SpokanePlanner

Planning, Economic Development, Politics

Streets, Good ‘ol Boys, and Bureaucrats

…in a city without seats, a beach chair can be king. Janette Sadik Khan, from her book Streetfight (2016)   In spring of 2016, the Audubon-Downriver Neighborhood Council invited Spokane’s traffic engineer, Bob Turner, to discuss pedestrian safety on Northwest Boulevard in front of Audubon Park. Members of the neighborhood council requested the city consider traffic calming measures to increase safety for pedestrians who criss-cross Northwest Boulevard getting to and from the park and, not to mention, to Finch Elementary School. Mr. Turner, with years of experience navigating the unique nuances of politely saying no to crowds of people, sure […]

Mark Richard, Spokane

The Guy Who Says It Can’t Be Done

Mark Richard’s Bold Vision —   They’ll always say “It can’t be done.” When government officials, business people, and even some of your own neighbors say it won’t work, what they really mean is “We’ve never done it like this before.” It’s a sign you’re on the right track. Jay Walljasper, The Great Neighborhood Book   A few weeks ago, I published a post called Streets, Good ‘ol Boys, and Bureaucrats, in which I critiqued Spokane’s political elite for their lack of urban vision (among other things). Mark Richard, President of the Downtown Spokane Partnership, felt compelled to respond via […]

Downtown Spokane Parking Lot

What Economic Development Is, and Who Has the Authority to Do It

Ask your friends what economic development is and you’ll get a variety of different answers. Ask a county commissioner, ask a city council person, ask Vinny down at Dick’s, and you’re going to get different answers to a person. The answer isn’t complicated, however. Economic development is the art of filling gaps in the market. Sometimes there’s a 100% gap and we’re creating a whole new thing, like a couple of medical schools in Spokane’s U-District. Most of the time, the gap is much less, like subsidizing losses at the Spokane Convention Center to create multipliers triggered by a robust […]

Downtown Spokane (4)

The Case to Increase DSP’s Budget by $4 Million Per Year

The Downtown Spokane Partnership (DSP) is a private, non-profit agency that manages a roughly $1.5 million annual budget. The bulk of their annual budget is generated from a special Parking and Business Improvement Area tax (otherwise known as a “business improvement district”).[i] Trouble is our City’s Parking and Business Improvement Area isn’t even in the parking business, but it ought to be. Annual revenue from the City of Spokane’s public parking meters is about $4 million per year (and growing). By transitioning DSP into the public parking business, the City and downtown will have a real, market driven tool to […]

Downtown Spokane - Early 2015

The Tail That Wags the Dog

Spokane’s Economic Development Business — Why does Spokane City Council pay the Downtown Spokane Partnership about $100,000 per year to manage another (roughly) $1,000,000 per year in downtown business assessments? No, seriously, this is a poignant question: Why does the City pay an independent, private, third party entity to manage about $1,000,000 per year in public assessment revenue and, to boot, pay them another $100,000 for the pleasure of doing it? DSP may have fooled us once, but Greater Spokane, Inc. (GSI) has fooled us twice. Why do we pay GSI about $130,000 per year to “speak for the city” […]

Economic Development

How to Weaken Spokane’s Good ol’ Boy Culture

Ever wonder why Greater Spokane, Inc., and the Downtown Spokane Partnership hired former county commissioners to run their respective shops? It’s because core knowledge, skills, and experience within the realm of economic development matters little. Nope, in the Spokane game, it’s advocacy, lobbying, and fundraising that count most. (The funny part is they call it “economic development.”) Economic development isn’t an exercise in philanthropy; it’s market-driven. I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it: fundraising, grant writing, and generally asking other people for money is not an economic development strategy; on the contrary, it’s what you do when you […]

Riverfront Park, June 2015

5 Ways to Improve Spokane

It’s All About Fundamentals — Below is a list of five things Spokane can do to improve basic services.   Master the Basics There are vast swaths of Spokane – entire neighborhoods – that desperately need just the basics. It confounds me, like it does many residents, why this facet of managing the public domain appears to be so complicated, particularly when it all seems so simple: Make sure streets are in good repair. Make sure pedestrians have a safe place to walk. Make sure cyclists have a safe place to ride. Beautify the public realm. Maintain it all.   […]

SpokanePlanner 2016