by Inlander Readers & r & [Your] sidebar, "The Detroit Story" (The Inlander, 10/20/05) extols the rebirth of their downtown. Let's hope Detroit is not a model for us. They've done almost everything wrong. It's too bad, because I loved Detroit; I grew up and worked there when it was alive in the '50s, '60s and early '70s. One after another administration has tried to "fix" Detroit with big projects, mostly at taxpayer expense. It started with the Renaissance Center (they built a concrete wall around it), the People Mover (with no place to go), the stadiums and casinos. They even bulldozed a thriving neighborhood to make room for a GM factory. I was there a few weeks ago, and the downtown is dead. Sure, there's a lot of building, but it's not alive. There aren't people on the streets. Greektown and Bricktown have lost their appeal unless you just want to eat after visiting the casino.

Detroit politicians and some people in Spokane fail to understand that a city is alive when there are a lot of little things going on that a lot of people can do. It's the small shops, stable neighborhoods and people walking on the streets, using its services, that keep a city alive. It's Garland, West Main, neighborhood coffee shops, the Met, small stores and restaurants along Grand and in Browne's Addition, and other bright spots around the city that made coming back from Detroit such a pleasure. We don't need malls (oops, did I say RPS?) and tax breaks for big projects.

Joey Reagan & r & Spokane, Wash.

Spokane No Seattle & r & This week's cover story about Spokane's troubles sheds light on a critical issue: funneling growth into the downtown core.I applaud The Inlander's call to encourage growth and rapid transit in the downtown area. Downtown Spokane is chock-full ofhistoric brick buildings that could easily be converted into hip apartments and lofts.Imagine how great downtown could be if it were full of residents? New restaurants, bars and business would follow residents downtown. Downtown could be a near-24-hour community.You wouldn't need a car to live there. This would reinvigorate downtown and place Spokane in a position to compete with cities like Seattle, Portland and Vancouver, B.C.

Seattle, Portland and Vancouver are great because they have lots of people that live in the urban core, not because they have mega-malls or strip-malls that pull people out of the city.These cities have cool restaurants, unique small businesses and lots of friendly neighbors to hang out with. Spokane should follow suit or it's going to be left in the dust of the 21st century. The last thing Spokane needs is more sprawl, aka strip malls, loss of open space and additional road construction costs.

Paul Symington & r & Seattle, Wash.

What, No RPS? & r & After reading youreight-page article on why Spokane is so broke (The Inlander, 10/20/05), I was surprised to find no reference to the River Park Square debacle that was perpetratedon the taxpayers of the city of Spokane by the City Council,led by then-mayor Jack Geraghtyand the 1997 City Council,on an emergency ordinancethat gave the Cowles family $20 million for a maybe $4 million garage. Later, the new mayor, Jim West, made a deal to buy out the bondholders for $32 million dollars so the city and the Cowlesfamily would not be sued. We certainly would not want that to happen. Never know what might come in a trial like that. Your article seems to saythat the $20 million for the $4 million dollar garage, which the City gave back, and the bond buyout, which will go on for many years, have no bearing on the city's financial problems.

It's urban sprawl. It's the car tax. It's those thoughtless tax payers not wanting or being able to affordevery new tax the bureaucratscan dream up to fortify the hallowed downtown which you even admit does not pull its own weight in revenue.

In the last year we have a higher gas tax, a sales tax increase for STA - look out, here comes lightrail - the drum beat for property tax lid removal and, of course, every piece of property in the county is being reassessed. Where is that money goingto be spent?

In closing, I wonder if the Cowles family has bought The Inlander to go with the Review, KHQ, The Journal of Business and whatever other media outlets they have to help control public opinion.

C.J. Warren & r & Veradale, Wash.

But We've Got Skywalks... & r & Why is Spokane so broke? Since I've been answering that question till I'm blue, I'll simply suggest what needs to happen to make Spokane flush again.

First, Spokane's taxpayers and voters need to be convinced that no bonds they vote in for police, fire, libraries and street repair are diverted to the RPS garage and that the city will never again enter into a closed-door decision to agree to public-private partnerships in which profits are privatized while costs are socialized.

Second, shoppers must have much better access to the skywalk system if they are to favor downtown shopping over shopping at the major regional shopping malls.

Finally, they need free parking if they are to be encouraged to visit downtown in greater numbers (even if that is the least likely option to occur).

Philip J. Mulligan & r & Spokane, Wash.

