“Riverfront Park face-lift seen as legacy project”

Riverfront Park face-lift seen as legacy project – Spokesman.com – Sept. 28, 2014.

It’s unsigned – no reporter has their name on this free political advertisement.

There is no mention of the publisher’s ownership of land across the street from the park. Conflicts of interest do not matter in fake news stories.

The Park needs to be fixed up. But can Spokane rely on the largest downtown landholder and beneficiary of public spending to write unsigned news stories about these activities?

These public projects benefit downtown landowners, of which the paper’s owner, is one of the largest. Amid declining circulation, the Spokesman-Review has devolved into real estate investment promotions.  That’s sad.

(Hey, this blog is unsigned too – but we can disclose we do not own any land that benefits yay or nay on these projects)

Seattle Times: State does not need a WSU Spokane med school

Now, as Washington State University tries to gain statewide support to build a new medical school in Spokane, some regional and national experts say there’s no longer a pressing national need for another one.

State might not need a WSU medical school, some experts say | Local News | The Seattle Times.

A lot of this is about market control. The UW, which has failed to provide adequate med school slots in the state, does not want WSU as a competitor in Spokane and would prefer to go down the WWAMI route of having med school students rotate through various locations. The UW argues its brand reputation is stellar and will attract top students while a first year start up med school run by WSU would start, on day one, with the lowest reputation of all med schools nationally.

WSU-Spokane argues that a med school is needed in eastern Washington to ensure doctors in rural areas even though there is no evidence this solves the root problem: pay is lower in small towns, which does not work for young doctors paying off med school debts, and the lifestyle may not be what young doctors are seeking.

Only a few years ago local Spokane promoters convinced us that a Spokane med school was essentially a done deal and would be opening shortly. Now its pushed out another decade or more.

Our past posts on the Spokane med school including the outrageous lies told about the alleged economic impact of a Spokane med school. In Spokane, people just cannot stop lying. I have never seen a community where lying is conducted so openly and passionately.

Spokane trolley cost estimates double

It was $36 million as recently as months ago: STA Votes To Approve Electric Trolley | News – KXLY.com.

Now its $72 million: STA considers $72 million trolley from Browne’s Addition to SCC

(Both KREM TV and the Spokesman-Review fail to mention the price doubling. Censoring the project history is bad journalism – or good fiction writing. )

Next year: $96 million? How about $129 million?

They are considering options that raise the price to $129 million for a system that is no better than a bus except its cooler. There is, in fact, no reason provided for this extraordinary expenditure except it has the cool factor.

As shown in many studies “there’s no clear evidence trolleys bring growth but it’s clear they’re expensive.”

What are the objective measures of success of this project?

There are none.

The only measure of success is they spend money, which is an easy target to reach! Indeed, with each passing month they keep increasing the price tag!  Spending Federal money is the only goal for this project.

Objective measures would set goals for:

  • Total passengers per day
  • Average passengers per trolley trip
  • Revenue earned per trip and per day
  • Operation costs per passenger per mile
  • Energy used per passenger per mile
  • Specific, measurable economic growth metrics

And management would be held accountable.  But lacking objective measures and that no one at STA management is ever held accountable, they’ll squander money once more. Remember their hybrid bus project that wasted money? All of the information needed to know that hybrids were a waste was available in advance. After the STA wasted the money, no one was held accountable.

The STA has not come up with a single meaningful reason for spending up to $129 million other than its “cool” and the Federal government would pay 80% of the costs. They will make absurd promises, just like the Convention Center expansion campaign lies about creating more jobs and visitors – when actual use of the PFD facilities has gone down during the past 15  years, jobs have gone down, and there is no evidence of an increase in visitors.

Meanwhile, the STA Plaza remodel is on hold after six years of planning – because the downtown business cartel did not approve. After six years of public involvement it now comes down to secret deal making between the business cartel and STA management. Update: It appears the downtown cartel will get its wish – at great taxpayer expense and rider inconvenience, the STA plaza will probably be moved out of downtown, throwing the entire STA system in to planning chaos (the STA plaza is THE central hub of the system).

The evidence that downtown trolley’s create economic growth is nil but they are the rage for mid-sized cities all over the country since the Feds offered grant money. Mostly they shift local money to those who will benefit (downtown businesses) and away from other local businesses that are not so well connected.

  • Proponents must come up with compelling, fact-based arguments for the trolley. “Cool factor” and “spending Federal money” do not cut it.
  • Proponents must develop a set of objective measures of project success.
  • Spokane’s news media must perform actual journalism in spite of their conflicts of interest (instead we are already seeing the puffy propaganda)
  • Local political leaders must ensure that the STA management is held accountable to specific, measurable objectives.

