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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spin Control

Truths, half truths and other campaign claims, Part 1

Claim: LaVerne Biel, a candidate in Spokane City Council District 2, has “a special interest, partisan agenda.”

Source: TV ad in support of Lori Kinnear, Biel’s opponent, produced by Spokane for Honest Government, a group financed largely by the Spokane firefighters union, Local 29. Other contributors include the Washington State Council of City and County Employees and the liberal Inland Northwest Leadership political action committee.

Truthfulness:  True, but ideas behind the loaded language apply to Kinnear as well.

Analysis: Biel is financially supported by the Associated Builders and Contractors, the Build East political action committee, the Inland Northwest Association of General Contractors and other “special interests.”  Her endorsements include many local Republicans, including Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, state Rep. Kevin Parker, former County Commissioner Kate McCaslin, Spokane GOP vice chair Stephanie Cates and others. So, yes, Biel has support from the GOP and the construction industry.

Kinnear, on the other hand, has received contributions from many different unions. Kinnear has been endorsed by Spokane County Democrats and many local Democrats, including state Sen. Andy Billig, state Reps. Timm Ormsby and Marcus Riccelli and others. So, yes, Kinnear has support from Democrats and labor.

Claim: "We are laying down a mile of bike lane ($63,350.00 per mile) to accommodate a very small part of the population (in Spokane 1-2%)."

Source: A response from incumbent Councilman Mike Fagan discussing the city’s Complete Streets policy, which states that street planning must consider all users of the road and include amenities for different modes of travel if appropriate.

Truthfulness: Largely untrue, but based in fact.

Analysis: It’s nearly impossible to calculate how much it costs to install a mile of bike lane, and Fagan’s figure is deduced from the entire cost of a road-striping project.

The city rarely, if ever, puts down just a bike lane. The striping, as putting paint on a street is called, is done as part of an entire project. For instance, the recent work done on the Downtown Bike Network cost about $107,000. That included design, engineering, construction management, traffic control and a little bit extra the city requires called the administrative reserve equaling ten percent of the project’s cost. The price tag also included removing old striping, as well as striping all lanes on the road. Main Avenue got a new buffered bike lane, but it also got new striping for three lanes of vehicle traffic. The project cost about $96,000 per mile. Using Fagan's math, finishing the Downtown Bike Network cost $96,000 per mile of bike lane. Using Fagan's logic, the same could be said of vehicle lanes: A traffic lane costs $96,000 per mile.

In short, Fagan’s cost per mile of bike lane is largely inaccurate as it also includes cost per mile of traffic lanes, as well as all other related costs in road-striping projects.

As for the bicycling population statistic, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates for bike commuters line up with Fagan’s figure. In 2013, the League of American Bicyclists estimated that 1.2 percent of workers commuted by bike in Spokane. Of course, that number does not consider the percentage of population who don’t commute to work by bike, but do ride a bike for recreation or pleasure.

Claim: Noam Chomsky, an MIT linguist and leftist political commentator, and Chris Hedges, a liberal journalist and activist, endorsed Envision Spokane’s Worker Bill of Rights.

Source: Envision Spokane mailer, which also included stock photos, as first reported by The Inlander.

Truthfulness: True.

Analysis: While it may not surprise people that Chomsky and Hedges would support the ballot measure in principle, actually getting the endorsements from such notable people who have no Spokane connections was questionable. Reached by email, Chomsky confirmed his endorsement of the measure. Envision provided proof of Hedges’ endorsement.

Nicholas Deshais
Joined The Spokesman-Review in 2013. He is the urban issues reporter, covering transportation, housing, development and other issues affecting the city. He also writes the Getting There transportation column and The Dirt, a roundup of construction projects, new businesses and expansions. He previously covered Spokane City Hall.

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