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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

Community Candid

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This is what community looks like:

Sometimes you just get hit with an “Aha!” moment and all the talk and striving and scheduling pays off. THIS is community in action, you say to yourself. Right here, this is what it is all about!

Most recently I felt it at Jon Snyder’s campaign party, and then at the Terrain artist reception and Sustainable Uprising before that. It is usually when something special and unexpected is happening that brings a variety of people into a context where they have something meaningful to share.

By Joe Preston of Hairline Media

We’ve attended dozens of events where speakers, bands, comedians, journalists, politicians, authors and several other semi-famous figurehead types tour through our city, and they always seem especially pleased to have discovered a new audience in Spokane. Some open with jokes about misconceptions they’ve heard about the area, others admit that they had no idea what they were in for. At the end they comment how “It’s nice to see people actually dancing,” or “Those were some really excellent questions that I’m not usually asked.” Are these platitudes repeated by all traveling spokespeople, or does Spokane truly defy expectations?

The same wow factor seems to run through the audience as well. Spokanites often appear a little shocked and excited to realize they aren’t the only ones around who are interested in the topic at hand. It’s like the gold fish and the proverbial castle, it’s a surprise every time! I hope this freshness factor never wears off. I hope event-goers never get to a point of jadedness where their expectations outstrip any possible measure of human performance.

Spokanites know how to genuinely *appreciate* special gatherings – we are raised to elevate them to almost a cultish cultural practice, i.e. fighting over lawn chair real estate at the Torchlight Parade. We seem somehow immune to the “too cool for school” attitude that plagues more urban environments. It this a saving grace? Is it in my head? Who knows, you tell me.

Meanwhile, you can savor some more community eye candy from the Sarah Kramer dinner at One World.

Awesome. Authentic. Apple.

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Last Thursday, SSYP did a “Beer With Jennifer Hall” event at the new Main Market Co-op downtown. It was the first opportunity we had to get up on the roof during construction.

The plans for the store will simply blow you away. Their/our website (I say “our” as a reminder that membership means partial ownership) is chalk full of interesting information and other opportunities for learning. Check it out and support with an early membership to hasten the grand opening of the store!

Can you say SPOKE(a)N(e)?

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Spring 4-Ward: Local Micro Media Part 2

Spovangelist reader, freelance writer and Gonzaga student Brittany Wilmes beat us to the punch on this story. Read her insightful interview (excerpted below) with SPOKE(a)N(e) Magazine editors Tyson and Sara Habein.

To summarize, SPOKE(a)N(e) Magazine is a monthly .pdf publication that features the people, places and events of Spokane’s “creative community”. Taking a broad view of what that includes, SPOKE(a)N(e) goes beyond the typical music and visual arts coverage to include DIY fashion, community radio, graphic design, poetry, photography, film, offbeat theater and even news from the local comic community, to name a few.

The electronic format allows the magazine to include multiple full length interviews, an approach that is largely absent from the Inlander’s arts and culture coverage. Even better is the intriguing mix of established and emerging artists that are featured. Our favorite interview question is “What do you like about the Spokane creative community, and what would you like to see more of?” This angle gets at the heart of the optimism and dedication local creatives have for Spokane’s growing scene.

The absence of printing costs also allow for multiple page photo series that feature the work of Tyson’s YellowHouse Photography. Such prolific local eye candy makes up for the publication’s rather simple and utilitarian black/white/pink block layout design.

As with most Spokane style shoots (see Spokane Coeur d’Alene Living Feb. ‘09), a subtle urban vs. rural theme runs through these sets.

What adds an extra dose of authenticity to SPOKE(a)N(e) is the circumstances under which it is produced:

T: It’s very lo-fi. We’re working with Photoshop 6 and old, ancient software.
S: We’re on a dial-up connection. We live out in Rockford.

T: There’s two of us, but I have a day job and we have two kids.

T: I like the amount of variety that’s in Spokane. We’re both from Montana, and where I grew up, in Billings, it was very rare to see something non-traditional – that is, that wasn’t oil-based landscape paintings or high school kids starting a punk band.
It’s great to see art that’s unique, like spoken word artists and folks making their own clothes. It’s pleasing to see people in Spokane who don’t mind freaking out the grandmothers of the world.
S: Coming here, in some ways, the scene is just a little bigger. The size of the city provides a greater likelihood of there being variety.
T: I think Spokane is on the cusp of being a vibrant, creative community. I think it’s looked down upon in the Pacific Northwest, but it will depend upon who decides to stay and give it a go here.

