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Spin Control

Archive for November 2011

Spec Sess Day 3: Education cuts blasted

 

OLYMPIA — School administrators, teachers, middle school pupils and college students pleaded with a Senate panel to spare many of the programs on the chopping block in a budget fix proposed by Gov. Chris Gregoire.

Some broke down in tears when they described state programs that kept them in school or returned them so they could graduate. One group of technical college students played a YouTube video in an effort to convince legislators that budget cuts now would darken the future for years to come.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn criticized Gregoire's plan to save $99 million in the General Fund by cutting four days from the school year in 2012-13 and another $152 million by rearranging the levy equalization system so that poor school districts get less and more affluent districts could get none at all.

“Cutting four school days is simply not going to help students,” Dorn said. “Kids deserve an opportunity to reach their maximum potential.”

Students from Renton Technical College played a video they produced called “Don't Cut the Solution” (above) which features those in welding, computer aided design, medical assistants, auto technology and culinary arts holding up signs that said they had been unemployed but can expect to be working, and paying taxes, when they graduate.

The committee's opening hearing on the budget was interrupted for about a half-hour Tuesday by protesters who demanded the committee abandon its rules and abide by their rules for a “general assembly.” Several of those protesters were escorted or carried out of the committee room before that hearing could continue.

There were no such interruptions Wednesday. The committee, which has primary budget-writing authority in the Senate, will hold a hearing Thursday afternoon on proposed cuts to state Social Service programs, Health and Long-term Care programs on Monday afternoon, natural resources and general government programs Tuesday afternoon.

Baxter pays for recount

Former state Sen. Jeff Baxter is paying for a partial recount of ballots in his unsuccessful bid to retain his Spokane Valley seat despite losing the race by more than 3,400 votes.

Baxter’s opponent in the contest, Mike Padden, was sworn in as senator representing the 4th Legislative District on Tuesday soon after the Spokane County Canvassing Board certified the results.

Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton said Baxter submitted a check for $1,174 to recount 10 precincts. She said he was required to make a down payment of 25 cents per ballot. He will get a refund if the cost of the recount is less.

Baxter, who was appointed to the seat earlier this year, lost it in the November election by 3,437 votes after garnering only 45 percent of the vote.

Reached Wednesday afternoon, Baxter declined to comment when asked if he thought the race was fair. He noted that state law doesn’t require candidates to say why they are asking for a recount and said he would answer questions after a recount is completed.

Mike Padden, who was in the middle of his second day as the 4th District’s new state senator Tuesday afternoon, said he had just been informed that Baxter had asked for a recount but didn’t know “what his rationale is.”

“The vote was pretty overwhelming. It doesn’t make sense to me,” Padden said.

“There is a high undervote,” he said, referring to the term used for a ballot that had no candidate marked for that race. “But you’d expect a high undervote when there’s no Democrat in the race.”


Documents:

Gregoire asks DEA to allow medical marijuana

OLYMPIA — Governors from Washington and Rhode Island asked the federal government Wednesday to reclassify marijuana so it can be used for medical use.

Gov. Chris Gregoire and Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee petitioned the Drug Enforcement Administration to take off Schedule I, which is reserved for drugs like heroin and peyote that have no medicinal use and thus are illegal under all circumstances.

It should be moved to Schedule 2, which is for drugs like morphine and codeine, which are illegal under many circumstances but can be prescribed by a doctor and filled by a pharmacist for certain conditions.

“It’s time to show compassion and it’s time to show common sense,” Gregoire said. “There’s no evidence to suggest any medical marijuana patient has died from an overdose.”
  

Spec Sess Day 3: Budget hearings and medical marijuana

Maintenance worker checks the Capitol dome for leaks Wednesday morning.

OLYMPIA — Senate budget hearings resume this afternoon, with the Ways and Means Committee scheduled to concentrate on proposed cuts to public schools and state universities.

Both the House and Senate are scheduled to come into session at 10 a.m., but then break fairly quickly for caucuses. The House put off any debate Tuesday on a plan to help save the Wenatchee Public Facilities District from default, and would have to do something today to have any hope of meeting a deadline on Thursday. But that proposal is in trouble, with little movement in the Senate after a fairly skeptical reception in committee Tuesday, and things don't look good for what some legislators see as a precedent-setting bailout.

Gov. Chris Gregoire has a lunchtime telephonic press conference on medical marijuana. It's a joint event — sorry, couldn't resist — with Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee.

Meanwhile, the state is checking the Capitol dome for any leaks or other maintenance problems that need attending. It contracted with a Seattle architectural firm for someone to rappel down the dome and check out the condition of the roof.

(Editor's note: An earlier version of the post said a Seattle television station sent a news helicopter to check out the person on the dome because of recent protests. But a spokesman for the state Department of Enterprise Services, which is in charge of state buildings, said tne news chopper came down for an aerial view for a story on the planned maintenance to the dome.)

Spec Sess Day 2: Spokane protesters in the Capitol

Chris Clark of Deer Park ties a list of concerns about budget cuts to the string of a helium balloon outside the Capitol.

OLYMPIA — About 20 people from the Spokane area joined protesters in the state Capitol urging legislators to close a budget gap with a combination of taxes and cuts.

The group drove across the state on Monday, but arrived in Olympia after the building was closed to the public by state officials. Unlike some demonstrators, they didn't try to rush the building to force their way in.