If these steps are not taken, this is just another feel good project designed to funnel other people’s tax money into the downtown business cartel, leaving most of Spokane worse off, in the long run.

Spokane County Employment and Unemployment for June

 

The Washington Employment Security Department has released their employment and unemployment estimates for June 2014. The estimate of non-farm employed has risen to 217,900. This is generally in line with the expected progression for Spokane County.

(See correction, below – there is no problem here –>) Oddly, the chart curve at left is different than what is shown in the data table. In June of 2013 there were 216,200 people, and this rose to 217,900 on June 2014.  Look at the horizontal red line added to the chart at left – the 2014 peak is shown as less than a year ago. The chart does not agree with the data table. Something is wrong here and the State needs to fix it or explain what is happening.

JuneEmpl

 

Correction: The problem is the X-Axis does not have month tics which led to the confusion. The peak in 2013 was in November, not mid-year. Spokane has an employment pattern that peaks twice then collapses on January 1st. The chart is correct but confusing when paired with the table. The table will likely show employment at about 220,00o in November of this year and 220,000+ at November of 2015.

The unemployment rate is the percent of those “in the labor force” age 16-64, that are looking for work but are not yet employed.

JuneUnempl

 

The unemployment rate has gone down for two reasons: (1) more people are estimated to be employed, and (2) the size of the labor force is smaller.

Each of those values is an estimate and the short term (monthly) estimates can vary due to the confidence of the estimate.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics says the 90% confidence interval for the national employment estimates is + or – 0.2%. That means there is a 9 in 10 chance the actual employment number lies within + or – 0.2% of what they publish as the official estimate. The estimate is not exact because they survey only a sample of the population – consequently, the estimate will be off by a bit from the actual number (which we would only know if we could survey every single person in the country).

The State of Washington uses a subset of their national survey but does not appear to provide a confidence interval (they might but it was not immediately located).

Washington’s web site for the American Community Survey (derived from US Census, not BLS), for Spokane County in 2012, has an estimate of about 210,130 employed with a confidence interval of + or – 1.1%. That is a different survey and cannot be directly compared with the ESD numbers from the US BLS. But … it helps us understand that the unemployment estimate is just an estimate with an associated but not disclosed confidence interval.

We would be better served with numbers such as May 2014: 6.6% + or – 0.2% (we don’t know that 0.2% if the right value – this is for an example only) and June is 5.6% + or – 0.2%. That means for May, hypothetically, the actual unemployment percentile could be anywhere in the range 6.4 to 6.8% and for June 5.4 to 5.8%. If the confidence interval is larger, then the range is going to be larger too.

Spokesman-Review average daily circulation

Circulation data is surprisingly hard to find. The chart below should be considered approximate.

The numbers may come from different months of each year. Various source report different numbers – average daily subscribers, total Sunday edition subscribers  (about 20% more than the average daily subscribers), total estimated number of readers per print copy, total subscribers including print and digital – and so on – making it hard to find definitive numbers when we do not have access to the Audit Bureau of Circulations database.

Consequently, treat this chart as an approximate trend.

SRCirculationMultiple sources were used for this – too many to list. The 2006 data point is estimated as the average of 2005 and 2007.

The newspaper industry was hit by economic, technology and competitive threats.  The old model was to sell eyeballs to advertisers (paying for production of the day’s print edition) and sell subscriptions to readers (paying for delivery of the paper).

Craigslist, and later EBay and Amazon, obliterated the classified ad revenue, which was once said to account for 40% of a typical paper’s revenue, 20 years ago.

Internet distribution meant that a print edition was no longer needed and the cost of physical delivery fell close to zero (compared to the old “paper boy” delivery of a printed paper).

The Internet also created new kinds of competitors. TV stations began to deliver “print” news stories. Access to “news” became free.  In the recent bad economy, subscribers became former subscribers to save money.

New kinds of competitive “news” emerged, usually online. Many news consumers stopped reading traditional news and now read mostly what they see shared on social media, or watch from the nation’s non-news reporters like Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert.

Together this has created a terrifically tough market for the original printed newspaper business.

Spokane Real Estate Home Foreclosures

The following charts are from Zillow.com.

SpokaneForeclosureSales

SpokaneForeclosedHomes

Spokane Convention Center charges a fee to watch the 4th of July Fireworks

Riverfront Park fireworks display organizers charge to watch from PFD steps.

This is new

Organizers charged people who wanted to sit on the stairs behind the convention center.   It cost $5 to $10 for a seat on the stairs. It cost $20 for seats on the dock.

and

All of the money from the tickets goes to the convention center.

The most likely reason for the new fee is to inflate the attendance count at the underused Convention Center. You can be sure that those who paid the new fee will be counted as Convention Center attendees. In spite of 3 expansions, the facilities continue to have fewer attendees than they did 15 years ago.

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