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Spin Control

Archive for September 2009


What’s in a word? When the word is “lunge”, it could be quite a bit.

That’s lunge the verb, as in the Spokane Police Department’s repeated insistence that Otto Zehm “lunged” at Officer Karl Thompson the night of March 18, 2006, in an altercation that led to Zehm being struck with a police baton, jolted with a Taser, handcuffed, hog-tied, going unconscious, slipping into a coma, being declared brain dead, and eventually dying.

That word was used by Acting Spokane Police Chief Jim Nicks the night of the altercation, who had been called to the scene.“The suspect lunged at the officer during the initial contact and basically a fight occurred at that time,” he told the assembled news media.

All the bad things that happened, it seemed, sprang from that lunge.

But Nicks wasn’t there when the altercation started…

Mark your calendar

Chances to catch the candidates, and the surrogates for some of the ballot issues, in the Nov. 3 election are going to be popping up with increasing frequency. The newspaper and the Spin Control Web site will try to keep up with them as they come in, but here’s some we know about right now:
Tuesday evening: Spokane Area League of Women Voters forum for Spokane Public School Board seats, Municipal Court, State House District 9, I-1033 and Ref. 71., starts 5:30 p.m. in City Council Chambers, Spokane City Hall.
Thursday morning: Candidates for all three Spokane City Council seats debate at a Greater Spokane Inc. starts 7:30 a.m., 801 W. Riverside
Thursday evening: Candidates for Northeast Spokane Council Seat 1, Municipal Court race between Tracy Staab and Bryan Whitaker, supporters and opponents of city Prop. 4, starts 6:30 p.m. at the restored Masonic Temple, Market Street at Diamond Avenue.
Oct. 5: Spokane Area League of Women Voters forum for Spokane City Council candidates, Fire Bond, other city ballot issues, starts 5:30 p.m. in City Council Chambers.

Fri. fun video: A tie to Spokane

This is from a Web site that offers up a video of a new song every day. This one is interesting for two reasons:

1. It has an excellent message about the Internet.

2. It flashes on a Spokane “celebrity” about a 1 minute into the video.

Thanks to alert reader, former correspondent and longtime friend Reiko Tateya for bringing this to our attention.

Read all about it: voter study

Sunday’s column and post discussed a new study by Eastern Washington University’s Kevin Pirch on the differnt voting patterns of young and old voters.

Those looking for more information could check out the whole study. Find it here.

Weds. fun video: We made Leno

Not that this is necessarily the best way to get national recognition for a local news story, but Jay Leno included a mention of one of our hottest topics in his Monday night monologue.

With a “How bizarre is this?” lead-in, he mentioned the escape of Phillip Paul at the county fair last week. “Apparently he blended in with the carnival ride operators.”

If you missed it and are dying to see the whole 1-minute bit, it’s at about 6 minutes into this clip. Sorry it’s the whole show from, but it didn’t make the monologue highlights on the NBC site.

The difference between old and young (voters)

Note to candidates and campaign managers: If you’re going after voters in the upcoming election, you may want to target seniors early and hit the Gen Ys after Halloween. At least in Spokane County.

That’s one of the conclusions of a new study by Eastern Washington University’s Kevin Pirch, who analyzed last year’s voting patterns and found some things that go against the conventional wisdom.

“I was kind of surprised,” said Pirch, an assistant professor in the Government Department. “I kind of assumed older voters would hold on to their ballots longer.”

Backup plan: Stick fingers in ears. Shout la-la-la-la

Tea Party organizations in Spokane and North Idaho had rallies last week on Constitution Day - the first day of Constitution Week - to air their displeasure with government.

OK, so some group is always unhappy with government, it’s the American way.

But sometimes, government does its best to fan the flames. Take last Monday when City Council President Joe Shogan introduced the Public Forum with an explanation of procedures to an audience that included newcomers who had come to complain about an apparent crack down on medical marijuana dispensaries.

They had the right to talk, Shogan said. But members of the council aren’t obligated to listen, and may not listen at all or even consider what speakers say. How’s that for instilling warm feelings about one’s elected officials?

Does anybody know what day it is?

Don’t start a war, but feel free to speak your mind - in Spanish, if able. Toast the season with something that leaves your head clear.

That’s because tomorrow is Peace Day. This is also Constitution Week and Alcohol and Addiction Recovery Month and National Hispanic Heritage Month.

We know this because of last week’s proclamations from the Spokane mayor’s office noting calendar honorifics. Constituents of good character ask the mayor’s office for a little recognition, and decades of mayors have been happy to comply.  Proclamations are read each Monday evening before the City Council gets down to the serious business of explaining how each councilmember spent the previous week in neighborhood meetings, pancake feeds and rubber chicken lunches.

