EXCLUSIVE: No correlation between Convention Center and Airport usage

The Convention Center is said to be an economic driver that brings in outside visitors to Spokane, and this is the justification for continually expanding the facilities.  In just a few years, the PFD will seek additional taxes to expand again.

Does this economic driver work? Here is a comparison of airport usage versus convention center usage. Visually, there is no correlation; statistically, the R-squared value of the correlation is 1.6% (meaning zilch correlation).


If the Convention Center brings in outside visitors, they do not arrive by air or the number is so insignificant as to have no impact.

The air passenger data was scaled to a similar range to the Convention Center attendance for the purpose of comparison. In the chart above, the Y-axis shows convention center attendance; multiply by 10 for the air passenger number.

There is no correlation with jobs, either.

The top 2 largest events account for more than 25% of all usage:

  • Bloomsday, 47,346 people
  • PNQ Volleyball, 44,461 people

Outside of those two events, the remaining events average less than 700 people per day, the rest of the year. 

The Convention Center was just expanded so it can accommodate large events. Unfortunately, for a facility designed to accommodate up to 6,500 people, actual utilization is closer to 10% of best case, most of the year.

Spokane Convention Center Usage By Month


Spokane Arena By Month

For many months, the facility is almost unused.


Spokane INB Performing Arts Center

The INB Performing Arts Center is barely used for several months of the year.

SpokaneINBByMonthAll charts come from the SpokanePFD.org web site and the 2014 end of year annual report produced by the Spokane PFD.

Keep this in mind when in 2 or 3 more years, the Spokane PFD comes asking for more money for yet another expansion of their empty facilities.

Hoopfest Ironman

EXCLUSIVE: Spokane Public Facilities District (PFD) Attendance thru 2014

The following charts show the attendance trend through the end of 2014 for Spokane PFD facilities.

The upward growth at the right of the combined “all facilities” attendance is due almost entirely to a sharp upwards trend at the Convention Center in 2014. Combined facilities attendance trend still remains slightly down over the 15 year period since 2000.


image (1)

image (2)

The Convention Center experienced its first significant increase in attendance in a decade. Two events accounted for nearly 30% of all usage during the entire year. (Most of the year, the facility is used sparsely with small meetings of 100 or so people each day.)


This increase occurred prior to the completion of the third expansion of the Convention Center facilities, which opened in early 2015.  After more than a dozen years of flat to downward usage, and three taxpayer funded expansion projects, the CC has broken through its past “no growth” ceiling.

The above charts have never appeared in any Spokane media outlets – the attendance figures are intended to be top secret, apparently. All data comes from the Spokane PFD.

EXCLUSIVE: Spokane Airport Passenger usage charts, updated to 2015

Data through April 2015. Chart extrapolates the first 4 months to the full year for 2015.

With a slight growth in air passenger traffic, annual air passenger total usage is now roughly the same (corrected) still below 1995 and about the same as the year 2000.  Overall passenger use of the airport has been essentially flat for two full decades.

If recent growth continues, air passenger levels may reach the 2007 peak in about 2018 or 2019.






Spokane versus King County Employment/Unemployment: A Tale of 2 Counties

Spokane County Employment

Spokane County has  caught up to the pre-depression peak


Spokane has an unusual “saw tooth” pattern in its employment chart. Oddly, as shown on this blog in the past, the labor force miraculously resizes in direct proportion to employment so the unemployment rate stays fairly steady.

King County Employment

King County has exceeded the pre-depression peak by 7%


Spokane County Unemployment



King County Unemployment



All psychiatrists at Sacred Heart, resign.

All of the psychiatric doctors at Sacred Heart Medical Center have turned in their resignations.

Sacred Heart provides (provided) critical in-patient psychiatric services in the Spokane area.

A comment to the story (unverified) says other psychiatrists in the area have also resigned from at least one other facility. No specific reason has been given for these resignations; several comments to the story note that except for the Inlander, local media has ignored these resignations yet this is potentially a serious crisis for the Spokane region.

Rest in Peace, Elson Floyd – a genuine leader

A genuine, great leader: Elson Floyd, WSU’s ‘visionary’ president, dies | The Seattle Times.

Very sad to hear of his passing on. His compassion and contributions were larger than life.

Read more of this post

Former Forbes writer says Spokane remains the Scam and Fraud Capitol of America

He’s no longer with Forbes, but he strikes again: Not far from Seattle, Spokane is perfect setting for Rachel Dolezal scandal | New To Seattle.

#RachelDolezal’s son filed a “fake hate crime” report

Dolezal’s Son Made A Hilarious Fake Hate Crime Complaint | The Daily Caller.

Rachel Dolezal’s chameleon appearance over time, in photos

This blog likes to look at patterns that occur over time, usually in data, not photos.

Today’s post looks at Rachel’s masquerade over the years.

The transition from German-Swedish-Czech heritage to  black woman is remarkable.

Incredibly, no one in Spokane noticed this? Seriously?

Student at Bellhaven University (late 1990s-early 2000s)




Source unknown.


Keep the above photo in mind when you read that

She talked about her ex-husband and her abuse,” Campbell says. “The way she explained it, was that she had to ascribe to Eurocentric beauty standards. She was presenting herself as a white person because of her husband’s expectations.

She claimed her ex-husband made her have straight blonde hair (which she claims is not her “natural” hair even though its the hair she grew up with).

May 2005

Short blonde hair?



February 24, 2010 KXLY News video frame grab


Feb 22, 2011 KREM News video frame grab



Whole set of photos in the Daily Mail featuring Rachel in a model photo shoot with very pale skin.



Undated – likely 2012

That blue eyed blonde Eurocentric, pale skin look.


November 11, 2013

FB: “Going with the natural look as I start my 36th year“, she wrote.

This is not her real hair and definitely not “natural”.


