You've already abandoned your slim-by-spring diet, haven't you? And that resolution to cut down on the cigs died three packs ago, no? Well, it's late January and our New Year resolution fever is just warming up.
We've been poring through our Rolodex and talking to some of our favorite big thinkers -- politicians, writers, musicians, promoters, doctors, DJs, cyclists, chefs -- and asking them for their New Year resolutions for the Spokane area for 2008. What could we do this year to change the way the area looks, feels and operates? How can we put Spokane on the map in '08? How can we make this place a more fun, more rewarding, more practical place to live?
We only imposed a few limits on their responses. The ideas had to be theoretically accomplishable -- or at least startable -- within 2008. Also, no self-promotion and no pet projects. Several great ideas were nixed because they're already in the works (the river walk in Peaceful Valley) or they too nakedly benefited the suggester (Ron Wells' wish for a roundabout and a nice statue outside his office).
Otherwise, every big, stupid idea was embraced.
Check them out, then share your big, stupid idea for the Spokane area at firstname.lastname@example.org.
-- JOEL SMITH
1. Build up Riverfront Park
Riverfront Park is rightly cherished as one of Spokane's greatest natural assets. Too bad it doesn't get the love that Manito does. Though it's several times bigger and right in the middle of downtown, Riverfront Park isn't hemmed in by people and so doesn't have the residential feel Manito does. Neither is it given the kinds of attractions that draw tourists up to the South Hill. The first problem will likely be solved as downtown becomes more residential and especially if Kendall Yards succeeds. (The park will become central, not marginal.) But the second problem needs work. The carousel, the garbage goat and the red wagon are nice as kitsch, but they're no match for the Japanese garden, the rose garden, etc.
Inland Northwest Community Foundation president MARK HURTUBISE wants the city to start taking steps toward transforming Riverfront into "a true educational/cultural/tourism Mecca," with a zoo, a science center and the relocated Museum of Arts and Culture. Attorney STEVE FAUST wants a public market there. Entrepreneur CHRISTOPHER KELLY would like to see a real landmark there (the pavilion and the clock tower don't cut it): Why not a Spokane version of the famous London Eye Ferris wheel? It's iconic and functional. RenCorp realtor PATRICIA SAMPSON wants to see a pocket park dedicated to neon signs. Why not make it a pocket in Riverfront's pants? Ditto health department spokeswoman JULIE GRAHAM's idea for the use of audio art throughout the park, as they do in Central Park.
HOW TO DO IT: Start a "Friends Of..." group, negotiate with the Parks Department. (JS)
2. Organic school menus
Spokane Public Schools got rid of its soda machines in 2004. But bike mechanic and mother LIZA MATTANA thinks the district should stay ahead of the curve this year by introducing organic and/or locally grown, sustainable food to the schools' menus. She says: "More whole foods in a kid's diet actually makes a big difference." Though she acknowledges completely replacing the current menu with organic food is a tall order, maybe there's a way to start small and grow the program. "Washington State apples. Or potatoes." Try it as a pilot project at one school (possibly Havermale?) and see how it works.
