A month ago, Spokane Valley voters appeared ready to form their own city.
A scientific poll showed incorporation was likely to pass.
There was no organized opposition to the measure.
Officials from county government, which stood to lose a lot of money if the city formed, weren’t complaining.
On Tuesday, voters crushed the third incorporation effort since 1990 like a bug. Only 41 percent of them approved the measure. The proposal received 44 percent approval at the polls last year.
Local political observers said Wednesday that the four-week turnaround was remarkable.
Most agreed that the formation of a formal opposition group led to the demise of the proposed city of 73,000 people.
“That’s a dramatic shift in a short period of time,” said Bill Robinson, whose research firm conducted a survey for The Spokesman-Review last month that showed incorporation was likely to pass. “Usually a shift of that nature involves a scandal of some kind.”
Denny Ashlock, a longtime Valley businessman and political activist, said he was surprised by the margin of defeat.
“I thought it was going to be much closer,” Ashlock said.
Citizens for Valley Incorporation co-chairman Howard Herman put it this way: “I’m in shock.”
Voters started to sour on the proposal as soon as Concerned Citizens Against Valley Incorporation formed two weeks ago, said Robinson, who tracked the campaign through the media and personal contacts.
“I think the opposition’s campaign was amazingly successful,” he said. “I could see the margin narrowing. It was a steady march toward failure once (the opposition) formed.”
Citizens Against raised and spent nearly $30,000 in less than two weeks. The group let loose with a media blitz that included newspaper, radio and television advertisements that attacked every angle of the proposition.
The ads claimed that incorporation would divide the Valley and raise taxes.
Chairman Dick Denenny said his group gave a voice to the silent majority who opposed the city.
“The groundswell, really, was there,” Denenny said. “People just needed a rallying point. They needed something to give them a sense of belonging so they could say what they felt.”
Herman said Denenny’s group ran a “scare campaign” that was full of misinformation. But he conceded it was effective.
“They scared off plenty of people,” he said.
Citizens for Valley Incorporation raised nearly $24,000 over a eight-month period but didn’t have a large chunk of cash at the end to match the opposition’s blitz.
Herman was noncommittal Wednesday about the future of the incorporation effort, but said he didn’t know if it ever would fly.
Valley residents may be too conservative to ever vote to form a new government, said Herman, who has been involved in the incorporation effort for a decade.
Ashlock said it’s time to drop incorporation and look for other solutions to the problems in the Valley, like a lack of representation in local government.
“I think it should be over for a while,” he said. “If it was closer, maybe not. But this was a big defeat.”
xxxx A SPENDING RACE Citizens for Valley Incorporation raised nearly $24,000 over eight months. Citizens Against raised and spent nearly $30,000 in less than two weeks.