Members of Spokane’s City Council respond to Mayor Woodward’s ‘mosquito’ alarm veto

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SPOKANE, Wash. — Some members of Spokane’s City Council have expressed frustration with Mayor Nadine Woodward’s veto of an ordinance concerning the use of “mosquito” alarms.

In June, the council narrowly passed an ordinance limiting the use of the devices, which emit a high frequency sound, and are often used to deter young people from loitering. The tone, which ranges from 15,000-17,000 Hz, is typically heard by people under 25 years old.

Councilwoman Kate Burke sponsored the ordinance and said the devices discriminate against young people.

Though the council did pass it, councilmembers Michael Cathcart, Betsy Wilkerson and Karen Stratton all voted against the ordinance, siding with business owners.

In her veto, Woodward argued it “eliminates a necessary tool for valued employers” around downtown Spokane.

“The timing of action to strip businesses of an important tool who are struggling to stay open and keep people employed amid devastating closures and unforeseen restrictions is unfortunate,” wrote Woodward. “It is my hope that you will take this action as a call to reopen dialogue with our community to find appropriate tools and solutions to address loitering and criminal activity and consider how to best support our business owners during this time.”

The ordinance was first proposed in the fall of 2019 and a vote had been delayed several times. In a release, some members of the council said Woodward’s veto was the first notion the council received about her opposition to the ordinance.

“It is my hope that next time the Mayor feels strongly enough about an ordinance to consider vetoing it, she will express to the Council before a vote so that there is an opportunity to consider modifying the language,” said City Council President Breean Beggs. “Now Council is left with the option of an up or down vote on the language already passed by a majority of the Council.”

“I was very surprised to hear that the Mayor vetoed this ordinance, especially given the conversation I had with her about delaying implementation of the ordinance until the Downtown Police Precinct was up and running,” said Councilwoman Lori Kinnear.

According to the council, Woodward expressed agreement that the Downtown Police Precinct should be evaluated on crime reduction in downtown without the variable of a mosquito device.

“A few downtown business owners insist that the devices are a deterrent to people sleeping on their property or loitering, although the occasional person sleeping on downtown properties is rarely a young person,” a release from the council said.

The council also noted that Woodward is the local government representative of the Downtown Spokane Partnership’s advisory board. According to the council, the DSP has opposed the ordinance, though the majority of public comments received have favored it.

The passed ordinance did not fully ban the use of mosquito alarms. Businesses would have been allowed to use the devices for five minutes over the course of any one hour period.

The council now has 30 days to consider responding to Woodward’s veto with a possible override of five votes.

RELATED: Spokane City Council votes to limit ‘mosquito’ alarms