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How Bikes Will Help Save Our Economy

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Tonight Spokane participated in the worldwide Ride of Silence honoring those who have been injured or killed while cycling on public roadways. Earlier today, I got my bike back after repairs after I was hit by a car. I shook the entire way on my first ride since the collision.

There’s no shoulder on Sprague Avenue where I was riding, but cars revved their engines passing me: universal driver-to-cyclist code for “getthef—outofmylane!” So maybe today is a good day to talk about why we should prioritize bicycle safety in Spokane, even in a recession, as an investment in our city’s economic wellbeing.

In a low-income city where many don’t have access to a reliable car, increasing bicyclist safety is necessary to our economic success — but bike infrastructure costs money, so bicycle advocates must make a sound economic argument for how we’re asking to spend taxpayer money during a time when those taxpayers are tight on money themselves.

To do so, our community should be quantifying the return we get from our investment in bike infrastructure like we do for motor vehicle infrastructure, then making smart choices about how to maximize that return. Unemployment is at 10.5% – our citizens are primarily concerned about economic growth to create jobs. A successful case for investing in bike lanes will address how bicycle infrastructure can aid in our city’s economic recovery.

Fiscal conservatives are most likely to support taxes when they’re a measurable investment in the economic health of our community. With regard to transportation infrastructure, many fiscal conservatives don’t buy the “you’ve gotta spend tax money to make money” adage unless it’s for motor vehicle infrastructure. I agree that functional, safe and efficient roads are essential to economic activity, but the case for transportation infrastructure shouldn’t be limited to serving motor vehicles.

For the same reasons we have to spend money on roads for cars, we have to spend money on bike infrastructure. We increase individuals’ ability to be employed — then spend the money they earn — by supporting bicycle transportation. It’s as easy as copy-and-pasting the argument made for freeway projects: If we can’t get goods and people to the same place at the same time, we don’t have an economy.

Take the argument made by Greater Spokane Incorporated (GSI) for the North-South Corridor project in Spokane:

“Maneuvering up and down Division Street while dodging trucks won’t be an issue anymore – for anyone. The North Spokane Corridor gives freight mobility an easier, faster route for truck loads traveling north to south, or south to north. Getting to Interstate 90 will now be much easier, and much safer.

Constructing the corridor creates jobs, which pay money, which circulates throughout the community. The workers pay for housing, utilities, food, vehicles, household furnishings, apparel, medical services, and so on. Many of those purchases are taxed, which helps our city budget. The corridor will also open the opportunity for businesses to open up along the route, thus helping grow the East Spokane and Hillyard District.”

GSI makes the argument for moving consumers and freight — and, equally importantly, the economic need for those very consumers to be employed. I’m not so sold on the idea that work projects will revive our economy, but we should to consider how mobility impacts employ-ability.

If you can’t get to work, you can’t work. In Spokane, the cost of a car trumps convenience for a lot of people — our median household income 7.25% below the national average and 16.9% below the Washington State average. Especially for low-income people who already face significant barriers to employment, lack of transportation can be a deal breaker. If “dependable transportation” doesn’t appear on a job application (and it often does), the requirement is implicit.

The same argument goes for consumption. If it’s harder to get places, you go to fewer places and buy fewer things — or only go to a few places to buy things. This is particularly problematic for businesses who exist on cars-only corridors like Division and Hamilton, and for places hard to access by bus.

Sure, biking isn’t ideal for everyone, but it’s a quicker and cheaper option than a car or even the bus for many people — for example, people who live and work within city limits. It’s great for people who work Downtown and can’t afford to park a car downtown for eight hours a day. It’s great for people who zip between appointments in and around Downtown. It’s great for people who have a car but ride a bike to work for the exercise when convenient. And by “great” I don’t just mean “super, super fun,” I mean cheap, convenient and thus, good for our economy.

Notice that I said “supporting bicycle transportation,” not “striping bike lanes.” That’s because it’s not bike lanes that increase cyclists’ safety, it’s the number of cyclists on the road. The more of us there are, the safer we all are. More people will bike when they feel safer on the road. The solution to that chicken-and-egg situation is to take action that makes people feel safer, so that we actually become safer. Sometimes that does mean paving a bike lane, but we’ve got to get past the idea that this is bike lane wars.

