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Spin Control

Archive for July 2009

Fri. a.m. video: 100 seconds of bad beer jokes Thurs.

Apparently, there wasn’t much for the national news media to report on Thursday, so they concentrated on Obama having a beer with a couple guys from Cambridge, Mass. TalkingPointsMemo distills it down to its essence.

Eugster: A friend of the Cowles Co.?

My guess is that of all the labels that might stick on Steve Eugster, “Cowles sycophant” is not one of them, despite the accusation from David Elton mentioned in the previous post.

Still, I think it’s worth mentioning this nugget from an interview I had with Eugster last month. After talking for more than an hour on numerous issues, I asked him if he wanted to say anything about River Park Square. His response: “Oh, (deep belly laugh here) no, no. I thought that was done with when I went on the council. That’s history, Jon. Let’s forget about River Park Square.”

But anyone who thinks Eugster, who was elected to one term on the council in 1999, is a “Cowles sycophant” should be reminded: He was the first to suggest that an investigation into possible manslaughter charges should be opened into the 2006 death of a woman whose car fell from the River Park Square parking garage and tried unsuccessfully to get portions of the garage closed. When County Prosecutor Steve Tucker declined earlier this year to file any charges related to the case, Eugster’s opinion about possible charges hadn’t changed.

The Cowles Co. owns River Park Square and The Spokesman-Review.

Elton vs. Eugster

Last night’s City Council debate sponsored by the Campaign for Liberty, went free of personal attacks until David Elton landed one on Steve Eugster.

Elton, who is competing against Eugster and four other candidates for the right to represent south Spokane, complained about a blog post on Eugster’s Spokane Record that questioned if Elton has an Oedipus Complex.

“That’s not the way a distinguished former councilman should behave,” Elton said in his closing statement. ”Maybe that’s why he’s no longer allowed to practice law.”

Elton was referring to Eugster’s 18-month suspension from praciticing law handed down by the state Supreme Court in June.

Eugster’s closing statement was before Elton’s, so Euster didn’t get a chance to mention Elton’s legal problems: Felony harassment charges that prevent Elton from attending City Council meetings.

After the debate, Eugster said he didn’t have anything to add, except to say that he pulled the Oedipus Complex reference from his site after learning that Elton was offended. Today, however, Eugster has reposted the original entry along with e-mails Elton sent that warned him that “Now…the gloves come off” and questioning if Eugster is a “Cowles sycophant.”

Here is Eugster’s original post:

One of the candidates for Spokane City Council Position 2, District 2 uses his candidacy to lambast Betsy Cowles and the Spokesman Review, wants to go after the police department because there have been “seven killings” and because a man was killed by a police officer because he had a bottle of pop in his hand (I think that’s what I heard him say), wants to tear down a short commercial building to make a 0.8 acre “open space, and wants to see a new skyscraper built downtown, (or was it Browne’s Addition?). He would use the power of government to denigrate a women, bring powerful police officers to justice, knock down an old not very tall building and build a new tall building.
What is all of this about? Is it possible the candidate has an Oedipus Complex? I suspect some hidden truth is unconsciously at work in the candidacy of David Elton.  Or said another way, there is meaning here someplace.

Thurs. a.m. video: Weds. in rear view mirror

Wednesday in 100 seconds, courtesy of TalkingPointsMemo.

Weds a.m. video: Tues. catchup

Finally off single topic synopses, TalkingPointsMemo compiles clips of beer, blue dogs and Sonia Sotomayor from Tuesday.

Tues. fun video: Capt. Kirk recites Palin

For those who missed the Sarah Palin farewell speech, or are tired of hearing clips diced and sliced on 24-hour news, here’s a rendition of her ode to Alaska, recited by William Shatner Monday night on the Tonight Show.

Tues. a.m video: Mon. review of beer run

Here’s 100 seconds of discussing the president having a Bud with a couple of new buds…from TalkingPointsMemo.

Mon. fun video: Huffington quizzes McMorris Rodgers, others on birth certificate issue.

Gotta love a story with legs, and that’s exactly what the Barack Obama birth certificate “controversy” seems to have.

Love it even more when the legs include local folks or place. First it was Orly Taitz asking Chief Justice Roberts a question about the controversy down at the University of Idaho. Now we have Huffington Post asking Republican members of Congress whether they think Obama is a natural born U.S. citizen, eligible to serve as president.

And the second person in the video? Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, queried as she jaunts up the steps. Rep. Dave Reichert of suburban Seattle also shows up about 1:15 in.

From the other side of the political spectrum, we have a conservative voice none other than Ann Coulter saying conservatives don’t care about this, have dismissed it, says the “birthers” are cranks and it’s only the liberal media that’s trying to make it an issue.


Catch the candidates: Council forums

The August primary ballots go in the mail this week, and they’re due back in the mail by Aug. 18.

For those of you still wondering about which Spokane City Council candidate deserves your vote, there are a couple chances coming up to see them up close and personal.

Wednesday 7 p.m.: Spokane Campaign for Liberty, which is an outgrowth of the Tea Party movement, will have candidates from all three districts at Central United Methodist Church, 3rd and Howard. They say they  have 11 of the 14 possible candidates, including the first face-off between Amber Waldref and Mike Fagan for the northeast Spokane District 1 seat.

