Spokane Bloomsday Event Participants, ranked by year

1996 had the most participants.

2011 ranks 8th on the list, 2010 at 11th on the list and 2009 at 17th on the list.

1 1996 61298
2 1991 60104
3 1994 60037
4 1995 59100
5 1993 57680
6 1992 57651
7 1988 57298
8 2011 56640
9 1989 56280
10 1997 55270
11 2010 55090
12 1990 54869
13 1987 54261
14 1999 53898
15 1998 53389
16 2002 51282
17 2009 51259
18 2000 50401
19 2001 49532
20 1986 48406
21 2008 47528
22 2006 44756
23 2003 44641
24 2007 44180
25 2005 43842
26 2004 43514
27 1985 39662
28 1984 33312
29 1983 28173
30 1982 22210
31 1981 17000
32 1980 13576
33 1979 10082
34 1978 5460
35 1977 1400

2011 Spokane Bloomsday Race Total Runners and Walkers

Chart includes total registered and total finishers.

Complete data table after the break

Read more of this post

Participants in the Spokane Susan G Komen Race for the Cure

The series of running (and walking) events started in 1983 and today takes place in cities all over the world to raise money for breast cancer research. The event was first held in Spokane in 2006.  Based on prior years, the event expected up to 11,000 participants in 2011.

Update: KREM, a race sponsor, said 8,700 runners in 2011.  Oddly, the SR “hides the decline” with its peculiar report saying “about 9000” and then later in their story says “close to last years” total of 8,800.  But never gives us the actual number for 2011. That’s bad reporting.

Spokane Med School update

The State House would like to fund a start to a med school building in Spokane but the Governor says its funded with gimmicks.  Gregoire doesn’t like the way House would pay for med school – Spin Control – Spokesman.com – April 5, 2011.

The med school would be a useful investment.

Update: As of 2014, its bogged down in politics and in fighting between the UW and WSU. There is no longer a target date by which the  Spokane med school would open.
Read more of this post

Providence Sacred Heart CPR Training Video

Possibly not what you were expecting – this is dang good!!!!

Recommendations 2: Part 3 – Wages and pouring concrete

The Spokane Club at 1002 Riverside, in Spokane...

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Local promoters and others present a chart showing that wages in Spokane have risen consistently over time.

That would be fine except it misses the full story. Unfortunately, Spokane wage growth lags the rest of the State.  By a lot.

As you can see in the following chart, while Spokane (red line) wages have increased, average wages in the state (blue line) have increased faster. Over several decades, wages in the State have increased at twice the rate of wages in Spokane. Stated another way, the longer we stay in Spokane the further behind we fall.

Average wages are about 80% of the rest of the State, yet our costs of living are closer to 100%. We have to spend close to the national average to live here (somethings, like health care, are priced higher than the national average).

From: Spokane’s Economy in Two charts

The above is still not the full picture. The distribution of wage income in Spokane County is odd as you can see in this chart:

Source: Relative Wage Distribution in Spokane County

Most of the wage income is produced by government and health care jobs. This is not a diversified economy, although plenty of reports and promoters claim it is.

Finally, we see that Spokane has a high poverty rate and it is getting worse – its about 50% higher than the rest of the state:

Source: Spokane Poverty Rates

A side effect is that increasing numbers of residents are dependent on the government (other taxpayers) to provide for them such that nearly $1 out of every $5 of income in this county is a check from the government (this does not include government worker wages). This trend is also occurring outside the Spokane area.

Source: Trend of Transfer Payments in to Spokane County.

This is not a short term problem.  Low wages and an elevated poverty rate are a chronic, long term problem, described in every economic study, report, and proposal going back at least 30 years.   Dr. Gary Livingston, former Chancellor of the Community Colleges of Spokane, and Whitworth University President Dr. Gary Beck both described this problem in the past year.

A side effect of low incomes and poverty is that less tax revenue is collected by local government.  Bringing up local wages would result in increased budgets for local government to fund the projects that citizens would like to have.

