Tuesday, July 1, 2003

Spokane

'Tom Grant for Mayor' garb gets slam-dunked
Hoopfest media court if no place for politics, Doug Clark says.
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Doug Clark
The Spokesman-Review

Hey, Doug, this is Tom Grant. I'm really lonely over here, man. You know, you've been screwing all these other guys and I keep getting forgotten about....

A message like this makes me believe there really is a Columnist Higher Power. I found it waiting for me in my voice-mail box last Friday morning.

A gift from above.

Not since presidential wannabe Gary Hart dared reporters to check up on his monkey business has there been such an open appeal from a po
litician for abuse.

And so on an anonymous tip I went to Hoopfest on Saturday morning. I caught Candidate Grant, who is running for Spokane mayor, in a campaign scandal of XXL proportion:

I'm talking about the “Tom Grant for Mayor" T-shirts worn by Grant and others playing on the Local Planet weekly newspaper team.

These shameless political endorsements also bore a Milt Priggee caricature of Grant's mug. The face leered out from the shirts in a size equal to and more frightening than the Giant Pumpkin.

For shame, Tom. For shaaaaaame.

First, we don't inject crass politics into the Media Court.

The Media Court is a holy, nonpartisan venue. It's a place where pretty boy TV weathermen compete against pretty boy TV sports anchors and all the pug-ugly members of print journalism.

Second, representatives of a media outlet shouldn't cross the line and openly stump for a candidate.

That's Journalism 101 stuff.

If these Grant for Mayor T-shirts aren't a conflict of interest, well, I'll eat the candidate's post-Hoopfest sweat-soured garment.

“It's advertising, man," says Grant, laughing off my concern. “This is America."

Grant is the former editor of The Local Planet, an alternative weekly newspaper with the editorial motto:

“All River Park Square Parking Garage All the Time!"

I've always considered Grant a comrade in the roughand-tumble verbiage trade. But for reasons only Freud could unravel, I fear the poor man has flipped his lid.

It happened last spring. Grant shocked journalists and civilians by announcing that he was exiting the Fourth Estate and running for mayor.

I figured he was doing this just so he could write some epic story. You know: Grant tells all on the travails of candidacy.

Not so, he says during our Hoopfest chitchat.

“I fully intend to be mayor. The only plan I have is to win."

Come back from the Dark Side, Tom. Come baaaaack.

But it's lonely on the campaign trail.

I gather from Grant's telephone message that he is feeling left out of the evil joy I've been having at the expense of his mayoral opponents -- Hizzoner John Powers and City Councilman Steve Corker.

It has been a fabulous election year so far.

For me.

There was Powers' unusual approach to fighting Spokane poverty by feeding the affluent chocolate-dipped strawberries. That was followed by Corker's equally odd use of the gorilla costume as a campaign tool.

Now we have Grant and his tacky T-shirts.

Matthew Spaur, The Local Planet's publisher and editor, says he isn't bothered that his team was sporting Grant for Mayor advertising.

The Local Planet's affection for its ex-editor is no secret, he says. And as far as all that objectivity of the press stuff goes, “it's a sham."

Yeah, right. Well, I'm betting if my editor announced his candidacy, Spaur would have plenty to say if he caught me waltzing around town in “Vote Smith" pantaloons.

Not that the T-shirts did The Local Planet much Hoopfest good. The Grant for Mayor shills lost. Three games and out.

The Spokesman-Review's nonpartisan Paperboys won the media division and took home the coveted Battle of the Brick trophy.

All hail the power of a pure press!

Doug Clark can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by e-mail at dougc@spokesman.com.


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