Aug. 5, 6:30 p.m. East Central Community Center will host a forum for south Spokane’s District 2 candidates in the Senior Room at 500 S. Stone. They say they have commitments from all five in the race.

Monday a.m. video: Sunday heads talk

Here’s a look at the talking head discussion, mostly of health care reform, that you may have missed Sunday if you were at the lake, the campgrounds, the beach or just in bed.

Will charter campaign go The Chicago Way?

The Spokane City Council holds a hearing Monday night on putting a major charter change known as the Community Bill of Rights on the November ballot. No one who fancies him or herself both an astute political observer and a sane betting person would wager against the proposition making the ballot.

The bet that is almost as safe is that the campaign between now and Nov. 3 will be a full-out affair. The question is, will both sides live by maxim “if they bring a knife, you bring a gun”?

 Last week, Envision Spokane, the prime mover of the charter change, was crying foul in a letter to council members and Rich Hadley, the head of Greater Spokane Inc., over opposition tactics thus far. Instead of a full and frank discussion, opponents seemed ready to launch a “smear campaign,” Kai Huschke, campaign director, wrote.

The tactics cited include filing a public records request with the Spokane School District for any e-mails sent by Brad Read, a district employee who is also Envision Spokane president; filing a complaint with the state Public Disclosure Commission in July, which Huschke described as “an attempt to resuscitate a complaint” originally filed in March; and hiring someone calling herself “Naomi Nims”, who claims to be a journalist writing an expose on Envision Spokane board members.

News flash: Eyman backs Fagan

Tim Eyman, the state’s premier initiative entrepreneur, endorsed Spokane City Council Candidate Mike Fagan this week.

This should come as no huge surprise to anyone with the remotest knowledge of state politics, considering Fagan is Eyman’s longtime cohort in a dozen or so years of initiative pushes, including I-1033, which will share a few lines on the ballot with Spokane’s 1st District Council race in November. Fagan faces Amber Waldref for the seat being vacated by Al French; there’s only two of them, so there’s no primary in August.

But Eyman’s announcement is noteworthy in several respects.

It’s the first candidate Eyman has ever endorsed, he said. Not that other candidates haven’t asked, but up to this point, the standard response was “we do initiatives.”

It’s also a sign that the race could get pointed after the primary. Or as he puts it “raising the discourse level.”

Fri. a.m. video: What was up with Thurs.?

A quick review of Thursday, before you get too in to Friday, from the folks at TalkingPointsMemo.

Hedley tweets on Birthers

OK, this is getting strange, in an “Art imitates life imitates art” kind of way. Doonesbury’s network correspondent Roland Hedley began tweeting on the Obama birth certificate “controversy” last night.

Here are his tweets, in reverse chron order:

Tomorrow: 9-part tweetage on Birther movement. Was POTUS really born in Hawaii, and if so, is Hawaii a real state? You decide.

FYI, no dog in fight, just report. Still historic if it turns out POTUS is our first Kenyan president.

Breaking rumor we’re working on: Hawaii cooked numbers on application for statehood. Still a colony? You’ll get to decide.

Car-pooled to Fight Club with Lou Dobbs, two Birthers and a Teabagger. Always good to get fresh perspectives.

Follow his tweets here.

Thurs. fun video: Stewart on birth cert. story

The Obama Birth Certificate “controversy” is getting more and more attention from the news media this summer. Apparently they have run out of stories telling people that Michael Jackson is still dead.

So much attention, in fact, that Jon Stewart weighed in last nigh, with clips of Lou Dobbs, Orly Taitz, Chris Matthews.

Wonder which way he comes down on the issue? click to see.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
The Born Identity
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorJoke of the Day

Thurs. a.m. video: Weds. recap

Quick look at Wednesday from the folks at TalkingPointsMemo.

Callers concerned about socialized medicine

Callers to Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers tele-town hall meeting were pretty convinced that the government shouldn’t take over health care and the Eastern Washington Republican should do everything in her power to stop socialized medicine.

She didn’t much disagree.

Among her comments on proposals by President Obama and other Democrats were that they want to put the government between you and your doctor, take away your choice of doctors and hospitals, that they won’t reimburse doctors enough for services, and the process needs to be slowed down because it is moving too fast.

She also said Washington state’s Basic Health Plan has grown to the point where it’s too expensive.

Interestingly enough, while no one disagreed with her in the first 45 minutes (we had to  take another call and lost the connection at that point) there were some scenarios that seemed to contradict her basic premises. One woman with kidney disease complained that Medicare didn’t cover the alternative treatments she was taking instead of dialysis. Alternative treatments can be effective, but requiring an insurer to cover them can boost the cost of premiums.

One man with an unemployed son who has three children and a wife who works without insurance said they can’t get insurance and wondered why Social Security couldn’t help out… which sounds suspiciously like expanding government health care.

McMorris Rodgers suggested that one of the solution for the man’s son, and others without insurance because they are out of work is to improve the economy.

Her event was competing for folks’ attention with Obama’s live press conference, scheduled at the same time. She said, however, that her event was scheduled when they thought the presidential press  conference was going to be an hour later.

Red Alert: Candidate forum tonight

A local Republican organization is sponsoring a candidate forum for three of this fall’s races: Two contested Valley City Council races and the City of Spokane’s Northwest District 3 race.

