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Spin Control

Today’s fun video: Oliver on the week’s big election — in Scotland

 

Scotland votes this week to pull out of the United Kingdom.

It used to be to get out of the British Empire folks had to do something a bit more rash, like coming up with a Declaration of Independence and shooting at redcoats from behind stone fences and trees.

John Oliver explains the vote, with some tantalizing tidbits like the official animal of Scotland. And no, you probably can't guess it.

It's a long video, but well worth it.

Condon restarts ambulance bid process

Spokane Mayor David Condon said this morning he was re-issuing a call for bids on the city's ambulance contract after no competition emerged to challenge the firm that already provides the city’s emergency transportation.

The new request for bids will strike a provision requiring an  ambulance company to operate in at least one city with a population of at least 150,000 within the United States. American Medical Response was the only company to bid.

Condon said the change came in response to criticism from Council President Ben Stuckart, who said the provision barred Falck, the world's largest emergency transport provider, from bidding. Stuckart said he would push to reject the contract until the contract was re-bid. Condon acknowledged Stuckart's concerns.

“Ultimately, the council needs to pass this,” Condon said. 

Stuckart said he was pleased with the outcome.

“I'm glad they listened to my concerns,” he said. “This isn't against AMR. It's for competition.”

Read our earlier coverage here.

Sunday Spin2: Happy B-Day, Nat Anthem

Today is the bicentennial of what may be the most oft-sung song in the country. No, not “White Christmas.”

Two hundred years ago, the dawns early light revealed the stars and stripes still flying above Fort McHenry near Baltimore, and Francis Scott Key, who was watching from a ship in the harbor, was so happy he penned the poem The Star Spangled Banner, which was later put to a popular tune (it was a British tune, but we’ll let that one go). The poem has four verses, and so does the song, but most people only know the first one.

The song was popular in the 19th Century, but wasn’t made the national anthem until 1931. The practice of singing it before every major league baseball game started in World War II, and now it’s a standard at the beginning of every sporting event of note in the country.

That’s a lot of events. So, sorry Bing and Irving Berlin. Even with Christmas songs starting in the malls in a week or two, The Star Spangled Banner probably gets sung more.

Sunday spin: So many constitutional experts

OLYMPIA – Standing in line at Safeway one evening last week, I was reminded that almost everyone considers themselves an expert in constitutional law.

An irate shopper was unhappy that his total was more than the amount available on his bank card and a coupon he was sure was good, wasn’t. The more irate he became, the calmer the cashier became, repeating slowly that she was sorry but there wasn’t anything she could do. With increasing volume, he said he didn’t like her attitude and the way she was looking at him, reached into the bag and pulled out items to reduce the tab. The manager came over and offered to help if he would calm down at which point the shopper declared with even more volume he was within his rights. “The First Amendment gives me the right to complain,” he shouted. “You can look it up. If you don’t believe me, you can ask Rachel Maddow.”

Eventually, he grabbed up his bag of groceries and left, leaving the cashier to shake her head but ring up other purchases rather than call the MSNBC host. I assured her that having read the First Amendment carefully, it did not contain the right to be a jerk.

Such certitude over what a constitution says or doesn’t say infuses the fight over public school funding . . .

Lyft and Uber are coming

The Spokane City Council is preparing to change city law to allow “for-hire” drivers to do business in town.

The law is aimed at new taxi-like services springing up around the country, namely Lyft and Uber.

Read the draft operating agreement between the city and Lyft here. The council will consider the change in city law a week from Monday, which you can read about more here, just scroll down to the section relating to for-hire vehicles.

Today’s fun video: Stewart on the mid-terms

 

​Originally aired on The Daily Show last week, but with the elections  two months off, it's still good.

 

Former McMorris Rodgers aide says scandal investigation expanding

A former aide to Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers contends an ethics investigation into her campaign for a House leadership post is ramping up with allegations that she retaliated against him. An attorney for the Spokane Republican calls the comments “more frivolous allegations and information.”

Todd Winer, former press secretary and advisor to McMorris Rodgers, said in an e-mail today he was “breaking his silence” about what he calls the congresswoman's scandal. 

Winer cooperated with the Office of Congressional Ethics investigation of whether McMorris Rodgers and her staff misused resources in her campaign for  re-election in 2012 and for the office of Republican Conference chairman. (Editor's note: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated Winer filed the complaint.) After reviewing the allegations, the office referred the matter to the House Ethics Committee, which last March said it would continue to review it but did not set up a special subcommittee to investigate.

Although it was clear when the committee released ethics office report in March that Winer cooperated, he had not addressed it publicly before today, and still refuses to comment about it other than by e-mail. “It wouldn't have been appropriate for me to talk while I was still working in Congress,” he wrote in response to a question about the timing. “Now that I've left Congress it's important for me to set the record straight.”

