Coalition Calls on Council to Pass Safe Open Spaces Ordinance

In a letter sent to the Council President and Members of Spokane City Council today, a coalition of business organizations representing employers, small businesses, nonprofits, and residents of Washington’s second largest city urged Council to address the increasing impact of illegal drugs on our community by adopting the “Safe Open Spaces” ordinance.

“Drug possession and use in public creates health hazards and is dangerous, for both the person using and people that may come in contact with them,” said Emilie Cameron, President & CEO of the Downtown Spokane Partnership. “This ordinance can provide effective tools to restore public spaces following lack of action by the state legislature. With similar policies already in place in cities across Washington, it’s especially imperative that Spokane urgently address the increasing impacts of open drug use in our community.”

Business leaders from the Downtown Spokane Partnership, Greater Spokane Incorporated, Visit Spokane and Washington Hospitality Association stressed support for adopting reasonable, balanced policy that establishes a gross misdemeanor penalty for drug use and results in the confiscation of illegal substances and paraphernalia.

Citing the Spokane County Medical Examiner’s annual report, the letter highlights deaths caused by fentanyl increased by over 285 percent in 2021 from 2020 while open drug use in public spaces exposes families, visitors, workers, and others who also use these places to unsafe and hazardous conditions and all too often predatory crimes to finance drug purchases.

With the Legislature yet to agree to reconvene in special session and address unsafe, unsanitary and unusable conditions in public spaces across the state, Spokane’s sidewalks, parks, plazas, and building entrances are being obstructed by individuals openly using drugs while the remnants of drug abuse litter commercial centers, neighborhoods, and waterways. The community needs urgent relief.