In an effort to attract more independent contributors like Lloyd Phillips and Alex Toney, SPOKE(a)N(e) Magazine is now offering 1/4 page ad space for writers to do with as they please. What would you use it for? We like that the SPOKE(a)N(e) staff aren’t afraid to self-promote and ask for revenue in exchange for the attention of their audience.

Looking forward, SPOKE(a)N(e) Magazine seems like it is here to stay. While their efforts aren’t all that sophisticated to start, simplicity is a key part of long term viability. Basic business sense is also an important part of micro media longevity. And with longevity comes the confidence and trust of the community.

A Political Departure: Comment on the Sustainability Action Plan

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While the Spovangelist is weary of polarized two-party politics, we are not apolitical and we certainly aren’t afraid to jump in on important civic dialogue when something groundbreaking is at stake.

The Spokane Sustainability Action Plan (SAP) is just such an effort. It is the first attempt by a U.S. City to undergo a comprehensive public planning process that addresses the challenges of peak oil and climate change simultaneously. That’s right folks, we are a trend-setting city in something other than hosting history’s smallest World’s Fair!

What follows is my appeal to the Spokane City Council to approve the recommendations of the Mayor’s Taskforce.

This letter is written in direct response to a ten point criticism circulated in a Spokane GOP party memo. Local Republican talking points are included verbatim in bold below.

Locking our city into a huge process of “sustainability mandates” from the State Dept. of Ecology is a mistake. See Cap and Trade legislation pending and the awful Senate Bill 5735, the Cap and Tax bill which passed Wednesday. We want to keep our local government flexible and local!

1.) In no way do the sustainability recommendations “lock in” local government. Strategies and guiding principles are by definition flexible (this is pointed out in the plan) and open to interpretation and change based on new information as it becomes available. The members of the Taskforce anticipated this criticism when they explained: “This Action Plan … is not a bundle of regulations and mandates. The Plan is a portfolio of principles, strategies, and recommendations.” Furthermore, guiding principle #3 says to “Lead with incentives and education before mandates.” Because of this it is *inappropriate* for the GOP to sing the ‘big bad government’ song in opposition to this plan.

It will cost taxpayers BIG TAX DOLLARS to retrofit governments office buildings to make them more energy efficient when the return on investment will be dubious. Corruption and cost over runs will, as usual, be rampant. Our region has the cheapest, most plentiful and least polluting energy in the world…hydropower! We sell to the entire western U.S. and east to Chicago, then up into Canada and down in to Mexico. BEST PLAN?? Expanding the dam system electrical output which would be easier and very beneficial to our region.

2.) The Sustainability Action Plan specifically includes guidance to adopt only those energy efficiency measures that have desirable and demonstrable cost-benefit outcomes. Asserting that “big tax dollars” will be marshaled to some inefficient end is *simple paranoia*. Plans to improve the economic vitality of our City now and into the future should NOT be abandoned due to wrongs in the past that make certain Republicans feel that all local government is “rampantly corrupt.”

The suggestion that hydropower be pursued as an alternative to the Sustainability Action Plan does not make sense and does not hold up. The plan puts in place a strategy to determine the best approach to advancing local clean energy alternatives. Clearly this will involve more than just hydropower. Furthermore, Strategy #5 to “Conserve water everywhere” was included in part to protect our capacity to tap into hydropower sustainably. Hydropower is no silver bullet, what is needed is the comprehensive framework provided by the plan.

It will cost us businesses in our region when they are forced to “retrofit” their own buildings to make them more energy efficient. (Savings will be small compared to costs of renovations.) Is bankrupting one half of all local businesses and the resultant job losses really worth it?

3.) I have scoured the Sustainability Action Plan looking for any hint calling to “force businesses to retrofit their buildings.” The fact of the matter is that NO SUCH SUGGESTION EXISTS. The opposite is portrayed in explaining how the City will be a model for the surrounding community, and how green collar jobs could be created through strategic partnerships. Private sector businesses can choose to adopt or reject green practices as they see fit. Claiming that half of all Spokane business will automatically go “bankrupt” is nothing less than *counterproductive misinformation*. Please keep in mind that much of the opposition you may have encountered is based on an incorrect understanding of what the plan actually entails.

Changing over to electric cars and buses could be very expensive. Is it worth it? Is it needed? Will this really make the environment in Spokane cleaner? Our city is already purchasing ten new electric buses to do a “trial run”. Do our city officials really need the State Dept. of Ecology to tell us when to do this and how to do it?

