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Spin Control

Archive for November 2009

Did County out-Fox itself on hotel tax?

Spokane County will have to come up with a new plan to give money to the renovated Fox Theater. The old plan, to take about $21,000 a year from the county’s share of the hotel-motel tax, isn’t legal, Board Chairman Todd Mielke was told Monday.
The county’s Hotel Motel Tax Advisory Board balked Monday at the budget for an estimated $405,000 the county expects to collect from the lodging tax. Collections are projected to be down, and the Spokane Convention and Visitor’s Bureau was told it would see its payment cut from $275,000 to $250,000, and the Spokane Regional Sport Commission would be frozen at $75,000.
Even with those reductions, the budget is expected to be almost $33,000 in the red if tax collections are down, as projected.
Representatives of the visitors bureau and the sports commission said they could deal with their allotments, but questioned the county’s plan to send $20,625 of the lodging tax collected in the unincorporated county to the Fox Theater, which is in the City of Spokane.
Dave Pier, a vice president of Brett Sports and member of the advisory board, said the county’s hotel tax money has to be spent on projects or events that generate business in the county lodging facilities.
“I love the Fox Theater,” Pier said. “But it doesn’t meet the fund’s requirements.”

Incumbent mayor behind by 2

The results of this month’s Spokane County election were certified on Tuesday, but the counting isn’t over.

Elections officials next week will recount by hand votes in the race for Airway Heights mayor.

City Councilman Patrick Rushing’s lead over incumbent Mayor Matthew Pederson grew in the latest tally to two votes.

Light blogging ahead

Spin Control will be on Thanksgiving hiatus, which is really just a fancy way of saying it’s taking the week off.

We’ll be counting all the things we’re thankful for (from  family and friends to work we enjoy, and even the ability to end a phrase with a preposition because it sounds better this way.) We hope readers will spend time over the coming days to do the same.

What’s up in northeast Spokane? Not turnout

Northeast Spokane has an electoral problem that needs to be examined after the 2010 Census is complete. The problem isn’t who gets elected, but how few people do the electing.

Results from this year’s general election follow a pattern evident in council elections since districts were drawn earlier this decade, and in legislative elections for decades before that. Northeast Spokane’s Council District 1, which shares many of the same precincts and voters and the state’s 3rd Legislative District, has significantly fewer voters than the neighboring districts. And the voters it has are less likely to cast ballots than other regions of the city and county.

That was particularly true this year. Although District 1 had a fairly contentious council race between Amber Waldref and Mike Fagan, the district – which is roughly everything north of I-90 and east of Division Street – had eight of the city’s 10 lowest turnout precincts, 17 of the bottom 20. District 1 also has about three registered voters for every four in the other two districts.

While this means that an individual District 1 voter has more impact on picking his or her councilmember, it also means that when grouped together with other voters on citywide issues, the area’s voters as a group have less impact than some in Indian Trails or the South Hill where registration and turnout is much heavier.

There’s a new map for: 2008 turnout in Spokane

A reader was wondering about lower turnout areas in the city of Spokane, specifically questioning whether the lack of certain candidates on the ballot was responsible for the lower turnout in the city’s Northeast Council District, West Central and East Central.

Probably not.

This is a map of last year’s general election turnout in the city of Spokane, which set a record in terms of total votes and percentages.

Compare it to this year’s city turnout, and it seems pretty clear that in relative terms, turnout was RELATIVELY low in most of the same areas, and RELATIVELY high in most of the same areas. Remember that turnout is a comparison of the number of ballots divided by the number of registered voters in each individual precinct, and then the percentages — not the total number of votes — are compared among the precincts.

The total number of votes varies greatly from election to election, but the relative turnout for different areas of the city remains fairly constant.

Mon. fun video: Biden open from SNL

Saturday Night Live has proved it can take shots at the Obama Administration just as it did at the Bush Admin.