The forum starts at 6:30 p.m.  Wednesday at Mirabeau Park, and is scheduled to feature the Valley Council Position 5 race between Rich Munson and Bob McCaslin; the Valley Position 1 race between Diana Wilhite and Brenda Grassel, and the Spokane District 3 race among Nancy McLaughlin, Karen Kearney, Christopher Stevens, Barbara Lampert and John Waite.

Sorry for the short notice but it just arrived at the newspaper today. But on the plus side, the group Republicans of Spokane County is offering free ice cream…while supplies last.

McMorris Rodgers on the phone

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers is holding a town hall meeting by phone at 4:50 this afternoon. Her office is using some new program that will dial 99,999 households in Eastern Washington and ask if they want to hold for the congresswoman.

She wants to talk about health care reform, but you can probably get in a few questions about other topics.

If you want in, you can call her office at 509-353-2374 and ask to be put on the list.

Weds. p.m. video: A true floor fight

Things could get heated over the Sonia Sotomayor confirmation hearings, but it’s unlikely to get to the level of this recent seen from the South Korean parliament. (darn it)

Weds. video: Matthews on Obama birth certificate

As regular readers of Spin Control know, we occasionally wander into the question of Barack Obama’s birth certificate, thanks to the appearance of Orly Taitz at the University of Idaho speech by Chief Justice John Roberts.

Taitz is a leader of the movement which questions whether Obama was born in the United States and is qualified to be president under the Constitution. The movement persists despite statements by government officials in Hawaii who say they have Obama’s birth certificate on file. One of the latest wrinkles is the search for the doctor who delivered Obama…they can’t seem to locate the doc, and it’s only been 47 years. Imagine that.

Another wrinkle is a bill introduced by some Republican congressman that would require any candidate for president to present proof of native birth. Chris Matthews confronts one of the sponsor of the bill, Rep. John Campbell of California, about his beliefs on Obama’s birth qualifications.

To read more about the whole Orly Taitz birth certificate controversy, see links to previous posts inside the blog.

Wed. a.m. video: Tues. back at you

High noon on health care? Tuesday in review from TalkingPointsMemo.

Remain calm. Repeat: It’s only a drill

Spokane residents should not get too jumpy in the coming weeks as a couple of different groups run a couple of exercises here abouts.

Later this week, the U.S. Army Rangers will be conducting night time exercises at Fairchild Air Force Base. West Plains residents living nearby, and motorists driving by on Highway 2 or other byways, are likely to hear lots of low-flying aircraft — airplanes and helicopters — as well as gunfire. The ammunition isn’t live.

There won’t be anything to see, off-base, but it will be kind of noisy, from Thursday night through Monday night.

Then on Aug. 4, the Spokane Police Department will be holding a SWAT team demonstration involving a school bus, in a Riverfront Park parking lot north of the river off Washington Street. They’re hoping folks in the park and downtown workers don’t mistake it for the real thing.

Bar rates Muni Court candidates

The Spokane County Bar Association released its rating for the contested Spokane Municipal Court race.

Lawyers polled consider appointed Judge Tracy Staab well-qualified, and attorney Brian Whitaker qualified.

It should be noted, however, that the two candidates were separated by average scores of about of less than a half-point on the Bar’s 4 point scale for qualities such as integrity, ability, temperament, experience and suitabiliy.

And neither could be considered exceptiionally well known. They polled 184 lawyers, and only 103 were able to respond on Staab, and 113 on Whitaker.

To see copies of the candidates’ bios and answers to the bar questionnaire, click here.

16 apply for Valley Council seat

The regularly scheduled elections for Spokane Valley Council positions didn’t generate much interest last month, but an appointment to an open seat did.

A total of 16 people would like to be appointed to the seat being vacated by Steve Taylor. Whoever gets the appointment will have to win a special election in November to serve out Taylor’s term through 2011.

The council will review the applications in secret session at 5 p.m. Tuesday, and announce a list of applicants to interview at 6 p.m. Appointment scheduled for Aug. 4.

Full list of candidates is inside the blog.

Mon. a.m. video: Talking heads on Sun.

The Sunday news shows were awash with discussions of health care reform. If you missed them because you were otherwise occupied, here’s a synopsis, courtesy of TalkingPointsMemo.

Can city leaders trust the voters?

Funny thing about elected officials and candidates who must, by nature, rely on the wisdom of voters for their jobs: Sometimes they don’t trust voters to make the right decision when it comes to something other than voting for them.

That seems to be what’s going on with the political hand-wringing over a Spokane City Charter change that’s being billed by the sponsoring group Envision Spokane as a “Community Bill of Rights.”

Whether it is, in fact, a bill of rights or a bill in waiting for future litigation is something remains to be seen. Envision Spokane turned in more than enough signatures to qualify it for the November election, the Spokane County Elections Office said, and that is usually enough to earn a proposed charter amendment a spot on a ballot.

Before the Spokane City Council voted 5-2 to send the charter change to the elections office for the signature check, an array of speakers argued it was too vague, too likely to generate litigation or too toxic for local business. Some of the 60 or so foes gathered outside City Hall before the meeting and likened the proposal to socialism, communism or Marxism.

(Note to self: Check Das Kapital to see what Marx and Engels had to say about neighborhood councils. Must’ve slept through that lecture in Poly Sci class.)