Until recently, Winer was the press secretary for Rep. Raul Labrador, the Republican whose district includes North Idaho and shares much of its western border with McMorris Rodgers' Eastern Washington district. 

In his e-mail, he said the Ethics Committee staff continues to investigate the charges, and he has met with them as recently as last week. He contends the committee's investigation is expanding to include McMorris Rodgers' “efforts to intimidate and punish me for my cooperation with the (Office of Congressional Ethics) and the committee.”

Elliot Berke, an attorney for McMorris Rodgers who filed a 49-page rebuttal to the office report, dismissed Winer's allegations as more the same.

“We are sorry to see more frivolous allegations and information from the same source,” Berke wrote in an e-mail. “From the beginning the Congresswoman and her staff have fully cooperated with the Ethics Committee and will continue to do so should it have more questions.”

The committee does not comment on ongoing investigations, its attorney Thomas Rust said. Nothing has changed from the committee's statement on March 24 that said the the chairman and top Democrat on the panel were extending the review, he said.

That was a step between impaneling a special subcommittee to investigate it and dismissing the complaint, causing some speculation the congresswoman was unlikely to face charges or sanctions.  But a check of the committee's website shows instances in which extended reviews have led to establishing an investigative subcommittee for a complaint.

There is no time limit for an extended review, and investigations can be carried over from one session to the next. In 2013, the most recent year for which statistics are available, the committee handled 58 complaints against House members.

Some not-too-shocking endorsements

The Spokane County Republican Party has gone waaaaay out on a limb and endorsed three incumbent Republicans running for re-election to county office

The party sent out a press release over the weekend that it is endorsing Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, Treasurer Rob Chase and Assessor Vicki Horton. The Knezovich endorsement is only mildly controversial, considering he's running against another Republican, Doug Orr, for the job. But he also was among the biggest vote-getters in the primary.

Others will be simply shocked that the progressive Inland Northwest Leadership PAC is endorsing 11 candidates in November, and that all the ones running for a partisan office are Democrats.

 

Sunday Spin: Gun inits duel over cop support

OLYMPIA – Law enforcement agencies may not be getting much love in most of the country after images of heavily armed cops filled news coverage of protests in Ferguson, Missouri. But here in Washington, the dueling gun initiatives are competing for the claim of “cops love my initiative better.” . .

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

 

State won’t extend Hanford deadline a third time

OLYMPIA — Washington state will not give the federal government a third extension of the deadline for coming up with a way to resolve the dispute over cleaning up waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. 

Unless the U.S. Department of Energy comes up with a plan in the  next 30 days, the state and the feds likely are headed to court over the cleanup. Again.

The department is under a court order to clean up Hanford, which has tanks holding decades of waste from the construction of the nation's nuclear arsenal. Some of those tanks are leaking, but the process to pump out the waste and either treat it or put it in more secure tanks that would have to be built will take years. The court set up a timeline for all that to happen 

In 2011 the department started telling the state it wasn't going to meet some of the deadlines. This spring, the state and the department each submitted new timelines, but neither agreed to the other's plan. They've negotiated, and the state has agreed to extend the deadline for an agreement twice. Friday Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson told the department they wouldn't agree to another extension, which means the state could go to court on Oct. 5 and file a “petition for relief”, essentially asking a judge to resolve the dispute.

 

Inslee keeping open mind on Med School control

OLYMPIA – Gov. Jay Inslee said he’s keeping an open mind about which state university should operate a medical school in Spokane, but he has no problem with the two school using state resources to make their case to the public.

Asked Thursday whether the University of Washington or Washington State University should run a new school to train physicians in Spokane, Inslee said other questions that are more important to answer first. Among them are the true need for additional doctors, the most cost-effective solution and the effects any new system would have on the current five-state consortium to train doctors that UW operates.

“I do not go into it with any preconceived notions,” Inslee said during a press conference that also discussed public school funding and the state’s economy. . . 

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

 

Inslee approves group to protect WA military bases

Rich Hadley talks with Gov. Jay Inslee at the announcement of the reformation of the Washington Military Alliance.

OLYMPIA – Protecting the jobs and economic stimulus from the many military installations in Washington is “a no-brainer”, Gov. Jay Inslee said Wednesday as he resurrected a coalition of groups from around the state to prepare for any cutbacks in the nation’s defense budget.

The Washington Military Alliance – which will have members from economic development offices, chambers of commerce and military installations – will help the protect defense jobs, contracts and infrastructure in the state. A 2012 study estimated about 136,000 jobs and some $15.7 billion in economic activity are tied to military bases around the state and billions more are tied to contracts the Defense Department has with businesses throughout Washington. . . 