Pretty in Pink & r & Kudos to you for addressing this outrage of the feel-good buying of pink stuff galore (The Inlander, 10/20/05). It's the causes we need to fix. People must be sheep.They need a quick and easy solution to problems.Just go shopping!Egad, I think you're brave to write about it. I wonder if you've had any negative feedback?

There's no breast cancer in my family, but it doesn't take a very smart person to observe that we have an epidemic of this and other horrible diseases.It has become incorrect to speak of causes because this might impact the economy and the obscene profits of the huge corporations.

Dianne Cook & r & Spokane, Wash.

Vote Yes for Anarchy & r & Let's recall the entire Spokane City Council, in addition to Mayor West, for incompetence and stupidity. Layoffs of experienced Spokane police officers, firefighters, and library staff have already occurred and may continue because Spokane has run out of money. There's not even enough money left to have someone personally take a crime report from you. Yet our City Council voted unanimously to pay another $5,000 to hire yet another attorney ($15,000 was initially approved to hire one attorney) to "assist" the first attorney in the council's own investigation of Mayor West's workplace conduct. That's $20,000 down the tube. Aren't the recall effort and the separate FBI investigation enough? Spokane deserves a City Council that can focus on other issues than just Mayor West -- specifically, public safety.

Crime is rampant in Spokane.The Lilac City is being overrun by released felons (including violent sex offenders) from the county jail, Airway Heights prison and other Washington prisons. Airway Heights was going to be a minimum-security prison for 400-500 inmates but now includes medium-security and other dangerous troublemakers from the Walla Walla State Penitentiary. The population is near 3,000 inmates. Most of these "released" criminals are not being supervised by Washington's Probation Department because of years of irresponsible budget cuts by Washington's Legislature, which has gutted the probation department. They have no idea where a lot of these dangerous folks are.In supposedly saving money, the Legislature has put the safety of you and your families at great risk.

The Legislature also has limited the number of released criminals who are required to be supervised.Drug crimes (possession) and property crimes are now deemed not that bad. Do you really think career criminals will decide to become law-abiding citizens?

To make matters worse, many lawbreakers in Spokane are not even being arrested because the jail is too small. Instead, they are given a written notice by police to show up in court in the future, which most do not. Those convicted and in jail are often getting out early for good behavior. (Aren't they supposed to be good inmates anyway?)

Now Mayor West is begging his list of loyal supporters for $150,000 to fund yet another campaign to help save his job. Even Richard Nixon had the decency to resign for the good of the country. If you have money available, please donate instead to the Gulf-area flood victims or to Spokane's needy citizens.Don't feel sorry for West. He still has his house in an exclusive gated compound near the Creek at Qualchan golf course, and he can still play golf daily with Steve Tucker, Spokane County's overpaid and underworked Prosecuting Attorney.

Jim Reierson & r & Spokane, Wash.

The New Jihad? & r & The Christian Taliban has taken part of its fantasy, dressed it up to look like science, and wants to sneak it into the public schools under the name of Intelligent Design. If they succeed it will only be a matter of time until our schools become little more than Christian madrasas -- Places where reason must cower silently in darkness or become a servile witness for Christian doctrine.

Or at least that's what I've heard.

But I'm not sure that's true. If Pat Robertson and his ilk devised Intelligent Design to make secular society Christian, they've shot themselves in the foot. Intelligent Design concedes far too much to science ever to lend much support to any faith-based belief system.

Proponents of Intelligent Design accept most scientific consensus in astronomy, paleontology, physics, chemistry, biology, and indeed in all the hard sciences. They accept scientific conclusions because the evidence suggests that science has gotten it right in most cases. Apparently, then, a foundational tenet of the Intelligent Design crowd is that the legitimate basis for belief is evidence, not faith. Therefore we must conclude that the Intelligent Design folks aren't bible-thumpers, and it won't get Pat Robertson very far.

Jeremy Street & r & Cheney, Wash.

Going, Going, Gone & r & Rep. Richard Pombo's bill, HR 3824, the "Threatened and Endangered Species Recovery Act" (also known as the Extinction Bill), was passed out of the U.S. Congress recently. One of the most destructive parts of the bill would eliminate protection of critical habitat for endangered wildlife. Without habitat, animals cannot survive. Idaho Rep. Butch Otter was a "proud co-sponsor" of that bill. Remember when Otter was fined for filling in wetlands on his property? Well, this would take care of protecting those pesky wetlands on private property, and any other critical habitat that might get in the way of development.

