April 1, 2012 in Opinion

Editorial: Measure 1 merits solid approval from voters

 

Spokane County voters should support Measure 1.

Spokane needs the near-term construction jobs the measure would help create and the long-term jobs in hospitality that would follow completion.

Completion of what?

The installation of another 750 seats in the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena, the addition of another 90,000 square feet of meeting and exhibit space at the Convention Center, with improvements to the riverfront.

The combined cost is an estimated $65 million.

The new arena seats would keep Spokane on the list of potential sites for events like the NCAA basketball tournament. As the scope of March Madness has increased, so has the minimum number of seats the collegiate sports organization requires for venues.

The Convention Center has barely lost that new exhibit hall smell, but it does not have the space envisioned by planners when the doors opened six years ago. The 82,000 square feet of exhibit space is not enough to handle large conventions, and the meeting space located in the former Ag Trade Center is not enough, nor is it convenient to the exhibit hall, where exhibitors hoping to close a sale want it.

The most recent farm convention had to turn away 40 exhibitors. New combines occupy about half a city block – without the header.

The Public Facilities District estimates Spokane is losing 25 percent of potential conventions just because the convention facilities are too small. The space race with competing convention halls is never-ending.

That might be a red flag for sometime in the future, but Measure 1 satisfies today’s needs by simply allowing two current taxes to remain in place a decade past 2033, when both would expire unless renewed. They are a one-tenth percent sales tax and a 2 percent room tax. Visitors pay a substantial piece of the tab.

The proposed 10-year extension will help reassure buyers of PFD bonds that revenues used to cover payments will be there over a 30-year period beyond the present.

Measure 1 is not a tax increase. If it fails, nobody’s taxes will fall until 2033. What could be lost is the opportunity to create several hundred construction jobs and still more jobs in area restaurants and hotels.

There is no guarantee they will come if we build it, but it’s a sure thing they will not if we do not. The district has yet to disappoint.

The officers and board have managed the district’s financial affairs prudently. Current revenues provide about $1.50 for every $1 in bond payment, and the district has about $20 million in the bank as reserves. The well-maintained facilities are a source of pride to the community and a gateway for those who have never before been in Spokane.

With contractors under-bidding each other to get what work is available and the bond market likely to provide cheap financing, Measure 1 could hardly be more timely.

This is an opportunity that should be seized.

To respond to this editorial online, go to www.spokesman.com and click on Opinion under the Topics menu.


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