How it Started – A new library for East Central

The Spokane Public Library at Liberty park opened in November 2021. This new state-of-the-art facility featured large floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over Liberty Park, free meeting space, innovative children’s reading areas, and computer banks.

It also meant that the old East Central Library, a broad – squat brick building that shared a parking lot with the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center – sat vacant.

Council Member Betsy Wilkerson, who represents District 2 where the East Central community is located, sponsored a Spokane City Council resolution establishing a community-driven process to determine the next tenants of the old library building.


Community Proposals

The City used ThoughtExchange – an online forum tool meant to capture a broad swathe of opinions from a group with more depth and interaction than a typical survey – to gather input on the fate of the old library.

Ideas included a police precinct, child care or youth activity center, employment assistance office, adult education facility, homeless shelter, medical clinic, Latinx cultural center, and more.

Meanwhile, community organizations including the Hispanic Business/Professionals Association (HBPA) submitted proposals to the City of Spokane including detailed plans, letters of community support, and even blueprints.


The Surprise Announcement

On May 17, 2022, Mayor Woodward held a press conference outside the old East Central Library to announce a potential Spokane Police Department precinct in the building. Police Chief Craig Meidl, Council Member Michael Cathcart (who represents District 1), and MLK Center Director Freda Gandy were invited to speak.

The press conference shocked many East Central community stakeholders, including Council Member Betsy Wilkerson who – despite representing the neighborhood as a part of District 2 – was given less than 24 hours notice of the announcement.

Led by Council Member Wilkerson, Rebuild East Central and concerned community members silently protested the press conference. CM Wilkerson then took the mic to object to the fanfare and demand a transparent and inclusive proposal process on behalf of her neighborhood.

News reporting on the event clarified that the SPD precinct was only proposed, not finalized, and that Spokane City Council was expected to make the final decision. But the formal press conference, blessing of Mayor Woodward, and speeches from Chief Meidl and CM Cathcart elevated the precinct above all other proposals, giving it the appearance of a done deal.

Relevant links:

Betsy Wilkerson calls to protect Eastside Library

Rebuild East Central Rally


City Council’s Response

After the Mayor’s announcement, Council Member Wilkerson, and City Council President Breean Beggs publicly resolved that City Council will continue to guide the fate of the old East Central Library.

City Council then set to work examining the precinct proposal, resuming communication with community stakeholders, and researching the policing needs of the East Central Community. More practical alternatives to the East Central Library location were identified for a police presence based on traffic and crime data. The council also more closely examined the policies that determine how city assets – such as building leases – are awarded.


The Takeover

Early in the afternoon on June 30, 2022, concerned community members began gathering in front of the old East Central Library. Word had spread that Mayor Woodward had directed the SPD to move into the building, and peaceful protestors converged on the sidewalk in front of the old library to bear witness.

Shortly after 1 PM a rented moving truck and several uniformed officers arrived to deliver desks and office equipment. No one else who applied for the space had been informed that their proposals were rejected. In fact, CM Betsy Wilkerson had only heard about the mayor’s order a mere two hours before the police arrived at the old library.

CM Wilkerson spoke candidly to those gathered. Meanwhile, City Council President Breean Beggs released a video criticizing the occupation. The peaceful group of approximately 15 protestors mingled, heard from CM Wilkerson, and agreed to meet the next day at 5pm for an organized demonstration.

Relevant links:

Mayor Woodward directing the Spokane Police Department 

Betsy Wilkerson message to Mayor Woodward

Police moving in to East Central Library Message

Breean Beggs Message to community


The Protest

On July 1, community members gathered for a peaceful protest in solidarity with voters in District 2 and members of the East Central community whose voices were silenced by Mayor Woodward’s choice to curtail the public process, and install the police in the old East Central Library without even talking to the neighborhood’s elected representative.

Protestors asked for:

  1. A collaborative, inclusive, and transparent process to decide the fate of resources in East Central.

  2. An independent, third-party survey of the East Central neighborhood to hear their perspective on new uses for the old East Central Library.

  3. A meeting between the mayor and issue stakeholders around the fate of the old East Central Library, including the elected Council Members for District 2.

Council Member Wilkerson also promised the City Council would address the fate of the library with an ordinance that would uplift the voice of the East Central community.

You can check out the livestream from the event.

Relevant Link


The Ordinance

As promised, on Monday, July 18, the Spokane City Council will vote on an ordinance that will do 3 things:

  1. Reclassify police precincts as “essential city facilities” – a pre-existing category in city policy that would put their locations back in the hands of City Council.

  2. Create a transparent and inclusive standard process for deciding the fate of neighborhood resources like the old East Central Library.

  3. Create a “public right of action” for Spokane residents to enforce the new process – giving Spokane residents the right to sue the City of Spokane if they believe the process isn’t properly followed.

This ordinance would be “retroactive,” meaning it would apply to the old East Central Library. In other words, the placement of the SPD precinct is still not a done deal.

Read ordinance (page 199)


The Ask

It’s simple. So far Mayor Woodward refuses to meet with alienated East Central community stakeholders, or use a collaborative, inclusive, and transparent process to guide decisions around neighborhood resources. The proposed ordinance that would address these issues can pass City Council and become law anyway. But our leaders need to know we support neighborhood inclusion in city decision-making. They need our support.

Call or write your city council member to tell them you support the upcoming Ordinance.

City council contact information:

Breean Beggs

City Council President

Phone: 509.625.6254



District 1 – Michael Cathcart

Phone: 509.625.6257



Jonathan Bingle

Phone: 509.625.6275



District 2 – Lori Kinnear

Phone: 509.625.6261


Betsy Wilkerson

Phone: 509.625.6258



District 3 – Zack Zappone

Phone: 509.625.6256



Karen Stratton

Phone: 509.625.6291



Not sure what to say? Try something like this:

Hi, I’m … [Name] and I [live in District 2 / live in East Central / work in East Central / am concerned about what’s happening in East Central].

(Choose any of the following points that feel most authentic to you.)

  1. I support transparent, collaborative, and inclusive processes for determining the fate of neighborhood resources.

  2. I believe our elected City Council Members should be respected in their role as representatives of the communities which voted for them. Going over their heads to direct resources in their districts without their input is disrespectful to them, to voters, and to the democratic process.

  3. I support ORDINANCE C36239, which would re-classify police locations into the pre-existing category of “essential city facilities,” and ask you to as well.

  4. I call on the Mayor and City Administration to hold inclusive, in-person, stakeholder meetings about developments in East Central and the fate of the old library.

  5. I call on the Mayor and City government to support a survey of East Central about the future of the old library conducted by a third, impartial party.

Thank you for taking this issue seriously.