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Spin Control

Plenty of money for general election, not so many votes

OLYMPIA – With control of the state Senate in the balance, legislative candidates could pull in record amounts of money. Some ballot measure campaigns also are spending heavily as the election deadline approaches.

Their fates may be decided by a relatively small number of voters. Early turnout is light throughout the state, and less than half of Spokane County’s eligible voters are expected to return their ballots. . .

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

 

Spokane Valley No. 1 “centrist” city? USA Today says so

Local readers of USA Today might have been pleased recently when the city of Spokane Valley was mentioned in one of those trendy “list” stories as No. 1. But they may have been incredulous that it topped the list it was on.

Spokane Valley was listed as the nation's best city for political “centrists”.

That's right, the Spokane Valley, which currently has no Democrats running in its legislative races, where candidates for nonpartisan municipal offices proudly mention their Republican affiliation — and sometimes vie for being a better Republican than the opponent — and have so few Democrats that some D precinct caucuses could be held in a phone booth, if one could find a phone booth. Yes, that Spokane Valley.

USA Today got the Centrist List, as well as the most conservative and the most liberal list, from the Livability Website, which seems to have compiled its rankings with some bad information. . .

Waldref’s letter, Cannon’s response and McKinney’s local connection

Out of the $13 million in federal grant assistance the city of Spokane doles out every year, about $3.6 million comes from a type of grant aimed at homelessness referred to as McKinney funding.

Today, we wrote about some difficulties the city's Community, Housing and Human Services department has had since its creation more than two years ago, including the loss of Salem Arms Community Housing as a partner.

It turns out that McKinney funding, which Salem Arms relied on for some of its housing, has its origin story in Spokane.

The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act was sponsored by U.S. Rep. Tom Foley in 1987, and signed into law by President Ronald Reagan. At the time, Foley was the long time Democratic representative of eastern Washington and the House Majority Leader. Two years later, he would be elevated to be Speaker of the House and second in line to the presidency, only after the vice president. In 1995, after 30 years in office, he was defeated by George Nethercutt, and succeeded as speaker by Newt Gingrich. Foley died last year.

According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, the McKinney act “was the first – and remains the only – major federal legislative response to homelessness.”


Documents:

WA Post views Z factor in 6th Lege District race

Only a few legislative races in the hinterlands merit a story in the esteemed Washington Post. So the candidates in the 6th Legislative District Senate race might count themselves lucky.

Or maybe not. The story spends quite a bit of time on zombies.

It details Democratic challenger Rich Cowan's work with North-by-Northwest, which brought Z Nation to Spokane, and Republican Sen. Mike Baumgartner's questioning of the state tax preference that helps bring film projects to Washington. It also makes assorted various references to zombies that have become part of the political lingo in recent months. 

At times it seems as though the Post thinks  folks in the 6th might actually mark their ballots based on their feelings about the undead.

But at least it has a reference to a scintillating story about a zombie-themed protest at the state Capitol a few years back. So we give it a thumbs up.

State, county lose round in PCB dispute

OLYMPIASpokane County’s new wastewater treatment plant will need a new permit that measures the amount of a cancer-causing chemical it’s putting in the Spokane River, a Thurston County Superior Court judge ruled.

Judge Eric Price agreed with a state Pollution Control Hearings Board that the wastewater facility is adding polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, to the river in the water it discharges after treatment. He also agreed that PCB reduction provisions of the current discharge permit are so inadequate they must be replaced with numeric limits. . . 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

Last call for voter registration

Washington residents who want to do something about the prospect of poor turnout for the November election but aren’t registered to vote have one last chance. If they are eligible – American citizens, state residents, over 18 and haven’t lost the right to vote by being convicted of a felony or a mental commitment – they can still sign up.

But they have to do it Monday, in person, at the local county elections office. In Spokane County, that’s at 1033 W. Gardner Ave. (conveniently located between the courthouse and REI just off Monroe Street). Can’t do it on line or by mail. And this is the absolute, final, no spit Sherlock chance to register before election day.

Sunday Spin2: Is WA ‘the bluest state’?

The Hill, meanwhile, came up a with a formula that declared Washington the nation’s bluest state. We could be more comfortable about that title if its researchers had been a bit more diligent in their research. . . 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

Sunday Spin: Will WA remain among most ‘politically engaged’?

Barely a week goes by without some study by some expert or organization announcing how well or poorly it thinks Washington does in some area of politics.

