Beware of Tourism - In a few days the citizens of Spokane will have the opportunity to vote on expanding the convention center to bring more tourists to the city. Voters should be careful not to believe that tourism will somehow solve the city's problems. Tourism is great when it comes as a result of a city having acquired fame through one form of cultural principle or another. But treating it as an end in itself and as the sole generator of urban life is akin to putting the cart before the horse.
Tourists are, by definition, individuals who seek places that will allow them the greatest access to visuals in the least amount of time. In catering to their voracious appetite for the spectacle, cities around the world have come to think of recent interventions in form alone, surrendering content almost altogether. And the results have been such that the fake soon began to override the real or the substantial.
My point is this: that while tourists can be wonderful in the way they generate revenues, diversity and momentary urban exuberance, their presence is deceptive in the way it gives rise to a false sense of vitality.
In a way then, while voting yes in favor of a major expansion to the Convention Center would be good in helping the city acquire a new sense of optimism, it would also amplify a problem that has been with us at least since Expo '74. This should not mean that we either kill it or champion it; it simply means that should we embrace this project, we need to be critical of the way we choose to use tourism to shape our identity.
Freedom of Choice - "The naysayers are coming, the naysayers are coming." Only this time, we will stop them with "yes" ballots instead of bullets. Where in the lack of good common sense do they think the city of Spokane will not annex the valley in small increments?
The city has already put us on notice that it will do just that if we fail to incorporate. Al French, on March 18, made that very statement, that he would immediately start annexation procedures if we do not incorporate our own city of Spokane Valley. Annexation is a reality, not a myth.
Naysayers dote on the past and let things happen to them. We look to the future and will make things happen.
You can bet your sweet biffy that the city of Spokane wants our $35 million tax base, and then put us on "ignore" just as they did with the garbage plant.
Speaking of which, who do you think controls your garbage rates way out here in the Valley? It's the city of Spokane. Surprise. They own the garbage plant thanks to our county commissioners at that time, who abdicated their authority and gave it to the city in 1987. So when the city ups the tipping (dumping) fees, off go the garbage collectors to the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission for a rate increase (that they are usually given). When you really delve into the facts and issues, rather than make rash, biased assumptions, it only makes sense to create our own city.
Let's talk about our taxes going up. If you think that, then run for city council and we can then blame it on you. So what if our taxes go up? We are the ones who determine that.
During the Big One, I was stationed here in 1943, the city of Spokane was already talking about a North-South freeway. That was 60 years ago, folks, and they are just now breaking ground. Surely we can move faster than that.
You young undecideds -- this is your future -- not mine. Folks my age are a statistic waiting to happen. Vote "yes" on May 21 and I'll rest in peace.
John O. Wittemberg, Jr.
Losers and Proud of It - When basketball prodigy Errol Knight chose to transfer from the University of Washington to Gonzaga last week, the Seattle press went searching for some logical explanation as to why someone would move from a city that fancies itself the new Athens to Spokane. It's simple, responded Knight after visiting the Lilac City on her most glorious Bloomsday weekend (when it snowed); in Spokane there is nothing to do but play basketball and go to school. It seems that Knight's criteria for finding a new school was that it must be in the most boring place possible.
Initially I was excited that we beat out Pullman. I then realized it might not be a good thing to win a boring contest with a town that breaks up the monotony of getting belligerently drunk inside, by getting belligerently drunk outside and calling it golf.
I then realized the beauty in Mr. Knight's logic and the incredible implications this may have for our fair city. You see, this marks the first time in recorded history that someone was attracted to Spokane -- not in spite of her faults, but because of them. So what if the potholes in our streets make Spokane look like the surface of the moon? We could attract 4x4 enthusiasts from around the world to test their skills on main arterials. Instead of filming their SUVs climbing some desert plateau in Arizona, Jeep could show the new Liberty navigating down Division.
So what if our city council and mayor are too busy writing nasty letters to each other to do what we hired them to do, which is to embarrass the city by fighting over a garage. This kind of dysfunction is quite marketable. Ozzy Osborne and Jerry Springer have shown us the profitability in public displays of incompetence. Our city council is screaming to be made into a reality TV series.
Clearly it is time we stopped highlighting the benefits of living in Spokane, like the surrounding beauty of the land, and started focusing on the negative. So grab your meth pipe, invite your sex offending neighbor and lets put our worst foot forward.