Downtown Spokane Partnership

DSP Has Company

Don’t look now, but someone has figured out that it’s not the Downtown Spokane Partnership’s divine right to manage about $1.1 million in annual assessments. Indeed, it is Spokane City Council that has divinity. The Downtown Spokane Partnership (DSP) is simply the private firm that they contract with to manage the money.

Lucky for us, public contracts must be publicly bid, and it just so happens DSP’s contract with the city expires in 2021. Accepted paradigms that DSP speaks for downtown are about to be shattered because lurking in the background is another 501(c)6, just like DSP, called Community Development Initiative (CDI).

Downtown Spokane Partnership Memberships
DSP better update their header because they are no longer the only game in town.

To put it in Silicon Valley parlance: DSP is the incumbent. CDI is the insurgent.

Several weeks ago, CDI’s director, Deekon Jones, quietly emailed a brochure to Spokane City Council officially announcing CDI’s intent to challenge stale paradigms. CDI’s brochure is quite the gem. Among other things, it reminds City Council that they are not beholden to DSP. That, in fact, City Council has choices about whom to delegate downtown money management to.

DSP fatigue boiled over when word started getting around that Mark Richards (CEO of DSP) was openly playing footsy with the Proud Boys during the protests last summer. Which is to say, rumors abound that Mark was inviting the Proud Boys downtown to help “protect” it. The rumors were so widely circulated that a local professor submitted a public information request seeking Mark’s email history in an effort to verify or discredit the rumors.

Downtown Spokane Partnership Public Information Request
The guy who wrote this didn’t get what he was requesting.

Alas, transparency is not DSP’s strong suit. In response to the records request, DSP’s attorney (Roy J. Koegen, who is one of the architects of the Riverpark Square fiasco), sent a friendly letter in response to the records request stating that DSP has no legal obligation to share information.

Indeed, counselor Koegen is correct. DSP doesn’t have to share a damn thing. What Koegen also said, implicitly, is City Council has delegated authority to manage $1.1 million in public funds to vampires who fear the sun.

Which brings me back to CDI’s brochure that Deekon circulated to City Council. Transparency, among other things, is a core value of CDI. Next year, when City Council releases an RFP for “Parking and Business Improvement Area Assessment Management Services,” what the public gets in return is an apples to apples comparison of core values between the incumbent and the insurgent.

If DSP wants to be competitive in the selection process, you better start changing paradigms because Deekon and CDI are already doing it for you. Also, DSP, I highly recommend you plagiarize CDI’s core values outlined in their brochure because untransparent, pay to play, parochial Spokane, good ‘ol boy shenanigans aren’t gonna’ win you this one. To the contrary, that’s exactly what is going to lose it for you.

I’m afraid you’re gonna’ have to win this one on merit because the proposals are public documents for all to see and judge. The voters on the South Hill, the same voters that swing every local election, aren’t dumb and their values align with CDI’s far more than yours. Similarly, the voters in Hillyard know a hustle when they see it. What do you think they are going to do once it dawns on them that it’s CDI verses the Spokane Club?

But screw the voting politics of it. Let’s talk about merit. The simple fact is you are not a best practices entity. You’re parochial Spokane. You’re model for doing things is antiquated and based on protecting the interests of metro Spokane’s elite, not core values. You do not reflect a 21st century international economy, much less a 21st century international downtown, nor do you even know how to talk about it.    

But CDI does, and soon the voters of Spokane will have an apples to apples comparison between old Spokane and actual expertise.

Isn’t transparency a bitch.