For those of you who went to bed at a reasonable hour, and either forgot to set your recorder or pushed the wrong buttons, here’s the Cold Open that makes fun of Vice President Biden.

Women rock Spokane vote

A swath of central Spokane – roughly from the river to Wellesley Avenue – may have more women representing it in elective office than any place else in the country.

Eastern Washington in general is unique in the country for having women in top offices. No other voters outside the 5th Congressional District have both U.S. senators, a U.S. House member and a governor who are all women. And while the district’s voters didn’t necessarily give Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell or Gov. Chris Gregoire the majority of their votes in the last elections, all three hold office and no other state’s residents have a woman in those three statewide posts.

But the overlapping of several districts within Spokane County creates an area that has – by design or chance – an even larger array of executive and legislative power exercised by women.

There’s a map for: Where the votes are, Spokane

Spin Control regularly reports the voter turnout in elections as a gauge of the relative strength of different areas or neighborhoods.

But turnout is a percentage of the people who vote divided by the total people registered. Some areas that have high turnout don’t have as many voters, and some with a relatively high number of voters fail to generate much interest in the candidates or issues on the ballot.

This is a look at where the votes are, if a candidate or campaign can get them.

There’s a map for: Spokane city turnout

Turnout in the city of Spokane for the Nov. 3 election averages just under 50 percent with just a few ballots yet to count.

But it varied significantly around the city, as is typical for most elections. This map divides the city’s precincts into four equal segments based on turnout and shows heavier turnout in the south and northwest, and light voting in the north central and northeast.


A new map for: how Prop 4 went down

The latest numbers for Proposition 4 continue to show it getting hammered all over the city. It lost all city precincts, so the only real question was, where did it lose worse?

A new map for: Dist 81 school board

Rocky Treppiedi kept his District 81 School Board seat on the strength of his vote margins in the south and northwest parts of the district, which extends outside the city limits. Laura Carder did well in northeast Spokane, where she’s run previously as a legislative candidate, but those precincts traditionally have fewer voters and smaller turnout than the ones Treppiedi won.

A new map for: Spokane Fire Bond

Late vote counts didn’t really change the landscape for the City of Spokane’s Fire Bond proposal. It did well in some of the vote rich regions of south and northwest Spokane, but did poorly on the north side and East Central. There aren’t enough votes left to tip it over the top next week.

Get a cake with 120 candles

Everyone join in, please:

Happy Birthday to you. Happy Birthday to you. Happy Birthday dear

Washington Staaaate.

Happy Birthday to you.

Washington as a state turns 120 today. Don’t feel bad if you forgot to send a card. Once you get passed 100, birthdays aren’t that big a deal until you hit the really big milestones. So mark your calendar for Nov. 11, 2014, because that’ll be 125, and you’ll probably need to send a gift, too.

Want to see an image of the telegram announcing statehood? It’s on the Secretary of State’s Web site, just click here.

Palin headed for CdA book signing

Former GOP vice presidential candidate and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is expected to be autographing copies of her new book next month at the Coeur d’Alene Fred Meyer store.

Palin, who already has a best-seller before her book is even released next week, is tentatively scheduled for a Coeur d’Alene stop on Dec. 10. But don’t call the store to ask for a time. They don’t have one yet, company spokeswoman Melinda Merrill said Tuesday.

“Everything is really tentative right now,” Merrill said.

But a CdA stop will be in keeping with her tour schedule, which is only announced through Dec. 8. She’s bypassing some big blue metro areas like Seattle and L.A. and doing a red heartlands swing that includes Sioux City and Sioux Falls, Fort Wayne and Birmingham.

If she books Spokane, too, we’ll let you know as soon as we do.

A new map for: Fire District bond

The only race that seems to be hanging fire still is the City of Spokane Fire Bond.

As of Friday, it had inched up to a 59.43 percent approval rating, or

29,611 for

20.215 against

It needs to get to 60 percent.

