Former four-term Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett had a clear message on Thursday evening: Mid-size cities like Spokane can accomplish big things when everyone is pulling on the same rope.
Cornett, who served as the United States Conference of Mayors president and authored the book “The Next American City: The Big Promise of Our Midsize Metros,” visited Spokane to give the keynote address at Downtown Spokane Partnership’s annual meeting at Wonder Spokane.
He was the third mayor in Oklahoma City to carry on the Metropolitan Area Projects, better known as MAPS. In 1993, Oklahoma City voters approved a one cent sales tax to revitalize a failing downtown. The following iteration of this program rebuilt the downtown schools to encourage citizens to live downtown. This program continues today in its fourth form, and Cornett credits it with turning around the city.
Mark Richard, DSP president, brought in Cornett because he thought this example of economic development could be a helpful model for Spokane.
“The reason why that is so salient to us right now is because we have just formed a development authority, a 501(c)(3),” Richard said in a phone interview. “We are trying to garner our city council’s and our mayor’s support for that, and then also trying to bring private sector awareness to what an entity like this can do to help to drive essentially capital reinvestment into your downtown area.”
Mayor Nadine Woodward, a DSP board member, attended the meeting. Cornett gifted her a copy of his book and called upon their similar backgrounds in TV news.
Cornett said when he visited town hall meetings, he was often met with opposition. But he said people were ultimately won over when he reminded them that the city needed to make changes if they wanted their grandchildren to eventually settle down in the area.
In his closing remarks of the evening, Richard echoed this sentiment, saying, “for our grandkids.”
The evening also featured a changing of the guard in leadership for the DSP. Dave Black, CEO of NAI Black, took over the chairmanship from Michael Currin, a principal at Witherspoon Kelly. Also, Jon Moog, who is the Riverfront Spokane director, succeeded Erica Mostek, the marketing manager for Wheatland Bank, as the business improvement district chair.
The DSP presented the legacy award to former Mayor David Condon and former CFO Gavin Cooley. The impact award went to Pete and Anne Mounsey, the developers of Wonder Spokane, where the event took place. Richard said DSP chose the venue before he knew the couple would receive the award.
“My wife and I are thrilled,” Pete Mounsey said in a phone interview. “When we embarked on this project … all we could do was imagine what it could possibly be.”
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