Expert navigation of Spokane real estate, neighborhoods, cities, economic development, local politics, and living.

Spokane City Hall

Five Friendly Suggestions for Nadine Woodward

Life on the ragged edge. Moments and decisions when there are no maps, no models to follow because nobody has ever done it before – places without even a box to think outside of – are moments when you know you’re onto something special. The ragged edge doesn’t happen naturally. It flows from experts, those that have mastered their craft and traversed every detailed corner of their field. Upon mastery of your craft, you are then, and only then, allowed to bend (or openly break) generally accepted rules, like Cormac McCarthy not using quotation marks when he writes, or Jannett […]

Spokesman Review Building 2003

The Whims of Stacey and Betsy Cowles

Being born to legacy money is a heavy cross to bear. Family empires built upon timber, minerals, rail, and media during Spokane’s formative years have diminished significantly as mothers and fathers passed and kids born to privilege mismanaged their birthrights. Yet through the generations one legacy family has risen to the challenge of wealth management and maintained a firm grip on the empire their granddaddy built. Of course, I’m talking about the Cowles family. Owners of the Spokesman Review, significant local real estate investments, and timber interests, the family fortune is spoken for by Stacey and Betsy, brother and sister. […]

Spokane, WA 2019

SpokanePlanner’s 2019 Election Endorsements

Listening to the perspectives of mayoral candidates and city council hopefuls is an exercise in keyword identification. It’s their deployment of keywords that suggest whether they’re qualified to run our city or if they’re nothing more than an empty vessel. For instance, when they don’t have a substantive answer on a subject, such as homelessness, the default talking point is “I’m going to form a task force….” Within the minds of the task force candidates, there’s not a challenge in Spokane that a task force can’t solve. If the task force candidates get elected, I sure do hope all these […]

Al French Spokane County Commissioner

Mother’s Milk

Tender are the teats of Spokane County Commissioner Al French because he is a Perkins Coie cash cow. There’s only so much tax revenue Spokane County commissioners can spend on fixing roads, improving public safety, or anything else that increases quality of life for county residents. Alas, road quality and public safety be damned, because Commissioner Al French has a casino to slay and price is no object. As a result, the attorneys at the law firm Perkins Coie can light their cigars with Spokane County tax dollars. For instance, the attorney “J. MacLean” of Perkins Coie charges us $685 […]

Downtown Spokane 2016

We Don’t Want to Be Seattle

“We don’t want to be Seattle,” say the naysayers who tend to be the same people against transit initiatives, walkability, and neighborhood revitalization efforts. We don’t want to be Seattle is one of those canaries for those who fear change and cling to their expo ’74 version of Spokane like a toddler with a blankie. We don’t want to be Seattle. We don’t want to engage with a 21st century market place. We don’t want 21st century diversity. We’re not hipsters. We refuse to recognize that Spokane is changing, that the world is changing. Nope, we prefer to be annoyed […]

Northern Quest Kalispel Tribe

The Basic Needs of the Kalispel Tribe

Want to know how much Northern Quest makes annually? It’s a very big number but technically private information that the Kalispel Tribe has no obligation to share with a wider populace. Want to know how many enrolled Kalispel Tribal citizens there are? It’s a very small number, and they get to split that very big number they milk from their cash-cow, Northern Quest. The Kalispel Tribe is suing the United States Department of the Interior in an effort to stop the Spokane Tribe’s new casino from opening. Funny thing about lawsuits; they’re public information, accessible to anyone. About two hundred […]

Spokane's Slogan

Spokane’s New Logo and Slogan are Perfect by Nature

Metro Spokane is going through a rebranding exercise led by Visit Spokane, our local tourism promotion organization. Because change is a tough business that stimulates questions and speculation, below are the facts behind why Creative by Nature is perfect for Spokane.   Affordable by Nature Your tax dollars didn’t pay for the rebranding exercise. Tourists and donations did. The total bill for the two-year process is expected to be around $250,000, which (mostly) comes from a bucket of money specifically designated to stimulate metro tourism; a lesser amount of money was donated by our local business community. The same bucket […]

Downtown Spokane

Toward a 21st Century Spokane

What do prosperous, modern, mid-sized American metros look like? How do we carve a niche that’s different from our competitors? How does a mid-sized city like Spokane distinguish itself from the pack, be unique, be something that others are not? Spokane, for its part, has generally been stuck in a malaise of mediocrity since Expo-74 – our high-water mark in recent memory. For over 40 years, local folk have pointed to the transformative events of 1974 as the seminal marker in Spokane’s contemporary history. And they are right to do so. The bold decisions that led up to hosting an […]

How to Be Mayor

What Good Mayors Do

How to Be Mayor — A city’s mayor is its chief garbage person, pothole filler, sewer cleaner, and public safety officer. It’s a dirty job that requires pragmatism, coalition building, common sense, and leadership. If you were to ask Benjamin Barber about what traits all successful mayors share, I suspect he would cite the four common traits he wrote about in his 2013 book, If Mayors Ruled the World, which are as follows: “[1] A strong personality marked by both hubris and humor. [2] A pragmatic approach to governing. [3] Personal engagement in city affairs. [and 4] Commitment to the city as […]

