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In the year 2051 

by Ted S. McGregor, Jr.

The Inland Northwest will be known throughout the world for - Its Natural Beauty.

People may put up with a lot to live here -- potholes, Nazis, low-wage jobs, that meth lab next door -- but there's a reason for the sacrifices we make. Primarily, people are proud to call this crazy place home because of its natural beauty.

Other answers in this category predictably fell into two camps: those who see us being known for something negative in 50 years, and those who see us being known for something positive in 50 years. On the negative side of the ledger, answers included meth labs, sex offenders, the serial killer, cold, long winters, governmental infighting, bad drivers and being the most conservative place in the United States. On the positive side, we had quality of life, being a great place to raise kids, Hoopfest, parks, wine, lentils and, of course, the Gonzaga University Bulldogs.

But there was a third option embraced by a handful of voters who felt that in 50 years' time, we'll be known throughout the world for... absolutely nothing.

Second place: Potholes

Third place: Bloomsday

This Inland Northwest treasure will be lost if we don't do something now - The Aquifer

Water quality is a huge concern among our readers, as the aquifer landed in first place, the Spokane River and Falls came in second and the generic answer of "water" came in fifth place. Many of the region's lakes were listed, too. Perhaps this is because people realize how blessed this region is with a clean, huge source of fresh water. Through an accident of geology, a vast stretch of the underground of the Inland Northwest is filled with water -- a crucial resource many parts of the American West do not enjoy. But since the aquifer is literally under our feet, it is quite vulnerable. This is why people were so concerned about the location of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe refueling depot being located right over the aquifer. It's often hard to appreciate such an everyday staple as water, but if you try to look out over the span of 50 years, the importance of protecting such a treasure comes into clearer focus.

Other, more tangible treasures that made the list include salmon, the Davenport Hotel, the Fox Theater, the Monroe Street Bridge and Five-Mile Prairie.

Second place: Spokane River and the Falls

Third place: Trees/Forests

This top-rated, reality-based TV show will be filmed in the Inland Northwest - Survivor

Of course, we were fishing for funny answers here, and the funniest came as variations on the Survivor theme. There's City Council Survivor, Pothole Survivor, Surviving the New Sprague Couplet and Surviving Boredom.

But while it's easy to rip off somebody else's idea, we'd love to run some of these original ideas by some network execs: Trailer Park Trysts, The Making of a Social Deviant and I'm a Dumbass Stuck in the '80s.

But hey, if the actual Survivor show could steal its premise from a European TV show with impunity, we can do it, too. So here are some ideas loosely based on existing programs we'd like to see green-lighted: Everybody Loves the Inland Northwest, When City Council Members Attack and Mullet Island (okay, what's all this fascination with mullets, anyway?).

Second place: Real World

Third place: C.O.P.S.

A statue of this famous Inland Northwesterner will stand at city center - Bing Crosby

We've always thought Spokane could use some more statues. They keep history alive and in front of our eyes, but they also add to the vitality of our urban fabric, as any good public art does. Right now we only have two: Abraham Lincoln (not exactly going out on a limb there) and Ensign John Monaghan (an obscure figure killed in Samoa during the Spanish-American War). No offense to either of these fine men, but we're getting kind of dated here -- we need to cast more contemporary figures in bronze.

So it's nice to see Bing Crosby take the honors, as he is a more recent figure -- and he's ripe for recreation, what with the pipe, the dapper hat and mellow grin. We know, Gonzaga University, much to their credit, already has a statue of Der Bingle on campus, but what's wrong with having two? Nothing!

The voters' embrace of Crosby also solidifies his comeback. After a vicious memoir by one of his sons tarnished his reputation, a new book by Gary Giddins (who was in Spokane earlier this year at Auntie's) has revived his career and called into question the characterization of Bing as a mean old daddy. Giddins points out that Crosby had more No. 1 records than the Beatles, Elvis or Frank Sinatra. In the world of pop culture, which he helped invent, he remains unmatched. Crosby was a technical innovator, too, as he funded the research that led to the development of recording tape. Finally, Giddins makes a case that Crosby helped integrate Hollywood and the music business. He was the first white singer to have African American musicians in his band, and he stood up for inclusiveness at a time when it was far from fashionable. So what are we waiting for? Let's put out a call for artists!

Of course, if we want to go the other way and do something kind of silly, but still locally relevant, we could do what one reader suggested and enshrine that creation of Spokanite and Saturday Night Live alum Julia Sweeney for generations to come -- that's right, it's Pat.

Second place: Steve Eugster

Third place: John Stockton

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