Many contentious bike lane debates can be solved with shared lane markings, or sharrows. They work in places where bike lanes don’t, like in urban areas where streets are too narrow to include a bike lane. The cost of many bike infrastructure projects, like sharrows or bike lanes, can be significantly reduced by adding those features as part of road improvement projects.

Education, like offering bike safety workshops, and accessibility, through programs like earn-a-bike programs or helmet subsidies, can be achieved in partnership with bike shops and non-profits at a super low cost to taxpayers.

However we decide to spend our taxpayer dollars on making bicycling more accessible to Spokane residents, we should regard it as an investment in our economic future.

Dark Side of the Sun

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Spokane is a city full of khaki, blue and gray. When people deck themselves out in black around here it is often meant to signify something. To some it is anti-social and threatening. To others it is a sign that someone isn’t bound by confining social norms and is more likely to accept you for who you are.

Next time I’m riding around without my backpack I’ll just follow suit and clasp my U-Lock around my neck. Problem solved!

“Paralysis By Analysis”

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Peaceful Valley is a gem but the secret is out and running up the hill. The scenic location and closeness to downtown are too much to resist for developers. For several decades, the neighborhood has resisted drastic changes and remained a sweetly paced, unique community in the heart of Spokane.

Our first Indians fished here, wood-frame homes designed by miners and loggers still make up the district, and today residents work hard to retain that integrity. The Peaceful Valley Charrette was a recent effort to involve the community in the design and planning process around the neighborhood’s parks.

Now the Riverview Condominium proposal looms, a creeping abstraction some neighbors say is equivalent to a solar eclipse. It is a monolithic juxtaposition in a neighborhood full of small charms and idiosyncrasies. Residents who had worked tirelessly to improve the neighborhood opposed the tower. So they sued and were called NIMBYs for their efforts. Then developer Mick McDowell filed a lawsuit against the city in an attempt to bypass the comprehensive plan and build the tower for less money closer to Peaceful Valley. It was part of this controversy that birthed the more controversial Proposition 4 – to give neighborhoods a stronger voice in the development process.


Image courtesy of Steven Meek Architects.

The City Design Review Board examined elements of the condo proposal at 1404 W. Riverside Avenue just east of the Maple Street Bridge and it sounded like the structure adhered to all downtown design guidelines, codes, and zoning regulations. The stars aligned for developers since the property is located in a special height district that allows a construction height of 150 feet off of Riverside Avenue and north of the street for 100 feet. The project includes:

  • 18 floors of residential on top of a 3 floor parking garage.
  • 60 total units.
  • There will be approximately 93 parking stalls in the garage for a ratio of 1.55 stalls per unit.
  • The site is approximately 96 feet wide and 212 feet long.

Still, a building permit application has yet to be submitted. It’s easy to look at McDowell with a jaundiced eye and not just with knee-jerk defiance to a new developer in an old neighborhood. This from McDowell in an interview with the Spokesman:

“I find the constant paralysis by analysis frustrating. I have never ever shied away from presenting my case to a jury of peers. If I have a disagreement with a neighbor and we both present our cases to the appropriate body, I will live with the decision that’s reached. But what drives me wild is when we have a holdup of the process by a minority. It drives me wild.”

Not exactly a display of the self-consciousness a concerned neighbor would hope for in the role of the development process. But if you build it, will they come?

Builder George Doran knows. He lost hundreds of thousands on his Peaceful Valley project, the Lina Marta Condos, located at 1405 W. Water Ave. And this was just a four-unit building! Word is that foreclosure awaits. “Maybe we went a little overboard for that area as it is right at the moment,” Doran said in a story, aptly titled.

While we’re all for dense living and urban revival in old neighborhoods, the Riverview structure would be Spokane’s mammoth pink elephant, casting a shadow on century-old dwellings. Peaceful Valley residents cherish the unique and fragile – whether student murals on the Maple Street Bridge or renovating a dilapidated house – and they are deeply rooted in this place as the landscape continually threatens to change. Something important is at risk of being lost.

Posterizing for SPIFF

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Once again, it’s almost time for the Spokane International Film Festival. No Matthew Modine this year, but plenty of global films and a new feature: Posterize. With 21 designers commissioned to make posters for 25 films, it’s an art display showcasing independent film by some of the greatest graphic design talent in our city. And it’s free.

