Spokane - Seattle.
Dry side. Wet side.
East vs. west.
For 100 years, Seattle and Spokane have been Washington’s two largest cities.
As far back as 1900, when Seattle’s population stood at 80,671 and Spokane’s residents numbered 36,848, the two cities have been compared and contrasted to define Washington state.
In the last decade, however, the dynamics playing off the two cities have changed dramatically.
For most of this century, Spokane could conceive of itself as having a big brother/little brother relationship to Seattle.
They had minor league baseball, we had minor league baseball.
They had a world’s fair, we had a world’s fair.
Some years they had the political and economic upper hand, some years we did.
But we were, in essence, part of the same family.
In 1997, the relationship is on the brink of becoming more like that of a first cousin who has migrated to a new land, grown rich and famous and now rarely sends a postcard to his distant shirttail relative back in the old country.
That’s the bottom line of a stunning, fascinating report done by The Spokesman-Review over the last five months.
In the last decade, the divide between Washington’s two largest cities has grown vast in terms of economics, political clout and vision.
Beginning today in a special section entitled The Great Divide, and continuing tomorrow, and then Sunday and Monday of next week, The Spokesman-Review examines the forces at work in Spokane and Seattle today.
As in all honest analysis, there will be some painful moments in the telling of this story.
Some hard facts emerge about Spokane and some candid feedback is offered about Spokane’s economic, political and cultural realities.
The underlying theme of many of these comments is that a culture of poverty has begun to shape Spokane.
An astonishing 45 percent of the jobs in Spokane today pay $14,000 a year or less.
In Seattle, the average wage is now $48,727.
Spokane political tone now often reflects this culture of poverty.
We’re prone to a we-don’t-want-it, we-can’t-afford-it attitude.
Spokane voted no on a science center. Spokane voted no on computers in schools. Spokane voted no on street repairs. Some in Spokane are fighting downtown redevelopment, yawning at efforts to expand the local museums, ignoring pleas for rebuilding core infrastructure.
Meanwhile, in the last decade Seattle has built three new art museums, won approval for both a new football and baseball stadium, and warmly endorsed the revitalization of downtown around a Nordstrom.
The civic and political attitudes of the two communities have always been different.
But the differences seem more promnounced than before. Spokane seems less ambitious even as Seattle seems more.
Spokane seems less sure of its ability to be a place of note, even as Seattle growms more confident.
Seattle, of course, has benefitted immeasurably from the thousands of people who a decade ago went to work at Micrsoft, and now are millionaires because they bought as few as 200 shares of stock in 1986 and held them.
Seattle has been boosted a second time by the huge run-up in Boeing company employment and business. Today, Boeing employs a staggering 91,000 people in King County.
Spokane, by contrast, has enjoyed a modest echo of this resounding blast of success. Boeing employs about 550 people at its Spokane fabrication plant.
This is better than Microsoft’s Spokane presence, which is only an 800 number in the phone book.
Spokane cannot rewrite history.
Neither Boeing nor Microsoft is likely to move its headquarters here anytime soon.
A vision, finlally needs to be crafted from what is possible here.
Right now, it is unclear what is possible.
Will Spokane gather its strength and become a vibrant second city, a kind of smaller San Francisco to Los Angeles? A Colorado Springs to a Denver?
Or will the city fall, like a tired track star, behind not only Seattle, but a host of other second-tier cities from Boise to Bellingham?
This is not to suggest that Spokane can become, or should aspire to become, a Seattle.
As The Spokesman-Review’s series will document, there are some things about Seattle we would like to avoid.
We sent The Slice columnist and cartoonist Milt Priggee to the West Side and they came back with some amusing anecedotes that will appear next Sunday.
Spokane still a big heart.
Spokane is resourceful, livable and a great place to raise a fmaily.
Historically, Spokane has taken pride in being a strong number 2.
To stay there in the 21st century will require a rekindling of Spokane’s soul as a place solidly rooted on hope and active optimism, not reactive negativism and despair.
This is the hope the newspaper wants to rekindle as it presents “The Great Divide.”
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