Washington’s second-largest city has a secret sauce all its own
Ask David Condon what he likes to do best when not attending to his duties as the mayor of Spokane, and he’ll give you an answer typical of many other residents: skiing in the winter and hanging out at the lake in the summer.
Just 92 miles from the Canadian border, and stone’s throw from Idaho, Spokane is a paradise for lovers of the outdoors, near great mountains, majestic forests and many lakes within an hour’s drive. The city is known for its enviable mountain-biking, 125 parks and municipal golf courses, including one that is nationally ranked. Named one of Livability’s Best Winter Vacation spots, and a Best Winter City, Spokane offers nearly unlimited choices of things to do. It’s even been cited as one of Livability’s Best Cities for Book Lovers.
I understand that we often focus on national politics but it’s at the local level you literally see things change, lives change.”
“It’s definitely an outdoor person’s game,â€ says Condon, who came home to Spokane after stints in Boston, Washington and Hawaii. “And it is a very livable city. You have all the economic issues, such as reasonable housing, and the less expensive cost of living, and the quality of life is extraordinary here. It’s a great city of 210,000 people – just the size where you can know your neighbor, but we also hosted the World’s Fair in 1974, and today we host conferences that don’t come to cities this size very often.”
The City of Choice
Condon also points to the vibrant community life in Spokane – named an All-America City by the Civic League in 2014 — as an example of what makes it one of the country’s best places to live. The higher education presence — five universities and community colleges — gives it the flavor of a college town. And not to be overlooked, he says, is the importance of the city’s Native American heritage.
“Our city vision is to be the city of choice; we are the metro area for more than a million people. We have a symphony orchestra housed in one of the original Fox theaters, a full Off-Broadway theatrical series that comes to town, the second Nordstrom in the country, the second Costco, and we have the only Apple store up to the Canadian border,â€ Condon says. “Your day-to-day life and experience are wonderful here. It’s exciting that in Spokane you can take advantage of so many things.”
What People Really Want
One thing residents take advantage of is the city’s proactive efforts to involve citizens. The Seattle Gives initiative in 2014 enlisted 10,000 citizens who gave an aggregate 55,000 hours of community service to their city. Thousands of citizens get involved with the mayor’s Tele Town Halls, which he describes as “talk radio over the telephone,â€ that elicit suggestions, comments and priorities from the public that are then used in determining functions such as budget and departmental planning.
“I think civic engagement is what people really want,â€ Condon says. “l worked on the Hill in Washington, so I understand that we often focus on national politics but it’s at the local level you literally see things change, lives change.”
One major change the city has undertaken recently is the redevelopment of the 100-acre downtown Riverfront Park, built along the Spokane River as the site of the 1974 World’s Fair Expo. The city is in the midst of upgrading the park, refurbishing existing structures and building new ones, including a home for its rare, 107-year-old Looff Carrousel.