Poverty is Quite Real -- This is in response to Robert Herold's somewhat contradictory commentary in the 2/14 issue of The Inlander ("Peeling Back Poverty's Layers"). I say "somewhat contradictory" because on one hand he comments that if we define "poverty" in terms of income and better-paying jobs, then we have completely skipped over the complexity of poverty. Yet further into the commentary, he seemingly advocates better paying jobs to help bring Spokane out of poverty. Which one is it?
The second statement that caught my attention is Herold's comment that there are a "disproportionately high number of retired people" living in Spokane, and that "many live below the poverty level." Numbers or statistics would be helpful there, to see exactly how many retired people DO live in Spokane and how many ARE living below poverty level (in which the words "poverty level" are as elusive as "economic development," in my book). I refer you to Dr. Diana Pearson's recent reports on the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) and how they do NOT reflect true self-sufficiency in most labor markets.
I have worked with welfare and other low-income populations for over 13 years, and much of what Herold wrote is true. If Mayor Powers, in his ignorant wisdom, plans on solving Spokane's poverty problems with one major symposium, then he's in for a BIG surprise because poverty is multi-layered. If Powers believes the "solution" to poverty is making a nearly $800,000 contribution to the area's non-profits, then he's in for another rude awakening -- all the $800,000 does is just help plug the leaks in the already ancient and crumbling dam called Poverty, which has been around for decades.
Don't get me wrong -- without the contribution, the situation would be much worse, but it doesn't solve the basic problem, which is pulling Spokane families up and out of poverty for good!
What are the solutions? Herold named some -- bringing in self-subsistent wage jobs for one; having the technical know-how to do these new jobs, for another. Additional medical training will go far (yup, believe or not, we ARE going to have shortages in the medical field) in this town, as well. But as long as we provide top-notch training for our population (which our local colleges seemingly do well) and we have no jobs for graduates, putting money back into the community will NOT happen -- not with $7.50/hour telemarketing or customer service rep jobs. And we'll be looking at the backsides of our college graduates, as they leave Spokane for markets that DO have jobs!
Finally, Spokane and Mayor Powers, the City Council and the EDC in particular had best get their heads out of the sand and recognize that we, indeed, DO have a poverty problem in Spokane (yes... that nasty, loathsome, obscene word -- POVERTY). We have the largest welfare office in the state here in Spokane, and between 40 percent and 50 percent of our working families earn $24,000 or less per year -- not good indicators of a healthy economy! I'm curious as to what the City is going to do, to "solve" this issue. This is a city that cannot even fix its own streets, is steeped in a financial fiasco called the River Park Square garage and can't even do a decent self-presentation to lure new employers, much less keep them in town.
The challenge is on YOU, Spokane government. And, while we're at it, let's indeed involve Spokane County government as well -- they've been on this free ride long enough and it's time for some honest collaboration (and not petty animosity, as what usually happens) and implementation of poverty-solution plans from both City and County together!
Help Save Native Languages -- I found your article in the February 14 issue, "Finding the Words," enlightening. It did, however, raise an issue about which I have very strong feelings. What was once "Manifest Destiny" should now be viewed as "Manifest Responsibility."
In my opinion, it is of vital importance that we, as Americans, work together to save the native languages that have been decimated by our ancestors' actions. The only way to undo what has been done is to support the efforts of our Native American brothers and sisters in any way we can. We should be calling the Bureau of Indian Affairs to task for its role in this unfortunate travesty. We could, and should, support efforts to save the languages through funding of programs. More important, we need to work at the grassroots level to remove the bias and prejudice that has caused this problem.
We take pride in the idea that "great strides" have been made in racial equality in our country, yet we seem to have lost sight of the many issues that do not regularly create headlines. For example, how many of us know, or even care about, the extent to which some Americans owe their lives to the Navajo language used by the Code Talkers of World War II? Shouldn't the ones saved by the language be willing to save the language? I would hope so.
Why not encourage the learning of the Native American languages in the same way that we now encourage our youth to learn German, French or Spanish? How about some courses that would expose our youth to these languages in their early school years?
Post Falls, Idaho
Freeways = Progress -- To Sharon Dagget ("Is Wider Really Better?" 2/14/02): If you want to live in a cowfield, then move to a cowfield. Spokane is a big city, and growing. Bigger and wider streets, highways and freeways are needed -- like it or not, it's called progress. You are playing the "race " card by saying that "Widening I-90 will displace perhaps 800 to 1,000 East Central residents, who... are mostly poor, often old and disproportionately from the ethnic-minority backgrounds." These "poor" people will be paid for their "historic" homes and have chance to better their lives. It is unfortunate that people like Dagget make progress more difficult. Working with -- not against -- the DOT is the answer.