Last week it was SmartAsset, a financial services group, lauding Washington for being one of the 10 most “politically engaged” states in the nation, according to its metrics. This comes at a time when the hard data suggests that Washington voters may be thinking about breaking off that engagement, or, since the study is based on comparisons with all states, we might remain in the top 10 if the curve is lowered and most of the other 49 do even worse.

A frightening prospect indeed. . .

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

 

Pakootas, McMorris Rodgers clash on Obamacare, casino

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and her Democratic challenger Joe Pakootas clashed over Obamacare, minimum wage, the best ways to bring jobs to the region and a new West Plains casino in their second debate of the campaign.

In a taped debate broadcast Thursday evening on KSPS-TV, Eastern Washington’s 5th Congressional District found a few areas of agreement. Both were wary of sending American ground troops to fight ISIS, although McMorris Rodgers said it was up to President Obama to make the case for any such strategy and Pakootas said part of the strategy needs to come from Congress which should stop “fingerpointing.” Both said they think the Veterans Administration needs a “change of culture” to do a better job of serving veterans.

But on most points, the five-term congresswoman and the chief executive officer of the Colville Tribal Federal Corp., disagreed sharply. . . 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

Baumgartner will refund unintentional MAC contribution

Republican state Sen. Michael Baumgartner's campaign will refund $63.48 to the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture Foundation after the nonprofit organization learned that a check it thought was simply to cover the cost of breakfast for two employees had been recorded as a political contribution.

“We'll certainly take care of that,” Baumgartner said today after questions about the contribution from a tax-exempt 501c3 organization were raised by Democratic challenger Rich Cowan's campaign. “We're big supporters of the MAC.”

The foundation, as well as the museum, enjoy federal tax exempt status from the IRS but because of that are prohibited from contributing to political campaigns. Museum officials are asking the Baumgartner campaign to refund the money and clarify with state elections officials that it wasn't intended to be a contribution.

The museum's executive director, Forrest Rodgers, said he and Development Director Betsy Godlewski attended an April 3 breakfast event, dubbed the “Keep Working Kick Off,” after receiving an invitation as museum representatives from Baumgartner. Rodgers said he knew that the event was a re-election kickoff announcement but thought the $30 per person charge was to cover breakfast — not a contribution.

“We attend events and support all of our elected officials,” Rodgers said, explaining that museum staff has worked closely with Baumgartner and other legislators to secure state funding to help keep the MAC open. “We go to many of their events on behalf of the museum.”

Meanwhile, state campaign finance records show numerous 501c3 organizations as contributors to various political candidates across Washington. Lori Anderson, spokeswoman for the state Public Disclosure Commission, said the state has few limitations on who can contribute to political campaigns but leave it up to organizations to determine whether it might run afoul of obligations or restrictions imposed by others, such as the IRS in the case of nonprofits.

McMorris Rodgers, Pakootas debate on Thursday

The second debate between Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Democratic challenger Joe Pakootas will air Thursday night on KSPS-TV and KXLY 920 AM radio.

Pakootas, the chief executive officer of the Colville Tribe Federal Corp., is running against McMorris Rodgers, a Republican seeking her sixth term in the House.

The debate was taped Wednesday evening for later broadcast on Channel 7, which will also feature it on its website.

Spokane mayor not taking sides in WSU, UW battle over medical education

Spokane City Hall may be on the verge of having two separate and potentially competing legislative agendas for the first time in memory.

The priorities unveiled last week, which included backing for Washington State University's bid for its own medical school, represent only the City Council's agenda, said mayoral spokesman Brian Coddington.

Mayor David Condon hasn't taken sides in the battle between WSU and the University of Washington, which wants to expand a five-state physician training program in Spokane. Coddington said the mayor simply is backing state support for expanded medical education here regardless of which university takes the lead.

The distinction could put Spokane's lobbying corps in a bind when the 2015 session opens in January since the city may end up with two competing sets of priorities. Condon is expected to issue the official city legislative agenda later this year.

Roundtable: Road projects have big payoff

OLYMPIA – Washington would get a major economic boost by finishing the North Spokane Corridor and some other major road projects worth $7 billion, a state business group said Tuesday. It faces significant costs and problems if the Legislature continues to deadlock over some type of tax-funded roads package. . . 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog. 

Spokane mayor, city attorney seek ethics upgrade

This week, the city of Spokane is holding two public meetings about its proposed update to the city's ethics code. 

“This update formalizes our commitment to deliver outstanding service through greater transparency,” said Spokane Mayor David Condon in a statement. “The proposed updates establish a clearer process that protects the city, its citizens and the employees.”

