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The “C” Word

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“Oh no, here she goes again!”

My friends automatically cringe at the word.

It doesn’t matter the context or the subject at hand. As soon as I say it:

*COMMUNITY*

Eyes start to roll, people look out the window, and shift around uncomfortably in their chairs. What is so threatening about this word?

Sadly it seems in today’s culture of suburban materialism, people have every reason to be suspicious. Especially young people. To our parents, “community” was a tangible thing. Folks grew up knowing their neighbors, etc. Today however, the social fabric of authentic community has all but been ripped to shreds. An average of four hours of television a day, the necessity of two-income households, decreased suburban density and increased total population mean we hardly know the meaning of the word.

To certain young people the “C” word represents an obligation they never agreed to fulfill. It is a hollow promise, a loaded word often manipulated by public figures to sell folks on an agenda that may not match up with their own. To some “community” = cloying and claustrophobic. Someone even accused me recently of being in the “Community Cult”. It’s a concept that a lot of people just don’t relate to. Who are the members of this so-called “community” and why is it supposedly so special?

When young adults hear the “C” word we tend to place ourselves outside of it. We don’t fit the target audience for the majority of civic dialog as few of us have children, we aren’t in terminal career track jobs, and we’re typically not making mortgage payments or contributing significantly to the tax base.

This doesn’t mean that young people are anti-social and lack desire for community of their own. We simply use a different word for the same thing and call it the “scene”. A pet peeve of the Spovangelist is that the concept of “scene” in Spokane is rarely extended beyond the realm of local music. That is a great place for a scene to start, but in more culturally dynamic cities the scene is far more multifaceted than that.

What is an ideal scene? Its a large network of people who relate to each others perspectives on jobs, relationships and station in life. They can offer relevant advice on connecting to opportunities that support their shared lifestyle. People in the scene should appreciate the creative work of other people in the scene should it be worthy of such attention. The scene should be able to help its members get hooked up with good roommates, and even share costs on things like throwing parties or transportation to Seattle. The scene should be diverse and interesting. It should provide companionship and expose the people in it to new ideas and ways to recreate. A healthy scene is strong enough to develop its own micro-economy, and this in turn provides meaningful, socially significant jobs to its members.

Cheers to the future of the “C” word in Spokane!

A Parking Lot in Park’s Clothing

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Every day I ride my bike past the sea of parking out in front of the INB. What little hope I had for development, sparked by those misleading “hotel property” signs last summer, was trounced when a friend explained that all the construction was for another surface lot. The nail in the coffin for my enthusiasm came when they demolished The Blvd. and chopped down its lone majestic willow tree. Like a digital mirage, the two can still be seen standing in Google street view to this day:

The swanky new parking comes with a price tag to match. At the peak of the Lion King frenzy, the lot appeared to be only 2/3 full at a going rate of $10 per spot. A blurb in the DSP’s Street Talk newsletter pointed me towards the master plan that was written for the Public Facilities District expansion.

Parking with Style
The new lot features sheltered, automated parking pay stations, new classic style light poles with wrought iron details on Main, 115 new trees, and solar powered lighting. Not bad for a parking lot!

While nobody can deny that the new lot is a vast improvement on the asphalt desert that preceded it, I have to wonder if this move effectively delays breaking ground on a planned multi-level structure. The Vision 20/20 plan fails to explain the rationale behind the timing of the current upgrade, stating only that the new lot will be around for about 10 years before Phase Two.

Downtown with a portion of current surface parking highlighted.

It was painfully ironic how Vision 20/20 carries on about the cultural and authentic place-seeking inclinations of Gen Y (see pages 24-25) only to result in the wrecking ball for one of their favorite local venues. They note a perceived disconnect between the convention center and the emerging East End, and then eliminate the nearest feature of that sought-after urban fabric.

In good faith I assume there are solid answers to all of these questions, and the plan suggests several exciting elements that will greatly enhance the downtown landscape if they are pursued. But what should the role of the public be in such a planning process? I was surprised to see that citizens were not listed as stakeholders, and only one public input meeting was cited in the report. The results of that meeting were not outlined, and so after 97 pages it is unclear how the proposal incorporates the perspective of local consumers.

We should use the assets we have, such as our visually appealing and unique historic buildings, to invest in permanent businesses and living spaces. Unnecessary parking lots flatline the heartbeat of downtown, no matter how they are used, and send the wrong message about the vision and direction we want for our city.

-Crystal Gartner

Baroque Network Now

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Now that we are coming down off our high from Terrain people are wanting to know what is next. There is a yearning for more frequent “mini-Terrains” that feature local businesses and offer regular social networking opportunities. Baroque Design and their recently assembled “Creative Team” has got that wish list item covered. In a town as vibrant and bumpin’ as Spokane, you don’t have to wait another 365 days to have an exceptionally awesome experience with your friends. In fact, this debut event is going down this Thursday night at the Glover Mansion for free!