GSI Todd Mielke, the protector of the realm

The Phantom Hunter

The clown in the gutter. The woman with a red scarf. The little boy hitch-hiking by a cemetery. That something under your bed. The casino that’s going to close an air force base. It gives me shivers all over. All the unknowns. All the speculation. All the conjecture. It’s terrifying! We need someone to protect us. We need The Phantom Hunter. We need Todd Mielke. Todd Mielke is so good at conjuring phantoms, he’s convinced Greater Spokane, Inc., that he’s the economic development savior for the region, despite the fact he’s been a politician or a lobbyist his entire professional […]

Mayor Condon

Here’s How To Recall Mayor Condon (just in case you’re wondering)

Mayor Condon’s shenanigans of late appear to merit exploration of a recall campaign. Here’s the process to get it done (just in case you’re wondering). In the City of Spokane, there are two possible processes to recall the mayor. The first is driven by the Ethics Commission and is far simpler than the second, which is driven by citizen petition. Here’s a simplified outline for both: Ethics Commission City’s Ethics Commission recommends a recall election to City Council based on the City’s Code of Ethics. City Council must approve the recommendation with a majority plus two vote (assuming all seven Council members […]

Fairchild AFB

Statement on Approval of Kalispel Tribe Casino Project

June 8, 2016 — Forward Fairchild and Greater Kalispel Incorporated Statement on Governor Inslee’s Decision to Approve the Kalispel Tribe Casino Project — Greater Kalispel Incorporated (GKI) and Forward Fairchild are deeply disappointed in Governor Inslee’s announcement today that he is approving the Kalispel Tribe’s Casino Project over the numerous objections from our community as the location poses a severe threat to the future of Fairchild Air Force Base (FAFB). GKI has been advocating and working to protect jobs at FAFB for more than 50 years. FAFB remains one of GKI’s top community priorities and opposes any activity that could […]

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 […]

Mayor Condon

Mayor Condon’s Biggest Blunders

Four years ago Mayor David Condon swept into city hall aiming to instill a degree of business savvy and trim some fat from local government. The youngest of a large family of boys was now in a position to prove his quality, if not for himself certainly for his father and older brothers. Mayor Condon was born connected to Spokane’s old money culture, and he was appropriately groomed via Cataldo and Gonzaga Prep. His family’s mansion on Sumner Avenue was amongst the largest on the street, and conveniently located next door to some of Spokane’s oldest money, otherwise known as […]

Spokane City Hall

The Loneliest Floor in City Hall

The seventh floor of City Hall is an increasingly lonely place. How did Mayor Condon get into this mess? He’s neck-deep in scandal with his head corked-back just trying keep his nose above water. Like an episode of Lost, the more you watch the more questions you have. Without a doubt, Condon is in trouble. The best sideways compliment you can say at this point is: “at least he was smart enough to cover it up until after the election.” Because of that, he’s still got a puncher’s chance. The question is, at the risk of mixing cultural metaphors, are […]

Kiemle and Hagood

The Fallacies Money Can Buy

The Gateway to Old Spokane —  There’s a room in the office building Greater Spokane, Inc., calls home with a plaque outside its doorway. A lot of people walk by it on their way into meetings. GSI’s primary corporate conference room is big — can fit a healthy 50 or so folks. They hold press conferences in it, board meetings, committee meetings, even regular old routine meetings. This is where Spokane’s most influential power brokers conjoin, where they ritualize consensus building — a unique custom formed over the course of generations whereby the topic de-jure is thoroughly analyzed to ensure […]

Spokane Zoning Code

How to Rewrite Spokane’s Zoning Code

…and do it for cheap, and within one year. Ask any developer in town and they’ll tell you Spokane’s zoning code is a mess. Ask any property owner trying to put up a fence, or a shed, or re-landscape their property, and they’ll tell you that Spokane’s zoning code is a mess. Ask the Spokane Home Builders’ Association, and they’ll agree. Ask Envision Spokane, and they’ll agree. Ask any neighborhood council member. Ask any city councilmember. Ask the mayor. Ask city employees. Ask the guy who plays electronic violin in front of Riverpark Square. They’ll all tell you the same […]

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.   […]

Spokane Politics

Exploring Spokane’s Political Class

Exploring Spokane’s Political Class – There are precious few reasons why Spokane should not be considered one of the premier cities in the nation, and recognized throughout as such—a magnet for innovative, entrepreneurial individuals seeking a higher quality of life in an environment, both urban and natural, where all their needs are met. Instead, those who live outside the orbit of the Northwest only have a vague notion of where Spokane is, how big we are, and what we have to offer. We may perhaps be the most obscure city in America. Where, exactly, is Spokane? Far flung, indeed, by […]