Bureaucratic 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 hadn’t 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 6’6” 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 don’t 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 can’t wait to move into a neighborhood that is “diverse” and populated with prostitutes and drug houses. (By the way, Spokane’s biggest whorehouse is located in this neighborhood. If you don’t 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.