Proclamations are not a bad thing. It’s just hard to know how to judge the relative import of these events based on time alloted. Is alcohol recovery more important than the Constitution, because it gets 30 days and “We the People…” gets seven? Is peace getting the short shrift on the calendar, just as it is around the globe?

By the way, National Punctuation Day is Thursday. No proclamation yet,
but send someone you love an exclamation point, any way.

Thurs. fun video: McMorris Rodgers makes Daily Show

Not exactly what every member of Congress aspires to, but Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers has a spot in Jon Stewart’s opening Wednesday night. She’s one of the featured clips in Scoldplay, or Jackass Carrousel, in which Stewart points out that members of both parties seem to dismiss the need for an apology when it’s a member of their party that’s under fire, but want an “I’m sorry” from a member of another party.

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She’s about 2:30 into the segment.

2010 preview: GOP primary in the 6th?

We pause in the middle of this year’s election season to bring you a preview of next year’s.

There’s could be an interesting Republican primary in Spokane’s 6th Legislative District.

Former Rep. John Ahern has talked about wanting a rematch ever since he lost to Democratic challenger John Driscoll last November by 74 votes. He’s even raised a little money, despite the fact that the election is out beyond most people’s horizon, and picked up backing from some county GOP leaders.

But Wednesday, Shelly Maak O’Quinn, a fresh face in the Republican ranks, said she’d run for the seat also. 

O’Quinn, who has worked for the Inland Northwest Community Foundation, Habitat for Humanity Spokane Neighborhood Action Plan and the World Affairs Council, can count on support from at least one GOP “name.”  She’s the executive director for the Nethercutt Foundation, and has the support of her boss, former Rep. George Nethercutt.

This could get interesting.

ACORN update: Shakeup ordered

Shortly after finishing the ACORN post below, the e-mail Inbox had a press release from that national organization explaining changes it’s putting in place as a response to a series of video investigations of its practices.

It’s a press release that all but concedes the actions alleged — where actors posing as a pimp and a prostitute sought and received information from ACORN workers about scamming the government — occurred. It says there were “indefensible” actions by a handful of new, poorly trained employees. They’re shutting down parts of their operations while proper training gets done.

This is a bit of an about face from the same e-mail address that Wednesday accused the video team of “lies and manipulation.”

In the news biz, this is pretty much seen as copping to the allegations and heading into damage control mode.

The admission can be found here.

Tea time Thursday afternoon

A Tea Party gathering is scheduled for Thursday afternoon in Spokane. But don’t expect crumpets.

This is the kind of Tea Party for folks unhappy with some or all aspects of their government. It will feature syndicated radio host Laurie Roth and some local speakers, some of whom will be holding forth on the U.S. Constitution.

Because Thursday is also Constitution Day, and the beginning of Constitution Week. That’s because it’s the 222 anniversary of the signing of the Constitution.

Rally is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. at the Convention Center and Opera House, a.k.a. the INB Performing Arts Center.

Thanks for calling, but there’s no ACORN office here

There’s no ACORN office in the Inland Northwest.

Nothing in Spokane, Coeur d’Alene, Pullman, Colville, Sandpoint, Republic, Metaline Falls, Kellogg…

We could go on with the geography lesson, but we suspect you get the drift.

Some readers — some of whom might more accurately be described as FOX News viewers, because they admit they don’t actually read the paper — have been calling The Spokesman-Review newsroom this week to ask why we haven’t reported on the ACORN scandals.

Actually, the newspaper has had stories on the ACORN problems. There was one Wednesday morning. And one Tuesday morning. And one last Saturday morning. And one last Friday morning. And one last Thursday morning.

When told this, callers sometimes ask which ones were on the front page. The answer is none.

The reason? Because none of these reported problems …

On the Web: Heckling’s Top 10

Rep. Joe Wilson may be having his 15 minutes of fame for yelling “You Lie” during President Obama’s speech, but he’s not the first person to heckle a president during a speech. (And based on the direction political discourse is headed in America, he won’t be the last.)

But Buzzfeed has compiled a list of presidential speech interruptions, complete with video, that reach back to Ronald Reagan. While none of the others happen during an address to a joint session of Congress, they do show that heckling can happen at inopportune times.

Click here to see the list.

And for those of you who’d like to change the direction of discourse in this country, there’s this site, where you can plug in your own words to shots from the speech.

Obama reax from WA & ID delegations

When a president talks, congresspersons listen…and then they talk, too.

Such was the case Wednesday night when Barack Obama talked about health care reform, and members of Congress talked about Obama’s talk.

Go inside the blog to see what the honorables who represent the Inland Northwest had to say.

Whose pants on fire?

Didn’t take long for the left and the right to grab onto a two-word outburst during President Obama’s speech Wednesday night.

Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., called the White House to apologize for shouting “You lie,” when Obama was talking about health care and illegal immigrants. But some right wing blogs are defending his outburst, saying dissent is as acceptable in a presidential speech as standing and clapping. Operation Rescue and some other groups also are using the “L” word in their press releases Thursday morning.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, meanwhile, had a fund-raising appeal out first thing Thursday morning, proclaiming that heckling the president is unacceptable and asking donors’ help in raising $100,000 in 48 hours to show Wilson “that we will not stand for our president being called a liar in front of the nation.”

Disrespect has been the hallmark of the summer, the DCCC contends: “But disrespecting the President before the eyes of the nation and just at the moment when President Obama was offering his solution to the greatest challenge of our time is truly an outrage.”

OK, so Wilson’s outburst was not a classy thing to do. One should expect better of a congressman, although with the current low regard the nation has for members of Congress, that may be debatable.

But is a two-word outburst during a high-ranking politician’s talk acceptable free speech?

A court case based in Spokane would suggest that it is.

Go inside the blog to read more.

Watching with a crowd

Democrats apparently like to watch President Obama in groups.

The Democratic National Committee, through the Organizing for America campaign operation,  is organizing “watch parties” around the country to view Obama’s address tonight to a joint session of Congress tonight, including one in Spokane.

It’s at Toad Hall, 1427 W. Dean, starting at 5 p.m.

(An earlier version of this post said the speech started at 6 p.m., but that was incorrect. White House Web site says 8 p.m. Eastern, 5 p.m. Pacific.)

Are we smart or what? Well, duh

Spokane is smarter than Tacoma, Everett, Bellevue and Salem, but not smarter than Eugene or Seattle.

At least, that’s what the Natural Resources Defense Council says in its latest lists of “smarter cities,” which ranks small, medium and large cities on the environmental intelligence.

Spokane ranked sixth among medium cities, just below Eugene and above Huntsville, Ala. Tacoma may be closing in on Spokane in population, but it’s No. 54 on the NRDC. Boise? It’s No. 52.

Don’t get too big-headed, though. Seattle ranked No. 1 among the large cities.

Want to see the lists or read more about how the council came up with them? Click here.

Fagan gets Rossi endorsement

Southeastern Washington legislative candidate Susan Fagan picked up the endorsement of the Republicans’ last two gubernatorial nominees.

OK, that was just a chance to see if you were paying attention after a three-day weekend. As anyone with a working knowledge of Washington politics knows, the same person has been the GOP’s nominee for governor for the last two elections.

Former State Sen. Dino Rossi is endorsing Fagan for that empty 9th District House seat, though.

One might wonder what impact that has, considering Rossi was unsuccessful in his two runs for governor. (Unless one wants to argue that he actually was successful in 2004 but had the election stolen from him, but the statute of limitations has kind of run on that one.)

The answer, though, is potentially a big impact. Rossi got 58 percent of the vote in the 9th District last year. And with two Republicans — Fagan and Pat Hailey — on the Nov. 3 ballot, this kind of endorsement could be significant for Republicans trying to choose between the two.

An end to summer silly season?

No matter what the weather people tell you, Monday is the end of summer. The kids are back in school and most adults have burned up their vacation.

That should mean the start of serious political campaigning and the end of the summer crazies, which this year included an Idaho gubernatorial candidate talking about hunting tags for President Barack Obama, a referendum campaign trying to keep its donors names’ secret, Mayor Mary Verner getting a tattoo on television …

OK, so her honor’s tattoo is the henna variety, which fades over time. But when one returns to Spokane from two weeks off, is paying only marginal attention to the evening newscast with the TV volume on mute, and sees a fleeting glimpse of the mayor’s leg being tatted up, one can’t help but wonder if something changed in one’s absence. Has Verner decided to quit her day job and hit the road as a rapper, or is this just another “dog days of summer” TV story?

More of the latter, it turns out. Verner got temporary body art on her ankle last week as a part of a fundraiser for Cancer Patient Care, city spokeswoman Marlene Feist said. She picked out a design that features a cancer ribbon wrapped around a sword, with the words “Still Fighting.”

For Verner, who has lost several family members to cancer, support of cancer research is very personal, Feist said.

That’s admirable, if unconventional. One can only imagine, however, what other local politicians might choose for body art if this kind of thing catches on. Spokane Valley council members might have “We (heart) Spokane Valley” tattooed on some expanse of flesh in celebration of the disincorporation forces announcing, yet again, that they can’t gather enough signatures to put their initiative on the ballot. Idaho gubernatorial hopeful Rex Rammell might have the president’s face with a target applied to his chest, giving him yet more opportunities to ask why people don’t get the joke. Perennial candidate Barbara Lampert could have “Vote for Me for ___,” and use henna to fill in the blank with the office she aspires to in any given year.

