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Opinion >  Column

Doug Clark: Plaza makeover solves city’s jail overcrowding

What a coincidence!

STA (Spokane Transient Authority) approved its makeover scheme for the downtown Bus Plaza at almost the same exact time I finished my own Spokane Plazatentiary plan.

For the record, the bus officials agreed to a $4.7 million redesign for the Plaza’s interior on Thursday.

My proposal was completed Friday morning, right after I read our newspaper story about the aforementioned $4.7 million pipe dream and stopped laughing, that is.

If only the STA had called me.

I could have shown them how we could use the Plaza to solve Spokane’s most pressing criminal justice problem and save a whole lot of money, to boot.

Lord, what have I been smoking?

Since when has anyone connected to the STA ever made saving money a priority?

Back in 1995, bus brainiacs burned through $20 million building what was supposed to be a utilitarian downtown bus depot.

I remember taking a tour through the new palatial Plaza right after it opened. I couldn’t help but marvel at all the imported Italian tile, the fancy waterfall escalator with bronze cougar statues, the loads of fancy foliage …

“Isn’t this supposed to be a place to catch a lousy bus?” I thought to myself.

“Or has the Spokane Club opened up a new annex?”

Then, like a sofa in the lobby of a cheap motel, the Plaza (which sounds even grander when you say it like, “Plah-zahh”) grew seedier and seedier with each passing urine stain.

Good, honest folks who simply wanted to catch a bus would go to the Plaza and find themselves surrounded by a variety of street vermin: punks, predators and uncouth youth.

Which gave me a great idea.

Why keep fighting it?

For years, county commissioners, cops and Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich have panhandled the public to get us to spring for a costly new jail.

They never realized that the answer was already there in the middle of town.

For less than half the cost of this STA makeover, we can turn the bus Plaza into an affordable lockup that can handle and house the felonious overflow from our overcrowded jail.

Heck, many of the miscreants who loiter their lives away on the sidewalks outside the Plaza are probably graduates from our original Handcuff Hotel.

So we’ll probably save thousands on jail transportation costs alone.

But I don’t want to force you into anything.

See for yourselves how much sense I’m making by comparing the STA’s makeover with my Spokane Plazatentiary.

STA PLAN – Add four new retail spaces to the Plaza’s ground floor.

PLAZATENTIARY – Add 400 jail cells to same space.

STA PLAN – Move bronze cougar sculptures to new locations.

PLAZATENTIARY – Swap bronze cougar sculptures for large guard dogs named Fang and Killer.

STA PLAN – Get rid of fancy-pants escalator waterfall.

PLAZATENTIARY – Convert fancy-pants waterfall into inmate slip-and-slide shower ride with automatic soap dispensers.

STA PLAN – Redesign second floor into attractive conference and gallery spaces.

PLAZATENTIARY – Redesign second floor into attractive warden’s office with adjoining inmate strip-search and penal processing area.

STA PLAN – Construction might begin next May.

PLAZATENTIARY – Construction can begin next weekend. Volunteers can meet me at the Plaza with their pickups, toolboxes and beer-filled ice chests.

STA PLAN – Plaza will continue to be used as a bus hub for travelers.

PLAZATENTIARY – Same with my proposal although we will be adding a special one-way bus ride to Tacoma for deporting undesirables or annoying City Council members.

STA PLAN – Make the Plaza a more inviting destination for bus patrons and downtown shoppers.

PLAZATENTIARY – Install lots of razor wire and electric fencing to keep Plaza malefactors right where they belong.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or

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