BS In a sense, as it were, if you will,
|A number of years ago I found myself taking
a geography class at EWU in resource management. At the time
I had no great interest in geography but I was scrambling to
find any class that I could get into for the Summer quarter.
The instructor was from Taiwan and had somewhat limited English
speaking skills. I fully expected the class to be a yawner but
I was in for a big suprise. The instructor did a masterful job
of teaching from xerox copies of professional journal articles
and other resources, but no textbook. The class was an eye-opener,
revealing time and again that resource planning by government
and the popular majority with the best of intentions, has repeatedly
turned out to be ill-advised if not downright harmful.
One example was the Columbia Basin Irrigation Project. This was
the justification for
constructing Grand Coulee Dam. The generation of electrical power
which was only incidental at the time has been positive, but
the reclamation project has been and continues to be an economic
black hole for taxpayers money. Oh sure, some farmers and small
business owners in the area have prospered, but only at the economic
net loss for everyone else when you consider the cost of bringing
the water to the land. So, when it comes to evaluating the best
laid plans of mice and men for economic or other social planning,
I am a skeptic.
I can recall listening to the local Spokane politicians all trying
to take credit for the construction of the new Maple Street Bridge
in 1956-57. But when Spokane motorists avoided the bridge like
the plague, (A ten cent toll was just too much), no one could
be found to take credit for having built it. If the State of
Washington hadnt bailed us out we would still have toll
booths on the bridge, and would probably still be losing money.
During my time as a full-time EWU student, there was considerable
effort being made to upgrade the walks and landscaping on campus.
As part of this effort, there were numerous instances of new
grass having been planted and stakes with string attached to
prevent students from walking on the grass. This effort included
signs threatening punishment, etc. for violators of the Do
Not Walk on the Grass warnings. I have never forgotten
Dr. Tom Trulove, my advisor, stating that the better plan would
have been to have planted grass everywhere... then after it was
clearly established where the student pedestrian traffic would
flatten it, to build sidewalks there! Think about it. It does
make sense to provide walks where the students need them. and
not just where the architect thinks that it would be esthetically
pleasing to build them. No amount of architectural planning can
establish what is going through the mind of a student walking
on campus. The students can vote with their feet the proper place
to build a sidewalk.
Similarly the voters of Spokane City/County vote with their feet
and their dollars as well as their ballots on election day. Give
them what they want and they will stand in line for hours, or
do whatever it takes to participate. Of course they will also
criticize the planners for failing to anticipate their demands.
(example: airport congestion and Amtrak going belly-up... all
while Spokane spends millions of dollars on a railroad depot)
All of the above brings us to the present puzzle of what to make
of the Spokane City and
County plans to comply with the Washington State Growth Management
Act. I do not claim to be expert on all of the many ins and outs
or other nuances of The Plan as it is being solidified
for the citizens of Spokane city/county. But, from what I have
read, it appears that the following is true:
1. The Planners think that we should give up our private automobiles
and ride buses, bicycles or light rail mass transit.
This, of course, assumes that we do not need all of the stuff
that we haul around in our vehicles, and that the vehicles that
we do drive are less than 66 tall and will fit into
a multi-story parking garage. In my case you will only get me
into the light rail car when you pry my dead cold
fingers off of my steering wheel. Also, I dont use the
parking garages because I drive a Ford F-150 half-ton pick-up
truck with a seven ft camper on the back that is too tall. (Although
it does have an overdrive automatic transmission and gets 14
mpg on the freeway). To find the biggest group of losers in Spokane
just go down to the STA plaza and stroll around. If you really
want to get into mass transit try this: The next time you need
to make a trip to Seattle, buy a ticket on a Greyhound bus. I
guarantee that when you return you will be willing to spend whatever
it takes to avoid repeating the experience.
2. The Planners think that we should give up single detached
houses and move into multi-story town-houses or apartments. Think!
This is the West. we have miles and miles of nothing
around us. We do not want to hear the neighbors children, dog,
bedroom moaning, etc. on the other side of our townhouse wall.
If we wanted that lifestyle we would not be here. We would be
living in Arlington Virginia where we would be thankful to afford
a town house and ride the metro rail into downtown DC. This is
SPOKANE. Remember that, this is NOT ARLINGTON VIRGINIA. What
kind of graduate school claptrap are these people thinking?
3. The Planners think that we are going to have new businesses
with happy workers living nearby in places such as East Sprague
Avenue between Downtown and Freya. My immediate instinct is uncontrolled
laughter as this idea could only have been presented in jest...
but, these guys are serious! They really think that this is going
to happen! This is proof once more just how screwed-up our education
system is that will turn out adult planners and other
erstwhile social engineers that can think this crap up. How many
people do you know that just cant wait to move into a neighborhood
that is diverse and populated with prostitutes and
drug houses. (By the way, Spokanes biggest whorehouse is
located in this neighborhood. If you dont believe me, look
up escort services in the yellow pages and you will
discover that many of the phone
numbers all go to one location.)
I could go on and on, but by now I think that you understand
what I am driving at. The great efforts of the Spokane City and
Spokane County planning agencies are going to be dismal failures
for one simple reason. The people have in the past and will in
the future vote with their feet and their dollars. They will
walk away if not drive away and spend their money on housing,
services, etc. elsewhere. This will be what defeats the best
laid plans of the Spokane City and County Planning Departments.
Unfortunately, the governments entities will not figure this
out until they discover the great number of Spokane workers that
are commuting from Rosalia, Tekoa, or Oakesdale in Whitman County
where there is no UGB. No, most likely they will be smiling with
confidence while billions are spent on light rail
that no one wants. Traffic congestion will increase on the Valley
freeway while light rail cars speed by with a handful of passengers
in each car. (Note: this is exactly what has happened in Portland,
Oregon) Yes, the city and county planners will wax rhapsodic
about the marvels of their model city. Meanwhile the people who
have voted with their feet and their dollars will be in Sandpoint,
Idaho and Missoula, Montana.