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Spin Control

Court asked not to sanction Lege over school funding

OLYMPIA – The Supreme Court should not go down a “slippery slope” and punish the Legislature because it didn’t come up with a complete plan earlier this year to improve public schools, the state attorney general’s office said.

Although the public education is the state’s “paramount” duty, it is not the only duty, and the Legislature still has to pay for programs for public health, safety and welfare, Attorney General Bob Ferguson and a group of senior assistants said this week in their last written argument before all sides in the case appear before the state’s highest court next Wednesday. . .

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

Legal pot sales surge in August

Recreational marijuana sales have soared in August, thanks in part to a big Friday that came in the midst of several large-scale marijuana events in Western Washington.

According to sales figures tracked by the Washington State Liquor Control Board, more than $5.1 million worth of legal pot has been sold in the state since Aug. 1. About a sixth of that total was sold Friday, Aug. 15, during the “Canna Con” exposition in Tacoma and the annual Hempfest celebration in Seattle. The state reported sales of about $860,000 worth of product on that day, doubling the closest competitor for busiest sales day nationwide.

Marijuana sales statewide reported by Liquor Control Board, 7/6 to 8/25
The Liquor Control Board says more than $8.3 million worth of marijuana has been sold legally since July 8, with excise taxes reaching more than $2 million.

That $5.1 million figure is almost $2 million more than the amount of legal weed sold in July, over roughly the same number of days.

While the expo is likely one of the causes of the big sales day earlier this month, Liquor Control Board spokesman Brian Smith said many factors are contributing to a growth in sales.

“As of last week, we'd licensed 46 retailers, with something in the upper 30s reporting sales,” Smith said. “More and more product is coming into the market.”

Some businesses are reporting their sales at the end of the week, leading to a normal bump on Fridays and Saturdays, Smith said. Another encouraging sign is the rate at which the department is receiving owed taxes, he said. The Liquor Control Board said 97-percent of the taxes owed had been paid to the state, a rate Smith called impressive.

In addition, about 75 percent of taxes were paid with a check rather than cash, indicating retailers were using banks to deposit their money, Smith said. He did not say whether those checks were issued in the name of a business or an individual.

City Hall Scoop: Lilac Queen as Councilwoman

Steve Salvatori was a fiscal conservative from California. Karen Stratton is a political unknown and lifelong Spokanite. Together, they will complete one term on the Spokane City Council.

Stranger things have happened in Spokane. Like when Stratton was named Lilac Queen in 1977 and posed with Grizzly Adams. Or when Jimmy Marks put a curse on the entire city. Or when Mark Hamilton, who was kicked off the ballot last year in a bid for City Council, compared the politicized nature of Spokane politics to apartheid (which also happened last night).

Regardless, as we detailed in today's Spokesman, the City Council appointed Stratton to the seat left vacant by the resignation of Salvatori, who left the council earlier this year for work in Texas. She will fulfill the final 15 months of his term and run for re-election in 2015.

Keep reading after the jump.

Spokane’s new councilwoman: Lilac Queen, at Grizzly Adams’ side

Last night, Karen Stratton was appointed to the Spokane City Council. We have a story in today's paper all about her, but here's a photo we ran 37 years ago, when she was the Lilac Festival Queen. 

Kreidler sets new signup period because of health exchange problems

OLYMPIAWashington residents struggling with the insurance plans purchased through the state's exchange will be able to sign up for new plans through November because problems have been so hard to correct, the top insurance official said Monday.

A special enrollment period will last from Wednesday through Nov. 14, allowing customers with unresolved problems to sign up for different plans or with different companies. There’s a catch: They could lose their subsidies or any deductible credits or out-of-pocket expenses they've built up with their current plans. But for people unable to straighten out problems with payments, claims or billings for their current plan, re-enrollment in a different plan would give them coverage, Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler said.

“It's not a perfect solution,” Kreidler said. “But it’s an option.”

Health exchange officials argued it wasn't a good option for most people…

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

 

Sunday spin: Reaching a deal on crucial meal policies

OLYMPIA – A special panel made a great leap forward last week, coming to an agreement on defining one of the thorniest issues in legislative policy.

Not tax policy or basic education policy or health care policy. Meal policy.

As in how many meals can a lobbyist buy before a legislator runs afoul of the state law that requires him or her to accept only “infrequent” meals from a lobbyist? And just what, exactly, is a meal?