Tuesday they lobbied Spokane area legislators to consider closing tax exemptions, particularly for large national banks. They're not wild about the half-cent increase in the state sales tax that Gov. Chris Gregoire has proposed, but would support it to save programs.

The sales tax is regressive, Shar Lichty said. “But cuts are more regressive than a sales tax increase.”

Members of the group had hoped to tie a list of their requests to the string of helium balloons that they would let loose in the Capitol. The balloons would rise to the dome, then slowly descend as the helium ran out, and bring the messages down.

But building officials wouldn't let the balloons into the building. The balloons were tied into the shape of a Christmas tree and tied to a weight on the north steps of the Capitol.

Spec Sess Day 2: Padden sworn in

Mike Padden, with wife Laura, waves to family and friends in the Senate chamber after being sworn in by Supreme Courth Justice Jim Johnson

OLYMPIA — Mike Padden took the oath of office Tuesday afternoon in the Senate chambers shortly after Spokane County certified the results on the Nov. 8 elections.

Rush-Allen recount will be done by hand

The final outcome of the City Council race for a seat representing south Spokane won’t be decided until next week.

That’s when the Spokane County Election’s Office will recount ballots in a contest so close that state law required a second examination.

Former Councilman Mike Allen leads incumbent Richard Rush by a mere 88 votes.

Although it’s a lead of less than half a percentage point, it is a wide enough margin that is unlikely to shrink enough to change, considering past recounts. Recounts in Spokane County have generally changed tallies by a few votes or less.

The Spokane County Canvassing Board on Tuesday unanimously agreed to Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton’s recommendation to count ballots by hand. State law only would have required the recount to be done manually if the difference had been within a quarter of a percentage point.

Dalton argued that the council race is the county’s first chance to test official ballots on a large scale since new scanners were installed this summer in the county’s six vote-counting machines, which were manufactured by Nebraska-based Election Systems & Software.

“A recount is a very rare opportunity to let us test the accuracy of the machines using the real ballots marked by actual voters,” Dalton said.

She added: “It’s an attempt to give closure to the candidates in the most definitive way possible.”

Scenes from Day 1: Troopers await orders

OLYMPIA — Washington State Troopers stood on the steps above protesters Monday evening, awaiting orders to clear the building.

Spec Sess Day: Protesters arrested, several Tased

OLYMPIA – Fasten your seatbelts, to paraphrase Bette Davis. It’s going to be a bumpy month.
Amid chants in the hallways and rallies on the Capitol steps, the Legislature began its 30-day emergency session to close a $1.4 billion gap in its operating budget.
Social service agencies and teachers journeyed to Olympia to ask legislators to close some of the gap with new taxes rather than cuts. State aid recipients offered touching and sometimes tearful testimony about how program cuts would affect them.
  Four protesters were arrested and booked into jail for refusing to leave the Capitol Monday evening, and 30 were cited for trespass and released. They face arrest and jail if they return to the Capitol Campus anytime over the next 30 days, authorities said. Four were shocked with Tasers when they tried to force their way into the building after it was closed to the public around 5:30 pm.
After repeated warnings from the Washington State Patrol, demonstrators who linked arms around or near the Christmas tree in the Rotunda were carried one at a time down marble steps by four or five troopers and cited for trespass.
“We respect your right to free speech and protest. We ask you to do it within the building’s hours,” Lt. Mark Arras, the acting captain of the Capitol Campus unit, told them before troopers moved in.
“This is not a protest, this is an occupation,” one demonstrator shouted back.
Asked if he was prepared to have troopers clear the building every evening during the session, Patrol Chief John Batiste replied: “If we have to, yes.”
  

State orders protesters out of Capitol

OLYMPIA — The Washington State Patrol has ordered protesters out of the Capitol, warning them that anyone who doesn't leave will be subject to arrest and a 30-day ban from state property.

“We respect your right to free speech and protest,” Lt. Mark Arras, acting captain of the patrol's Capital Campus units. “We ask that you do so within the building hours.”

“This is not a protest. This is an occupation,” one of the demonstrators shouted back.

Protesters are now discussing the merits of civil disobedience.

Spec Sess Day 1: Capitol likely to be cleared

OLYMPIA — Several hundred protesters, many of them chanting slogans from the “Occupy” movement, are in and around the Capitol rotunda. But perhaps only for the time being.

The director of Enterprise Services said just minutes ago that the protesters will not be allowed to stay in the building overnight. Black-clad state troopers carrying large duffel bags have arrived in the Capitol's basement, and other troopers are in evidence at all entrances.

The lights on the rotunda “holiday tree”, which had been lit  a few minutes earlier, were turned off. There's been no request to clear the building, yet, but one is expected shortly.

While most protesters are chanting “We won't pull back” and “We shall not be movoed” to the beat of drums,  a handful are donning green T-shirts that identify them as “legal observers.”

Entrance to the building was closed about 5:30 p.m., and when a group tried to push their way through doors on the north side, three people were arrested.

Shortly afterwards, black-clad troopers stood at the top of the steps leading into the House and Senate chambers, apparently awaiting orders to move down the steps and push the protesters to exits.

Protesters, meanwhile, continued their chants, land did a “mike check” in which the group repeats what one demonstrater says, that told troopers: “Officers. We support your pensions.”

