Spin Control

Verner press conference: Taking it to the streets

Spokane Mayor Mary Verner holds a press conference at the corner of Indiana Avenue and Monroe Street on May 4, 2009, to announce that bus benches with signs would be removed from certain locations and replaced with a standard design. Bus rider Dave Parisia (right) told the mayor removing the benches would be a
Spokane Mayor Mary Verner holds a press conference at the corner of Indiana Avenue and Monroe Street on May 4, 2009, to announce that bus benches with signs would be removed from certain locations and replaced with a standard design. Bus rider Dave Parisia (right) told the mayor removing the benches would be a "waste of money." (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Mayor Mary Verner must be tired of media events at City Hall.

And who can blame her? Except for the Chase Gallery outside the Council Chambers, it's a pretty bland environment.

Monday she decided to talk about non-conforming bus benches in front of (wait for it..) non-conforming bus benches.

She picked a pair at Monroe and Indiana.Word is she'd heard the bench seats, which are essentially wooden 2-by-4s, were all broken last week. What better place to  illustrate the problems?

Except that Emerald Outdoor Advertising had fixed the seats in the intervening days. So Verner emphasized that they were on the sidewalk, cutting off space for pedestrians and wheelchairs, and of different designs.

Verner also had to deal with the basic law of press conferences in the wild, which is: Stuff happens...

 

Stuff like citizen Dave Parisia, a self-proclaimed bus rider, sitting on the benches and telling her removing them would be a waste of money.

Or citizen Dave Schmitt complaining in the background during the press conference that city bureaucrats never listen to the public and wondering why there'd been no notice of changes to bus benches (not strictly true, because the city's been talking about this, at various public meetings up to and including the City Council, for some time.)

Or four members of the City Council (hey, isn't that a quorum? Shouldn't they have sent out a public notice?) showing up on the sidewalk to see what Verner had to say, and adding their opinions when asked by the assembled media. They were dealing with benches that evening, and apparently couldn't resist a chance to get a jump on the issue. Kudos to Councilman Richard Rush, who was enviromentally conscious and rode his bike to the event.

Or the fact that the Indiana and Monroe may be one of the city'sbusiest, and noisiest, intersections from a traffic standpoint.

Or the fact that a gaggle of news cameras tends to draw curious spectators, including several high school students, one of whom dashed across Monroe dodging traffic to ask if it was true the mayor was here, and when told it was asked: "Which one is he?"

Told the mayor was actually a she, the student asked if it was the 20-something woman behind him. No, he was told, that's a television reporter. The mayor is the woman about 10 feet in front of you, talking to the intense guy with the beard. Unfazed, he ran back across traffic, returned with a friend in tow, and a camera, and asked if he could have his picture taken with the mayor.

She obliged, of course.

So if some mom in Spokane gets a picture of her son with the mayor in a nice frame for Mother's Day, you might want to ask just one question: "Why weren't you in school on Monday morning?"

 




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