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Spin Control

Archive for August 2011

Obama will visit Seattle next month

WASHINGTON (AP) — A White House official says President Barack Obama will make a three-day West Coast swing next month. The president's trip will start in Seattle on Sept. 25.

He will also make three stops in California: San Francisco, San Diego and Los Angeles. Obama's trip will wrap up in Denver on Sept. 27.

The president's travel schedule is picking up again following a summer that saw him largely stuck in Washington to deal with the contentious and protracted debate over raising the nation's debt ceiling and cutting government spending.

The official insisted on anonymity because the trip has not been officially announced.

Spokesman clarifies McMorris Rodgers votes on block grants

U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers is on the record supporting the Community Development Block Grant program, yet she voted for a bill in February that would have slashed that spending by about 62 percent.

Why? We were unable to interview her or her spokesman yesterday for today's article on block grant funding. Today, we reached McMorris Rodgers spokesman, Todd Winer. He explained that the bill she voted for “was not going to become law.”

“It was to keep the process moving,” he said.

Asked if that meant she voted for a bill that she didn't support, Winer said McMorris Rodger, in fact, did support it. He noted that the block grant program was one small portion of the budget bill. He said that given the massive federal debt some good programs may have to face cuts to avoid “a Greek-like debt crisis in the next few years.”

“She thought the entire bill was moving us in a positive direction,” Winer said. “The most important thing for her was to get a bill to reduce the total amount of government spending.”

The final budget deal, which McMorris Rodgers also voted for, cut the block grant program by about 16 percent.

The budget votes in the early part of the year were made in the shadow of a potential government shutdown (as opposed to the budget votes this summer that were made in the shadow of a potential government default).

What’s the state wholesale liquor system worth?

OLYMPIA – Washington officials are trying to come up with a way to decide whether it makes good economic sense to let someone else run wholesale liquor operations in the state.

About the time they’re ready to make that decision, the voters might take it out of their hands, and turn all liquor operations – wholesale, distribution and retail sales – over to private businesses.

But if voters reject Initiative 1183 in November, the state could still turn its warehousing and distribution system over to the highest bidder next year. Then the question becomes, how do state officials decide the best deal for the state?

A special committee formed by the Legislature wrestled with a way to answer that question Tuesday ….

To read the rest of this story, click here to go inside the blog.

WA Gov’s race: Still No. 1

OLYMPIA — The 2012 Washington governor's race may have seemed pretty quiet this month to the voters who will decide it. But it remains on top of the list of gubernatorial contests compiled by Politico.

The likely matchup between Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna and Democratic U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee got a mention for the ongoing debate over Inslee's campaign funding and a brief dustup over a Dem operative being barred from a McKenna speech. It beats out races in Montana, North Carolina, Missouri and West Virginia, which are ranked 2 through 5. See the whole story here.

But the real question seems to be, if Washington can stay on top with so little going on, how terribly boring must those other states' races be?

Studying the sale of the liquor warehouse

OLYMPIA — As retail giants pour money into an intiative campaign to get the state completely out of the liquor business, a special state committee meets today to discuss cutting loose just a part of it.

The Liquor Distribution Advisory Committee has an 11 a.m. hearing, which some members apparently will attend by phone, to work on coming up with bid specifications for the possible sale of the wholesale end of the booze biz.

One problem to wrestle with: by the time the committee gets the bids out and back, voters may have passed judgment on the state's control of the liquor wholesale and retail system, and decided to turn the whole thing over to private enterprise. That's what Initiative 1183 would do.

Supporting I-1183 are Costco, Trader Joe's, Safeway and some other large retailers. Opposing it are the national wine and liquor distributors, some of the smaller grocery chains, and some unions. 

More on Verner’s clarification on city’s Employee of the Month award

When Mayor Mary Verner made a point last week of explaining the process for selecting the city's Employee of the Month, she not only released the four-page set of rules, but the list of members on the selection committee.

Two members have indirect connections to the controversy surrounding the 2006 death of Otto Zehm.

Verner, responding to a Spokesman-Review opinion column that criticized the selection in December 2010 of Assistant City Attorney Rocky Treppiedi, said last week that she does not pick the winners. Treppiedi was criticized by federal officials in 2009 for his handling of the city’s defense in a lawsuit brought by Zehm’s family. City attorneys responded that the concerns were “baseless” and accused them of trying to manage the civil case.

Treppiedi was recommended for the award by the city’s Employee Recognition Committee, Verner said. She acknowledged that she can override the committee’s recommendation, but said she never has. The rules for Employee of the Month were written in 2005.

At the time of Treppiedi’s selection, the 10-member Employee Recognition Committee, which is made up largely of representatives of city unions, included Spokane Police Guild President Ernie Wuthrich and Capt. Steve Braun.

Animal shelter tax gets boost from City Council

A unified regional animal control system won important, though qualified, support tonight from city leaders.

The Spokane City Council voted 6-1 to endorse Mayor Mary Verner’s stance on a proposed nine-year county property tax that would pay for a new animal shelter for the Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service.

Verner has told county commissioners that she will back the tax if the county agrees to let Spokane join the system for the same amount the city is paying its nonprofit provider, SpokAnimal C.A.R.E., this year (about $561,000) plus increases to account for inflation over the next nine years. The county would keep the city’s dog and cat license revenue.

“This way, we have control over our own destiny, at least for nine years,” said Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin.


Wheelabrator will manage incinerator 3 more years

City leaders tonight agreed for the second time this year to a deal that keeps Spokane’s Waste-to-Energy Plant open another three years.

The Spokane City Council voted 6-1 to approve an operating contract with Wheelabrator, the Waste Management subsidiary that has operated the plant since it opened. The city’s current 20-year deal with Wheelabrator expires in November.

Under the new terms the city will pay the company about $800,000 more a year.

An earlier deal with Wheelabrator fell apart after county officials said it included costs to pay for plant upgrades that aren’t needed within the years that the contract includes. County commissioners hope to leave the city-managed system in three years.

Osama T-shirt logs controversy

AP photo

Hoquiam's annual city festival, Loggers Playday, is generating more than usual interest this year because of a T-shirt that's being sold as a fundraiser.

The shirt, Osama Bin Loggin, features a drawing of an extremely muscular logger, American flag tattoo on his right shoulder, holding a log with the Al Qaeda leader tied to it. It may not be the cleverest play on words in the 10 years since 9/11, but it's not the worst, either.

The design has prompted some fiery back and forth on its appropriateness on the festival's Facebook page, with some people calling it racist and way for others to conclude that Hoquiam is a “hick town”, while others suggest the critics have sticks in body parts not designed for sticks, and that people who don't like the shirt, should just not buy it.

The festival is Sept. 10, so some reference to what happened 9 years and 364 days earlier may have been inevitable.

So what do you think: A good design or way out of line? Click comment and weigh in.

CDC lists top causes of death

The Centers for Disease Control released its annual ranking of what kills Americans, which is grim reading at best, and the No. 1 killer  — again — is heart disease.

Because of the time it takes to compile data from all over the country, it should be noted that heart disease was the No. 1 killer in 2007, so it's possible, although not likely, we're taking better care of our hearts. Cancer was No. 2, and between them, they accounted for about half of all deaths that year, as the did in 2006.

The Top 10 actually didn't change much, although there are some interesting differences between men and women. For example, the No. 3 killer of men was accidents; women apparently are much more careful, because that was No. 6 for them, and only about half as many women died of accidents as men.

Men were also nearly four times more likely to commit suicide as women. Intentional self-harm was the No. 7 killer of men, but No. 15 for women. Alzheimer's disease, and its complications, claimed twice as many women as men; it was No. 5 for women but No. 10 for men.

