As we begin to see the light at the end of the pandemic, what could we do (or at least start) this year to make the Inland Northwest more fun, more livable, more just, more practical, more successful, more hopeful?
That's the unnecessarily wordy question we put to some of our favorite local thinkers. Their responses, amassed together in the following pages, create an inspired wish list for our region and if we're lucky (and work hard), more than a few of them could come true!
Submitted ideas — which have been lightly edited for space and clarity — were compiled by: Wilson Criscione, Chey Scott, Daniel Walters, Nathan Weinbender, Samantha Wohlfeil.
Turn All of Spokane into a Giant Puzzle Game
Rand Miller, Cyan Founder And Myst Creator
I've made my living right here in Spokane building imaginary worlds with rich stories and compelling puzzles.
But I've always been fascinated with the idea of adding puzzles and narrative to the real world — hiding story and clues in plain sight in the everyday world. As a company, we once procured a billboard in Carlsbad, New Mexico, with a strange symbol and some GPS coordinates, leading curious adventurers down a trail of clues that eventually brought them to a cast metal artifact in the middle of the Bisti Badlands.
I've always wondered what it would be like if a whole region embraced the idea, making it part of their DNA, imbuing an entire city with tiny bits of information that add up to a larger treasure-hunt quest.
For example: What if there was a compass direction and a number stamped onto the side of the garbage-eating goat? Walking that direction for that many feet leads you to a wheel of the big red wagon. Behind that wheel, under the wagon is a map of Riverfront Park, with an X on the corner of the Clock Tower. Do a pencil-rubbing on a suspicious brick on that corner of the Clock Tower and come away with a rough image of a phone number. Calling the number plays a message that... you get the idea.
Suddenly every Inland Northwest landmark, large and small, becomes part of a larger meta-game, leading you down paths to places you've never seen.
Think of a coffee shop that suddenly has a strange poster on the wall with a set of odd numbers and letters. Or even an electronic sign at the airport with an odd internet URL that flashes briefly — almost unnoticeably. Everyone starts to pay a little more attention.
It's as if the entire city becomes an "escape the room" game with an unfolding narrative hidden in plain sight. It's just a matter of making a little something more out of all of the real-life bits and pieces that we've grown to love here in the Spokane area.
Let the game begin.
Stick a Big Urban Market in the Center of Spokane
Melissa Luck, Kxly Executive News Director
Spokane is on the verge of peak foodie-hipster glory. There's just one thing missing: a one-stop shop for all things food, beer, wine, art and community. For its next big idea, Spokane should look a couple of hours to the west. Spokane needs an urban market/gathering place like the Pybus Market in Wenatchee. Not just a farmer's market, but a spot that also has small restaurants, wine bars, kiosks that sell locally made goods. The idea is already forming at the Wonder Building, but a larger spot in a more centrally located area could really be the spark Spokane needs. Make it a food destination. A mall food court on crack. Pike Place Market, but hip.
All you have to do is look at the success of the Kendall Yards Night Market to know that Spokane is craving that kind of spot, where you can get dinner, dessert, wine, bread-to-go all in one place.
These markets, like the Milwaukee Public Market in Wisconsin, also provide space where you can hold smaller community events, cooking classes and art displays. Bonus points: Do this in a renovated old building like the Pybus Market did to better connect us to Spokane's past.
Allow Senior Renters to Own Pets!
Ed Boks, Executive Director, Spokane Humane Society
The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society routinely publishes studies on how pets lower our blood pressure; mitigate depression, stress, and loneliness; encourage physical fitness, social interaction, and self-care; console us in our grief; and provide us with a sense of security and companionship. We know seniors with pets live longer, happier and healthier lives.
And yet, according to the Foundation for Interdisciplinary Research and Education Promoting Animal Welfare, 50 percent of all rentals prohibit pets.
Problems from allowing pets are minimal, and the benefits outweigh the problems. Landlords profit from allowing pets because tenants with pets are willing and able to pay more to live with their pets — and they stay an average of 46 months compared to 18 months for tenants in rentals prohibiting pets. Whatever time landlords spend addressing pet-related problems is offset by spending less marketing time on pet-friendly units by a margin of eight hours per unit.
