It won’t be nirvana, but it will be theirs.
That’s how people who support forming a new city in the Spokane Valley summed up their feelings toward the proposal in a recent poll.
The scientific survey of 400 likely Valley voters found 48 percent support forming a new city in the Valley. Thirty-eight percent of those surveyed oppose the incorporation plan. Nine percent said they were undecided about how they would vote, and 4 percent refused to say.
For supporters, incorporation isn’t about lower taxes or more sewers or better parks or maintaining a certain lifestyle.
It’s about controlling their own destiny, calling the shots, being in charge of things that happen in the areas east of Havana Street and south of the Spokane River.
“They have expectations that it may not be better, but at least it will be different,” said Bill Robinson, whose firm conducted the telephone poll for The Spokesman-Review earlier this month. “Most of the support centers around local control.”
That’s how Floridas E. Edgerton feels. Edgerton was one of those who told Robinson Research he plans to vote for incorporation.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea, but it’s the lesser of evils,” said Edgerton, who referred to the other “evil” as annexation by the city of Spokane.
Edgerton said taxes probably will go up under a new city, but at least it would be Valley people spending the money.
“I think it’s going to cost more, but we’ll have a say,” said Edgerton, who’s lived in the Valley for 15 years.
The poll found that opponents generally believe that incorporation would mean more regulation, more taxes and who knows what else.
If the Valley needs a new form of government, a municipality isn’t it, opponents told Robinson.
“Many in the opposition said tax increases and fears of the unknown were the main reasons they plan to vote against it,” Robinson said.
K.M. Konek was one of the opponents in the survey who said not knowing was the main reason she’d vote “no.”
Konek lives on 12th Avenue on the western extreme of the Valley. The border of the new city runs down the middle of her street. Those who live on the north side, like her, are in the city. Those on the south side aren’t.
“I’m concerned about who is going to be taking care of things,” said Konek, a 10-year Valley resident. “Is the county going to plow the snow? Is the city? Who’s going to take care of me as opposed to people across the street.
“Who’s going to put down sand, patch holes, sweep the streets? I don’t think (incorporation leaders) are going to be able to handle it.”
Robinson interviewed only people who reside within the boundaries of the proposed city of 73,000 and have voted in the last four county elections.
Of the supporters, 53 percent said they thought their taxes would remain about the same.
Nearly half of them said they thought services - like fire and police protection, sewers, parks and libraries - would probably stay about the same, too. That’s down from nearly 60 percent from the year before.
But 61 percent of supporters said they felt forming their own city would enhance their control of government in one fashion or the other - from having more say to keeping Valley tax dollars in the Valley.
Ed Meadows, who is active in the incorporation movement, was one supporter who told Robinson local control was the biggest issue in the election.
“We’ll have our own representation,” Meadows said. “We won’t be beholden to the county or the city of Spokane.”
Meadows said he was particularly concerned about the Valley gaining a seat on the county Growth Management Steering Committee.
The committee makes policy governing growth and development for the county, including where new homes and businesses will be allowed to go up.
The Valley, as an entity, has no specific representation on that committee now. If the Valley incorporates, the new city will have a seat on that committee.
Wallace Rudd told the research firm he plans to vote to form a new city so the city of Spokane won’t be able to gobble up the Valley.
“I moved out here to stay away from Spokane,” said Rudd, who added he doesn’t shop or buy gas in the city and won’t even enter the city limits unless he has specific business there. “I don’t like Spokane. I’m fed up with Spokane. Period. I just don’t like it.”
For opponents, tax dollars were the biggest issue to vote against incorporation.
Thirty-seven percent of the people who said they’d vote “no” said fear of more taxes was the biggest reason why.
Twenty-two percent said a new city would create more bureaucracy and duplicate services, and 10 percent said they weren’t sure what a new city would mean, and that scared them.
Opponent Jennie Riggen said Spokane County residents should support consolidation of city and county governments, an idea being proposed by the county freeholders.
Adding more governments isn’t the answer, said Riggen, who told Robinson she planned to vote against incorporation.
“I lived in an area that went through a similar deal a while back,” Riggen said. “It was very inefficient and caused a lot of fighting among the different (jurisdictions). We should be combining instead of separating.”
Opinions differ on what all those opinions will mean come May 16.
Incorporation leaders say the results indicate that after five years of campaigning and two unsuccessful elections, their message has been heard.
“It’s an idea whose time has come,” said Howard Herman, attorney and co-chairman for Citizens for Valley Incorporation.
Tom Agnew isn’t impressed.
Agnew, long an incorporation critic, said he thinks the numbers in favor should be higher considering there has been no formal opposition to incorporation this time.
In the past, Kaiser Aluminum has mounted ferocious anti-incorporation campaigns, disseminating information that said taxes would increase and bureaucracy would be added.
“People have only been getting one side of the story this time around,” said Agnew, who lives outside the proposed city’s boundaries but owns property that would be part of the new city. “I’m surprised they don’t have a larger majority than they do. I don’t think this is a done deal by any means.”
The proposed city must gain 50 percent approval, plus one vote, in the May election in order for the measure to pass.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: RESPONDENT PROFILE Robinson Research chose 400 likely voters to take part in its poll on Valley incorporation, conducted earlier this month for The Spokesman-Review. A “likely” voter was one who had voted in the last four county elections. The average age of poll respondents was 61. Bill Robinson, president of the research company, said that reflects the fact that older people are the most loyal voters. They also are the ones most likely to turn out for a special election, such as the May 16 incorporation election, Robinson said. All respondents live within the boundaries of the proposed city. Nearly all of those surveyed own their own homes and have lived in the Valley for 10 years or more.
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