Spokane has a little hip to it, a little strut in our walk. That something, something that’s hard to put your finger on. There’s real energy out there, creative energy that’s private market, which doesn’t depend on the likes of silly things such as support from local institutions. In fact, it’s our local institutions that attempt to sanitize open market creativity with what they think is acceptable.
There are lenses into old Spokane that we all have peered through, lenses bound together by duct tape and a stubborn refusal to evolve. It’s old Spokane’s vision that interrupts our future, and the stale malaise of history insists on hanging on. Here are few suggestions that will help loosen its grip.
Put Doug Clark Out to Pasture
There is nothing worse than reading a Doug Clark Column in the Spokesmen Review. Pining for mid-1970s Spokane gets old, and so is Doug Clark.
Keep it in your pants old Spokane, please? Have an honest conversation with any professional woman in the metro, and you’ll hear the same horror stories of men asserting themselves in a manner fit for an episode of Mad Men, not a 21st century city. It’s disgusting, and I’d venture to bet I hardly know the half of it.
Update and Change Our Slogan
Near Nature, Near Perfect is far from both. An Inlander guest columnist, Tom Simpson, wrote about how desperately Spokane needs to properly brand itself. As Simpson points out: “Correctly developed, brands become a key competitive advantage and an asset with significant, tangible value.” I think Simpson will be pleased to hear, without giving too much away, that local professionals have been working on just that. As we attempt to place a proper stamp on Spokane, something with tangible value, let’s hope old Spokane doesn’t chastise it because it’s not their idea.
Blundered Public/Private Partnerships
Public/private partnerships are a great tool to stimulate market driven investments. Trouble is, old Spokane is terrible at negotiating them. Despite the superficial shenanigans the Cowles family conducted during the whole River Park Square fiasco, make no mistake, the deal was botched by the city, and we’re still paying for it.
The most recent example of a blundered deal is the Grande Hotel downtown, whereby both the Public Facilities District (PFD) and the City of Spokane neglected several aspects of the negotiation based on inexperience. Let’s start with the PFD. Through their actions they subsidized about 80,000 square feet of convention and events space in the Grande Hotel, which directly competes with their own convention and events space located right across the street. This is like McDonald’s subsidizing a new Burger King next door to it. Nobody thought to negotiate into the deal a limit on the events space so it’s not competing with our own? What a blunder. Let’s not pay developers to compete with us if it’s something they can do in the open market just fine.
As for the City of Spokane, the mayor and his captains never bothered to coordinate with the PFD, or even City Council, when they were negotiating with the developer – a silo of excellence – something that haunted them when the developer called his bets. Moreover, they missed opportunities to include an architectural esthetic above and beyond minimum design standards, which is common procedure for public/private partnerships.
For old Spokane, one blunder per public/private relationship just isn’t enough. Nope, they insist upon stacking them one atop the other.
No More Freeway Building
The last trophy of old Spokane’s omnipotence is a billion dollar, quarter of a ring-road on the edge of the metro. Ask any central city in the nation how well ring roads have worked out for them, and they will uniformly denounce ring roads as cancerous. Leave it to old Spokane to promote an idea that was en vogue in the 1950s.
Amateur City Building
Boy, if there is one thing that drives me nuts, it’s this. It’s no longer a mystery. The recipe to the secret sauce has been published. The riddle has been solved. The puzzle is put together and we have the answers to the test. We know how to build successful 21st century cities. Trouble is old Spokane does not.
Stop Getting in the Way
There’s a market-driven coworking space located downtown called Fellow Coworking and it’s fervently out competing old Spokane’s version of coworking space called Startup Spokane. A project of Greater Spokane, Inc. (GSI), which is old Spokane’s self-created tool whose sole purpose is to defend old Spokane, Startup Spokane is GSI’s attempt to foster organic creativity. I have a couple of points here: the first is the inherent hypocrisy of old Spokane’s self-professed economic development organization actually competing with the private market. The other is old Spokane is losing that competition. If old Spokane wants to provide a real incentive that fosters startup creativity, close Startup Spokane, stay out of Fellow Coworking’s way, stand back, and watch the market work a little magic.
Stop Chasing Call Centers and Other Bottom Feeders
Subsiding the location of call centers is not an economic development victory, it’s actually a loss. The real magic is creating an economy that’s so robust call centers choose different, more desperate metros to locate within.
Spokane’s old guard is like the lid on a boiling pot of water. There’s an energy in Spokane that largely operates independent of Spokane’s old strictures, energy interested in growing quality of life through a variety of mechanisms, and we’re about to blow the top off this thing.
This blog is written by Mike Tedesco, officially a candidate for Mayor of Spokane, 2019. Check out his other totally awesome website at votetedesco.com.