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Clark: Spokane bigger than Tacoma? Betting on it

I hope nobody minds, but I have put our Spokane pride on the line in a friendly cross-state wager with Peter Callaghan, a columnist with the Tacoma News Tribune.

Our bet centers on the soon-to-be-released U.S. census numbers that will reaffirm my hometown as Washington’s second-largest metropolis.

Or not.

Yes, those population figures could relegate us to the No. 3 spot behind Tacoma although it pains me to think of that dark scenario.

Being No. 2 next to the smog cloud of Seattle is a bragging right all self-respecting Spokanites should hold dear.

We never get much respect out here in the 509.

Olympia ignores us. The only time we make national news is when something bizarre happens, like that visiting male Republican legislator who painted the town all dolled up in fishnets and a dress.

Tell a snobby West Sider you’re from Spokane. Most likely you’ll get the same look you’d give a shabby stranger who showed up at the door asking to use your bathroom.

But getting back to the bet …

After the numbers roll in, Callaghan and I have agreed to set up a future lunch date in the neutral city of Ellensburg.

Loser (No. 3) buys.

We have also talked about exchanging some gifts although I want to be very careful about that, because the last box that came to me with a Tacoma postmark contained a nasal time bomb.

That assault happened last fall, after a state office released population figures showing Spokane – with 205,673 residents – was still Washington’s second-biggest burg.

The numbers gave us a slim-but-significant 2,273-person edge over Tacoma.

So in a playful burst of monkeyshines, I bought a sympathy card and signed it: “Dear Tacoma, Eat My Dust! Respectfully yours, Spokane.”

I stuck the card in a carton along with a few Lilac City trinkets. Then I mailed my gloat box to the Tacoma City Council.

A couple of weeks later …

I arrived at work to find that the City of Dyspepsia (or is it Destiny?) had retaliated.

Inside the box, buried under some innocent Tacoma claptrap, was a large bag of dark ground coffee. At least I thought it was coffee until I opened the bag, stuck my nose practically into it and took a serious whiff.


Turns out I just inhaled the foul fumes from some sort of fertilizer that the Tacomians create out of their own poo.

Hey, who am I to judge what another city does with its spare time?

“They don’t make jokes about the ‘Tacoma Aroma’ for nothing,” I wrote at the time.

I’m sure nothing of the sort will happen. Callaghan seems like the sort of decent guy who can accept a census defeat in a gracious and good-natured manner.

But I’ll take along a pair of nose plugs just in case I’m wrong.

Hopefully, the population figures will continue to grow (har!) our way.

You know, in that event the City Council would be wise to put up some new signs that reflect our civic superiority.

“Welcome to Spokane – Washington’s Second Largest City!”

This will never happen, of course. Half the potholes in Spokane are from city officials dragging their feet on my great ideas.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or