Six percent was the magic number when the people who want to form a city in the Spokane Valley began their latest campaign six months ago.
Today, despite considerable fluctuations in the boundaries of the proposed city, it still is.
Back in September, Citizens for Valley Incorporation figured that some way, some how, they had to get six approval points more than they did in an April 1994 election, when 44 percent of the voters said “yes” to the proposed city.
Those six points would push them over the magical 50 percent plus one vote they need to start their own government.
To that end, the group gerrymandered the boundaries of the latest proposal to cut out neighborhoods where support was low.
If you can’t beat them, ignore them, was the strategy.
“Why bring the serpent to your breast?” was the way Citizens for Valley Incorporation co-chairman Joe McKinnon explained it last fall.
Orchard Avenue, where approval was barely 40 percent, was hacked away, as was Midilome (33 percent) and part of the Edgecliff area (37 percent).
Left in was an Otis Orchards precinct where the majority of voters were in favor of incorporation last year.
If everyone within those proposed boundaries were to vote the same way they did in April 1994, the approval rating would have increased to 46 percent.
“That’s two percentage points we need to get to achieve that magical 50 percent,” Howard Herman, the group’s attorney and co-chairman, said when Citizens for Valley Incorporation finalized the boundaries in late September.
The magic number was down to a much more manageable four percent.
Then in stepped the state Boundary Review Board, which is responsible for regulating the initial stages in the incorporation process.
Board members didn’t like the boundaries proposed by Citizens for Valley Incorporation, and after three public hearings that spanned February and March, they substantially rearranged the borders.
Out was Otis Orchards. In was Orchard Avenue, Edgecliff and Midilome.
Gone were those two extra percentage points the gerrymandering had brought.
Some members of Citizens for Valley Incorporation accused the board of putting the low-support areas back in to hurt the incorporation proposal.
“They did what they could to hamper our effort,” said Allan Hinkle, a Valley dentist and member of the pro-incorporation camp.
In essence, though, changing the borders didn’t hurt much.
A canvass of the 58 voting precincts in the final boundaries approved by the review board shows that if everyone were to vote this May 16 the same way they did during the April 1994 election, the proposal still would still get 44 percent approval.
The magic number is back to six percent.
“We obviously didn’t get as good as we gave, but I don’t think it hurt us too bad,” Herman said this week.
In order to reach that six percent goal, incorporation supporters will have to sway at least some voters in those precincts where support was lowest. That promises to be a formidable task.
“We’ve got our work cut out for us in those areas,” Herman said. “It’s just fortunate that they’re not any bigger than they are.”
Many people living in the Orchard Avenue, Edgecliff and Midilome areas are stridently against incorporation.
People like Bill Faith, who spent an afternoon this week pulling parsnips from his garden.
Faith, a retiree who’s lived in the Orchard Avenue neighborhood since 1952, summed up his feelings for incorporation this way: “I’m against it.”
Faith said he doesn’t think there is enough industry in the proposed city to generate adequate taxes to provide services to residents, a claim incorporation supporters dispute.
“Who’s going to take care of the streets and such when we’ve got no industrial tax base?” Faith said. “I don’t know if it’s good or bad, but my personal feeling is I’d just as soon they leave us alone.”
People like Jeff Reed of the Midilome neighborhood also are anti-incorporation.
“I think it’s just going to be another layer of government,” said Reed, who’s lived in the Valley for a couple years. “I’m for city-county consolidation.”
Herman said he realizes there are people out there who his group won’t be able to convince.
“You’re never going to find a proposition that 100 percent of the people support,” he said. “We don’t expect to turn around those people that have a mind-set against it.”
But there are some people in those areas that are leaning toward supporting the proposed city this time around, like Dick Trowbridge of Orchard Avenue.
“Myself, I’d just as soon see it stay the way it is,” said Trowbridge, a retired letter carrier who now runs a sports card shop in his back yard. “But if we have to have something at all, I’d just as soon it be with the Valley city.”
Herman said people from Orchard Avenue have told him recently that they are changing their minds about a Valley city this time.
Citizens for Valley Incorporation hopes to capitalize on the changing winds by blanketing the weaker areas with campaign workers armed with information and signs.
Someone has already been going door-to-door in Orchard Avenue giving out campaign materials.
“What we can do is just keep hammering away and doing what we’re doing and hope for the best,” Herman said.
The best, of course, being six more percent.