HOW TO DO IT: District nutrition services director Doug Wordell says he loves the idea, but that it would need a champion -- teachers who are committed to the idea and community members willing to act as liaisons between schools, farmers and distributors. (Shaw Middle School's champion is the USDA, a grant from which brings fresh fruits and vegetables to students.) On the supply side, talk to People for Ethical Alternatives for Children's Health (PEACH), the Spokane Farmers Market and Latah Bistro chef David Blaine, an ardent supporter of local food. (JS)
3. Kids' Investment Fund
Former councilman BRAD STARK proposes a continuation of the property tax levy lid lift to generate $2 million per year to fund early intervention, child abuse prevention and after-school programs for children. For a tax burden of $15 for every $100,000 in home value, he says we can keep our kids safer and provide them with additional learning opportunities. (MLO)
4 More Street Funding
RenCorp realtor PATRICIA SAMPSON wants to see flower stands downtown. We'd add fresh fruit stands and a fry bread stand. Whether downtown lacks the residential critical mass to sustain this stuff (and whether this could help build a critical mass) is uncertain. But bonus points for the fry bread, which could become Spokane's signature street food, like Philly's cheesesteaks and New York's hot dogs. (JS)
5. One-Ways to Two-Ways
The whole idea behind one-way streets, it's thought, is to quickly and efficiently move traffic through a city. They're good at that. But they're not so good at making pedestrians, cyclists and other non-motorized movers feel comfortable. Nor is their noise and gust too good for people trying to read the newspaper at a sidewalk cafe. And if you're a shop owner along a one-way street, you see that traffic speeding past, not stopping in. Six of our thinkers suggested that Spokane begin to change its one-way streets to two ways this year. Four of those people are developers or building owners, who want to see traffic calmed, pedestrians welcomed, noise lessened and the automobile a little more scarce downtown. Two-way streets do that. Complete streets do that even better. That was the idea of blogger and bike activist JOHN SPEARE, who would like to see the streets outfitted not just for cars, but for all users: bikers, walkers, bus riders, people in wheelchairs.
HOW TO DO IT: Starting this year with Main Avenue (potentially the gateway into the coming University District), let's see if a complete two-way street doesn't make downtown a slightly more relaxing place to be. (JS)
6. Reader-Board Wisdom
Blogger and Whitworth fundraiser ELIZABETH STRAUCH wants to see businesses use their reader boards and LED displays — and see new ones erected — to broadcast words of wisdom from the seven sages of Greece, among others. She'd start with this chestnut, from Pittacus of Mytilene: "Know Thine Opportunity." The idea, recalling the "truisms" of conceptual artist Jenny Holzer (who used reader boards and projections to display short statements like "Don't place too much trust in experts" and "We must admit there will be music despite everything"), would lend some much-needed serendipity to downtown and would beat the tired platitudes foisted upon the marquee at Golden Rule brake shops.
HOW TO DO IT: Convince private business owners, make a proposal before the city council, hijack anyone with a video projector lying around. (JS)
7. Downtown Groceries
RenCorp realtor PATRICIA SAMPSON had one word for Spokane's need for a grocery store downtown: "Duh." Residents in the core have to head for Browne's Addition, the South Hill or the Logan neighborhood to stock up, making an urban pedestrian lifestyle nigh impossible. While it's a no-brainer and an oft-heard complaint, we thought it important enough to include here. (JS)
8. Reform Campaigning
Mary Verner spent $120,000 on her victorious mayoral campaign. Dennis Hession spent about $280,000 -- and lost. STEVE FAUST thinks that's nuts. He proposes the city change its charter to adopt campaign finance rules used in Arizona and Maine. Candidates who forgo private fundraising and accept lower spending limits would be given public money to run their campaigns. Candidates who don't want to play along wouldn't be bound by the limits, but the new system would help their publicly funded opponents by providing them with bigger war chests, enough to even the fiscal playing field.
HOW TO DO IT: Faust suggests the city council let voters decide in November whether to adopt this system. (DN)
9. Relocate City Hall
Or at least start talking about it. The idea, pitched by the bloggers at METROSPOKANE, is this: City Hall currently exists in an old department store on prime real estate above the falls and Riverfront Park. Sell it off (for a pretty penny), and move the nexus of city government somewhere else, somewhere that could use an economic shot in the arm. Let's say the University District. You now have 450-some people who are going to need someplace to eat lunch and do coffee. Supply would meet demand, property values would rise. As the surrounding businesses take root, and infrastructure grows up in the area (maybe five, 10, 20 years down the road) you pick up and move City Hall again. This time to, say, West Central. Repeat.