The full report, which is grim but inciteful, can be found here.

DNR map shows fire risks

If you're headed out for a camping trip in Washington this weekend, and wondering about the fire danger levels in the place where you'll be pitching a tent, the state Department of Natural Resources can tell you with the click of a mouse button.

It has an interactive Burn Risk map, which lists the fire danger in each of Washington's 39 counties.Click on the county where your camp site will be, and it will tell you, low to very high, the fire danger rating.

 Although to be fair, there's a burn ban throughout the state until Sept. 30, so where ever you go, there are going to be restrictions against piling up logs an a flat piece of ground and holding a gigantic bonfire. Camp fires, where allowed, have to be in fire pits, and they'd prefer if you'd cook on stoves, if it's all the same to you.

Sunday Spin: Medical marijuana laws growing hodge podge

OLYMPIA – Whether she realized it or not last spring when wielding her “partial veto” pen, Gov. Chris Gregoire has prompted a hodge podge of pot laws around the state and a fair amount of confusion among the cities.

In Seattle, where possession of a small amount of marijuana is less likely to bring public condemnation than drinking mediocre coffee, medical marijuana dispensaries are being told to register as businesses, pay their taxes, meet building codes and comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. But be advised: No smoking laws apply to smoking medical marijuana, too.

In Spokane, dispensaries are being raided by federal agents. There is a city ballot initiative supporting medical marijuana on file with the City Clerk, although sponsors managed to miss all deadlines for making this year’s ballot.

In Ellensburg, people who want medical marijuana are told to get a permit, grow it in an indoor collective garden that can’t be observed from public places and not within 300 feet of schools and other “youth oriented facilities.”

Castle Rock and Shoreline have some temporary rules for collective gardens while Issaquah, Kent, Kirkland, Maple Valley, Snohomish and Tukwila have temporary moratoria on such operations. Pullman might go the moratorium route this week….

Legislative pay cut: Some say yes, some say no

OLYMPIA – About half of the 15 members of the Spokane-area legislative delegation have volunteered for the same level of pay cuts the imposed on state workers. That’s a level slightly better than legislators statewide.

Many who have done it, like Rep. Kevin Parker, R-Spokane, say it’s a personal decision.

“As a businessman, the buck starts and stops with me,” said Parker, who owns a chain of coffee shops. “It’s the same with us as legislators.”

Parker’s seatmate in Spokane’s 6th District, Republican John Ahern, said he doesn’t plan to ask for a pay cut, but he is donating 3 percent or more to charities, ranging from his church and the Boy Scouts to organizations that oppose abortion like Teen-Aid.

“This way I know exactly where the money is going,” Ahern said. If he took a pay cut, the money would stay in the state’s general fund, and go to state programs or agencies he doesn’t support….

To read the rest of this item, or for a list of the Spokane-area delegation's decisions on a voluntary pay cut, click here to go inside the blog

McNamara Doyle named PDC exec director

OLYMPIA — Andrea McNamara Doyle, an attorney who has held posts on several environmental boards for the state, was named executive director of the Public Disclosure Commission Thursday.

McNamara Doyle will succeed Doug Ellis, who has been interim director since March 2010, when Vicki Rippie retired. She has worked for state agencies and legislative committees, was a member of the Davis Wright Tremaine law firm in Seattle and served as a member of the Pollution Control Hearings Board, The Shorelines Hearings Board and the Land Use Hearings Board.

As the head of the PDC's staff of 20, the agency's spokesperson and the liaison between the agency and the governor and Legislature, she'll earn a salary of $113,000.

The other finalist for the position was Alan Rathbun, the licensing and regulation director for the state Liquor Control Board.

Today’s fun video: Straight from Gadhafi’s room


This proves that almost anything can be mixed into a song on the Internet.

And that Moammar Gadhafi's hat may be the coolest bit of headware of 2011.

What’s up with the Supercommittee?

So what's the Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, aka the supercommittee, doing two weeks after it got set up? Tons of stuff, according to co-chairpersons Patty Murray and Jeb Hensarling.

Engaging in serious discussions. Deciding on the rules.Setting a schedule. “And exploring how to build a committee staff that will help us achieve success” the Washington Democrat in the Senate and the Texas Republican in the House said in a joint statement today.

Oh, and committee members and staff are “eager to engage one another as we begin our work.”

Good thing, too, considering there's only three months left before the committee's recommendations for cuts or taxes is due.

Want to read the full statement? Click here to go inside the blog.

Full McMorris Rodgers meeting schedule

U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers' office released a full schedule of public meetings she'll have over the next week, finishing with a town hall meeting on Aug. 31 in Spokane.

Before that, she'll be having smaller meetings her staff calls “Coffee with Cathy” in Walla Walla, Clarkston, Newport and Davenport. Those meetings are open to the public with invitations sent to people who have contacted her congressional office on different topics.

For a full schedule of the meetings, click here go inside the blog.

Taking sides, kicking in bucks on I-1183

OLYMPIA – This year’s ballot measure to get state government out of the liquor business is shaping up as another multi-million dollar fight that will pit one of Washington’s largest discount retailers against alcohol wholesalers.

Also taking sides are the state’s grocery stores, with some big national chains like Safeway backing the proposal and some regional chains like Rosauer’s working against it.

To read the rest of this post, click here to go inside the blog.

McMorris Rodgers schedules town hall meeting

U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers will hold a town hall meeting at 6 p.m. on Aug. 31 in Spokane.

The Eastern Washington Republican's staff, which said it has been working for several days to nail down a time and place, announced this afternoon the meeting would be  held at the Lincoln Center, 1316 N. Lincoln Street.

It is the only town  hall meeting set for the August recess period. But a spokesman said McMorris Rodgers is planning four smaller meetings around the district known as “Coffee with Cathy”, with invitations sent to people who have contacted her office on different topics.  

The first Coffee session is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Thursday at the Port of Walla Walla conference room, 310 A St.

The Fairness Doctrine is kaput

The Federal Communications Commission announced this week it is purging its books of all outdated and unused rules. Among them is the Fairness Doctrine, which ceased being a doctrine some 20 years ago.

In days of yore, the Fairness Doctrine was something that required a television or radio station to present matters of “public interest” and to present opposing views on those matters.

Strong supporters or opponents of a controversial topic often invoked it when they believed the other side had been given unfair advantage in some type of coverage.

What killed the Fairness Doctrine wasn't a proliferation of whacky activists lined up to spout nonsense or a pile of obtuse ballot measures that needed 20 minutes to explain and 40 minutes to rebut.

Nope, what did it in was cable.

One key element of the doctrine was that the federal government licensed broadcasters, and the number of channels was limited. So for the right to have one of those precious licenses, a broadcaster had to agree to spend at least some time that wasn't tied up with soap operas, game shows and sitcoms. So they did public interest programming, and presented opposing views, and kept records to show anyone who might be challenging their license renewal.

Then along came cable, with a bazillion channels and public access programming. Suddenly, almost anyone could find a vehicle to bloviate on almost anything. The FCC voted to eliminate the doctrine in 1987, and the courts upheld that decision. But it remained on the books until this week, when the commission did some housecleaning of its rules and regs.

Kucinich: Get up and march, Seattle

U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich might not be thinking of running for Congress in Washington state if he gets redistricted out of his seat in Ohio. Then again, he might.

The Ohio Democrat was in Seattle over the weekend, speechifying at a popular progressive venue. Hempfest.

Kucinich delivered a speech he's calling “The Seattle Declaration”, in which he called for listeneners to engage in protests to:

End wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya and bring U.S. troops home;

Abolish nuclear weapons.

