Arrow-right Camera
News >  Spokane

Plaza’s Dry Falls Epitomize Taxpayer Bath

Just inside Spokane’s luxurious downtown homeless shelter/ bus depot is the perfect metaphor for this $20.6 million example of taxpayer abuse:

A giant sinkhole into which the public is encouraged to toss even more money.

This is the ersatz waterfall that is sandwiched between the escalators.

It was suggested that the Spokane Transit Authority might rake in $20,000 a year off coins thrown into the dancing waters. Perhaps the STA is getting ready to finance another disaster.

Anyone who has wandered inside the downtown STA Plaza during the last two weeks, however, might have noticed something odd about this alleged waterfall windfall.

It’s looked like low tide at Anacortes.

Water was shut off a couple of weeks ago, pending repairs. The $75,000 artwork apparently leaked like a cheap Kmart wading pool.

On Friday, somebody managed to get the thing going again. By Saturday morning it was off.

For much of October, scummy puddles filled the low spots. Escalator riders were treated to swampy whiffs of Eau d’STA as they glided past the stagnant pools salted with slimy pennies, nickels and dimes.

That’s just the beginning of the waterfall follies.

It looks like Bigfoot took a huge bite out of one of the fake rocks. The unsightly gaping wound is presumably where one of two bronze cougars will eventually perch as if climbing the cascade.

But where are the cats? Perhaps they took one look at this waterfall monstrosity and caught a bus out of town.

Last summer, artist Ken Spiering told a reporter his cougars would be rarin’ to go for the Aug. 16 ribbon cutting ceremony.

In September, he offered the following testy excuse: “They’ll be up when they’re up,” he said. “I’m not going to rush it.”

Yeah, Ken, why knock yourself out?

How fitting that this off-again, on-again eyesore is billed as the grand centerpiece of what the STA has named - a drum roll, please - The Plaza.

Someone tell the bus barons that The Plaza is a posh hotel in New York City.

All we really need in Spokane is a lowly, user-friendly bus station. Something serviceable. Something affordable. You know, a place where humble folk could get some cheap transportation.

Instead, we got a cavernous mausoleum with Fiandre porcelain tile on the floor, $2,000 potted ficus trees and cost overruns that would shame a Teamster.

This project soared $9 million more than the STA promised it would. In some countries that kind of irresponsible money handling will get you indicted. Or elected.

The Plaza. Yeah, riiight.

Judging by the ranks of riffraff hanging out in front, the STA should have come up with a more appropriate moniker: How about “Chez Loiter.”

I’m not talking about normal commuters. I’m talking about those rejects from a “Night of the Living Dead” road company.

The amazing thing is that I’ve never seen one of these zombies actually shamble onto a bus. They just stand on the sidewalk, rain or shine, smoking unfiltered Lucky Strikes and glaring at anyone who might actually want to catch a ride home.

I don’t think they’re waiting for the Davenport to reopen.

This week, STA leaders came up with another stroke of genius. They plan to install 12 single-seat benches. Concrete benches that will be in place during the dead of winter.

Someday soon, I’m sure, Spiering will track those pesky cougars down and put them in place. The waterfall will be patched and the wino problem will be solved when they all freeze on those concrete chairs.

We the taxpayers can always drop by The Plaza and get our kicks throwing more money down the drain.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo

Tags: column