HOW TO DO IT: City insiders say it's not that crazy. In fact, they considered it when the Metropolitan Mortgage building (now the Wells Fargo building) was up for sale. But spending money on a move that wouldn't necessarily have helped the whole of the tax-paying public -- at a time when the city was having a hard time making budgetary ends meet -- didn't seem like it would be the best political move. Now city insiders say there isn't another building currently available that would meet the government's needs. But maybe it's time to start looking a little harder. (JS)
10. Memorial to Otto Zehm
Former Hard 7 writer FRANK SENNETT thinks the city should establish a memorial to Otto Zehm, a mentally ill janitor killed during a confrontation with police in March 2006. Naming the gazebo at Mission Park after Zehm would, according to Sennett, "Keep his memory alive and send a strong, simple message: Never again."
HOW TO DO IT: Probably not hard -- just an act of the city council is all that's required. (MLO)
11. Help Small Business
Several people wanted to see more locally owned, small, quirky shops added to the city's shopping landscape. It would draw creativity to the area and fill gaps left between larger businesses, says RenCorp realtor PATRICIA SAMPSON. The need for small businesses is even more acute since the demolition of buildings along Howard Street, which housed tiny storefronts, says DAVID BLAINE, blogger and Latah Bistro chef.
HOW TO DO IT: This could be done several ways. Sampson suggests offering tax incentives either to individual shop owners or to landlords, allowing small businesses a toehold in downtown to see if they can grow and survive. Blaine takes a different approach, advocating for a change in zoning laws that would require property owners to offer some smaller retail space. (JF)
12. Build a Bike Center
They have versions of them in bike-friendly European cities like Amsterdam and Copenhagen. Even Chicago has one. You ride from home to work. You lock up your bike at the station, where paid attendants watch over it. You take a shower, stow your gear in a locker, pick up a spare tire tube, ask the resident mechanic to take a look at a bent spoke. You go to work and your bike is waiting for you when you get back. It's simple. Blogger and bike activist JOHN SPEARE says it could be even more sophisticated than that, combining the station with a DIY repair shop, an office for bike messengers, a bike-friendly coffee shop and a home for Pedals 2 People, the bike-centric nonprofit Speare helps run. While you're there, why not rent a bike from STA? (That's the big idea from bloggers at METROSPOKANE.)
HOW TO DO IT: Find a sympathetic landowner with a building in the downtown core. Try to get the Bicycle Alliance of Washington on board. STA, too. (JS)
13. History/Mansion Tours
Spokane could use a bordello museum like Wallace, Idaho, or a few more well-publicized historic sites that are open to tourists, suggests JULIE GRAHAM. (OK, the bordello museum was our idea.) Seattle has its underground city, she reasons. Butte has its tours of old brothels and speakeasies. Our history is just as colorful, with characters like Dutch Jake and May Arkwright Hutton, so why couldn't Spokane package the Campbell House with tours of a few other historic sites and market them to tourists? (DN)
14. Watching the Cops
FRANK SENNETT certainly beat the drum for better citizen oversight of the Spokane Police Department when he wrote his Spokesman-Review blog -- not that it's an idea unique to him. He has some reason for optimism: The new city budget includes money for an independent police ombudsman, if the police union will agree to it.
"If the cops refuse to negotiate an acceptable oversight agreement," Sennett wrote, "I hope they understand there'll be little hope for them to win back the trust and respect of citizens." We assume Frank will be watching from Chicago, where he's now editing an alternative weekly newspaper. (DN)
15. Fund Local Students
Whitworth's BRIAN BENZEL says that when he came back to Spokane in 2001, high school students were sounding a common theme: Spokane must be escaped. His idea to counter this attitude is to have the community offer every high school graduate in Spokane (public or private) a partial scholarship for any post-secondary institution. He thinks students would reflect more positively on Spokane when they leave to study and they'd be more likely to return. Psychologist Mark Mays suggests a similar idea with the added condition that students who accept the funds stay in Spokane for three years after graduation, creating a more educated workforce that would attract industry.
