Greater Spokane Inc. and the Spokane County Commissioners certainly didn’t undersell their argument for voting for Proposition 1: They tied the very future of Fairchild Air Force Base to the vote, implying economic calamity if taxes weren’t raised to buy a series of mobile home parks located in the Fairchild crash zone.
There was no question that the properties have for decades been in a designated crash zone — and encroached on base operations — and that concern persuaded the Airway Heights mayor and most the Spokane City Council to support removing the homes.
But the argument didn’t work on the tax-averse Spokane Valley Council nor on Spokane County as a whole. Tuesday night, voters were rejecting Prop. 1 51 percent to 49 percent. As he waits for final tallies, County Commissioner Al French turns his eye to the 4 percent who turned in ballots, but didn’t take a stance on the issue.
Meanwhile, local nonprofits who planned to help relocate the current residents in the parks could have been a key ally of the county, but expressed deep concerns about the project. While Habitat for Humanity’s executive director supported the initiative, John Fisher, with Community Frameworks, remained neutral: “Our stance has always been that the timing was off, that new housing needed to be built before residents were placed.”
French worries Fairchild remains in jeopardy:
“It means the community is exposed when we go into the next round of [base closures]. I’ve got to tell you I’m very nervous,” French says, adding that there’s no way the state or county can afford to buy the properties and relocate the residents.
“There’s no other strategy we’re aware of today,” French says. “If there had been other resources we could have tapped, we would have done it.”