Spokane City Council Spotlight: Breean Beggs

Feb 24, 2016

Spokane’s newest city councilman says he brings experience on a number of levels to his position.

Breean Beggs is the newest member of the Spokane City Council. He was appointed to fill the seat vacated by Jon Snyder.

Attorney Beggs has worked on government accountability issues for several years. He may be best known for representing the family of Otto Zehm, who died while in police custody.

For starters, Beggs doesn’t believe his appointment to the council means the council will be heavily skewed in favor of another progressive council member.  He says, “I like to tell people I was raised by a liberal mother and conservative father. And so really all my life, I have been trying to bring those groups together and find that common ground 'cause I don’t think people as a far apart as the political demigods try to make it.”

Beggs says one priority for him will be to work on issues dealing with getting a new police chief and looking at the culture of the police department.

“... I have been working on police accountability since 2006 when Otto Zehm was killed. And I've been involved every step of the way--but [only] as a citizen on the outside trying to influence the city council [on] what to do. This gives me the chance--especially at this critical time when everything is in disarray--to bring this knowledge to the table.”

Another arena Beggs feels he has experience in is the concern about transport of crude oil via trains through the Spokane area. The number of trains is expected to increase if shipping terminals are approved on the west side of the state.

Beggs says as a former resident of Bellingham, Washington, he worked as an attorney and with a citizens group to overhaul laws dealing with transport of gasoline through pipelines after a deadly gas line explosion in the 1990s.  He explains, “I learned a lot about what you can and can’t do. So the first thing people will tell you is [because] it’s a federal government issue, you can’t do anything. And that’s just not true. There are things you can do. It’s harder; it’s more complicated. They told us we couldn’t do it. But we changed the entire regulation of pipeline safety arising out of that in a Republican Congress.”

Another issue Beggs is interested in working on is a fair hiring provision known as “Ban the Box.” The city of Spokane has already enacted it. It’s the removal of a box on job applications that asked if an applicant has been convicted of a crime. In its place, the city does a background check at a later time after the initial application is filed. Beggs says there’s an effort underway to "Ban the Box" on applications city-wide, since about 25% of the people in the county can answer yes to that question.

“Even though unemployment has been going down since the recession, people don’t understand that the baby boomers are retiring in droves. The next few years there are so many unfilled jobs. If you basically just exclude people based on something that might not be serious--[or] that happened a long time ago--you’re really going to make it harder for economic growth to work in this town.”

Beggs says the "Ban the Box" issue will be discussed at a forum March 8th that will feature many local businesses.