The Legislative Ethics Board settled on 12 meals a year as being infrequent, although a legislator could take them all in a 60-day legislative session, or presumably in a single week of a session, because there’s no rule limiting them to one per month. This was a compromise, seemingly worthy of Henry Clay, because some board members wanted to go as low as three and others were pushing for 24 or points north.

Those who were looking for a higher number had concerns such as whether it would count against the allotted dozen if friends who just happen to be lobbyists come to town and offer to buy you lunch (it would). Or whether it would count if said friend invites you to his backyard barbecue (it would). Or whether it would count if a lobbyist bought you a donut (it wouldn’t, unless the donut came with coffee and you sat down and had a chat about legislative business, in which case it might.)

There was some expected harrumphing from members of the board who argued they couldn’t be swayed by a beer and burrito, or presumably filet mignon and Chateauneuf-du-Pape. One member, Rep. Drew Hansen, D-Bainbridge, thought 12 was too many because that broke down to one per month and, as he related in a moment of possibly unnecessary marital candor, “I don’t go out for dinner with my wife once a month.”

Hansen and others pushing a lower number had an easy work-around. Go to as many meals with lobbyists as you want, if they are your good buds and you enjoy their company. Just pay for your own meal. Legislators are getting their per diems bumped to $120 so “they can certainly pay for their own $7 burrito,” Sen. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle said.

As for the definition of a meal, it comes down to any breakfast, lunch or dinner that a lobbyist or a lobbyist’s employer buys, it counts against your 12.

Perhaps we should consider ourselves lucky that legislators are not like hobbits, who had seven meals a day: Breakfast, second breakfast, elevenses, luncheon, afternoon tea, dinner and supper. The ethics board might never reach a compromise.

Gun initiatives: Where the money comes from

The vast majority of money supporting the initiative to expand background checks on guns comes from just 10 ZIP codes in the Seattle area, much of it from people with ties to the state's tech industry.

An analysis of contributions reported to the state Public Disclosure Commission shows more than $2.8 million in contributions for Initiative 594 – or about 84 cents of every dollar contributed – comes from downtown Seattle, areas around Lake Washington and Shoreline. So far the ballot measure to extend background checks from licensed dealers to most private sales has raised about $3.2 million, about three times more than the the campaign for a counter proposal.

Protect Our Gun Rights’ big donors are a trio of groups opposed to further gun control measures. I-591 would only allow changes to Washington’s gun control laws unless a uniform national standard is adopted. . . 

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


Documents:

Q&A with council finalist Karen Stratton

Today, Spin Control is releasing throughout the day the answers to a Q&A we received from the five finalists to fill the Spokane City Council vacancy created by the resignation of Steve Salvatori. The council is scheduled to pick one of the finalists on Monday.

Here are the answers from Karen Stratton, who works in the City Clerk's office and is the former executive assistant to former Mayor Mary Verner:

1. What is your top priority and how specifically would you achieve your top priority?

I want to ensure that the residential character of Northwest Spokane is preserved and properly balanced with business development.  I have lived in the Audubon Park neighborhood for over 20 years. Our home is close to the downtown core; Riverside State Park and Downriver Golf Course. Audubon Park and the Dwight Merkel Complex are within walking distance from my house. Small businesses have established themselves along Northwest Boulevard and the neighborhood has become a place where one can enjoy a long walk in the park, a bike ride along the river or a cup of coffee or lunch at the neighborhood café. However, as development continues on the Five Mile Prairie and to the west toward Suncrest, there has been a corresponding increase in traffic on the arterials within District 3 which threatens the pedestrian and bicycle-friendly activity in the area. I hope to preserve the residential character with careful attention to traffic planning and support for traffic calming endeavors.

Read on to find out her positions on police reform, taxes, parking meters and more.

Q&A with council finalist Kitty Klitzke

Today, Spin Control is releasing throughout the day the answers to a Q&A we received from the five finalists to fill the Spokane City Council vacancy created by the resignation of Steve Salvatori. The council is scheduled to pick one of the finalists on Monday.

Here are the answers from Kitty Klitzke, the Eastern Washington program director for Futurewise:

1. What is your top priority and how specifically would you achieve your top priority?

Lift people out of poverty and into self sufficiency.

A look at the demographics of Spokane and the demographics of my district makes this question easy to answer. Spokane has a high rate of poverty, especially in my current neighborhood and the area of Spokane I grew up in. This holds our whole city back. With everything I work on I will look for opportunities that lift Spokane’s people who are poor out of poverty.  Economic development and growing our
local higher education programs is important. We need more jobs, better jobs and access to quality skills training. But the working poor also need affordable housing, transportation, and childcare if they are to have any hope of accessing jobs.

Poverty is a complex issue. I have been involved in Priority Spokane and its Community Indicators Project from the beginning and recently the group identified mental illness as one root cause of poverty and homelessness in Spokane and chose it as the top issue to address. I look forward to working with Priority Spokane and local experts and stakeholders as a council member as they gather and track available data, find solutions and create new community indicators to measure progress. I will do everything I can to support the effort. Helping people whose mental illnesses keep them in poverty to gain access to treatment, safe housing and services that help them get back on their feet must be a goal in a city with our demographics and where loitering and panhandling gets so much attention.

Read on to find out her positions on police reform, taxes, parking meters and more.

Q&A with council finalist E.J. Iannelli

Today, Spin Control is releasing throughout the day the answers to a Q&A we received from the five finalists to fill the Spokane City Council vacancy created by the resignation of Steve Salvatori. The council is scheduled to pick one of the finalists on Monday.

E.J. Iannelli, a freelance writer and chair of the Emerson Garfield Neighborhood, declined our request to participate in this Q&A.

Instead, he provided the following statement:

“Out of respect for the City Council’s application process, I am declining to answer your questions at this point in time. While my answers might provide voters with additional campaign information between a primary and general election, in this appointment process the value to decision makers is unclear. Had councilmembers deemed these topics decisive, they would have broached them during the public interview session. Many of your questions will be answered in due course should the City Council appoint me to the District 3 vacancy.”

Q&A with council finalist Julie Griffith

Today, Spin Control is releasing throughout the day the answers to a Q&A we received from the five finalists to fill the Spokane City Council vacancy created by the resignation of Steve Salvatori. The council is scheduled to pick one of the finalists on Monday.

Here are the answers from Julie Griffith, a personal finance educator with Money Management International:

1. What is your top priority and how specifically would you achieve your top priority?

My top priority will be to understand the progress and needs of the commissions, neighborhood associations and to address the most urgent and long-term needs of the city.  For any new council member there will be some time devoted to absorb as much information as possible from all sectors, most importantly the people you serve.  I have already started the process by meeting with department staff, small business owners, commercial real-estate developers, and my neighbors in District 3.

Read on to find out her positions on police reform, taxes, parking meters and more.
  

Q&A with council finalist Adrian Dominguez

Today, Spin Control is releasing throughout the day the answers to a Q&A we received from the five finalists to fill the Spokane City Council vacancy created by the resignation of Steve Salvatori. The council is scheduled to pick one of the finalists on Monday.

Here are the answers from Adrian Dominguez, an epidemiologist with Spokane Regional Health District:

1. What is your top priority and how specifically would you achieve your top priority?

My ultimate goal is to increase the health and well-being of all residents in the City of Spokane and to view all policy as health policy, regardless if a policy has a direct or indirect effect on health. We should be evaluating policy in terms of its impact on health, specifically concentrating on economic development, social opportunities, income, education, resources, and the physical environment. We should make it a priority that all residents in Spokane have a chance for success and increase their standard of living. This can only be achieved by engaging all community members and partners, which include residents, community centers, businesses, legislators, faith based-organizations, schools and universities, non-profit organizations, hospitals, and public health. We need to strengthen the individuals and communities role and voice in collaborative efforts that will lead to healthier communities. Much of my work as a researcher has involved organizing various groups to address complex and diverse issues. I have sought public input, worked closely with relevant city staff, consulted a broad variety of interest groups, and collaborated with other council members, the mayor’s office and other relevant officials in order to achieve community sourced solutions.

Read on to find out his positions on police reform, taxes, parking meters and more.

Murray steers clear of med school controversy

SEATTLE – As she pushed for more graduate-level physician training in the region, Sen. Patty Murray did her best Wednesday to steer clear of the controversy over who should operate the fledgling medical school in Spokane.

Murray, who has introduced legislation to extend federal money for primary care residency programs, toured a south Seattle clinic that benefits from such a program. Specialists outnumber primary care and family doctors in America about 2-to-1, she was told, in part because specialists make more and have an easier time paying off the $250,000 in debts the average medical student has when finishing all training.

Washington could be short as many as 1,700 doctors by 2030, she said. The need for primary care physicians is already acute in poor urban neighborhoods like South Park, where she was visiting the Sea Mar Community Health Center, and rural areas.

Would that shortage be helped better by a second medical school in the state operated by Washington State University, or by having the Spokane-based school continue to be part of the control of the University of Washington's program, she was asked. . . 

