts suggested Bingle go even further by filing an ethics complaint against his colleague, Council President Breean Beggs, with allegations he’d inappropriately distributed information about the proposed shelter. Bingle ultimately declined to do so. 

It’s more evidence for the theory that Beggs and other progressive council members have been floating for a year: It’s all part of a political plot. In context, it looks like part of an organized salvo from professional political operatives to use ethics complaints, record requests and litigation to further muddy up the reputation of local left-leaning politicians, sometimes years before the election.

“I think the public deserves to know that all these random things that are popping up are not random,” Beggs says, when told of Strode and Bell‘s involvement. “They’re part of a group effort by a small group of very wealthy people who have a political agenda.”


Beyond ghostwriting ethics complaints, Strode has been plenty active behind the scenes.

She rallied support to get the Trent homeless shelter lease signed. She organized phone banking efforts to oppose a redistricting map designed by liberal Council member Zack Zappone [District 3, NE Spokane]. She recruited attendees to a press conference last summer supporting the mayor’s proposal to reform the city’s sit-lie policy.

“I never got notice of the press conference. We have communications people who usually do this,” Council member Karen Stratton [District 3, NW Spokane] said last year. “Who are these people, and what are they doing organizing a press conference with the mayor?”

The comically generic website for Town Square Strategies offers few insights. There’s no hint of political intent, just a quote about genius misattributed to Albert Einstein and jargon about building “relationships with key audiences and stakeholders.”

“That’s what we want to know,” Beggs says. “Who is paying Town Square?”

But Beggs’ thinks the identity of the person who the consultants did manage to find to file the ethics complaint against him is notable: Tom Bassler, a retired pathologist. Bassler, Beggs says, is the son-in-law of Jerry Dicker — a passionate City Council critic and owner of the Steam Plant, Hotel Ruby and the Bing.

“Perhaps our business leaders will speak up and express their opposition to the self-serving policies of Beggs, Kinnear, Wilkerson, et al,” Dickerwrote in an April email to other business owners about liberal council members. [Note the implied accusation of ‘self-serving’ offered without evidence—and as if the writer weren’t guilty of same.]

But there are other contenders. Briefly, an anonymous user in the Google Docs press release had edited the draft to float a different last name to file the complaint: “Wendle.”

While Cindy Wendle had used Strode as a consultant during her run for City Council president in 2019, by 2022 she got a divorce and changed her last name. She says it wasn’t her.

But her ex-husband, Chud Wendle, has gone to considerable lengths to dig up dirt on the City Council. His 2021 records request for body camera footage of a police officer complaining about Council member Betsy Wilkerson’s reluctance to hand over surveillance footage has continued to reverberate across the City Council and mayor’s race, and called into question whether police Chief Craig Meidl shares privileged information to assist Wendle’s political crusade.

Wendle also spent two years as McMorris Rodgers’ district director.

In fact, the very same day that Strode began drafting the press releases, she and Chud Wendle were both at a City Council meeting, pushing back against council regulations that threatened to potentially delay the opening of the homeless shelter on Trent.

“I don’t feel safe in my city,” Strode said at the meeting, after signing in as a “citizen.” Then Wendle spoke, accusing the council of trying “to micromanage the administration with reactive policies.”

The Trent Shelter is owned by another Mayor Nadine Woodward supporter, developer Larry Stone. In 2021, Stone donated $50,000 to the Spokane Good Government Alliance, a PAC that’s spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in opposition to progressive City Council members. (Today, the Spokane Good Government Alliance’s president, John Estey, is also McMorris Rodgers’ campaign director.)

Stone, Wendle, Dicker and Bassler have all been on an email list together for years, in which along with business owners like Sheldon Jackson, they have traded frustrations and lamentations about the state of homelessness and City Council leadership. In March of last year, a new name quietly began appearing on that list: Dawn Sugasa, the same one who runs Town Square Strategies.

Plenty of people on that list were furious about Stuckart — and ready to act on it.

“If you are not going to file an ethics complaint,” Jackson wrote to the city attorney last April, “we will find someone that will.”


It isn’t, of course, just one side with a behind-the-scenes political machine chugging along to try to influence ostensibly nonpartisan politics. Bothell-based attorney Mark Lamb proved that while suing to get the City Council’s recent redistricting decision overturned.

As Bell, McMorris Rodgers’ deputy chief of staff, watched the live courtroom feed from afar, Lamb referred to the multiple messages he’d uncovered during discovery from Zappone, the council member who submitted his own map for redistricting.

