November 13, 2011 in City

Doug Clark: Condon, put your pull where your rhetoric was

By The Spokesman-Review
 
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Background and the latest updates

We’re still weeks away from that familiar moment when Spokane’s next one-term mayor will slide behind the desk in that spiffy City Hall office with a view.

Although quite frankly, if Mary Verner keeps refusing to concede last Tuesday’s election, David Condon may have to call for an eviction.

Hopefully it won’t come to that.

But Verner’s refusal to accept reality (she now needs 80-plus percent of the remaining votes to keep her job) and allow Condon his victory is bad form.

You’re better than that, Mary.

But while Condon cools his heels, I’d like to offer the mayor-elect a morsel to chew on.

Otto Zehm Park.

That’s one suggestion for what to call the new – and as yet unnamed – downtown riverbank conservation site where the YMCA once stood.

Or, since the land is part of Riverfront Park, we could call it Otto Zehm Grove or the Otto Zehm Scenic Area or …

You get the idea.

The point is to officially and permanently honor the innocent and mentally ill janitor who died unnecessarily in 2006 after a violent and criminal encounter with Spokane cops.

This could help the city heal from one of the most rancid episodes in our history.

Officer Karl Thompson was convicted in early November by a federal jury for using excessive force and lying to investigators afterward in attempt to cover up his brutish attack on Zehm.

And let’s hope the justice doesn’t end there.

Everyone involved in this disgrace should be prosecuted to the fullest.

I wish I could claim credit for Otto Zehm Park.

Truth is, I heard about this the other day from Jeffry Finer, a civil rights attorney who represents the Zehm family in a lawsuit against the city.

This park idea is not part of that action. The originator is Stacie Bering, whom Finer refers to lovingly as his “soul mate.” She was inspired earlier this month by news accounts about the transformation of the old Y location.

There’s a 227-foot path that borders the south bank of the Spokane River, a perfect place for peaceful reflection. The area gives “viewpoints of the river and north bank cityscape and highlights a stream that ran beneath the Y building,” our news story reported.

“Basalt outcroppings and informational plaques dot the area, as well as newly planted ponderosa pines and other landscaping.”

Finer dubbed Bering’s idea “a natural” and I couldn’t agree more.

This is a long shot, of course. Emotions can run high when it comes to naming public landmarks, and new Mayor Condon wouldn’t have the final say.

“Officials,” as our story indicated, “want to allow ample time for community feedback.”

That said, Condon’s backing could be quite helpful.

It would also be a good indicator of his sincerity regarding Zehm. While campaigning, Condon invoked the name Otto Zehm many times.

Verner wasn’t the mayor when Zehm was killed. But as mayor, she completely fumbled this issue.

“I’ve looked into the details surrounding this incident,” said the mayor back in 2009, “and I just don’t think the behavior of the officer rose to a criminal level.”

Condon picked up a lot of votes as a result.

But I wondered over the course of the campaign whether the candidate’s concern for Zehm was genuine or opportunism.

OK. I went further than that.

I suggested that until he saw that there were votes to be grabbed, Condon didn’t know Otto Zehm from AutoZone.

So prove me wrong, David.

Prove me wrong.

Doug Clarkcan be reached at (509) 459-5432 or dougc@spokesman.com.


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