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Editorial: Street repair, Riverfront ballot issues deserve ‘yes’ vote

Propositions 1 and 2 offer Spokane voters savvy options for maintaining the streets and refurbishing a beloved park – without increasing current tax rates.

Proposition 1 is the next step in financing street repairs, after the successful 10-year bond expires this year. This time it’s a 20-year levy, and if voters agree to extend current property tax assessments, the city would use the revenue to attract matching funds for up to $25 million annually to repair and upgrade streets and curbs and add bike lanes, lighting and landscaping.

Property tax rates would not change.

The current assessments cover the 2004 street bond, which still will not be fully repaid for 16 years. Those bonds would be refinanced and paid off at a lower interest rate. As with the 2004 plan, the city has begun identifying the streets that would be repaired. This plan answers the “What next?” question. Without it, there will be no dedicated funding source for street maintenance.

Proposition 2 would revitalize Riverfront Park.

The park’s periphery has been transformed since 1974. The Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena has replaced the Coliseum. The Convention Center has been expanded. The Centennial Trail has been added. The Monroe Street Bridge has been rebuilt.

Huntington Park and Kendall Yards have opened up gorgeous river views.

Now it’s time to pump new life into downtown’s centerpiece. Other than new gondolas, the Rotary Club fountain and the new viewpoint where the old YMCA stood, Riverfront Park hasn’t changed much. The IMAX Theater and kiddie rides are dated, and the restroom facilities at the Looff Carrousel are an embarrassment.

Spokane can do better, as it did when rail yards were removed and the park was built. Residents don’t need to think as big this time. They don’t need to raise their taxes. But they do need to decide whether they want to rescue a civic gem.

We know people have fond memories of the park, but they may not be aware of the state of disrepair, or of the possibilities if it were upgraded. For starters, the park could come alive at night with new lighting and other safety upgrades. The planned replacement for the Pavilion would allow for light shows, small concerts and other events.

A pedestrian promenade would be built to connect the south and north entrances to the park. A new carousel structure would include modern restrooms. New playgrounds would be built. To see other improvements, peruse the master plan at http://riverfrontparkmasterplan.org.

Plans to rehabilitate the infrastructure are just as important. Irrigation and electrical systems are outdated. Bridges and walkways need repairs.

The cost is $60 million, which would be covered by selling new 20-year park bonds and refinancing the 1999 and 2007 issues. Tax rates would remain the same. It’s an investment that could draw more economic development to the city’s core.

These two propositions reflect the kind of innovative thinking the city needs to move forward. Voters should vote yes to both.


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