Brown: Senate Dems don’t favor “all-cuts” budget

OLYMPIA — Most Senate Democrats oppose a plan that closes the state's $1.4  billion budget gap solely with cuts, but there's no agreement at this point on where to find more tax revenue, Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown said Monday.

“It's going to take a little while to figure this out,”  Brown, D-Spokane, said meeting with her caucus. “Some level of reduction is inevitable.”

They haven't yet discussed Gov. Chris Gregoire's proposal to raise the state sales tax by one-half cent per $1 for three years.

Democratic leaders of different committees are meeting with Republican counterparts to try to find cuts to which both sides can agree, she said. Gregoire submitted one such spending plan, which calls for nearly $2 billion in cuts, with a separate bill to ask voters to approve a half-cent sales tax increase that would raise nearly $500 million that would be directed to restore some cuts to public schools, state colleges, long-term care and public safety programs.

Brown said she couldn't speculate on whether there would be agreement with the governor that her proposal would contain the proper amount, time or programs to be restored.

Spec Sess Day 1: Shouting down a hearing

OLYMPIA — Members of the “occupy” movement are interrupting the House Ways and Means Committee hearing on a plan to help the struggling Wenatchee Public Facilities District by demanding a “citizens arrest” of the Legislature.

Chairman Ross Hunter has tried several times to get a staff briefing on a proposal for bonds, only to have protesters shout over the top of staff.

Among their chants, which they punctuate with rounds of self-applause: “We need to work together. We need to tax the rich. Fund our schools.”

They don't seem to understand that as long as they keep shouting, no one will work together on anything.

The meeting adjourned for about a half hour, then resumed with an explanation of HB 2126, a bill to keept Wenatchee PFD from defaulting on bonds.

Spec Sess Day 1: Occupying an empty Senate

OLYMPIA — If a tree falls in a forest and no one is there, does it make a noise?

If the Occupy movement occupies the Senate gallery, and no senators are there, does it make its point?

When some 200 “occupiers” crowded into the Senate gallery Monday, they chanted for about a half-hour to a mostly empty chamber.

Sen. Karen Fraser, D-Olympia, was present for some of it, and Sens. Tracey Eide, D-Federal Way, and Sen. Maralyn Chase, D-Shoreline,  sat through bits and pieces.  But for much of the demonstration, the Senate floor was empty except for some security officials and a few journalists.

Spec Sess Day 1: Occupying the Senate gallery

OLYMPIA — After marching around a Capitol rotunda decorated with a Christmas tree and chanting “We are the 99 percent”,  some 200 protesters decided to “occupy” the Senate gallery this afternoon. They filled the benches on both sides of the chamber and demanding the Legislature raise taxes rather than cut programs.

Using their human microphones — a system in which one person says a phrase and dozens more repeat it — demonstrators said they were the 99 percent, and the state should tax the affluent 1 percent.

“Washington state is one of the richest states in the richest country in the world,” said one protester.

“It's one of only five states that doesn't have a corporate sales tax,” said another. (That's actually not true; Washington is the only state that has what might be considered a type of corporate sales tax — the business and occupation tax which is a tax on gross receipts. The protester likely meant corporate income tax, which is what other demonstraters used later in their shout-a-thon.)

“Let's not go home. Let's keep this going. We can stay here all week. Maybe next week,” said another.

They may have to come back at least on Tuesday to get their message across, considering they “occupied” the galleries after the Senate had adjourned for the day.

Spec Sess Day 1: Legislature convenes

OLYMPIA — With protesters outside on the Capitol steps and more expected later today, the Legislature started its special session shortly after noon with limited pomp and circumstance. The Legislature is generally without its army of teen-aged pages for this emergency budget session. The pages often form a color guard to bring the U.S. and state flags into the chamber. The Senate improvised today by having Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, and Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, as the flag bearers. (above) Once flags were firmly in place, Gov. Chris Gregoire’s official call was read for the emergency session to address the projected budget shortfall, and other matters as legislators see fit. The Senate also had a few housekeeping details to attend, including the swearing-in of two recently appointed members. There will be another such ceremony on Tuesday for Mike Padden, who won the Nov. 8 election in Spokane’s 4th District, but doesn’t take office until the election results are certified Tuesday afternoon.

Spec Sess Day 1: Protesters want more taxes, but don’t agree on where

OLYMPIA — Protesters filling the north steps of the Capitol seem united in their call for at least some new taxes to help close the gap in the state budget. But the source of those taxes may lead to disputes among the protesters as well as among legislators who start their special session today. While some speakers led the protesters in a chant of “half-a-cent is what it takes” to help save Medicaid — a reference to Gov. Chris Gregoire’s proposal to raise the state sales tax for three years by a half cent on every dollar spent — others were clearly opposed. Tax the 1 percent, not the 99%/ No Sales Tax” said a large sign in the back of the crowd. While many held the standard protest signs, other demonstrators showed some originality. Members of Hero House, a facility for adults with developmental disabilities in Bellevue, had salvaged more than a dozen dress forms from a nearby recycling center, attached them to long poles and dressed the forms in T-shirts that carried messages against further cuts in state services. Kari Moore, an employment specialist for Hero House, said 25 staff members and clients made the trip from Bellevue in a caravan of min-vans.