Fri. a.m. video: Sotomayor finishing up

Sonia Sotomayor finished up her hearings Thursday, and apparently didn’t have a “melt down.” Quick highlights from TalkingPointsMemo.

Envision Spo has the numbers

Envision Spokane turned in more than enough signatures on petitions for a proposed City Charter change to put its Community Bill of Rights on the November ballot.

Spokane County Elections Manager Mike McLaughlin reports this morning the office finished the final verification process about 9:30 a.m., and will certify the results at 2:30 p.m. After that the office will send formal notification to the city.

The group turned in petitions with a total of 5,097 signatures, and needed at least 2,795 of them to be from registered city voters. Elections workers checked 4,019 and verified a totla of 2,891 before finishing late Wednesday. That’s a rejection rate of about 28 percent, which is “right in the ballpark” for most petitions, McLaughlin said.

Thurs a.m. video: Sonia Chronicles Day 3

The confirmation hearings of Sonia Sotomayor continue for the third day in the U.S. Senate, where she continues to get questions about wise Latina women and Sen. Tom Coburn , R-Okla., tries to channel Ricky Ricardo, and Sen. Al Franken, D-SatNiteLive, signs up for the Perry Mason fan club. The best of a long day, from the folks at TalkingPointsMemo.

I-1033: counting sigs

Don’t know if this is going to generate any controversy or not, but a funny thing happened on the way to Initiative 1033’s ballot placement Wednesday.

Initiative entrepeneur and chief sponsor Tim Eyman sent out an embargoed e-mail saying that the petitions turned in were “the cleanest ever” and had a rejection rate of less than 10 percent.

About 30 minutes later, the Secretary of State’s office announced that I-1033 was cleared for the ballot with “an unusually high” validation rate. But it was about 12 percent. No superlatives reported.

In truth, all of this is an estimate, because the Secretary of State’s office does not check every signature on every petition unless it absolutely has to. The requirement right now is 241,153 valid signatures from individual registered voters (that is, you gotta be registered, and if you sign more than once, it don’t count.)

If a group turns in 241,152, or less, the office doesn’t count, period.

If it turns 241,154 or a few thousand more, it starts counting, and keeping track of rejections. When it passes the number in the cushion — the difference between the total needed and the total submitted — it stops counting and the initiative doesn’t make it.

If a group turns in about 20 percent or more than the total needed, the office does a random sample, determines how many of the random sample were valid, then applies a formula to determine whether the total number is likely to be above the threshhold.

It’s a complicated formula, and those interested in math can read the formula used and applied to I-1033 here. Warning: for math-o-phobes, this could result in nightmares where you square a root, carry the one, move a decimal and have your integer lopped off

I-1033 qualifies for ballot

Initiative 1033 will be on the November ballot.

The Secretary of State’s office announced this afternoon that it’s way over the minimum for signatures required to make the grade.

It turned in so many signatures that the office does a random sample check. In the check, they had a rejection rate of about 12 percent, which is unusually low, the state elections office noted.

If approved by voters, the initiative would limit the growth in state, county and city government revenues based on a formula that’s adjusted for inflation and population growth, unless voters approve increases. You can read more about it here.

In other signature gathering news, supporters of Referendum 71, which would repeal the state’s latest domestic partnership law, said over the weekend they had about 75,000 signatures. They’ll need a minimum of 120,000 by July 25, which could be a real scramble.

Weds video: Sonia does Tues.

Sonia Sotomayor hearings continued Tuesday. Here’s 100 seconds worth of it from TalkingPointsMemo.

Eugster v. Shogan on the charter change

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Eugster v. Shogan, take 1
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Eugster v. Shogan, take 2

Monday night’s Spokane City Council meeting had plenty of discussion about Envision Spokane’s proposed “Spokane Bill of Rights.”

Colleague Jonathan Brunt captured these two exchanges between former Councilman and current candidate Steve Eugster and Council President Joe Shogan. in the first, Eugster is saying he’s going on for just a bit longer…he actually went about 8 more minutes, but who’s counting?…and the second occurs right before the council takes a break in the action.

One thing about this ballot measure, it does get people excited. And it isn’t even definitely on the ballot, yet.

Tues. video: Mon. was Sotomayor Day 1

Sonia Sotomayor’s first day of hearings coincided with All-Star Game eve. Which may explain all the baseball analogies in yesterday’s hearings. Before catching Tuesday’s hearings, here’s a quick recap of yesterday’s spin, from the folks at TalkingPointsMemo:

Crowd gathering outside City Hall

Opponents of the proposed “Spokane Bill of Rights” charter amendment gathered outside City Hall in the intermittent drizzle, starting about 5 p.m., warming up for Monday night’s council meeting.

It’s an interesting coalition that includes the Spokane Home Builders as well as longtime members of the county Republican Party from both the fiscal conservative and social conservative wings. Organizer Michael Cathcart worked on the Ron Paul campaign last year. Organizer Mike Fagan, a candidate for City Council, works with Tim Eyman on statewide initiatives.

They attracted about 65 people of all ages to carry signs like “Envision Spokane - Envision Spokane Jobless”.

Envision Spokane, for those not keeping track at home, is the sponsor of the charter change.

Forces mustering against city “Bill of Rights”

Opposition appears to be mounting, although not necessarily coalescing, against the proposed Spokane Bill of Rights which will get a hearing Monday evening with the City Council.

