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Opinion >  Column

Paul Turner: Maintaining that slim population margin over Tacoma

Paul Turner (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Paul Turner (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Pregnancy is a serious business, and no one in Spokane should be trying to have babies just so the Lilac City can maintain its slim population lead over Tacoma.

But I fear that’s what might happen now that census data project Tacoma passing us to become Washington’s second-largest city before long. This was reported in a story by Will Campbell in Wednesday’s newspaper.

What we don’t know, of course, is how Spokane couples of child-rearing age will meet the challenge of competing in this intrastate population race.

Will they soberly assess the myriad demographic factors involved and then independently make wise, responsible family-planning decisions?

Or will they make meaningful eye contact and wonder aloud if they should, ahem, do their civic duty?

“Doing it for Spokane” could take on an all-new spin.

Any number of additional procreation euphemisms spring to mind.

“In the mood to stay ahead of Tacoma?”

“Training for Bloomsday.”

“Going to Manito.”

“Censusfest.”

“Care to get near nature?”

“That’s no marmot.”

“Going to the lake.”

“Picking huckleberries.”

“Going to the Bowl and Pitcher.”

And so on. There are lots of coded ways to refer to adult cavorting.

But the truth is, I’m not sure just how important this whole thing is.

Never mind that Tacoma rising to No. 2 has been forecast for a long time.

Sure, city proper populations have meaning. Still, don’t we more often think in terms of metropolitan areas or market sizes instead?

How would your life change if Spokane were No. 3 instead of No. 2?

Will you suddenly decide that you would rather live in Tacoma?

Look, I have nothing against Tacoma. I’ve been there a grand total of two times, and one of those occasions was about 50 years ago. (Yes, the city did smell like a paper mill then.)

On occasions when I find myself thinking of that Pierce County city, I sometimes recall a conversation with a reader about what you call a resident. “Tacoman,” it was suggested, sounded confusingly like “Taco man.”

I’m not quite sure what a “Taco man” might be, but I suspect it isn’t synonymous with “Tacoman.”

Anyway, I must be easily amused because that whole thing still tickles me.

Here’s the thing, though. I’ve long thought Spokane and Tacoma were natural allies. We both get to deal with the reality of not being Seattle and all that implies.

And unless there’s some federal grants magic about being No. 2 instead of No. 3, I suspect it does not really make much difference. So what we’re mostly talking about here is image and pride.

OK, saying Spokane is Washington’s second-largest city is kind of nice. But I’m supposing we will survive if we have to tweak that and start saying, “We are the largest city on this side of state.”

Yet I know there are those hereabouts who won’t go down without a fight.

They will want to produce Washingtonians of the Spokanian persuasion.

Of course, family size isn’t typically viewed as primarily the province of government statistics. Most of us tend to see it as a private matter.

But what if the next time census data is collected, it turns out that Spokane has one less resident than Tacoma?

Might that prospect motivate you to go forth and multiply, just a little bit more?

You could even have twins and refer to them as the tiebreaking twosome.

“This is little Lilac, she brought us even with our rival. And this is Taco Man Junior, he saw to it that Spokane gets to hang on to its silver medal for Evergreen State population.”

Perhaps it is inevitable that Tacoma will pass us. Trends seem headed in that direction. Tacoma is the nearer option for those fleeing Seattle housing costs.

We can choose to get defensive about it. Or we can simply rely on one of Spokane’s time-honored assets – grandparents who want more grandchildren and want them now.

That pressure doesn’t always produce results. But sometimes when Spokane grandmas say it is time to get busy, couples do.

Just wondering

After Nevada’s National Hockey League team wins games at home, the arena management folks down there play the rollicking Elvis song “Viva Las Vegas.”

So here’s my question. If Washington gets an NHL team, what song should be played in similar situations?

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