Cathcart on decision to buy Teslas for SPD: Now is not the time to experiment with expensive shiny objects

SPOKANE, Wash. — Councilman Michael Cathcart wants the Spokane City Council to take a deeper look at its plans to outfit the police department with four new Teslas.

In a Facebook post, Cathcart laid out how it might come across to the public in the wake of a financially-devastating pandemic and put out a call for the council to do some additional research.

“Imagine you’re out of work because of the shutdown. Spent your last dime to buy groceries for the family. Now imagine the police car coming up behind you to ticket or maybe just warn you that your tabs are expired (because no money) is a high end, high comfort, high class Tesla that costs more than your last few vehicles combined… and paid for in part with your tax dollars,” Cathcart wrote.

During Monday night’s meeting, the council approved spending $400,000 on buying new Teslas for the Spokane Police Department. Council President Breean Beggs said the decision will save the city more in the long-run.

“I’m all for the comfort of our officers and if we can save money then I’m all for out of the box purchases,” Cathcart said in a Facebook post. “However, now is definitely not the time to experiment with very expensive shiny objects.”

The decision to opt for electric vehicles was made in part because of a 2015 law that states Washington cities and counties should buy electric vehicles when practicable.

Beggs also pointed to a study that showed electric vehicles have twice the life-span as gas vehicles.

Cathcart said that if the council wants to go in the all-electric direction, more research should be done to determine if Tesla is even the right vendor.

He also noted the city does not currently have the infrastructure to support keeping the vehicles charged and safe at all times for officers. However, Beggs said Monday that the city is working on building its charging infrastructure and hopes that could pave the way for the city to receive grants for charging stations in the future.

“Maybe someday this would make sense. Today it definitely does not. We could have opted to purchase on vehicle, which I would have supported, but four is just a step much too far,” Cathcart said.

The four Teslas are set to be ordered this month and delivered sometime next year.

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