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Spin Control

Archive for July 2011

Sunday spin: The American people want…what?

It was difficult to catch any member of Congress on the television last week who wasn’t talking about doing what the American people want.
The American people, it seems, want them to cut the deficit, increase jobs, not to raise taxes and to balance the budget. Or to stimulate the economy, increase jobs, and make the wealthy pay their fair share. (You can guess which parties’ members say which.)
Just how members of Congress divine the wishes of the American people isn’t always clear. Elected officials dare not listen too closely to polls, for fear of being accused of holding their finger to the political winds and then being blown in that direction. It’s also possible to get just about any answer one desires from a poll by the way one words the questions.
There was a time when they’d check their mail. Not personally of course, but Washington is magnet for eager young interns who come hoping to change the world and get issued a letter opener and a desk in a small dark room. Later, interns would check voice mail and the fax machine.
In the 21st Century, they also check the congresspersons’ Facebook page, their Twitter account and the e-mail inbox, all of which provide more immediate communication than paper, pen, an envelope and a stamp ever could.
Except, of course, when cyberspace fails…

WA gov race goes nuclear

OLYMPIA — The likely leaders in Washington's 2012 governor's race “went nuclear” today, although on slightly different aspects of the nuke waste issue.

Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna, the likely Republican nominee for the job, announced in Seattle that he was filing new court action over the federal government's decision to step away from the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository. He filed a writ of mandamus with the federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., arguing that the Department of Energy is improperly “withholding action” on finishing off the repository.

“It’s the federal government’s responsibility to clean up Hanford,” McKenna said in a prepared statement. “This lawsuit seeks to compel the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to immediately resume consideration of the application to build and operate a repository at Yucca Mountain.”

U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, the leading Democrat for the nomination, meanwhile laid into a special commission set up to figure out what to do about nuclear waste. The Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future (yes, blue ribbon is part of the official name) released its draft report on nuclear waste with some really terrific recommendations — find a repository site through a “consent-based approach” build a permanent repository promptly, build at least one interim repository promptly, do some innovative stuff in nuclear energy. 

Thanks for the hard work, Inslee said, but the report is “deeply flawed” and will lead to the United States wasting billions of dollars more.

“The Commission declares that a lack of community support killed Yucca and that a new ‘consent-based approach’ for future facilities is required,” he said in his prepared statement.  “The Commission admits that a consolidated geologic disposal facility is the solution, but seems unable to admit that a solid, scientifically assessed site already exists which could mean billions more in cost for ratepayers.”

So it would seem McKenna and Inslee agree on at least one thing: Washington should get to ship the nuclear waste at Hanford to Nevada, and keep it there for centuries.

Local reps get some air time on the debt



Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who is often behind House Speaker John Boehner at public statements, was out front on CNN Thursday night being interviewed on the GOP plan by Piers Morgan.

Who? You know, the guy with the British accent who replaced Larry King. (He manages perhaps the worst pun ever on a serious subject in his introduction, but maybe that's what they mean by dry British wit. At least he doesn't wear a different pair of suspenders every night. Or should we say braces?)

Coming up on the tube: Idaho Republican Rep. Raul Labrador's staff says he will be on “Meet the Press” this Sunday.

Appeals court unrolls toilet paper decision

Hardly anything is so common, yet goes so unnoticed, as toilet paper, a federal appeals court notes.

And yet a dispute over toilet paper — actually over the pattern on toilet paper, which may go even less noticed — was worth a court case that generated some 675,000 pages of record, an appeal, and now, from the 7th U.S. Court of Appeals, a decision:

That is, that the diamond design on Georgia-Pacific's Quilted Northern is functional, and therefore can't be trademarked, so Kimberly Clark did not infringe on the trademark with its diamond shaped quilted design on Cottonelle.

Seriously. They went to court over this. And some folks wonder why the court system is clogged.

But what the case really created was perhaps the best-written, or at least most entertaining, court ruling on toilet paper, ever, full of some pretty good puns (better than the one  in the previous paragraph) and a sign that while the court took the case seriously, it did not necessarily take itself too seriously. It can be found here.

WA gov race: We’re No. 1?

Although the election is still 15 months away, Washington's gubernatorial race has a lofty ranking of No. 1.

On the Politico list of top governor's races in the country.

The political website put the match between Attorney General Rob McKenna and U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee at the top of the best 10 state executive races for 2012, even though it notes there is no current polling.  It was No. 1 in June and No. 2 in May.

Today’s fun video: House GOP pep talk


When talking to House Republicans about an upcoming deficit reduction plan, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy reportedly showed members this scene from the movie “The Town” to get them to fall in line.

Out of context, it may work fine. In the context of the movie, however, it does seem strange, considering the characters here are bank robbers who are about to go beat the bejeezus out of someone. While the House GOP might want to metaphorically beat congressional Democrats and President Obama, they clearly wouldn't want to be seen as robbing the nation's bank.

It may surprise no one out there that Ben Affleck was not pleased the movie was associated with the GOP solution to the debt crisis. But hey, you never know what a clip from your movie will be used for. And it may prompt some Republicans to order it on Netflix or rent it from Redbox, so he really can't complain.

Stil, there might be better movies to excerpt for an inspirational GOP moment. George C. Scott's speech at the beginning of “Patton” comes to mind. If it were up to you, what would you show?

No surprise: Liquor initiative makes the ballot

OLYMPIA — An initiative to turn wholesale and retail liquor sales over to the private sector qualified for the ballot, state elections officials said Wednesday.

Initiative 1183, sometimes called the Costco initiative because the discount retailer is among its most ardent supporters, passed a random check of its petitions, David Ammons, a spokesman for Secretary of State Sam Reed said.

It joins I-1125, which would limit tolls and fees on roads, bridges and ferries. Elections officials begin a spot check of petitions Thursday on a third initiative, I-1163 which would require training and background checks for home health care workers.