How do we solve this? I do not know but I do have an idea of a possible root cause that I explain below.

Since all of the past plans made the same findings and the same recommendations, should we do more plans? I doubt it.

Did anyone read the old plans and try to implement ideas from those plans? I doubt it, but if they did, then why have comparative wages continued to slide?


I do not know and can only make a stupid guess: Do we focus too much on real estate related projects?

This is just a guess – an idea to think about.

$3.7 billion has poured into downtown Spokane during the past decade (both public and private $s). Downtown is much nicer than it was. And we are not done yet – there’s big plans for even more spending in downtown.

  • Did this focus on downtown neglect other important improvements?
  • Has this distorted government spending and zoning changes to benefit a few landowners at the expense of many?
  • Buyers of luxury homes in Kendall Yards will not pay property taxes for 12 years. A nice little subsidy from the less well to do in Spokane who still have to pay taxes.  And a nice way to increase downtown land values.
  • Light rail, which was rejected by voters a few years ago, is back in the news again. Light rail projects would tremendously benefit landowners near proposed light rail stations.
  • We’ve built a $570 million dollar freeway to no where – called the North side freeway way up in north Spokane where it goes between who knows what and where ever. It won’t connect to I-90 for at least another 20 years; in the meantime its a great big piece of concrete that is not adding value comparable to its $570 million investment.  That is a big asset that will mostly be idle for 20 more years. When the full freeway does open, Division may turn into empty store fronts just like Sprague Ave did when I-90 was built. For now, this is a very expensive largely unused asset.
  • $191 million has gone in to recent airport improvements where usage has been roughly flat for 15 years.
  • We bought a $95 million remodel of the Convention Center in 2005 and now propose spending another $65 million. Convention center visitors help help create more (low wage) restaurant and hotel jobs  – and increase the value of downtown land.  After the last $95 million expansion, airport usage went down and a big local hotel went out of business.  Read what they are thinking about convention centers over in Tacoma… (I have no idea if this was a good project or not – I am just observing that the benefits might not be as envisioned.)
  • There’s a proposed $8 million bicycle bridge over the railway from WSU-Spokane to the “International district” on east Sprague.
  • And then there’s the proposal to build a new electric trolley car in downtown Spokane. Because downtown Spokane needs more investment funded by a general sales tax increase and possibly a property tax increase for those who actually benefit. Perhaps because so many buildings are empty or in foreclosure?

After all that spending, wages have fallen further behind. The poverty level has gone up.

May be this focus on mega real estate projects isn’t working out so well?

We pour lots of concrete partially because the Federal government hands out a lot of grants for pouring concrete. And we really like to spend money on downtown Spokane, delivering large benefits to a few.  When we spend money on X it means we are not spending money on Y – and around here, Y is everything else.

(Update: After this blog post went live, a reader passed along some information about “The Fancher Report”. My hypothesis turns out to be very old and was a fundamental finding in the Fancher thesis, written for a Harvard Masters degree in 1977. You can find a summary here and can download and read the whole thesis at the bottom of the page. He found that local interests, notably connected to the Cowles family, had successfully obtained taxpayer funding for programs that benefited a core group of downtown landholders by taxing everyone.  My idea was that our “no go” economy came from malinvestment. The Fancher report explains how that came to be.)

What if a little bit of this money had been spent on a medical school in Spokane? (I know, we can get grants for pouring concrete but not building medical schools.)

Or creating the comprehensive research university that local leaders have talked about over and over and over again for 20+ years?

Or setting up our own fund for local entrepreneurs?  VC money for Spokane area start ups is harder to come by than for start ups over on the coast. Because we don’t have the ecosystem here.

Perhaps we need to invest in people and ideas, not concrete.

The 21st century is about creative people building innovative solutions. But Spokane is pouring concrete to recreate a central down town core of a bygone era.

Pouring concrete creates (temporary) jobs often funded by some one else (taxpayers) and tends to provide big benefits to a small number of well connected locals – and I do not mean just the one landowner that everyone thinks of first around here – there’s more than a few that benefit. Apparently others have noticed this too – darn – I am late again. It is not a conspiracy as some suggest – it is just a well connected group that understandably does a good job of looking out for their own rational self interests.

