Your commentary, "Saving Cheney," by Robert Herold (8/16/01) needs a little updating and clarification. Eastern Washington University is doing very well these days, as alluded to in the article. After the intervention of the state legislature, Eastern Washington University's Board of Trustees committed the University to refocus their efforts to enhance a residential campus. Dr. Stephen Jordan accepted that challenge and has succeeded in his efforts. Credit for the university's good fortunes today must be placed with the new leadership that President Jordan and his team have provided the last four years. Enrollment is up considerably, there is a renewed sense of enthusiasm and direction, major capital improvement projects are ongoing and there is a strong relationship being forged between EWU and the city of Cheney. As confirmation of EWU's success, see the recent Kaplan/Newsweek College Catalog 2002, which lists EWU as a "best value" for the tuition dollar.
It was nice of Herold in his commentary to recognize Mike Stewart's contribution to the renovation of Eastern's historic buildings, but one has to ask at what cost. Eastern's enrollment was at a decade-low, with empty dorms and classrooms, the President's house in disrepair, funding not adequate for the maintenance of campus infrastructure and grounds, few if any campus life activities and low morale. Student enrollment, quality of education and graduation ratios are still the marks of success for a publicly funded university. As a lobbyist, George Durrie is doing a fine job in Olympia for EWU, and his efforts are laudable. President Jordan has done considerably more than merely bringing the Spokane Symphony to the Showalter Auditorium. Under his leadership, Eastern Washington University is bustling with activity. And EWU expects an all-time record high enrollment -- 9,000 students, or perhaps even more, are expected for this fall semester.
The city of Cheney's future is equally as bright. Herold has not been doing his homework. Cheney was recently featured on the front page of the Journal of Business; "Cheney not Content with Serene," (6/14/01). The article praised the efforts of the city for developing a new light industrial park, collaborating with EWU and the Pathways to Progress non-profit organization for funding significant downtown enhancements, constructing new roads and providing ample infrastructure capacity for the foreseeable future. Moreover, Cheney was one of the few cities in the state recognized by the Washington State Office of Community Development for achieving growth management goals. Cheney is quietly leaping ahead despite the naysayers who sit on the sidelines and do not look any further than the city limits.
Herold also makes an interesting observation regarding Spokane County and its watchdog role for growth management compliance. Again, it is evident Herold did not do his research. Spokane County was the presiding jurisdiction for the recent new development at Four Lakes, which was contrary to Spokane County's own proposed Comprehensive Growth Management Plan. If Spokane County had adopted their own Growth Management Plan within the required timeline as did the city of Cheney, the intense development at a congested intersection in Four Lakes would not have occurred. The city of Cheney welcomes anybody's review of the city's record for growth management compliance and environmental sensitivity.
Herold is correct in the obvious assessment that Cheney faces a difficult challenge. Washington state tax structure does not favor communities such as Cheney that border larger metropolitan retail centers, where sales tax dollars flow exclusively into Spokane. No, Cheney must work harder and depend on other revenue sources, in spite of recent anti-tax initiatives. As a local government entity in Washington, Cheney does not have the luxury of going to the state legislature where capital improvement dollars are allocated to state institutions like EWU.
When Herold claims, "Cheney has always been less than a real town," it makes one wonder what his concept of a real town is. We can't all look down from lofty positions of academia. Some of us have to actually roll up our shirtsleeves and work at making a community, rather than building some perfect fa & ccedil;ade. The cheap tin awning that Herold refers to is down, the excitement in this community is up, the city of Cheney isn't sprawling or desperate for anything, and we appreciate the support and cooperation of our county commissioners. But please, Dr. Herold, don't worry about Cheney. We will manage just fine in spite of ourselves.