All three initiatives submitted enough signatures that they were likely to qualify for the ballot.

Ballots are in the mail

Ballots for the Aug. 16 primary are in the mail, and should be showing up in the boxes of registered voters this week. Spokane County officials said they were sending out some 200,000 to voters around the county.

But not every voter will get a ballot because not every city, town or political district has a race with enough candidates to require a primary.

For example, the 4th District State Senate race is not on the ballot, even though it features two Republicans, incumbent Jeff Baxter and former state Rep. Mike Padden. Because primaries are no longer partisan, and because they are the only two candidates to file for the seat, the race will be decided in the Nov. 8 general election.

The City of Spokane has a primary for mayor and council president, but only voters in the city's northeast 1st District have a primary for in a council race. Only one Spokane Valley council race has enoung candidates to warrant a primary.

Ballots can be mailed back by Election Day (be sure to put a stamp on the envelope) or deposited without a stamp in a drop-off box at public libraries and other sites around the county. For a list of sites, click here.

Today’s (not so fun) videos: Who goes over the cliff?


Pushing people over the cliff to patriotic strains has become the “in” thing for advocacy groups in their commercials. Or maybe the most cliche' thing.

First it was the Agenda Project, objecting to Rep. Paul Ryan's budget, with a grandmother in a wheelchair being pushed over a cliff.

Now Students for Solvency, which used to be a campaign organization for the presidential aspirations of Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels until he gave up those aspirations. Now they are lobbying for debt reduction, and have the above copycat commercial/answer in which they push a “baby” in a stroller over a cliff.

People, people, people. Can we please work on a new metaphor? Or at least work on our special effects?

In the interests of equal time, the original granny over the cliff video can be seen inside the blog.

Today’s prediction: Fireworks ahead on ombudsman

This doesn't take a crystal ball or Karnak the Great: The city of Spokane and some of its citizens groups are headed for a heated fight over the current police ombudsman's ordinance.

The Center for Justice and others today are urging the city to appeal a recent arbitrator's decision that the expanded powers for the ombudsman had to be negotiated with the Police Guild. The council, meanwhile, is considering whether to repeal the 2010 ordinance that expanded those powers and go back to the previous configuration.

Read the full story about it here.

That’s Ambassador Locke…

Gary Locke officially trades his commerce secretary hat for one that says “U.S. ambassador to China”.

The Senate unanimously confirmed his appointment to the post in Beijing. Here's the story on the main webpage.

Dear Congressperson…

President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner both suggested contacting Congress in speeches Monday.

That's fine. Contacting your congressperson is a right guaranteed under the First Amendment freedom to petition the government for redress of grievances. But exercising that right now may prove difficult.

One of the most common ways to send such a message is by e-mail, with a link found on a member of Congress's website. But Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers' website was down for at least half of the day, her spokesman reported.

“There was too much traffic on account of the Boehner and Obama speeches,” Todd Winer said. “It pretty much crashed the system.”

Websites for Washington Reps. Doc Hastings, Jaime Herrera Beutler, Dave Reichert and Adam Smith, and Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson were also down for much of the day.

Members of local progressive groups, including, staged a protest outside McMorris Rodgers’ Spokane office at noon Tuesday. When one of the protesters told a McMorris Rodgers staff member her efforts to send an e-mail to either Boehner or Majority Leader Eric Cantor have been met with a “permanent failure” message, the staff member said GOP leadership e-mail servers had been down for more than a week.

Winer said he wasn’t aware of problems with leadership e-mail, and suggested calling Boehner or Cantor’s offices. A call to the speaker’s office was routed to patriotic music with an intermittent message to hold for a staff member who didn’t pick up for more than 10 minutes. A call to Cantor’s office asked the caller to leave a message, then connected to a voice mailbox that was full.

Kind of makes you wonder, though. Members of Congress say they are listening to the American people, and responding to their wishes. If the American people can't get their make their wishes known threw one of the easiest and most ubiquitous forms of instant communication, how can they back up that claim?

Fighting over signature fraud

OLYMPIA — Last week's allegations of signature fraud on petitions for Initiative 1163 have sparked a little  back and forth between the intiative campaigns.

For those not in rapt attention, the folks hired to pay for signatures for I-1163, which would reinstitute training and background checks for home health care workers, found some petitions that didn't pass muster. The details of what exactly are wrong with them, and who collected the supposedly bogus John Hancocks, hasn't been released yet. But the petitions were yanked from the stack by PCI Consultants and never turned in.

The Service Employees International Union, sponsor of the initiative, was quick to denounce any perfidy, but others noted that SEIU was a big proponent of legislation earlier this year to tighten up signature-gathering requirements for almost everyone…except unions.

Initiative entrepreneur extraordinaire Tim Eyman weighed in, saying that the SEIU has led the charge to clean up the system, yet “in 13 years and 13,778244 signatures, the secretary of state's office has had zero instances of verified forgeries or fraud EXCEPT from the SEIU — one of their volunteers last year and now their paid petitioners this year.”

Wait a minute, said Kristina Logsdon of the Ballot Initiative Network. The legislation was supported by a broad coalition, not led by SEIU. And there was another case involving one of Eyman's initiatives: I-985 in 2008. In that case, a mother and daughter from Spokane were charged with submitting phony signatures; the daughter agreed to testify and the mom took a plea.

Questioned about his selective listing of fraud cases, Eyman said he was being very specific. The bad petitions from Theresa Dedeaux were never turned in to the secretary of state's office by Citizen Solutions, Inc., the firm hired to collect signatures for 985. They were spotted by the pros and pulled out of the stacks, then flagged for elections officials.

But that's essentially what PCI did this year on I-1163. To be fair, if you mention one, you pretty much have to mention both.