4.) Valid questions about the best approach for achieving a leaner City fleet will be answered by “Developing and implementing a plan to increase the City’s use of electric vehicles.” Given the detailed strategies for efficient and effective planing set forth by the SAP, as well as innovations in measuring financial performance and total cost-savings, you can be confident that changing over to electric cars and buses will be well justified before it actually occurs.

Do citizens really want all government to function primarily around environmental concerns? Do we want BIG GOVERNMENT watching us to make sure we comply?

5.) Again, playing the “big bad government” card is silly in regards to the Action Plan as already explained. Questions about citizen desire have clearly been answered:

“The Task Force received more than 800 unique contributions to its base of information in the form of Work Group recommendations, citizen comments, citizen and staff complaints about current City practices and policies, and general suggestions.”

“Each contribution was inventoried, addressed and prioritized during the nearly year-long planning process.”

“A well-communicated public outreach plan produced significant citizen input that guided the overall direction of the final recommendations. The process yielded one simple message, accepted by members of every constituency the Task Force encountered during its work: Strive for good stewardship and efficiency in all things.”

FOX Business news announced on Tuesday…..Spain, one of the :”green showcase” countries, has now put out a study of some of their innovations. Among other surprises, for every green job produced, the cost was 2 traditional, “fossil fuel” based jobs.

6.) Drawing a 1:2 trade-off between “green” jobs and “fossil fuel” jobs is *over-simplified* at best. Sometimes emerging green industries do not directly impact traditional markets, and many studies demonstrate that “Green Collar” jobs are of a higher quality and greater growth potential than so-called “non-green” jobs. The many research sources drawn upon by the Sustainability Taskforce are clearly more credible than an off-handed broadcast by FOX Business News.

The Mayor’s sustainability study was based on UN and their surrogate ICLEI studies that based their science on “global warming” scientific models that are now showing signs of being faulty. The earth may be cooling, not warming. The science is still in flux. We need to wait and not make dire changes to our government structures based on fads or junk science.

7.) As a trained scientist I find the unsupported claim that global warming is a “fad” or “junk” science *downright embarrassing*. The people and the City of Spokane simply can not afford to be on the wrong side of science and the wrong side of history with regards to this important issue. According to Princeton researchers, by the time I am 73 the global average temperature will have climbed by 9 degrees Fahrenheit – and that is assuming that the the current rate of carbon emissions stays constant (this conservative estimate does not include projections for the growing demands of the developing world). Even if you consider yourself a “hardened skeptic” when it comes to global warming, please watch this video that logically argues the only responsible decision is for a proactive response.

One big premise upon which this report was based is that we are running out of oil….and that our dependence on foreign oil is a huge problem. Is it? How much oil is possible to drill in the U.S. and offshore? In the next ten years, will technologies improve to make safe nuclear power more attractive and plentiful? Are wind and solar panel energy dependable and constant? Are they sufficient to give our people and industries in the U.S. enough energy to still be a super power, or will we become a broken, corrupt, poverty-stricken socialist country like Brazil and Indonesia, where these plan models were created by the UN agencies? (Our Mayor signed an international agreement to implement international standards in Spokane.)

8.) The impacts of peak oil are not a matter of “if” they are only a matter of “when”. Many experts concur that we will never produce as much oil in a month as we did in July of last year. Even in the most optimistic nuclear power scenarios (nevermind toxic outputs and security concerns), the pervasive use of fossil fuels in all aspects of material production and transportation can not be ignored. Legitimate questions about wind and solar energy will be given a framework for consideration under the Sustainability Action Plan.

Suggestions that going green somehow risks “a broken, corrupt, poverty-stricken socialist country like Brazil and Indonesia, where these plan models were created by UN agencies” not only sounds *alarmist*, it smacks of *xenophobia*and a dogged unwillingness to even consider global best practices.

Avista has been an enthusiastic participant in the Mayor’s Sustainabililty Task Force process….why?

9.) Avista has been actively involved in developing the SAP because:

“Our history of responsible stewardship reflects the spirit of the region. You and others like you — who care about things like conservation, recycling and the natural beauty around us — embody that very spirit. We do it because it is the right thing to do, because it’s what you expect of us, and because, honestly, the next century depends on it.”

If you look at the “fiscal note” attached to the state cap and trade bill, you will see that expenditures will involve hiring new government officials who will build a whole new series of government agencies to monitor “sustainability.” Thus, government at the state as well as our local level will expand, and expand, and EXPAND! This will cost taxpayers more money. Do citizens really want more government that will be more intrusive?