The changes are being put forth by City Attorney Nancy Isserlis, who was involved in the origianl creation of the ethics board a decade ago.

According to the city, the new ethics code will refine private employment prohibitions after someone leaves a city job, better define gifts and gratuities people at the city can accept, provide a review and appeal process to the City Council and Superior Court, expand the power of the citizen ethics committee and increase possible penalties for violating the rules, among other things.

The ethics code will cover employees, elected officials and members of boards and commissions, whether paid or unpaid.

This week's public meetings will be held in the City Council Briefing Center in the lower level of City Hall. The first meeting on Wednesday is scheduled from noon to one p.m. Thursday’s meeting will be held from six to seven p.m.

Read more about the ethics code changes here.

Watch the mayor talk about it at this week's news conference below.

 

Commissioner candidates trade well-worn barbs at Valley debate

Al French and Mary Lou Johnson used the “Rally in the Valley” debate at Central Valley High School on Monday night to continue policy position and leadership style attacks that have defined the race since the two emerged victorious from the August primary.

Here's a look at some of those claims, and the facts that support or dispute them.

Claim 1: Johnson attacks French's public records request of Spokane city government as evidence of blustery style.

In April, French submitted a public records request to the Spokane City Council requesting documents and legal basis for discussions about the expansion of the urban growth boundary. You can read that document here.

Johnson drew the crowd's attention Monday night to a headline from Spokesman-Review columnist Shawn Vestal, who called French's records request “an attempt to annoy, chasten and insult those who disagree with him.”

“Good leaders lead by example … another thing good leaders don't do is lash out or alienate other elected officials,” Johnson said, before referencing the opinion column.

French defended his request Monday, saying he filed the request because city council members were deceiving citizens in comments at a public meeting.

“As an 8-year City Councilman for the city of Spokane, I knew the information that they were telling the public was factually inaccurate,” French said. “And the only way to prove that to the public was to do a public records request and have them back up their statements with facts. Which, to this day, they have yet to do.”

The Spokane City Council provided records later Tuesday, after publication of this blog, that the records request has been suspended at the request of French and county attorney, Jim Emacio. The records request was suspended in April 2014.

To read the rest of this item, or comment, go inside the blog.

GOP incumbents want Ebola travel restrictions, challengers say no

Republican House members from the Inland Northwest say the United States should consider travel restrictions for West African countries to guard against the spread of Ebola, but their Democratic challengers say that’s the wrong course of action. . . 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, click here to continue inside the blog.

 

Board clears Sen. Roach on foreign travel

OLYMPIA — A complaint against an Auburn legislator for taking an improper trip to Turkey and Azerbaijan last year was dismissed by the Legislative Ethics Board.

Some of the allegations were outside its authority, the board said, and the trip involved enough official and educational meetings that it wasn't an improper gift.

Republican Sen. Pam Roach was criticized by Reps. Chris Hurst and Cathy Dahlquist for joining legislators from other states on a trip to the two countries last spring while the Legislature was struggling through special sessions with its budget. They said she “abandonned her duties” to take the trip, which they contended was sponsored by groups with political views opposed to the United States, which “may have endangered citizens of her legislative district, Washington State and the United States by giving aid and comfort to the enemies of the United States.

But the Legislative Ethics Act does not say that travel during the session is an abandonment of legislative duties, nor does it allow for claims that accepting travel should be “conditioned on the political beliefs of the donor,” the board said.  

The law does set rules for accepting “reasonable expenses” for travel as a gift from another entity, the board said. But Roach's travel seemed to be made in her official capacity, it added, with discussions of energy policy and security, meetings with elected officials, and meetings on Turkish politics and the political system.

The Ethics Board had previously dismissed several complaints that Roach and her allies had filed against Hurst and Dahlquist, which included allegations they had made derogatory remarks against the sponsors of her trip.

Roach is running for re-election against Dahlquist, a fellow Republican, who is being supported by Hurst, a Democrat.

Johnson denies disclosure allegations

Mary Lou Johnson said she's complying with state laws regarding campaign finance disclosure after a complaint was filed targeting a recent television ad and mailings.

Michael Cathcart, government affairs director at the Spokane Home Builders Association, sent a copy of his complaint to the Spokesman-Review last week. The Association has donated $900 to and endorsed Al French, the incumbent Republican and former real estate broker.

