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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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