Spec Sess Day 1: Protesters object to Medicaid cuts

OLYMPIA — Several hundred protesters, some in wheelchairs and others being escorted by home care workers, are gathered on the north steps of the Capitol to protest further cuts in payments for Medicaid services.

They're also voicing support for the half-cent increase in the state sales tax, which Gov. Chris Gregoire is proposing to stave off an “all-cuts” budget to carry the state through the final 18 months of the two-year budget cycle.

The protesters' numbers are growing slowly as legislators gather inside for party caucuses before the official start to the special session at noon. They're calling for some mix of budget cuts and “revenue increases”.

Special Session Day 1: Forces gathering

OLYMPIA — Legislative caucuses meet at 10 a.m. while home care workers will gathering on the steps outside the Capitol Building.

Large tents have been set up on the lawn to the east of the Legislative Building, and protesters with signs are already moving across the sidewalks and grass still wet from the morning fog.

A series of “marches” on the capitol have been scheduled throughout the day, and the House Ways and Means Committee hearing at 1:30 p.m. is expected to play to a packed house.

Expect a full day of action out of Olympia. Not sure how much news will accompany the action

WA Lege: Coming Monday

OLYMPIA — It won't be just the state's 147 legislators — 148 if you count the two state senators from Spokane Valley's 4th District — who will be coming to the capital Monday for the start of the special session.

The Occupy movement, along with organized labor and the Washington Education Association, plan to be there for the beginning, and some may be staying through the bitter end.

Occupy Olympia has been encamped in Heritage Park down the hill from the Capitol Campus for about two months, and the Occupy Seattle protesters may send a contingent via caravan on Sunday or Monday morning. Washington Community Action Network, an umbrella for progressive groups, also is urging members to show up Monday. The WEA has a rally for public school and college faculty at noon on the West Campus.

Noon is also when the Senate and House are set to convene, after most parties in the two chambers hold caucuses at 10 a.m.

House Ways and Means, where the budget cutting discussions will start in a session designed to find some $2 billion in savings or new revenue in the state's $31 billion budget, starts at 1:30 p.m.

Ways and Means hearings always draw a large contingent of lobbyists. This time around, they're likely to draw an even bigger crowd

Condon names more transition leaders, including former school superintendent

Spokane Mayor-elect David Condon today announced in a news release the leaders of five task forces that will make up his transition team.

Nancy Isserlis, attorney and former chairwoman of the Spokane Ethics Commission, will lead the public safety group.

Mike Senske, chief executive officer of Pearson Packaging, will lead jobs and economy.

Brian Benzel, former Spokane Public Schools superintendent, will lead budget reform.

Latisha Hill, former Washington Transportation Commissioner, will lead the group focused on improving utility infrastructure without having to greatly increase rates.

Arlene Patton, former director of the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Eastern Washington office, will lead the quality of life and social services group.

Today’s fun website: The making of a new icon

If you haven't seen the video of the police officer applying pepper spray to the protesters at University of California - Davis the way a gardener lavishes bug spray on his prize roses, you probably don't follow any news at all.

The image has reached a new level, however, with a tumblr website that joins the pepper-spraying cop with familiar photos and paintings from the past and present, plus a chance to add your own image and a bit of creative writing by supplying your own dialog.

Why Verner lost: Part 3: Otto Zehm

It’s hard to imagine how Mayor Mary Verner could have lost so much ground between the primary and the November election without concerns about the Otto Zehm case eating at her base.

With some members of the Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane expressing the possibility of sitting out the election or even casting a vote for a Republican who served a conservative member of Congress, it became clear that Verner had a problem, a problem that became more pronounced when Tom Keefe, a former Spokane County Democratic Party chair endorsed now Mayor-elect David Condon.

There were two key questions that Verner would not answer, at least completely, for most of the campaign:

- Why did the city file a response to the lawsuit from Otto Zehm’s family indicating that officers followed proper police policies when they confronted Otto Zehm, who died from injuries he suffered in that confrontation, even though the man who led the department at the time of the confrontation, Assistant Chief Jim Nicks, felt differently?

- Was she informed about the request by Department of Justice officials to meet regarding their concerns about the behavior of the city attorney’s office?

After the now infamous “FAQ” news conference that was overshadowed by Councilman Bob Apple, Verner had what may have been her worst few weeks as mayor, including a ‘60-Minutes’-style, chase-down-the-sidewalk-while-the-politician-refuses-to-answer-questions segment that ran on KREM-TV, fresh with a moment when she put a hand over the camera complaining of the bright camera light.

Gregoire: Devastating cuts or sales tax increase

OLYMPIA — Voters could be asked to approve a half-cent sales tax increase next March to help replace a portion of the $1.7 billion in cuts the Legislature will face when it convenes next week for a special session.
Gov. Chris Gregoire said this morning she would propose an “all-cuts” budget that will affect schools, colleges, social services for the poor and elderly and public safety.
“You will see more devastating cuts,” Gregoire said.
She will also ask legislators to let voters approve, through a March referendum, raising increase the state’s sales tax from 6.5 percent to 7 percent for three years, starting in August.
That would raise an estimated $494 million in fiscal 2013, which the referendum would require to be split so that $411 million goes offset proposed cuts to education, $42 million would offset proposed cuts to long-term care and developmental disability services and $41 million would replace proposed cuts to public safety programs.
Gregoire denied that she was proposing cuts to key programs as a “scare tactic” to push through a tax increase.
“These are not hypothetical cuts, they are real,” she said. “I’m being honest with the people of Washington.”
  