Eyman also contends it's not fair to tie the Dedeaux antics solely to I-985. They were gathering signatures for lots of intiatives in 2008, he said; the folks at Citizen Solutions were the ones that caught them.

Possibly. But no one will ever know because of the very fragmented system that signature gathering sometimes engenders.

Mercedes Dedeaux was a subcontractor for her mother Theresa, who was a subcontractor for longtime signature gatherer Dennis O'Shea, who was a subcontractor for Citizen Solutions. O'Shea tipped Citizen Solutions about Theresa's questionable petitions; he never even turned in Mercedes' sheets.

Theresa later told investigators that O'Shea told them to fill in the phony names, which seems odd since he was the one that exposed them. But O'Shea committed suicide before the investigation even began, so there's no one to contradict her story.

In any case, there are two things one can say about signature fraud involving initiatives: There's more than one case. The problem isn't common or rampant.

Lawsuit challenges supermajority for taxes

OLYMPIA – A coalition of House Democrats and education advocates are asking the courts to void the supermajority required for tax increases, arguing that it’s an unconstitutional limit on legislative authority.
State Republicans and the sponsor of initiatives that have repeatedly resulted in voters imposing that two-thirds majority quickly denounced the lawsuit as ignoring the will of the voters.
Tim Eyman, who had another such initiative certified Monday for this November’s ballot, said the suit could boost that measure. It could also provide campaign fodder for Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna, who as state attorney general will have the task of defending the supermajority requirement in the courts.
“This is going to bode well for us,” Eyman said of Initiative 1125. “It’s an extraordinary gift they’ve given to the McKenna campaign.”

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

Spokane City Council candidates debate marijuana law

The following was asked on The S-R's candidate questionnaire. Candidate Chris Bowen declined to submit a questionnaire. Here are the answers, which were allowed to be up to 150 words, from the five other people hoping to replace Bob Apple and represent Northeast Spokane on the council.

Would you support a law, modeled after a law in Seattle, to make misdemeanor possession of marijuana by an adult the city’s lowest enforcement priority?

Continue reading the post to find out their answers.

Spokane City Council candidates debate streetcar plan

The following was asked on The S-R's candidate questionnaire. Candidate Chris Bowen declined to submit a questionnaire. Here are the answers, which were allowed to be up to 150 words, from the five other people hoping to replace Bob Apple and represent Northeast Spokane on the council.

Do you support asking voters for a sales tax to build a streetcar or trolley system in central Spokane?

Continue reading the post to find out their answers.

Spokane City Council candidates debate global warming

The following was asked on The S-R's candidate questionnaire. Candidate Chris Bowen declined to submit a questionnaire. Here are the answers, which were allowed to be up to 150 words, from the five other people hoping to replace Bob Apple and represent Northeast Spokane on the council.

Do you support the sustainability plan promoted by Mayor Mary Verner, which was adopted by the Spokane City Council in 2010? Do you support the decision of former Mayor Dennis Hession to sign the U.S.Conference of Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement?

Continue reading the post to find out their answers.

Spokane City Council candidates debate tax breaks for businesses

The following was asked on The S-R's candidate questionnaire. Candidate Chris Bowen declined to submit a questionnaire. Here are the answers, which were allowed to be up to 150 words, from the five other people hoping to replace Bob Apple and represent Northeast Spokane on the council.

Do you support tax incentives for historic renovation? Do you support tax incentives for building condos and apartments downtown and in certain neighborhood centers?

Continue reading the post to find out their answers.

Spokane City Council candidates debate union rules

The following was asked on The S-R's candidate questionnaire. Candidate Chris Bowen declined to submit a questionnaire. Here are the answers, which were allowed to be up to 150 words, from the five other people hoping to replace Bob Apple and represent Northeast Spokane on the council.

The city recently has lobbied the Legislature to amend state law regarding binding arbitration so that if contract negotiations stall between the city and a union representing firefighters or police officers, an arbitrator could consider additional factors when setting wages and benefits, such as a city’s ability to pay and to maintain a reserve fund. Do you support this change to state law?

Continue reading the post to find out their answers.

Spokane City Council candidates debate sewer fees

The following was asked on The S-R's candidate questionnaire. Candidate Chris Bowen declined to submit a questionnaire. Here are the answers, which were allowed to be up to 150 words, from the five other people hoping to replace Bob Apple and represent Northeast Spokane on the council.

City officials increased sewer charges by 17 percent last year and predict more increases the next few years in large part to pay for nearly $650 million for projects required by the state to improve sewage treatment and prevent untreated sewage from spilling into the river. Do you support sewage fee increases that could top 10 percent in each of the next couple of years? If not, what would be your preferred alternative?

Continue reading the post to find out their answers.

Compare the candidates

Ballots for the Aug. 16 primary will be mailed next week, and The S-R's Election Center is up and running.

That means voters can examine, campare and contrast the positions of Spokane candidates in the answers they submitted in our candidate questionnaire.

All candidates for Spokane city office were given the questionnaires on June 16. They were due back July 5.

Candidates for mayor were asked 30 questions. Candidates for City Council president were asked 25 and candidates for City Council were asked 20.

Only two chose not to participate: Robert Kroboth and Chris Bowen. Kroboth refuses to interact with the media. Bowen said he would not fill out the questionnaire because he believes he hasn't been treated fairly by The S-R.

In the next few days, I'll compile some of the answers to some questions for the City Council's Northeast seat. But you don't need to wait for Spin Control to read the answers, the questionnaires already are fully accessible at the Election Center.

Light blogging ahead on Spin Control

Spin Control won't have its usual volume of posting for the rest of the week.

Jon Brunt will be blogging as time allows from Spokane, but Jim Camden is out of the office and away from all the fun at the Capitol.

Spokane council finalizes massive annexation

Spokane city boundaries will expand by nearly 10 square miles on Jan. 1.

The Spokane City Council on Monday unanimously approved the city’s West Plains annexation, which includes the Spokane International Airport. Monday’s vote was largely a formality. The city, Spokane County and Airway Heights negotiated the annexation deal and gave preliminary approval to the expansion in 2009.

Airway Heights will grow by about a half-square mile next year. The land includes the sales-tax rich Walmart and was long claimed by Spokane.

Although it has no say over the annexations, the State Boundary Review Board for Spokane County will hold an informational meeting about the city expansions at 3 p.m. Aug. 8 at the Spokane County Public Works Building, 1026 W. Broadway Ave.

The annexations are the first in the state to move forward under a state law that allows cities to annex land by negotiating with county and other affected governments. Under the law, the review board has no say over the boundary changes.

Looking for a link to register to vote?

Here it is.

After Monday, it won't do you any good if you plan to vote in the Aug. 16 primary.

Sunday Spin: Another way Spokane differs from Seattle

OLYMPIA – After almost two years living in Pugetopolis, I’m still surprised by things that highlight the big differences between the East Side and the Wet Side of the state.
   Take for example, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn’s proposal last week to address the problems with rowdy patrons leaving downtown bars at the mandated 2 a.m. closing time, creating huge disturbances and a sudden rush of drunk drivers on the streets.
   This really is a problem. A few years ago my daughter lived in Belltown, an area near downtown that is home to innumerable trendy bars and restaurants. One night while visiting, we were treated to the sounds of closing as bar patrons made their way to a nearby parking lot, loudly discussing transgressions that one or the other had committed during the evening, stumbling into cars and setting off anti-theft alarms.
   “What the (bleep)”
   “Where’s my (bleeping) keys?”

Raise a stein to SBA loans

No one pays Spin Control for advice on their media events, but we sometimes offer it for free. Thus do we raise an eyebrow to Sen. Maria Cantwell's plan to hold a press conference at a Seattle microbrewery this weekend to discuss federal Small Business Loans.

Nothing against the SBA program know as the Small Jobs Act, which Cantwell helped get passed. Or Elysian Fields Brewing, which is using the program to expand production and add 35 workers. Good for them.

But Cantwell is holding the event at 10:45 a.m. Sunday. And the brewery won't start making beer until August.

A Sunday morning event at a brewery? Really? And the facility isn't brewing beer yet? Wouldn't it make more sense to do it on a Friday night when Elysian had some product to display?

Worse yet, the US women's soccer team starts its World Cup match against Japan at 11:45 a.m.

Gotta wonder how much coverage Cantwell will get coverage from that small sliver of the Seattle news media that is not in church or prepping to be glued to their television sets watching the World Cup.

Mayors and govs on debt ceiling: Get ‘er done

July is a fine time for elected executives to leave their lofty offices and go to conferences.

As the Wizard of Oz once put it, “to confer, converse and otherwise hob-nob with my fellow wizards.”

So we have the National Governor Association meeting in Salt Lake City, and the United Conference of Mayors meeting next week in Los Angeles. They both have at least one common thing on their mind: Telling Congress and President Obama to stop messing around and raise the debt ceiling.

The NGA, currently headed by Chris Gregoire issued a statement to that effect today, although news coverage of the conference suggests that agreement that it should be done does not really extend to agreement on how it should be done. Republican governors support a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Democratic governors, not so much.

The UCM has a session for about 50 mayors next week. All of Friday morning's meeting is devoted to the debt and deficit. Expect more from them if, by then, the president and Congress haven't reached a deal.

JLARC says close a few tax breaks

OLYMPIA – A special panel is recommending the Legislature end three tax breaks and review eight others the state offers to various businesses or consumer groups.
The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee suggests the state could bring nearly $44 million if it allows tax breaks on Hog Fuel used to produce energy and on renewable energy machinery to expire as scheduled this year. Terminating the tax break for goods repaired in Washington but delivered to other states wouldn’t actually bring in any money, the committee said.
That $44 million is a relatively small sum compared to the state’s two-year general fund budget of general fund budget of about $32 billion. But the committee says the Legislature should review some more lucrative tax breaks to see if they should be allowed to continue.
Among those are tax exemptions on some types of aircraft fuel, which could bring the state as much as $300 million, and the business and occupation tax on interest on real estate loans, possibly worth as much as $172 million for the next two years.
The committee said the state should continue to offer relatively small tax breaks church camps, non-profit day care centers, laundry services to nonprofit health care facilities, and certain real estate excise tax exemptions. The largest tax break the committee recommended continuing is the sales tax exemption for purchases some out-of-state residents get when shopping in Washington. It would bring in an estimated $58 million over two years to the state if it was discontinued.
The end of tax exemptions – often called loopholes by opponents – was a heated topic  during last session’s budget debates, with liberals arguing they should be closed before programs or services were cut. Very few exemptions were ended, however.
The committee has a hearing on its recommendations next Wednesday in Olympia.

Democrats continue to poke McKenna over 9-1-1 calls

State Democrats are trying to get the most mileage possible out of an incident last week that prompted King County Young Republicans to call 9-1-1 to report — ohmagawd! —a Democrat in their midst.

The whole thing started on July 7 when the Young Rs rented out the North Bellevue Community Center to hear a speech from Rob McKenna, the attorney general who would be governor. Dems sent a person with a videocamera to record the event for posterity, and likely for slicing and dicing to use in various anti-McKenna campaign ads.

The videographer was asked to leave, he refused, saying it was a public meeting in a public place. McKenna refused to speak, someone from the Young Rs called 9-1-1 for assistance. The dispatch operator asked if the videographer posed a threat to people in the room, or had weapons or drugs. When told no on all points, the dispatcher said it could be as much as an hour before they could free up an officer to get there. Someone from the Young Rs called back twice to ask when would the cop get there.

By the time an officer arrived, McKenna had left, the meeting was pretty much over and there wasn't much for her to do.

To keep poking McKenna, State Democrats posted the transcripts of the 9-1-1 calls on Wednesday, which they say show the Young Rs were invoking the name of the state AG in an effort to improperly roust their videographer. On Thursday they sent out links to various media sites that bit on Wednesday's release.

Minor spats over opp-research videographers aren't new. A Democratic cameraman was tossed from a Seattle Police Union meeting with Dino Rossi during the 2008 gubernatorial run. The video showed up rather quickly on YouTube, complete with a sound track.

Going viral with doggie doo


OLYMPIA – Pollution in the Puget Sound is such a problem that a group trying to protect the ecosystem spent $27,000 in state money to make a catchy video, complete with dance steps, telling people how they can do something about it.

Pick up dog poop.

The 2 1/2 minute “Dog Doogity” video, which features rhythm and blues singer Martin Luther delivering the musical message of bag your doggie's dooties, is a parody of the late ‘90s hit “No Diggity” by Blackstreet. Released June 30, it is getting very positive responses, said Janet Geer of the City of Bothell and spokeswoman for a 60 community coalition in the “Puget Sound Starts Here” campaign.

The video is featured on the state-sponsored Puget Sound Partnership web site, and was made with $27,000 out of a $500,000 grant the state Department of Ecology gave the coalition. Designed for young, hip, urban adults, the video logged 30,000 hits on YouTube in just under two weeks with a 19-1 ratio of likes to dislikes.

“The response I've heard is, ‘This is great,’” Geer said.

Not everyone agrees. Jason Mercier of the Washington Policy Center, which keeps a close eye on budget issues, questioned whether state money should be going for a video to tell people to pick up dog poop.

“In this economic climate, it raises a question of priorities,” Mercier said. “It seems a questionable way of marketing the idea.”

Envision Spokane turns in signatures for new ‘Bill of Rights’

Spokane voters may get a chance to consider a new list of proposals from Envision Spokane on the November ballot.

Kai Huschke, campaign coordinator of Envision Spokane, said the group turned in signatures on Friday and Monday for its new version of the “Community Bill of Rights.”

The group's first attempt at passing a “Community Bill of Rights” failed in 2009 with only 21 percent support.

The new list is paired down from 2009. It includes extra requirements for the approval of certain kinds of development and a rule that would say that corporations would “not be deemed as 'persons'” and could not interfere with the enforcement of the “Community Bill of Rights.”

City Clerk Terri Pfister said turned in 4,516 signatures. To earn a spot on the November ballot, at least 2,778 of them must be ruled valid by the Spokane County Elections Office. The requirement represents 5 percent of the number of people who voted in the city of Spokane in 2009.

Voter registration deadline approaching

Washington residents who aren't registered to vote but want to do so in the Aug. 16 primary — and only you know who you are — have until Monday to get registered in the easiest ways possible.

That is, but mail or online.

In Washington is possible to go to the Secretary of State's website and register online if you have the required ID, or print out a form, fill it out and mail it in. But that has to be done 30 days before an election.

After next Monday, it will still be possible to register through Aug. 8 by going to the County Elections Office in person and filling out the form. But chances are if you haven't registered yet, you aren't inclined to make that kind of effort.

So let this serve as adequate warning to the marginally motivated.

Democratic Party backs Verner, Stuckart, Rush and Jones

Spokane Mayor Mary Verner has won the seal of approval from the Spokane County Democratic Party for a new term.

The party's endorsement committee voted Monday to endorse Verner for mayor, Ben Stuckart for City Council president, Joy Jones for the City Council seat representing Northwest Spokane and incumbent Richard Rush for the seat representing South Spokane, said David Smith, chairman of the party.

Smith said Verner and Rush also won the party's support in 2007.

“She's even more popular among Democrats than she was four years ago,” Smith said.

None of the picks are that surprising, though the decision to endorse Stuckart is somewhat of a snub to City Councilman Steve Corker, a former chairman of the party who is vying for council president.

Smith said Stuckart was the only council president candidate who requested an endorsement. That opened the door for the party to pick Stuckart because the party only backs candidates who request party support, he said. If multiple Democrats had requested an endorsement in the same race, the party would have waited to make a choice.

Spokane County Republican Party Chairman Matthew Pederson said last week that the Republican Party won't make any endorsements, at least prior to the August primary. He added that no city candidates have officially requested GOP backing.

Verner's main challenger, David Condon, has sought to distance himself from the party with large “nonpartisan” labels on his campaign signs. Condon is the former district director for Republican U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

“It is a nonpartisan office,” Condon said this week. “The platform they have wouldn't be a platform I would further at the city level.”

WA Gov race: $1 mill in 1 month

OLYMPIA — Washington's nascent gubernatorial race between Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna and Democratic Congressman Jay Inslee pulled in more than $1 million in its first official month.

Both Inslee and McKenna formally announced their campaigns and started collecting campaign money in June. Candidates must report last month's contributions this week, and the first tally in the gubernatorial race shows McKenna ahead for total dollars collected, but Inslee ahead for cash-on-hand.

Public Disclosure Commission reports show McKenna with almost $668,000 in contributions, about $26,000 of it moved over from money collected by his re-election campaign for state attorney general. He's spent about
$190,000, with more than $110,000 going for direct mail advertising or contribution requests.

Inslee has raised about $513,000, and paid out about $21,000 in expenses, most of it wages for campaign staff. But his PDC reports also list bills for about $42,500 for consulting, legal and accounting services the campaign owes but had not been paid at the time the reports were filed.

How did they get so much, so fast? In part by getting the maximum amount the law allows — $3,200 total for the primary and general elections — from big donors. Inslee and McKenna each have 32 donors who have already maxxed out with $1,600 for the primary and $1,600 for the general.

As for incumbent Chris Gregoire, who announced last month she would not run for a third term, her campaign fund is essentially empty after returning about $26,000 of the $367,000 she'd raised. The rest had been spent on pre-campaign expenses like consultants and mailings.


Reminder: Redistricting Commish meets tonight

The Washington State Redistricting Commission has a special meeting plus a public forum this evening at Spokane Falls Community College.

Want more info? Click here for details on the meeting.

Click here for Sunday's column on do-it-yourself redistricting.

Spokane will cover more fire stations with paramedics

Firefighters with the highest level of medical training will be on duty 24-7 at two more of Spokane’s 14 fire stations under an agreement approved Monday by the Spokane City Council.

Under the deal between city administrators and the city’s firefighters union, the city will spread its paramedics among 10 stations, instead of eight. It will cost the city an additional $60,000 a year.

“If you vote yes, you’ll save somebody’s life, without a doubt,” Assistant Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer told the City Council before it voted 5-1 in support.

The city had been scheduling two paramedics to be on duty at eight stations, though because of vacations or sick leave, sometimes only one would be on duty. Starting Aug. 1, it will guarantee at least one paramedic on duty at ten stations all the time.

The stations with the enhanced service are:

∙ Station 2, 1001 E. North Foothills Drive

∙ Station 17, 5121 W. Lowell Road

Schaeffer said the West Plains fire station that will open next year after the city annexes 10 square miles, including the Spokane International Airport, also will have a paramedic on duty.

Redistricting Commission meets Tuesday

The Washington State Redistricting Commission, which is redrawing the lines for the state’s congressional and legislative districts, will be at Spokane Falls Community College Tuesday.

The five-member board has a special commissioner meeting at 5 p.m. to discuss its budget and a schedule for releasing and taking public comment on map proposals. A forum for the public to comment on possible changes to the districts starts after the commissioner meeting ends. The meeting and forum are in SFCC Lounges 1 and 2.
The commission also has a public forum Wednesday at the Walla Walla Community College Conference Center and Thursday at the Big Bend Community College Masto Conference Center 1870 in Moses Lake. Both have an open house that starts at 6 p.m. with a forum at 7 p.m.


Loesch named Gregoire chief of staff

OLYMPIA — Marty Loesch was named chief of staff for Gov. Chris Gregoire today, filling the spot opening up because Jay Manning is stepping down.

Loesch, 46, is currently Gregoire's chief of external affairs and senior counsel. He previously worked as inter-governmental affairs director and tribal attorney for the Swinomish Tribe. He takes over for Manning on July 18.

Manning announced he was stepping down last month, shortly after Gregoire announced she would not seek a third term.

McMorris Rodgers got to answer Obama

The president gives a regular radio address on the weekend. In the interests of fairness, Republicans get a few minutes of “equal time” to rebut, refute or otherwise try to counter what he has to say.

While the president's address is rarely big news, the GOP response often goes completely unnoticed, unless it happens to be picked up by the network news on a slow weekend.

The GOP passes the honor around so that no one person gets all the good face time. Last weekend, it was U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Eastern Washington's 5th Congressional District. Her topic: So, hey, Mr. President. How about those jobs you're always talking about? Where the heck are they?

Obama's address was a bit more wide ranging, talking about his Twitter Town Hall, talks to lift the debt ceiling and things he's doing to try to get more jobs.

Wait a minute, you say. It's radio so how can there be face time?

Well, they usually have a camera rolling to send out a video version, and post something on Youtube.

This is the video version of the McMorris Rodgers weekend radio address.

To see Obama's radio address, or to comment, click here and go inside the blog.

Sunday Spin: You, too, could be a gerrymanderer

Once every decade, there’s an opportunity for deep political skullduggery. Until now, it was the province of a few masters of electoral minutiae that most of us don’t have and wouldn’t want if the choice was between that and being struck by lightning.
I’m talking about redrawing the state’s congressional and legislative districts based on the latest census figures.
The process involves knowing how many people live where, then arranging them so each of the state’s 49 legislative districts, and its now 10 congressional districts, have as close to the same number of residents as possible and people with “common interests” aren’t unduly separated.
At least, that’s the textbook explanation, for the politically naïve. Any politician will tell you redistricting really about redrawing lines so your party gets an unfair advantage over the other party, and if you have to cobble together an unlikely amalgamation of voting blocks, so be it.

Long-term care initiative turns in signatures

OLYMPIA — Sponsors of the last of three initatives likely headed for the November ballot turned in signatures Friday afternoon.

The Service Employees International Union and other supporters of Initiative 1163 turned in what they estimated were more than 320,000 for the ballot measure that would require training and background checks for long-term care workers.

Earlier in the day, Tim Eyman and other sponsors of I-1125 turned in what they estimated were 327,000 signatures and sponsors of I-1183, which would privatize state liquor retail and wholesal operations, turned in 354,000 signatures.

Supporters of an initative to legalize marijuana notified the Elections Division that they would not be turning in signatures, Director Katie Blinn said.

Road taxes initiative turns in 327,000 names

Initiative sponsors Tim Eyman (right) and Mike Fagan hold a press conference Friday while elections workers begin counting their petitions.

OLYMPIA — Supporters of an initiative to limit the use of road taxes and tolls dropped off their petitions Friday morning with a comfortable cushion that suggests they'll be on the November ballot.

Sponsors Tim Eyman and Mike Fagan wheeled in boxes of petitions they said held some 327,000 signatures for Initiative 1125, an effort to rein in tolls, taxes and fares and force any increases to be approved by the Legislature.

“These kinds of decisions need to be made by elected officials,” Eyman said. Tolls would also come off of different projects when the bonds sold to build them are paid off.

Waiting for Eyman and company were members of a forming coalition against the plan. Former State Transportation Secretary Doug MacDonald called the proposal “a mish mash” of ideas that doesn't understand modern systems of tolling. It could cause problems for plans to enlarge the 520 bridge across Lake Washington by restricting the use of funds from tolls on the I-90 bridge, he said.

Assuming that the cost of a road or bridge stops when the bonds are paid off is like assuming the cost of owning a house stops when the mortgage is paid off, he said; tolls need to continue to pay for ongoing maintenance.

Booze initiative turns in 354,000 signatures

Employees at the Secretary of State's Elections Division handle boxes of petitions submitted for I-1183.

OLYMPIA — Sponsors of Initiative 1183, a proposal to get the state out of the liquor business, may have achieved a modern-day record by collecting some 354,000 in just three weeks.

They turned in their petitions this morning, the first of three campaigns that definitely plan to turn in signatures on the last day allowed for petition drives. A fourth, to legalize marijuana for those 18 and older, has informed the Secretary of State's office they, too, may have enough to submit.

I-1183 would sell off the state's wholesale and retail liquor operations. Unlike last year's failed attempt to revamp the liquor system, it offers more money to the state, requires more training and tougher penalties for employees of stores that sell liquor and limits sales in most communities to stores with 10,000 square feet or larger — the size of most supermarkets — to avoid a complaint that liquor could be at every Mini Mart and gas station that currently sells beer or wine.

If every store that qualifies were to obtain a liquor license, the number of liquor outlets in the state — currently 340 — could triple.

Bruce Beckett of the Washington Restaurant Association, one of the sponsors of the initiative, also said it may help to have only one liquor-related initiative on this year's ballot. Last year there were two competing initiatives, and when voters didn't know much about the differences, they probably voted no, he said.

One unknown, he added was whether the the nation's beer industry, which came out strongly against the most similar initiative in 2010, will get into the campaign this year, Beckett said.

Labor coalition declines to back Verner or Condon

The race for Spokane mayor is getting more interesting.

The Spokane Regional Labor Council has released the list of candidates it supports for the August primary and Spokane Mayor Mary Verner isn't on the list.

That's a bit of a surprise given her recent support for a labor-backed change to contracting rules giving the city wider lattitude to pass over low bidders on contracts when a low bidder has had recent problems following labor, environmental or other laws. (Verner, however, surprised some union leaders when she said she would push to amend the rules.)

The council, which is the regional organization for the AFL-CIO, also declined to back any of Verner's opponents, including her main challenger, David Condon. That's not a surprise, given Condon's promise to be a tougher negotiator with unions and his calls for pay freezes at City Hall.

Verner's relationship with unions at City Hall has been mixed and grew strained as she worked to win contract concessions in the last two budget cycles. Most the city's bargaining groups eventually agreed to contracts or contract changes that allowed them to avoid layoffs.

Unions play a large role in city politics, just as the business and development community do. The decision means the main local labor group won't be working for a Spokane mayoral candidate, at least through the primary, an outcome that likely benefits Condon — especially since he already enjoys a big fund-raising advantage.

Beth Thew, secretary-treasurer of the council, said she wouldn't be surprised if the council reconsiders the race after the primary. Candidates were interviewed on June 28 and a group made up of representatives of local AFL-CIO-affiliated unions voted on the endorsements. To win backing, a candidate needed two-thirds support from the group, Thew said.

“If there are any questions that need clarification or anything like that, we will wait to hold off on our endorsements,” she said. “We want to make sure that when we move forward with our endorsement that everybody is comfortable and can stand behind it.”

To see the list of candidates endorsed by the labor council for the August primary, continue reading this post.

Warner named Corrections Secretary

OLYMPIA  — Bernie Warner spent less than a week as Washington's acting Secretary of Corrections.

Today Gov. Chris Gregoire took the “acting” out of the title and named him as her choice to to be the permanent replacement for Eldon Vail, who resigned last Friday as he faced the prospect that an affair he was having with a subordinate was going to become public.

Gregoire's office announced she had appointed Warner to the job with a salary of $147,000, the same salary Vail has been making. His appointment must be confirmed by the Senate, but that won't happen before the Legislature returns to a session. Unless there's another special session this year, the Legislature isn't scheduled to meet until January.

Warner sent a memo to Department of Corrections employees, say his goal was “to provide you with the high level of leadership you deserve.”

Vail told The Seattle Times in an interview that he resigned because he believed an affair he was having with a subordinate would be made public by someone who may have videotaped them leaving an Olympia motel. He said he took full responsibility for his actions, and is working on saving his marriage. The subordinate continues to work for the department.

A spokeswoman for Gregoire said the governor was not calling for an investigation “at this point” because Vail has resigned.

Egg-laying initiative won’t turn in signatures

OLYMPIA — Sponsors of an initiative that would have allowed voters to order larger cages and other changes for hens on egg-laying farms say they will not turn in signatures Friday.

Washingtonians for Humane Farms say they are suspending their campaign for Initiative 1130 because of progress on federal legislation that will set nationwide standards for the farms.

The group said it had gathered more than 355,000 signatures, but “in light of a promising new agreement reached between animal welfare groups and the United Egg Producers” they will not turn them in. Instead the two groups will support the national standard.

Friday afternoon is the deadline for submitting signatures for initiatives to the people, proposals that can bypass the Legislature to become law if they receive a simple majority in the general election. To qualify for the ballot, an initiative needs nearly 242,000 signatures from registered state voters; a cushion of 100,000 signatures, whicht I-1130 would have had, almost guarantees a spot on the ballot.

Expected to turn in signatures tomorrow are proposals to set new standards for training and background checks for long-term care workers, to privatize the state's retail and wholesale liquor sales, and to limit the use of transportation taxes and tolls to transportation projects. Another proposal to legalize marijuana use and possession for those 18 and older in Washington will be turning in petitions if it has enough signatures.

Tweeters ask Obama about jobs, taxes, economy

President Barack Obama answered questions about jobs, the economy, taxes, welfare and space programs in the first Twitter Town Hall meeting.

