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After the storm

Spokane’s new mayor, Dennis Hession, must know a bit about how Gerald Ford felt in the late summer of 1974 – a low-key, cool personality taking over in the wake of a mighty storm of chaos.

Dennis Hession delivers state of the cityIt may be just the right way. Introducing himself (till recently, he’s not been a household word in town), and talking a bit about his upbringing (as a Catholic in Salt Lake City), a family man and a professional with a load of civic involvements, he struck a modest chord as he launched into his first state of the city speech:

“I believe strongly in open, accessible government. With that in mind, I thought it was important to disclose some information about myself. I’ll understand if by the end you are wishing for less transparency, but here goes.”

Odds are Spokane wasn’t looking for less transparency at all: The surprise opaque nature of Hession’s predecessor, Jim West, underday the eight months of chaos the city endured before West’s recall on December 6. By starting as he did, Hession gave a nod to the point that civic transparency is good politics as well as good government. (How many in Spokane heard Hession’s opening lines and – just for amoment – cringed and thought: No shockers, please!)

The balance of his speech was not wildly remarkable stuff, but the emphasis was notable. For a variety of reasons, the West battle being only a small piece, Spokane has had some emotional doldrums in the past few years. (Part of the reason the West situation was so damaging that it put a hold on the healing process.) Hession made little reference to any of that, and never mentioned his predecessor by name. But he did point out that amid all the strife, quite a bit of useful work got done on the city’s part in 2005. And he pointed to a number of advanced, in transportation, construction, economic development and city growth, poised for the months ahead. Most notable, maybe, was his proposal for rethinking the city’s boundaries.

Create a strategic plan for expanding the City’s boundaries.
o This is about providing urban services in urban areas and complying with the State’s Growth Management Act and our own comprehensive plan.
o We will immediately initiate the first annexation in the North Metro area.
o The Strategic Plan will identify all potential areas of annexation, determine the economic impact of each annexation and categorize the land use and zoning, and prioritize the list of potential annexations.
o We recognize that any annexation has financial and other impacts on Spokane County and other jurisdictions, and we will explore ways to mitigate those impacts
o At the same time, we’ll pursue our center-focused growth plans so that we continue to build our community in a smart, sustainable way.

In a year when Spokane will want to take a deep breath and get along more peacefully, it might happen.

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