Note: this is simply a hearing for forwarding the measure to the Spokane County Elections Office to have the signatures on its petitions checked. Technically, it’s not a hearing on the merits or demerits of the proposal.

But being as how this is the Spokane City Council, technicalities like that are unlikely to keep most of the people testifying, or some of the councilmembers, from meandering into all the good or ill the proposed charterl change would do.

Before that happens, a newly formed group of opponents will hold a rally against the measure at 5 p.m. outside of City Hall. The effort is led by Michael Cathcart, who was active in the local push for Ron Paul for the GOP presidential nomination last year, and Mike Fagan, a city council candidate.

Meanwhile, the Greater Hillyard Business Association sent letters to all council members last Friday, asking them to withhold support for the measure.

And on Monday, former City Councilman and current council candidate Steve Eugster sent Mayor Mary Verner and the council a memo arguing they should reject the petitions as illegal because the proposal violates the “single subject” rule of the charter’s provisions on initiatives. That essentially a legal version of the KISS (keep it simple, stupid) principle that says you can’t toss a bunch of things into a measure being put before the voters.

The proposed charter amendment has sections that deal with health care, wages and the rights of the environment, but supporters contend it doesn’t run afoul of the single subject provision because they are all rights to be contained in a “bill of rights” just as those first amendments to the U.S. Constiution were grouped together.

Last week Council President Joe Shogan signalled that the council should follow precedent, regardless of the members’ individual opinions on the measure, and send the petitions for the validation check. If they have the signatures, the city should let voters decide, he suggested. If they don’t, well, game over.

To read more about all this, go inside the blog.

Idaho 1st in the spotlight in 2010?

Most years, Idaho’s congressional races inspire yawns among the nation’s political cognoscenti. It’s likely 2010 will not be one of those years.

Idaho’s sprawling 1st District House race is at or near the top of several lists of races to watch in the mid-term election. Washington, D.C., publications like Congress Daily and the Hill both flagged it last month, as did the Rothenburg Report, and it’s on top of the “Swing State Prospect” list of races featuring a Democrat – Walt Minnick – in a Republican-leaning district.

This comes as no surprise, considering The Hill put Minnick at the top of its “most vulnerable” list the day he was sworn in. No points, apparently, for beating freshman Republican Bill Sali in 2008 and becoming the first Democrat to hold the seat in bright red Idaho since 1994.

In the six months since, Minnick has attempted to put as much distance as possible between himself and House Democratic leadership. He voted against the stimulus package in February, the AIG package in March and cap and trade last month. As of last week, he was at the top of another list, the Washington Post’s tabulation of Democrats who don’t vote with their party leadership.

His earliest and best-organized Republican challenger is Vaughn Ward, a candidate with so much going for him one might think the National Republican Congressional Committee ordered him from central casting. He’s a photogenic 40, with an attractive wife and two cute kids; grew up in Twin Falls, worked on the family farm in Shoshone, is a Marine Corps Reserves major, worked for the CIA in the Middle East and Africa, and as a legislative aide for Dirk Kempthorne and Nevada state campaign official for John McCain’s presidential run. He’s already snagged McCain’s endorsement as well as some other GOP notables.
   Ward is understandably happy to find Minnick on the lists of most vulnerable…

City Charter change hearing on Monday

The proposed “Spokane Bill of Rights” will get a hearing Monday evening on whether it should go to the next phase of qualifying for the November ballot.

The Spokane City Council will hold the hearing at its regular 6 p.m. legislative session prior to a vote on sending the petitions to the Spokane County Auditor’s office for signature verification.

The vote is almost pro forma unless something about the initiative is misleading or illegal.

At a special meeting Thursday afternoon to approve the hearing, several councilmembers had questions about the way the petitions were printed or whether the proposal would generate legal challenges because of possible conflicts with state law. Those are discussions that should be held Monday, attorney Mike Piccolo said.

Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin said she’d been approached by people who complained a copy of the charter change wasn’t available to read when they were signing petitions.

But the petitions had the full language of the charter change on the back of the signature page.

 Council President Joe Shogan noted the city has a tradition of not blocking proposed charter changes from reaching the ballot.

“We have a history of not interfering with the initiative process regardless of our personal beliefs,” he said. “It’s better to err on the side of going forward and letting the people decide.”

I-1033 signature count update

Tim Eyman and other promoters of Initiative 1033 turned in 315,444 signatures on their petitions last week, the Secretary of State’s office reported today.

That’s significantly more than the 241,153 needed (if they are valid signatures from registered state voters) to get the proposal on the ballot.

At least one Spin Control reader was skeptical of Eyman’s estimate last week of “more than 314,000” sigs. Turns out he was low-balling, ever so slightly.

Heave. Ho.

The Spokane Fire Department will celebrate the arrival of the new engine in Hillyard by pushing it into Station 15 Friday afternoon.

What, the new truck  doesn’t come with a motor?

For upwards of 500-grand, it definitely can run on its own power. But it seems there’s a tradition of pushing a new engine into a station for the first time. Assistant Chief Brian Schaeffer said it’s a tradition around the country, although he doesn’t know how often it has been observed in Spokane.

“We don’t get new engines very often,” he said. Not sure of the origins, although it may go back to the days of horse-drawn fire pumpers, he added.

They’ll have all the crews assigned to Station 15, plus city leaders, union officials, department brass and community members. Which is good, because the sucker is heavy, and they may need all the help they can get.