Repeal the Patriot Act

Protect abortion rights

Demand equal rights for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and trangender individuals

Institute public-funded elections

Save the earth from drilling, fracking and polllution

Legalize marijuana.

He hit almost all the liberal high notes in a speech of about nine minutes. That last one is pretty much a given considering it was, after all, HEMP-fest, and not all the hemp products in use were twisted into rope. Some of his listeners were probably in no shape to get up and march at the time.

His campaign organization is putting a video of the speech on its website.

As previously reported, Washington was one of the states that was supportive of Kucinich's presidential campaigns, and  may be on a short list of states to which he might move and run for Congress if his Ohio district disappears.

Filling an independent seat

OLYMPIA — The death of a Mason County commissioner has created a wrinkle in the usual process for filling an opening.

Jerry Lingle, who died over the weekend, was elected last November after listing his preference as Independent Party. But there's no established Independent Party in Washington, and other candidates in the primary listed the two major parties as their preference.

Had he been elected listing his preference as Democrat or Republican, that party's structure in Mason County would have nominated up to three replacements.

“Unless either of the political parties in Mason County tries to claim that they 'nominated' Mr. Lingle during the last election (which sounds unlikely since six candidates originally filed) the remaining two commissioners can take names from the general public for the appointment, Elections Co-Director Katie Blinn said. “They will not take three names from a party.”

Instead, the commissioners will take names from the general public and have 60 days to make the appointment. If they can't settle on one candidate, the governor has 30 days to make the appointment.

Whoever gets the nod must run for election next year, because it's too late to put the vacancy on the 2011 ballot, Blinn said.

Not much of a grading curve

Washington state got an F in initiatives last week.
Not that the state enrolled in Ballot Measures 101 or anything. We graduated with a degree in initiatives and referendums in 1914, when state residents added that power to the constitution.
But the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, a Washington, D.C., group which bills itself as a place that “strengthens democracy by building a national progressive strategy for ballot issues”, annually grades states for the kinds of changes it thinks the states should make to “ensure the integrity of their initiative process.” It has looked at our laws and determined that we don’t rate. For the third year in a row.
Don’t be smirking over there, Idaho. You got an F, too.
In its 25-point test, Washington got graded down for not having 14 of the things the center thought a good state should have. Things like keeping folks from re-running the same initiative for at least three years or requiring notarized affidavits that all signatures are gathered within the law or banning companies for paying people based on the number of signatures they gather. They have some interesting and even debatable ideas, which could be why the Legislature has debated many of them, but never approved them.
Chances are good some Washington progressive groups will propose legislation along those lines again next year.
But those groups might want to think twice about citing Washington’s failing grade from the Center as a reason to change state law. In grading all 24 states that have the initiative process, the Center flunked half, gave out one B, one C, and the rest Ds. That’s not a curve, it’s a slope like a ski jump.
Most teachers who turned in a grade book like that would be answering questions about what was wrong with their methods, not with their class.
Seems like a more honest way to grade initiatives might be to give states that don’t allow them an F, and work up from there. Just sayin.

Council Prez race: the good, the bad and the undecided

The Spokane City Council President race would appear to be a toss up, particularly in many North Spokane precincts where a clear favorite has yet to emerge.
No duh, you might say, considering that winner Dennis Hession got only slightly more than a third of the vote in a four-person field.
But Spin Control does not make such prognostications lightly. Instead, we employ the very best of computer science and data analysis to confirm what you may already suspect: That Spokane voters seem less sure of their selection for the person to run council meetings for the next four years than the person to run the city.
Hey, some days, running the council is a real chore, but the city pretty much runs itself….

Verner numbers holding up

(Click on map to enlarge)

Not much changed between the votes counted on election night and the later tallies of ballots that were mailed in or dropped off in ballot deposit boxes at the beginning of the week.

Mayor Mary Verner continues to lead all challengers in most of the city's precincts, as the map above shows.

For updated maps of the Council President Race vote totals, check below.

Council Prez Race: Newest Hession numbers

(Click on map to enlarge.)

Vote totals from the Thursday evening ballot count.

Council Prez race: Newest Stuckart numbers

(Click on map to enlarge.)

Latest vote totals from ballot count on evening of Aug. 18.

Council Prez race: Newest Corker numbers

(Click on map to enlarge)

Vote totals from evening count of Aug. 18.

New vote totals. Same results

Spokane County Elections Office released the tallies from Thursday's ballot counts, which are pretty much right in line with everything we've seen so far.

Spokane Mayor's Race: Mary Verner 59 percent, David Condon 33 percent, everyone else, less than 8 percent.

Spokane Council President: Dennis Hession 37 percent, Ben Stuckart 30 percent, Steve Corker 27 percent

Spokane Council Position 1: Mike Fagan 29 percent, Donna McKereghan 24 percent, no one else close enough to change that.

Spokane Valley Council Position 6: Marilyn Cline 40 percent, Ben Wick 25.5 percent, John Baldwin and Lewis Higgins both out of it with around 16 percent.

Spokane School District Director Position 5: Deana Brower 38 percent, Sally Fullmer 30 percent, everyone else far out of the money.

Spokane City Prop 2 (the only one that was even close):, is still at 51 percent yes, 49 percent no.

There's an estimated 1,200 ballots remaining. Those and any others that straggle in by mail will be counted on Aug. 30/

Dying to see the full details? Click here to go inside the blog.

Murray actually does do budgets

Sen. Patty Murray is getting flak from all sides after her appointment as co-chairman of the budget cutting supercommittee.

Republicans and government watchdog groups continue to complain that she's also the head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which has as its sole raison d'etre the raising of money for the electing of Democrats to the Senate. It's a reasonable complaint that will probably only be silenced if the committee comes back with budget proposals that go against entrenched interests AND pass Congress.

But Grover Norquist, the leader of Americans For Tax Reform — which gets candidates to sign pledges to never, never, never raise taxes, ever — levelled one that seemed a tad uninformed in a recent issue of The New York Times.

“The lady from Washington doesn't do budgets,” Norquist reportedly told the Times.

As genteel as it is for Norquist to refer to Murray as a lady (a term that probably sends some of her feminist supporters up a wall) the real problem is that the premise just isn't true. She's on the Budget Committee. She's on the Appropriations Committee. She has been and continues to be the head of Appropriations subcommittees. The main criticism of her by opposing Republicans has been that she uses the budgeting system too well and taps it with earmarks. That requires strong knowledge of the system, not a lack of knowledge of the system.

One must allow, of course, for the prospect that a commie, pinko publication like the Times misquoted Norquist — on the budget part, if not the lady part. But if not, researchers for Americans For Tax Reform might want to try a Google search before firing their next salvo.

Council Prez race: Where they’re strong and where they aren’t

Unlike Spokane's mayoral race, which has a clear favorite based on the primary results, the council president race is a more interesting mix of support around the city for the top three candidates.

As things stand now, former Council President and Mayor Dennis Hession would face political newcomer Ben Stuckart in the November general. Councilman Steve Corker is third in the Top Two primary, and will have to make up ground on Stuckart in the later vote counts. (Update: With almost all the ballots counted, it's clear that Corker will not make up that ground.)

But maps (found below or by clicking the links on the names) of the candidates' support, based on the first round of ballot counts, shows the three have different strongholds.

Hession, not surprisingly, ran very strong on the South Hill, where he's lived for years and where his base of support was in previous successful runs for city council and council president. He actually won outright some of the heaviest voting precincts on the hill, as well as the Logan District precinct that incluldes Gonzaga University, and ran strong in the far northwest sections.

Stuckart did well on the South Hill where ever Hession didn't, basically below 29th around Manito Park and east of Rockwood Boulevard. He did OK in some parts of northwest Spokane, but not so well in the northeast.

Corker did better north of Interstate 90, both in his Northwest Spokane Council District 3, and in much of the the northeast, but poorly in much of south Spokane. The problem for Corker, as candidates discover in most Spokane city races, is that doing well in the northeast district doesn't usually help you as much — voter registration and turnout are lower there than other parts of Spokane, so you wind up running behind in a citywide race. 

Council Prez Race: Hession’s showing

(click on map to enlarge)

Dennis Hession is currently first in the Spokane City Primary for council president. This map shows the percentage of the votes he got in each city precinct.

Click to return to story

Council Prez Race: Stuckart’s showing

(click on map to enlarge)

Political newcomer Ben Stuckart is currently in second place in the City Council President primary. This map shows his vote percentages in the city's precincts based on the election night tally.

Click to return to story.

Council Prez Race: Corker’s showing

(click on map to enlarge)

Spokane City Councilman Steve Corker is currently third in the primary for Spokane City Council President, based on the count of ballots on election night.

Click to return to story.

Verner beat the field in most precincts

(Click on map to enlarge)

By now, everyone knows that Spokane voters like to chew up mayors and spit them out after one term, so Mary Verner's ability to win the primary is noteworthy.

But just how noteworthy might be best shown by the above map of precinct results, which shows that she didn't just beat second place finisher David Condon in enough precincts to place first. She actually beat the field — all challengers' vote totals combined — in all but 11 of the city's 123 precincts.

And in 12 precincts, she beat the field by more than 100 votes. Condon outpolled Verner in seven precincts, but in six of them, she got more than 40 percent and the vote for the other three challengers was negligible.

One way to look at this — and it's much more likely that Verner will look at it this way than Condon — is that right now, the voters who want to keep Verner far outnumber the ones that want to replace her with anyone else.

Seattle voters dig the tunnel

While Spokane voters were sorting through 11 different ballot measures on a wide range of changes, Seattle voters had one big ballot measure to confront: Whether or not to replace the seismicly challenged Alaskan Way Viaduct with a tunnel.

It's a nasty debate: Sort of the North-South Freeway controversy grafted to the Lincoln Street Bridge fight, pumped up on steroids, and hooked on crack. Or so it would seem from reading the various news and opinion sources in Pugetopolis. 

Apparently, the good citizens of Seattle have had enough. They backed building the tunnel with roughly a 60 percent vote in the early returns.

Gov. Chris Gregoire, a backer of the getting on with the tunnel, issued a somewhat restrained press release: Seattle voeters sent a message loud and clear with this vote — enough is enough. After 10 years of debate, hundreds of public meetings and technical studies and thousands of public comments it is time to move forward without delay.”

This being Seattle — where taking another look at things is a civic trait just like in Spokane — “without delay” might be a bit optimistic. But the vote could take much of the steam out of the tunnel foes.

David Condon is no Jim West

David Condon opened his campaign declaring that Mary Verner was no David Rodgers (the last mayor to win a second term).

On Tuesday night, Condon offered some reasons for hope for his campaign, comparing his run to Jim West's 2003 bid for mayor.

Condon said the gap between him and Verner likely was attributable to voter turnout in primaries that often favors incumbents.

“Just a few years ago, when Jim West ran against the incumbent, he got 31 percent (of the vote) and went on to win,” he said.

It's hard to fault Condon for offering conflicting analyses when just confronted with the gulf he has less than three months to close.

But there are flaws in Condon's comparison.

Spokane primary voters have not been favorable to incumbent mayors, at least in the last two mayoral primaries. In fact, Verner last night became the first incumbent Spokane mayor in the strong-mayor era to a majority of the primary vote. John Powers came in third, thus losing his reelection bid in the primary in 2003. Dennis Hession had enough support to advance to the general election in the 2007 primary, but he barely came in first place, with 34 percent of the vote.

Condon is correct that Jim West took 31 percent of the primary vote in 2003. The big difference was that in that crowded field, 31 percent was enough for first place. Condon won 32 percent of last night's vote, but Verner won 61 percent.

To reach the 50 percent mark in November, Condon not only needs the votes cast for the three candidates who lost, Mike Noder, Barbara Lampert and Robert Kroboth. He needs to change the minds of many who supported Verner. That is a task that's much more difficult than what West faced in 2003.

So as far as his run for mayor is concerned, David Condon is no Jim West.

Note: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated Hession's 2007 primary finish.

OFM looks at the initatives

OLYMPIA – Washington would collect more revenue if an initiative to privatize liquor sales passes, but could pay more for road projects if another ballot measure on toll roads succeeds.
That's the best estimate of the Office of Financial Management, which recently released its analyses of the three measures headed for the Nov. 8 ballot…

To read more about the analyses, and for links to the reports, click here to go inside the blog.

Unusual voting stat

A quick check of turnout through this morning at the Spokane County elections office reveals the following:

Turnout for the City of Spokane as a whole is 23 percent, which is nothing to write home about.

Turnout is lowest in the Council District 1, the Northeast District. It's at 19 percent, with slightly  more than half as many ballots turned in as the other two districts. Statistically, that's not a huge surprise, because District 1 usually  lags behind the other two council districts, and there are about 11,000 fewer registered voters in that district compared to the others.

What's unusual, however, is that District 1 has a council race on the ballot; it's the only district that has a council primary. So even with that incentive, turnout remains low.

There's still time to turn that around, though. Ballots can be marked, sealed and deposited in drop boxes until 8 p.m. Click here for a list of drop boxes throughout Spokane County.

Or you could put a stamp on the envelope and mail it, but take it to the post office to make sure it's postmarked today.

Name from the past: Roger Crum

Spokane Valley hired an interim deputy city manager this week who may sound a little familiar to the folks in the city just to the west.

Roger Crum.

Crum worked for the City of Spokane for 22 years, was deputy city manager for 11 and city manager for five, ending in mid 1996 when he took the city manager's job in Evanston, Ill.

He was part of a management team — Terry Novak, then Crum, then Bill Pupo — that ran City Hall from the late 1970s to the late 1990s when the city switched from the council-manager form of government to the strong-mayor system.

Apparently his connection to the city of Spokane was not a disqualifier for the Valley job.

Today’s fun video: The media diss Ron Paul


Regular reader and longtime local activist Jon Tunig wrote this morning to decry the fact that the national media seems intent on ignoring GOP Presidential candidate and Texas Congressman Ron Paul.

He's correct, and probably no one is better at smacking down the national media than another Jon — Jon Stewart. This clip is from his Monday night show, which had several good bits on the Iowa Straw Poll. But this was by far the best.

Expect only one vote count tonight

Today is Washington's primary election.

If you want to vote, you must cast your ballot by 8 p.m. by dropping it in a ballot drop box, or in a mailbox that is certain to be collected in time to get postmarked with today's date.

Spokane County Elections Manager Mike McLaughlin said he expects to release only one vote count tonight. That should happen around 8:15 p.m. Stay tuned to for results.

As of Monday, the county had received only 17.6 percent of the ballots that were mailed county-wide. In the city of Spokane, that figure was about 19 percent (21,453 of 113,080 ballots). Turnout in Spokane Valley as of Monday stood at 16.6 percent.

As city deals with more revelations in Zehm case, Verner campaign points to ombudsman

Mayor Mary Verner latest campaign newsletter picks a topic fresh in the news: police oversight.

Last week, Verner's campaign stressed her support for creating a police ombudsman position at City Hall. The week before, a filing in federal court detailed the position of Assistant Police Chief Jim Nicks related to the death of Otto Zehm, who died in police custody in 2006. Nicks has told federal investigators that Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. violated department use-of-force policies and that detectives failed to thoroughly investigate Zehm's death.

Verner has indeed been on record supporting the creation of the position for some time, but she hasn't always pushed for the kind of independent, full-time ombudsman that was envisioned in a 2007 report commissioned by the city.

In 2008, Verner said that instead of hiring a full-time ombudsman, she planned to contract out for an ombudsman on an as-needed basis because of the city's budget problems.

In a meeting with journalists in March 2008, Verner explained that a full-time ombudsman wasn't necessary.

“I don’t really think that we need an in-house, full-time employee for an ombudsman,” Verner told reporters. “I really believe that with Chief (Anne) Kirkpatrick’s leadership and the evolving good working relationship between the guild and the chief that we would have a Maytag Repairman on our hands.”

Verner's position, however, had changed when she unveiled her 2009 budget plan, which included money for a full-time ombudsman, and her newsletter is correct that she conducted a nationwide search in an open process when she hired Ombudsman Tim Burns.

Since Burns started work, some council members pushed to give Burns the power to conduct investigations separately from police. Verner initially opposed that effort, and said that it was too soon to change Burns' powers and that doing so would require negotiations with the Spokane Police Guild.

Verner argued that during an economic downturn, her goals for Police Guild negotiations were for concessions to save jobs and service over gaining more police oversight authority. Verner signed the ordinance boosting Burns' authority after the council passed it unanimously. Next week, the council will consider revoking the ordinance in response to an arbitrator who ruled that the city should have negotiated the rules with the guild.

That action, along with the ongoing federal case against Thompson, will keep police oversight one of the top issues of the campaign even after Tuesday's primary.

Regence fined for IUD policy

OLYMPIA — The state's second largest insurance company was fined $100,000 for improperly denying coverage to women seeking to remove a common birth control device.

Regence Blue Shield was also ordered to reimburse 984 women across the state for the cost of removing the intrauterine devices, the state Insurance Commissioner's office said.

Regence had a policy that paid for the insertion of an IUD, but wouldn't pay for its removal unless it was deemed “medically necessary.” That meant claims were denied for women who wanted their birth control device removed because they wanted to become pregnant or because the device was outdated.

Three women appealed the denial to the insurance company, but when they were denied again didn't take it any further. A fourth woman complained to the Insurance Commissioner's office, which ruled Regence's policy was violated a policy dating to the beginning of 2002 that requires insurance companies that cover prescription drugs must cover contraceptives and the procedures necessary to remove them.

The office reviewed Regence records back to 2002, and found 984 cases where women were improperly denied coverage. The company was ordered to reimburse them, with interest, at a cost of nearly $150,000. That's on top of the $100,000 fine the insurance company was ordered to pay the state.

Possible Irony Alert: 9/11 edition

Among the e-mails in the inbox this morning was a missive from The Simplicity Creative Group which is touting products to commemorate the tenth anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001.

They have a new line of “We Remember” items for sale that featured the phrase “Never Forget” along with an image of the twin towers. Among the items featuring that phrase: temporary tattoos.

Today’s fun video: Raising money for the debt

This isn't the best Barack Obama impersonation ever, but it is kind of a clever idea.


Obama's Kickstarter Campaign to Solve the Debt - watch more funny videos

Time is running out to cast that ballot

Tuesday at 8 p.m. is the deadline for casting a ballot in the primary election. Remember under the current ballot system, there are two ways to get your vote in on time.

You can mark it, seal it, sign the outer envelope and put it in the mail — with a stamp — so that it is postmarked by Tuesday evening. If you hold onto it until Tuesday afternoon, you should take it to the post office to make sure it's postmarked by the deadline.

Or you can mark it, seal it, sign the envelope and deposit it in one of the drop boxes set up by county elections. In Spokane County, drop boxes can be found at most public libraries and some other sites. They're listed inside the blog.

Also inside is a list of Voter Service Centers, where you can get a replacement ballot, use a special voting machine for persons with disabilities, or vote a provisional ballot as well as drop off your ballot

76 candles for the Soc Sec cake

Happy Birthday to you. Happy Birthday to you. Happy Birthday Social Securityyyyyy…

The nation's pension program marks its anniversary today. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the law setting up Social Security on Aug. 14, 1935.

That means Social Security has been eligible for Social Security for 11 years now. Contacted at its workplace, a small desk in the basement of a large government office building in Washington, D.C., it insisted that it was feeling fine and wants to keep working. 

Sunday spin: Palin not much of a draw

Sarah Palin may not be much of a draw in Spokane.

That’s one conclusion – and a charitable one, at that – to draw from an event a little more than a week ago at The Bing Crosby Theater featuring the new biographical movie about Palin. Planned as a chance to raise money for charities, food for Second Harvest Food Bank and pet supplies for Spokanimal, it was a disappointment, said organizer Mike Noder.

“The Undefeated”, which is not to be confused with the 1969 John Wayne/Rock Hudson horse opera of the same name, is playing to limited release and generally scathing reviews around the country. But if ever there was a place not beholden to the slings and arrows of the lamestream media, it should be the Inland Northwest. Palin is, after all, one of our own, having been born in Sandpoint and graduating from the University of Idaho before making her way back north to Alaska – which, come to think of it, is another John Wayne movie…

To read the rest of this item, go inside the blog.

Sunday spin2: I am shocked — shocked! to find gambling going on

Reporters have been known to bet on almost anything, from when a jury will come back to which candidates will win the races they are covering.

It’s a tendency that even some professional gamblers find appalling. So when a Craigslist ad offered a cash prize for the best handicapper of Tuesday’s mayoral race, it caught some eyes in the newsroom.

Even more curious, the referenced website seemed to be that of Mike Noder. But a closer look showed that it wasn’t his mikeforspokane site, but a mocking site, mike4spokane, set up by someone he describes as a former friend turned critic.

To be fair, the mike4 site is close to being an equal opportunity annoyer of all five candidates. The photo of Mary Verner looks like it was shot by the photographer who did Michelle Bachmann for Newsweek, and the shot of David Condon makes his head seem as round as a balloon. The other three candidate’s photos are so out of focus as to be almost unrecognizable.

Only 13 people found their way to the site and left a prediction before the contest closed. The average: Condon 40 percent; Verner 38 percent; Barbara Lampert 9 percent; Noder 7.5 percent and Robert Kroboth 3 percent. Actual results may vary.

Reed: Don’t dilly-dally. Get your ballots in

OLYMPIA — Secretary of State Sam Reed is trying to goose voter interest a bit by suggesting that folks shouldn't wait until the last minute to cast their ballots.

In a press release Friday, Reed urged voters not to miss wait until the “fast-approaching deadline” but to “get their ballots in so they are definitely counted.

At the same time, he acknowledges that turnout in an off-year primary such as this is “normally tepid.” Some voters don't even have a primary — including everyone in Franklin and Wahkiakum counties.

For the record, the deadline is 8 p.m. Tuesday for your ballot envelope to be postmarked, or to be dropped in a deposit box. It is worth noting that if you're going to mail your ballot on Tuesday, you probably should take it to the post office to make sure it gets postmarked in time.

For a list of Spokane County drop box locations, click here to go inside the blog.


Today’s fun video: A 2-hour debate in 4 minutes


If you missed last night's GOP presidential candidate debate on FOX, from Ames, Iowa, here's a highlight reel courtesy of TalkingPointsMemo

GOP challenger for McKenna

OLYMPIA — Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna may be the most prominent, best known and best-funded Republican running for governor. But he is not the only one.

Shahram Hadian, an Everett minister, is in the race, and making a cross-state campaign swing this week from Walla Walla to Tacoma.

A native of Iran who came to the United States just before the shah fell, then moved to Canada, then back to the United States, Hadian touts his unique background. That point is pretty hard to argue. He converted from Islam to Christianity, travels the country warning of the dangers of radical Islam and Shari'ah law, led the fight against scantily clad barristas in Everett, where he now lives.

His political experience is a bit thin. He ran for the state House of Representatives in 2010, in the 44th District, for the seat held by Democrat Hans Dunshee. Hadian finished a distant third in the primary, which is not much of a springboard for a statewide race.

But like all good beginning candidates, he has a website. Those so inclined can read more about him here.

Although he's got a website, an artsy logo, a Facebook page, a Twitter account, he apparently hasn't gotten around to filling out his Public Disclosure Commission registration form. But we're sure that'll be coming soon.

State economist: Risk of recession increasing

OLYMPIA — Washington's economic outlook for the current budget cycle has gone from cautiously optimistic to “a sinking feeling of pessimism,” the state's chief economist said Thursday.

“The risk of the economy slipping back into recession has increased significantly,” Arun Raha said in the latest economic and revenue update.

In June, Raha was confident that Washington and the rest of the United States would avoid a “double dip recession” and that growth would continue, although slowly.

Since then, debt problems have spread beyond in Europe, the U.S. government barely avoided a default on U.S. bonds but couldn't escape a downgrading by a major rating agency, and consumer confidence “is in the tank.”

State job growth hasn't been as strong as projected, the single-family housing construction sector remains flat, banks and local governments have been laying off workers and about the only manufacturing sector growing is aerospace.

Oh, and by the way, state revenue collections are down about $9 million below forecast since June.

The next full revenue forecast is due in mid September. A significant drop in projected revenues could lead to a call by some legislators for a special session to make deeper cuts, sooner.
State agencies already were ordered to identify ways they could cut their budget by as much as 10 percent.

Council president candidates have nearly exhausted campaign funds

No matter which two candidates emerge from Tuesday's primary for City Council president, it looks like they'll have a lot of fund-raising work left to do, according to the latest filings with the state Public Disclosure Commission.

Ben Stuckart and Steve Corker have nearly tapped their campaign chests, and while Dennis Hession had about $6,000 left (at least according to information available this morning), that's not much for a city-wide general election.

Candidate says he can’t comply with state law

A candidate for Spokane City Council is continuing to decline to show his campaign finance books even after acknowledging Thursday that state law doesn't appear to give him the flexibility to refuse to show them in the week before an election.

Chris Bowen, who is running for the seat held by City Councilman Bob Apple, has told the state Public Disclosure Commission that he's spent $18,000 on his campaign, but he hasn't filed any paperwork saying where he got it.

In response to a reporter’s interview request, Bowen emailed last week that he would not share information about his fundraising.

“Thank you for your interest in my election books,” he wrote. “State law requires that the books are to be shown by appointment. All appointments have been filled for this primary election.”

This morning, he said, he called the commission and learned that the law wasn't as flexible as he thought. Still, he said, there's so much interest among the public to see his finances that he is completely booked for the times set out by state law: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday (Aug. 8) to Monday (Aug. 15) excluding Saturday and Sunday. The primary election is Aug. 16.

He refused to name anyone who has requested to see his books. Asked how many people have requested to see his paperwork, Bowen said: “Quite a few, I haven't added them all up yet.”

Asked if this reporter could attend one of his already scheduled appointments, he said it would be too difficult to show his books to multiple people at the same time.

He said he believes he isn't violating the law because it's impossible for him to grant any more inspections.

“What am I supposed to do?” he said. “Perform miracles?”

Who makes what in WA state government

OLYMPIA — The biennial “Who makes what” list for state employees is out this morning, and at the top of the list are the football and basketball coaches at the University of Washington.

The first 55 slots for total compensation among all state employees went to coaches, administrators, professors or other staff at state universities and colleges, according to a list released by the state and arranged on a spreadsheet by the Washington Policy Center. At No. 56 was the first non-college-related state employee, Gary Bruebaker, the chief investment officer for the State Investment Board, who received $303,581.

Gov. Chris Gregoire, by comparison, received $166,890. That puts her 955th on the list of state employees, which includes more than 150,000 names.

To read the rest of this item, click here go inside the blog.

Want to search for the salary of someone you know? Click here to go to The Spokesman-Review's searchable state salary database.

Council may add two more questions on ‘Community Bill of Rights’

Spokane voters could get a hint from the Spokane City Council when deciding the fate of a citizens’ initiative on the November ballot.

The Spokane City Council will consider on Monday the addition of two nonbinding questions for the November election. The two proposals would ask voters how the council should respond to Envision Spokane’s Community Bill of Rights if it’s approved: Raise taxes or slash services.

The questions are the same as ones posed to voters two years ago when Envision Spokane first placed a Community Bill of Rights before voters. Envision's list failed in a landslide.

Envision Spokane leaders, who attribute the big defeat in 2009 in large part to the advisory questions, say adding them to the ballot again is meant only to turn voters against their initiative.

“It just proves that the system needs to change because they can in a stroke of a few minutes influence what we did over months of a hard work,” said Brad Read, president of Envision’s board.

But City Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin said not putting the questions on the ballot may give voters the impression that there no longer is a cost associated.

“I believe that we need to stay consistent with the message that Prop 1 may potentially cost the taxpayers a great deal of money.” McLaughlin said.

Read said that changes made in the new proposal should eliminate fears that the city would have to shift tax money to cover rights listed in the Envision’s proposal.

Removed from the 2009 Community Bill of Rights are stipulations that would have required the city of Spokane to guarantee residents affordable preventive health care, affordable housing and affordable and renewable energy.

Murray to be co-chairwoman of debt supercommittee

Staff and wire reports
WASHINGTON — Sen. Patty Murray will be the co-chairwoman of a powerful “supercommittee” charged with finding more than $1 trillion in deficit cuts this fall.
The Washington Democrat was one of three named Tuesday by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. He also appointed Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts and Max Baucus of Montana to the panel.
In a prepared statement announcing the appointments, Reid said Murray's years of experience on the Budget and Appropriations committees “have given her a depth of knowledge on budget issues and demonstrated her ability to work across party lines.”
The three issued a joint statement calling the committee’s work “long overdue to step beyond the partisanship and politics that have overwhelmed these discussions for months.”
Kerry and Baucus are two of the Senate's most experienced legislators, Reid added. In naming the trio, the Associated Press noted he bypassed Democrats like Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad who have been more forceful in advocating curbs on Medicare spending and Social Security benefits.
Washington state and national Republicans were quick to denounce Murray's selection. Even before the appointments were official, but after they had leaked out from congressional sources to hit political websites, state GOP Chairman Kirby Wilbur contended Murray's selection proves Reid wasn't taking debt reduction seriously.
“Appointing Senator Murray as the co-chair of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction is like asking a fox to guard a hen house,” Wilbur charged in a press release. “Senator Murray has absolutely no history of cutting spending, ever.”
(That's right, Kirby Wilbur just called Patty Murray a fox, which is probably inappropriately sexist…but, we digress. To read the rest of this post, click here to go inside the blog.)

Murray on debt supercommittee

Washington Sen. Patty Murray is being named to the national debt reduction supercommittee, according to unnamed sources quoted by Politico, the National Journal and the Associated Press.

Murray's staff  just confirmed it by sending out the press release from the office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Even before that confirmation, the Washington state Republican Party was already saying that this was a terrible, awful, no good, really bad appointment.  It's like asking a fox to guard the henhouse, state chairman Kirby Wilbur said.

So there's something we never even thought we'd hear:  Kirby Wilbur thinks Patty Murray's a fox.

It’s no longer just Costco money on I-1183

OLYMPIA — We may have to stop calling Initiative 1183, the ballot measure that would get the state out of the wholesale land retail liquor business, “The Costco Initiative.”

The proposal now has another source of funding: Trader Joe's.

Costco is by far and away the biggest source of cash for I-1183, and this will be the discount giant's second attempt to change state liquor laws in a way that would allow it to sell and possibly distribute liquor in its stores.

Costco has put roughly $1,082637.40 in cash into the campaign. And that doesn't count more than $1.2 million it chalked up through in-kind contributions for things like employees who were paid for their time manning the signature gathering tables in the stores or the national petition gathering firm it hired on the way to setting a record for the fastest qualifying signature campaign in state historyo.

Late last month, Trader Joe's tossed $50,000 into the pot. So as of July 26, it became the 98 percent Costco initiative. The date May 26 on the PDC form, is wrong, but of course we all figured that because no one would let a check for 50K sit around for two months before taking it to the bank. 

So what does this mean? Maybe if I-1183 passes, Washington residents won't have to pay a fee and join Costco to get a really good deal on booze.

Today’s fun video: Dow drops on trading baby

It was bound to happen. Even a stock-trading baby can drop a bundle, so to speak,  in a big downturn in the Dow.

Council eases tax subsidy rules for Kendall Yards

Tax subsidies will flow to Kendall Yards even if the developer of the 78-acre project does not seek public bids on construction of streets, sewers and other public infrastructure.

The Spokane City Council on Monday voted 6-1 to amend the tax-increment financing agreement it has with Kendall Yards to make the change.

Councilman Jon Snyder said state rules that he supports which prevent tax money for schools from being diverted to development make Washington’s tax-increment financing program less effective.

Allowing Greenstone to forgo public bidding is “a creative way to solve that challenge,” Snyder said. “We’re talking about a piece of dirt that has resisted development for 40 years.”

Kendall Yards is a highly-anticipated residential and commercial development on the north bank of the Spokane River in the West Central neighborhood. The land used to be the home to railroad tracks that were torn out as part of urban redevelopment related to Expo ’74.

The politics of water rates

What might be the most curious thing about the current City Council debate on water rates is the timing.

Here the council is debating what may be the biggest political hot potato of the year even though ballots are sitting on kitchen tables ready to be marked in time for Tuesday's primary election.

If anyone questions the political ramifications of the rate boost proposals, consider this: Two mayoral candidates were in the audience Monday night: Mike Noder and David Condon. (Condon, by the way, said he has concerns about the proposed increase and would have voted against it.)

Council observers are used to politicians proposing a rate freeze in election years and more quietly asking for increases out of the election cycle. The chart showing percentage increases over the last decade clearly points to election-year hesitation on rates among mayors and councils.

But Mayor Mary Verner has gone ahead with steep proposed increases in water and sewer this year despite this being an election year. Not only that, the debates on the water and sewer rates were scheduled for this summer — in time to be considered by voters. Until last year, the council voted on utility rates along with the city budget in December.

So why the change?

Verner was angered by the council's decision last year to increase sewer rates by more than she had proposed to balance its decision to reject her administration's proposed water rate increase. She accused the council of playing with the rates out of concern for the utility taxes they generate for services like parks, police, fire and libraries. As a result, she and some council members opted to set utility rates for 2012 well before the council approves the budget to avoid setting utility rates to generate utility taxes.

And don't forget that as a candidate for mayor in 2007, Verner accused Mayor Dennis Hession of playing politics when he proposed rate freezes for 2008. Verner has said if former leaders hadn't balked at increases, she wouldn't be in the predicament of asking for boosts like the proposed 8 percent request for water.

Council rejects water rate boost

The Spokane City Council tonight unanimously rejected a nearly 8 percent increase in water rates, but that doesn’t mean bills won’t rise next year.

A majority of the council appeared to favor raising revenue by increasing fees to boost water revenue by an amount equal to what was requested by city administrators, but those members apparently disagree on how best to do that. A rejection of Council President Joe Shogan’s request to delay a decision for a week to examine competing proposals doomed the water rate plan for the night.

“It means we go back to the drawing board and try to bring back something that will give us four votes,” said Utilities Director Dave Mandyke, referring to the minimum number of council members who must agree in order for proposals to pass.

Figure out cuts of 5% and 10%, agencies told

OLYMPIA – State agencies will prepare plans to cut their budgets by as much as 10 percent as Washington braces for the prospect that the next state economic forecast could be worse than the last one.
Orders were sent Monday to agencies that rely on the state’s general fund to identify what they would cut if their budget was reduced by 5 percent, and what they would cut if it was dropped another 5 percent beyond that.
Marty Brown, director of the Office of Financial Management, said the instructions are indirectly related to the ongoing federal debate over raising the debt ceiling. But the fact they came on a day when the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped more than 600 points was a coincidence, he added.
“I wish we were that well-prepared,” Brown said when asked about a link to the stock market plunge…

Just in time for summer temps: A snow survey

With temperatures in the mid 80s and sunny skies this week, the Community Assembly's Public Safety Committee has a few questions for you about — what else? — snow.

Actually, it has 27 questions for you.

It's the assembly's official Snow Survey for 2011, asking what you thought of the city's snow removal policies for last winter. And no, the first question is not, do you remember if the city had a snow removal policy, or even snow, last winter?

But it does ask whether you understood your responsibilities under the Snow Removal Plan. (“I'll have my attorney review them and get back to you” is not an option provided.))

Or whether cars that are improperly parked during snow emergencies should be towed or their owners fined. (“The cars should be incinerated and the owners shot” are options that could have been included.)

Or whether you would like the city to stop leaving a snow berm in your driveway. (“Yes, please leave a berm on which I can build a chair lift and practice my downhill techniques” would have been a good choice to list.

If you've been dying to tell the city what you think of its snow removal operations ever since those first flakes fell, here's your chance. The survey can be found here.

City Council may add ballot measures against Bill of Rights

The Spokane City Council will consider next week adding a pair of ballot measures to the Nov. 8 ballot to ask voters whether they want the city to cut programs or “pursue additional funding sources” if the Community Bill of Rights passes.

For those not fluent in the language of government-speak, pursue additional funding sources is a polite way of saying “raise taxes.”*

Similar provisions were added to the 2009 ballot when the previous incarnation of the Community Bill of Rights was before the voters. So expect a similar explanation from supporters on the council that they just need some advice from voters on how to pay for the CBR, should the voters pass it so late in the year, what with all the preparations underway at the time for the 2012 city budget.

Expect, too, some vocal protests from Envision Spokane, the sponsors of the CBR. In 2009, they prepared a legal brief against the add-on  ballot measures, saying it was an attempt to prejudice voters against the one CBR.  But they never filed it.  Kai Huschke of Envision Spokane said there's no decision yet on whether to file the challenge this time if the council repeats the 2009 maneuver.

So it could be deja vu all over again, on multiple levels, including the short  notice of the added ballot propositions, which weren't mentioned by any councilmembers when they voted  unanimously to put the Community Bill of Rights on the ballot last Monday. (OK, so they didn't have a choice in the matter because Envision Spokane followed the rules and gathered the required signatures and submitted their petiions. Not putting it on the ballot, as some people suggested, would have left the council open to a legal challenge.)