Supercommittee gives up

It's official: The Supercommittee isn't super. It's a bust

A press release from Sen. Patty Murray and her supercomm co-chairman Rep. Jeb Hensarling acknowledge as much today.

Of course, they tried to put the best face on it possible, saying that they hope Congress can build on the work the supercomm did “and find a way to tackle this issue in a way that works for the American people and the economy.”

And in honor of Thanksgiving, they thanked the American people “for sharing thoughts and ideas and providing support and good will as we worked to accomplish this difficult task.”

Not sure how much good will is likely to continue, considering that the task was not accomplished. But, you know, they did need some kind of holiday reference, and it would've probably been inappropriate to suggest that this whole thing was a turkey.

To read the whole statement, go inside the blog.

Why Verner lost: Part 2. A volunteer campaign short on cash

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Verner concedes

Just before conceding, Mayor Mary Verner published a scathing comment on Facebook about her opponent’s campaign which she said is a “turning point for the way campaigns are conducted in Spokane.”

“David Condon’s race for a non-partisan local office was woven into a … larger partisan domination strategy with out-of-town consultants, push polls and shrewd positioning of issues in collaboration with media mouthpieces. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent on the campaigns, while more and more people have fallen into joblessness, homelessness, hunger and despair,” she wrote.

But was this campaign that much different than the other three to elect a strong mayor?

When it comes to the amount of money, no. Dennis Hession raised nearly as much as Condon in 2007. John Powers spent more than Condon in 2000.

When it comes to out-of-town consultants, no. Verner apparently is referring to Stan Shore, an Olympia-based consultant who was hired by Condon. But he also worked in each of the previous three mayoral campaigns on behalf of Hession, Jim West and John Talbott.

When it comes to partisan politics, yes. The state Republican Party’s decision to contribute more than $60,000 to Condon in the final days of the campaign is unprecedented. (And could still lead to an investigation into election rules. A complaint filed with the state Public Disclosure Commission will be considered for a possible investigation after Thanksgiving, PDC spokeswoman Lori Anderson said Thursday.)

But party involvement in city races isn’t new. Councilman Steve Corker, a Verner supporter, has noted that parties started getting involved in nonpartisan local elections about a decade ago when the Democratic Party assisted Powers, and Tom Keefe, the former Spokane County Democratic Party, chair argues that it was Democrats who worked to turn the Condon-Verner race into a partisan battle.

Allen lead over Rush grows by 6

This post has been changed to correct the change in Allen's lead.

The race between Richard Rush and Mike Allen for Rush's Spokane City Council seat representing the south district remains headed for a recount after the sixth day of counting.

Allen's lead grew by 10 to 98 on Wednesday, but the gap between him and rush remains within a half percentage point. Allen has 50.23 percent of the vote to Rush's 49.77 percent.

There are 268 votes left to count in the race, and most of those are ballots that won't be counted unless the voters come to the elections office to clear up descrepencies with their signature, said Spokane County Elections Manager Mike McLaughlin. No more counting is expected until Nov. 28. The results will be certified on Nov. 29. If the race remains within a half percentage point, a computer recount would occur early next month, McLaughlin said.

A recount in the Rush-Allen race would be the first computer recount in Spokane County since John Driscoll beat John Ahern for a 6th Legislative District House seat in 2008. That recount changed the tally only by two votes. McLaughlin said the office has completed a couple hand recounts since then for races that were within a quarter of a percentage point, including the 2009 race for Airway Heights mayor.

Why Verner lost: Part 1. Water rates

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Condon correctly predicted outrage was coming on water rates. Even before summer bills were mailed, he began attacking the water rate restructuring. When the bills were opened, he already had defined himself as the candidate who opposed them.

On its face, focusing on sewer rate increases seemed to be the bigger issue since they are going up by higher percentages and they affect everyone equally, and most people actually pay less under the new water rate structure. But most who pay less pay a little less while some who pay more pay a whole lot more. And those people are outraged. (Just ask the people who answer the phones at City Hall.) Also, since the sewer rate increases in large part goes to build systems to keep raw sewage out of the river, focusing on sewer rates may have led savvy opponents to respond: “Mary Verner is working to keep the Spokane River clean while Condon supports dumping raw sewage in the river” — or something like that. Focusing on the water rates came with the TV campaign ad B-roll of pull-on-your-heartstrings footage of children running through sprinklers that sent the message: “These rates are so high your children may not be able to play in the sprinkler anymore, thanks to Mary Verner!”

Then billboards, posted by an anonymous person, were posted with false messages on the rates and even people whose rates had fallen started to believe that they had doubled.

Verner’s response was to point back at the Spokane City Council, which indeed led the process to restructure rates. But she signed the ordinance, and once you sign it, the public usually blames the mayor.

She wasn’t helped by indecision on the City Council about 2012 rates, which kept forcing the issue into the news until it finally made a decision in mid-September.

Allen-Rush contest now within recount margin

The race between incumbent Councilman Richard Rush and former Councilman Mike Allen for Rush's south Spokane City Council seat was sent within recount margins by counting on Tuesday.

