Early in October 1959, a handful of New York consultants arrived in Spokane to begin laying out a 20-year development plan for the city’s core. Four months later, the preliminary report was released.
With a couple of slight modifications in the 1960s and early ‘90s, that plan still represents the guiding vision for downtown Spokane.
That is about to change, however, beginning with a town hall meeting from 7 to 10 p.m. Thursday at the Spokane Convention Center.
Anyone with a stake in downtown Spokane’s future should plan to attend this session and other workshops that will follow it on April 2, May 13 and June 17. Ultimately, the Spokane Planning Department and the Downtown Spokane Partnership intend the yearlong process to identify and implement a downtown development plan that the entire community can support.
By itself, a total of 12 hours of public meetings, followed up by hearings next fall on a draft plan, is insufficient to achieve such an ambitious goal.
For the time frame to work, citizens who care about the city will have to engage one another in their own conversations about the downtown core. The broader the street-level discussions that take place ahead of time, the more informed and focused the public meetings will be. And the clearer and more thoughtful will be the expression of public will.
At the same time, planners and hired consultants who are steering the process need to be alert not only to the input they receive at the meetings, but also to any sign that they are not getting the breadth of public participation they set as their goal. They should be flexible enough to make adjustments as needed.
Massive information gathering doesn’t necessarily assure understanding - either by the citizen participants or specialists who distill the input into a final product. To have genuine public buy-in, the eventual plan must honestly reflect the public’s values and reasonable aspirations for their city.
That can happen if all parties strive to respect diverse opinions, trust each other’s sincerity, and invest their energy in the discussions now rather than second-guessing them later.
If the process is handled well, Spokane’s future could be marked by progress and prosperity, and we could begin to set aside the rancor that has obscured so many recent issues of downtown development.
, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Doug Floyd/For the editorial board