Y Ideas

The future of the YMCA; plus, revisions to the city’s initiative process

Y Ideas

One proposal to save the old YMCA building in Riverfront Park may not be about saving the building.

“I’m not commenting on that,” says Mark Pinch, one of the three people who submitted plans for the site, when asked if he would renovate the building or tear it down. Pinch has been involved with the controversial site since 2006, when his $5.4 million bid to build a 15-story condo there launched a battle culminating this month, when the city decides whether to keep the building or convert the location to park space.

Pinch has gone through the back-and-forths with the Y, the city and the city’s Park Board. But it’s the controversy Pinch says he wants to avoid.

“We have to look at this as a community,” he says. “I’ve got a real aversion to us versus them. It’s all us.”

Pinch wouldn’t release any details on his plan, other than to say it would “still be basically residential.”

Ron Wells, another bidder on the site, was a bit more forthcoming. According to the Spokesman, his plan would also be mainly residential — the top three floors of the existing building would be made into apartments. The ground floor, Wells told the paper, would be for Spokane Public Radio, though the station hasn’t signed on to the deal.

A third proposal comes from Jennifer Childress, who’d like to see the site become a Museum of Native American Cultures (MONAC). In her proposal to the city, Childress says she has no funding for her proposal, or the qualifications to pull off such a feat, but would like to “to plant the seed of an idea for the building.”

The City Council has to make a decision on the location by March 31, the deadline imposed by the county commission, which secured $4.3 million in Conservation Futures funds for the razing of the building. (NICHOLAS DESHAIS)

Multi-Tasking Force?

A citizen task force asked to review the city’s process for getting initiatives on the ballot remained deeply split over City Council suggestions to change the process.

Presently, groups seeking to place an initiative up for vote can write their own title and ballot summary. Changes to have city attorneys write these up were suggested in the wake of last year’s Proposition 4, which called for a citizen’s bill of rights and was seen as disingenuous in its summary and cost analysis. Councilman Jon Snyder says the new ordinance was proposed by former city councilman Al French, Envision Spokane’s Thomas Linzey, assistant city attorney Mike Piccolo and councilman Richard Rush.

Did the task force reach consensus between the old and new?

“No,” says Ann Murphy of the League of Women Voters, tasked with running the task force. “Basically, the group wanted less control by the council.” But by working under a consensus arrangement and not taking votes, the task force basically presented the City Council with a split decision on who writes the title, when are appeals allowed and whether initiatives must have financial analysis.

Council president Joe Shogan says the task force recommendations will be discussed at a briefing session on March 18. (KEVIN TAYLOR)


It’s not often that a single obsolete phrase, buried deep within the city’s Website, sparks outrage and scandal.

But so it is with the three letters, “CPA,” that, until recently, were appended to Chief Financial Officer Gavin Cooley’s name on one city treasurer’s Web page. The problem: Since 2006, Cooley had allowed his certified public accountant credentials to expire.

“You’re not performing as a public accountant at all,” Cooley says about his city duties. And since renewing the certification takes 120 hours over three years, it wasn’t worth the time to keep it up, he says. Cooley removed the term “CPA” from his business cards and his letterheads, but says he had no clue about the treasurer’s Website.

But Ron Wright — a former Riverside, Calif., police officer and longtime River Park Square scandal observer — thinks there’s more to it. He says that Cooley simultaneously let his CPA credentials lapse in order to escape the oversight such a designation brings and let the CPA title linger on one Web page in order to fool, say, bond raters into thinking he was more trustworthy.

Before letting the city know about the inaccurate Web page, Wright sent a complaint to the state Board of Accountancy, sparking an investigation. Misrepresenting yourself as a CPA is a misdemeanor and can carry a $750 fine. (DANIEL WALTERS)

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About The Author

Nicholas Deshais

Nicholas Deshais is a former news editor and staff writer for The Inlander. He has reported on city, county and state politics, as well as medical marijuana, transportation and development. In May 2012, he was named as a finalist for the prestigious Livingston Award for an Inlander story about (now former) Assistant...