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Calling It Now 

Newsmakers look into the crystal ball for 2011.

click to enlarge Are voters willing to fund a new jail?
  • Are voters willing to fund a new jail?

Let's be fair: Prediction is hard, as the Yogi Berra quote goes, especially about the future.

But even if they’re wrong, a prediction can be useful. Predictions can reveal just as much about the predictor as they can about the future. So we asked several community leaders in the Inland Northwest about what they see happening — or not happening — in the coming year.

PREDICTION:
THE SPOKANE COUNTY JAIL BOND WILL FAIL

Says Rick Eichstaedt, attorney for the Center for Justice

Last year, the Spokane County commissioners voted 2-1to construct a new jail — with 1,280 beds — at the Medical Lake exit off Interstate 90. The jail would hold an (occasionally) growing inmate population at the downtown jail and replace the aging Geiger facility. To fund it, the commissioners are considering a bond measure on the April ballot.

“We are not in a place where people want to raise taxes to pay for a jail that, arguably, we don’t need,” Eichstaedt says. A few years ago, Eichstaedt says, voters shot down an $18 million public safety bond that would have included a new evidence room. With times arguably rougher now, Eichstaedt foresees active opposition to the jail bond. And there may be some odd alliances in opposition, he says.

Picture anti-tax Tea Party conservatives and anti-imprisonment liberals fighting on the same side.

PREDICTION:
SPOKANE’S MANUFACTURING SECTOR WILL FLOURISH

Says Rich Hadley, president of Greater Spokane Incorporated

When Kaiser dramatically reduced its operations, it cost Spokane thousands of jobs and dealt the manufacturing industry a major blow.

But Hadley says his instinct is that 2011 will be a good year for manufacturing. Kaiser’s doing well, Hadley says. He expects international trade to begin to improve, which can only help companies that manufacture products to sell internationally.

PREDICTION:
THE REGION'S ECONOMY IS GOING TO REMAIN STAGNANT

Says Tom Towey, mayor of Spokane Valley

Mayor Tom Towey expects the outlook for Spokane Valley and the surrounding region to remain flat. It may be until 2013, Towey expects, for the region to see sizeable gains. That means treading water in the meantime.

“Our job is to work and maintain our services we do have,” Towey says.

That means concentrating on the basics: public safety, roads and education. Nothing fancy.

“Most cities across Washington are sitting back and take a deep breath,” he says. “I don’t think anyone across Washington is going to do too much movement in 2011.”

PREDICTION:
MAYOR MARY VERNER WILL NOT BE RE-ELECTED

Says Bob Apple, Spokane City Council Member

Considering we haven’t re-elected a mayor since 1975, predicting that Spokane will boot out its mayor isn’t going out on a limb. But thus far, Verner has stayed notably out of the type of large-scale controversies that have unseated previous mayors, sparking speculation that, perhaps, she’d be the one to break the 35year curse.

But Apple says the major thing that can hurt a mayor’s reelection chances is by leaving commitments unfulfilled. Mary Verner promised open government, Apple says, and the “government is as closed as it’s ever been.”

“For the general public trying to deal with the city of Spokane, it’s like pulling teeth,” Apple says. Apple expects a wealth of candidates — at least six — in the primary. But he won’t identify specific names yet.

“I don’t see any reason to jump out forward and be aggressive initially,” Apple says.

“The city’s not doing very well financially and socially. I assume any challenger will be able to step in late.”

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