Not unlike the beloved Metro Spokane parties (may they R.I.P.) there will be a photo booth, except this one will have a themed back drop old school style, attended by house photographer Kelsey Woodward. This month is “Miami Vice” so be sure to break out your sleeker duds to work the scene. In Portland obscure theme parties were all the rage. In Spokane I feel some are still reluctant to venture outside the comfort of their favorite blue jeans, but that is OK. If you need a hint, here is a clue:

 

Anahie & Simona in Miami Beach, by Seth Barlow of Spokane

There will be artwork by Darcy Drury, tunes by Benjamin Jorgens, and laughs by Lance Paullin – the perfect comedian for this theme. Sometimes he can get a little, shall we say, risque? So who is behind all these generous people and why are they organizing parties to bring together Spokane’s creative/entrepreneurial circles?

We are very passionate about community, local business, and the arts. Networking and encouragement go hand in hand to create a better city to live in. With creating more ways we can be heard, we can create more opportunities to succeed.

We at Baroque want to create a collaborative of entrepreneurs, artists, musicians, politicians, or anybody who just wants to be involved in their community to create a tight knit Spokane local community that is pro active in their passion. -Matt and Alanna, Organizers

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Earning Our Ovals

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By The Apostate

This week both The Inlander and the Spokesman were kind enough to remind us about Washington’s disengaged youth. In “Geriatrics vote. The youth don’t care.” Nick Deshais cited some data released by Secretary of State Sam Reed. In the last primary about 4,000 people below the age of 25 cast their ballot, making up about 3.5% of the vote. The second group, ages 25-34 made up another 5.9%. You ready for some math? That adds up to a not-so-grand total of 9.5% of ballots cast by people under the age of 35.

This is appalling because while young people make up about 23.9% of the electorate, they only made up about 10% of the electors. In 2008, the Obama campaign turned young voters out and transformed many in to young activists. And as you know, these young activists weren’t just poli-sci majors. They were bloggers, artists and apathetics alike. So what gives, young people? How did civic engagement seem to go from “hot to not” in one election cycle?

 

Here’s my thought: politics aren’t marketed to young voters because as the numbers suggest, old folks vote. It’s a nasty catch-22, young people aren’t involved because political ideas aren’t presented to them in a way that motivates because people cashing in their social security are more likely to vote. The best way to approach this problem is to vote. When numbers suggest that young people give a shit, politicians will return the favor by being concerned with the young vote.

Moreover, young people can champion their own causes and change the way we elect people in Spokane and in Washington State. Few young people operate in a way that shows concern for suits and marble walls, what’s wrong with politics in jeans and a hoodie? Oh yeah, and why can’t we vote online? Good laws require good people in elected office. We must support young, forward focused candidates and make sure our generation has champions in Olympia.

The first line of action in Spokane comes from The Washington Bus, an organization devoted to politics by young people for all, and NextUp Spokane, a new group that seeks to motivate more participation from other young people through fun local projects. This fall the two groups have come together to get upwards of 1,000 young voters to pledge to vote by addressing a post card that is mailed back to remind them to follow through on their pledge. In addition, NextUp and the Bus are hosting a massive get-out-the-vote canvass on Halloween called Trick-Or-Vote (stay tuned for details later this month) that involves a friendly costumed reminder to vote and a killer after party. Awesome, right?

 

If you aren’t sure if you’re registered or you need to change your address you can visit MyVote, a cool online program from the Secretary of State. Young people are not a lost cause, we just need to make our voices heard so we can remember why voting matters. If you’re interested in getting involved with these efforts in Spokane please email: alayna[at]washingtonbus[dot]org.

3 Deadly Excuses to Stop Stalling Spokane

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When you ask people in the park what they like about Spokane they say “it’s not too big” and “doesn’t have traffic like Seattle”. Some think Spokanites are “friendly” while others point out our access to nature and recreational resources.

On the flip side, comments about barriers to Spokane’s success contain equally generic and uninspired viewpoints. But this set of assumptions has a much more dire effect on our regional mindset. Let me challenge the basis of the top three most cherished Spokane excuses:

1) Spokane just needs more time.

PROGRESS IS NOT A FUNCTION OF TIME

Ask yourself “How many thousands of years was China under dynastic rule?” It is naive to assume some natural process of growth towards more democratic and/or sustainable societies. These practices do not develop on their own. They result from cultural patterns that are directly influenced by a complex variety of real world circumstances. THIS is where the focus should be kept, not asking “Is the time finally right?” I would agree with the truism that “timing is everything” – but this nugget of wisdom shouldn’t be taken proscriptively.

Creating your own opportune moments is a powerful skill to develop. If we can get past the limit imposed by this ‘glacial time assumption’ the challenge becomes identifying methods that accelerate the process of change itself. The social time scales of the past should not be inappropriately applied to the ever-changing possibilities for the future.

2) Spokane needs new people.

NEW BODIES WON’T REPLACE OLD ATTITUDES

Often I hear it said that we have to “be patient” and wait for all the old fossils to die off before things can really start to move ahead. A variation on this idea is that Spokane needs to import a bunch of “enlightened” Californians or outside corporate talent to cancel out the effects of suspicious natives or make our economy sing.

It is hopelessly narcissistic to assume that attitudinal barriers to change will disappear with certain members of the society that espouse them. Let us not forget that these people have children (often times a larger number of them) and ideas about the what makes the world tick have a funny way of transferring through generational lines. At some point social activists will have to suck up their uncertainty and (gasp) actually engage the criticisms they despise.

3) Spokane is too poor.

HOW WE SPEND IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN TOTAL SPENDING

First off, as an American city, Spokane has a lot of fat to burn. The question is how we burn it. Are our dollars squandered on flat screen TVs or invested into energy efficient dishwashers? Do we allow our limited money to be vacuumed out of the local sphere by national and international corporate conglomerates, or do we circulate our dollars faster and more effectively in our own vibrant micro-economy?

Culture change can be spearheaded on a shoestring. The question must involve how to win hearts and minds, the money will follow. Just ask a preacher! Let’s remember one doesn’t loose weight by buying a fancy gym membership, one actually has to work out to get rid of those pounds.

An Open Letter to the Spokanite in all of us

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This is a letter written by the woman I have the biggest lady crush on. She’s darn cute, super smart and is the lead singer of a band. If she and I both had not found our respective significant others I would ask her to run away with me (except not away, like to Browne’s Addition or something.) Caroline Francis Schibel is the lead singer of the band Mon Cheri, my dream girl, and someone that gives a damn about our fair city.

 
Photo Credit: The Inlander

“I’ve been thinking a lot about Spokane lately (especially my love/hate relationship with it) and of course after much debate (and internal struggle) a light bulb went off in my head and I literally almost fell out of my chair when I realized *gasp! “My love for this city is stronger than my hate!”… DUH, that’s why I’m still here. Now I suddenly want to aid in making Spokane a better place, legitimately (you can smack me for not thinking of this before, I deserve it).

Here is the crisis our city faces: all of the cool people with their neat ideas and their entrepreneurship LEAVE SPOKANE to make it big somewhere else. Do the math! If everyone with a good idea leaves (at least 90% of them do) then Spokane will continue to just chug along as it is, sputtering its remaining drops of creativity into damn near nothingness. Not acceptable. I’ve seen many promising people start to try to dabble in the non-existent scene that is Spokane (only a “scene” about twice a year when events like Elkfest and Terrain happen, and thank God for those eh?) and when Spokane doesn’t respond, said promising people leave and become Seattle-ites or Portlanders, which is basically like a giant F YOU to those of us remaining here. So I’m going to propose an idea for you entrepreneurs: STAY. No, it’s not going to be easy. Yes, the city can be hard to work with and can make owning and running your own business kind of like digging your own grave, but we have to start somewhere, right? Besides, I’m really good with a shovel (and using it to knock sense into the city runs across my mind constantly.) I’m willing to NEGOTIATE rather than fight, and I have a really hard time taking no for an answer.

All joking aside, the most recent events to make me despise my beloved city (heh) involve The MAC and The Empyrean… WHY do we act like we hate the arts and the local businesses so much? I see the glimmers of hope, I see people starting to try to do something with Spokane, and I get so damn excited. Then, something weird happens with the sprinkler systems (or lack thereof…seriously?) or there’s a budget cut or a sudden lack of funding, and we’re left with the bitter tears of those people who put so much work into a business that would absolutely THRIVE in other cities but gets turned on by its own. Doesn’t that make you angry? At least a little bit?

It sure makes me angry, especially since Spokane has so much potential (think Garland area, the ever adorable Perry District, Browne’s Addition, South Hill, Downtown etc). This place is cheap to live in, and it’s begging for more people to realize that it can also be a cheap place to THRIVE in. Hell, Spokane is even considered to be one of the safest places to live in the US (as far as natural disasters go, that is); and if we could just hurdle this stupid meth habit crap, we’d really top the charts!

So I want to hear your ideas. I want to know how you think we can band together and reach out to more than just the 10% of us that always get involved… it’s all about growth, right?! I know that I could get some people from the Valley excited about making Spokane better (don’t scoff at the Valley, that’s my childhood turf!), and using our amazing networking skills, we could actually get a TON of people in-and-around the area involved.

I know that people in Spokane are already starting to try to make this all happen, so please don’t think that I’m not acknowledging the massive effort a lot of you have already put forth in making this a better place. I just don’t want it to hit a wall: I want it to break all those damn walls down and start thriving. I want to feel good about loving this city as much as I do. I want to see people succeed, I want to see them gain support from their community! I don’t want the barriers of “valley” vs. “city”  or “South” vs “North” or “punk” vs “hipster” to hold us back either: we’re going to need all the help we can get.

I want to get involved, that’s for damn sure.

So the big question is: Who’s with me, and where can we meet for beer?”

Caroline Schibel

Member of Mon Chéri

Lover of Spokane, WA

Preach it, sister. I’m with you.

A Parade for Peace

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Here’s what Michael Kinsley from Seattle’s Politico had to say about the shooting in Tucson:

“No one is suggesting that one of those voices in the assassin’s head was John Boehner’s cigarette growl or that Loughner had even heard of Sarah Palin when he started saying nutty, paranoid things. No one is suggesting that he got the idea that the number six is somehow indistinguishable from the number 18 from the 2008 Republican Party platform. The suggestion is that we live in a political atmosphere in which nutty views (President Obama isn’t a U.S. citizen.) and alarming rhetoric (“Second Amendment remedies” are the answer to disappointment at the ballot box.) are widespread and often go unrebutted. The suggestion, finally, is that the right is largely responsible for a political atmosphere in which extreme thoughts are more likely to take root and flower.But all of this is now too uncivil to bring up. So wherever could Loughner have gotten his paranoid contempt for government? Who told him that the government was this hulking, all-powerful “other” determined to control and ruin his life? Official answer: He’s crazy! What more do you need to know?…”

Just last week a similar attempt occurred at our Martin Luther Kind Jr. March. I first think of the catastrophe that would have occurred if this backpack bomb was indeed successful, and then of the heroes it took to thwart the attack. Now that Spokane has stopped showing up on CNN and The Rachel Maddow Show, it’s time for us to take a long hard look at the why this potentially tragic event occurred.

So many are blaming this event on the way political discourse has taken shape in the past could of years, others are attributing it to a complicated mental illness. Because the insight in to the mind or minds that planted the bomb in downtown Spokane is limited, it’s time for us to reflect on what acts of hatred could spawn from such a peaceful message.

I take the utmost pride in Spokane because on the variety of neighbors. It is when the variety of neighbors begin to do damage to others that I start to question our city.

What’s next? Is it our political rhetoric? Is it the Inland Northwest’s history of white supremacy? Regardless of last week’s bombing catalyst, we need to reflect, as a community, on the language we use to to discuss opposing political parties. More so, we must reflect on how we confront this attempted together.

What can you do to support peace, love and safety in the coming years? What can we do to ensure an attack like this is never successful?

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

All Local Listening on Spotracks

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I haven’t made a mix for a while; which isn’t the same as saying I haven’t been listening to music. I have been. A lot. But I haven’t yet made an all-local mix, so here is a winter gift from me to you. Every song was meticulously picked from my itunes library and the corners of the internet, and the result is not necessarily a cohesively blending mix, but a compilation of truly awesome Spokane sound power. Enjoy!

Bucking up.

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This is what I looked like before I was sad.

OH MY GOD JANUARY. It is so awful. There is science proving how awful it is — or “pseudoscience,” at least. According to Science, the most depressing day of the year hasn’t even happened yet — it’s on January 21st.

Factors include things like weather, holiday debt, motivation and days since falling off the New Years resolution wagon. There should also be something about “likelihood that you are hacking up a lung.” And “number of fights you’ve had with friends and/or strangers on the internet in the past week.”

Having moved through the preliminary stages of utter despair, including

pretending to just be having a bad week
getting drunk on bad beer several days in a row
coming to terms with the semi-permanent nature of the situation
and
unfettered self-pity,
I have now moved into a considerably more pleasurable stage: self-comfort. This is the part where you stop just feeling sorry for yourself and do something about it. Like eat scones every day, regard attending one yoga class in a week as a Feat of Strength, and read long-form articles about Lindsey Lohan making a low-budg film.

I’m even using my favorite mug — which (neurosis alert) I use as little as possible to prevent it from ever breaking or getting lost — on the daily.

It’s wonderful. I am pretending/recognizing that I have a disease, and treating that disease by treating myself awesomely. Which leads me to wonder why I don’t do this all the time.

Being inexplicably sad has led me to living more wholly. For now, as a survival technique. But later, maybe just for fun.

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