There’s about 20 to 30 people that run Spokane. Another 50 or so that think they’re a part of the first 20 or 30. And then a baker’s dozen that wish they were even in the conversation but pretend they are more important than they really are. They all sit on the same boards. Most are members of the Spokane Club. And, disappointingly, they deploy their tools to ensure threats to their influence – change – are stamped out appropriately.
Culturally, there is an obscure strain of faux Victorian etiquette that still significantly influences Spokane’s political elite. It’s baffling but, all together, extraordinarily systemic and easily identifiable.
The recently released production of Curing Spokane is what happens when our local good ol’ boys break out the fine China. After all, important guests are coming (so long as they say it’s okay for them to come).
Spokane is in the midst of a transition from a sleepy, discrete, mid-sized city into something that is much more respectable – a place. No doubt, it’s the parochial class that feels most uncomfortable with our urban maturation. They’re uncomfortable because it threatens them. The new energy, the new ideas, the new competition, all of it threatens their power. They hearken back, the parochials do, to the traditional way of doing things, back when they had a firm grip on a dying downtown Spokane, back when we were small enough that one couldn’t find a good sushi roll on a Saturday night (much less sushi, period). Back when my parents would drop me off at 7:00 PM Mass at Lourdes and I’d walk through the front door and then out the back and spend an hour on a Sunday evening walking around Riverfront Park, smoking cigarettes, with hardly another soul in sight.
Those were the days when we could find a parking spot downtown right in front of where we wanted to shop or eat. Those were the days, the good ol’ days, when Spokane Transit wasn’t troubling us with the city’s pesky low-income bus riders all converging upon a centralized transit hub.
Those were the days when we were a small, irrelevant city that was happy to be cited on Unsolved Mysteries after Russell Evans was murdered in Lincoln Park, or the South Hill Rapist put us in the national spotlight, or the Aryans were marching through Coeur d’Alene, or [name that infamous thing].
Those were the days when we were desperate for attention. The days when our parochial elite still took nourishment from the historic market inertia that helped them protect their legacy money, whereby any mention by a national media outlet, regardless of the negativity, was a point of pride.
Curing Spokane is a testament to the parochials’ perception of Spokane’s good ol’ days.
Alas, we’re a long way from Unsolved Mysteries. As a result, there’s just too much income diversity for the parochials to comprehend. For that matter, there is just too much diversity for them to comprehend. Spokane is changing before their very eyes, and their response, rather than lauding the changes, lauding our transition into a big city with a unique set of diverse amenities, is to point at our underbelly and attempt to publicly shame us as we struggle with the challenges that come with urbanism.
But here’s the part the parochials can’t comprehend: it’s because of the parochials’ self-created systems of control that Spokane is struggling with our urban challenges to begin with. If their systems were as effective as they profess, then there is no Curing Spokane. That is to say, don’t look at us. Look at yourselves, parochials, and come to a consciousness that your systems, the entities that you created to maintain influence and power, are ill-equipped to address our big city struggles.
It is despite your parochial tools that Spokane is a better place, not because of them. Larger market forces have overcome the influence of your institutions. Yet, those with an ever-slipping grip on power and influence, and those that placate them, insist upon playing the same games and thinking that solutions can be found within them.
Hide the bus plaza.
Free parking downtown.
Be more like Boise.
Cage ‘em up.
Whims of the incompetent. Whims of the emotional. Whims of privilege.
If old-Spokane truly wants to cure Spokane, then take a hard look at the civic entities that you control and protect. It’s simple, parochials: change your systems, change the city. Until then, there’s no one to blame but yourselves.