But even though there was some minimal grousing about the CBR, council members didn't suggest during that meeting they thought voters the “advisory measures” should also return to the ballot.

The council will have to decide next Monday on whether to lard the ballot with the two extra propositions. The deadline for adding something like that to the ballot is a April 16.


* What? You thought it meant take turns on a street corner with a tin cup and accordion or drill for oil in Riverfront Park?

WA state agencies told to find cuts

OLYMPIA — State agencies were told to come up with plans to cut as much as 10 percent from their budgets because of “the distinct possibility we will face further revenue losses.”

A message to state directors from the Office of Financial Management said the June economic forecast projected some growth in the second year of the biennium. But the near-term economoic outlook has weakened since then, OFM Director Marty Brown said.

Because of that, Gov. Chris Gregoire wants agencies to prepare a list of “first-priority reductions” that would cut 5 percent from their budget, and a list of “second-priority reductions” that would cut an additional 5 percent.

The proposed cuts were needed to prepare the 2012 supplemental budget.

Sunday Spin: Get ready for Round 2 on Bill of Rights

Conspicuous by their absence last Monday were leaders of Greater Spokane Inc., when the City Council voted to place the latest version of a Community Bill of Rights before voters.
That shouldn’t be taken as a sign the business community is okey-dokey with the ballot measure.
The council had no choice in the matter, as some members made clear. Envision Spokane gathered the necessary signatures to put a charter change on the ballot, and that, pretty much, was that.
Two years ago, there was a bit more in play. . .

Lampert drills down on the varmint issue

Some candidates, particularly novices, have an annoying habit of announcing a vague stand for or against something when they kick off their campaign, and never refining, clarifying or elucidating it later.
Not so with City Council Candidate Barbara Lampert. She came out four-square against varmints when she began her campaign. Her latest campaign literature, a 3.5 inch by 8.5 inch door insert, brings the issue into sharp focus. Eliminate skunks. Lessen the squirrel population. Eradicate crows. Decrease marmots.
It is possible that Lampert, a perennial candidate who has run for something or another for the last 15 years, knows not to make a rookie mistake.
It’s unlikely, however, she’ll get much support from those who like their furry or feathery friends. Sure, skunks can be smelly, squirrels annoying and crows obnoxious. But marmots? They’re cute.

Fagan publishes false endorsement

Spokane City Council candidate Mike Fagan has listed a couple of surprising endorsements on his campaign website: Endorsements given to his opponents (one of which is false).

“It is our understanding that opponent L. Tolley was endorsed by the Unions, and opponent J. Waite was endorsed by Amber Waldref,” his website says.

Waldref, a city councilwoman who beat Fagan to win her seat in 2009, confirmed Thursday that she hasn't endorsed John Waite or any of the other five candidates in the race for the open Northeast Spokane City Council seat and won't at least until after the primary.

Fagan said Friday that the information was “erroneously passed on to me by a trusted person.” He said he would remove the information from his site. It was still posted as of 11:30 a.m.

(The statement about candidate Luke Tolley is accurate. He got the nod of the Spokane Regional Labor Council.)

What do you think of the job Congress is doing?

Pollsters ask that question quite a bit, just as they ask people what they think of the job the president is doing.

In five separate polls, disapproval rating is at 80 percent or higher. The lowest ever according to the New York Times poll; pretty near the bottom says Gallup.

You can read more about the poor polling results here.

But that's not the surprising thing. It seems that the real surprise is where the pollsters found 10-15 percent of people who say they approved of the job Congress is doing.

Spokane GOP to oppose Community Bill of Rights

The Spokane County Republican Party voted this week to oppose a Spokane City Charter amendment going on the ballot in November.

On Monday, the City Council voted to place the Community Bill of Rights on the Nov. 8 general election ballot after Envision Spokane, a local citizen action group, turned in more than enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. Unlike 2009, when a longer proposal from Envision Spokane also qualified for the ballot, the council has no apparent plans to add some “poison pill” measures to the ballot ahead of the current CBR.

A day later, the GOP's executive committee voted to work against the ballot measure, contending it will “strip Citizens of their property and business rights, while burdening City government with costly mandates that will further cripple the City’s ability to provide services.”

The two political parties usually stay out of the nonpartisan candidate races — with some conspicuous exceptions over the years — but often weigh in on ballot measures.

To read the proposed Community Bill of Rights, click here.

From the Census: Same-sex households in WA and ID

Washington has more than 24,000 households headed by same-sex couples and Idaho has about 3,200, based on recently released data from the 2010 Census.
An analysis by the Williams Institute at the UCLA Law School says King County has the most highest number of same-sex couple households in Washington and the highest rate for every 1,000 households, with Vashon and Seattle leading the list of cities among those households. In Idaho, Ada County and Boise have the highest number of same-sex households but the highest rate, nearly 14 of every 1,000 households, is in Benewah County.
Neither Spokane nor Kootenai County show up on any of the “top five lists.”
Three of four households in Idaho and four of five in Washington are not raising children, the institute said. Almost three-fourths of those households in Idaho are headed by women. In Washington the split is a bit more even, with 60 percent headed by two women and 40 percent by two men.

FAA fight could create INW problems

Inland Northwest airports may have major construction projects knocked off track by a congressional fight over the Federal Aviation Administration.

A $3.3 million grant to finish the major runway reconstruction at Spokane International Airport and a nearly $1 million grant for a building at Coeur d’Alene airport are in the bill that is stalled because of disagreements between House Republicans and Senate Democrats.

The grants aren’t part of the dispute, which primarily involves subsidies to rural airports and collective bargaining rights. But until the bill passes, the money can’t be released and many FAA workers other than air traffic controllers are on furlough…

To read more of this story, go inside the blog.

FAA fight felt in Spokane, CdA

The fight between House Republicans and Senate Democrats over Federal Aviation Administration is being felt at Inland Northwest airports.

Spokane International Airport is worried about a $3.3 million grant to finish its runway enhancement, and getting the new instrumentation calibrated by the FAA, because the folks that do the calibrating are on furlough.

Coeur d'Alene Airport is worried about a nearly $1 million grant to build a structure for its Air Rescue and Firefighting vehicle.

The grants and funding for FAA employees are on hold because the bill is stalled, and Congress isn't due back until Sept. 7.

We'll have more on this story in Thursday's print and online editions.

Today’s video: Rep. David Wu resigns

Debt ceiling vote is over.

So is Oregon Democratic Rep. David Wu.

Today’s fun video: What kind of a baby?

Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., may have thought he was making a clever literary reference. He apparently didn't realize the connotations.

Lamborn later apologized.

Third state initiative makes Nov. 8 ballot

The third and final initiative in the blocks for the Nov. 8 election cleared the signature stage Monday night.

Initiative 1163, which requires training and background checks for home health care workers, turned in some 340,000 signatures, which was a cushion of almost 100,000 over the required amount. It had a better than average invalidation rate on signatures in the spot checks, the Secretary of State's office reported.

So state wide voters have a chance to vote on privatized liquor, road tolls, and home health care requirements.

Spokane city voters will also have a Community Bill of Rights charter amendment on that ballot. The Spokane City Council moved that measure to the ballot at its Monday night session. You can read this morning's story on that decision here.

Community Bill of Rights, Round 2

Envision Spokane's second attempt at a Community Bill of Rights may be the highlight of tonight's Spokane City Council meeting.

The council has a  hearing set near the end of its regular 6 p.m. session for the proposal, which can be found here.

Envision Spokane obtained enough signatures to put the proposal on the Nov. 8 ballot, so the council doesn't really  have much choice in the matter. Not having a choice about something and not having anything to say about it are two very different things for the council.

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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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