It’s quiet out there in the Spokane Valley. Almost too quiet.
Five weeks before Valley residents go to the polls to decide whether to form their own city, there is no organized opposition to the incorporation proposal.
No one is raising money to combat the pro-incorporation group, Citizens for Valley Incorporation.
No anti-incorporation signs are sprouting at the Valley’s busy intersections.
No one has appealed the state Boundary Review Board’s decision on the proposed city’s borders.
Sure, there are some individuals out there who have testified against the city at public hearings and written letters to the editor saying incorporation is a bad idea.
But there doesn’t seem to be anybody willing to step up and take charge of an opposition movement.
“There’s absolutely no scuttlebutt, to my knowledge, of anyone organizing an opposition,” said Steve Hasson, a county commissioner and incorporation supporter. “I just am not hearing it at all.”
That would seem to be good news for incorporation supporters, who don’t have the resources available in this, their third incorporation attempt of the 1990s, to fight a protracted, bitter media campaign against a well-versed and wellfunded enemy.
Citizens for Valley Incorporation had raised only $6,100 as of this week.
“It’s less expensive to run a campaign if you don’t have any organized opposition,” said Howard Herman, attorney and co-chairman for Citizens for Valley Incorporation.
It’s also just plain easier.
The group can concentrate on getting its message out and not have to worry about answering accusations, reacting to negative press or fighting off other challenges.
But leaders of the incorporation movement are wary of the silence, even paranoid.
They say it’s only a matter of time before someone starts making noise against their proposal.
“We didn’t hear of anybody last time, until the hammer went down,” Herman said. “You just never know about those things.”
The wait is killing them.
Fund-raising is in a stall while people wait to see if a challenger surfaces.
Many Valley residents are withholding their support - both financial and moral - until April 17, the last day someone can appeal the review board’s boundary decision and possibly delay the May 16 election, said Joe McKinnon, Herman’s counterpart in CVI.
“No one wants to bet on a horse race that might not happen,” McKinnon said.
The group had hoped to raise about $50,000 for its campaign, but that appears unlikely.
“I’ll be out there jumping up and down on the 17th (if no one appeals),” McKinnon said.
If an enemy does appear before then, it probably will be someone new.
Concerned Citizens for the Valley, which formed during last year’s campaign and raised nearly $34,000 to fight incorporation, has dissolved and seems unlikely to be reincarnated.
Most of the naysayers from the past two incorporation campaigns - Kaiser Aluminum, the Spokane Industrial Park and residents from Liberty Lake and Ponderosa - don’t have anything to complain about this time.
They’ve been left out of the proposed city’s boundaries.
The banishment of Kaiser is a particular boon to the incorporation effort.
The company led the anti-incorporation movement when the proposition was shot down at the polls last April. Kaiser challenged the effort at boundary review board hearings and sued, unsuccessfully, to keep incorporation off the ballot.
It also donated time and money to the anti-incorporation effort and sent a letter to Kaiser employees and retirees asking them to vote against the city.
No one appears likely to fill the void left by Kaiser this time.
Two of the most likely candidates - the city of Spokane and business owners in the Yardley neighborhood - say they plan to stay out of the incorporation process from now on.
After losing their fight to have Yardley eliminated from the proposed Valley city’s boundaries, Spokane city officials plan to step back, said Irving Reed, Spokane’s director of planning and engineering.
“I think we’re just going to ride with it,” Reed said.
Spokane officials had asked the Boundary Review Board to leave Yardley out of the proposed city because Spokane had extended some sewer and water lines into the mostly industrial area.
The review board refused.
The Central Pre-Mix concrete company and other businesses in Yardley which had supported Spokane’s request are likely to remain at arms length now as well.
Central Pre-Mix spokeswoman Molly Murphy said this week the company has no plans to appeal the review board’s decision or otherwise muck up the incorporation process.
“To my knowledge, no,” Murphy said. “We’re not against the incorporation. We would rather just stay with county services at this time.”
There have been unconfirmed reports of a group of residents from the Midilome neighborhood organizing a resistance, but nobody can name names or provide specifics.
There just doesn’t seem to be anybody out there to oppose the measure.
“It looks like a slam dunk,” Murphy said.
Incorporation supporters still aren’t convinced, though. They think someone is lurking out there, waiting to strike.
Not knowing who that might be makes it difficult to form a strategy for dealing with an opposition campaign, McKinnon said.
“It’s tough to plan an attack against an invisible enemy,” he said.
Or a nonexistent one.
But Citizens for Valley Incorporation officials are still listening, hoping the silence remains but expecting that it won’t.
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