By John McCallum
Managing Editor 

Council hustles through curfew ordinance

Members also refuse to sign county memorandum creating COVID-19 working group


Last updated 6/4/2020 at 10:20am

AIRWAY HEIGHTS — At their June 1 meeting, City Council members unanimously approved emergency adoption of an ordinance authorizing the mayor to issue a civil emergency and order imposition of a curfew should the need arise.

The ordinance — which required council approval to waive the standard process of holding three separate readings — was one of two introduced at the last minute Monday night. In creating the ordinance, City Attorney Stanley Schwartz said his office had reviewed a similar one recently adopted by the city of Seattle in response to protests surrounding the death of a Minneapolis, Minn. man at the hands of local police.

The ordinance went into place immediately upon adoption. It allows the mayor to impose a general curfew “prohibiting persons from entering or remaining in public places” that is enforceable by city police, other law enforcement agencies and the military.

The mayor is required to provide public notification regarding details of any curfew — such as extent and duration — through the city’s website and local news media. Curfew violators would be subject to misdemeanor charges and penalties detailed in the city’s municipal code chapter 9.20.050.

Councilwoman Jennifer Morton asked Schwartz if curfew conditions would apply to the Kalispel and Spokane tribes, both of whom have land and casino operations in the city. Schwartz said tribes are sovereign nations that would have to follow their own measures in an emergency.

“If a curfew is enacted, obviously it’s a pretty strong warning that something very dangerous is happening in the city of Airway Heights and you’re trying to control it,” Schwartz said. “But other than that, they are not subject to the terms of this agreement.”

“I suppose if the civil unrest moved onto the casino property, they would have to deal with it,” Mayor Kevin Richey added. “If they didn’t want to abide by the curfew.”

In the other last-minute item, council unanimously decided to not sign a memorandum of understanding with Spokane County and the cities of Spokane and Spokane Valley for establishing a COVID-19 Recovery Group “working group” to deal with the ongoing regional response to the coronavirus pandemic. The council’s main reason for not signing was the composition of the 12-member working group is made up entirely of officials from these three entities with no representation from smaller jurisdictions.

According to the memorandum, the responsibilities of the group include identifying and monitoring key community recovery indicators for disease resurgence and/or community issues, such as needs of food banks and other organizations, and “deliberating, providing guidance and making recommendations on policy, and intergovernmental agreements” to those involved in recovery efforts. With the county awarded $90 million in federal economic recovery funding, City Manager Albert Tripp told the council the working group may want to make decisions on how that money is spent.

“To me, it’s just another example of not being included,” Richey said. “It happens all the time.”

Richey said Cheney and the city of Liberty Lake had raised similar concerns, but felt like they needed to sign the memorandum to at least be part of any discussion. In the end, the Airway Heights council will instead send a cover letter to county commissioners detailing their concerns.

John McCallum can be reached at


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