Spokane will pour concrete to eternity rather than invest in people and ideas. Think about it.

Or I could be completely wrong and this idea is nothing more than a stupid guess. But at least it is a different idea than that presented in 30 years of local economic plans (more on this in Part 4.) Spokane is not the only town with these symptoms. A lot of small and mid-sized cities are dealing with this.

Part 4 – Plans – Aiming High – Seeking Excellence

  • Where “good enough” is no longer good enough.

All ideas are welcome, provided it does not involve writing yet another economics strategy study that no one reads, and does not involve pouring more concrete.

INHS – Inland Northwest Health Services reaches legal settlement

This is great news: INHS – Inland Northwest Health Services has reached a settlement in a lawsuit filed by INHS against Deaconess and Valley hospitals. CEO Tom Fritz has done a fantastic job with INHS, based in Spokane.

Relative wage distribution in Spokane County

Notice anything unusual about the wage distribution in Spokane County?

What this chart shows

This chart is an attempt to capture the relative impact of industry wages, by sector. The normal way of looking at sectors is as a count of total employees in each sector, or sometimes as average wages by sector. This chart is a little different.

The data comes from the WorkForceExplorer. The average wage for each sector, from that data source, is multiplied by the percent of the workforce of each sector.  This weights each sector according to income (or if you prefer, weights income according to sector).

Government and health care combined are just over 40% of all wages in Spokane County. (WorkforceExplorer produces a similar chart as the above but sorts the columns and draws them as a horizontal bar chart. Our brain judges relative sizes in the vertical direction better than in the horizontal direction. When the columns are left unsorted, and drawn as vertical columns, the distribution of wage income is apparent.) The government category, as provided by WorkforceExplorer includes public schools and colleges.

Retail trade accounts for two-thirds the number of jobs found in health care and government but wages are very low. When the impact of retail trade is weighted by the low wages the importance of retail wages falls to a low level considering how many people work in retail.

If you squint at the chart for a bit, you can see that Spokane has two large clusters: government and health care. Plus three small clusters: manufacturing, retail trade and finance and insurance. The latter two are not really competitive advantage clusters – every comparable city has similar sized retail and finance industries.

What does it mean?

It means that the next time some one tells you that Spokane has a greatly diversified economy that its okay for you to ask them how much they have been drinking. There are several groups in town that incorrectly claim the local economy is highly diversified. Perhaps they drink too much 🙂

In seriousness, the chart shows that Spokane does not have a diversified economy. Related:  the incoherent cluster strategy that I have described elsewhere on this web site does not include government as a cluster even though it is the largest employer and produces the largest portion of wages.

Another component not shown is that transfer payments, primarily from government, for unemployment, disability, retirement and other benefits programs are not included. These total almost 20% of all local income. There is not an easy way to include this data in the above chart (we do not know how many recipients there are nor how to split out the portion of benefits that would end up being counted in health care).

If we could include the transfer payments, the top three clusters would be government, health care, and transfer payments. This is no way to run an economy.

What it does not mean – this chart does not directly reflect wages in each category. For example, Management shows up as a small column but the average wage in this category is very high – but has relatively few people working in that category.  Health care and government wages, on average, are slightly higher than the overall average (about 10%), but the relative size of the columns in the chart is due to how many people are employed in those categories.

Update: If the medical school is ever built in Spokane, the economy will become even less diverse as the proportion of income due to health care will rise much higher.


  • Should we have a diversified economy?
  • Do we want to have a diversified economy?
  • How do we develop a diversified economy?
  • What steps need to be undertaken to diversify the economy?
  • Are government policies enhancing diversity or limiting diversity?
  • What new policies are needed to improve diversity of income sources?
  • Is data, such as the above chart useful for decision making?


