(From For the Record, October 31, 1997:) Story incorrect: An Oct. 25 article about mayoral candidate John Talbott’s involvement with the Spokane Horizons planning process said all Horizons meetings were held at City Hall or the downtown Spokane Library. However, introductory meetings were held at other locations. All subsequent small-group work sessions to come up with specific planning proposals were held at City Hall or the downtown library.
Mayoral candidate John Talbott’s criticism of Spokane Horizons has angered city officials and citizens working on the long-range planning process.
Talbott recently said he sat in on some Horizons meetings and felt staff members were pushing their own agenda, but participants said he wasn’t at any meetings, and his name doesn’t appear on sign-in sheets.
“He wasn’t at any work group meeting, we know that,” said Chris Hugo, the city planner overseeing the effort.
“His comments impinge the integrity of Horizons,” Hugo said.
About 200 volunteers are helping shape policies for the city’s 20-year comprehensive plan, expected to be adopted by the City Council early next year.
During an Oct. 14 debate with Mayor Jack Geraghty, Talbott was asked if he had attended any Horizons meetings.
“Yes,” he responded. “I’ve sat in on various of them, and I have to agree that I think for the most part they are facilitated toward a predetermined objective.”
Talbott said Thursday he still thinks he was at Horizons meetings, but said he’s not sure when or where.
Talbott said he had attended one or two meetings at Ferris High School, but all the Horizons meetings were held at City Hall or the downtown Spokane Library.
“Maybe it was the library,” he said when told where the meetings were held.
Talbott said he isn’t surprised no one remembers seeing him at the meetings.
“They are busy people doing a lot of things,” he said.
If he did attend meetings, he didn’t sign in. He also isn’t on the Spokane Horizons mailing list, which includes more than 1,000 names of people who have indicated interest in the planning effort.
In his criticism, Talbott specifically cited problems with the transportation work group.
“The traffic component of the current Horizons study effort has almost disintegrated over differences between what the staff is looking for and what the citizens are looking for,” he said during the debate.
The transportation group held its final meeting Thursday. Although participation has declined, the dozen remaining citizen volunteers said the policies they are recommending to the planning commission are their own and not staff-driven.
“I was mad and I was dismayed that someone would say this about our group,” said Gina Schrock, a member of the transportation work group. “I really feel our group has tried very very hard to encourage people with different views.
“I feel strongly this is citizen-driven, the planners are here to provide expertise,” she said.
Talbott said Thursday three people told him city staff members had already decided the outcome. But Talbott said he felt uncomfortable giving the names of those people.
“They are people I know of, who are working in the Horizons process, in the traffic and leadership side of it,” Talbott said. “They tell me staff has the solutions, now they have to get the citizens to come around to them.”
“He may well have heard that. Even some people in the process have said that,” said Holly Ann O’Connell, a Horizons volunteer.
Julian Powers, another member of the transportation group, said Talbott called him Thursday after being interviewed by the newspaper and asked if he thought the process was staff-driven.
“I told him absolutely not,” Powers said.
Frank Yuse, who volunteered on the transportation and leadership work groups, said he was disappointed by some of the restrictions. The City Council approved vacating Post Street while Horizons members were discussing it.
“I can’t say with a great deal of confidence that Horizons was staff-driven in the sense that we were curtailed in substance,” Yuse said. “But they should have told us our limits in the beginning.”
Talbott said he heard the transportation group started disintegrating when city staff decided not to bring in nationally known traffic planner Walter Kulash to work with the group.
But Kulash has no connection to Spokane Horizons. He was being considered as a consultant with the Downtown Spokane Partnership, which is designing a plan for downtown only. Horizons is creating the overall comprehensive plan for the entire city.
Talbott said he might be confused.
“But I think it’s an indication how staff does things,” he said.
Members of the Horizons transportation group said they had a brief conflict in August. Volunteers felt they were being pushed too hard to meet deadlines.
“Staff responded really well,” Schrock said.
At the end of their final meeting, the transportation group volunteers asked city staff to leave the room so they could talk freely about Talbott’s comments.
They said the transportation draft policies going to the planning commission next week were created by the group and were not predetermined by staff.
Laura Ackerman has been involved in two work groups, natural environment and capital facilities.
“It has been a fair process, I don’t think it was staff-driven at all,” Ackerman said.
“To me it would be odd if we didn’t have any problems, considering all the different personalities and different ideas,” said Steve Franks, the city planner assigned to the transportation group. “That’s what made this an honest process.”
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: ELECTION STORIES Upcoming stories about the city of Spokane election include: Sunday: Profiles of Talbott and Geraghty. Monday-Wednesday: A look at some of the issues, including the Lincoln Street bridge proposal, downtown redevelopment and city spending. Thursday: Barbara Lampert vs. Cheryl Rodgers for Council Position 1. Friday: Rob Higgins vs. Judith Gilmore for Council Position 2. Saturday: Phyllis Holmes vs. Steve Thompson for Council Position 3. Previous stories are available on The Spokesman-Review’s website, Virtually Northwest. Direct your browser to www.VirtuallyNW.com and click on Election Central.