You can preview many of the posters here, as well as a listing of this year’s films for the festival here.

I think this is a particularly good idea because it allows festival patrons to glimpse the potential of movies they may want to see through the eyes of innovative designers. This should, theoretically, encourage a sense of community, pride, and interest in the arts from multiple angles. The show includes local favorites Karli Ingersoll and Chris Dreyer, as well as a host of emerging talent. It’s a combination of two way cool ideas that looks, well, way cool. Way to go, SpIFF.

The show will be one night only, at the Bing this Friday, from 4:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Ladies We Love: Kate Burke

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  • There are some women in Spokane doing some super awesome things. In fact, there are a lot of women doing awesome things, so we’re starting a new series to let you know what the women of this city are up to. To nominate someone, email us at TheSpovangelist@Spovangelist.com

Kate Burke loves Spokane. She tried out a few other places like Bellingham, WA and Chicago, IL and made the intentional decision to move back to Spokane and grow her roots deep. Kate is the Plant-a-Row coordinator at 2nd Harvest Food Bank, a localist, a cyclist and a slow food champion. Plus, she’s one of the hardest working, most dedicated people I’ve ever met. Spokane is lucky to have her.

How would you describe your activism?

My activism: The cheesy, overused quote: “Be the change that you want to see in the world” is what I try to base my activism off of. If people can see that I am doing it and that I can make it happen, then there are absolutely no excuses not to do it. I fight for a lot of things but and I find that there is so much wrong with America and the world that I have to narrow down my fight. So I picked to fight for community health and food access. Everything I do in my everyday life adds to my community one way or another. And same goes for my health. I feel that if our communities were stronger than most of our problems would just find a way to go elsewhere. I want to build up our local areas and make them full and rich!

What inspires you daily?

My lifestyle inspires me. Everyday I get up and find it so hard to get on my bike. Rain, snow or shine i ride. But everyday I dont have to get gas or deal with parking or deal with driving in a car. my life simplifies immediately. My boyfriend also inspires me. Our future goals are the same and we work everyday towards them. When I see him living his life the way he does, it makes me feel that I can do it too. My work is another inspiration for me. Going to work with like minded people is helpful and keeps me motivated. When people share an experience or a lifestyle, it makes it easier to proceed together.

What did you want to be when you were a child?

When i was really little i think i wanted to be a teacher, like my mom. But as I got a little older, around 13, I wanted to be a farmer. I think it’s interesting that I held on to that dream. I want to grow my own food and teach others how to do it and how to preserve the food too (canning and fermentation). So my two career goals melded together to be one super job!

What’s next for you?

I hope that I can get some land soon, but for now I will be trying to make my house into a small (very small) farm house on the south hill. If I do get the land I want to start about 1 or 2 acres as a vegetable garden and also some animals (rabbit, duck and pig for meat. chickens for eggs. goats for milk and of course a border collie for my pet!) then I want to set up CSA (Communtiy Supported Agriculture) boxes for pick up once a week. We would have an event on pick up days. Live music, cooking classes and food would be a few things present. This is peaceful. This is freedom.

Authors Bio: My name’s Parris from Lillslist.com, I’m a researcher by trade. For almost four years now, I’ve made my living by finding information for other people to sell. When I experienced a health crisis, I began to research for myself, trying to find ways to lose weight and solve my health problems.A little over six months later and almost 30 pounds lighter, I realized that I didn’t want to work for other people any more, but I still wanted to share my knowledge with those who could benefit from it….

For Som: Grief.

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I am taking a walk with someone today whom I have only begun to know. He’s saying something about “my twin brother and I…”

“–Wait. You have a twin brother?”

“Did. He died, oh, about three years ago.”

“…”

I fumble through the awkward what-do-you-say’s in my head and settle on, “How is that for you?” Only because my time was up and I had to say something.

“Honestly, it hasn’t been awful. I reached acceptance really early.”

“Oh.” I don’t have a response for that because nobody has ever answered with anything other than: “Awful. Devastating. Catastrophic.”

I do the panic thing and start rambling on about my own experiences with grief because what the fuck else is there to do. He says he felt guilt about not doing grief right until a friend told him however he’s doing it is doing it right.

SomWe get back, he takes off and I open my laptop to Facebook.

“We’ve lost Som Jordan,” posts someone.