February 2014


March 8, 2014


March 5, 2015


April 2014


Undated Photos appearing on FB 2013-2014 time frame

Actual date when the photos were taken is not known. Perhaps before 2013?

Eurocentric, white girl look.



The dress worn in the above photo is also the same dress worn in the April 29, 2015 video posted by the Spokane NAACP on their web site, via Youtube.




Likely to be after the fake “natural” hair look started on her 36th birthday. Without her “black” makeup and spray on tan.


After the “white woman” phase, she began to appear with much darker skin complexion.

Undated “Blackface” Look with heavy Make up

(Her own brother referred to this as “blackface”)


January 18, 2015

Spokane NAACP FB photos

Rachel is in the middle with long blonde corn row braids piled on her head. Click on the photo for a larger image.


Before January 19, 2015?

Announcing her fake “Dad” is coming on Jan 19, 2015.


January 28, 2015 City of Spokane video


February 3, 2015, with Mayor Condon

Spokane NAACP FB photos. Mayor Condon.


Confused the President of Eastern Washington University:

dolezal ewu

Early 2015 – Spokane NAACP “About” page


April 2, 2015

Spokane NAACP FB photos


April 6, 2015

Spokane NAACP Youtube video and in their photo collection dated April 6th, 2015.


April 29, 2015 Spokane NAACP Youtube video


If her skin complexion seems to you to have changed over time, your eyes are deceiving you says Dolezal:

The more white supremacy groups did to me and my family, the darker my complexion became in the public’s eyes, without even seeing me. It’s like, ‘Oh, she got blacker and blacker and blacker…’ Now, the the audience is deciding, reframing my identity.

April 29, 2015

From the Spokane NAACP Facebook photos collection


May 2015 

From Spokane NAACP web site. Back story here.


May 11, 2015 – Spokane NAACP Youtube video


June 2, 2015 – City of Spokane Police Ombudsman video


About that hair

Her “hair” seems to have stopped growing since the “natural” look began perhaps … take a look – only her hairdresser knows. As well as becoming longer, straighter, going back to corn rows, and then back to short curly hair.

Confirmed: This is not her real hair

This was hiding in plain sight. But no one noticed?

Spokane has so little diversity (click to see!) it has fake black residents.

News story commenters pointed this fakery out – repeatedly – as far back as 2010. But it took until 2015 and KXLY’s Jeff Humphrey asking her if she is, in fact, African-American. She said she did not understand the question and stormed off.

At least we can say, with all the news people flying in – its undoubtedly good for the local economy, at least for a few days.

SpokaneDoesn't Always

Photos collected from various sources, including photos posted as “public” accessible photos online. Sources provided, if possible. Used under claim of fair use for the purpose of critique and commentary regarding a public official.

Note: This blog post might not be kept online as it is not the main focus of this blog. So enjoy while you can!

Spokane’s non-existent economic development agencies

Wonderful essay from the SpokanePlanner about Spokane’s delegation of “public economic development activities to private, non-profit organizations is dysfunctional (at best)” and laced with secrecy and good ol’boy backscratching:

For Spokane’s Holy Trinity to succeed, success is defined as how much they panhandle from Spokane’s business and governmental community, and not necessarily defined by truly cause and effect economic development.

Fundraising, grant writing, and generally asking other people for money is not an economic development strategy; to the contrary, it’s what you do when you don’t have an economic development strategy.

SpokanePlanner believes the PFD is one of the most effective economic development agencies in Spokane. However, as shown on this blog, the PFD’s track record based on the objective metric of attendance and usage, is awful:





If that sort of poor performance gets ranked as a top economic development agency, then Spokane is doomed to a dim future.

Incredibly, the State Auditor found the PFD, in a fit of little league corruption, handed out big bonuses to staff in 2004 based on creative accounting. Look at the attendance charts, above, for 2004 – that deserved bonus payments to staff?


Spokane County Employment and Unemployment, in charts

From the Washington State Employment Security Department


The ESD chart suggests employment has almost recovered to pre-Depression 2.0 levels (but see chart from U.S. BLS, below, with a strangely different presentation).


From the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics – this chart (only through March of 2015) indicates a weak jobs recovery versus the one provided by ESD, above:


We have no information on why these charts differ. The chart below shows the “labor force”, which includes those who are working and those who are unemployed and also looking for work:


EXCLUSIVE: Spokane Real Estate Market in graphic format


All images are from Zillow.com. Red=for sale, Blue=foreclosure

North Spokane



South Hill





Spokane Valley section



Zooming in shows a few more homes for sale than the “big pictures” above. On average, there is about one home for sale on every block in this segment from South Hill:




And a zoom in to North Spokane – seems more like an average of 2 homes every block. Those blue dots represent foreclosures:


“The X Report”

A review of some “big picture” economic indicators for the Spokane area.

Spokane Airport passenger usage remains weak – now less than in 1995.

chart_1 (1)

We call this “growth”, of course. (See the Comments to this post to see how a rise in passenger use was called a positive economic indicator by local promoters in 2001, 2005 and 2006 but when passenger levels declined they now pretend passenger usage no longer matters. Right.)

Felts Field air operations fell off a cliff:

chart_2 (2)

Total air operations in the area have collapsed (but local political leaders refer to this as “continued growth of aviation!” – may be if we turn the chart upside down!)

CombinedSIAFeltsAllOps-3Non-stop year-round destination cities have declined from 18 to 11 (including the subsidized daily flight to Los Angeles).

The rate of growth in jobs (for the entire County) has slowed. The area is no longer producing jobs at the same rate as natural population growth (from births and inbound migration, over time). That means the population is getting larger but the number of jobs is not keeping up. Here’s a chart highlighting the slow down in job growth:


Spokane County non-farm jobs trend – mostly flat since 1998.