Alcohol consumption by youth in Spokane County

Just under 1 in 3 Spokane County area high school seniors drank heavily in the past 2 weeks and just under 1 in 5 area high school sophomores drank heavily in the past 2 weeks. No idea if this is better or worse than elsewhere. Youth alcohol consumption is big problem most everywhere. I looked this up because someone asked me about it.

43% of high school seniors and one third of sophomores have been drinking in the past month.

More data here. Data from 2008.

Spokane becoming major retirement community

By 2020, 20 percent of Spokane County residents will be age 60 to 79, up from 14 percent today.

via Home prices still falling from bubble.

The above estimate of 20 percent is for those aged 60 to 79. As of 2000, about 2.5% of the population was over the age of 80 and that too will likely grow. Let’s assume 3%, meaning that by 2020, 23% of the population will be age 60 or older.

Guessing: Transfer payments probably climb to about 23% to 25% of Spokane County income by 2020.  For more on that, see “Trend of transfer payments into Spokane County.”

As this shift occurs, there will be a smaller percent of residents available for working in industry, including manufacturing, research and development and service industries. This implies a further shift towards a Spokane County based primarily on health care and government (including education) and low wage recreation, leisure and food service industries – and less so on manufacturing, industry services, R&D and an innovation economy.

What percent of this shift in population is due to old people moving in versus younger people moving out?

Where the job growth was 2000-2010

The Health-Education Decade « Mandel on Innovation and Growth.




The fast food restaurant capital of the Northwest is … Spokane!

Study finds Spokane ranks high in fast food bliss | NWCN.com | NorthWest News and Weather 24 Hours a Day.

Spokane ranks 9th, nationally, for density of fast food restaurants. There are about 1,287 residents for each local fast food restaurant in Spokane. No idea what this means!

Is Nursing a “healthy career choice” for Spokane?

The Spokesman-Review ran a feature article about the WSU-Spokane nursing program. Please see WSU associate dean says nursing can be healthy career choice – Spokesman.com – Jan. 24, 2011.

The first sentence reads:

Today’s nursing school graduates continue to find good jobs even as the economy stumbles along and the uncertainty of health care reform looms.

Sounds promising.

Q. Are there jobs for today’s nursing school graduates?

A. Absolutely there are jobs. Recently we did a survey. … About 80 percent of newly licensed nurses are finding a position within one year.

That sounds very good.

But … there is always that but … what type of position are they finding and how long did it take to find work? The article does not say but gives hints.

Whether it is the exact job, location and shift they envisioned for themselves remains to be seen. Many new nurses are applying to long-term care facilities, rehabilitation facilities, and home-health centers. These are not the typical acute care jobs at hospitals that new nurses tended to gravitate toward. It’s true that those jobs aren’t as plentiful, especially not in Spokane right now.

Say what?

If the jobs are not in Spokane’s booming health care “cluster”, where are the jobs?

Q. Where are the jobs?

A. Many nurses graduating from WSU are going to the West Side. It used to be that they would walk out our doors with five job offers in hand. That may not be the case anymore.What we tell these graduates is to take a job in nursing, to work with other nurses and continue to learn. Sometimes that’s in long-term care.

From my own conversations with a few recent nursing graduates from other 4 year nursing programs, many have gotten jobs – but not yet as licensed R.N. positions. Many are working as part time or contract nurse’s aides, which is a position requiring only a 1 month certification program, not years of college. This is anecdotal of course and not real data.

Nursing has been and is likely going to be a good career choice in the future. For the past two years, the job market has been tough, even for health care workers. Imagine how the local job market is for those not in the favored industry sectors?

WSU has an excellent nursing program and their associate Dean is honest about the job market. But the SR headline on the story is odd considering what the article actually says.

Spokane police officer involved shootings: why?

Richard Florida looks at correlations (which may not be related to causation and might be nothing more than an interesting correlation – in fact, his ideas have not panned out although Florida disputes that assessment) between firearm deaths (all kinds including deliberate, accidental, officer involved, etc) and found the following:

So what are the factors that are associated with firearm deaths at the state level?

Poverty is one. The correlation between death by gun and poverty at the state level is .59.

