Spokane Valley voters appear poised to form the seventhlargest city in the state.
Results of a scientific poll released Tuesday show that Valley voters are likely to support the latest incorporation effort, the third in five years.
Of the 400 people surveyed earlier this month by Robinson Research of Spokane, 48 percent said they would vote in favor of forming the city when a special election is held May 16. Thirty-nine percent said they would vote against it.
Nine percent said they had not made up their minds, and 4 percent refused to answer. The survey has a margin of error of 4.9 percent.
“I see a noteworthy margin in favor of incorporation,” said Bill Robinson, whose firm conducted the telephone survey for The SpokesmanReview. “I feel there’s a very strong likelihood that it’s going through. The opponents would have to pick up all the ‘undecideds’ to swing it. That’s not likely.”
The poll questioned only likely voters who live within the boundaries of the proposed city of about 73,000 people. All respondents had cast ballots in the last four county elections.
The number of supporters represents a dramatic swing from similar polls conducted by Robinson before 1990 and 1994 incorporation votes.
In 1990, only 25 percent of those surveyed favored incorporation. Last year, 31 percent said they would vote to form a city.
Both measures made a better showing at the polls. Thirty-four percent voted “yes” in 1990, 44 percent last year.
Joe McKinnon, co-chairman of the group leading the incorporation effort, said this year’s poll shows that Citizens for Valley Incorporation’s campaign strategy is paying off.
A smaller city is proposed this time, and the group’s biggest pitch is for more local control.
“It’s no secret that people are disenfranchised with their government,” McKinnon said. “How do you resolve that? By bringing people closer to the government, by bringing them into the fold.
“We’re doing something right so far.”
The numbers support him.
The need for more local control was the biggest reason incorporation supporters gave for backing the proposal.
Fear of annexation by the city of Spokane was the second-biggest reason.
Nineteen percent of the supporters said they were afraid of annexation, compared to only 5 percent last year.
John B. Mertens was among the 35 percent who said they wanted local control - a Valley government run by Valley people.
“We need this to get back our control, the control of our money,” said Mertens, a retiree who has lived in the Valley since 1978. “We’ll have our own people in control this way.”
Richard Wiley, another poll respondent, agreed.
“This will give us a little better distribution of our taxes and a little better local control,” said Wiley, who’s lived in the Valley for 36 years.
His wife, Elizabeth, said she feels otherwise. She said she’d just as soon see the Valley stay under the jurisdiction of county government.
Talk of the Valley losing control of its destiny has been around for years, said Elizabeth Wiley, who did not take part in the survey.
“They’ve been talking that way ever since we bought this property, and nothing’s happened yet,” she said. “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Her sentiments, which used to run high among opponents to Valley incorporation, appear to be waning.
Only 46 percent of those opposed to incorporation said they want the Valley to stay the same, as compared to 55 percent in the 1994 poll.
At the same time, support for a proposal by county freeholders to consolidate county and city government is growing among opponents, jumping from 22 percent last year to 40 percent this year.
Incorporation supporters’ views toward consolidation stayed about the same, with 4 percent support both years.
In the survey, 31 percent of supporters said they think they would pay fewer taxes under a Valley city. Last year, 22 percent felt that way.Citizens for Valley Incorporation
has pumped a message of lower property taxes through incorporation at town hall meetings this spring.
Attitudes among opponents stayed about the same as last year.
Opinions about the poll itself have changed, though, at least on McKinnon’s part.
Last year, he questioned the accuracy of Robinson’s numbers, saying support for incorporation had to be higher than the survey indicated.
“Unless those people are coming from Post Falls or Reardan, I don’t believe there’s any validity to (the poll),” he said last March.
This year, McKinnon had nothing but praise for the researcher.
“If the results weren’t valid, (the Spokesman-Review) wouldn’t be running them,” he said.