“What do you mean, lost?” says someone else.

Nobody is talking about cause of death, which means it’s suicide. I know that already but I pretend I don’t know and ask around just hoping it’s something else.

The paper later reports that Isamu “Som” Jordan, a huge influence in Spokane’s music and journalism scene, was found in his home this morning. Cause of death: apparent suicide.

There is this prevailing struggle with how did he possibly not see the glow around him that everybody else saw. Everybody’s posting this music video he made with Flying Spiders. The only text they include is the song’s title: “Spokane’s Finest.”

I know nothing about anything about this situation. I do know it’s not coincidence that those people we think are invincible, brilliant, miles above us — our icons — also often suffer very deeply. Searching for truth does not turn up unicorns and rainbows.

Now that that’s said, I want to talk about grief, and that you should do it however you want.

You don’t have to cry to care. You can go to a vigil or not go to a vigil. Nobody gets to tell you you didn’t know him well enough to grieve or that you’re not grieving sufficiently or right.

Today, as I grieve the loss of a friend, a lot of grief from past losses tumbles onto me as well. It all feels very messy and maybe someone would tell me I was missing the point.

When people pry about the details, some may say they’re missing the point. Maybe they are. Or maybe they have questions because they care. Because suicide is not a thing we talk about much, and it’s confusing and it hurts and maybe they feel like answers will make it hurt less. (Spoiler: It will very likely make it hurt more.)

When people spit out platitudes on the internet, some may say they’re missing the point. When they do, or they don’t, organize a benefit concert. When they speculate. When they try to talk about suicide in general or death in general or grief in general. When they do or don’t cry.

This is the messy that we’re challenged to navigate with grace: simultaneously grieving and giving others the space to do their own version of that. There are a lot of us because Som had a generous spirit. Let that be a good thing.

Social Desegregation – Mixing it up in our high school cafeterias

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Growing up on the North Side I went to Mead – “Spokane’s preppiest high school” (with Ferris coming in a close second). To make a typical story short this environment rubbed me the wrong way so I spent half my time at M.E.A.D. Alternative just across the street.

Alternative schools are often unfairly stigmatized in the larger Spokane community. Upon announcing my departure from Mead I was informed that I was “making a political, social and academic mistake.” Many wrongfully assume that Alternatives are programs of last resort. Negative stereotypes include that students fit the following categories: teen parents, juvenile delinquents, kids with violence/anger issues, substance abusers, or students that are just plain lazy.

Whether this sentiment persists out of a sense of self-congratulatory superiority or plain old ignorance we’ll never know, but I propose a simple solution to significantly shake things up:

What would happen if the entire student body of M.E.A.D. Alternative walked across the street one day to join their mainstream peers in the cafeteria for lunch? This is not as trivial of an act as you might first think. The social divide between these groups can feel like a gaping chasm at times, and there is reason to expect mainstream admins would make excuses to oppose the event if it were ever actually suggested.

The sight of thirty or so misfit young people marching into “the Mall” to mingle with old friends and intentionally make new ones would be quite the spectacle. I predict there’d be a moment of shock as mainstreamers wondered “What is going on here? Who are THEY?” This would quickly dissipate as the alternative students dispersed around the room to say hello.

It would take a lot of guts on behalf of M.E.A.D. kids to assert themselves in this way and I suspect many would not feel comfortable doing so. But what an effective approach it could be! Who wouldn’t want to

Authors: Jenny from Articlehack.com

Broken Mic is far from Broken

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By Audrey Connor

I’ve been hearing about Spokane’s poetry scene for a long time – I was even invited to observe or participate at least three times in the past couple of months. So last night, I thought I’d go check it out.

A half hour pre-Mic—maybe 1/5 of the actual mid-show crowd

As it happens, this particular Broken Mic—an open-mic for fiction, non-fiction, and poetry writers at Neato Burrito—was the RiverLit Zine debut celebration, so the focus of the evening for the first half hour was its contributors. (I picked up a copy of the hard-spined, glossy-paper zine for a tidy ten bucks, and as Taylor Weech assured us, “these will be collectibles someday.” RiverLit is a product of RiverSpeak, a website and community built on the principle of getting more Spokane artists moved into the public eye. Painters, sculptors, musicians, printers, dancers, poets—pretty much all are welcome and encouraged at RiverSpeak. The network’s Community ranges from amateurs to professional Spokane art-scene staples, and the entire scope of the website is dedicated to resources for Spokane artists (and art-lovers) to connect, submit, and be promoted. The RiverLit zine features 19 writers in 3 fiction and 17 poetic works in their summer issue, number 2 in a series orchestrated by Keely Honeywell and Weech.