City of Spokane jobs have been going down for about two decades – there is no increase in net jobs since the mid 1990s.

Can you spot the increase in jobs created by the Convention Center expansions? The total number of jobs in the City of Spokane has continued to fall, even after passing their expansion initiatives. (Chart from US BLS, updated to early 2014.) The City of Spokane has flat lined. 


Unfortunately, Spokane was ranked as the worst metro area out of 100 for job growth in a 2012 poll.

While the United States has recovered nearly all jobs lost since the 2008 downturn, and Washington State has recovered more than all the jobs lost since the downturn, Spokane County has recovered about half the jobs lost. Here are the charts for the U.S. as a whole, the State of Washington, and then Spokane County.

(At the end of 2014, there are some indications that the US economy may be headed into a slowdown. If this happens, the effects on Spokane would be bad, very bad, as Spokane has not yet fully recovered from the 2008 downturn.) (deleted as the economic situation seems to have stabilized since that was written)


  • US jobs regained – about 100%
  • WA jobs regained – more than 100%
  • Spokane County jobs regained: 52% using seasonally adjusted totals, or 44% using non seasonally adjusted data

United States

(From US BLS)


Washington State


Spokane County


Median Family Income Compared to Other Washington Cities

Spokane’s economic situation is not good: Spokane ranks 53d out of 59 Washington cities for median family income

Spokane’s Housing Stock is Old – Highlighting the Limited Economic Growth in the Area

Growing cities, with growing economies, show newer housing – Spokane has a stock of old housing, indicating low growth. The boom years are obvious in this chart – 20% of homes here were built in 1900-1919 (mining boom), and 31% in 1940-1959  (aluminum processing boom, post World War II growth of families):


Here is a typical growing city housing age pattern (in this example, Olympia, WA) – in a modern, growing city, you can see that more homes are built to meet the demand of contemporary growth.


Spokane has essentially no growth and hence, very little new home construction compared to thriving cities. More example cities are here.

Home Sales

Chart of the number of home sales from 2000 to 2014 (only through spring as this chart is slightly out of date):

image The original chart for the above (from Trulia.com) used a logarithmic scale for the Y-Axis which makes the peaks and valleys nearly flat.  A software tool was used to convert the log scale chart into a linearly scaled Y-Axis to show the trend in a format that most readers understand.

The next chart shows that median sales prices are basically flat since 2006.


Income and spending lag:

This chart shows how taxable spending per household has trended downwards in the past decade. The data for this chart is based on retail sales taxes collected through 2011. Since then (not shown in chart), retails sales have begun to grow again.

The blue line shows real median household income while the red line is an indicator of spending per household.


Per Capita Income Trend Is Downwards

This chart has not been updated since 2008 but per WSU’s CORE research report, current per capita income is at 2007 levels. Per capita income is continuing to sink over the long term, relative to elsewhere. The lines in this chart indicate Spokane per capita income as a percent of the average per capita income in the state of Washington (red) and the U.S. as a whole (blue). Over time, the per capita income in Spokane, relative to everywhere else, goes down. Note that GSI will be happy to show you a chart of rising per capita income in the area – their chart is true too. But the problem is that Spokane incomes rise much slower than elsewhere such that over time, Spokane residents fall further and further behind the rest of the state and the country.

The Spokane County GDP per capita is unchanged from 2001 through 2011 (see bottom line in chart) – in other worlds, flat lined, like Convention Center attendance (well, not quite the same – the PFD’s facility usage actually went down over this period):


A chart of pay in Spokane County versus King County

Attracting high skilled talent for high paying job categories is tough due to the large difference in pay between Spokane and the other big city in Washington:


The next chart has not been updated but the trend remains the same today. Incomes in the rest of the state climb twice as fast as those in Spokane.  The blue line represents the rate of increase in Washington State; the red line is the rate of increase in Spokane County. Over 30 years, Spokane pay is falling further and further behind the rest of the state.


Transfer payments are now about 23% of area personal income.

Transfer payments are primarily Federal payments made without a contemporary service or product delivered in return. Examples include disability payments, unemployment compensation, Medicare/Medicaid payments, government pensions and other government benefit programs. In other words, almost $1 out of every $4 here is government payouts, not earnings from contemporary work. The problem is not that there are transfer payments – the problem is that the steady growth in transfer payments is not sustainable.

Spokane’s Heavily Subsidized Economy

The primary purpose of the Spokane Public Facilities District, like nearly all municipal convention centers, is to provide a tax subsidy to the local hotel and restaurant industry. This use of publicly funded convention centers as a hidden subsidy of local hotels is widely documented in the convention center industry literature. In Spokane, it is codified – one member of the five member Board of the Spokane PFD is required to be someone working in the hotel industry. There is no requirement that, say, the PFD Board include a member of the general public to represent the interests of Spokane residents and taxpayers (the peons do not rank in this community).

The long vacant Ridpath Hotel may get re-opened and turned into downtown condos some day. But only with substantial tax subsides. About 1/4th of the cost is proposed to be funded by tax credits issued after declaring the not very old hotel as a historic building.  The city is also proposing to give Federal Housing and Urban Development grants to the developer. More taxpayer subsidies for downtown.

The proposed Spokane Field House in downtown is an extension of the PFD’s subsidy program to local hotels. Taxpayers will fund a downtown sports complex with the goal of bringing in some outside visitors to fill downtown hotels and restaurants. This is an indirect subsidy to Walt Worthy’s “convention center” hotel across the street.

Indeed, the PFD’s own economic study shows who actually benefits – and its hotels and restaurants:


The sad thing about all these subsidies to the hotel industry is that they do not actually work.

Here is a chart of hospitality industry jobs in Spokane County.  After THREE expansions of the Convention Center, we have fewer jobs in the hotel industry than we did in 1999 when we first began expanding the Convention Center!

