by Inlander Staff Better Get an SUV -- The U.S. House of Representatives' subcommittee on transportation funding recently voted to cut $600 million for 2004 that had been earmarked for making the nation's roads more bicycle-friendly. Alternative transportation advocates are up in arms, because as they point out, the United States is more reliant on foreign oil than ever before, and because the SUV craze has led to the lowest average miles-per-gallon efficiency in 20 years.
But with the ballooning deficit and all those tax cuts, many economists argue that the feds have to get spending under control. Could Congress finally be getting it? No, they just don't like bikes. According to a Salon.com report, the overall transportation budget is $2.5 billion higher than last year, and $5 billion higher than what President Bush requested.
Why CCX isn't RPS -- Now that the city of Spokane has signed on to the financing plan for the expansion of the convention center, it looks like the folks in charge got this one right. The last time locals constructed a bonding scheme this complex, it wound up in federal court. What was different this time?
* Nobody involved had any personal gain at stake. All players were either elected officials or appointed volunteers. This is not a public-private partnership.
* Quiet deliberations can help. Much has been made about the closed meetings in which the deal was hammered out, and some have criticized the PFD for holding them. Closed meetings were a disaster for River Park Square, but they're not always bad: As long as there is accountability at the end of the day, legally closing the doors can be helpful. This may sound like a crazy thing for a newspaper to say, but think about the federal organizations that enjoy the highest public approval. The armed forces, the Supreme Court and the Federal Reserve are routinely ranked among the most effective and trusted of American institutions; they are also the most secretive. It all comes out in the wash if the elected representatives of the people get a shot at what comes out of that process, which leads us to...
* Kate McCaslin. The county commissioner was extremely tough on the plans. She drove more than a few people nuts over her seemingly endless objections, but in the end her skepticism led to a deal that shares the risks and benefits more fairly than early plans would have. Just imagine if even one Spokane City Council member had behaved that way when the River Park Square deal was adopted back in 1997.
In the end, this victory is bigger than simply expanding the convention center, the CenterPlace in the Valley and the Fair & amp; Expo Center; it suggests that local governments may have broken with the past and can finally work together to the region's benefit.