The county elections office estimates it has about 8,000 votes left to count. If half of them are from the city (which is about what we can expect in most elections), the bond issue is going to need about 67 percent approval rating in those ballots to close the gap.

Gregoire names Sturdevant to head DoE

Ted Sturdevant was named this morning the new director of the state Department of Ecology.

Gov. Chris Gregoire announced the appointment to replace Jay Manning, who moved from head of DoE to be her chief of staff.

Sturdevant has been with DoE for 7 years as director of external affairs, and before that worked for Gov. Gary Locke.

He starts today, at an annual salary of $141,549.

One Ref 71 impact lives on

By late last week one question surrounding Referendum 71 was settled: The measure passed and the “everything but marriage” statutes go into effect for the whole state, after it was approved handily in most Puget Sound counties and hammered pretty badly elsewhere.

That’s really just the quick question the ballot measure generated. The longer one, which would have survived regardless of the vote count, has political operatives watching closely, legal scholars salivating – and may give legislators something to do in coming years besides sweating  the state’s declining finances.

The question: Are the signatures on R-71 petitions  – or any other statewide ballot measure – public?

Dist 81 update: New map in the Treppiedi-Carder race

Incumbent Rocky Treppeidi inched a bit farther ahead of challenger Laura Carder in Thursday’s vote count. But there’s still a dramatic north-south split in the votes as shown in the map here.

Billig to run for 3rd Dist. House seat

Andy Billig, the president of the Spokane Indians baseball, wants to play in a different league. He’s running for the state Legislature in central Spokane’s 3rd District.

As ballots were being cast and counted this week for the 2009 election, Billig filed papers with the state Public Disclosure Commission to run for the state House of Representatives seat currently held by seven-term incumbent Alex Wood. Both are Democrats.

To read more, go inside the blog

Another map from tight school board race

Spokane School Board incumbent Jeff Bierman is in a tight race with challenger Heidi Olson. As in the Treppiedi-Carder race, there’s a distinct north-south split, as the map illustrates. Here’s the latest tally, as of Wednesday evening:

Bierman 17,344 (51,35%)
Olson     16,431 (48.65%)

Here’s a map for tight school board races

The Spokane School Board races are too tight to call with any certainty. But a look at the vote patterns shows a definite north-south split in both races.

It’s probably most pronounced in the Position 4 race, where incumbent Rocky Treppiedi has a narrow lead over challenger Laura Carder. Current tally is:

Treppiedi 17,893 (51.64%)
Carder     16,758 (48.36%)

Here’s a new map for that Fire Bond

Spokane City Proposition 1, aka the Fire Bond Issue, inched a bit toward the supermajority it needs for passage in Wednesday evening’s count. As the map shows, its support varied around the city. The ballot measure currently has a 58.85 percent approval; it needs 60 percent.

Here’s a map for that District 2 council race

Jon Snyder continues to lead Mike Allen in the South Spokane Council District race. Latest tally:

Snyder 7,091

Allen    6,412.

New numbers expected soon; turnout rises above 50 percent

We’re about two hours from another drop of election numbers in Spokane County. Elections Manager Mike McLaughlin said he expects 8,000 to 10,000 votes to be included in the count. That will leave roughly 30,000 votes left for the rest of the week.

The county received 22,567 ballots in the mail on Wednesday, pushing turnout to 52 percent. McLaughlin said another 500 to 1,000 more could be expected the rest of the week.

Where Prop 4 fared less awfully

There are few, if any, bright spots supporters of Envision Spokane’s Community Bill of Rights will find in last night’s count.

As a whole, Proposition 4 only garnered 25 percent support. It failed in all of the city’s nearly 125 precincts.

The measure won 40 percent support only in four precincts: downtown Spokane, one that covers most of Browne’s Addition and the western portion of Peaceful Valley, one precinct in East Central and one in the Bemiss Neighborhood, which is just south of Hillyard.

The worst showing was in a precinct bordering Latah Creek in the far south of the city where only 7.7 percent of voters supported the proposition.