An economy dominated by working class jobs is another. Having a high percentage of working class jobs is closely associated with firearm deaths (.55).

And, not surprisingly, firearm-related deaths are positively correlated with the rates of high school students that carry weapons on school property (.54).

via Creative Class » Blog Archive » The Geography of Gun Deaths – Creative Class.

Some background on Spokane crime rates – here, here, here and  here.

Poverty and working class jobs are well known issues in Spokane. Does this mean the third point is also true? I do not know – but if the implication is true, this would be scary.

Interestingly, mental health issues and drug abuse “are much less significant than might be assumed”.

They also found:

Firearm deaths were far less likely to occur in states with higher levels of college graduates (-.64) and more creative class jobs (-.52).

Spokane is slightly below the national average for college graduates but scores okay on creative class jobs as Florida defines health care workers in the creative class.

They also found a correlation with voting for McCain and firearm deaths; however, the majority vote in Spokane went to Obama.

All hints above are possibilities … but only possibilities. Officer involved shootings might be nothing more than a statistical cluster or a sign of something else. The above correlations could be meaningless.

Police shootings in Spokane, by the numbers

The Spokane County Courthose in Spokane, Washi...

Image via Wikipedia

Since August 25th, 2010: 7 police shootings. 5 killed, 2 wounded. And that is just in the past six months!

How does this compare to elsewhere?

In all of 2010 in New York City, 8 people were killed and 16 wounded by police shootings. (This is down from 12 and 20 in 2009 and way down from the early 70’s when, with a smaller population in NYC, nearly 100 people were shot and killed by police and over 200 were wounded – per year. I spotted this reference in the comments to an SR article on the most recent shooting.)

The population of Spokane County is around 463,000. The population of NYC is estimated at about 8.4 million in 2009.

Therefore, the number of people shot by police in Spokane in the past six months is about one-third the annual shootings in a city that is 18 times larger.

  • The shootings per capita in Spokane for six months are about 0.000015.
  • The shootings per capita in NYC for twelve months are about 0.000003.
  • Therefore, police involved shootings per resident in Spokane in the past 6 months are five times greater than in New York City in all of 2010.

I previously published a comparison of Spokane officer involved shootings to Seattle here. Spokane County police shootings are about 2.4 x greater than in the city of Seattle.

No official explanation has been offered as to why Spokane’s rate of officer involved shootings is so much higher than elsewhere. As explained here, there are perhaps a few possibilities:

  • It is a statistical cluster. Given another year or two, things will revert to the mean or normal level.
  • It is  due to issues with the people who live here
  • It is due to issues with the police that work here, or their training and experience.
  • Or perhaps a combination of all of these.
  • Update July 2011: So far this year, the shootings have gone way down. Statistical cluster then?

The trail leading to Spokane’s economic plan for today

Picture of Interstate 90 descending Sunset Hil...

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  • 1970s – Spokane Unlimited, a huge achievement leading to the ’74 World’s Fair
  • 1980s – gave way to Spokane Momentum, tasked with increasing higher education and graduate education – and addressing a good use for the then empty land just east of downtown. Led to establishing SIRTI and the Joint Center for Higher Education. The State bought the land for the Riverpoint campus location of SIRTI in 1988, and then opened SIRTI in 1994.
  • 1990s – Focus 21, SIRTI, JCHE set up. 1998 –  JCHE shut down, SIRTI reorganized.
  • 2000s – Gave way to the “Spokane Innovation Zone” which in turn became “The University District”. Main goal today is establishing a health care/health science centric university campus (WSU-Spokane) and get the State to fund and establish a medical school in Spokane.
  • 2005-2009 – the earlier prominence given to high tech vanishes from several economic plans.  Agilent, Vivato Wireless, Itronix, Software Spectrum, ISC/Getronics and other technology companies closed or moved out of the area. Others, like Telect and Keytronics, moved their manufacturing elsewhere or out of the country.
  • The focus today is health care delivery, health care education and health care research and the desire to establish bioscience/biotech related businesses.