For landlords, allowing pets provides a low-risk opportunity to increase revenue, tenant pools, and market size — especially now that America's fastest-growing group of renters is senior citizens. For seniors, owning pets creates longer, happier and healthier lives — it is the ultimate win-win!
Un-Steal Indigenous Land
Tara "qallaq" Ramos, Indigenous Citizen And Activist
Indigenous citizens in Spokane are overrepresented in our homeless population, in police contact and police-related killings, in child welfare removals, and in the school-to-prison pipeline — all due to colonialism. Spokane and the rest of its citizens could make the world more just for their Indigenous brothers and sisters by giving their land back.
Since tribal people have been inhabiting this land since time immemorial, it only fits that the city of Spokane and its beneficiaries return land as a way to make just what colonialism stole from Indigenous people.
Such a gift to Indigenous people could be a place where we build small houses for our homeless, create a place to practice food sovereignty to address hunger in our community, and a place for cultural practices to address our mental, physical and spiritual health.
There are plenty of spots throughout the city that could be given to a group of Indigenous leaders to manage, like the 48 acres in Vinegar Flats called Kampa Farm. The current landowners want to preserve the land for public use or benefit. The city of Spokane should and could purchase the property for use for Indigenous citizens with support from the whole community. Acknowledging the history of stolen land is nice. But actually giving the land back is true justice.
Encourage Mentorship of Youth
Adam Swinyard, Superintendent Of Spokane Public Schools
As we emerge from the pandemic, the value of connections and relationships shine brighter than ever. One small action that can change the life of a student and make our community a better place is serving as a mentor for youth.
Mentoring is a small investment of time that shows mentees they are valued. Having someone in their corner — that human connection built on mutual trust and respect — can help give them the space to grow resilience and confidence. The more connections and support students have with positive role models, the greater their chances of success navigating school and life after graduation.
Students' success benefits everyone, it empowers the individual, and creates a strong and healthy Spokane community. We have numerous programs in our schools that include mentoring opportunities for community members. One such example is PrimeTime Mentoring facilitated by Communities In Schools.
These types of services depend on caring volunteers willing to donate a few hours and a listening ear to a student. Every mentor who volunteers in our schools is actively creating a better place for us all.
Banish Downtown Surface Parking Lots
Ben Stuckart, Former Spokane City Council President
Few cities our size willingly fork over so much space in their urban core for surface parking lots.
The valuable land downtown should be dedicated to the highest and best use of the property. A surface parking lot is the lowest and worst use.
If Spokane wants a thriving urban core, we must fix this issue before anything else. If we do not deal with the 76 vacant parking lots, we will never have the number of people living downtown necessary to support the walkable environment, successful restaurants and dense retail needed to survive long term.
The more people who live downtown, the more eyes watching the street, the safer it will be.
During my eight years on the City Council, two large employers wanted to locate downtown but a lack of covered parking for their employees drove them into the arms of Spokane Valley instead.
Spokane had plenty of surface parking available, but their employees wanted lighting, safety and protection from the weather.
The solution is easy. Every business owner downtown pays a business improvement district fee. Raise the prices on each surface parking lot spot so much that it becomes a disincentive. Use the street parking revenue to build a couple of covered parking lots.
You get covered parking that businesses want, and you force lot owners to build up for a higher and better use.
Host a Big Local Sustainable Food Feast
Maria Emmer-Aanes, Sustainability Guru At Spiceology
What makes a community a better place to live? The food! Food has the great power to transform lives and bring us together. Chefs have the power to curate a new conversation about food, and whetting our appetites with ways to make our community a better place.
Here's how we'd like to harness that power for Spokane:
By partnering with local chefs and a couple of renowned chefs from around the country, Spokane would host a local, sustainable food festival called "Feed People, Feed the Earth."
We'd recruit 30 to 40 vendors and exhibitors to showcase foods produced in the Greater Spokane area. We'd work with civic leaders to block off a large section of downtown Spokane and put tables of 10 on the sidewalks and in the streets where locals could enjoy the feast.
Picture tastings prepared by well-known local chefs featuring fresh fruits and vegetables, herbs, spices, seafood and locally grown meats. The chefs would feature how they support local farms and food-related businesses, showing off the local food and drinks on their menus.