In one message, Zappone was gloating about how the map he designed would give liberal council candidates a small but significant bump in a tight district. The recipient of that message: Jim Dawson, campaign director of the progressive Fuse Washington, which is part of the Democratic political machine.

And yet Lamb is a piece of the Republican machine. He’s been an attorney for conservatives ranging from anti-tax crusader Tim Eyman to former state Rep. Matt Shea, who was accused of domestic terrorism by an investigator in 2019 due to his role in standoffs with federal officials.

For most of last year, Lamb was the registered agent for Town Square Strategies — all the legal mail went through him. During the same week that Strode and Bell were workshopping last year’s ethics complaints against Stuckart and Beggs, Lamb fired off 13 different sprawling records requests, against progressive council members and staffers, scrutinizing years of emails for phrases like “Defund the Police” and “All Cops Are Bastards.” After a year, the city sent over at least 25 gigabytes of records to Lamb and it’s barely scratched the surface of everything he’s asked for.

While Zappone’s map survived Lamb’s litigation, the material Lamb dug up during the lawsuit continues to make life difficult for the council members. Neil Muller, a local insurance salesman, has used that information to submit ethics complaints against Zappone, Wilkerson and both their legislative aides.

Muller says he was not “put up to do this by other people” but says he did get a little bit of help from other parties. But like Bassler a year ago, he says he doesn’t want to say who assisted him.

“I don’t think they want to be on record,” Muller says. “This town is too small.”

Zappone thinks Muller’s push isn’t a coincidence. “It seems like a coordinated effort to try to drag me through the mud,” Zappone says.

Yet attorney Jeffry Finer, who defended the council’s sustainability initiatives manager against an ethics complaint last year, argues that copycatting is sometimes to blame for what looks like coordination.

“I think folks in some circles have been passing along new wisdom as to how to shove a drumstick into the spokes of municipal machinery,” says Finer.

Spokane County Treasurer Michael Baumgartner [R, and former State Senator from LD6] argues that wisdom is not even that new — he says it happened to Spokane Mayor David Condon nearly a decade ago.

“One of the main reasons that ethics complaints get filed is just to be a time suck in the middle of a campaign,” Baumgartner says. “It can really take a lot of resources.”

Bell and Sugasa know firsthand how grueling the process can be at the federal level: Both were put through the wringer in the 2010s by Congressional investigators when McMorris Rodgers was accused of improperly using government resources and staffers for political campaigns. [Apparently in retaliation McMorris Rodgers tried to eliminate the Office of Congressional Ethics in the first days of the House Republican majority under Trump in 2017.]

Though Bell’s work on the ethics complaint press releases in May 2022 occurred on a Tuesday and Thursday morning, Bell insists in a text message that such efforts only occur during his personal time.

If it seems like a lot of the local Republican apparatus comes from Cathy-world, Baumgartner says that’s because, on the state level, that’s a main source of where Republican power comes from. And increasingly, the partisan battles unfold on municipal boards and councils, not just in Congress or Olympia.

“When I first ran for office, it seemed like all politics was local,” says Baumgartner. “And now it very much is ‘All politics is national.'”

Plenty of people lament the intrusion of partisan politics. Even Jennifer Thomas, a member of the redistricting commission who was as outraged as anyone by Zappone’s redistricting map, has some misgivings about how calculated things can get behind the scenes.

Thomas says she was frustrated when she heard that Strode — along with the Spokane County GOP — were using phone banking to organize against Zappone’s map.

“I didn’t want there to be something on a non-political city issue that was so significant that could be characterized as game playing,” Thomas says.

But it’s hard to get away from politics. Thomas’s face appeared on billboards in 2018, part of the “Cathy Represents Us” campaign. So did the face of Kim Plese, who’s running for City Council president.

Yet Plese says she’s sick of the “partisan politics that got in the way of being a public servant in my opinion. … If this was a partisan position, I wouldn’t be running right now.” [Really???]

She says some of her biggest support comes from frustrated business people, like hotelier and developer Dicker who picked up the phone to personally encourage her to run for council president.

She may get email lists and doorbelling strategies from Strode, she says, but that has nothing to do with partisan politics.

Underscoring the point, Plese puts “nonpartisan” on her campaign signs.

It’s the same label that Condon used on his signs to get elected mayor in 2011 — right after working for six years as the deputy chief of staff for McMorris Rodgers