Ceremony starts at 2 p.m. at 2120 E. Wellesley.

Check your ticket, check the date

Folks at the recently established Spokane Municipal Court report a slight problem with defendants not showing up for their preliminary hearing, and then saying they didn’t know when it was scheduled.

The thing is, the date is scheduled when the police officer writes out the citation and hands it to someone for an alleged misdemeanor infraction. It’s even labelled pretty plainly as APPEARANCE DATE. Not much chance for having this one overturned by the Appeals Court for lack of clarity.

This is a switch from the old way of doing things with County District Court, in which the officer would hand the citation without a date, leaving the pre-printed message of “Within 15 days” in the appearance date slot and an admonition to call the court to set up a date. The number was on the back.

City cops, who now fill in a court date in an effort to speed up the process, have been instructed to change the routine and tell the citation recipient that the date is right there on the ticket. They have to fill in the box right below it, so chances are, they’re being pretty good about it.

Still, people miss their scheduled court dates, which can result in a bench warrant being issued, or show up later and say they didn’t know they had a date.

Court Administrator Cindy Marshall said they aren’t sure how many of the defendants are offering the Muni Court version of “the dog ate my homework” excuse. It’s not a large number saying they didn’t know, but since the court is just starting up with new procedures, they thought mentioning it would be a good idea.

So here’s a Spin Control word to the wise: If you get a citation in the city, read it. Read the whole thing. Then put your appearance date on your wall calendar, Day Planner, PDA and a Post-it Note on your computer monitor.

And go.

Gentlemen: Start your ad agencies

Want a preview of what’s coming up for the 2010 mid-term elections?

Here’s two.

First, the National Republican Senate Committee is trying out a “blame everything on the Democrats” strategy, featuring Al Franken and some really somber violin music.

And the Democrat National Committee is testing a Republicans don’t know jack tactic on House Minority Leader John Boehner.

Bet you can hardly wait for 2010 to be here.

State flags lowered

Washington state lowered flags to half staff today in honor of Pvt. Aaron Fairbairn, a 21-year-old soldier from Aberdeen who was killed in Action in Afghanistan on July 4.

Gov. Chris Gregoire issued the order early Thursday morning. The flags will stay at half staff on state buildings through sunset today, or until Friday morning if the flags stay outside round the clock.

CDA mayoral candidate: Not taking the 14th

Josh Arnold, who entered the race for Coeur d’Alene mayor this week, said he’s concerned about the size, tone and responsiveness of government.

Those concepts probably wouldn’t distinguish Arnold, a Republican precinct leader and 30-year-old planner for the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, from most other candidates, or from many residents of North Idaho.

But here’s one that might: Arnold’s view of the U.S. Constitution, and the authority local government has or doesn’t have over him, resulted in a scuffle in Kootenai County court that required five bailiffs to restrain him. One of those bailiffs wound up with a fractured elbow, and Arnold was cited for contempt of court.

In March, Arnold was in Kootenai County Magistrate Judge Robert Caldwell’s court for a hearing on two counts of misdemeanor child injury. When Caldwell called for him to come up, he refused, saying he was not a citizen under the 14th Amendment and thus not subject to the court’s jurisdiction.

It’s an argument that some people who call themselves patriots or constitutionalists make against submitting to the authority of person elected since the 14th Amendment was ratified in 1868. It has to do with a distinction they draw between being a citizen of the United States or a citizen of a specific state. It can be a complicated and seemingly convoluted debate, but it rarely yields a good result in a courtroom.

Spokane vortex strikes national health care

At the newspaper, reporters like to talk about the Spokane vortex, in which almost every big national and international event has a link to this part of the country. Yesterday’s big press conference on health care, where Vice President Joe Biden talked about hospitals pitching in, was no exception.

Standing next to Biden in this AP photo is Rich Umbdenstock, who until about three years ago was president of Providence & Services. He’s now president of the American Hospital Association, hence the invite to the big press conference.

Thurs. a.m. video: Wassup Weds.

A potpourri that includes health care, Palin, Jackson from TalkingPointsMemo.

Where’s Joe’s picture?

There’s no picture of Vice President Joe Biden in the federal building, reader Carol Nestor notes.

There’s a full-color shot of President Barack Obama on the walls, but no Biden, anywhere. What gives?

Turns out there’s no photos of Biden in federal buildings anywhere. Ross Buffington of the regional office for the General Services Administration — them’s the folks that operate and maintain federal buildings — says the official Biden photo hasn’t arrived yet, although the official Obama portrait shot arrived back in March and went up then.

So is this normal?

Hard to say….

Team Sarah to play on

Word comes from Team Sarah, a group dedicated to the political advancement of the Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and her political goals, that they’re still enthusiastic about their namesake.

This comes in a press release that is, admittedly, a bit dated because it got hung up in the newspaper’s spam filter. (Note to self: reset spam filter to let anything with “Palin” through, at least until all the porn spam catches on and throws in that word.)

Palin’s announcement that she’s not running for re-election and not finishing her term as a lame duck seems not to have deterred the team. So it could be this is the team she was talking about in her point guard analogy of driving through the full court press, eyes on the basket and passing off the ball.

Of course, no point guard from Gonzaga University ever walked off the court and out of the arena after getting the ball down the court.