Imagine interactive exhibits and workshops at the event, where farmers and other local food leaders could share ways to live lighter on the earth through the food we choose to eat. We'd encourage attendees to use public transportation to the event, and educate them on ways in which they personally can make a difference.
Much of the food and beverage would be donated, and proceeds would go to both local charities that feed the hungry and the "Chef's Manifesto," a global UN sustainability initiative.
We would support initiatives that provide nutritious food that is accessible and affordable for all. For example, if you purchase a meal at the festival, you will be given an opportunity to give a meal to someone in need.
This event would help position Spokane both as a culinary hub and as an ecosystem focused on bettering the earth.
Open a Cultural Hub That Teaches Art as Business
Ryker, Spokane Talent Manager And Entrepreneur
Entertainment and music and arts have to grow. If you look at any major growth city, all those places are very heavily rooted in the arts, and the growth of those cultures is what feeds the growth of all these other corporate concepts. We need a community center that's focused only on music, arts and entertainment. We need a Vera Project, or something like Macklemore's the Residency, something that not only inspires but educates the youth on many facets of growing their entrepreneurship within the arts.
The Vera Project in Seattle is really cool because it offers a variety of classes and training on being an entrepreneur within that space. A lot of Seattle's up-and-coming artists had their first shows at the Vera Project. They also have a recording studio there. They teach you how to make your own T-shirts. They teach you how to make posters. They have marketing classes. It's just a center point for the growth of arts and entertainment in Seattle.
If you had an entire building and an entire group of people dedicated to pushing that concept, it would exponentially change the art industry and our city.
Give the Courthouse Tower a Chance to Shine
Rob Chase, Washington State Representative, R-liberty Lake
Bring back the colored lights for the Spokane County Courthouse Tower.
As I recall, the courthouse used to look like the Disney castle. My sister and I thought Rapunzel lived up there. If there is ever room in the budget, or a generous philanthropist appears, it would be nice to have a clock in the Courthouse Tower as was originally intended in the architect's designs. An old-fashioned clock with hands, not digital. (You don't want it stuck flashing the wrong time whenever the power goes out.)
Invest in Innovative Summer Programs For Kids
Amber Waldref, Director Of The Zone at Northeast Community Center
The pandemic has disrupted kids' access to education, especially those children and youth furthest from opportunity who were already facing an achievement gap. Traditionally, Washington state does not invest deeply in after-school and summer-learning experiences. We should invest dollars that school districts will be receiving from the American Rescue Plan into quality opportunities for students whose families can't afford camps and other programs that keep them learning and engaged over the summer. Effective programs would include these best practices: five to six hours of programming; five to six weeks of operation; and a mix of academic learning and enrichment in a camp-like environment.
We should build programs around student interests so kids want to be there, especially teens. Teachers are tired from a year of online and hybrid learning, which means looking beyond school personnel and thinking creatively about partners we can bring to the table: community-based organizations, parks and recreation, affordable housing organizations, libraries, college staff and students, and more.
Spokane has great parks and school fields. Let's use these public spaces to hold programs outdoors to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
We could really make a difference in kids' attendance and grades, and we could shrink the achievement gap (and provide more access to food). Funding and operating quality summer learning gives parents and caregivers of kids the time to sharpen their skills, take classes, and find new employment during the summer — a benefit to two generations in Spokane!
Together, let's build a framework to invest in Spokane County's kids this year and continue this commitment for future summers.
Make Urban Recreation on the Spokane River Incredible
Mark Richard, President And Ceo Downtown Spokane Partnership
There has been great discussion in the past about more active use of our Spokane River, going back many years to what was known as the Spokane River Gorge Park concept: the formation of a whitewater park and more recreational use of the river.
Infrastructure would be built to create more in-water rapids, provide more access for boats and attract outdoor water sports enthusiasts to the area. We could also entice private companies to provide more guided float tours and fly-fishing opportunities. This would provide first-class river experiences for local residents, and attract people to visit and live here.
