August 31, 2009

Shame on the GOP

Seems that the GOP is trying to raise money by saying it's representing the U.S. Census Bureau. Check out this BBB newsrelease. If it looks like a scam....

August 25, 2009

A Different Spokane

An interesting thing happened during a recent impromptu barbeque with my neighbors the other night: optimism broke out. It wasn’t the typical good humored banter I normally hear when folks living in our downtown lofts get together over briquettes, burgers and beers---no summer vacation plans, reviews on the new neighborhood saloon or “’hell’s up with the Mayor?” comments. The conversation centered on the joys of unemployment instead. Three neighbors—all professionals who recently lost excellent jobs---explained that idleness was great, that they now have a rare opportunity to do something they really like and…get this…they have no plans to leave Spokane.
What? Stay in Spokane?
My neighbors are not the first ones who been laid off since the economy tanked last fall who have chosen Spokane over Seattle, Portland or Boise. At least a half dozen friends who suddenly found themselves cut loose decided that Spokane’s the best place to leverage their considerable skills and forge long term, and it is hoped, lucrative opportunities for themselves.
This is clearly not the same town that chased me away during the last big recession in the early 1980s. Cuts in broadcast newsrooms had cost me two jobs and almost a half-year of unemployment; the economy was bereft, Expo 74’s momentum had sputtered and died, and attitudes were as grim as downtown’s boarded up buildings. So I left.
During my decade long absence I watched as my adopted communities thrived; new ideas were tested, innovation was embraced and dynamic leaders made bold decisions. My cities grew, solutions to difficult problems were found, and new opportunities arose. It was infectious; I hoped the optimism would be catching as I returned to Spokane in 1994.
And there were glimmers of change. Downtown was starting to come back, television news had definitely kicked it up a couple of notches and who is this Walt Worthy guy, I wondered? Lots of stops, starts, detours, and vestiges of “we can’t do that” were still apparent (still are in some quarters, alas) but folks eventually realized that progress is possible and that positive changes invigorate and strengthen a community’s heart and soul, not damage it.
Almost overnight it seemed that billions of dollars were invested in Spokane and creative solutions to difficult problems such as the health of the Spokane River were found. Energetic people were pushing big cultural and business projects such as the Armed Forces and Aerospace Museum, Mobius and the University District. The Spokane I left never would have supported the YWCA/YMCA $40 million collaboration---the first of its kind in the country. A refurbished Davenport Hotel? A restored Fox Theater? Not a chance.
It finally hit me during one of the many times I was standing in the rain or snow telling my TV viewers that it was raining or snowing---time to quite being an observer and join the fun! I left broadcasting and am actively involved in public issues, projects and discussions that my previous profession rendered off limits.
Which brings me back to my neighbors who are eagerly embracing their unexpected, mid-life freedom, plotting their next moves and taking advantage of new opportunities. Thanks for believing in Spokane. Losing your talents, skills, enthusiasm and vision to another community would diminish us all. Having the courage to stick it out here will help ensure our continued success and create an even better community.