Hospitality industry employment chart from the US BLS from 1993 to 2014:


The downtown meme of ever expanding public facilities and more subsidies turns out not to have met the original claims for increasing jobs. Today we have fewer hotel jobs and fewer overall jobs in the City of Spokane than before the expansion. Expanding the Convention Center has resulted in FEWER JOBS.

Nothing happens in Spokane unless the local oligarchs are subsidized by the taxpayers. This is a form of transfer payments from poor people to developers.

Now we hang our hat on future medical school with an exaggerated economic benefit calculation  (local promoters nationwide engage in absurd and inflated exaggerations of all economic studies – most of these studies are not worth the digital ink they’ve spilled – same for Spokane). And of course, salvation will come with a heated pedestrian bike bridge!

Spokane needs real industry, designing and building products. From insect traps to pharmaceutical manufacturing to perhaps restoration of the lost high tech manufacturing sector, these are the sectors that generate real growth and jobs. But we just keep subsidizing downtown businesses that fail to deliver on their promises. Always have, and always will. Consequently, Spokane is going no where – the trends all remain negative (see charts above).

The Primary Economic Cluster in Spokane is Land Development

The primary economic cluster of Spokane is manipulating government so land speculators can profit. Here is a quote from Bob Herold of the Inlander:

“Well, I’ve learned that in Spokane, economic development most often begins and ends with making a profit off land speculation. It’s a cultural thing, and government’s job here is to help make the speculation pay off.”

And this business model works well for those who have influence. The largest media operator is one of the largest landowners in the region and has a long history of using their media influence to push government programs that benefit the owners (see The Fancher Report, the non-fiction novel Breaking Blue, or this blog for examples).

Contemporary examples include:  repeated Convention Center expansions (and their inability to meet any objectives) the “grand iconic unique in the world (except its notheated pedestrian/bike bridge, a proposed downtown “trolley” to benefit downtown, the “growing University District” (whose numbers show no growth) and the past and future for a light rail line that passes by the oligarchs’ properties runs from the underused airport to downtown and then to Liberty Lake (remember the two votes on that last decade?)

Update: Another economic cluster is government funded torture research hidden away in our small town. It’s a big industry in Spokane. Really big.


We cannot draw an accurate long term crime trend chart because of changes made in the reporting system last decade that resulted in a drop in crime reports. We’ll leave this topic with this chart – in 2011 and 2010, the auto theft rate in Spokane was the 4th highest in the nation but dropped in 2012 to 9th place:



A related crime problem is the culture and general corruption of the police in Spokane.  A week hardly goes by without yet another police scandal – from having sex on duty to running steroids and drugs to shooting people in the back of the head to killing Otto Zehm. This is likely a symptom of the difficulty in attracting high quality, high performing individuals to Spokane. And that is not just a police problem but one that impacts a wide swath of organizations both public and private.

We end up with local organizations having the same leadership for a quarter century, a sure sign of stagnation. From head dog catcher to GSI to the PFD to the STA -while some organizations are effective, some are not – yet their leadership is held on forever. There is no accountability for the PFD’s failure (by the core metrics of attendees and local jobs) or GSI’s long term ineffectiveness (as seen in the overall local economy numbers).

Bad leaders come to Spokane to retire on the job. And no one cares. In fact, one Washington State labor economist concluded that Spokane attracts unemployed people 🙂

Mental Health

Youth suicide rate is 4 to 6 times greater than the State of Washington and Washington’s suicide rate is higher than the national rate.


How Bad is the Suicide Rate?

(There are counties, especially with high populations of native American populations living in poverty, such as in Alaska, where the suicide rates are much higher.)

Update July 5, 2018

Spokane depression rate higher than state, national averages according to a study by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.

For each successful suicide, there are 7 hospitalizations for attempted suicides, and 15 ER visits for suicide. There are even more cases of depression that result in 9-1-1 calls to the police (but which do not end up in an ER), and even more cases than that of people who never seek help. (Also see these youth suicide statistics). Multiplying that times the rates in the chart above yields a staggering number of severely depressed people in the area. Throw in the reports of bodies turning up in parks and rivers and you get the picture.

Nearby Kootenai County, Idaho has the 2nd highest rate of suicide in Idaho.

The Spokane Regional Health District says health is an indicator of the economy. This is an indicator of despair and hopelessness. And its off the radar as recommendations for reporters discourage reporting of suicides.

Related to the above, the annual days of sunshine in Spokane is on par with Seattle. But don’t tell that to the Spokane Visitors Bureau which believes Spokane has 260 days of clear skies per year!

Telling Outright Lies is the Local Pastime

A selection of prominent lies and the liars who tell them is listed here.

The basic culture of Spokane seems to be based on lies and deceit, causing the area to repeatedly earn a designation as the Scam and Fraud Capitol of America.

The Problem is Ignorance 

The long term trend in the Spokane area economy has been poor – its been treading water for 15 years.

In spite of much media PR puffery, people have a sense that things are bad. And the data confirm it is a bad situation.

Much of the local media act as cheerleaders, engage in “errors of omission” (a method of telling a lie which fits right into the local culture), and hide poor performance of elected and non-elected leaders. Failed leaders are not held accountable – instead, long term declining attendance at Spokane Public Facilities District is defended and actively covered up by the local newspaper. A decline in airport usage is called “continued growth” – and not one person in Spokane’s media even bats an eye at the egregious lie.  Visit Spokane claims it is nearly always clear and sunny in Spokane. A local promoter misquotes a tech industry publication to falsely claim Spokane is a high tech hot spot (when the publication actually said Spokane is NOT a high tech hot spot).