Further, we could build up the infrastructure for more passive water recreation opportunities above the dam, in the form of boat inputs and outputs as well as infrastructure to support private kayak and paddleboard rental stations. To start — with WSU owning riverfront property, private ownership developing nearby and No Li's output — we could envision a master plan that would create a very tranquil waterway experience for U-District students, local residents and tourists to enjoy. This upper part would require community engagement and possibly incentives for private development of publicly accessible infrastructure, or modest public investment in areas like the U-District or elsewhere along the river. This work could provide some unique and beautiful outdoor experiences that showcase our river, expand our outdoor offerings and add to our quality of life brand.
Let's Have Regular Block Parties
Ryan Oelrich, Executive Director Of the Nonprofit Priority Spokane
After months of distancing, division and isolation, we need to relearn what community is, feels like, and how to connect in person. We need to meet our neighbors. Once it's safe to do so, let's implement a neighborhood block parties program. Let's encourage neighborhoods to schedule a time to have a central street shut down. Neighbors will be invited to bring out their lawn chairs and hold potlucks, outdoor movies, games, etc., in the street. During colder snowy months, the same street block parties can occur around careful bonfires. Neighborhoods can compete for the title of best block party. We've done this informally in our neighborhood with wonderful results. Let's earn the nickname "Inland NW: The Region of Good Neighbors," and relearn what community is and feels like.
Provide Health Care for All, Including the Undocumented
Lili Navarrete, Director Of Public Affairs And Raíz for Planned Parenthood Of Greater Washington And North Idaho
As a Latina immigrant with deep roots in my community and as the director of public affairs and the Raíz (Spanish for "root") program of Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho, I have seen firsthand the impacts of COVID-19 on BIPOC in our region.
I have traveled to provide food and COVID tests for farmworkers on visas. I have been turned away from agricultural warehouses that were forcing sick staff to work. I have seen hope, and I have seen heartbreak.
During this pandemic, the issue of health care and assistance has never been more urgent when one of the communities impacted the hardest by COVID-19 was the Latinx population, especially undocumented folks. As we all know, our undocumented community members do not qualify for any type of federal government benefits, but many were listed as "essential" to supply your food. This led to tremendous health disparities and deaths. As a society, we need to be able to provide health care for everyone who resides in the United States of America, regardless of immigration status. Health has no borders!
Create a New Normal
Rob Mccann, Director Of catholic Charities Eastern Washington
What if we didn't go back to "normal" after the pandemic is over? What if we created a "new normal" that included all of us having an open mind, loving our neighbor, creating an equitable and inclusive community, and we left political anger behind us? Spokane has risen to the COVID-19 challenge, and there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I recently walked through a vaccine clinic at the House of Charity, and the excitement and hope for a better future was palpable. We made it through one of the most challenging years any of us can remember, but we made it. Let's get vaccinated, hug our family and friends, support our local economy, and begin anew.
Invest in Racial Justice
David Leonard, Professor In The School Of Languages, cultures, And Race At Washington State University
We have all made statements and promises over the year. Whether we're stating our plan to spend more time with friends when this all ends or promising to prioritize health, the last year has prompted a wave of resolutions. These assurances of change are not limited to personal transformation. With ample reminders of endemic injustice, systemic inequality, and America's persistent racism problem, and with even more time to reflect, the last year has seen promises of societal change. #BlackLivesMatter; #StopAsianHate; #ProtectDemocracy. We have seen ample statements of commitment to being sources of change. Words matter. Such statements, from institutional press releases to social media posts, are important in the struggle for justice, equity and the fulfillment of our collective promise.
Yet words in absence of action ring hollow; words without a commitment to changing institutions, policies or own behavior are nothing more than gaslighting. We must move beyond performative justice. To enact justice requires action, commitment, resources, policy shifts, sacrifice, and the courage that brings those words to life. Let our post-COVID resolution be that we talk less and do more, committing to investing in racial justice and reimagining our communities through resource, action and material transformation.
Put Artists Back to Work
Melissa Huggins, Executive Director, Spokane Arts
In order to strengthen neighborhoods, increase equity and lead the way toward economic recovery, Spokane should enact our own version of the 1935 Works Progress Administration, which created public projects to get workers (including artists) working again. We could do so using a portion of federal dollars already passed by Congress and en route to our local and state governments.