Only 92 votes now separate the two, and if the race remains within a half percentage point, it will be recounted by computer. If it gets within a quarter of a percentage point, it will be recounted by hand.

Currently, Allen leads Rush 50.22 percent to 49.78 percent.

There are 369 votes to count. Rush needs to capture about 63 percent of them to win.

Also in Spokane, Proposition 1, the Community Bill of Rights, finally went to defeat on Tuesday. It trails by a little over 1,000 votes. It captured 49.1 percent of the vote. The group that worked to place it on the ballot, Envision Spokane, might consider the neck-and-neck outcome a victory since its first attempt to pass a different Community Bill of Rights was defeated with only 24 percent support in 2009. 

The results for Spokane mayor haven't changed much from election night. David Condon had 52.4 percent of the vote to Mary Verner's 47.6 percent after Tuesday's count.

In Spokane Valley, Ben Wick definitively captured a seat on City Council in Tuesday's count. He leads Marilyn Cline by 360 votes. There are only 364 votes left to count in the race.

Countywide, there are about 2,600 votes left to count.

Allen and Rush headed for recount? Prop 1 headed for defeat

A race for Spokane City Council inched closer to an automatic recount on Monday in the fourth day of ballot counting from the Nov. 8 election. Former Councilman Mike Allen’s lead over incumbent Richard Rush for a seat representing south Spokane fell by 17 votes to 135.

There are about 1,143 votes left to count in the contest, and if it tightens to within a half percentage point, an automatic computer recount will occur. Allen currently has 50.33 percent to Rush’s 49.67 percent.

Spokane Proposition 1, the Community Bill of Rights, appears to be headed to defeat after the fourth day of counting. It lost ground and is trailing by 1,013 votes with 2,777 left to count.

In Spokane Valley, Ben Wick’s lead over Marilyn Cline for City Council position 6 grew to 354 votes. There are 1,120 votes left count.

Verner needs all 2,777 remaining ballots … to tie

Mayor-elect David Condon’s lead over Spokane Mayor Mary Verner grew slightly in counting on Monday. He now leads by 2,777 votes. Coincidentally, that’s the same number of votes left to count in the race.

Sunday Spin: Here’s to the highlights and low lifes of Campaign 2011

The best thing for political junkies about an off-year election – and arguably the worst thing for everyone else – is there’s another election so close we can feel it in our bones. We’ll barely have time to catch our breath.  
But before the general population gets overwhelmed with more Republican presidential debates and the minutiae of selecting presidential delegates through the caucus system, Spin Control wants to take just a few minutes to recall the highlights and low lifes of Campaign Season 2011.
For this year's winners and losers, go inside the blog

4th District will get new senator on Day 2 of session

Because of a quirk in state law, Spokane’s 4th Legislative District will have one senator for the first day of the upcoming special session, and a different senator for the rest of it.
Republican Mike Padden is the apparent winner of the race to fill a seat that came open earlier this year when veteran Sen. Bob McCaslin resigned for health reasons. Padden has a mathematically insurmountable lead over Jeff Baxter, a fellow Republican appointed to the seat earlier this year.
Padden, a former state representative and district judge, leads Baxter by 3,628 votes. The Spokane County elections office estimates there are fewer than 3,000 votes left to count in the 4th District.
  

Today’s fun video: Perry kids himself on Letterman

 

Say what you will about Texas Gov. Rick Perry's “oops” moment — OK, so it was more than a full minute — but he at least parlayed it into an appearance on David Letterman.

He mocks himself by reading the Top 10 list.

NYTimes profiles Cantwell

Tim Egan of the New York Times profiles Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington in today's edition.

It's an overall flattering piece, characterizing her as a populist warrior against Wall Street villains.

OK, it has one unflattering jab:

“Through two terms, she has been almost an invisible senator. In person, she underwhelms, a charm deficiency that has given rise to a nickname of “Senator Cant-smile.”

It also concludes with a look at the 2012 election to which some Republicans might object: “She faces no significant opposition in her run for a third term next year.”

This might cause state Sen. Mike Baumgartner, a Spokane Republican who has announced a campaign, to remark something like: “So, what am I? Chopped liver?”

Apparently in Egan's assessment, the answer would be yes.

We’re No. 1(1-11-11)

It is eleventy-eleven day, and late this morning everything will come up ones, when it is 11:11:11 a.m. on 11-11-11.

It is also Washington statehood day. On this day in 1889, Washington became a state.

It is also Armistice Day. On this day in 1918 at 11 a.m., a cease fire took hold to end the Great War. (We know it as World War I, but in those days, they apparently didn't have the sense to number their world wars.)

Most of all, it's Veterans Day, to which Armistice Day was cha nged, to honor veterans of the wars before and after World War I. If you're a veteran, you deserve the day off; if you're not a veteran and have the day off, thank the first person in military uniform you meet.

Director of state GOP won’t follow Shogan’s call to resign

City Council President Joe Shogan reversed the order of this week’s council meeting to publicly call for the resignation of the executive director of the state Republican Party.

Four council members, Bob Apple, Steve Corker, Nancy McLaughlin and Richard Rush, walked off the dais in protest while Shogan spoke and the other two criticized him later for talking about campaign issues in the midst of a council meeting.

