Cherie Rodgers and Larry Shook talk about the day they arrived at City Hall to shine a piercing light on Spokane’s most expensive secrets.
The first-ever meeting between Spokane City Councilwoman Cherie Rodgers and former Washington State Supreme Court Justice Richard Guy was not supposed to happen.
Or at least it wasn’t supposed happen this way—with a journalist in the room, furiously taking notes.
The end result was Larry Shook’s timeless story for Camas Magazine—Judge Guy Meets Cherie Rodgers.
But how, exactly, did it come about?
That’s one of the questions I put to both of them in an interview earlier this month, which you can listen to here.
Cherie had a purpose, but she’s not angry, not vindictive. And I think that’s what ultimately wore Judge Guy down. I think when he said that to her—you know, ‘it’s a company town, I’m not going to live here’—he was saying, ‘man, I’m really glad I’m going to get on an airplane and fly to Hawaii where I’m going to live out my retirement, and not be here in my home town.
The flow of Larry’s story takes the reader into a tug of war between the popular city councilwoman and the venerable judge. Judge Guy is in town to facilitate a settlement between the City of Spokane and the city’s most powerful family, the Cowles family. The Cowleses, working with an aggressive management and public relations team, had buffaloed the City into lucrative public-private partnership to renovate River Park Square, their glittering downtown shopping mall. But the deal was so larded with deceptions and subsidies that it quickly collapsed of its own weight, leading to a public revolt and a securities fraud lawsuit brought by investors who’d purchased $31.5 million worth of revenue bonds to finance the corrupt River Park Square parking garage expansion.
Mayor John Powers had narrowly won election in the fall of 2000 by advocating an out of court settlement to the RPS fiasco. But Rodgers was clear. She wanted accountability. She wanted the public to know the facts about the hidden negotiations between city officials and Cowles agents, not only on the garage transaction but the $22.65 million federally-backed loan that financed a new Nordstrom store at River Park Square.
Judge Guy arrived ostensibly to do Powers’s bidding, and to bring a bitterly divided city council in line with a mediated settlement. And that, of course, led to the rather tense tug-of-war that Shook captures in his story.
Near the end of the session, a remarkable thing happens: Judge Guy let’s go of the rope, and rather calmly admits to Rodgers’s analysis.
“This is my hometown,” Judge Guy said. “I’m not going to live here. I’ve always considered this a company town, like a coal-mining town.”
“I love reporting, and I love telling true stories about peoples’ lives,” says Shook. “But that was probably the most schizophrenic moment I’ve ever had as a reporter because on the surface I was just doing my job. But underneath I was saying, ‘thank you God, thank you God.’ I mean, I’m glad I didn’t say it out loud. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.”
Shook says he was also fighting, beneath the table, to keep his hand from cramping up as he tried to write everything down.
“I experienced Judge Guy as a genuinely kind person,” Shook recalls. “But he and Cherie just came from two different worlds. Judge Guy came from a world of entitlement where the rules are for his class, basically his caste. And Cherie came from a world where the rules are supposed to be for everybody…Cherie had a purpose, but she’s not angry, not vindictive. And I think that’s what ultimately wore Judge Guy down. I think when he said that to her—you know, ‘it’s a company town, I’m not going to live here’—he was saying, ‘man, I’m really glad I’m going to get on an airplane and fly to Hawaii where I’m going to live out my retirement, and not be here in my home town.’”