Is anyone surprised that the best city in the metro on a blog called SpokanePlanner is the city of Spokane? What more can I say that I haven’t already said in other articles? I think the right thing to do here is write about the history of SpokanePlanner. Tighten your laces.
I started writing a book about Spokane and its hinterlands in graduate school. Made it through about 7,000 words (most books are 60,000 to 100,000 words). After the Downtown Spokane Partnership showed me the door back in 2012, I picked up where I left off. Updated the outdated graduate school stuff and wrote a fresh several chapters in what was shaping up to be a very academic portrayal of Spokane, kinda’ along the lines of Sounding Spokane, and Mental Territories: Mapping the Inland Empire.
Being the author of two prior books, one with a publisher and one self-published, I knew I was better off garnering the interest of a publisher before proceeding much further. By this time, I’m about 20,000 words in, I’m emotionally committed, and I wanted to keep going but I didn’t want it to be a waste of time.
Despite my best efforts, no publisher would take me, not even the local ones. In the meantime, the Spokane Tribe of Indians decided to take a chance on a non-tribal white boy by hiring me to become their Planning and Economic Development Director. I started helping the Spokane Tribe in May of 2014. By early 2015, I knew the Spokane Tribe job well enough that my mind started wondering back to writing about Spokane (the Euro-centric version of it, anyway). While reading through letters from 2013 and early 2014 trying to solicit interest from publishers, I felt discouraged because I was less emotionally committed to finishing the book, didn’t have a publisher, did not want to self-publish, but also didn’t want the work to go to waste.
Courtesy of my experience helping the Puget Sound Attractions Council in 2010 and 2011, I got to know website development and all that comes with it, particularly search engine optimization. So, long story short, sitting there in my home office within one of Spokane’s best neighborhoods in January of 2015, scrolling through all of my disappointment with publishers rejecting me, still smarting from the Downtown Spokane Partnership rejecting me, and looking through all the great material I wrote about Spokane, I said, “Screw it. I’m putting this on the internet.”
What do I call the blog? SpokanePlanner. Perfect.
So, I took roughly 20,000 words of content about Spokane and I launched SpokanePlanner in late February of 2015. In the beginning months of SpokanePlanner, I honored the academic tradition of citing sources to help prove my point and, egotistically, to help prove that I’ve read books. Toward such ends, one of my best articles is “The Fallacies Money Can Buy”, which is about the Kalispel Tribe of Indians’ shenanigans trying to stop the Spokane Tribe of Indians from building a competing casino. The Fallacies Money Can Buy is also a story about the shenanigans of Spokane’s good ol’ boy circles, how easily they can be bought, and the fundamental flaws that underline their system of doing things. Some other fantastic examples of local good ol’ boy shenanigans are found under Mother’s Milk, and Curing Spokane (of Parochialism), and Streets, Good ol’ Boys, and Bureaucrats.
A few hours after I published The Fallacies Money Can Buy, I started getting phone calls and text messages from both friends and some very angry former colleagues still entrenched within Spokane’s good ol’ boy circles. That’s when I knew I was onto something.
I have passions for Spokane as a market center, urban design, and economic development, so those early years I cranked out lots of content toward such ends, not too worried about whether people would read it but more focused on the joy of writing.
Honest and analytical writing about flaws within Spokane’s systems, or simply just wholesale systemic failures, does not endear me to the hearts of those that run the systems. Couple that with my failure running the Downtown Spokane Partnership (one of the pillars of Spokane’s flawed systems), and what you get is an honest perspective from a home grown expert that is not beholden to the dysfunctional etiquette of local Spokane politics.
I get to tell them to eff-off, at will, and without mercy. But an eff-off is just crass and meaningless if you don’t do it well. My eff-offs have substance and are cheeky and fun and sophisticated. Their eff-offs are mean, dirty, manipulative, often times dishonest, and happen in the back room. Because I do my eff-offing in the front room, for all to hear, and communicate directly, it drives the good ol’ boys absolutely batty.
God help ’em when I run for mayor (or county commissioner, or city council).
In the Amazon HQ2 proposal (caution! big download) I wrote and designed for the Spokane Tribe, my best line in the document was, “There’s not even a box to think outside of.” Life on the ragged edge. No maps. No guideposts. When you start craving that feeling – life on the ragged edge – because even the topics outside the box seem dull, you know you have mastered your craft. Cities, urban design, economic development. There is no box.
I could spend a paragraph here arrogantly outlining the highlights of my career to prove my point, but you don’t need to hear it because you already know I’m arrogant.
These days, SpokanePlanner is up to about 200,000 words, influences about 100,000 people per year, and the guy behind it is once again staring out into the mapless void prepping for more excitement. The bad news for the local good ol’ boys is they are walking off into the sunset while I’m not even in my prime.
Thanks for reading SpokanePlanner. More to come.