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

 

Recorded man pleads guilty to drug charges

The man captured on camera at a downtown skate park handing out what later tested as methamphetamine has pleaded guilty to charges and given credit for time served in jail.

Tyas Kelly, 21, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to deliver a controlled substance and possession of a controlled substance last week, according to court records. He received a 14-day jail sentence with credit for time served.

Police watched Kelly hand out the drugs at the Under the Freeway Skate Park late last month using a camera installed by the city. Officials said the camera is not monitored by a uniformed officer, but feeds into a room where police take their breaks and fill out reports. The camera is also not covered by a recent surveillance ordinance passed by City Council that requires Spokane police to report any new cameras or other equipment to the city because it is installed on Parks Department property.

Today’s fun video: Aging of a president

 

Being president ages a person. Or so this video of Barack Obama shows.

Two-thirds of voters skipped primary

Less than one in three.

That's the final statewide turnout of voters for the Aug. 5 primary, which stands at a smidgen over 31 percent.

Spokane County did marginally better, at 35.3 percent with the final count certified this afternoon. At least it moved up over one in three.

Perhaps a more important percentage from the primary is 1 percent, the votes needed for a write-in candidate to advance to the general election when running against someone who appeared on the ballot unopposed. Spokane County has two such winners. Mary Wissink got enough votes to go up against Timothy Fitzgerald in the fall for Spokane County clerk. Ziggy Siegfried picked up enough to challenge incumbent Jeff Holy for a 6th District state House seat.

Another look at some statements from McMorris Rodgers’ town hall

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers offered remarks Monday night at an annual town hall covering topics ranging from federal spending to climate policy. Here's a closer look at some of those statements, and the information that supports or rebuts them:

Statement: “Last January I had the honor of giving the Republican address after the president’s State of the Union … If you listened, I didn’t mention President Obama once. The reason was because I think, for so many  me included week after week hearing the division between Republicans and Democrats just attacking each other isn’t getting us where we want to be, and it creates a lot of frustration.”

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers did not mention Barack Obama by name in her 10-minute long rebuttal his State of the Union address in January. However, she did mention the office nine times, though whether many of those could be counted as attacks on his policies is debatable. A sampling of her mentions:

“Tonight the President made more promises that sound good, but won’t solve the problems actually facing Americans. We want you to have a better life. The President wants that too.”

“The President talks a lot about income inequality. But the real gap we face today is one of opportunity inequality… And with this Administration’s policies, that gap has become far too wide. We see this gap growing every single day.”

“Too many people are falling further and further behind because, right now, the President’s policies are making people’s lives harder.”

Watch the entirety of her address below (video provided by The New York Times):

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

City Hall Scoop: Hoofing It

The gavel pounded not even 30 minutes into last night's Spokane City Council meeting, and Council President Ben Stuckart erupted at attendees for cheering and applauding. He called for a five-minute recess and warned the crowd that another “outburst” would send the rest of the meeting behind closed doors where no one would be allowed to testify.

The issue at hand: someone testifying in favor of repealing the controversial city ordinance passed last year that made it illegal to sit or lie on public sidewalks.

When he returned and the council was back in session, Stuckart said “the minute” the sit-lie law was passed, problems ceased downtown. Stuckart's right. Those problems, which reached a fever pitch last summer, have largely subsided, but activists find fault with law as a constitutional affront, not a safety measure.

Hafner: “only resolution to it will be to move the plaza”

Some of Spokane's political insiders are abuzz with an Inlander blog item reporting that former STA Chairman Chuck Hafner is refuting The Spokesman-Review's characterization of his comments regarding the future of the downtown transit plaza in Sunday's paper.

But here's a portion of the briefing last week that Hafner gave to the Spokane Valley City Council in which he expresses frustration over the inability to satisfy the complaints of downtown business interests and predicts that they will succeed in getting it moved, saying: “Mark my words … the only resolution to it will be to move the plaza.”

The full briefing can be found on the city of Spokane Valley's website.

Hafner, in an interview with the SR last week following the council briefing, said he hopes his prediction is wrong and explained that the STA board has spent years trying to appease downtown businesses — unsuccessfully — but that it's never good enough.

McMorris Rodgers challenges Pakootas to 3 debates

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers challenged Democratic opponent Joe Pakootas today to three debates this fall, including two in Spokane. Pakootas said he planned to counter with a proposal to do at least two more in other areas around the large congressional district. . .

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