The future of Spokane depends on your vote

Upward view of U.S. Pavilion in Spokane's Riverfront Park, with rainbow-colored light show.
The fantastic U.S. Pavilion and the rest of Riverfront Park only came about because we believed in our city. Future successes will depend on our ability to keep moving forward, even in spite of obstacles. (PHOTO: City of Spokane)

I started writing this blog back in 2014. Spokane Rising started primarily as a way to maintain my connection to home while I was away at school, but I also wanted to fill a gap in coverage of the legitimately exciting things that were going on across the city.

STA was in the middle of a conversation over its Moving Forward plan. The Bartlett, an aspirational music venue which recently announced its coming closure, had just opened its doors. Kendall Yards was just getting underway. And Avista was putting the finishing touches on Huntington Park, which felt like a total revelation. It’s wild to think about where we were as a city five years ago, when I started the blog, versus where we are now. Let’s just say we are rising.

Over time, while (regrettably) I’ve posted less on the blog itself, I’ve been active on Facebook and in Spokane-Coeur d’Alene Living, where I try to reach diverse audiences through a regular column. (Be sure to follow me in both if you aren’t already!)

In all of my work under the Spokane Rising banner, my goal has been to present issues in a relatively non-confrontational way. I try to stay true to certain values and perspectives, but use anecdotes, stories, and news to open the door to urbanism for people who might not otherwise be interested in it — and indeed, in some cases for people who are actively hostile to it. That means that I’ve shied away from overt political endorsements and other topics with the potential to unnecessarily alienate readers.

But here’s the thing: the issues I cover are inherently political. Housing and land use can be issues of resource allocation and power, of haves and have-nots. Our transportation solutions depend on our willingness to pay for new and maintain existing infrastructure. And how we choose to develop our region’s economy largely depends on individual interpretation of our assets and opportunities. That means that who we have representing us, what values they hold, and what influences their decisions, can matter a great deal to our success as a city. We don’t always have the luxury of staying apolitical.

There are two candidates in this election cycle whose visions for the future of our city offer promise, excitement, and continued optimism. They have each earned the “urbanist” label, whether through big, bold steps (like pushing to end “beg” buttons or parking minimums) or through thoughtful, impactful programs (like one to gradually replace, repair, and add neighborhood sidewalks ). They have championed this blog’s priority issues on the Council, and share our vision of the city as a walkable, vibrant, economically-diverse community.

That’s why I’m making a one-time break with tradition today to endorse Ben Stuckart for Mayor and Breean Beggs for Council President.

Ben Stuckart

You may not understand or appreciate his occasional proclivity for abrasiveness, but at the very least, you shouldn’t doubt where his loyalties lie.

On the City Council, Ben has established himself as an advocate for working Spokanites and for urbanist issues. He led the charge to eliminate parking minimums for neighborhood retailers like The Grain Shed and residential developments in the core of the city. Last year, he beat even cities like Seattle and Portland on pedestrian safety be eliminating the “beg” button city-wide. As an advocate for arts and culture, he worked in 2016 to triple funding for Spokane Arts. And he’s been one of the biggest advocates for our neighborhood districts through the “Targeted Investment Pilot” program, which has poured tens of millions of dollars into revitalizing East Sprague. Most crucially for us, he is a big advocate for housing infill and opposes new mega-developments on the suburban fringe.

Ben’s opponent says she would stop investing in pedestrian safety projects like North Monroe, and that STA buses “cause congestion” on East Sprague (despite the fact that one bus can hold as many as 40 people, while a typical car only holds just one). She has said we need “transparency” and “accountability” in the search for a new homeless shelter, despite the fact that it’s nearly winter and we still don’t have a 24-hour shelter in the city.

The choice is clear. Vote for Ben.

Breean Beggs

A well-respected attorney and smart justice advocate, Breean Beggs has served on City Council since 2016, and has established a reputation for quiet, methodical, and creative legal work. He joined the push to halt utility extensions to far-flung private developments on the suburban fringe, discussed increasing the transparency of investigations into police misconduct, and advocated for important sidewalk and pedestrian improvements, including in neighborhoods. He has pushed for balanced reform to the city’s fiber-optic network, and even visited Copenhagen on a delegation to learn more about the city’s bike infrastructure and how Spokane’s could be improved. He also understands the nuances in housing law (such as Martin v. Boise, which found it unconstitutional in some cases to criminalize rough sleeping), and the importance of locating a permanent homeless shelter within the city.

His opponent, on the other hand, shares many beliefs on homelessness with her ideological ally running for mayor. In a debate last week, she implied that homeless individuals should be given a choice between addiction treatment and jail time. Breean’s opponent further offers that she solves problems around the dinner table, and that she’s looking for leadership and accountability. Unfortunately, she leads with very few policy specifics on her website to show us how she might govern. But given her history at the right-wing Washington Policy Center and big money contributions from the Washington Realtors’ Association (more than $140,000 so far!), it’s not hard to see where her loyalties would lie.

Again, the choice is clear. Vote for Breean.

I understand that this is a break with my established practice of keeping overt elected politics off of the blog. But with my legitimate excitement for their candidacies and the risk to our city’s progress associated with their opponents, I felt compelled to share my thoughts on Ben and Breean more publicly.

Oh, and while you’re filling out your ballot, vote no on I-976. It guts transit and transportation projects across Washington State, and that’s not cool.

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