The Spokane County Project you paid for twice

The County is turning on its new digital public safety radio communications systems but failed to mention that voters paid for this system – TWICE.

In 2003, Spokane public safety agencies sold a sales tax increase on the basis of needing to upgrade emergency communication systems. In the wake of 9/11, this upgrade was said to be desperately needed to replace the County’s ancient, vacuum tube and tin can communications system or we were all going to die.

The public safety agencies then proceeded to spend the tax money on everything but public safety communications upgrades. See 2005 Spokesman-Review article “Funds not allotted for Network” and  2009 ballot measure argument against, page 41.

In 2009, Spokane public safety agencies again brought a sales tax “extension” to pay for an upgrade of the emergency communication system for which the taxpayers had already paid. Twelve years later they are starting to turn the new system on. We could have fought and won three World War IIs in the time it took these clowns to implement a supposedly urgently needed upgrade to a radio system that was paid for twice.

The original 2003 ballot was misrepresented by public safety agencies – in any other context, this would be fraud. Or at least bait and switch. But the ballot initiative had a clause allowing them to spend the money any way they wished, in spite of the sales pitch. Which meant they could have promised anything at all, since it included an escape clause to do what ever they wanted. Just like the Spokane Public Facilities District selling voters on never ending expansions with false claims of more jobs, more attendance and more visitors.

When you hear a sales pitch in Spokane, you can be pretty certain that leaders are telling you lies or making false promises.

Update: Based on some feedback, let me clarify. This is not about whether or not the upgrade was needed. This is not about Federal rules that required digital and narrowband upgrades. That is not the issue. The issue is that in 2003 taxpayers were asked to fund this upgrade as part of a public safety tax. The tax election was marketed as funding a needed communications upgrade. The money was mostly spent elsewhere and the government had to ask again in 2009 to extend the tax for another five years. This is not a secret although some wish it might be. The upgrade that was urgently needed in 2003 is going online in 2014. Read the linked references for more background.

Yes, it really took over a decade to install the urgently needed upgrades. Compare that to how long it took too fight and win WW II 🙂

Recent news about the system finally coming online did not seem to mention the unusual history.


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