The complaint, which Johnson said she had not seen Monday, alleges the Democrat violated the rules of the Washington Public Disclosure Commission by not including a spoken statement of her party affiliation in a recent television ad. A guide to political advertising sent out by the disclosure commission in July states candidates should “clearly speak the sponsor’s name and any party preference” in broadcast advertisements. A similar complaint was lodged by backers of incumbent state Sen. Michael Baumgartner against his opponent, Rich Cowan, last week, prompting both Johnson and Cowan to say they'd be adding audio to address the issue in their ads.

Cathcart also alleges Johnson has failed to report the expenses of filming that ad, the amount she's paid to have it aired and the expenses tied to a mailer that began arriving in the county last week. The most recent due date for expense reports was Tuesday, when candidates were required to disclose all expenses and contributions since Oct. 13.

Johnson said the campaign ad was an in-kind contribution, for which she received a receipt Oct. 14. She wrote a check for the mailer postage costs the next day, then the costs of printing the mailers on Thursday, she said.

“We've been really, really careful,” Johnson said.

Cathcart said via email he had not spoken with French about the complaint, but had informed his campaign manager.

French has reported TV and radio ad buys totaling more than $23,000, running from now through Election Day. He's also spent more than $2,600 on print advertisements, including in the Spokesman-Review, according to public disclosure reports.

The next reporting date is Oct. 28, just seven days before the general election. French defeated Johnson by fewer than 300 votes in a three-way primary that included just the third district of the county. All Spokane County voters will receive a ballot for the general election, which French believes will boost his support.

Sunday Spin: Where does McMorris Rodgers live?

At least once a week, and more frequently during election season, the newspaper gets a call, a letter, an e-mail or an online comment alleging a scandal about Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

Sometimes it comes in a conspiratorial query just above a whisper. Other times it’s stated as a verified fact, written in all-caps with multiple exclamation points. It might come from someone fairly inexperienced in politics who heard it from a friend who heard it from someone else – generally unnamed but usually “in the know.” Occasionally it comes from someone in the campaign wars long enough to be a bit more skeptical but doesn’t seem to care. . .

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

 

Spokane retail pot sales top $1.9 million

Legal marijuana operations in Spokane County are reporting more money from sales than any of the state’s other 38 counties — almost $3.6 million worth of sales from licensed growers, processors and recreational marijuana stores since sales began this summer.

Clark County’s two recreational marijuana stores are outselling the five spread around Spokane County. Vancouver’s two stores reported $2.7 million in sales since opening in July, which is more than the $1.9 million total for the stores in and around Spokane, Spokane Valley and Millwood. Both counties are ahead of King County, which has three stores open in Seattle and one in Bellevue that combined for a total of $1.4 million in sales.

Spokane County’s 12 marijuana processors and seven growers both lead the state in terms of numbers and total sales. Combined with the five legal pot shops, Spokane County has recorded a shade less than $3.6 million in sales for legal marijuana at all levels that the state monitors.

In all, the state’s licensed recreational marijuana stores have reported a total of nearly $14 million in sales after sporadic openings across Washington in response to a vote-approved initiative that legalized marijuana for recreational use by adults in private settings.

Spokane Green Leaf on Country Homes Boulevard has sold more than $1 million worth of legal marijuana products since it opened in July, making it the state’s fifth most-active retail pot shop. New Vansterdam, reporting $1.6 million in sales, is in Vancouver, followed by Herbal Nation in Bothell and Cannabis City in Seattle and another Vancouver store, Main Street Marijuana.

Voters approved recreational marijuana use by adults in 2012. The state began issuing licenses for marijuana growers, processors and sellers in the spring, and the first stores opened in early July. Most stores had to close off and on in the beginning because of the shortage of supplies.

The Liquor Control Board, which issues the licenses for all recreational operations, recently began putting individual marijuana businesses sales and tax receipts on its website.

A computer analysis of those lists also shows that the second largest processor of marijuana is in Spokane Valley. Farmer J’s on Woodruff Road reported some $936,000 in sales of processed marijuana since July. The agency lists 12 different processors in Spokane County, with sales totaling more than $1.5 million out of nearly $7.5 million for processors statewide.

Some processors package marijuana for individual sale while others mix it with other substances to create edible marijuana products. Spokane County also has the top two growers based on sales, Green Surfer in Mead and Green Matter in Edwall.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this post had some incorrect figures because of incomplete capture of data from the Liquor Board's reporting system.

For a full list of sales totals for the state's legal marijuana stores, processors and growers, click here to go inside the blog.

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About this blog

Jim Camden is a veteran political reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Jonathan Brunt is an enterprise reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Kip Hill is a general assignments reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Nick Deshais covers Spokane City Hall for The Spokesman-Review.

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