by Robert Herold & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & T & lt;/span & he Bernard Street tree issue has fallen off the front pages because it has been overtaken by a more recent governmental meltdown; I refer to the "homicide" of an innocent man who apparently managed to frighten the hell out of two of Spokane's finest by brandishing ... a pop bottle? That "proof" of a pop bottle makes it to front-page headlines says everything we need to know about this tragic absurdity. And would someone please explain to me why we need an "independent review?" Even if we grant the police their version of the story, what's more to learn?

Mayor Dennis Hession, true to form, can only bring himself to say that he "wasn't there." Look, I admit it: I wouldn't make a good cop. Under stressful circumstances, I revert to "flight or fight." And that's just the point. Seems our professionals did the same thing. But "fight or flight" isn't acceptable if police work is your chosen profession. Police officers, first and foremost, maintain order (these two apparently thought they were crime fighting), and this challenge always requires self-restraint and objectivity, which obviously wasn't shown at that Zip Trip. They didn't even have evidence that a crime had been committed. Mayor Hession knows all this. We don't need an independent evaluation; we need a mayor who will step up to the plate and make a call. It's what mayors are supposed to do.

& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & S & lt;/span & till, let's not forget about the tree massacre; this photograph speaks volumes. When this fiasco is examined alongside the Zip Trip tragedy and the firehouse sex scandal before that, a very troubling pattern of mayoral leadership emerges: Our mayor habitually vacillates between deflection and obstinacy while confusing both for "standing on principle."

As regards to Bernard, we see his obstinacy in play. It has resulted in an outcome that assures homes along the defoliated corridor will drop in value, by 15 percent or more. That's because of more and faster traffic -- by two elementary schools, a fire station, a church and the Japanese Gardens. And in the absence of the buffer provided by trees, the street will become decidedly less friendly for pedestrians. (Bike lanes are a good idea, but with no trees, they "traffic calm" about as effectively as wide shoulders on freeways.)

Furthermore, now every resident anywhere in the city who lives on a tree-lined, older street must worry about the future of their streetscape. By deflecting through to his attorney's Humpty Dumpty interpretation ("words mean what I say they mean...") of the Comprehensive Plan to the effect that older streets are exempted from the Plan's protections, Mayor Hession has unwittingly given our eager-beaver traffic engineers the green light to widen, straighten, defoliate and otherwise degrade every older street in Spokane.

& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & W & lt;/span & hether confronted by police scandals or out-of-control traffic engineers, Mayor Hession is failing because he treats serious administrative failures not with transparency and reflection followed by decisive action, but rather by the old "circle the wagons" strategy. If this dodge doesn't quiet the natives, i.e., you and me, he then deflects by directing the public to his lawyers -- who, we discover, aren't permitted to talk to you in any case. If this doesn't work, if public pressure continues to mount, as a last stand, he further deflects with public relations stunts, e.g., the "independent" review of the Zip Trip episode.

In hopes that Mayor Hession might yet succeed, I am prompted to suggest that he give some thought to Emerson's line that "consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds." Then he might consider the possibility that, in the absence of carefully worked out political argument followed by decisive action, obstinacy and deflection are close cousins to consistency.

For sure, principle has not a thing to do with it.

Spring Market at the Pavilion @ Riverfront Park

Wednesdays, 3-7 p.m. Continues through May 12
  • or

About The Author