To this day, the Spokesman-Review is pained to present data in easy to understand charts, even when the State provides the charts for free. For example, here is the September 2014 employment chart and here is how they babbled on about this in words:


The chart cannot be spun – Spokane has recovered about half of the jobs lost in the economic downturn while the State and the nation have recovered more than 100%. By hiding this from readers and viewers, Spokane’s local media censors the news through “lying by omission”.  Except for The Inlander, perhaps. (Note – former SR staffer Ryan Pitts left the SR to work on CensusReporter, a tool to make it easy for reporters to obtain Census data in easy to read charts. Tools exist. It’s not hard to illustrate stores with charts. But its hard to spin actual data.)

The outright lies and exaggerations are non-stop – hence, Spokane remains the scam and fraud capitol of America – but the zero credibility local media itself is complicit in re-telling and defending the lies (follow the links on this blog to see specific examples of the local media’s participation).

When land speculation is one of the top 3 industry clusters and the media is conflicted with land ownership and development,  reporting is warped.

The public has been intentionally kept in the dark as to the true state of Spokane – but many have seen these issues for a long time. Out of town visitors arrive and often the first thing they say is “Spokane looks like a run down dump” (check out the weeds growing out of the streets and sidewalks in August and you can see why).

This blog shed a light on the truth that has been hidden from the public – by showing the actual data, in simple to read charts, that directly contradict the local memes. Data is the enemy of propagandists in the local media.

The X Report

This site will remain on line as “The X Report“, just as “The Fancher Report” (summary here) lives on today, or how local corruption is documented in “Breaking Blue” or at Camus Magazine and other web sites.  It is no longer safe to publish skeptical inquiry on the Internet.

Before I moved to Spokane, an old friend who grew up here said, “X, Spokane is just a small town. Only bigger.”

Was not sure what he meant back then – but now I know: And he was right!

Nothing has changed in decades. Three decades of economic studies reached identical conclusions and were filed on dusty shelves never to be looked at again. Spokane remains behind the times, never reaching up to its potential as the 2nd largest city in Washington – but always hoping for an external savior (the current meme is the medical school brouhaha) to drop in and save the day. Before that it was regional health care. Before that Spokane was going to be an information technology center on par with Austin, Texas or may be even Silicon Valley. Before that it was going to be a manufacturing mecca. So we come up with an incoherent cluster strategy for economic growth.

But nothing has fundamentally changed. At this point, its down to more land speculation and more transfers to the oligarchs who will bleed the cash cow dry as long as they can keep it bleeding. And not one god damned local politician gives a hoot at the obvious decay and decline – they just continue to play along to earn bennies for themselves.

And because of that, this might be the very last post on this blog. The web site will stay online and be known as “The X Report”.


This blog is taking a break. No idea if it will return. Hard to imagine but 1/4th of all the posts made on this web site were never published! There are nearly 200 posts sitting in draft form 🙂 They were not published for many reasons including timeliness (the information was useful for a limited time), insufficient time to complete the post, insufficient data, or for a few I feared I would be run out of town if I let them fly. Ouch!

If you want to improve something, measure it

The previous blog post about tall tales and lies of Spokane ended with this quote:

It’s why so many countries are so badly broken because they go by appearances, rather than by results.

The idea that we should go by results, rather than by processes, by outcomes rather than by appearances, was revolutionary.

We should evaluate local projects objectively – rather than by appearance – using, if possible, their own goals to determine if they are successful or not.

Let us look at the Spokane Public Facilities District and compare their results with their publicly stated goals.

We discussed the Spokane Public Facilities District earlier this year in the context of hiding the  reduction in NCAA seating requirements.  Turned out that they did not need to add Arena seats for the NCAA. Read the link to learn about that.

Objective Measures

Each time the PFD has sought taxes to enlarge their facilities, they say this:

  • Will lead to increased attendance and usage of their facilities
  • Will create local jobs
  • Will increase the number of visitors to the area
  • Will have a large economic impact on the area
  • Will attract larger conventions to Spokane

Their claims provide objective metrics to measure the effectiveness of the PFD’s management in meeting these goals.

PFD Facility Attendance

  • Even though taxpayers have granted the PFD every tax asked for, attendance is down over the long term.

    In 2011 the combined attendance at Spokane Public Facilities events was 1,319,044. This was a 18.6% decrease compared to 1,619,773 people in 2001” (quote from Community Indicators of Spokane, jointly run by the City of Spokane and Eastern Washington University)


    “The Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena had the highest attendance at 639,081 in 2011 and throughout the period. This represented a 9.8% decrease from 2001. The Spokane Convention Center had the second highest attendance at 247,678 in 2011; a 4.5% decrease from 2001. Spokane County Fair and Expo Center had the third highest at 189,000 attendees in 2011 and the INB Performing Arts Center had 157,285 attendees. These represented 18.2% and 39.4% decreases since 2001 respectively.” (quote from Community Indicators of Spokane, jointly run by the City of Spokane and Eastern Washington University)

    Original chart, below, is from the Community  Indicators of Spokane (CIS) web site through 2011. 2012 data points and notations added by us as best we can. PFD facility usage, by attendance is less than in 1999 and 2001.  Repeated expansions do not show increase in attendance.

  • Follow each facilities attendance line from left to right. The Arena attendance line, at top, is easy to follow downwards – the Convention Center and the INB attendance figures cross in about 2006. INB attendance is sharply below its 1999 level and Convention Center attendance peaked in 2002. This chart, from the CIS web site, is a spaghetti chart of crossing lines, making it difficult to see that attendance at PFD facilities has been in long term decline. Spaghetti charts are often used to intentionally hide something.


The next chart shows “Convention Delegates”, which picks the low point in 2005 as its starting point, rather than the high attendance figure of 2002.  (The numbers in the chart, below, do not agree with the numbers in the chart above, both from the same Community Indicators web site. The trends are identical but the left axis is different. The original data is said to come from the Spokane Journal of Business.)