HOW TO DO IT: Establish a property tax or raise funds via private grants, or both. (MLO)
16. "Lose this love affair with the automobile"
Those were the words of developer/artist DAN SPALDING. The sentiment was not rare among our thinkers. Bloggers at METROSPOKANE want to see an annual "Car-Free Day," Democratic legislative aide NEIL BEAVER wants "car-free zones," and blogger/bike activist JOHN SPEARE wants car-free streets. Speare also would like to see non-signaled roads. "The idea is that there are no lights, signs, nothing," he says. "It's so chaotic that everyone goes really slow and all methods of transportation are treated equally." Developer RON WELLS says he'd like Spokane to make 2008 "the year of the pedestrian," by creating a "pedestrian engineer" position within the city, doing away with redundant traffic lights (he hates the one at Main Ave. and Post St.) and authorizing police stings on motorists who don't yield the right-of-way to pedestrians.
Then there's Ciclovia, an idea that was hatched in Bogota, Colombia, in 1976. Every Sunday and holiday there, the main streets are closed to auto traffic and given over to cyclists, pedestrians, skaters, musicians, yoga teachers, you name it. Some 30 percent of the city's population (of more than seven million) shows up to skate, stroll and cruise on 80 miles of car-free streets (it's like Hoopfest, sans hoops). The phenomenon has since spread throughout Colombia and to El Paso, which closes its streets every Sunday morning in May.
HOW TO DO IT: Like many of the ideas elsewhere in this package, making these a reality would require a critical mass of supporters and a champion within the city. Mayor Mary Verner and councilman Richard Rush are obvious starting points. But you'll need the rest of the council, too. (JS)
17. No Crappy Skate Parks
With a new skate park penciled into plans for the recently voter-approved Joe Albi sports complex, concert promoter PATRICK KENDRICK suggests the city not repeat the mistakes made in the downtown skate park, a roundly criticized venue he calls "poorly executed" and "a $170,000 waste of cement." Rumor has it the city's in talks with Skateparkitecture, a design firm that many skaters revile. (The Northwest Skater Website calls them "a company that doesn't skateboard, and it shows.") Instead, he says, they should go with a skater-centric company like Grindline or Dreamland, both of which have worked with councils and -- more importantly -- local skaters to design quality parks. (The former designed the well-regarded Hillyard and Mirabeau Point parks.)
HOW TO DO IT: Skaters should let the city council know how they feel. With Rob Crow gone, the new point person on the Albi project is parks director Roger Crum. (JS)
18. Walking Tours
Washington Senate Majority Leader LISA BROWN was inspired by a recent walking tour she took in Switzerland. "They carry your bags from place to place, and you have a nice walk during the day and a place to spend the night. It was so much fun," she says. "I can certainly see the Spokane area having walking tours." Brown thinks the idea would work just as well with bike trips. "You just show up and discover how beautiful the area is by walking it or biking it." She believes the trips would draw tourists from all over. Ditto for a good backpackers hotel in Spokane, adds entrepreneur CHRISTOPHER KELLY. "Such a place ... could put Spokane on the map for backpackers ... as a launching point for trips into the half-dozen national parks that surround us." (JS)
19. Put Fish First
The grass is not always greener when you use phosphorus-laden fertilizer, according to Liberty Lake City Councilman BRIAN SAYRS. He wants to see the Spokane River revitalized by curbing the use of phosphorus fertilizers, arguing that soil in our region contains naturally high levels of phosphorus, making the fertilizers unnecessary. Phosphorus harms the ecology of the river by promoting overgrowth of algae. Out There editor JON SNYDER proposes to restore the salmon run to the river once it's sufficiently cleaned up. "Show me a place where you can see salmon spawning from City Hall," he says. "I can't think of a better way to put Spokane on the map."
HOW TO DO IT: Local governments ban fertilizers containing phosphorus; modify dams with ladders and other fish-friendly innovations. (MLO)
20. At Least a Streetcar
Light rail was another popular idea. Obviously, Spokane can't become Portland in the course of a single year (Portland didn't even become Portland overnight), but our thinkers suggested a few concrete steps that could be taken this year. Developer RON WELLS said Spokane should approve plans and build momentum for a rail streetcar this year. "[It] has a viable plan for implementation, and a lot of support from downtown property owners," he says. Out There Monthly editor JON SNYDER suggested that the city should develop a "transit-oriented development initiative" in 2008 that has light rail at its backbone. Inlander columnist (and dreamer) ROBERT HEROLD says the Spokane area should begin lobbying the federal government for rapid light rail that would connect Spokane to Seattle at 200 miles per hour.
The brightest rail idea, though, came from MELISSA AHERN and the NORTHWEST CLIMATE CHANGE CENTER, who suggested that if 57 percent of Spokane households swapped their incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent ones, the area would have enough electricity to power a light rail line between the airport and Coeur d'Alene.
HOW TO DO IT: Petition the city, the Spokane Transit Authority and the Downtown Spokane Partnership, which sponsored the streetcar study. Petition Congress for the larger projects. (JS)
21. Parking Angels?
Parking was a biggie for our respondents. But the most creative idea came from developer and Renaissance man DAN SPALDING who suggested that the city's dreaded parking meter readers should be converted to something more akin to city ambassadors, who greet you with a smile, offer information, make change when you need it and let you off the hook if you're coming out to plug your meter while they're writing you a ticket. He goes further: "Let's take this all the way and outfit those buggies with ice cream," he says, "and the associated music blaring from a speaker on the roof." That would not only warn you of their approach, but make their arrival a celebration instead of an inconvenience.
Inlander columnist ROBERT HEROLD called for a city ban on further surface parking lots. Developer RON WELLS recommended that property owners organize to change the majority of their parallel parking to diagonal parking, arguing that "such conversions to diagonal parking almost double the number of on-street parking spaces, and "calm" traffic, both desirable outcomes." Merlyn's owner JOHN WAITE simply stated that we should "beat up" traffic officials. (Yikes!)
HOW TO DO IT: The dress, labor and comport of the city's 10 meter patrollers are governed by the streets department but would likely need some council support to change. Same with the other ideas (minus the physical-beating one). (JS)
22. Spokane Bucks
LUPITO FLORES, station manager of KYRS Thin Air Community Radio, suggests that Spokane can do as dozens of other cities around the country have already done by developing its own alternative, local currency. The objective is to augment the money supply in the local economy and to keep it circulating here, where it will do the most good. Spokane Bucks -- or whatever they're ultimately called -- would also stay out of the hands of all those evil corporations.
Local currencies have a long history in the U.S., and according to one writer for the Wall Street Journal, they are perfectly legal -- provided they don't look like federal notes. They're illegal to counterfeit and are even taxable. Federal notes are not tied to any standard of value -- like gold, for example. They are declared to have value by an issuing authority -- the federal government -- and everyone accepts them. Local currencies are no different, but they are obtained and exchanged voluntarily by members of the community.
Flores points to models like the one in Ithaca, N.Y., which was established in 1991. The issuing authority -- Ithaca HOURS, Inc. -- prints actual notes and sells them at a discount, initially, for U.S. currency. The agency keeps a register of businesses in the area that accept them, and even makes loans in HOURS to those businesses -- essentially creating new money just like banks do. Employees can accept them as partial wages, and businesses can control what percentage of payment for services they accept in HOURS.
HOW TO DO IT: Establish an issuing authority, print Spokane Bucks and sell the community on the value of using them. (MLO)
23. Pick A Public Market
Quick! What's the first thing that pops into your head when you say, "Seattle?" Pike Place Market. Right? Advocates for downtown Spokane long for a public market that would have the same draw as Pike Place. The Spokane Farmers Market at Second and Division has gained a following, but some think that's too far away from the central core to really be a downtown draw. RenCorp realtor PATRICIA SAMPSON recommends a market at Post Street and Main, "every week in the summer."
STEVE FAUST would put an outdoor market on the north side of River Park Square, on a pedestrian-only Post Street Bridge. Or if the city wants a year-round market, he suggests it could acquire the old YMCA building at the north end of Riverfront Park. "The city could finance the redevelopment by renting out the top floors as primo view office space, and devote the lower floors to permanent vendor stalls, including some with electricity and refrigeration for year-round sales of locally produced meat, produce, cheese, wine, etc."
CHRISTOPHER KELLY suggests WSU revisit his idea of turning its Jensen-Byrd building into a centerpiece of the University District. Kelly suggests the university rent the building to someone who can turn it into "a cross between the Pike Place Market and a mini Silicon Valley. An outdoor public market could start this spring without doing anything to the building," he continues. "An indoor market could start by fall. The top floor could be leased out by the end of the year."
HOW TO DO IT: There are lots of good ideas on this front, so perhaps some kind of farmers market summit is needed to pick one for everyone to get behind. (DN)
24. A Start-Up Fund for Us
Investment funds for early-stage and seed ventures are common in the Silicon Valley, from whence entrepreneur CHRISTOPHER KELLY came. But what about one that invests exclusively in Eastern Washington? He believes such a fund could be raised by September. "Using a venture capital rule of thumb and funding 10 startups a year," he say, "within 10 years we would have 10 big successes and -- who knows -- maybe the next YouTube would be home-grown in Spokane?" (JS)
25. Steal from Pullman
After Tom Foley was booted from office in 1994, he agreed to send his 30 years' worth of Congressional papers to Washington State University in Pullman, which then founded the Foley Institute for Public Policy and Public Service.
Inlander political commentator ROBERT HEROLD suggests the institute be moved to WSU's Spokane campus -- Spokane is, after all, Foley's hometown. And he thinks the (renamed) Foley Center for Public Affairs should be given a high profile mission with faculty members doing academic work on important political topics. That -- and four or five more WSU doctoral programs, says Herold -- would boost the viability of Spokane's University District.
HOW TO DO IT: Start lobbying not only Washington State University officials but state lawmakers who fund their budgets, too. (DN)
26. Kilroy Was Here
Blogger and Latah Bistro chef DAVID BLAINE wants to bring back the popular graffiti wall razed in the development of Kendall Yards. The wall, part of a train abutment northwest of the Monroe Street Bridge, was a "monument to free speech," he says, whose populist sentiments often made it into the mainstream media. And, he says, "It wasn't just hooligans and urban artists -- it was cheerleaders, grass roots political activists, crazy old Irish men and everyone who knew someone who had a birthday." He'd like to see the wall re-integrated into the Kendall Yards designs. (JS)
27. 826 Spokane
The 826 National program is a nonprofit writing workshop and tutoring center dedicated to helping kids ages 6 to 18 with their expository and creative writing (for free) and helping teachers get their kids jazzed about writing. The organization, founded at 826 Valencia in San Francisco's Mission district by literary superstar and McSweeney's founder Dave Eggers, has since sprouted branches in New York, L.A., Ann Arbor, Seattle, Chicago and Boston. But why not here, asks developer and Renaissance man DAN SPALDING? Aside from the kid-stuff (tutoring, story-telling, book-making), 826 centers also draw support and readings from big names: Ira Glass, Jon Stewart, Isabel Allende, Spike Jonze, Robin Williams, Sherman Alexie. In the home of Get Lit!, this would be a perfect fit.
HOW TO DO IT: Grow your organization, then fill out an application at 826national.org. (JS)
28. Babysitting for Bus Riders
It is not just about promoting mass transit for all the obvious reasons, but about giving more opportunities to entry-level and semi-skilled workers, says Spokane County Public Defender JOHN RODGERS. The day care center would be located in or near main transit centers. And it's not about charity or helping needy people; it would benefit the community at large, says Rodgers. "Employers would have an expanded work force to draw on. Employees could keep more of their paycheck. Spokane would be known as a place where someone could start a family and a career. Single mothers would have a chance. People might want to move here."
HOW TO DO IT: To pull it off, you'd need space, trained labor and money, which would be private, public or a combination of the two. (JF)
29. Make the City Council Ride the Bus
With public complaints about the inadequacy of Spokane's public transit system -- and some big decisions coming up in regards to the location of Spokane Transit Authority's downtown bus plaza -- METROSPOKANE bloggers see some sweet justice in forcing the Council to see how the other half commutes. And what better way for councilors to make themselves available than a long bus ride? (JS)
30. Free Speech Park
The Industrial Workers of the World's campaign of "Free Speech Fights" began in earnest in Spokane on Nov. 2, 1909, when labor leader and eventual ACLU co-founder Elizabeth Gurley Flynn chained herself to a tree along with a huge mob of "Wobblies" exercising their freedom to speak out against anti-union businesses and practices (in the face of a city ordinance prohibiting street meetings). Some 150 men were arrested that day; more than 400 were jailed in the following weeks. Bet you didn't know that. NEIL BEAVER, legislative aide to Washington Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, thinks you should. He recommends a park to officially recognize the struggle. We say at least a plaque. (JS)
31. Speak (and Sing) Out
When was the last time you saw a busker in downtown Spokane? A mime? Even street musicians are rare, only ever appearing for Doug Clark's annual weeklong series. KYRS DJ JASON CROSS wants to change that with a Speakers' Corner, like the one in London's Hyde Park, where people are allowed and encouraged to speak out on and debate any topic they like. Blogger and Latah Bistro chef DAVID BLAINE had a similar idea: Close off Wall Street to auto traffic (for real) and build a couple of permanent performance stages. RenCorp realtor LEN URGELEIT opined that Spokane needs more street music. We agree.
HOW TO DO IT: Find a nice spot downtown and start ranting. Get some press and some friends. A de facto speakers' corner is as good as an official one. Permanent performance stages would have to go through the city. And as far as street music, we suggest the city knock street music licenses down from $35 to $0 and make them good year-round. (JS)
32. Connect the Dots
Connectivity was a big issue for many of our respondents. NEIL BEAVER, Democratic organizer and legislative aide to state Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, wants to see clearer and safer connections between the area's major outdoor recreation areas: "There should be no reason I can't ride my bike from Riverside State Park to Mount Spokane without being crushed by a large pick-up truck." Efficiency expert LUNELL HAUGHT is pushing for a Spokane County Trails Plan this year to "lay the groundwork for a muscle-powered transportation and recreation [network]." City Councilman RICHARD RUSH believes the city should link the Centennial Trail to Spokane Community College and Spokane Falls Community College -- especially including the link between downtown and SFCC. RenCorp realtor LEN URGELEIT and WSU Spokane spokeswoman BARB CHAMBERLAIN would both like to see a more organized system of bikeways and bike infrastructure with clear mapping.
HOW TO DO IT: The Spokane County Trails Plan is in the works and pending county approval. Also in the works is a master bike plan for Spokane that seeks to do just what our respondents suggested: make everything connect. (Interested parties should check out the city's Bicycle Advisory Board, which meets on the third Thursday of each month at 6 pm in City Hall.) (JS)
33. Rickshaw Races
Make downtown a place of magic and wonder by barring motor vehicles on weekend nights and replacing them with leg-powered pedicabs. BEN CATER, former owner of the B-Side bar and now a booker at Raw Sushi, says the absence of cars would create a festival-like atmosphere, particularly during the warmer months of the year. It would lure outdoor music events, food, arts and crafts vendors. It would also cut down on smog. But that's not all.
"Stay with me, folks," Cater says. "I also envision rickshaws being a marketing tool for the local business community [via ads on each pedicab]. In the spirit of annual Spokane events such as Bloomsday and Hoopfest, a rickshaw race could also take place. The race would be a corporate cup of sorts with teams of three representing area businesses." The draw could be big. (Think X Games.) "The potential for national attention here is huge. In the always-expanding world of ESPN sports channels, surely there is room for some in-depth coverage of the rickshaw race."
HOW TO DO IT: Prohibiting cars downtown on weekend nights would no doubt require the cooperation of city officials and business leaders, and that would require proving an economic benefit. Some sort of major parking facility would also be needed for visitors. And of course, there's the matter of pedicabs, which are in the $3,000-$3,700 range, according to pedicab.com. (JF)