Tues. video: Mon. dissecting of Palin

They were still pretty hung up on Sarah Palin on Monday, according to TalkingPointsMemo. Must’ve been a slow news weekend?

Austin: Track to stay open, contractors to be paid

The operator of the Spokane County Raceway insists he has no plans to shut down the track or shorten the racing season, and all contractors will be paid for work done at the county-owned facility.

Bucky Austin met Monday with County Commissioner Todd Mielke, plus county legal, finance and parks staff, to discuss complaints of nonpayment from contractors and the failure to purchase a performance bond required by his operating agreement. Two large contractors, T.W. Clark and Winkler Concrete, filed notices of liens with the county late last month totaling more than $1 million.

Austin will provide some form of collateral by early next week to protect taxpayers while the bills are examined and payments are sorted out, Mielke said.

In an interview with The Spokesman-Review after the meeting, Austin said he “overspent” by doing construction projects during the first half of 2009 that were required in the first two years of his lease.

About $2 million worth of construction has been done at the track, and about half has been paid, he said. That includes DiPaolo Painting, a contractor mentioned in a June 30 story, who was sent the second half of his payment by overnight mail after the story ran.

Austin said he hopes to work out payment schedules for the rest with the remaining contractors. Some invoices are “barely 30 days old” and the bills average about 45 days. Some bills were delayed in the mail because the racetrack’s address has changed three times since the county acquired it; a change in personnel also meant the track’s financial operations recently moved from the raceway park to his home office in Fife.

“Our intent is to pay them, and to pay them as quickly as possible,” Austin said. Outstanding invoices have to be checked to insure the work was done properly and he wasn’t double-billed. He said he expected to make regular payments and to pay all legitimate claims “no later than Nov. 1.”

John Black, an attorney for Clark and Winkler, called Austin’s promise of payment “good news – if it happens.”

But he was concerned about Austin’s suggestion that contractors might have to wait more than three months for some payments for work already done: “They’re contractors, not bankers.”

Knezovich running for re-election

This will probably come as no huge surprised to anyone watching politics in Spokane, but Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich is running for re-election.

Knezovich filed paperwork with the Public Disclosure Commission at the beginning of the year, but even incumbents who don’t plan to run again do that to keep on the right side of the law for campaign finances.

On July 4th, however, Knezovich made the first public announcement of re-election, during the annual Independence Day celebration hosted by Tom Westbrook. It’s an event that involves the full reading of the Declaration of Indepedence by some of the assembled guests, and Ozzie read a section.

Not the preamble with “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” but a hunk of the list of grievances against King George III for all the bad stuff the British were doing. But anyway, it was a chance to read the document.

Afterwards, people asked if he was running for re-election, and he said “Yes, I am.” It was the first non-private acknowledgement, Knezovich said. It wasn’t planned to coincide with the Fourth, he added, “it just kind of came up that way.”

And thanks to regular reader John (Gus) Olsen, who was present at the party, for the tip.

Monday fun videos: An ode to Sarah Palin

This music video comes courtesy of reader and colleague Reiko Tateya in Yokohama, Japan, who brought to our attention a fun Web site that creates a song a day. Today’s song is about Sarah Palin calling it quits.

Thanks Reiko!

And for those who slept th rough the Sunday morning taking head shows (or were in church), they spent lots of time on Palin, too. Here’s the digest of talking heads compiled by TalkingPointsMemo.

Idaho could get stuck in this knife fight

There’s a switchblade fight going on in Congress. Depending on who wins, North Idaho could bleed jobs at some point.

This is not some latter day version of the Sharks and the Jets, minus the choreography. It’s even nastier than some back alley knife fight, because it takes place in an even more dangerous neighborhood: Federal regulations.

The U.S. Customs Bureau recently proposed rewriting the rules governing imported knives to broaden the definition of switchblades. It would expand the ban from the classic switchblade — think James Coburn in “The Magnificent Seven” — to any knife that can be opend by one hand with “inertia, gravity or both.”

In other words, a knife that can go from fully or partly closed to open with the flick of a wrist. They’d be illegal, just like the classic springloaded switchblade that opens with the press of a button.

That definition, in the words of C.J. Buck, covers a lot of knives. And as the president and chief executive officer of Buck Knives, he’d know.

Weekend fun video: Can Obama pass nerd test?

John Hodgeman administers the ultimate nerd test to Barack Obama at the Radio and TV Correspondents Dinner. Can the president pass?

Take the July 4th quiz

Happy Independence Day.

Spin Control is taking the day off, but if you’ve put out the flag, packed the cooler and bought the fireworks, only one question remains: Just how much do you really know about American history?

The real history, that is – not the stuff you pick up from listening to July 4th speeches, watching Mel Gibson movies or reading novels. Take the 13 question quiz and see what level of patriotic study you have achieved:

Flag stuff

Elementary school question: The Stars and Stripes, aka Old Glory, now has stars for the current states and stripes for the original ones. How many red stripes does the U.S. flag have?

High school question: How many stars in the top row of a 50-star flag?

Graduate level question: Of George Washington, Benedict Arnold, Ethan Allen and John Paul Jones, who can we say definitely fought under a contemporary version of the Stars and Stripes?

Declaration of Independence stuff

Elementary school question: Whose signature is larger than all others at the bottom of the declaration?