By putting creatives back to work, we could increase local access to cultural experiences at the same time. For example, the funding could ensure youth have access to art and music lessons. There could be professional dance and music performances in senior centers, parks and community centers, helping those most isolated by the pandemic to heal and reconnect. Let's hand out creativity kits at every farmers market and house of worship, send authors to visit classrooms and hospitals, and commission poets and storytellers to perform. Let's engage every neighborhood to select and help install their own community mural. Let's pay folk and traditional artists to do public demonstrations of methods passed down through generations, and ensure their stories are captured through oral histories or documentary films. Let's nurture cultural festivals and traditions that simultaneously celebrate food, dance, music, language, storytelling and so much more.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt's administration believed that culture is a reflection of democracy; that instead of an ivory tower where art could only be seen or appreciated by the wealthy, access to culture is vital. For Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, it followed that in a truly democratic society, music, theater, art, writing, film and more must be visible and present in people's daily lives. Roosevelt, while terribly wrong in other areas, understood artists are professionals and tradespeople; they need to work, and by putting them to work, you can benefit the public sphere, build community, and enact a more livable, more equitable, more hopeful community.
Make Airplanes in Spokane
Al French, Spokane County Commissioner
Al French, in a phone interview with the Inlander, says he wants to bring an aerospace manufacturer to Spokane County. "My big dream is that we're going to manufacture an airplane and fly it out of Spokane," French says.
French has been set on bringing an aerospace manufacturer for years, and he says "we're closer today than we were three years ago." S3R3 — a collaboration between county, city and Spokane International Airport leaders formerly called the West Plains Public Development Authority — helped attract the Amazon fulfillment center to Spokane, he says. Now, Amazon says it will open a second one in Spokane Valley. French says that's evidence that Spokane is primed for more job-creating development. "We now have the ability to deliver projects just like other communities in the state," French says.
Go All-In On Outdoor Dining
Anthony Gill, Economic Development Blogger At Spokane Rising
Last summer, as the pandemic was raging, many restaurants faced a difficult choice: Stay open while prioritizing costly and fickle to-go orders, or close temporarily until dining rooms could reopen. Some with the necessary amount of space elected to stay open to on-site dining in outdoor spaces, often with hastily rented furniture and temporary canopies.
Many others were frightened off by the necessary permit requirements or were waiting for hand-holding that never came. But at those spaces where outdoor dining was deployed, the experience was revelatory, with great views, entertaining people-watching, and a lively experience. In many ways, it made me wonder why we hadn't really been doing this all along.
This summer and beyond, let's take what we learned about outdoor dining and bring it to the next level. The city could do more to ease the permitting process and allow more types of spaces. The Downtown Spokane Partnership could offer one-on-one permitting advice and marketing assistance. Perhaps federal stimulus funding could cover costs for more permanent and attractive awnings, wind screens and heaters. Working together, we could make al fresco dining not just a pandemic imperative, but a cultural and resident amenity all its own.
Live the Electric Slide
Lars Gilberts, University District Ceo
The electric slide was a staple in most pre-pandemic wedding receptions. It's easy and fun enough that most anyone can jump in and enjoy. Soon, hopefully, the electric slide will make a triumphant return to dance floors everywhere.
Making the segway to electric transportation, on the other hand, is a bit tougher. Besides maybe taking a ride on a Lime scooter, the average person in this haven of hydro-powered green energy won't benefit from electric cars for nearly a decade.
Each of us can nudge our region in that direction. Renters can either choose properties that have electric vehicle chargers or ask the property owners to install them.
Want to start a business? We don't have any subscription electric car rental companies or used EV refurbishers. Go create one.
The sooner more of us push for electric cars, the sooner demand will create jobs to accommodate them. Businesses will pop up to help us safely share car ownership, recycle batteries, or even build super-efficient electric aircraft to shuttle between Spokane and Coeur d'Alene (or that sweet backcountry ski slope).
This year, let's go all in for the environment and entrepreneurship. After all: It's electric.
Dedicate More Properties to Arts and Culture
Ginger Ewing, Co-founder Of Terrain
Inside Seattle's Office of Arts & Culture sits Matthew Richter. His role? Cultural space liaison — a job carved out in the midst of Seattle's booming tech industry.
