Letters to the Editor

by Inlander Readers & r & & r & A Capital Idea & r & I love Spokane. Having lived in Connecticut, New York and Chicago, I can attest to the fact that the very strong sense of community and quality of life that we have here is rarely seen in the rest of the country. Few cities are as much at the forefront as Spokane in planning its future growth and expansion. We are fortunate to have a comprehensive plan that addresses and plans for growth and how that growth is to be incorporated into existing and new neighborhoods. Near nature, near perfect.

Now, it seems to be clear that capital projects or capital budget decisions must conform to the city's comprehensive plan and that even our municipal code requires that we conform to and implement the comprehensive plan when public capital funds are used for public improvements.

Currently, Spokane labels the Bernard Street project as a maintenance project while others consider the project to be a capital one. So we're really left with a question of when is something considered capital in nature or when is something considered to be maintenance? Almost all homeowners would probably agree that repairing a household faucet, caulking around windows or just removing leaves from gutters are routine maintenance. After all, these are things that need to be done from time to time. Would we feel the same about an extensive and large home addition that requires new plumbing, electrical and landscaping? A new home addition may need maintenance after completion but the very act itself, most would probably agree, is much more involved than routine "maintenance." Then there is the cost as well. We probably wouldn't expect to finance window caulking with a home equity loan. How about a home addition?

Projects that are outside of maintenance are, by definition, capital in nature. Capital projects are those that achieve a greater future benefit whereas maintenance projects are those that simply maintain what we already have.

With this in mind, the Bernard Street project is quite extensive in scope, funding, and when completed, is expected to last 40 years. This project is expected to achieve a greater future benefit to all of Spokane. It seems misguided to label the project as maintenance in scope. We are completely removing the existing road in preparation for a new one. We are removing old utility poles with new, higher poles. We are replacing sewer and some sidewalk curbing. We are adding new striping and we are financing the project with long-term municipal bonds. Sounds a little like a home addition, doesn't it?

This is not about saving trees. This is about adhering to the law as set forth by the state and the city. We all had a hand in drafting and voting for that law. Now we expect our government to uphold the law. The Bernard Street project is capital in nature and funded with capital funds through long-term municipal bonds. As such, we must follow the city's comprehensive plan, regardless of the cost. It is really quite clear. To think otherwise is to deride the law and the will of the people.

Ben Luety & r & Spokane, Wash.

Who Speaks for the Trees? & r & I am glad to see that the mayor acknowledges that a Comprehensive Plan was adopted by the city ("Street Tree Solution," 6/22/06). To date, the city hasn't demonstrated that it knows how to follow the plan with any of the 2004 Street Bond projects. In 2005, the City Council adopted Spokane Municipal Code 17B, which states in part that "public improvements through the investment of public capital funds, regardless of the source, are to conform to and implement the comprehensive plan."

The mayor says "some citizens have objected" to the project. The mayor and City Council have received hundreds of letters, e-mails and phone calls decrying the project. Both neighborhood councils had record turnouts at their respective monthly meetings, where they both unanimously adopted resolutions demanding the city stop this project. Citizens have donated thousands of dollars to the Citizens for Sensible Transportation Planning (CSTP) to help defray the legal costs of challenging the city's abdication of their Comp Plan responsibilities.

The mayor stated that narrowing the street would "likely cost hundreds of thousands of dollars." CSTP engaged a senior transportation engineer to review the city's Bernard Street reconstruction project plans in light of the Comprehensive Plan. This licensed, professional engineer concluded, "the intent of the comprehensive plan could likely be met with an alternative design at no additional construction cost." Cost savings incurred by reducing the overall width of the street more than make up for the costs associated with widening the pedestrian buffer strip and replacing all of the curbing on the west side of the street. Redesigning the Bernard Street project to have it conform to the intent of the Comprehensive Plan would not increase the cost of the project to the taxpayers of Spokane.

The mayor stated that narrowing the street to have it comply with the Comprehensive Plan would "require the city to redo its arterial street plan because Bernard traffic would be shifted to other arterials or residential streets." The Spokane Regional Transportation Council categorizes Bernard as a "minor arterial." In its long-range planning documents, Bernard is still listed as a minor arterial as far out into the future as SRTC plans. City street department data demonstrates that Bernard had a higher traffic count in 1978 than it did in 2004. Bernard is not experiencing traffic growth, as the neighborhood it serves was built out by the 1970s. As the city has designed it, Bernard, when reconstructed, will still be a two-lane road just as it would be if it were redesigned to follow the Comprehensive Plan and narrowed to allow a wider pedestrian buffer strip and canopy street trees.

John Covert & r & Spokane, Wash. & r & President, Citizens for Sensible Transportation Planning

Dem Bones & r & Joel Smith's article "Dems On the Rebound?" (6/22/06) mentions Peter Goldmark and Chris Marr as strong candidates. Indeed, the entire Democratic slate is equally strong.

Don Barlow will be a great representative. He has experience, wisdom and calm compassion. The spirited primary race between three county commissioner candidates (George Orr, Barbara Chamberlain and Bonnie Mager) allows each to showcase valued skills much lacking on a commission beset by serious errors in judgment and an anti-environmental mindset.

The track record of incumbents on the ticket is unprecedented. Alex Wood and Timm Ormsby were able to make historic progress in the Legislature. They did more for Eastern Washington than anyone had dreamed possible. No one has done more to make an office a model of efficiency than Vicky Dalton. Under trial by fire, her auditor's office proved itself time and again last year as the best in the state.

The common thread is that these are all reasoned, caring people. They consistently deliver the right kind of leadership to take us into the future. So if the Democrats are excited this year, it's because there are strong individuals ready to serve the people of Spokane and the Inland Northwest.

Ian Graham & r & Newman Lake, Wash.

Harris Clarification & r & I have just read your June 22 article, "Phiring Phil," and as [Spokane County's] Director of the Building and Planning Department, I would like to clarify that Commissioner Harris's son has not and does not "process permits for the Building Department." Steven Harris was initially hired as a Development Assistance Coordinator for the department to assist customers in navigating the sometimes complicated process of obtaining construction permits and approvals. Steven's job was one of coordinating between permit applicants and the permit-processing staff of various county departments and outside agencies. Earlier this year he transferred from the Building and Planning Department to the county's Economic Development department.

James L. Manson & r & Director of Building and Planning, Spokane County

Louis Comfort Tiffany: Treasures from the Driehaus Collection @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Tuesdays-Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Continues through Feb. 13
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