‘Mosquito’ indicative of Spokane’s intolerance

By Jane Martin, Editor-in-Chief


Anyone under the age of 30 who makes a habit of walking through downtown Spokane has probably noticed the continuous auditory assault that is hurled from three major buildings at the heart of the city.

The high-pitched screech of the “Mosquito” was designed with the precise intent of deterring young people from loitering outside the Peyton, Symons and Washington Trust buildings. And the best part: It can’t be heard by most people older than 30.

Business owners in the downtown area are constantly quoted beefing about the presence of rowdy “street kids,” the undesirables they say drive away business. They complain about the groups of kids smoking, clogging their sidewalks and having the gall to occupy space reserved for older, more respectable citizens with wallets bursting at the seams.

Youth, according to many with vested interest in downtown business, is apparently synonymous with nuisance and outright lawlessness. Nevermind that the young people they complain about represent a very small percentage of Spokane’s residents under the age of 30. Nevermind that business owners are likely driving away potential customers by making the atmosphere around their businesses uncomfortable and downright agitating. Nevermind that this is just another way to discriminate against an entire demographic of Spokane’s population.

If only they could find a frequency that could also target people of specific races, sexual orientations and social status as well. There would be no need for signs forbidding undesirables from entering certain buildings or sitting where they aren’t wanted; they can be made to leave of their own free will. How convenient.

We now have technologically enhanced means of discrimination. No one need ever come into contact with anyone of a different social class or age group; no need to face the reality that Spokane isn’t made up entirely of wealthy, peaceful baby-boomers.

Spokane does have a problem, but it isn’t that there are too many young people hanging out on our sidewalks. Mayor David Condon thinks the problem is that there aren’t enough things for Spokane’s teenagers to do and wants to propose the addition of a downtown theme park to give them other places to go. Spokane businesses don’t exactly care where they go, as long as they aren’t close enough to drive away the people they do care about.

Personally, I think the problem is an attitude that sees nothing wrong with targeting an entire demographic of people, forcing them to endure incredible discomfort and irritation if they wish to pass through — or even stand around — in a public space.

Few people would stand behind a business that had a device designed to deter Asians, African-Americans, blondes, homosexuals or people taller than 6’3”. Why is this any different?