The possibilities could be endless, at least during the summer doldrums. But as Jim Morrison once said, summer’s almost gone.


Disincorporation groups give up signature drive

Groups seeking to have Spokane Valley voters decide whether to get rid of the city they created earlier this decade are giving up their drive to put disincorporation on the ballot.

Susan Scott of Friends of Spokane Valley said this morning that her organization and Citizens for Disincorporation are not giving up entirely, but shifting their focus to back challengers to incumbent City Council members on the November ballot. But she acknowledged that the petition drive is over.

“We ran out of time,” Scott said. “We’re backing the candidates in favor of a change in the government we have.”

That will include Brenda Grassel, who is running against Councilwoman and former Mayor Diana Wilhite and state Sen. Bob McCaslin, who is running against Mayor Rich Munson, she said.

Dick Behm of the Spokane Valley Business Association, which was fighting the disincorporation, announced the drive was over in a press release that called for both sides to join in a campaign to create a positive image for the city. The group will continue to distribute its “We (heart) Spokane Valley” signs, designed to thwart disincorporation, as long as they last, Behm said.

Liner notes from the Supremes on muni court race

The state Supreme Court’s ruling that district court judges had the right to hear City of Spokane cases is a big relief for the folks at City Hall. But it has a little boost for one of the municipal court judges face election this November, also.

Judge Tracy Staab has drawn criticism from some quarters for not being a city resident. That’s didn’t faze the mayor or the City Council when she was appointed, but it recently drew crticism from the Spokane County Republican Party.

High court ruling reiterates the legislative standard that a judge doesn’t have to be from the city limits, but only city voters get to elect them:

“From its inception, the statutory scheme governing municipal departments provided specific procedures by which they could be staffed with judges … The statute did not limit who was eligible to be appointed or elected, but only city voters could vote for municipal judges.”

Ref. 71: Back to the courts

Whether Referendum 71 goes on the November ballot may still be in doubt.

An opposition group, Washington Families Standing Together, did what a King County Superior Court judge essentially suggested it do Tuesday, filing for an injunction in Thurston County over questions about the validity of petitions.

Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed certified the referendum for the ballot this week after announcing it had the required 124,000 or so signatures on petitions. But some of those petitions had not been signed in the required box by the people who collected them. The campaign manager for the petition drive signed some of them, others were blank.

Some of the signers also weren’t registered to vote until they signed the petition.

Both of these are potential problems Judge Julie Spector said yesterday. But they weren’t problems that she could rule on, because they were being raised before the referendum was certified. Once it was certified, Spector said, opponents would have to go to Thurston County Superior Court.

That’s what they did, quoting extensively from Spector’s discussion of the problems with the petitions. They challenge the validity of some 35,000 signatures; and the petition drive had only about 1,500 to spare.

Expect a quick hearing on this one. The clock is ticking toward the deadline for getting ballots printed around the state, and a statewide voters pamphlet.

No more waiting to exhale: Court upholds city convictions

That big sigh you heard Thursday morning was from City Hall.

It was prompted by the state Supreme Court ruling that Spokane County district court judges had the authority to try cases for the city under an agreement between the city and county governments.

The decision may have saved the city from returning millions of dollars in fines and fees.A unanimous Supreme Court upheld two misdemeanor convictions from 2005 which an appeals court had voided over questions of the judge’s authority.

The Supreme Court reinstated drunk-driving convictions for Lawrence Rothwell and Henry Smith, ruling that District Court Judge Patricia Walker had jurisdiction even though she wasn’t elected solely by city voters.

And we’re back

With the post below, Spin Control returns from a (mostly) two-week hiatus during which primary contributor Jim Camden was on vacation and furlough, and Jonathan Brunt was filling in whenever possible.

Thanks to everyone who kept the comments going during the period of “light blogging.”

Ref. 71 moves closer to the ballot

Referendum 71 should go on the November ballot. So says Secretary of State Sam Reed. So says King County Superior Court Judge Julie Spector.

Reed certified the voters’ opportunity to repeal the “everything but marriage” law Wednesday. That was pretty much a given because his office previously reported it had more than enough signatures to make the ballot. It was a close one, with only about 1,400 signatures to spare, and it made the cut by having one of the lowest rejection rates in history.

Spector rejected a request from opponents of the initiative to block it from the ballot because of questions about the way the petitions were turned in. Some of the petitions did not have the validation box filled out, which is to be signed by the person collecting the signatures. Some were turned in blank, then stamped by campaign manager Lawrence Stickney, others remained blank.

Reed accepted the petitions anyway, which is standard practice for petitions. Spector said Reed has the authority to accept the petitions for verification, and his decision can’t be challenged until after the measure is certified for the ballot. Opponents have five days to take their case to Thurston County Superior Court, which is where challenges of the petition process are handled, she said.

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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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