In Which City Do You Wish to Live?
Is your vision of a city a place in which you can choose to walk through tree-lined neighborhoods, where you can comfortably bike or walk to a park, where there are few neighborhood eateries and some basic shops, where, at least once in a while, you can see, wave at, and chat with your neighbors without making an appointment? Do you see value to a city with easily accessible shared natural areas like parts of Manito Park, Riverside Park, the trails on bluffs off the South Hill? Do you see value in a vibrant downtown with functional public transportation?
Or do you prefer a city designed for the fastest flow of traffic, a city to get through, into and out of, as quickly as possible, a city of broad roads with high speed limits separating enclaves with with gates, surveillance, and prominent signs declaring "Private Road, No Trespassing," communities whose structure forces walkers and bicyclists onto the speedy thoroughfares?
I live in the City of Spokane because I much prefer the first idea of a city. Here's the crux: You don't get a city like that without planning for it, without envisioning routes for public transportation, without planting trees and public works that deal with runoff, without functional public works. A city like the one we live in does not happen without a plan. We have a vibrant park system in Spokane because of the vision and civic-mindedness of members of our community who, many years ago, brought in the Olmsted Brothers (the designers of many, many parts systems in U.S. cities, including New York's Central Park) to provide the vision and layout.
We are at a crossroads in Spokane in the upcoming municipal general election that closes November 5th. We can thank the out of area and out of town money of developers and real estate interests for illustrating what is at stake. Spokane has a plan and they want to break it.
I leave you today with some thoughts I've gathered over several emails from a good friend and long time Spokanite who is well acquainted with city government:
There's a simple punchline here. The Realtors want to reduce risk and build with a minimum of bottlenecks and regulations, and maximize profits. In order to do that, they want to push on the city and its taxpayers to increase infrastructure costs to the benefit of developers. In-fill is of no interest to the larger developers. One great way to destroy an urbanization plan is to keep everyone afraid of the downtown.
The Complete Streets initiative has been around for awhile, but I just look at all the opportunities to skirt it that seem to crop up. So many people just want to get across town as fast as possible, and don't give a damn about sidewalks, streetlights, bike lanes and traffic calming. And no one wants to live and work next to an expressway. Its how urban areas decay at the cost of meeting the needs of suburbanites.
Ben Stuckart (candidate for Mayor), Breean Beggs (candidate for City Council President), Lori Kinnear (incumbent candidate for District 2, South Hill, Councilperson), and Karen Stratton (incumbent candidate for District 3, NW Spokane Councilperson) understand the vision of the Spokane I want to live in. Their opponents, funded by developers and real estate people with roots elsewhere, have a different vision, a vision they mostly don't want to talk about. Instead they want to instill and ride a wave of fear of downtown in pursuit of a vision I reject. Don't let them get away with it.
Keep to the high ground,