The Spokane County Commission

Recommended, worthwhile civic engagement

Thanks to the indefatigable efforts of Suzi Hokonson, I, with several others, have attended a number of the Spokane County Commission’s legislative sessions held at 2PM on Tuesdays in the auditorium on the lowest level of the Public Works building at 1026 W Broadway. (See P.S. for more detail.) It has been time well spent.

These meetings are typically short, rarely running more than an hour and sometimes only twenty minutes. Even so, just seeing one’s elected officials in person interacting with one another in their official Robert’s Rules of Order format is well worth the visit. The agenda, usually available in print on a table just outside the auditorium and online (See P.P.S.) looks daunting, but typically only a few of the items on the agenda are taken separately. 

These “BoCC Legislative Session Meetings” are sparsely attended by the public, in part because they are held on a workday in the afternoon rather than the evening (something that ought to change). In a hall that would comfortably seat at least a hundred there rarely are more than twenty occupied seats—and only a few of those seats are occupied by visitors. One often finds oneself sitting with (and sometimes being introduced to) the commissioners’ legislative aides or other county elected officials (for example, Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton is sometimes in the audience). Putting faces to names and watching how people conduct themselves in person is valuable civic learning. 

Usually there are only one or two attendees who offer a public comment on general topics near the beginning of the 2PM meeting (strictly limited to 3 minutes each). Recently one particular fellow (sometimes with a friend) “demands” of the commissioners that they “demand” (starting at about 5:40 in the linked video) of the state auditor a comprehensive audit of our voting system. He suggests a DVD (or YouTube streaming) of a documentary titled “Let My People Go”. I have since learned that it features two and a quarter hours of thumping music and an expounding Steve Bannon (among other luminaries). Lately there have been a couple of three minute commentaries on County Commissioner Al French’s mishandling of the PFAS contamination of the West Plains groundwater. (Here at about 2 minutes for one of them.)

There are ways to stream the meetings live or after the fact, but, while useful, that is an inadequate substitute for actual in person attendance. I highly recommend the experience as a way of understanding the workings of county government. Prior to 2016 I labored under the misconception that the county commission was responsible for those parts of the county not under municipal government. The truth is that the county commission is interlinked at many levels with municipal governments, county commissioners are far better paid than city councilpersons, and the commissioners wield far more power and influence. Especially prior to the expansion of the county commission to five from three members that commenced in January 2023, Commissioner French was unquestionably the most powerful, best connected, and one of the least noticed elected officials in Spokane County. 

Spend an hour on Tuesday afternoons getting to know your county government at work. Visitors to these meetings are welcomed, but if you would like a bit of connection and support as a first timer, email Suzi Hokonson at

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. The Public Works Building is the building to the right (east) of the historic Spokane County Court House as you face it from the street. Unlike the Court House, you don’t have to go through a TSA-like screening to enter Public Works. You just walk in, turn left, then right and go downstairs. I’ve never had trouble finding a place to park on the street within a block. (The meters accept coins, but it can be more efficient to use the ParkMobile app on your smart phone once you have it set up.)

P.P.S. The Spokane County Website takes some diligence to navigate. Seeing the agenda for the 2PM meeting ahead of time isn’t essential, but you can see it by going to then “Your Government”/”County Commissioners”/”Agendas, Minutes and Resolutions.” Then look for the “BoCC Legislative Session Meetings” on the correct date and then download. A somewhat easier (and more entertaining) way to see the agenda in advance is through RANGE Media’s Monday “Civics” post, which you can sign up to receive or visit the website.

P.P.P.S. There is a lot of preparation for these “BoCC Legislative Session Meetings” that occurs leading up to and during Monday morning “Strategic Planning Meetings” and Tuesday morning “Briefing Meetings”, both held at 9AM in the main Court House (in a much smaller room). Both of these meetings are typically much longer and are rarely attended by the public in person—but they are open to the public.