Last month, as we reviewed questions for a Washington Business Survey that the Journal helped conduct, one question caught my eye and made me crack a grin.
The question asked people whether they agree or disagree with the following statement: King County has too much influence over policies that affect all of Washington state.
I chuckled and said sarcastically, "I wonder how that one is going to go."
Predictably, 88 percent of business readers in Eastern Washington said they agree with that statement. In the general-public poll conducted by GS Strategy Group and Gallatin Public Affairs, nearly three in four of the general respondents in Eastern Washington agreed as well.
No surprise there. But when Brooks Kochvar, senior vice president of GS Strategy, presented all of the data, one result did jump out. The majority of people surveyed in King County agreed that King County had too much influence over the rest of the state.
This is unusual, Kochvar says. And if the results truly were reflective of West Side sentiment, the dynamic just might be unique to the Evergreen State.
You'll see no such acknowledgement in Oregon's Multnomah County, Kochvar says. He has asked a similar question in Oregon, and generally, people in the Portland area say they are the economic driver of the state as well as the population center. As such, they say, they should set policy and have an appropriate amount of influence, they believe, regardless of dominant political views in the rest of the state.
In many ways, Idaho has much of the same dynamic, with a large concentration of people, industry, and government in the Boise area. Unlike Washington and Oregon, Kochvar points out, the prevalent ideology in the Boise area is similar to that of the rest of the state. Consequently, policies set in Boise often are in line with the common sentiment in the rest of the state.
GS Strategy Group and Gallatin presented the results of the survey to a group of businesspeople in Seattle, and this question prompted a number of guilty grins across the room, Kochvar says. The group talked about it, he says, and speculated as to whether there were ways to align the interests of King County with the rest of the state.
What does all of this mean for Spokane business interests? In a large sense, the survey results suggest business interests east of the Cascade Mountains could have a reasonable conversation with West Side interests about how policies adversely affect them, and they'd have their earand to some degree, support from the general public.
That issue might be growth management. It might be public school funding. It could be the fact that Washington has the highest minimum wage in the U.S., and that wage rises significantly annually. Regardless of the subject, the poll results give hope, at least, for good dialogue.
King County has the people and most significant, high profile economic drivers, and there's no question projects in the Spokane area have benefitedif not been funded directlyby the dollars that tax base generates.
However, between the business sector in Spokane, the seemingly always-busy Tri-Cities, the agricultural industry, and other factors, Eastern Washington is a significant contributor to the state's health and its economic diversity.
The survey results don't address that contribution directly, but it isn't a great leap to say the results validate that contribution to a degree. And that validation could lead to greater benefit for businesses in Spokane and the rest of Washington east of the Cascades.
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