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Blaming West 

by Cole Gamble & r & I moved back to Spokane recently because, having grown up here, I knew it was a place where you could get by without having to do much. I have lived in places like Chicago and Los Angeles where you have to work two or three jobs just to survive. So it was nice to come back and whittle it back down to one.


Here, everything is cheap and nothing is offensive. The weather is mild, the people are mild and a traffic jam is when four people pull up to a four-way stop and no one can decide who should go first. I did notice a few changes when I came back. First, didn't Monroe Street used to have a bridge? Second, Spokane now has an openly gay mayor.


Turns out Spokane accidentally became the most politically progressive city in the country. I know people want him out, and I can't speak much to his politics because I wasn't here for his rise, just his fall. This much I do know: He is a Republican who was outspoken against gay rights and was a closeted homosexual. That's a pretty jazzy choice for a town whose former biggest controversy was a parking garage. I know one more mention of West would be about as fresh as a Pee Wee Herman joke, but I think the decision we are faced with now has everything to do with what Spokane is and what it could be.


First, let's start with the people campaigning to get West out of office. It would be my guess that these people didn't like him much in the first place, just as the Monica Lewinsky thing only made obsessive Clinton-haters out of people who already hated Clinton. West's opponents probably also didn't like that he is a Republican -- that is, they didn't like his politics or his stance on gay issues. The irony must be too delicious for them not to pile on.


But before they boot him, maybe they should think of this: Is he really going to be that big of an opponent of gay rights now? With the smoke and mirrors gone, what are his politics going to be like? And consider this: West just became your Trojan horse. If you don't like the Republican Party, West just infused them with the same homosexuality they are trying to shove to the fringes. If we don't get rid of him, they won't be able to. Besides, if West continues as mayor and is still intolerant in the light of all this, won't it be fun to watch his skull crack open and see his soul escape?


As for everyone else -- those of you who don't have an ax to grind but want West out -- I know why you feel that way. You have always prized Spokane as the town where nothing ever happens. But isn't it time to let our hysterical nostalgia go? I know, I know -- you fear change. But this pigeonholed concept of yesteryear is decaying like the yards lining Maple and Ash. We have to face it: Things do happen in Spokane. I understand we have quite the little meth problem now -- maybe asking ourselves "What Would Andy Griffith Do?" is not going to get it solved. We are a city so adverse to change, and yet we cast an envious eye to places with better economies, cultures and more vibrant populations.


I remember when we used to be jealous of Seattle. But now we're feeling inferior to Boise. That's Boise! In Idaho, remember? When you can't match the hipness and success of southern Idaho, it's time to rethink the strategy. But you know what? Boise is everything we are supposed to be. Ever wonder why Boise gets all those lovely tech industries that boost the economy? Because the people who work in those industries are young adults and families and they chose where they live based on lifestyle and culture. And Boise has it. They have culture and diversity, at least by Idaho standards.


It's time we poked our heads out of our shells and took some chances. No more of this frightened-of-the-world isolationism. Maybe our theaters could play something besides Guys and Dolls for the 150,000th time. Maybe a city nearly the size of Cincinnati could have more than two movie theaters. We are too big to think small. We need to be a little Seattle, not a giant Colfax. Oh, and put some fluoride in the water, for God's sake. Good dental hygiene is not witchcraft.


So, with Mayor West, bounce him or keep him, I don't care. But make sure you're doing it for the right reason. Don't worry about the attention, Boo Radley. The only question I have heard people ask West is, "How soon can you pack?" No one, however, has asked the new West, the one who has faced his demons, "What would you do as mayor, now?"

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