10.) The proposed Washington State Climate Action Plan is in no way linked to the Spokane Sustainability Action Plan. The local plan does not call for a carbon exchange market. Opposition to one plan should not be confused with or transferred to the other.

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In closing I would like to make one last plea for the adoption of this plan that has nothing to do with environmental concerns. It has everything to do with the impact on COMMUNITY TRUST AND FAITH IN PUBLIC INVOLVEMENT that will be had by your decision.

 

The introduction to the Sustainability Action Plan states:

“This initiative included dozens of meetings and many individual hours invested by the Task Force, meeting four hours every three weeks since April 2008. Such community participation shows that Spokane is a valued home, well worth the time and energy invested to ensure its future as a livable city.”

If in the face of public testimony you refuse to adopt this plan,you will effectively be issuing a vote of “no confidence” in the value of public participation in local government. As a local community activist and former City volunteer, I can’t caution you enough against sending such a devastating message to the broader Spokane community.

As you probably would agree, an effective City depends on the active involvement of all its citizens. This ensures accountability, innovation, responsiveness and collective capacity. While I myself am an avid sustainability advocate, I choose not to participate in the Mayor’s Taskforce precisely because I feared that the resulting plan would not be incorporated into City operations. Instead I chose to invest my limited time and energy doing independent organizing work that focused on relationship building among my immediate neighbors and peers. I was concerned that the Taskforce would consume an enormous amount of time attention and energy, only to ultimately burn out and embitter local sustainability proponents.

 

I want to believe in our ability to work together to achieve regional resiliency and well-being. In order to bring my disenfranchised young friends into this process with integrity, I need to believe that our vision will be taken seriously, and that our efforts will not be tabled or ignored. Please help me rekindle my confidence in local government as a viable means by which to achieve positive change. Please approve the Sustainability Action Plan.

Sincerely,

The Spovangelist

101 Reasons to Ride Your Bike in Spokane

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Spovangelist is not a bike blog for the simple reason that there are so many other outstanding local bloggers covering the topic. For some reason biking and blogging seem to go hand-in-hand. Four out of twelve of the blogs featured in the Spokane Blog Bible could be considered bike blogs, or at least strongly bike sympathetic. Here is an alphabetical list, please mention any I have left out: 100 KM, 26InchSlicks, Bicycles, Brewing and Bitches, BiketoWork Barb, Cycling Spokane, FBC Spokane, Fixed the Race, Fresh – Fresher – Freshness!, Joe Blogger, Out There Monthly, Shallow Cogitations and Spokanarama.

Awhile back I wrote 101 Things to do With a Surface Parking Lot. The list was a challenge and took a couple of attempts to complete. Coming up with 101 reasons to ride bikes in Spokane, however, was a breeze. I sat down and whipped these out almost without pause. In no particular order:

  1. your engine is in your butt
  2. people in bike shops don’t try and swindle you for repair costs
  3. cleaning your windshield is as easy as blinking
  4. people think you’ve “got guts”
  5. wearing bike accessories makes your fashion distinctive
  6. insurance doesn’t cost an arm and a leg
  7. changing a tire can be done in less than fifteen minutes
  8. biking daily adds spring to your step
  9. you are more likely to wear comfortable shoes
  10. pulling up to lock your bike is a great conversation starter with pedestrians
  11. people admire your dedication
  12. skip the lines, buses and craziness on your way to Bloomsday
  13. you remind traffic to pay attention
  14. takes a huge chunk out of your carbon footprint
  15. you don’t have to buy gas – this should be reason enough!
  16. no license required
  17. great compliment to regular exercise
  18. people think you’re sporty even if you aren’t
  19. bikes come in more colors than cars
  20. you never have to worry about parking availability again!!!
  21. you can’t lock your keys inside of a bike
  22. good for your heart
  23. way more likely to stop and smell the roses
  24. pot holes are easily avoided
  25. you set a good example for kids
  26. arrive at work refreshed and ready to contribute
  27. cold temperatures locally make biking more comfortable, not less
  28. make new friends, volunteer with Pedals2People
  29. about 70,000 people die from air pollution annually (this equals the number of deaths from breast and prostate cancer combined)
  30. Spokefest will feel like a vindicating joy ride
  31. you learn the art of layering your clothes
  32. breaks aren’t mysterious and are easy to repair
  33. reconnect with the day-night cycle
  34. stop fueling the war machine
  35. improve your flexibility
  36. be prepared for spinning at the gym
  37. encourage your friends to ride bikes with authority
  38. burn more calories every day to earn that fattening dessert
  39. win free prizes on MyCommute.org
  40. don’t leave a stinky trail of carcinogens wherever you go
  41. squeeze through narrow openings when necessary
  42. harness the power of evolution in making your transportation energy efficient
  43. you can carry your transit up the steps
  44. better your balance
  45. help people cost share when you carpool to an event
  46. you’ll never be caught off guard by the weather in inappropriate clothing
  47. hit up three times as many galleries during Art Walk
  48. make the Centennial Trail your freeway
  49. free yourself from guilt about hastening peak oil
  50. tread lightly on Spokane’s battered roads
  51. be invested in watching the local bike culture grow
  52. donate your old bikes to the Village Bicycle Project
  53. become thankful for red lights instead of being angry at them
  54. remove the temptation to answer and talk on your phone
  55. get discounts on drinks at Coffee Social
  56. improve your coordination by breaking while hand-signaling
  57. what a great excuse to get to wear neon!
  58. walk the talk when you pull up for a meeting at City Hall
  59. you only have to have two functional tires instead of four
  60. enjoy carpooling across town with friends you otherwise wouldn’t get to see
  61. get some mileage out of that backpack in your closet
  62. feel the elation of coasting down a long hill
  63. support your local bike materials economy
  64. create green collar jobs with your bike service purchases
  65. more easily reuse your bike parts across different brands and models
  66. flashing lights, light ropes and accessories are legal and encouraged
  67. whoever spent years paying off their bike payments?
  68. think of biking as a non-dietary “cholesterol cleanse”
  69. you are less liable to accidentally kill a warm and furry friend
  70. take advantage of existing bike infrastructure
  71. create the demand for more bike infrastructure
  72. bump total transit costs down from #2 on your household budget
  73. invent fun biking rituals
  74. pour aggression into powering up a hill
  75. vintage rigs are just as fuel efficient as new ones
  76. earn a rad “bike muscle” above your kneecaps
  77. stave off the risk of diabetes
  78. improve your posture
  79. beat the bus to your destination
  80. increase neighborhood property values
  81. slip through the traffic jam and be on time for dinner
  82. cycling promotes mobility for seniors
  83. cut your noise pollution down to “Near Nothing, Near Perfect”
  84. get rid of the need for the volume and overhead on that 2-3 car garage
  85. British Medical Assosiation says health benefits outweigh accident risks 20:1
  86. reduce the depreciation on your transit investment
  87. give your bones a daily workout
  88. a non-pharmaceutical/barbituate way to reduce anxiety and depression
  89. boost your LDL and HDL readings
  90. reduce your mortality by 40% – commute 3 hours a week for 15 years
  91. let speed function as your AC system
  92. bicycling is a physical meditation – a must for anyone living with ADD
  93. smell the pine, orange blossom, and lilac in the air
  94. become a crusader against America’s obesity pandemic
  95. merging your commuting and exercise time frees up hours for other pursuits
  96. ditch the concrete jungle and take the scenic route
  97. bicycling contributes to economic justice and equal opportunity for all
  98. contribute to Spokane’s urban/enlightened image
  99. protect your global neighbor – air pollution exceeds traffic fatalities 3:1
  100. foil the meter maids and parking Nazis
  101. cars pollute our lakes and groundwater; bicycles don’t

Clubbing Our Culture to Death, or Beating More Life into Downtown?

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Despite the sluggish economy a whole crop of new nightclubs have opened up in Spokane this year. Yet at the same time certain theater and live music locations have struggled to stay open, with some closing their doors altogether. Does the clubbish bent to these new venues mean Spokane is becoming a generic and predictable middle-America meat market? Or should we be optimistic for the potential of businesses like the MarQuee and Casbah to encourage new consumers to develop their ‘urban identity’?

 

Certainly not all clubs are created equal. Some will inflame people’s most base instincts, while others are better positioned to bring about the class they claim to represent. How this “classing up” can be done with intention instead of by accident is important to consider. Otherwise we risk more of what most can agree are the downsides of the typical club scene. Social drama, hollow conspicuous consumption, senseless drinking, and otherwise attractive women looking and acting like this:

Manic Mondays at the MarQuee are supposed to “toast what’s sassy, sexy and sophisticated in Spokane” on a monthly basis. Similarly, a commercial-themed social networking night happens every Wednesday at Rain. We hope these “after work casual” and other “dress to impress” events will remain accessible and interesting to the general public. To the skeptic on the street they can seem highly artificial and just plain overpriced.

