Spokane Mayor David Condon owns a tuxedo. Actually a couple. He’s even been known to mash-up different parts of his formal wear, creating the grandest Garanimals this side of the Cascades.
None of this is because he likes to wear fancy clothes. Nope, he’d much rather be in jeans and a T-shirt. Definitely wearing comfortable shoes.
The reason Condon’s closet is ready for a wedding at a moment’s notice at least partially explains why a guy who was once down by 26 percentage points in his first mayoral primary went on to become Spokane’s first two-term mayor since David Rodgers dating back before Expo ’74.
The guy owns his own tuxes because he did the math. It was way cheaper to buy than to rent. It was both practical and financially conservative, which are big reasons why Condon was elected to a second term in November 2015.
On Friday night, Condon was wearing his tux inside a U.S. Pavilion that was filled with others who were similarly overdressed for a night at Riverfront Park. It was for his annual, and final, “Our Town Gala” mayor’s ball. He wanted to make this one count. Literally.
To the tune of a cool million dollars.
That’s how much money his Our Town Galas – which are co-hosted by his wife, Kristin – have raised for local charities over the last eight years. Whatever your thoughts are on Condon, no one can say he doesn’t love his hometown and isn’t willing to do whatever he can to help it.
Even if it means purchasing some spiffy, if not exactly comfy, clothes. As he spoke to the crowd inside large tents underneath the pavilion’s impressive new dancing lights – complete with a live band and a buffet – the night had the air of a high school prom. Only for people who hadn’t been to their actual prom in several decades. And with a lot less hair.
When Condon finally took to the stage, he opened by mentioning that lack of comfort, emphasizing how grateful he was that others were as uncomfortable as he was in having to wear something other than jeans for the night. Especially the journalists covering the event.
He really loved that part, saying that if The Spokesman-Review and Inlander can make him uncomfortable for more than 300 days a year, they can be uncomfortable because of him for at least one night.
Then he laughed. If you’ve ever heard Condon talk in public, you know the laugh. Only this time it was a lot louder. And longer.
So, why would a mayor hold an event like this?
It’s not out of the ordinary for politicians to hold fundraisers after they’re first elected to help pay off the rest of their election debt. That may or may not have been the initial idea behind the first “gala” for Condon, it’s just that once it was over, he donated the proceeds of the first gala to the Chase Youth Foundation.
That first year, the check was for $20,000. They’ve grown considerably.
Since then, charities including the Spokane Lilac Festival Association, Terrain, the Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery as well as several local veteran’s organizations and memorials have received as much as $200,000 from the Our Town Gala.
This year, big checks were written to:
• Fairchild Families Forward, a fund that supports Fairchild military families through financial support aimed at attending college to help in taking the next step in their education and career.
• The Sister Cities Youth Scholarship Fund, established to send a student from each Spokane city high school on an annual trip to one of Spokane’s five international sister cities to learn about their history, culture and people.
• Family Promise of Spokane, a nonprofit organization that serves local homeless families.
Once all of the talking was over and the oversized checks were handed out, there was dancing. Heck, Condon hired the same band that played at his wedding. He does every year.
“They give us a great annual discount.” Again, that made him laugh.
Yet, that’s totally the way Condon likes to do things. He wants nice things for his hometown, he just wants them to be done in an economically responsible way. Even when it comes to hiring a band for a party.
Besides, he’s done the math. The financials work. He can even give you some advice on what to look for if you’re ever in the market for a new tux.