This is just one more example of Republicans systematically dismantling the environmental laws that have kept the United States from becoming an industrial wasteland. We have a chance to keep the Endangered Species Act (ESA) intact, because it is now in the Senate, where somewhat more logical attitudes prevail, so please contact

senators with your thoughts on the ESA.

A measure to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling has been added to the budget bill, and just passed out of the Senate Energy Committee. It will likely be voted on by the full Senate within two weeks. The Arctic Refuge is one of the most pristine, wild places on earth. It is crucial habitat for caribou, polar bears and birds, and critical for the survival of native tribes who have lived with the land in the north for 10,000 years. If we cannot save the refuge for wildlife, at least let's not have another genocide of natives on our hands. Any oil found under the tundra wouldn't be available for 10 years or more, and from all accounts, the amount of oil available would take care of our insatiable fuel appetite for about six months. Ask yourselves if it's worth despoiling this magnificent piece of the earth for greed. Please speak out now - and make it loud.

Susan Westervelt & r & Deary, Idaho

Late Hurricane Analysis & r & It appears that President Bush spent more time planning his five-week vacation than natural disaster preparedness planning. As with past national crisis, Bush was caught off guard. Despite years to prepare and billions spent on homeland security and repeated warnings by numerous experts that a New Orleans hurricane would dislocate hundreds of thousands of Americans, Bush administration officials were unprepared. Knowing a Category Four hurricane was on its way, and having previous experience of devastating Florida Hurricane Andrew, they were unmoved.

What would have happened if there was a terrorist attack on a major city that required evacuation? What are their plans? It makes FEMA and Homeland Security directors look like directors of mass confusion.

Why couldn't we have set aside the 50 closed military bases throughout the U.S. as regional evacuation centers with lodging, medical facilities, food, buses, helicopters, etc.? Wouldn't this be a common-sense solution?

Our National Guard is stretched so thin supporting the Iraq war that our government cannot tend to needs within its borders. Bush apparently plans for national disasters the same way he planned for the aftermath of invading Iraq. Lack of foresight will be the hallmark of the Bush presidency.

Kelly Brown & r & Liberty Lake, Wash.

To-Do(omsday) List & r & I have been awakened from the slumber of denial. Usually when I sit down to write, I try to construct hopeful messages. However, I have reached my tipping point and I can no longer go on accepting the outright inconceivable as the norm. I have become a master at ignoring all the frustration that accompanies knowledge of a disappearing middle class, a failing health care system, racial divides, the prospect of a pandemic infection, the deteriorating environment, fossil fuel sources that are all but gone, and, of course, war. Like so many others trying to stay sane, I fool myself into believing it isn't happening. And even if it is, what can I do? I work, volunteer, and maintain a household. So I cling to the hope that the news is an exaggeration and my faith in God will be enough. I bathe in what is right - my marriage, a cute house to fix up, and a beautiful baby son. Frankly, with the exception of needing to lose a few pounds and a couple bills to pay off, I would not change the life I have one bit. I love this country. I love living in the Pacific Northwest. I love the little house I live in, just four blocks away from my parents and the house I grew up in. My husband and I walk with the stroller to church most Sundays. If I could live the way I do today forever, this note would be done.

However, with absolute certainty I know another national disaster will hit somewhere. I know completely that one day my husband and I will not be able to generate two incomes, a pandemic infection will emerge, the global oil will run dry, and I fear our country may not be strong enough to protect me and my family.

In the end, there has to be hope. Our country is founded on the conviction that more than just a few should decide. To truly be governed for the people, by the people, it will take the people rising to the challenge of citizenship and not being content with remaining mere consumers. It may take not being so polite and starting to honestly exchange ideas and solutions.

I look ahead to enjoying today while knowing that I need to prepare for tomorrow and what it may bring. I will pay off my debts, because I believe the future financial climate will be unforgiving. I will spend my best efforts taking care of my health, because staying healthy is exponentially easier than getting well amid an impotent health care system. I will reconnect with what is going on in our world, and once again, I will become an active participant in my government, my life. I will write letters to the editor and Congress, and I will vote. I will invest in community.

Most of all, I will live and appreciate today, because it is all I am guaranteed. I no longer have the luxury of pulling the quilt of denial over my eyes. When I look at my son, I know my life is no longer my own and I must live to protect the hope of his tomorrows. If I don't, who will?

Shawna Beese-Bjurstrom & r & Millwood, Wash.

American Original: The Life and Work of John James Audubon @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Tuesdays-Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Continues through Sept. 19
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