Either way, it is interesting to observe how a venue markets itself and eventually becomes defined by the collective identity that gathers there. These social associations become so sticky a business has to go through significant re-branding if it is to overcome an unwanted stereotype. Try this simple experiment: What do you see when you imagine yourself at Trick Shot Dixie’s?

 

Anyways, Spokane has always had its fair share of seedy bump-’n-grind style dance clubs. And let’s be clear, there is nothing wrong with these. They serve their purpose and are a natural component of any city’s social  ecosystem. The funny thing is when a dance venue tries to get it’s patrons to step it up a notch by enforcing dress codes, changing cover requirements, and introducing a section for VIPs. The public response to this policy at Studio 23 was surprising. Some people didn’t know what to make of the command “be sexy” and many were turned away at the door. Now that the location is Envy people know the general drill and it’s not a big deal anymore.

LET US END WITH A RANT: This whole process of growing pains goes to the heart of Spokane’s tortured (or dare we say it, non-existent) fashion identity. At some point we need to stop and consider the social meaning of the popped collar. Just like gentrifying low-income housing in the downtown core, the question of how clubs can impact Spokane culturally is a loaded one. Does squeezing ourselves into a mini-dress make us sophisticated? Or does it paper over the need for a deeper process of authentic cultural soul-searching? Spokane has the potential to be a truly distinguished “best kept secret” kind of place. Little old Spokane can balance the best of high-brow and low-brow in ways that larger cities can only dream of. As we continue to grow and shape our own modern regional ethos, let us do so with intention. Let us not sell ourselves short of our true potential, and lets enjoy to the fullest the fruits of our labor – sans pretension.

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.

Beware of the Aesthetics Police!

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I think it’d be hilarious to get a small number of people together to form a fake group called the Spokane Aesthetics Police. This satirical organization could play on a number of humorous themes and would spark conversation in a variety of unconventional ways. The basic idea would be to go around issuing “aesthetic citations” to offending features of the local urban/suburban landscape.

First the SWAT Team would deploy near a busy street corner on a sunny afternoon. Members of this group would be easily identified by their brightly colored handmade jumpsuit uniforms, oversized badges and toilet paper roll night sticks. The Investigators would drum up attention by running around with rulers, giant fabric and color swatches, and cameras to document the scene of the crime. A janitor-type officer could go around collecting “evidence” (cigarette butts, food wrappers, etc.) and placing these into carefully labeled zip lock bags.

Once people begin to gather, the Sheriff would step into the crowd to present the citation (with bull horn when appropriate) explaining the nature of the offense and the demanded compensation on behalf of the public. The ticket would be placed on the offending object itself, or presented to the proprietor or manager of the property.

 

A “Top Ten Most Wanted” list could be developed and posted around town. I suggest that Joe Diamond and petty taggers be among them to start. Other suggestions of things that deserve the scrutiny of the public eye:

the windowless faces of the Davenport Tower
the boarded up Safeway/Dollar Store in Hillyard
the ClearChannel headquarters out on E. Sprague
the backside of the Spokane Tourism & Information Bureau
our Convention Center, which looks like a beached robotic whale
NorthTown Mall
The Aesthetics Police could make an intentionally hideous website that pokes fun at all the typical features of crappy website design. People could post their complaints and the Aesthetics Police would be there to heroically respond. People would come to hedge their bets on where the Aesthetics Police would strike next, unpredictability makes things fun! Over time, with good public rapport and consistent media coverage, business owners and/or developers might think twice about maintaining their property or heeding design guidelines to avoid a visit from The Infamous SAP.

Slogan’s might involve something along the lines of “We might be poor, but we ain’t blind!”

Long term extensions of this project might include “Departments” organized around specific tasks. I would volunteer to be the “Window Box and Flower Pot Patroller”. I’d create my own ticket (probably a magenta 8”x11”) and go around documenting instances of under maintained landscaping features. These would be posted on the Aesthetics Police website, while outstanding examples of public landscaping would be lauded and presented with creative awards. Another simple idea would be to place green quarter-sheet size tickets on the windshields of ULVs (Unecessarily Large Vehicles) with energy use and transportation efficiency statistics on the back.

Tags: Identity Crisis · Pretty Things · Shock Value · Street Theater3 Comments

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