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Doug Clark: Soothing response suits Spokane sensibilities

Turmoil is often the spark plug of inspiration.

Winston Churchill, say. During the dark hours of World War II, the British prime minister lifted his nation by vowing “Never surrender!”

And who can forget Patrick Henry’s defiant reaction to King George III in 1775?

“Give me liberty or give me death!”

Now comes an equally courageous and stirring utterance from Spokane’s own spokesmouth, Marlene Feist.

“These things happen.”

Not since “don’t worry, be happy” has there been a more soothing mantra for the masses.

Feist’s insightful observation appeared in a Wednesday front-page story about the sudden bailing of Blair Ulring for, ahem, “personal reasons.” The former Stockton, Calif., chief of police withdrew his name from the final four being considered for Spokane police chief.

These things happen.


True, Feist could have said a lot of other things.

She could have said …

“We here at the city really screwed the pooch in our vetting of Ulring’s resume.”

She could have said …

“We need to tighten our system so that something this alarming and embarrassing never happens again.”

But why reach for the stars? You’ll just throw your shoulder out.

On Tuesday, S-R reporter Justin Runquist broke the eyepopper about two dubious degrees that Ulring had claimed on the resume he submitted to the city in his quest to become our top cop.

The degrees are from “La Salle University”: a bachelor of science in administration of justice and a master of science in law enforcement management.

Ulring was some academic, too. He earned both degrees “summa cum laude,” according to the resume.

Trouble is, La Salle never heard of Ulring.

The real La Salle, that is.

Here’s another knee-slapper. The Philadelphia-based Catholic university doesn’t offer those aforementioned degrees.

It’s looking more and more like Ulring might have obtained his degrees from a now-defunct diploma mill where course papers were graded by weight instead of worth.

Why wasn’t this standard of lower learning in place when I was plodding my way through Eastern?

I’d have written all my term papers on plywood and given the valedictory speech at graduation.

Oh, well.

I can’t underscore what a gift Feist has bestowed upon this city.

I move we scrap that enormously dumb “Near Nature. Near Perfect.” motto and replace it with “Spokane: These Things Happen!”

It’s like a sanitized version of that crass two-word scatological sentiment you see on ball caps and bumper stickers.

You know, “(#$@!) Happens.”

If only Spokane had Feist’s comforting catchphrase back when we really needed it.

Like in 1889, when the whole damned town flamed over.

These things happen.

Or when Metropolitan Mortgage went bust robbing investors of their nest eggs.

These things happen.

Ice Storm ’96. The River Park Square scandal. Kevin Coe. Jim West. Otto Zehm …




Thank you, Marlene. We all feel so much better.

Doug Clark can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or