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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane voters willing to pay to fix streets, park

Spokane voters handed city leaders a big win Tuesday night and a chance to shape Spokane for decades to come, with the overwhelming approval of a bond to revitalize Riverfront Park and a levy to extend the massive reconstruction of city streets that began 10 years ago.

The park bond, which needed 60 percent to pass, took 67 percent of the vote. The street levy garnered 77 percent, though it needed just 50 percent.

Even before the results came in, the mood in a back room of O’Doherty’s Irish Grille in downtown Spokane was festive.

Mayor David Condon, with a wheat beer nearby, showed the crowd his “highly polyester” tie emblazoned with the symbol of Expo ’74.

“If you only knew where that tie came from,” said former Mayor Jack Geraghty, who was instrumental in bringing Spokane the World’s Fair, which was something of a guiding light for the park bond.

“Or where it’s been, mayor,” Condon said, drawing laughter.

The room stilled as Council President Ben Stuckart scrolled through his smartphone and read the results.

As the room burst into applause, he yelled, “That’s a big win.”

With the bond’s approval, Riverfront Park will undergo a massive renovation over the next five years, creating a central plaza and promenade, reviving the Pavilion as a year-round event center, constructing a new home for the historic Looff Carrousel, building an ice rink near City Hall and lighting the park for safer strolls at night, among other things.

The street levy will go toward paying off the $84 million of debt left on the 2004 street bond while levying about $5 million a year for arterial street work through 2034. The work will be part of the city’s integrated plan to repair water lines and update stormwater drainage systems while fixing streets. By combining work and funds, the city expects to bring in about $500 million over 20 years.

Neither ballot measure will change property tax rates. City taxpayers will continue to pay 91 cents for every $1,000 of assessed property value.

Park Board President Randy Cameron credited the “political atheism” of bond and levy supporters for their success.

“Riverfront Park and the legacy of Expo is the biggest piece of common ground we have,” said Ted McGregor, publisher of the Inlander who ran the group planning the park’s renovation. “This vote affirms that.”

Geraghty, the former mayor, agreed.

“This shows that what we the people started in 1974 is going to continue on to a new day,” he said. “It’s a giant step forward for Spokane.”