Historical info is sparse; I stitched the above together from mentions in various documents. Would be interesting to learn more about the economic planning history.

Cleveland and regional health care centers

This sounds familiar:

Cleveland, which has been losing manufacturing jobs for decades, has spent almost $1 billion on everything from new downtown sports stadiums to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in an attempt to rev up its economy, so far with mixed success. Next up: health care.


The broader aim: to rebrand Cleveland as a health-care hub that will attract well-paying industry jobs to the region.

via Cleveland Wants to Be a Health-Care Hub – BusinessWeek.

Many mid-size cities, like Spokane, are promoting themselves as regional health care delivery service centers.  Someone, some where, will eventually have to produce something to pay for these expensive services. We can’t all be health care service workers. Are we entering a health care bubble?  If we are, Spokane is sufficiently well established in health care that the bubble may mostly effect other areas – not here.

Spokane area employment, unemployment and earnings distribution

Updated to November 2010. The only sectors showing growth year over year are retail, transportation/trucking, education, and health services. The small tech sector in Spokane lost about 7% of its jobs from October of last year. Goods producing, financial services, professional services, leisure and hospitality (including restaurants) all lost jobs.

The official unemployment rate is now at 8.4%, up from 8.1% the month before, and equal to the unemployment rate in Nov of 2009.

Government, health care and education now account for 41% of all earnings in Spokane County with government and health care overwhelmingly dominating the local economy.

All data comes from www.worksourceexplorer.com

Not shown here – but approximately 20% of all local income comes from “transfer payments” – which are payments without a current service or product offered in return. These include, especially, unemployment compensation, retirement pension incomes and other sources, most of which originate from the government. Some of these are translated into purchases in the health care sector so they may appear twice in the data. It seems likely that perhaps 50% of all income in Spokane MSA is in the government/healthcare/transfer payment category; a majority of health care is paid for by the government (Medicare for the elderly who account for a large segment of all health care costs, Medicaid, and benefits for the large government sector workforce).

Spokane has an unusual economy.

Update: Gallup survey finds large decrease in those with employer provided health benefits since 2008 and a simultaneously large increase in those with government provided health benefits. For many, that translates into increased “transfer payments”.

The increase in those with government healthcare likely stems from an increasing number of baby boomers becoming eligible for Medicare, as well as a continuing high unemployment rate, which is moving more Americans off employer-based plans and increasing the percentage relying on Medicaid

“Innovation Calls For I-Shaped People”

An essay  by Bill Buxton of Microsoft Research:

It has become almost a cliché to say that cross-disciplinary teams are a key component for successful innovation. If certain problems are beyond the scope of any individual—and most of them are—the way to address them is with a team with complementary skills and a common language in which they can all communicate. So far so good.

via Innovation Calls For I-Shaped People – BusinessWeek.

Someone correct me on this but … it seems that our current Spokane focus on health care and bio-tech is going to be a big mono-culture. Its all in health science and not much else. As I documented elsewhere on this blog, there is only a single technical graduate degree, an M.S. in computer science at Eastern – all the other technical graduate programs were ended at Gonzaga, WSU-Spokane and so on.

I am not seeing the creative, cross disciplinary mix of skills that Buxton talks about forming around the future health focus in Spokane.

But how we might get there is coming in the next few weeks …

Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index for Spokane

Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index – Findings: City, State, and Congressional District Well-Being Reports.

Go to the link, click on Washington and page through the report.

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index is a survey conducted of 1,000 people in the U.S., every day, 7 days a week.

What is striking is that the “Well Being Index” for Spokane has fallen off a cliff. “Emotional Health” went from #10 to #124 in one year. In every category but one, the “well being index” shows sharp drops for Spokane.  And geez, what’s happening in Olympia? Meltdown there too – but compare these to the State as whole. The State’s doing quite well.

This might explain the large number of police involved shootings, armed robberies, stabbings, and stuff best described as stupidity (a accidental murder on the weekend, a man killed by home made explosives – for fun! – at a Halloween party).

This chart is quoted from the report: