Archive for October 2009
The county’s insurance may be needed to pay contractors that performed the work ordered by Austin Motor Sports Management but never approved by the county, they said.
Commissioners voted unanimously during a special afternoon
meeting Thursday to terminate the contract with the company and its owner Bucky
Austin, a racing enthusiast who owns a chain of auto repair shops in the
They’re looking for a new operator to run the track in 2010,
although next time, they expect to keep “a closer, watchful eye” on
The county became aware of financial problems at the track last summer, when contractors began serving notice that they would file liens for unpaid bills. Austin called the liens standard procedure, said he had to review billing to make sure the work was actually done and promised to pay everybody by November.
But commissioners discovered
Because of those problems, commissioners said
The notice of default had a 60-day time limit, which would have been up on Sunday. When asked why they were terminating it just three days early, they said the weather was turning cold and they wanted to have county staff “winterize” the facility as soon as possible.
Asked if the decision was at all prompted by fears
The county will draft a new request for proposal and allow potential operators to submit bids.
“We hope to find an operator that can continue to operate the track… and maintain it’s credibility with the community,” Mielke said. “We’re going to do our due diligence with any construction projects that take place.”
They want to county will also review all the outstanding claims to make sure the work was done, is up to standards and has been double-billed, Commissioner Mark Richard said. Legitimate claims will be submitted to the county’s insurance carrier for payment.
That process could take up to 60 days. John Black, an attorney who represents seven of the contractors holding some $1.19 million in unpaid bills, said his clients could eventually file suit against the county if they aren’t paid. But it might take about two months to prepare a lawsuit, so the contractors might hold off.
“If in fact there is a commitment to pay, it would make sense to wait,” said Black, who added he heard about the commissioners’ decision from the reporter calling to ask for comment.
Spokane County Commissioners have an executive session at 2 p.m. to talk about cancelling the contract to run the Raceway Park.
They had already given Bucky Austin, the embattled operator, a 60-day deadline, that’s set to run out next week. They may cancel today.
Unanswered questions include what will they do if Austin doesn’t pay the contractors who did the work this summer at the raceway? What will they do with the track, which the county bought last year — find a new operator or have the county Parks run it themselves?
Boeing Co.’s announcement that it will build jetliners in South Carolina was not particularly well received in Washington, as most readers can well imagine.
Some Democrats were disappointed. Some Republicans were disappointed but more in a “we warned you” mind set.
For a compilation of comments, go inside the blog…
Prosecutor Steve Tucker and Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich made their best pitches for some wiggle room on budget cuts Tuesday night. Maybe dip into the budget reserve, or borrow from money set aside for streets. After all, what good are streets if they aren’t safe to drive on. How much rainier does it have to get before you use the rainy day fund?
County commissioners responded with praise for the work that they and their staff do.
And no to any give on the budget cuts, or using the budget reserve, which would lower the bond rating and up the cost of borrowing money.
Sounded like a No? Tucker was asked outside the hearing room as TV cameras were set up.
“Sounded like a no — and a lecture on tax policy” Tucker replied.
The agreement with the county, which comes as most departments are expecting to start next year with a budget that is 11 percent smaller than the one the had at the end of last year, would reduced the Sheriff’s budget by about $57,000.
“It wasn’t a hard sell at all,” Lt. Jay Hughes, the head of the seven member unit said Wednesday. “We all knew the budget was suffering.”
Under their existing contract, members of Local 492CL were scheduled to get a 1 percent cost-of-living raise on Jan. 1, and another 1 percent on July 1. They are also entitled to overtime or compensatory time when working more than 40 hours a week. Under the agreement, proposed by the unit members themselves, they will remain at this year’s pay, and become salaried employees not eligible for overtime or comp time. In return, Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich guaranteed that none of them would be demoted to close the gap in the budget.
Jail lieutenants, who work at either the
Stephen Colbert takes off on the fight over releasing the names from the Referendum 71 petitions, as well as a campaign ad from the Protect Marriage folks.
|The Colbert Report||Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
|The Word - Don’t Ask Don’t Tell|
Spokane City Council President Joe Shogan’s threat to “bring hell” didn’t stop the council — or even himself — from approving on Monday new rules governing the body. The lone opposition belonged to Councilman Richard Rush, who expressed concern that the final version was rushed. The rules, many routine, had been under consideration for almost a year, but they were put under the spotlight earlier this month when the council scheduled a meeting held when Shogan was out of town to set a time to vote on the rules.
Spokane City Council President Joe Shogan’s threat to “bring hell” didn’t stop the council — or even himself — from approving on Monday new rules governing the body.
The lone opposition belonged to Councilman Richard Rush, who expressed concern that the final version was rushed.
The rules, many routine, had been under consideration for almost a year, but they were put under the spotlight earlier this month when the council scheduled a meeting held when Shogan was out of town to set a time to vote on the rules.
Secretary of State Sam Reed was named a Public Official of the Year by Governing Magazine, the publication said Monday.
Reed will be one of eight elected or appointed government officials to get one of the annual awards in the November issue of the magazine, as well as a soiree in the other Washington on Nov. 16.
He’s being honored as an elected official who “who exuded fairness in managing a disputed gubernatorial election in 2004, then reformed the administration of elections in his state.”
That first part could have prompted a debate from members of Reed’s own party in early 2005, after Chris Gregoire overturned Dino Rossi’s lead in the second recount and was declared the winner, and the whole thing wound up in court. With Reed’s pushing and prodding, the Legislature made some major changes to the state’s voting laws that year and the next.
The award is bipartisan. Arkansa Gov. Mike Huckabee, a GOP presidential aspirant last year, got one in 2005. Gregoire, a Democrat, got one in 2007. And it’s not a guarantee of continued good performance. New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer got one in 2002.
Reed joins a relatively long list of Washington government folk so honored by the magazine. To see that list, go inside the blog.
Opponents of Proposition 4 have complained that out-of-town influence helped shape the proposed amendment to the Spokane City Charter. But the opponents rely heavily on national and state development interests to bankroll the campaigns against the proposal.
Led by the National Association of Home Builders, out-of-town business groups account for about 85 percent of the identified contributions to Save Our Spokane, which opposes Proposition 4’s Community Bill of Rights. Out-of-town business groups account for about 30 percent of identified contributions to the other opposition group, Jobs and Opportunities Benefiting Spokane, or JOBS. The national home builders association has funneled some $85,000 to the political action committee of its local affiliate.
Together, the two campaign committees have raised more than $275,000. When expense reports were filed last week, they had almost half of that total still available for a pre-election day push.
Envision Spokane, a group that spearheaded discussions that produced the proposed charter changes, has raised about $69,500, with $55,000 coming from Jim Sheehan, a retired local attorney who established the Center for Justice and owns the Community Building on Main Avenue. The largest out-of-town contribution for Envision Spokane was about $450 for the donated work of a graphic artist in Wauwato, Wash.
Vote, that is.
Or at least that’s Secretary of State Sam Reed’s projection, released today.
Reed projects turnout at 51 percent, down markedly from about 85 percent last year. Ah, for the halcyon days of ‘08. Obama vs. McCain. A gaffe-watch on Joe Biden. A dissection of every word Sarah Palin uttered. Gregoire v. Rossi, part deux.
Even with two statewide initiatives — one on government spending and another on domestic partnership rights — there just arent as many vote grabbers this year.
If he’s right, 2009 will be about average for an off-year, mostly local election, Reed said.
As a reporter responsible for my share of embarrassing typos over the years, I am hesitant to point out spelling and grammatical errors in others’ work (especially in a blog that usually isn’t edited before it’s posted).
That said, City Councilman Mike Allen’s campaign flier that arrived in South Hill mailboxes last week has enough grammatical and other errors that the candidate declared himself “disappointed” in the mailer.
Latest in the legal battle over the names of people who signed Referendum 71 petitions: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy today blocked the release of the names which the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals unblocked last week.
Kennedy got a request from the group supporting the petition drive, and said the order will stay in place until he’s had a chance to review the appeal.
His decision also will stay any release of other initiative petitions, which are being fought over in state courts.
Anyone want to bet that this isn’t settled either way until after the Nov. 3 election?
Thursday’s post challenging Councilman Bob Apple’s label of “carpetbagger” on a city judicial candidate brought more than a dozen comments, including one from Apple himself.
” I honestly believe any body still considers an elected official who would literaly refuse
to live in the area they are elected for would qualify as a carpetbagger. Now
Mrs Staab wants us to, elect her as a Spokane City Municipal Court Judge and
only hearing cases of Spokane City residents however will not reside within our
City as Brian Whitaker dose and as a result, he has my vote. Honestly I cannot
imagine voting any other way concerning this simple question.” he wrote.
To save occasional readers from scrolling down, the Reader’s Digest version of this discussion goes like this: Judge Tracy Staab, who is seeking election to the position to which she was appointed earlier this year, lives outside the city limits in Spokane County. The law allows that, although Apple and some others think that regardless of what the law allows, Staab ought not to hold the post. In an e-mail, to constituents and others last week, Apple said he was voting for her opponent, Bryan Whitaker, because she’s a carpetbagger.
The term carpetbagger dates to the 19th Century and comes from a
description of outsiders who move into an area to take advantage of
something, such as a political race. It doesn’t apply to Staab, the post argued.
In his rebuttal, Apple makes two interesting arguments. One is that she would “literally refuse to live in the city”. Ignoring for a moment the all too common misuse of literally, Apple seems to be suggesting that Staab should move from the county to the city to be eligible for the job.
That would actually be carpetbagging, because she’d be moving in an attempt to get elected.
The other argument is that he’s using the word properly because under his definition, which he believes is acceptable to “anybody”, that’s what a carpetbagger is.
That’s the argument Humpty Dumpty made to Alice, that a word “means just what I choose it to mean, nothing more nor less.”
But on this side of the looking glass, words mean what they mean.
Washington state can release the names and addresses of people who signed the petion for Referendum 71, a ballot measure that attempts to peel back the latest changes to the state’s domestic partnership laws, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said today.
A 9th Circuit panel this morning revesed a trial court ruling that releasing the names could chill the First Amendment rights of petition signmers. But the names aren’t going to be released right now, because a separate court ruling in Thurston County has a temporary restraining order blocking that.
To read the Associated Press’s latest version, go inside the blog. We’ll try to keep it updated regularly.
Ballots in Spokane County will start arriving in the mail on Thursday.
For those still wondering how the candidates stand on the issues, here’s a link where you can hear three Spokane City Council debates in full or broken into important topics by our very capable Web sage, Andrew Zahler. The hour-long debates were taped in The Spokesman-Review’s radio studio last month.
A different City Council debate will air 7 p.m. Thursday on KSPS.
Is it too much to ask that people who hurl political epithets during campaign season at least get them right?
OK, that was a stupid question. It probably is. But still…
In an e-mail to constituents last week, Spokane City Councilman Bob Apple described whom he is endorsing for various city elected positions this year, and how he’s voting on several ballot measures. No big deal. Apple has the same right as everyone else, and has no less right to an opinion by being elected to the council.
At least one reader e-mailed his objections, questioning whether Apple was out of line for his endorsement of judicial candidate Bryan Whitaker – not for anything nice he said about Whitaker but for a label he hung on opponent, Municipal Judge Tracy Staab.
The reader suggested it was libelous, which it probably isn’t on its face. It’s a political term in the midst of a campaign, and political speech is among the most protected by the courts.Being legally protected, however, doesn’t make it correct…
If you’d like to “chat” about health care reform and you’ll be at your computer around 12:45 p.m. Wednesday, here’s an unusual opportunity:
Sen. Patty Murray and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius are hosting an “online chat” to discuss the topic. They’ll be answering questions that have either been submitted in advance to Murray’s Web site or questions that come in during the session through a special page setup on Facebook.
To watch the on-line chat live, click here between 12:45 p.m. and 1:15 p.m.
To submit a question during the chat through Facebook, click here.
For those who are philosophically opposed to joining social networking sites on which people from whom they’ve successfully hidden for decades might find and “friend” them, you can submit a question through Murray’s Web site by clicking here.
Liberal groups say they plan to attend a town hall meeting this afternoon by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers.
Their plan, as reported in a press release from MoveOn.org this morning, is “to express our support for serious health care reform and express our skepticism of her proposals.”
So it would appear the meeting could be interesting. It starts at 4 p.m. at Universisty High School, 12420 E. 32nd Ave., in the Spokane Valley.
First in the opener
And later in Weekend Update:
If the stalactite sized icicles around your sprinkler heads aren’t enough incentive, the City of Spokane has a request for homeowners.
Turn off your sprinklers.
Seems there are problems this morning with water from sprinklers running down the street, turning to ice and making slick spots on the streets. That’s apparently from sprinklers that are watering frozen ground, which, as one might imagine, does not soak up much water. For a homeowner, that might be marginally better than the alternative, which involves the water in the pipes being just as frozen as the ground, bursting the pipes and sprinkler heads and creating improptue ice sculptures.
So, to repeat, turn off your sprinklers. And drain the system to avoid frozen pipes and heads.
City Water Department also has some other cold weater suggestions, which are reprinted inside the blog. They’re the standard things, but this may be the earliest we’ve printed them.
Anyone laboring under the misconception that political debates take place on neutral turf would have been disabused of such foolishness Friday at a Proposition 4 debate.
Three members of Envision Spokane, the group trying to convince Spokane to pass what they call the Community Bill of Rights, played what sports fans would call an away game, debating before a Greater Spokane Inc. breakfast crowd of about 150.
How unbalanced the crowd was would be hard to quantify with mathematical certainty, so let’s try anecdotally: Everyone walked in the door and passed rows of blue and yellow “Vote No on Prop 4” yard signs stacked against the wall. Employees of GSI handed out cards urging “Vote No on Prop 4”. All questions to panelists from the floor were queries critical of Prop 4, which meant supporters answered first and opponents got the last word through rebuttal.
In the Arena’s Champion’s Room, which was the debate venue, feelings toward Prop 4 might have been slightly better than the attitude toward the Oregon Ducks in a Martin Stadium men’s room when the game is in Pullman. (For those who’ve never been there, let’s just say there are interesting places one finds rubber duckies.)
U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers will hold a town hall meeting on seniors’ issues Monday afternoon in the Spokane Valley.
The Eastern Washington Republican scheduled the meeting to discuss health care, Social Security and other seniors’ issues that will start at 4 p.m. at University High School, 12420 E. 32nd Ave. She mailed out some invitations on the congressional frank, but you don’t need one to show up.
Scheduled to be over at 5:30 p.m.
Just how polluted the
Among the nation’s most polluted, said supporters of Proposition 4, which asks voters to add what they call a Community Bill of Rights to the charter. One of those rights would allow people to sue on behalf of the river or other parts of the environment and force a cleanup.
The river was listed in a 2004 report as one of the most polluted in the
But supporters who cite that 2004 listing never mention that the
same group, American Rivers, listed the
“In all the years since then,
Half of the reductions would come from patrol officers, and another four would be detectives, she said. The cuts, plus a series of staff realignments, would allow the department to concentrate on what Kirkpatrick called the foundation of its mission, servicing 9-1-1 calls.
Like other city departments, police have been told to find a 4.07 percent reduction from their 2009 budget because of anticipated reductions in tax revenues. For police, that’s nearly $2 million the city will have to find in budget deliberations that begin in November and must conclude in December.
The Spokane County Republican Party endorsed state Initiative 1033, party officials said today. It fits with their view of limited government which governs least and is closest to the people, spokesman Curt Fackler said in a press release.
No telling what they’ll do about Republican elected officials at the local and state level who are urging people to vote no on the initiative for fear of what it will do to state, county or city budgets.
They also endorsed several candidates for elections this year or next. Some are not the least surprising, such as Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, who may have some of the best approval ratings in the area. Heck, the Democrats have limited prospects of an opponent in that race and would consider endorsing Ozzie if they thought could get away with it. And they’re endorsing Rep. Matt Shea, an incumbent legislator in the Spokane Valley.
Slightly more interesting is the endorsement of former Rep. John Ahern, from Spokane’s 6th District, who lost his seat to John Driscoll last year and is anxious for a rematch. Ahern has already drawn a primary opponent in Shelly O’Quinn.
Endorsements for 2009 are inside the blog
The Spokane City Council has a special meeting this afternoon to discuss a change in rules that would strip the council president of some authority.
It will come up while Council President Joe Shogan is out of town, and Councilman Al French is sitting in as council president pro tem.
The changes are described as a revision of Rules of Procedure, which the overview describes as a way “to provide greater clarity and consistency.”
But there are also some additions, such as rules governing legislative assistants, which the council now has. Each assistant will be hired and fired at the sole discretion of the individual council member, the proposal suggests.
Seems there is a tempest brewing over the one legislative assistant shared by French and Councilman Steve Corker, who worked more hours than allowed under an agreement between the city and the employees unions. Almost 300 hours more in the last year, according to memos.
Today’s meeting is primarily to put the proposal on an upcoming council session agenda.
In any case, Shogan will be attending the meeting via phone. He predicted some fireworks ahead.
Supporters and opponents of Spokane City Proposition 4 will go at it Friday morning at a breakfast debate sponsored by Greater Spokane Inc.
Prop 4 is the ballot number for a proposal that’s AKA The Community Bill of Rights. It would amend the charter in various ways, including changes for health care, wage requirements, apprenticeships, neighborhood control of development, and establishing rights for the environment.
Greater Spokane Inc. is on record of opposing it. (If pressed, some members of GSI would probably say this is about the worst thing since the bubonic plague. They might prefer a debate on whether it is slightly worse or significantly worse than the meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.) So Envision Spokane, which drafted the proposal, can probably be listed as the Away Team for this one.
But it should be entertaining, and probably enlightening. It starts at 7:15 a.m. at the Champions Room, 720 W. Mallon. Tickets range from $30 for GSI members to $55 for non members. Call Marcia Vandervert at 321-3629 or click here to sign up on-line
On the agenda are Spokane Mayor Mary Verner, Spokane Valley Mayor Rich Munson, Airway Heights Mayor Matthew Pederson and all three county commissioners.
The impacts they predict will most likely be bad. There’s no pro I-1033 people on the program, although it’s almost certain that sponsor Tim Eyman will have some rejoinder afterwards.
Non-profit agencies that work on housing and children’s issues are putting out a call for volunteers to work against a state initiative to limit government spending.
Recent polls that show Initiative 1033 with a comfortable lead has groups concerned about a loss of grant funding for programs, said Mary Ann Murphy, executive director of Partners with Families and Children: Spokane, who forwarded the request for help with a phone bank:. “I did get alarmed that perhaps people didn’t know all the implications of how this will play out.”
The sponsor of the initiative questioned whether the agencies should be campaigning for or against any ballot measure, but doubted they’d have much impact.
“If we thought it was going to be really effective, we’d be more upset,” Tim Eyman said.
U.S. Rep. Walt Minnick was a primary signer of a letter demanding that ACORN be barred from receiving any funds in the upcoming transportation, housing and urban development spending bill.
Minnick was one of 35 Democrats asking their leadership to add “no money for ACORN” language that has already passed the Senate.
It’s just one more smack to an organization that’s been taking a beating ever since workers were caught on video explaining how actors posing as a pimp and a prostitute could set up what my grandmother would have called “a house of ill repute” with federal funding.
More recently there were allegations that as much as $5 million was embezzled by the brother of ACORN’s former chief executive, but replaced and covered up. ACORN sent out a press release this morning saying “nothing could be further from the truth” than the claim of a $5 million embezzlement. That was really the possible maximum total cost of fixing things after the embezzlement, bringing in lawyers and accountants, changing policies and proceedures, ACORN officials said.
The real amount embezzled was $948,607.50, they said.
OK, the dollar amount is wrong. But it seems like zero dollars embezzled would be a truth further from $5 million than $948,607.50.
Groups opposed to the war in Iraq and Afghanistan will hold a rally this evening.
The Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane, the Gonzaga University Justice Club, Progressive Democrats of America and others will be meeting at Trent and Hamilton at 5 p.m. to hear speeches, wave banners, march and do other things one might expect at a rally.
The location is a bit of a switch from the standard anti-war rallies, which usually either start or end at the federal Courthouse at Riverside and Monroe. It may also have a younger look, considering it’s close to Gonzaga and the Riverpoint campuses.
Why today? It’s the anniversary of the start of the war in Afghanistan.
OLYMPIA — Changing Washington law to allow criminal defendants to be found guilty but mentally ill probably wouldn’t have much effect on the state mental hospital system, a high-ranking state official said Friday.
But it could add significant costs to the Department of Corrections, and taxpayers, said David Weston, the chief of mental health services for the Department of Social and Health Services.
“It could be very expensive,” Weston said in an interview after discussing mentally ill criminals with the House Human Services Committee.
A proposal the Legislature considered earlier this year would have allowed defendants to be found “guilty but mentally ill.” It didn’t pass, but is getting new scrutiny after the escape of Phillip Paul during an Eastern State Hospital “field trip” to the Spokane County Fair last month.
Weston said he believed only a few defendants who are now found not guilty by reason of insanity would be found guilty but mentally ill if the law changed. The change would have a much bigger impact on defendants who have a mental illness and are currently being found guilty.
the assessment Thursday Arun Raha, the state’s chief economist, gave the
as well as all other House and Senate committees, are gathering in
What they’ll face is a budget that’s more than $1.2 billion out of balance, even after eating up about $570 million the legislators thought they’d left last spring as an “ending fund balance.” That’s billion with a “b”, or as Ways and Means Chairwoman Margarita Prentice, D-Seattle, put it: “Pretty soon you’re talking real money, right?”
Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, in a separate interview, said she’s warned her caucus to expect another tough session with the budget – tougher than last year, because there probably won’t be several billion from the federal government in stimulus money.