PFD Expansion Impact on Jobs

  • Non-farm jobs in Spokane are at the same level as the mid-1990s as shown in this chart of total jobs in the City of Spokane (Chart from US Bureau of Labor Statistics).  Based on the jobs data, the claim that repeated expansions of PFD facilities will increase jobs was not true (unless Spokane was simultaneously hemorrhaging jobs in other areas).


PFD Expansions Will Increase Visitors to the Area

Per the PFD’s economic studies, the majority of users of PFD facilities are local residents. Local use is mostly re-arranging how local money is spent, moving it from say, going to a local movie theater or restaurant to attending an event at the PFD .  The PFD’s economic studies, which we will get to in a moment, say that without the PFD, local residents would drive to Seattle and spend their money there instead of in Spokane (which is true for some events and some people).

Because Spokane is an isolated community in a sparsely populated region, a proxy for out of town visitors is the number of passengers using the local airport. Oddly, the more expansions we make to PFD facilities, the fewer the number of visitors arriving by air.  Passenger data through August 2013, pro-rated to end of 2013 for the chart (data from the FAA via the Spokane International Airport – more data is here.)



We see a slight increase in use of hotel facilities in terms of total room nights.  The data, however, ends in 2010, which was the last year of the National Skating Championships. There are slight peaks in 2007 and 2010. Percent occupancy is flat over the period and runs between 55% and 62%. What does the missing 2011 and 2012 data show? (Chart from Community Indicators of Spokane.)


PFD’s Economic Studies

During the campaign to expand the PFD facilities, the PFD provided two economic impact studies. One was completed for 2007 and one for 2010 (sort of). In the latter case, they shifted the calendar to include a 12 month period with two large events that occurred at the beginning and end of the period. Sort of jiggery pokery.

The attendance chart shows that 2007 and 2010 were not typical years for the Arena. The PFD used the two “spike” years for their economic studies. Neither year is representative of typical annual results. Both years featured prominent national events that brought more outside visitors than normal, skewing the body count and the out of town visitor count.

PFD Convention Center Usage

Average daily Convention Center attendance is 778 people/day in a facility that can hold around 12,000 people (Exhibit halls, meeting rooms and banquet room and not including the 2,700 seats in the adjoining INB, and the actual capacity # varies depending on use e.g. classroom, theater, reception, trade show).  In 2007, a PFD economic study pegged occupancy at 16%. Outside of Bloomsday (the big spike), the Convention Center’s overall capacity appears lightly used, as seen in this chart of total attendees by month. (Data from the PFD.)


Should Management Be Accountable for Meeting Their Own Objectives?

Except for the truncated data on hotels, the PFD has missed their goals:

  • Attendance at facilities is in a long term decline
  • Repeated expansions have not stopped the decline
  • Net employment in the City of Spokane has gone down
  • Visitors arriving by air are down to  levels last seen in 1995-1996.
  • Hotel room nights are up slightly through 2010 but data for 2011, 2012 and 2013 are missing.

Should the PFD management and/or Board of Directors be held accountable – such as being replaced for not meeting most of their goals? If not, then who should be held accountable?

Holding Public Projects Accountable

Look at the attendance chart again, then the City of Spokane total jobs trend, then the airport passenger usage. This is a  poor track record. 

This is a management problem, not a concrete problem. Pouring concrete has not produced the desired results in the past.

There are other large public projects that have been completed or are planned for Spokane which seem to lack objective measures of their success, including:

  • Spokane International Airport “improvements”: About one quarter of a billion $s worth of improvements have been made to the airports in the past decade. Next up are the addition of high speed taxiway exits fof the runways and eventually a third runway – to accommodate our “continued growth“! Yet the number of air travelers has fallen to mid-1990s levels and the number of aircraft operations has fallen steadily for a quarter of a century and is now less than half what it was in 1990. What are objective measures for these projects as it appears not to be, say, actual usage of the airport?
  • The heated pedestrian/bike bridge in the University district. What is an objective measure for this project? A $350 million biotech industry clusters around the bridge within 5 years? An average of 1,000 (or 2,000 or 5,000) users per day?
  • The downtown electric trolley project. Define an objective measure for success. 40% average occupancy? 60% of costs collected from fares? Total number of riders per day? Cost per rider?
  • The North-South freeway. The only objective measure seems to be that it is finished within a century.
  • Proposed (and voted down) light rail line between downtown Spokane and Liberty Lake.
  • Proposed light rail between the Spokane Airport and downtown Spokane.

What are the objective metrics by which these projects and their management will be judged and held accountable?

Who will hold them accountable?

  • Spokane leaders and agencies should be measured by objective results – not appearances.
  • To paraphrase Lord Kelvin, if you want to improve something, measure it.
  • To which we add: If you measure something, say something! 
  • Keeping secrets means no one will be held accountable

Unfortunately,  local news coverage does not report on the effectiveness of these projects – instead of a “4th estate“, we have cheerleaders.

Cheerleading may happen due to a lack of resources (its easy to paraphrase a press release) – plus conflicts of interest.

For example, the owner of the Spokesman-Review and KHQ owns significant parts of downtown Spokane and was tied as the 2nd largest campaign contributor to the last PFD tax campaign. Their real estate holdings benefit from taxpayer supported improvements to downtown. You can read more about these conflicts in the Seattle Times, the Spokesman-Review, the Fancher Report and the true life novel “Breaking Blue” by NY Times and Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Timothy Egan. When covering downtown issues, they rarely mention their conflict of interest. Same with water quality issues.

Local news, including TV news, is mostly non-existent from Friday evening until Monday morning – its just wire service reports and stories produced during the week. Obviously a lack of resources.  The Inlander and KXLY talk radio shows are the only outlets asking uncomfortable questions, when they can.