Click here to download a high-resolution JPG of the above map.

There’s a map for that: Spokane Fire Bond

Spokane’s Fire Bond Issue didn’t have the 60 percent super majority in ballots counted Tuesday night.

Click here to view a high-resolution JPG of this map.

There’s a map for that: Spokane’s 1033 vote

Initiative 1033 got hammered in the city of Spokane, but did well outside it.

Click here to download a high-resolution JPG of this map.

There’s a map for that: Ref 71 in Spokane

As of Tuesday night, here’s how the vote totals look in Spokane County for Referendum 71.

McLaughlin movin’ on up?

The showing of Spokane City Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin — the City Council’s most conservative member — in a district that voted for President Obama has prompted speculation that she may run as a Republican for state Rep. Alex Wood’s seat next year in Spokane’s 3rd Legislative District. That’s eastern Washington’s most solidly Democratic district.

McLaughlin won all 43 precincts in her council district race in the August primary, a feat she repeated in Tuesday’s general election.

Speaking from her campaign party Tuesday night, McLaughlin said she will not rule out a run for the Legislature, but added: “At this point, I have no intention of running next year.”

She added that her husband isn’t sold on the idea of her running for an office that would require a campaign every two years.

Spokane County turnout: 38.5% so far

Spokane voters seemed to spend a bit more time weighing their options this year. The two biggest days for ballots showing up at the elections office were yesterday and today.

The current ballot count stands at 98,968, which is 38.5 percent of all registered voters in the county. More than 39,000 of those ballots showed up in the last two days — and that doesn’t count the final pickups from drop boxes all over the county.

Could it be that some voters regretted voting too early in previous years, and held on to their ballots until closer to the deadline, to see how the campaigns played out? Hard to say, but it does seem to undercut the argument of some campaign operatives that so many resources should be targeted at the week the ballots get mailed out.

If tradition holds, biggest day for turnout will be tomorrow, when most ballots mailed yesterday and today get delivered.

For more on how the ballot turn-in count stands, go inside the blog.

All in

Here’s one of the more talked about election mailers distributed locally this campaign season.

It’s from Envision Spokane, the campaign in support of Proposition 4. It hit mailboxes last week.

What do you think? Is it effective?

Following the money: Prop 4 spending

(Note: This story appeared in Sunday’s paper, and through an oversight on my part didn’t get posted simultaneously to the blog. So it appears here with links to the spread sheets that show the campaign spending, for those political junkies out there that eat this stuff up. Jim Camden.)

Among the talking points hotly debated by both sides in the campaign over the city of Spokane’s Proposition 4 is whether the proposed changes are good or bad for local business.

The talking point on the “Yes” side says a requirement for local banks to reinvest local money in local business will pump more money into the Spokane economy and help mom-and-pop businesses struggling against the national chains and big-box stores. The talking point on the “No” side says that provision isn’t what local businesses need, and requirements for prevailing wages and apprenticeship programs will put locals at a disadvantage against competitors just across the city line.

Talk, as the saying goes, is cheap – although during a campaign, speech covers everything from folks bloviating at forums to literature in the mailbox, TV ads and radio spots. Campaign speech often comes with a payment-due notice from sign makers, print shops, commercial schedulers and consultants.

So the question is, when the campaigns pay for such speech, and anything else they need to convince you of the rightness or wrongness of Prop 4, who spends their money locally, and who spends it elsewhere?

Mon. fun video: Obama Girl returns

In a new video from, Obama Girl, aka Amber Ettinger, makes a pitch for someone to be appointed to the Social Security Board.

The plea is set to “Man of Constant Sorrow,” and proves that blue-grass legend Ralph Stanley can still pick and sing, Obama Girl can dance even though she can’t lip-synch too well, and the guy they’re hyping, Eric C. Conn, should never ever quit his day job to become a dancer. But it’s a fun watch.

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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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