Shogan was responding to comments the executive director of the state GOP, Peter Graves, made last week to The Spokesman-Review when responding to questions about the party’s $25,000 donation late last month to the mayoral campaign of David Condon, who defeated incumbent Mary Verner this week.

Graves said the party decided to give to Condon to “take her (Mayor Mary Verner) out before she gets a chance at a free shot at a great congresswoman in the Fifth District.” Graves was referring to Condon’s former boss, Republican U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and said that some had speculated that Verner might one day run for Congress.

Shogan called Graves a “coward” and his comments “reprehensible, repugnant and cowardly.”

“I and Mr. David Condon know the meaning of the last definition of taking somebody out ’cause I’ve been in combat and I know that meaning, and Mr. Condon has been in a combat support hospital, so he knows first hand what taking somebody out can mean,” said Shogan, a Vietnam veteran.

Taking advantage of a nice autumn day

OLYMPIA — Taking a break from studying election returns, and trying to take advantage of a good fall day, Spin Control caught some sun and fall colors in a walk past the Capitol.

Forecast for Friday is the same on the West Side as it is for Spokane: rainy, cooler.

Enjoy the sunshine while you can.

Bell tolls for I-1125

OLYMPIA — Initiative 1125, which would have placed restrictions on how tolls can be levied and spent, is officially a loser.

Although the fate of the proposal seemed fairly likely when it ended Election Night behind, The Associated Press night called it for the No camp Wednesday evening after another day of ballot counting in some of the state's biggest counties.

Among them, a 71,000 vote margin on the side of the opposition in King County. Other counties voting No included Spokane, Snohomish, Thurston, Whitman, Garfield and Adams. Overall, I-1125 is down by about 40,000 votes out of nearly 1.3 million cast, or about 51.5 percent No and 48.5 percent Yes.

For a map of the county-by-county results on I-1125, click here.

Mapping the vote: Latest mayoral results

Not much movement in the percentages. Condon leads Verner by about 1,800 votes.

Compare how these precinct results to the primary results in the map below.

(Editor's note: We changed the color scheme from green and red to blue and red because of some reports that some readers can't tell the other set apart very well. Sorry about that. Hope this works better for you.)

Mapping the vote: The difference 3 months makes

Because several people have asked, we went back to look at the vote totals of the August primary for Spokane mayor, to compare with the current count in the general election.

It's a bit tricky, because the primary featured five candidates — four challengers and incumbent Mary Verner, who finished first with nearly 60 percent of the vote. David Condon finished second with about 33 percent. But she won almost all the precincts.

This map shows the difference between Verner's vote totals in each precinct and the combined totals of all “non-Verner votes”, that is, all the challengers on the ballot, the write-ins and the Under Votes that have no one chosen in that race.

Again, Verner won most precincts, but she had some weaknesses where the total of all non-Verner votes was greater than her vote count.

Compare this map with the latest results (above)  where she leads in the city's core on the lower South Hill, but he's leading in most of the surrounding precincts.

Verner tells KXLY radio that Zehm, water rate campaign issues ‘don’t have a lot of substance’

Mayor Mary Verner's interview last night with Mike Fitzsimmons on KXLY 920 AM has been making the rounds on Twitter today. And it's worth a listen.

Here's some of what was said. The entire interview is in the link above.

Verner: …I do know that on your radio show you’ve helped perpetuate a lot of misinformation so I’ve been up against a series of unfolding events and a very negative misinformation campaign and I still have a lot of support in this community. So I’m really looking forward to the rest of the ballots coming in.

Fitzsimmons: You sound quite bitter.

Verner: Mike I’ve been on your show quite a few times, and I’ve also listened to some of the things that you have perpetuated on your show. I’m sorry if it comes across as bitter. I’m very disappointed in you.

Fitzsimmons: Well, we’re disappointed in you as well, which is maybe why you’re losing tonight.

Verner: Well, that’s certainly your opinion and you’ve certainly had lots of airtime to express it. ….

(The two argue about how often the mayor has accepted invitations to appear on the show.)

Fitzsimmons: I don’t want to get into it. You’re the one who brought the issue up to begin with. Perhaps you might want to look at water rates, you might want to look at the whole Otto Zehm thing if you’re really looking for the reason why you’re trailing right now.

Verner: Well, I have looked into that and those are exactly a couple of the issues that you’ve kind of put on the block that don’t have a lot of substance to them. But I’m still very pleased with the support that I have ….

Mapping the Election: Why City Prop 1 is behind

Spokane City Proposition 1, a.k.a. the Community Bill of Rights, may have relatively broad support in the city, but the opposition seems to run deep.

As the map of last  night's vote count shows, Prop. 1 won more precincts. But it failed by bigger margins in some of the places where went down. It is trailing by 115 votes.

Next vote count: Late Wednesday afternoon

Verner remains hopeful, but her chances are dim

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Mayor Mary Verner addresses supporters on election night
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Verner takes questions from reporters on election night

Here's are Verner's statements to her supporters and repoters last night.

The Spokane County Elections Office has reported that it received nearly 23,000 ballots in the mail today.

There are 22,200 ballots left to count in the City of Spokane. For Verner to make a comeback, she'll need to win 56.4 percent of those votes. That doesn't include ballots the county will get later this week, but Elections Manager Mike McLaughlin said he expects only about 1,000 ballots countywide be in the mail on Thursday.