Voters are kept in the dark by cheerleading – and cannot hold government accountable when the voters are unaware.

A side effect is we endure tall tales, exaggerations and lies, leaving the economy stuck in neutral.

This blog is going into hibernation after perhaps one more post. Comments are likely to be turned off.

Update: This is a great step in the right direction for measuring local government services – but what about the PFD and other big $ capital projects (as in cumulatively hundreds of millions of $s)? Silence.

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Tall tales of Spokane

President Obama has come under fire for numerous problems of ObamaCare’s implementation and, as the news media has begun to report, the President intentionally lied misled the public about keeping their existing insurance and keeping their existing doctors, which they knew was not a true claim when they said it.

It seems everyone lies when they want to sell us something and this is certainly true in Spokane.

There are folks in Spokane that thrive on tall tales – usually people in the promotional business. Unfortunately, some of their tales are outright lies. And that is embarrassing and unnecessary.

There are plenty of things to talk about, and plenty of positive things to say without resorting to exaggeration, nonsense and lies. So stop it!

Here we highlight a sample of some of embarrassing tall tales:

  • Spokane is a high tech hot spot” – Network World Magazine.  Except Network World actually said Spokane is not a high tech hot spot.  Hey, we only left out one little word… yet this lie lives on today and has been duplicated on many local promotional web sites.
  • While aviation operations and total passengers have been in sharp decline since the mid 1990s we say:
    • Spokane airport might add terminal if GROWTH CONTINUES”
    • The region’s air traffic GROWTH supports local economic development

    Nonsense claims are stupid and embarrassing.

  • A forecast $350 million biotechnology economy in Spokane will only happen if a $16 million pedestrian/bike bridge is built over railroad tracks.  The claim that a future biotech sector hangs on a pedestrian/bike bridge is loony and mostly a heap of dung.  We imagine Pfizer and Merck are scouring the country’s cities for pedestrian/bike bridges to choose their next expansion location. Not.
  • The heated pedestrian/bike bridge will “be unique in the United States, perhaps even in this hemisphere, as a cable-stayed bridge supported by an arch”. A virtually identical bridge was constructed in 2007-2010 in Dallas, Texas. See here for the details. Another Spokane pipe dream based on an outright lie.
  • More amusing tall tales are listed here. One was the odd claim that Spokane has more downtown fiber per capita than anywhere else in the country. How that claim came to be “authoritative” is amusing. Check out the link for the rest of the story.
  • The VisitSpokane web site is a hoot: “You know how I know Spokane is cool? We have 7 colleges/universities in an 80 mile radius!”  They count Eastern Washington University twice and they count Innovate Washington, the de-funded economic development agency as a college. This is an improvement over the past counting of 70,000 students at 18 colleges and universities in the Spokane area. They cheated and included colleges located hours away. Using their original standard, the Tri-Cities can claim Gonzaga is located in the Pasco region!
  • A local real estate company quotes the absurd 70,000 students figure (page 8), and goes way beyond that exaggeration to say there are 1.4 million people living in the Spokane region!  Which is true if the Spokane Region is all of Eastern Washington east of the Cascades (with about 1.2 million population) plus North Idaho from Lake Coeur d’Alene north. The lies never stop in Spokane! We love lies!
  • VisitSpokane’s list of local media organizations counts the Spokesman-Review three times, KHQ, KREM and Comcast, twice. KXLY only warrants a single count. Bummer. And by the way, Comcast is a telecommunications company not a news media company.  Embarrassing.
  • The medical school project will add $1.6 billion to the region’s economy. They counted the growth of the nursing school and the ordinary growth of health care in Eastern Washington and attributed all of it to the presence of the med school. They greatly exaggerated the economic benefits of the medical school to the point of silliness. They didn’t have to – the actual benefits are plenty – but someone chose to inflate the number into a tall tale. Have you noticed a pattern in “economic impact studies”? Excessive exaggeration – and our local media never follows up in the future to see if grand projects lived up to expectations.
  • SPD has officers on its payroll who are prohibited from testifying in Court – because they were caught lying.

Perhaps this nonsense – and this is only a sample – are inadvertent errors of staff. Or it could be we just enjoy telling tall tales and lies and like our local propaganda ministries.

We’ve created a mythology about Spokane that leads people to make wrong decisions, and leads voters and politicians into dead ends because they believe their lies. You can sure see why Forbes magazine labeled Spokane “The ‘Scam Capital of America'” – an easy call for sure.

When we behave like this, the truth, unfortunately, seems more like this:

It’s why so many countries are so badly broken because they go by appearances, rather than by results.

The idea that we should go by results, rather than by processes, by outcomes rather than by appearances, was revolutionary.

The people of Spokane deserve better than what they are getting. These lies are unnecessary, counter productive and embarrassing. There are enough things to talk about honestly – so stop the endless lies, okay?

If you spot lies, tall tales and exaggerations,  let them know you won’t put up with it anymore.

Just say no to stupid lies and tall tales.

Hospital-sector recession looming?

The two primary industry clusters in Spokane are regional health care delivery and government.  Nationally, the health care sector is seeing signs of an industry recession and layoffs.

The Harvard Business Review thinks the growth in health care jobs is about to halt because the health care industry has been adding jobs faster than it is adding patient volumes – leading to long term, year over year declines in productivity.  A long term year-over-year productivity decline is not sustainable.

This change has apparently already started and could have impacts on Spokane with its over-sized health care sector:

Hospitals, a reliable source of employment growth in the recession and its aftermath, are starting to cut thousands of jobs amid falling insurance payments and in-patient visits.

via Layoffs reflect hospital recession | The Clarion-Ledger | clarionledger.com.

Potential reductions are not a certainty but are a possibility.

The following chart illustrates the dramatic impact the health care sector has had on Spokane County employment. Watch the blue line near the top. If the recent decline were to accelerate, per the above linked news report, this would be of concern to the Spokane area.