 

Broken Mic itself is a fairly loose-formatted, all-ages welcome venue for writers (fiction, non-fiction, as well as poetry) to get up and strut their stuff. It’s pretty clear that it mostly comprises of regulars who attend every week; however I saw at least five people get up and read who’d never done so before, including the aforementioned RiverLit-ers. The entire operation is championed by Mark Anderson, who radiates earnestness and a sincere affection for language as well as the crowd that fills up Neato Burrito’s small space to embrace it.

Want a Summer RiverLit Zine? Check out Magcloud

Unclogging the Plunger Game

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Washington State is home to some of the best game inventors, that is if you love Pickle-ball, Cranium and Pictionary. Soon to join the ranks of those highly popular games is the Plunger Game. Somewhere in the winter of 2008, Alex Nagy’s kitchen sink in his basement studio apartment in Spokane developed a sink clog. After returning from Rosauer’s Grocery Store, the clog had resolved itself leaving Nagy and his friends with a clean, unused plunger. Thus was the genesis of the H-O-R-S-E style game of the Plunger Game.

According to the game’s creators, Will Maupin, Alex Nagy, Alex Miller, Andrew Gutman and Taylor Smith, “This lack of clarity surrounding the creation of the game is appropriate, as the game is still being created. Every time someone picks up a plunger, they are furthering the creation of the game. A new move, style or application can be developed or discovered at any time.”

The Plunger Game might sound insane, it really is. It’s the ultimate highdea (High+idea, get it?) building to a small group of dedicated enthusiasts. For full “rules” and regulations click here.

In addition to the game’s following of loyal players, these dudes have also been getting a little bit Internet famous with these trick shots.

Author: Nelle J. Hussey from Troy-moore.com.

 

Learning to Love Spokane Again

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Spokane can be a hard place to live. OK, Spokane is a hard place to live, for me at least. Since I’ve stopped writing the Spovangelist, which wasn’t intentional, I’ve fallen off the Spokane wagon– causation or correlation is up to you. Probably since I lost my job in April due to the federal sequester, I’ve lost interest in the daily goings on, the gossip, even the woes of urban planning. I make jokes about being a “Sequestrian” or “Funemployed” but it actually just blows. For a while I embraced the darkness, using it as fuel for other projects I had been dying to do, but now it’s just pure darkness.

Spokane is hard for a lot of reasons, partially because it can be so easy. Easy to fall into a daily schedule of: wake-up, read arbitrary stuff on the internet, attempt to get some work done, maybe go for a walk, try to finish whatever work thing I started, take a nap, walk down the block for cigarettes (SORRY MOM) and coffee, then back to Googling weird stuff. Maybe after all of that, I might make it down to Baby Bar for some awkward run-ins with everyone I’ve ever met or perhaps Mootsy’s if I want to smell toilet deodorizer. Side note: Mootsy’s bathroom graffiti says “Alayna sux dix”, so obviously I have a fan club.

It’s a hard habit to shake; difficult to reengage in our city.

I don’t really mean to whine, it’s a classic, “It’s not you, it’s me” situation. I know I shouldn’t complain anyway; Spokane already gets enough flack for things it really has no control over, or at least things it’s working on (#weallbuildthis, right?). But I’m whiny and apparently have blame issues. Hating on this place is kind of cliché anyway, everyone has done it, will do it, or is doing it right now.

Clichés are often clichés for a reason, but as I turn this conflict over in my head time and time again, I find that this particular cliché is tired. And so am I. I’m tired of resenting a place I once loved. As short of a blood oath as I can come, I’m recommitting.

I spent the last few weeks talking to friends, acquaintances, and my cat about why we all still live here. We came up with a few good reasons to stay. A lot of the reasons people listed had to do with the great opportunities here. They don’t always present themselves, that’s part of the trick: you have to seek them. But once you find them, you can build whatever your heart desires. Also the Santa Fe chicken sandwich at the Elk.

Point is: hey guys, I missed you.

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