Spokane Mayor David Condon has had to do some explaining about his statement that the job of City Hall is not to create jobs.
“Our job is to create the environment so you can create jobs,” Condon told a group of the state’s business leaders during a breakfast meeting of the AWB’s board of directors Wednesday in Spokane. “Quite frankly, a city government growing jobs is the wrong answer, folks.”
Condon, in his second year as mayor, came from a career of military service and running a variety of family businesses. As a result, he's had to adjust to the meaning of “R&D” in city government. For mayors, it’s not research and development – it’s rip-off and duplicate, he joked. In that vein, he admits to stealing the best ideas from other cities as he works to make Spokane the “city of choice” for people and businesses.
Condon said his most humbling moment so far as mayor was when a Tri-Cities official (Condon declined to say which city) asked for details to give to his own mayor about how Spokane has improved its city services.
The city has reduced the average time for permit approval from 52 days to 30, Condon said. City regulators have moved out from behind counters and now sit at desks with those they regulate. Major projects have a dedicated project manager as a point of contact, rather than having applicants bounce from person to person.
Regulations are necessary, he said, but efficient and responsible city government can be a partner rather than an obstacle.
“We realize any delay in time is cost,” he said. “We went back to the values of the city of being affordable, being flexible.”
Cities, like businesses, he said, have to look at their revenue stream –- taxes –- and their costs. Cities might be tempted to think that citizens and businesses have no choice but to pay increased fees and taxes, but Condon said they do have a choice. They can leave, or choose not to locate in his city.
“We facilitate economic opportunity, but opportunity is not a guarantee,” Condon said, noting that while not every business will succeed, that risk is the American way. “I am humbled by those of you who take that risk every day.”