The next chart is from the Washington Employment Security Department. Their horizontal chart has been flipped and rotated into a vertical format as it makes the sector size comparison easier for us humans. As you can see, the health care sector is the largest single employment sector in Spokane County.



Spokane Airports Usage Update

Local leaders insist Spokane is seeing continued growth in aviation but back in the reality-based world this is what actual data looks like through June (first half of 2013 extrapolated to full year for the chart):

SIA Jun 2013

Was hoping to see growth show up in June as this now includes the Allegiance once per week Hawaii flights (to be discontinued shortly) and the daily subsidized flight to Los Angeles that started in June. Perhaps growth may resume in the summer.

Felts Field may have bottomed. We hope. (The chart title has a typo  – that should say “thru Jun 2013” not Jan 2013).

Felts Jun 2013

Local air traffic has long been used as a local economic indicator. During periods of growth, local officials routinely said air traffic growth was an indicator of the strength of the local economy. A decline in local air traffic (including passenger usage) indicates the Spokane County economy remains weak.

Spokane Home Price Index – relative home prices over time

“The House Price Index (HPI) shows changes in Spokane, WA single family home prices in logarithmic scale. The March, 1995 index value equals 100.  Updated Tuesday, July 2, 2013. Real estate forecasts, analysis, statistics and appreciation rates are provided below.”

Spokane Real Estate Market – Home Price Forecast | LittleBigHomes. (The web site does not define the source of home prices – we assume this is average home price whereas realtors and local news often use median home prices.)

Here are historical year over year appreciation rates for Spokane, from the above web site:

1983      4.83%
1984      19.24%
1985      -2.69%
1986      2.69%
1987      -2.76%
1988      2.44%
1989      6.85%
1990      12.55%
1991      9.13%
1992      10.89%
1993      9.06%
1994      3.75%
1995      5.72%
1996      -0.08%
1997      1.77%
1998      2.22%
1999      -0.57%
2000      1.81%
2001      4.54%
2002      3.40%
2003      3.90%
2004      11.09%
2005      19.17%
2006      13.15%
2007      5.87%
2008      -2.64%
2009      -6.61%
2010      -3.40%
2011      -5.58%
2012      -1.50%

2013 July Year over Year is -2.4% while 2013 cumulative versus 2012 is +1.7%.

Local news report uses an odd headline: “Spokane home sales have ‘recovered dramatically’ – Spokesman.com – Aug. 9, 2013″ based on unit sales up while pricing is down Year over Year for the month and barely up for the full YoY comparison.

Here is a comparison of Spokane versus Seattle, side by side, Spokane on the left, Seattle on the right.  These indices are a logarithmic scale, both adjusted to a 100-level index, and should be used only to compare relative price growth, not actual prices. Horizontal tick marks are five year periods. A steeper curve means higher or faster price appreciation. Original charts slightly different in vertical height and re-scaled to be equal in size.

Spokane                                                                                        Seattle


What this shows is that Spokane home prices appreciate much slower than in Seattle (and we could find similar comparisons to other major cities).

This means moving to Spokane (or any slow growth economic area) can become an unexpected one-way ticket.

If someone sells a home in a metro area, moves to and buys a home in Spokane  (or any slow growing area), they will find that if they move back to the metro area, home prices at their destination will have risen much faster than those in Spokane.  Because of this, a move to Spokane can become an unintended one-way ticket as Spokane sellers’ equity gains do not keep up with the destination market home price appreciation.

If that does not make sense, consider an example.

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Spokane Suicide Rate

Learning that someone I knew had committed suicide gave me pause – since living in Spokane I have known 6 people who committed suicide, plus one attempted suicide.

Curious, I looked up some data. The youth suicide rate in Spokane is 4 to 6 times greater than in the State.

Youth Suicide Rate 2005-2009


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Is incompetence common place?

A pharmacy tech looted 262,000 hydrocodone pills from the Providence Sacred Hart Medical Center Pharmacy over four years, until some one noticed. But the pharmacy tech is a minor part of the story.

DEA joins Sacred Heart pill theft investigation | Spokane/E. WA – KXLY.com.

According to the KXLY news report (and assuming it is true):

  • No effective inventory control to detect theft, even of tightly regulated narcotics.
  • Anyone could login to the pharmacy’s computer system using the account name ‘student’ and password ‘student’, hence, no security controls and no logging of individual access.
  • Who thought granting all students a single account, whose login credentials never changed, made sense?
  • Who thought it appropriate for students to order narcotics and be untrackable?
  • Who thought it appropriate for students to be allowed to manipulate the pharmacy’s inventory records?

If Sacred Heart messed up this badly, what should we be thinking of the rest of the facility, staff and services? The words “best-in-class” and “award winning” do not come to mind.

Patients have to pay higher fees to cover SHMC’s long term drug thefts (and how many other thefts have been occurring?) The community suffers from high crime rates as addicts steal to buy stolen pills pilfered from SHMC. Sacred Heart’s actions looted the community.

The newspaper has this amazing quote:

“We have already completed a thorough review of our internal process and have made significant control improvements that we feel will prevent this from happening again,” the hospital spokesman said. “And, going forward we will continue to evaluate to ensure we have best-in-class processes, policies and practices.

SHMC has no idea what “best-in-class” means or this would not have happened. This story is about management incompetence, not about a lowly pharm tech.

This post is not one of our usual data-backed posts. I put it here in the interest of trying to figure out why the local economy stubbornly lags the state and the nation. We know that Sokane’s wages fall further and further behind year after year, for decades. What causes this?

At this point, it seems to be due to a combination of indifference, incompetence, lying and a local cartel. These issues turn up much too often – why?

Update: Some think we might hire pals and family rather than the best.