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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

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!

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.

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