local politics and the difference of a few words

This past week, the Spokane City Council passed a slightly revised resolution in support of bicycling in the city. The resolution still contains $120,000 for two bicycle boulevard projects and $50,000 annually for the next seven years to fund bicycling related projects. There was a bit of wrangling, where one community activist, a rather self-serving fellow who works in concert with his similarly self-serving wife, sought to have the resolution tabled until he could get a resolution passed shifting oversight for bicycle boulevards (a concept the both of them woefully misunderstand and as a consequence, misrepresent) to the neighborhoods and their oversight group, away from the bicycle advisory board. He lost. he and his wife have been angling for the last few months on getting something only they could consider a bicycle boulevard in their neighborhood and the resolution initially named their desired route, which passes just doors from their house. That language was removed several weeks back. He was also a finalist for a vacant city council position that would be filled by appointment from the remaining city council members. He lost that too. Thank goodness. More on this/them at a later date.

But back to the resolution. Initially the resolution said that the "City Council supports the allocation of funds from the 2007 ending fund balance to develop bicycle-related activities throughout the City and support the allocation of $470,000 in the 2008 budget as follows:" That's where the numbers mentioned above came in, along with a proviso that the funds would be allocated as emergency budget ordinances, requiring a supermajority vote, rather than a simple majority. In short, the city wasn't locked into the spending. But that wasn't good enough, which is a disappointment. The final part of the resolution was revised to read thusly: "the City and support the concept of funding of $470,000 in the 2008 budget." The words in italics replace the word "allocation." Ouch. One word gone, three words added, and the money disappears into the vapor.

This wasn't entirely unexpected. The money just wasn't there given a lot of competing interests, many arguably more important than bicycle infrastructure, at least in the short term. The city has a lot of needs. Still, once we have the bicycle master plan complete, things are looking up. The final vote was 4-2, passing the revised resolution. The opposing votes came from the initial sponsor who wanted an unsullied version to pass. The other vote came from a council member who said the emergency budget ordinance would provide the necessary financial cover. So, the "no" votes were from those who wanted more. The council president didn't vote, as all good chairs should do (note to husband and wife team who tend to game the system in their favor and chair two committees). All is not lost though bicyclists could have had a merrier Christmas in Spokane than they will at this point. The future for bicycling in Spokane is looking up, and should continue to look up, but there are barbarians at the game who will need to be beaten back. They know who they are.