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Town Hall Crowd Hears Pitch For City

People who support forming a city in the Spokane Valley took their new campaign on the road this week. Critics assailed it as the same old thing.

Citizens for Valley Incorporation on Monday held the first in a series of town hall meetings that a flier states will get out “the truth about Valley incorporation.”

Nearly 50 people crammed into the Evergreen Junior High School media center to hear the group’s presentation and ask questions about the latest incorporation proposal, the third such attempt since 1990.

An election is tentatively scheduled for May 16.

Incorporation leaders Joe McKinnon, Howard Herman and Sue Delucchi pitched forming a new city as the best of four alternatives facing Valley residents.

The other three - consolidating Spokane county and city governments, remaining unincorporated or joining the city of Spokane - all contain pitfalls and problems for the Valley, they said.

Valley residents will lose local control and face higher taxes under consolidation, which is an option the county’s freeholders are considering, Herman said.

A consultant estimates that people living in the unincorporated areas would face a $10 million tax increase under consolidation. They would get better roads, libraries and other urban services for their money, though, he said.

Valley residents will continue to be under-represented in government if the Valley stays unincorporated and under the rule of Spokane County, McKinnon said.

Incorporation supporters contend that Valley residents pay the lion’s share of the taxes in the unincorporated area of the county but have the same voice in government as other areas.

The Valley is split among two commissioner districts, so no one person represents the Valley in county government.

“You have no say in it. You have no control in county government,” McKinnon said.

Annexing to the city of Spokane means facing a utility tax, which Valley residents don’t pay now, and being taxed to pay for debts Spokane has racked up over the years, according to information put out by incorporation backers.

Forming a city of 73,000 would give Valley residents the ultimate in local control, McKinnon said.

“Your neighbors would be running the city,” he said.

Herman told the crowd a new city could provide the same or better services than residents are getting now for the same cost, or lower.

City officials could contract out for services in a competitive process, thereby eliminating the need for expensive city bureaucracies, he said.

For example, the city could contract with the county to provide police protection through the sheriff’s department and contract with the district court for judicial services, Herman said.

Some people wanted to know what incorporation would mean for sewers, the Spokane Transit Authority and growth management.

The standard response was it either wouldn’t matter or would be better under incorporation.

Many in the crowd, a lot of them members of Citizens for Valley Incorporation, nodded and murmured their approval after the presentation.

Others didn’t, and raised concerns about the proposal that helped to sink it in the two prior elections.

If forming a city is such a great idea, one man asked, why did several of the Valley’s more affluent neighborhoods - like Liberty Lake, Ponderosa and Painted Hills - fight so stridently to be left out of the incorporation boundaries.

Herman said those areas have become their own isolated communities, “almost cloistered,” and didn’t want to belong to the overall community.

“They have become neighborhoods unto themselves, and they like it that way,” he said.

Other critics challenged Citizens for Valley Incorporation’s claims that a new city would remain bureaucracy-free.

“Inherently, governments grow by leaps and bounds,” one man said.

McKinnon said even if that happens, county government would be greatly reduced because it wouldn’t be responsible for providing services in the Valley anymore.

Another man challenged that.

“You just said you were going to contract with the county to provide services out here,” he said.

Incorporation supporters plan four more town hall meetings - April 10 at Bowdish Junior High, April 11 at Greenacres Junior High, April 17 at Horizon Junior High and April 18 at North Pines Junior High.

All the meetings begin at 7 p.m.