But nothing about marijuana, which was among the most “retweeted” topics before the session started.

The session allowed people around the country to send questions to Obama at the White House with a Twitter moderator. He acknowledged that he underestimated the recession and talked about the debt ceiling talks taking place this week.

For a complete transcript of the 90 minute session, courtesy of the White House Press Office, or to comment, click here to go inside the blog.

Today’s fun video: July 6, quickly


Courtesy of Talking Points Memo, all you need to know about Wednesday, July 6.

Watch, then go back to sipping ice tea in the shade.

Tweets to prez: How about legal pot?

President Obama is holding the first Twitter Town Hall today. Whatever you may think about the confluence of social media and democracy, there may be some signs that there are shortcomings.

For example, what do you think the most frequently aske question is?

Hey, Mr. President, what about more jobs?

or Hey, President Obama, when are  you getting us out of Afghanistan?

or Hey, Barack Baby, how about solving our immigration mess?

Nope, none of the above.

The most frequently tweeted or retweeted questions, according to, which tracks these things:

Would you consider legalizing marijuana to increase revenue and save tax dollars by freeing up crowded prisons, court rooms?

You've said many times that the Bush Cuts for the 2% should expire. Can you promis to let them in 2012?

Mr. President, why should you not be held responsible for your silling prediction that unemployment would stay below 8%

OK, so that last one is kind of about jobs, in what Sarah Palin might call a “gotcha” way.

In the event, they got to pick and choose, so there were questions about jobs and the economy and taxes.

But none about marijuana. For the complete transcript, courtesy of the White House Press office, go inside the blog.

Sonntag not running for governor

State Auditor Brian Sonntag will not be entering next year's gubernatorial race.

The Associated Press is reporting that he said in an e-mail Monday night that he decide his current position is the place where he can best contribute.

Democrat Sonntag was first elected state auditor in 1992, and re-elected fairly easily every four years since. His entry into the governor's race would have shaken up the developing race between Democratic U.S. Rep.  Jay Inslee and Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna.

His support for performance audits makes him popular with some conservatives, and he has some statewide name recognition from all of those re-election campaigns, although auditor is not a high-profile job. Test it out, ask someone close by to name the state auditor, and keep asking people until you get the right answer. Chances are, you'll be asking for a while. (Try the same thing with attorney general, and it's likely you'll get the right answer quite a bit quicker.)

A high-profile campaign would have changed that profile, but Sonntag decided not to jump in.

Go Fourth, and take the quiz

If you have time to kill while waiting for the parade, the barbecue or the fireworks to start, take our Fourth of July Quiz by clicking here.         

It's a prototype for our weekly news quiz, which starts next Sunday. And you could qualify for a prize drawing.

Happy Independence Day.

Candidates who claim some tie to Spokane: We’ve got a few questions for you

People who want to be elected to statewide office in 2012 are already wandering around the state, announcing their campaigns and trying to establish their bona fides with the good folks hereabouts.

Most candidates for state office have to come from Seattle, or at least the greater Pugetopolis, to have a chance of getting enough votes from the West Side of the state. This is not surprising, because to paraphrase Willy Sutton, that’s where the votes are.

But to prove they seek to represent the whole state, they must also campaign on the dry side of the Cascades, and cite their ties to Spokane or Walla Walla or Curlew, whether they be strong or tenuous. Jay Inslee’s swing through Yakima and Spokane last week as he kicked off the gubernatorial campaign was an example of someone with real, if somewhat dated, ties to the East Side. Inslee represented Central Washington’s 4th District for a term in the U.S. House, in 1993-’94.

Some candidates try to do more with less. I recall one candidate for statewide office who talked about his fond memories of Spokane, where the family always stopped on their way to the lake cabin when he was a child. Being remembered as the gateway to Idaho or a pleasant pit stop never seemed like much of a vote-getter.

When candidates start laying claim to knowing Spokane and understanding its people and their issues, then do something foolish like saying how they’re such a big fan of Gon-ZAH-ga basketball, it sometimes helps to give them a pop quiz on issues a real Spokanite would know. We've put some inside the blog.

Maybe you can think of other questions to test a candidate’s true ties to Spokane. Click to go inside the blog and leave them in a comment box.

Corrections chief Eldon Vail quits

OLYMPIA — Secretary of Corrections Eldon Vail quit this afternoon citing “personal reasons.” Gov. Chris Gregoire who reportedly learned about his decision just today, quickly named a temporary replacement.

A brief statement from the Department of Corrections said his resignation was “effective immediately” but didn't give further information about his reasons for leaving. A call to the department was referred to a spokesman who did not immediately return the call.

A spokeswoman for Gregoire said she had no additional information about Vail's reason for resigning. Asked if Gregoire was surprised by the announcement, she replied “it's fair to say she learned about it today.”

Gregoire named Prisons Director Bernie Warner as Vail's interim replacement about 20 minutes after Vail's announcement. Warner played a key role in the prison system's expansion in the 1990s, she said, leading the siting process for Airway Heights Corrections Center and two other facilites. He has worked in California, Arizona and Florida and returned last October to serve as the department's prisons director.

State quits Quitline, kills Living Will Registry

Casualties of budget cuts include the state's free Quit Line, designed to help people stop smoking, as the Living Will Registry where people could record their living wills and durable powers of attorney.

As the Associated Press reported today, state Health Department dropped its participation in the Quitline, which offered free help to smokers. The number, 1-800-784-8669, still works. It's operated by the American Cancer Society, which refers callers who have private insurance or Medicaid, to stop-smoking help.

The department also stopped taking new entries in the Living Will Registry, which started four years ago and had received about 2,500 entries from people and had access to about 200 health care facilities. They remain on the registry, but no new submissions are being taken. The move saves the department about $104,000.

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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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