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Doug Clark: Incorporation brings Spokane Valley big-city woes

Spokane Valley Councilman Chuck Hafner, center, delivers a sharp rebuke to the other council members who had just fired city manager Mike Jackson before the regular meeting started Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

I will suspend the sarcasm today and instead offer a heartfelt apology to the city of Spokane Valley.

I am terribly sorry for doubting you.

Some dozen-plus years ago, when a majority of Valley residents voted (for about the 19th time) to abandon their virtue and embrace the curse of municipal government, I huffed and puffed against it.

“Whataya gonna call this new burg?” I carped.

“Stripmallvania?”

So cruel.

But I sincerely thought that turning Spokane Valley into an incorporated city was the worst notion since Spokane started installing red-light cameras* at intersections.

(*This is admittedly a selfish gripe since I got rightfully nailed by one of our Candid Cameras the other day.)

Today, however, I must recant my skepticism.

Spokane Valley has become a real city. And by that I mean it’s now every bit as screwed up as Spokane.

The signs of Spokane Valley’s growth from tiny bud to noxious weed are impossible to ignore.

For starters, the Valley City Council has become infested with self-important bozos.

(Hmm. Sound familiar?)

Some of these rats in the wheat bin conspired not long ago to fire Mike Jackson, the Valley’s city manager since 2010.

By most accounts Jackson is a good guy who didn’t deserve such an ambush. Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, in fact, called Jackson “one of the finest people I’ve ever had a chance to work with.”

Not that logic helped any.

Just the other day about two dozen sign-carrying concerned Valleyites gathered outside City Hall to protest the Jackson axing.

They understandably want to know what happened and want the firing investigated.

Why, it’s almost like the Spokane citizens who want to know all the details regarding last year’s canning of police Chief Frank Straub by his ex-BFF, Mayor David Condon.

But just as you’d expect in a real city, transparency is a concept used only when discussing the merits of Glad Wrap.

True to form, the aforementioned Valley officials ignored their critics and stubbornly refused to get to the bottom of, well, anything.

But wait, there’s more!

“Since the city of Spokane Valley first incorporated, I have not witnessed a sneakier council as I have these past three months,” Keith Harger wrote in a letter to the editor that appeared not long ago in The Spokesman-Review.

And take this revealing excerpt from our news story about the last Spokane Valley City Council gathering:

“During the meeting former mayor Tom Towey said the council has gained a reputation of deception. ‘This saddens me,’ he said.”

No need for sadness, Tom. It’s called civic progress.

Another resident, the story reported, complained that the council seems to be following “an extreme far-right political personal agenda,” causing Mayor Rod Higgins to thwack his gavel and say, “That’s enough of that.”

Ooh. Look at the big gavel.

We here in Spokane know all about ideologues, but in reverse. While Spokane Valley wastes time fretting over right-wing issues like the use of restrooms by transgender people, we’re banning elephant hooks and trying to save the planet.

I haven’t paid enough attention to Spokane Valley.

I should have listened to the reader who keeps leaving voicemail messages urging me to drop the Lilac City weirdness and come examine the loons who run the show east of Havana.

Oh, Spokane Valley isn’t quite the Big Apple yet.

After all, our neighbors still haven’t found a proper city center.

I’ve always assumed that, in order to be a genuine metropolis, there must be a downtown core where street bums can accost innocent pedestrians for spare change.

But all the other signs are there.

To recap: Sneakiness. Deception. Underhanded political decisions. Pet causes. Elected leaders who ignore the will of the people …

Spokane Valley is all grown up, just like Spokane. And I trust all you pro-city voters are happy because, well, you finally got what you wished for.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by email at dougc@spokesman.com.

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