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

 

Hastings endorses Newhouse

Rep. Doc Hastings today endorsed Dan Newhouse as his replacement for Washington's 4th Congressional District seat.

Newhouse, the former state agriculture director, is running against Eltopia farmer and fellow Republican Clint Didier in the Central Washington district. 

Didier replied that Hastings was being pressured by “the Republican establishment and beltway insiders” to endorse Newhouse. 

“And remember, Doc is part of Speaker John Boehner's management team,” Didier said in his press release knocking the endorsement.

That's arguable. Hastings is a chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, but he's not part of House GOP leadership structure below Boehner.

Supremes hear McCleary arguments today

OLYMPIA — The state Supreme Court will be asked this afternoon to punish the Legislature for not coming up with a plan to improve public schools during the 2014 session. 

Attorneys for education advocates who filed the case now known as “McCleary” for the name of the first plaintiffs on the lawsuit will argue that the justices should come down hard on the Lege. The state attorney general's office will argue the court should wait until at least after the 2015 session, which is one where major budget decisions will be made — but also suggest the court should let legislators know what's in store for them if they don't come up with a plan.

In other words, a little incentive to guide them on their discussions and deliberations.

Each side has 20 minutes to plead its case, starting at 2 p.m. 

John Moyer, legislator and physician, dead at 92

As a physician, John Moyer had a soft voice and a calm bedside manner that brought thousands of Spokane’s babies into the world. As a legislator, he helped set Washington on the road to making sure all of its children would have health care.

Moyer, who represented two different Spokane legislative districts over a 10-year stretch, died last week from complications of Parkinson’s Disease at 92.

“He was a wonderful, kind-hearted guy,” state Sen. Mike Padden said Tuesday. “He wasn’t a natural when it came to politics.”

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

Sunday Spin: Call Mad Men. We’ve got rules for pot ads

Every time I forget how far Washington’s venture into the world of legalized recreational marijuana is taking us from the days when pot was illegal and thus the stuff of counterculture song and legend, the state does something to remind me.

It happened again last week when the state Liquor Control Board released a set of Frequently Asked Questions about advertising marijuana.

Think about that for a minute. Less than two years ago, having a place with pounds of marijuana that you would sell in small batches to anyone who happened in could put you in prison for a long time. Now the state has guidelines for Mad Men to follow as you try to outsell your competitors.

Cue Tommy Chong singing “No stems no seeds that you don’t need, Acapulco Gold is … badass weed.”

Which apparently would be OK under certain circumstances, according to the FAQs. . . 

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

Inslee to Yakima: Don’t appeal Voting Rights ruling

OLYMPIA — The city of Yakima should not appeal a federal judge's order that invalidates the way city officials are elected because is unfair to Latinos , Gov. Jay Inslee said today.

In a letter to the Yakima City Council, Inslee said it should”show leadership” and focus on a plan that will improve its system. 

U.S. District Thomas Rice recently found Yakima in violation of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and invalidated the way city council members are elected. Under the current system, four council members run in districts for the primary but citywide in the general; three others are elected citywide. That system “routinely suffocates the voting preferences of the Latino minority,” Rice said and set an Oct. 3 hearing for redistricting plans.

Many jurisdictions in the state suffer from a lack of diversity in political leadership and representation, Inslee wrote in a letter to the council. “This is an opportunity for a show of civic leadership that I believe would be admired throughout Washington,” he wrote.

Today’s fun video: GOP has ‘mountain to climb’

 

Washington state Republican prospects for capturing the governor's mansion apparently are so bleak that state Chairwoman Sheryl Hutchison has taken to YouTube and likened it to climbing a mountain.

The analogy is somewhat strained, particularly where Hutchison talks about how both mountain climbers and political activists need tools, and for activists it's apparently a smart phone. Later on, there's sort of an uncomfortable moment when Hutchison says “I want to be roped up with you.”

But there hasn't been a Republican in the governor's mansion since January 1985, so maybe they need something like this to get the juices flowing.

Today’s fun video: How not to do the ALS ice bucket challenge

 

The ALS ice bucket challenge has, somewhat inexplicably, become a hot item for a wide variety of people, including politicians and — in some cases — newspaper columnists.

It's a pretty simple concept. You dump ice water over your head. But with its popularity, it was inevitable that someone would find a way to mess it up.

What are the odds that person would be an American flag vest and desert camo-wearing, Confederate flag-waving, hip-flask swilling yahoo? Come to think of it, probably pretty good.

Warning: Some of the language in here would be considered not safe for work or appropriate for children.

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.

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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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