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Dark Clouds Over Spokane? A Political Ploy

Sun., Nov. 2, 1997

This fall you didn’t have to wear a parka to trick-or-treat on Halloween. The Washington State Cougars remain in the Rose Bowl sweepstakes even as the calendar turns to November.

The price of a ski pass hasn’t risen and the future of the Davenport Hotel is looking up.

These are all checkpoints on my personal satisfaction barometer about life in Spokane.

Today, the arrow on my barometer clearly registers on the positive.

Life is good. Spokane is a better place to live today than at any time in a decade.

I don’t know where the arrow points for you.

I do hope you stop and consider your personal barometer before the Tuesday city elections.

At election time, all kinds of storm clouds, real or imagined, rumble through a community as candidates and causes try to influence the readings on our personal barometers.

This fall, some big winds have been whipping through the city. Mostly these have been ill winds, intent on blowing a dark cloud over Spokane.

Mayoral candidate John Talbott has whipped up his version of a bad storm. So has City Council candidate Steve Thompson. To them, the state of the city is dark and forboding.

The biggest storm clouds have blown in all the way from Seattle with the help of developer David Sabey.

By Tuesday, Sabey will have spent tens of thousands of dollars and used his Seattle advertising and political message companies to saturate Spokane’s radio airwaves and fill Spokane’s mailboxes with dire warnings to voters about the terrible political failings of Spokane.

The effort is unparalleled in the city. No outsider has ever spent more trying to influence Spokane city politics.

With increasing shrillness and decreasing accuracy, Sabey has tried to paint a dark picture about Spokane redevelopment projects, Spokane politics and Spokane politicans, particularly Mayor Jack Geraghty.

The intensity of this effort by a Seattle developer to convince us that Spokane is a failing city run by corrupted politicians seems odd.

Sabey has a substantial investment in town. He and the bank own NorthTown Mall.

To nuke a place where you rely on the good will of citizens and shoppers suggests Sabey has let his ego get the better of his business judgment.

Does he think he is bigger than the city he trashes?

For its part, Spokane is very fond of David Sabey’s investment. NorthTown is a tremendous community asset and remains the favorite shopping destination for a majority of local residents. And it will continue to be so even if downtown is redeveloped with its entirely different set of retailers.

The juxtaposition of Sabey’s anti-Spokane politics and Spokane’s warm feelings to the NorthTown Mall gets back to the importance personal barometers play in community life. Many people in Spokane have had good experiences at NorthTown and their personal barometers reflect a positive feeling toward the center.

David Sabey, apparently bruised by some bad experience with local politics in Spokane, has let his personal barometer toward the city swing south.

The right to strongly held political views remains an absolute, bedrock freedom in this country.

David Sabey has a right to his views.

And, because he is wealthy, he also has an opportunity to share those views through paid political advertising, which he has done in Spokane these last few weeks.

But the ill wind he is trying to kick up this election cycle cannot be considered an accurate forecast of the political weather in Spokane.

For all the huffing and puffing about Spokane’s failures that Sabey has broadcast and mailed in the last few days, there isn’t some terrible flaw in Spokane’s civic life.

Crime is down.

The number of jobs in Spokane has risen five years in a row.

Middle management has shrunk at City Hall even as community-oriented policing and neighborhood-based advisory councils have increased.

Streets are a problem in Spokane because taxpayers haven’t been willing to support a funding plan to fix them.

Even so, the city of Spokane has borrowed some money to fix key arterials this fall and voters have a chance to honestly fund additional street improvements on Tuesday simply by saying yes to a local-option, fix-the-roads-only fuel tax.

Most important, some good people, with deep roots in the community and demonstrated leadership ability, are running for public office in Spokane.

They include Phyllis Holmes, Rob Higgins, Judith Gilmore, Barbara Lampert, Cherie Rodgers and Jack Geraghty.

They aren’t naysayers and they aren’t trying to form a cloud over the community from the outside.

Check your personal barometer, then vote on Tuesday.

, DataTimes MEMO: Chris Peck is the editor of The Spokesman-Review. His column appears each Sunday on Perspective.

Chris Peck is the editor of The Spokesman-Review. His column appears each Sunday on Perspective.

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