Voters in the Spokane Valley gave a resounding - and perhaps final - thumbs down this week to forming their own city. The time seemed right, the fruit ripe for picking, and still only 41 percent of the voters thought it was the right thing to do.
So the question remains: What happens next? None of the problems that led to three votes on Valley incorporation over five years have disappeared. And they’re guaranteed to get worse.
Valley residents are dealing with planning policies, or the lack of them, that created subdivisions without sewer services and threatened the whole metropolitan area’s water supply. Some neighborhoods were built without adequate streets to bring people in and out of them efficiently and safely. However, if the Valley grew with appropriate infrastructure it could become a prime target for the metropolitan area’s long-term commercial and residential expansion.
With the recent vote, it’s uncertain whether the Valley wants more services or not. It’s clear residents want less government, but will they be happy with streets without curbs, subdivisions without sewers and random growth without check?
Incorporation proponents raised valid issues as they pushed for their own city. Taxation and services were high on the list, but another big problem was representation. Over the years, decisions about Valley issues were made by three commissioners most of whom lived elsewhere. That’s not right.
In fact, there is plenty wrong with county government as it exists now, and the state Growth Management Act is forcing introspection and solutions.
Spokane County residents - all of them - have some tough choices to make in the next few years. Voters may consider a consolidated, countywide government as soon as this fall. Another option is annexation of the Valley to Spokane, a distasteful idea to many county residents who moved away from the city to escape big government.
Then, there’s the status quo. But it’s doubtful a three-member commission can adequately represent the vast concerns of the area or that a county government, with its limited taxing authority, can meet the growing needs of an increasingly urban area.
It’s in the best interests of Spokane’s entire metropolitan area to develop a representative, credible government. One that operates efficiently and effectively. That’s what needs to happen next.
The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Anne Windishar/For the editorial board
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