Although there are many positive attributes to a city's growth, that growth often comes with consequences like skyrocketing housing prices, broadening economic divisions and the squeezing out of the working class.
While I know it's hard to fathom Spokane ever being in a similar position as Seattle, the Department of Licensing has tracked over 1,000 new out-of-state license registrations in Spokane County every month for the last two years.
Alongside Spokane's very real housing crisis, a could-be-dire picture is forming in which independent restaurants, galleries and music venues are forced out of the city's core by rising commercial rents. The very people who made Spokane a desirable place to move to in the first place.
But here's the beautiful thing. We have the opportunity to learn from other cities.
Imagine if the City Council, the mayor and the Office of Business & Development joined forces to incentivize developers and building owners to dedicate projects, or portions of projects, to affordable housing and the preservation of cultural spaces.
If you're Matthew Richter, you look at incentivizing the creation and maintenance of cultural spaces in the form of a city bonds program used as a re-investment fund. And in 2020, in the midst of a pandemic, you work with your mayor to create a city-run real estate company that purchases properties and develops them for arts and cultural groups.
If you're San Francisco, you incentivize affordable housing by allowing developers to construct taller buildings, but only if at least 30 percent of that building is dedicated to low- to moderate-income housing.
Not only do we have the opportunity to learn, we have the opportunity to get in front of the potential problem in ways other cities — in hindsight — can only dream of.
Spokane has a unique chance to welcome growth in a way that's balanced and responsible, but we must act now. Our city's soul depends on it.
Barbecue with Your Enemies
Thomas Daly, Bishop Of The Diocese Of Spokane
Over the last year, the Diocese of Spokane has celebrated a Year of the Eucharist, reflecting on the sacrament at the heart of our religious practice as Catholics. For that year, I wrote a letter to the diocese; one of the topics I reflected on was unity: "Brothers and sisters, there is no room for division among us; it is our prayer, it is God's will that we be 'one body, one spirit in Christ.'"
Unity is not just for Christians but for our whole human family. Pope Francis often speaks about the need for increased human fraternity.
As we emerge from this pandemic — when division has seemed to grow all the more severe — I hope that we might recover our unity, even our fellowship with one another through a few simple actions. I would encourage everyone to begin by inviting neighbors and friends — even those with whom you sometimes or even often disagree — to dinner, to parties, to cookouts in the backyard. The British essayist Chesterton once quipped, "The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because generally they are the same people." As our lockdown ends, I hope that we can learn to love our neighbors once again and begin to break down walls of enmity that plague our society.
Connect to One Another
Kiantha Duncan, President Of The Spokane Naacp
The Inland Northwest is arguably one of the most beautiful places in the United States, from the tree-lined mountains to the waterways that give life to us all. Yet there remains one thing that we can all do to make our homeland more beautiful than it already is, and although it is simple, it requires intention and commitment.
When we align in our commitment to humanity by showing up in the fullness of our best selves and inviting others to do the same, we create connection. That connection is the key to creating a more livable and just Inland Northwest
Together we make the Inland Northwest beautiful. Our vibrant and diverse culture, faiths, thinking and experiences make us unique. We are a collective of critical thinkers, creatives and innovators and hard workers. Our ability to show up as the best versions of ourselves is how we connect to one another. Good connects to good, light connects to light and love connects to love.
Our connectedness fertilizes the soil that nourishes the Inland Northwest and all of the communities represented here. When we collectively commit to showing up fully as our best selves, together we make the Inland Northwest the best place to live.
Throw Everyone a Parade
Chris Cook, Spokane Poet Laureate And Host Of Auntie's 3-minute Mic
Parades: They're how we've always celebrated both heroes and our collective survival. They embrace our pledge of one nation. We love them and can't get enough of them. They're the smoked brisket of public gatherings.
For all the teachers who faced the impossible, and for parents and grandparents who facilitated remote learning: a parade. For all graduates who were denied a ceremony: a parade. For all athletes who were denied a home crowd: a loud, partisan parade. For all in the hospitality and food service industries: a parade. For all who've endured darkened stages — the arts organizations, musicians, venue owners, comedians, dance companies, actors, filmmakers — we're bringing you out into the sunlight and giving you a slow, serpentine curbside standing ovation.
