by Inlander Readers & r & & r & It Doesn't Pay To Play & r & Along with retired school teachers, Joel Smith suggests that sub-$200,000 condos could attract "twenty-something symphony employees" to live downtown ("The Condo Craze," 1/26/06). When I moved back to Spokane in 1999 to play second bassoon in the symphony, I was that quintessential twenty-something member of the "creative class" that urban developers love to evangelize in support of their expensive downtown condo projects. What most people don't realize is that playing in the symphony is a part-time job that pays core musicians about $14,000 a year -- hardly enough to afford a $200-per-square foot condo. Symphony players supplement their income with other full-time work; I work full-time as a software engineer in Liberty Lake.

Hopefully, with the fall 2007 opening of the Fox, we can start drawing audiences to more concerts to produce additional work that could support full-time symphony salaries -- but until then a large segment of the "creative class" in Spokane will be absent from living in the city.

Luke Bakken & r & Spokane, Wash.

Housing for Whom? & r & I read with great interest your recent piece, "The Condo Craze" (1/26/06). After years of talking about downtown housing, it's finally coming -- but for whom? It's all about high-end money and living. Can't the Chesrown/Black/Barbieri/Wells group make nice upscale "apartments to purchase" that might be affordable to the average Spokane wage earner? I'm thinking in the $100,000 - $150,000 range with secure parking, amenities, etc. But bare bones $200,000 to more than $1 million? I can't imagine the property tax, maintenance fees, etc. that must be paid outside of the purchase price. Spokane is not Seattle, Portland or even Boise. It's the Tri-Cities or Yakima, only farther east.

Thanks to the developers for leaving out the majority of Spokane residents who might have thought of living downtown in an affordable condo. Oh well, it's not so bad not having a train rumbling outside my bedroom window at 2 am or watching a bum urinate on my front door.

Robert DelRiccio & r & Spokane, Wash.

Wal-Mart or Wetlands? & r & I continue to be appalled by the blatant disregard for the precious resources we have in this area. The recent announcement that Wal-Mart is considering building a store on 7.8 acres at 44th Avenue and Regal is just another example. Not because it's Wal-Mart, (that's another issue all in itself) but because of the plans to build on that parcel of land. Nobody should build in this area.

I have worked in this area for years now, and that particular piece of land has been home to herons, hawks, quail, geese, moose, and many more animals we rarely see. The ancient willow trees are a monument to the natural health and beauty of this land, along with other water-based plants that used to thrive there before they got plowed under. I don't know if it is officially considered a "wetland," but if it isn't, it's very close. For most of the year, the water table is visible, and building there seems ludicrous to me.

I fault the county for granting permits to build in areas like this - what about saving a few places like this? Not only would it be a good balance to all the other development in the area, but it could also provide a wonderful, un-manicured green space for everyone to use. Will we stop at nothing? It's a treasure to have a piece of nature like this to enjoy - what will our kids and grandkids say when they grow up and all has been paved over?

Gisela Dalke & r & Spokane, Wash.

Pepperoni and Sleaze & r & Karl Rove is back. Now we're seeing the spin to make spying on Americans a good thing. Consider: Bush says he can ignore any law in order to make Americans safe. Americans are in much greater danger from assault, murder, rape, domestic violence, armed robbery, carjacking, road rage, etc. (crime) than from terrorism. So does that mean Bush can ignore the law and have all "suspicious" Americans wiretapped without warrant to keep us safe?

The NSA is actually vacuuming up thousands of phone numbers which the FBI is wasting thousands of man-hours investigating and have as yet found no connection to terrorism. (The FBI is sarcastically referring to these investigations as "calls to Pizza Hut.") Whatever happened to "innocent until proven guilty"? According to some, our guiding legal principle is now "guilty until proven innocent." since they're saying that if you're not doing anything wrong, what's wrong with being wiretapped without a warrant? And I'm still trying to find where in the United States Constitution it says the Commander in Chief can ignore laws.

Steve Gigliotti & r & Davenport, Wash.

No-Mobiling? & r & Winter adventure! Lewis and Clark found it spending weeks struggling through deep snow over Lolo Pass and down to the Clearwater River two centuries ago. Others find it leaping off cliffs on snowboards, or perhaps cutting a fresh snowshoe track through a moonlight meadow. Still others find it at the twist of a throttle in the high peaks of the Selkirk Mountains. But just as the Lewis and Clark adventure forever changed the West, the new sport of backcountry snowmobiling is impacting the inhabitants of a once-remote landscape.

By coincidence, the Inlander article about snowmobiling at Priest Lake (1/12/06)came out the same time a federal court decided that intrusions by snowmobiles was likely causing harmful impacts to woodland caribou - the most endangered species in the United States. Several studies have shown that caribou flee from snowmobiles, especially female and young caribou. In North Idaho, the few remaining caribou are running out of safe havens, and now spend much of their winter in a small protected reserve north of the border.

Is there room for both caribou and humans? Yes, but probably not if these loud "sleds" expect to roam over every acre of the Selkirk Mountains. And what of the humans who seek a quiet adventure and have been chased away from areas such as the St. Regis Basin and Calispell Peak? Is the future of wintertime Priest Lake going to be like Grand Lake, Colo., where a pall of exhaust and noise keeps everyone away except snowmobilers? Or can we find a place for the native wildlife and our adventures?

Mike Petersen & r & Executive Director, The Lands Council & r & Spokane, Wash.

The Meat Disease & r & According to Monday's report by U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the national cost of medical care has escalated to $1.9 trillion in 2004. This represents a 7.9 percent increase over the previous year, or nearly three times the 2.7 percent rate of inflation.

In terms of the national economy, the cost of medical care now accounts for a record 16 percent of our gross domestic product and ruins the profitability and international competitiveness of our industries. In personal terms, it amounts to $6,500 for every American, or $15,500 per household. It represents a major financial burden, lost productivity, personal misery, and premature death.

The real tragedy is that most of the diseases associated with the outrageous cost of medical care are self-inflicted through flawed lifestyles. These include inactivity, smoking, substance abuse, and meat consumption.

Yes, meat consumption. According to the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, nearly 1.4 million Americans are disabled, then killed prematurely each year by heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and other chronic diseases that have been linked conclusively with consumption of animal products. That accounts for 56% of all deaths, and presumably, for a similar percentage of medical costs, or more than a trillion dollars.

Most of us have no control over the national cost of medical care. But, each of us has a great deal of control over our household's $15,500 share every time we visit our local supermarket.

Samuel Davidson & r & Spokane Valley, Wash.

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