East Sprague has always been an unfortunate symbol of Spokane Valley. It goes on and on, without a center, seemingly without end. Driving it can feel like going nowhere. In 2000, Spokane County magnified that East Sprague state of mind by turning it into a couplet and treating Spokane Valley like a freeway — a place you drive through. As fast as you can.
In 2003, voters created the city of Spokane Valley, but not for some vision of what could be. It was defensive government — a keepyour-hands-off-our-Valley moment.
Now the new leaders are being asked to fix that business-killing couplet by turning a one-mile stretch back to two-way. City leaders won’t do it. Instead, they put the question to voters, with a scary price tag — dooming it while covering their own political backsides. With nearly $40 million in the bank, the Valley Council can afford to turn that stretch back to two-way without taxing citizens, so why not?
It’s cultural. Members of the “Positive Change” faction tend to view Spokane Valley the way it’s always been viewed — as a bedroom city. Sprague as a freeway fits that image. When the “Positive Change” slate of candidates was elected, it immediately killed the Sprague-Appleway Revitalization Plan (SARP), which set a course for the 21 st century by envisioning a new city center as an anchor.
Bill Gothmann, a Republican and the lone supporter of SARP on the Council, says the ruling faction is confusing being conservative with just being against everything. “Their idea of ‘positive change’ is ‘Let’s change it back to what it was in the 1950s,’” he told me. “We’ve got four guys over the age of 70 on this Council — does that match the demographics of our city? We need progress here.”
Gothmann, who is retiring from the Council, says Valley citizens can restore balance to the leadership by supporting three open-minded candidates — Dee Dee Loberg, John Carroll and Ben Wick — in November.
Not even 10 years old, the City of Spokane Valley is going through growing pains. That’s a pretty normal place to be at that age. Still, it’s long past time for Spokane Valley to be identified by more than its busiest street — it has the industrial base, the retail, the state’s 10 th largest population, a great quality of life and tons of potential. But its close-minded leadership puts it in that twilight zone of needing dynamic government but denying it any success. That’s a pretty strange, disorienting place to be — kind of like being stuck on East Sprague.
Ted S. McGregor Jr. is the Editor and Publisher of The Inlander.