For all writers with virtual book release events, and the bookstores and libraries that organized them; for all artists with virtual exhibits: a parade. For all in places of worship who served spiritual needs without putting their flocks in harm's way: a parade. For all survivors who lost a loved one to COVID: a parade. And for all health care workers who faced the unimaginable every day: a parade.
For all who were denied a parade: a parade.
Let's Connect and Build Up
Jennyfer Mesa, Founder Or Latinos En Spokane
As we seek to return to a sense of normalcy, let's remember that the old normal was tied to inequitable systems that predated COVID-19 and were only exacerbated during this pandemic. These systems' unpreparedness left us relying on individual actions to defeat a pandemic. Even when we were confined to our individual homes, our lives were still at risk, and unquestionably intertwined. A year of restrictions taught us to rely on essential workers to keep us supported, the importance of having access to a stable home to shelter and keep safe, and the need to keep outdoor space open and accessible to the public.
We need collective action to build up equitable systems that are accessible and encompass inclusion to protect workers, renters, marginalized communities and low-income families.
Let's build up, invest and preserve affordable housing in Spokane. We can fund, diversify housing stock, and soften development restrictions to create more affordable homes.
Let's reduce restrictions to open outdoor spaces for the public and small businesses to encourage connection and social cohesion by prioritizing local art, cultural gathering, planning with and for our multicultural city to rediscover our meaningfulness of place. We can start this year.
Create a Local Volunteer Hub
Rick Clark, Founder Of Giving Back Packs and Spokane Quaranteam
The one thing that we (Spokane) can absolutely put into action this year that would enhance lives, include people, be just and hopeful — and a complete success — is to create a volunteer hub.
There are so many people in Spokane who desperately want to help in so many ways but just have no idea where to start. Rather than waiting and hoping that the city or our federal government will step in to help in different areas, we can do much of it ourselves! Watching 30,000 people donate nearly $300,000 in a matter of 120 days to the efforts of Spokane Quaranteam has really opened my eyes to this new kind of community. I am not just talking donors either; I am talking delivery drivers, sorters, organizers, graphic designers and so much more.
When we pool together our talents and our resources, big things happen. This past year has really helped so many realize the importance of community and the strength we get when we work together. Before the pandemic, messages of unity and hope seemed to be words that did not come with as much substance and got tossed around like they were just words. Now, it truly seems like unity and hope are things that mean a lot to us and we are actively ready to "practice what we preach."
Let a Thousand Worker Co-ops Bloom
Luke Baumgarten, Co-owner Of Treatment Marketing Firm And Podcast Host
It's 2021 in America. Deregulation, consolidation and decades of declining corporate profits have employers squeezing blood out of their workers like few times in our history. Union participation has been gutted. Pensions are almost unheard of. "Disruption" in tech often means finding new ways to treat employees like contractors. In Spokane, the heat of our housing market means the traditional path working people have used to build wealth — homeownership — is becoming a pipe dream. So how do we rebuild a path to wealth for working people?
Expand worker ownership, and do it at scale.
Historically, employee-owned companies hold more wealth for rank-and-file workers and are more resilient during recessions. During COVID, co-ops in the U.S. laid off fewer employees than traditional businesses.
Capitalists have always used periods of crisis to snatch up assets, consolidate power and further build personal wealth.
It's a great time for workers to use that playbook for the good of us all.
Stop Looking for Big New Ideas
Josh Kerns, Spokane County Commissioner
As we begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel of the pandemic, we don't need to look for a new shiny idea. We need to focus on reinvigorating what has made this community the best place to live, work and raise a family.
You will not hear me talking about "the new normal." I am focused on getting us back to our real normal. Let's focus on getting fans back into the stands at high school football games and cheering on the Spokane Chiefs in the Veterans Memorial Arena.
We need to make sure we show up for the next big exhibit at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture and attend a concert in the park. I look forward to walking in one of our amazing community supported parades, from the Hillyard Hijinks Parade to the Armed Forces Torchlight Parade through downtown Spokane.
It's not about finding something new after a pandemic, it's about making sure we don't lose what makes our community home. ♦