High school question: What are the three inalienable rights listed in the declaration?

Graduate level question: What three things did the signers pledge to each other at the close of the declaration?

Battle stuff

Elementary school question: American troops got significant military help from what country during the revolution?

High school question: The last battle of the Revolutionary War was fought where?

Graduate level question: Of battles of Lexington, Bunker Hill, Ticonderoga, Long Island, which happened after independence was declared?

Celebration stuff

Elementary school question: The fireworks that mark July 4th celebrations originated in what country?

High school question: Where was the first celebration of American independence held?

Graduate level question: On what day was that celebration held?

Extra credit

Two famous American documents, the Declaration and the Constitution, were signed by the people present when drafted. Among the following, who signed both documents? George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton.

Go inside for the answers.

I-1033 only one to turn in signatures

Tim Eyman’s Initiative 1033 is the only one that bothered to turn in signatures yesterday to the Secretary of State’s office. Because today is a holiday, that means it’s the only initiative with a chance to make it to the ballot.

Among those left in the dust were Initiative 1043, which sought to tighten some immigration laws. Readers might remember it as the one that caused a minor stir by inserting petitions in newspapers around the state, including The Spokesman-Review, and by taking money from a controversial advocate of tighter immigration standards.

One other possible ballot measure, a referendum on same sex partnerships, has until July 25 to turn in its signatures.

Blast from past: July 4th Quiz

In honor of the three-day holiday, and as a sign of laziness, Spin Control is rerunning last lyear’s July 4th Quiz. A new quiz is coming Saturday.

So you think you’re a good patriot. You wear a flag pin on your pajamas, know that the last two words to “The Star Spangled Banner” are not “Play ball,” and bleed red, white and blue.
On July Fourth, we all feel that way. So try your hand at this American history quiz. But remember, just because you heard it when you were growing up doesn’t make it so.
1.) The Continental Congress declared its independence from King George and Great Britain on what day?
a. April 18, 1775
b. June 7, 1776
c. July 2, 1776
d. July 4, 1776
2.) Which of the following grievances against King George is NOT listed in the Declaration of Independence?
a. He had “cut off our Trade with all parts of the world.”
b. He had “plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts and burnt our towns.”
c. He had sent “merciless Indian Savages” to attack them on the frontiers.
d. He had decreed laws for “Naturalization of Foreigners … to encourage their migrations hither.”
3.) And by the way, which King George was that?
a. George II
b. George III
c. George V
d. George W
4.) “Give me liberty or give me death!” was a sentiment voiced by:
a. Thomas Paine
b. Patrick Henry
c. Nathan Hale
d. Sam Adams
5.) Which of the following statements is false?
a. The battle of Bunker Hill was not fought on Bunker Hill.
b. Benedict Arnold was promoted for bravery by George Washington.
c. Philadelphians celebrating the Declaration of Independence rang the Liberty Bell so long it cracked.
d. The U.S. flag is based in part on the British Union Jack.
6.) Which of the following is not one of the original 13 colonies?
a. Georgia
b. South Carolina
c. New Jersey
d. Vermont
7.) Who designed the first U.S. flag?
a. George Washington
b. Betsy Ross
c. Francis Hopkinson
d. Abigail Adams
8.) Who among the following did NOT sign the Declaration of Independence?
a. John Hancock
b. George Washington
c. Thomas Jefferson
d. Elbridge Gerry
9.) Which of the following is true?
a. The delegates to the Continental Congress who declared “all men are created equal” were elected only by white men who owned property.
b. George Washington’s army was made up chiefly of militia throughout the Revolution.
c. Paul Revere never warned the residents of Concord that the British were coming.
d. The British played “Yankee Doodle” when Gen. Cornwallis surrendered to Washington at Yorktown.
10.) The Statue of Liberty was made in:
a. New York
b. Boston
c. London
d. Paris
11.) The words to “The Star Spangled Banner” were written during what military action?
a. The battle of Baltimore
b. The battle of Yorktown
c. The battle of Gettysburg
d. The battle of the Alamo
12.) Four of the first five presidents came from which state?
a. Virginia
b. Massachusetts
c. New York
d. Pennsylvania
13.) John Adams was Washington’s vice president. Who was Adams’ vice president?
a. Alexander Hamilton
b. Thomas Jefferson
c. James Madison
d. Benjamin Franklin

For answers, go inside the blog

I-1033 likely headed to ballot

Tim Eyman’s latest effort, Initiative 1033, appears headed for the November ballot.

Eyman reports a few minutes ago that they have turned in more than 314,000 signatures, which is far more than the requirement of about 249,000 or the cushion of 292,000 they were shooting for.

Wondering what I-1033 would do? Click here to read the text.

Push to save Shriners

Politicians and local business persons are gathering Thursday morning in an effort to convince the Shiners to keep their Spokane hospital open.

It will be bipartisan, with Sen. Maria Cantwell, a Democrat, and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Republican, in front of the hospital building on the lower South Hill. They’ll be joined by members of Greater Spokane Inc., which put out a “Save Shriners” announcement Wednesday.

Press conference is 4:30 p.m. Thursday, 5th and Lincoln.

Weds. a.m. video: Quick look at Tues.

If you were otherwise occupied, Iraq, Minnesota and the South Carolina governor topped the news on Tuesday. Catch up courtesy of TalkingPointsMemo.

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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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