"Camp Hope Must Close” and the ESBA
Misinformation for Political Gain?
The “Camp Hope Must Close” ad pictured below (or one like it from the same organization) has appeared at the bottom of the front page of the Spokesman Review every few weeks for months. The one below appeared last Sunday, March 19, but a few minutes spent searching the Spokesman’s online archives shows similar ads by the same organization, “ESBA”, all with the same heading, that appeared (at least) on March 15th, February 17th, January 15th, December 16th, and November 15th. Placing an ad like this is not cheap. Such an ad would cost around $450 for each paper placement plus a required “digital ad” run at $600 to cover any two month period during which the ad appears on the front page, that is, four such paper ads over two months would cost $2400 (450*4+600).
Clearly, these repetitive ads are meant to implant a quick impression in the mind of the casual reader: Camp Hope is evil, inhumane, and it must go. Most of us (including me) have little idea of what the “East Spokane Business Association” consists, unless we take the time to dig for information. A visit to the surprisingly extensive website, www.esba.biz, provides some hints. Like most private organizations the ESBA doesn’t advertise the names of its members or the sources or extent of its funding.
It is a fair bet that the “East Spokane Business Association” (much like the Spokane Realtors) doesn’t hold a vote by all its members in order to approve of spending association money on such ads as these. Decisions to buy ad space for advertisements like “Camp Hope Must Close” are probably left up to those in leadership, while the rank and file pay little attention. (In the Spokane Realtors, Tom Hormel comes to mind).
You should all remember the YouTube video “Curing Spokane”. It was, arguably, an important piece of political propaganda (disguised as issue advocacy) in the election of Nadine Woodward to the Mayorship of the City of Spokane in 2019. A local businessman, Larry Stone, provided the funding for that video. Larry Stone is also the owner of Woodward’s Warehouse (the TRAC Homeless Shelter) that the City of Spokane now leases from him at a projected cost of $1.6 million over the next five years. I am certainly not party to the inner workings of the decision-making process of ESBA, but it should not escape notice that Larry Stone appears as a “member-at-large” among the eight person leadership of the ESBA. A political operator with an axe to grind can spend their own money, or, better still, they can direct other people’s money toward grinding the same axe.
As one who has closely followed the issue of homelessness I have long been irritated by this injection of misinformation that has regularly appeared on the front of the Spokesman over the last many months, but it was the following Facebook post by Paul Dillon that finally spurred me to dig deeper:
I love my morning newspaper paper but the political front page ads from the East Spokane Business Association (ESBA) are getting old. It’s time for a correction.
Fact: There are currently less than 100 people at Camp Hope thanks to the work of Lisa Brown in her role at Department of Commerce, City Council and the amazing network of local funders, providers and volunteers who had to step up where the Mayor did not.
Fact: There are not “100s(!) of Safe and Clean Indoor Beds.” Just this week, the Mayor indicated she wants to close the Cannon Shelter and send everyone to the Trent Warehouse. As of Thursday, there were 72 people at Cannon and 33 open beds at Trent. You do the math if Cannon closes.
Fact: The attempts to immediately shut down Camp Hope were prevented by Judge Bastian in December with a restraining order. Rightly so. As attorney Jeffrey Finer said this gives time to transition people out of the camp “safely, humanely and legally.”
For what it’s worth, I reached out to the East Sprague Business Association months ago when these advertisements started to correct the misinformation.
Unsurprisingly, I never heard back.
Keep to the high ground,
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