Verner said her campaign had phone banks and several other late efforts that could turn around her fate. And there is some question as to how voters may have reacted to the late big donations from the state Republican Party. But voters should have already known Condon was a Republican, “nonpartisan” on his signs or not.

Condon had significant get-out-the-vote efforts, and the biggest news of last week, the conviction of a Spokane police officer in a trial in which the federal government accused the police department of a cover-up, does not favor the incumbent.

Mapping the election: Why Padden’s ahead

Mike Padden, a former legislatore and district judge, is running ahead of businessman and incumbent Sen. Jeff Baxter in most of the 4th Legislative District's precincts in Tuesday night's count.

He also was able to build up bigger leads. Baxter is not ahead in any precinct by more than 35 votes. Padden  has margins that reach above 100 votes.

Next count: Late Wednesday afternoon.

Mapping the election: Why Stuckart’s ahead

Political newcomer Ben Stuckart has a strong lead after Tuesday's vote total, which shows him leading former Mayor and Council President Dennis Hession in much of the city, from the lower South Hill and East Central through downtown, Browne's Addition, West Central and many northest precincts.

Compared to the mayor's race (click here for that map) this contest seems more settled, although there are still thousands of ballots to be counted.

Click on the map to enlarge.

Mapping the election: Why Condon’s ahead

A look at the precinct breakdown for the City of Spokane Mayor's race shows that incumbent Mary Verner carried the city's central core, but challenger David Condon is leading her in precincts all around that center.

And he's winning big in some heavy voting precincts in northwest Spokane and the upper South Hill.
  

The race isn't over, but Condon can probably rest easier tonight than Verner

Spokane returns: Good for Padden, bad for Verner

Mary Verner may be taking on the same description has been hung on Spokane mayors since 1977:

One termer.

Verner, who handily won the August primary with more than twice as  many votes as her challenger David Condon, finds herself behind the former congressional aide tonight.

He has 52 percent of the vote, or 20,599 votes; she has 47.5 percent or 18,784.

In Spokane Valley's hotly contested 4th Legislative District, former state Rep. and District Judge Mike Padden has a commanding lead over appointed Sen. Jeff Baxter for the remaining year in that district's Senate seat.

Padden has about 54 percent, Baxter about 43 percent and write-ins took up another 3 percent.

In other races:

Ben Stuckart has a comfortable lead over former mayor and former Spokane City Council President Dennis Hession to be the next council president.

Mike Fagan is leading in Northeast Spokane's Council District 1

Mike Allen is leading in South Spokane's Council District 2.

Steve Salvatori is leading in Northwest Spokane's Council District 3.

If these numbers hold up — and there won't be any new vote counts until tomorrow afternoon — that means a majority of the council will turn over in January. Allen served almost two years after being appointed in 2007, but the other three are newcomers to the council dais.

In perhaps the biggest surprise of the night, Spokane Proposition 1 is narrowly loosing, just about 115 votes out of some 38,000 cast. This is a stripped down version of a Community Bill of Rights that was defeated handily at the polls just two years ago. A race that close might not be decided until the final ballots are counted and the election certified on Nov. 29.

Maybe they should go to all-mail elections

This just in from the AP:

CLEVELAND (AP) — An Ohio election board says an employee bit a voter’s nose during an argument over a campaign sign.
Cuyahoga  County elections board director Jane Platten says the board identified the worker for Cleveland police trying to arrest him.
Voter Greg Flanagan says he was bitten Tuesday when went to the aid of a campaign worker in an argument with the election employee over a sign posted near the polls.
The victim had a slash down the left side of his nose. He told WEWS-TV he was hoping his nose wouldn’t be bitten off. He was treated at a hospital.
The election board says the employee had a clean record working eight elections since 2006 but won’t be rehired.
Police spokesman Sgt. Sammy Morris says officers are investigating.
  

Candidates prepare for results

Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton said she expects only one count of votes tonight.

Results should be released about 8:15 p.m. She said including today's mail, the county has received about 100,000 ballots. About 90,000 of those will be counted in the numbers released tonight.

Dalton said once all the ballots are returned, the county expects to receive between 130,000 and 140,000 ballots. What's not counted tonight will be counted later in the week.

Here's where some candidates will wait for results tonight:

Mary Verner: Taaj Indian restaurant, 128 W. Third Ave.

David Condon, Mike Allen and Steve Salvatori: Barrister Winery, 1213 W. Railroad Ave.

Ben Stuckart: Two Seven Public House, 2727 S. Mt. Vernon St. 

Donna McKereghan: Geno's, 1414 N. Hamilton St.

Richard Rush and Joy Jones: Hamilton Studios, 1427 W. Dean

Mike Padden, campaign headquarters, 10807 E. Montgomery

Jeff Baxter, Luxury Box, 10512 E. Sprague

Redistricting panel reworking legislative lines

OLYMPIA—In an effort to resolve conflicts over the redrawing Washington's political boundaries, the State Redistricting Commission is scheduling weekly meetings and splitting up into “bipartisan” subcommittees.

At their monthly meeting Tuesday, commissioners acknowledged they are far apart on plans for legislative and congressional boundaries. Legislative maps proposed last month by the commission's two Republican members have major differences from the maps proposed by the two Democratic members.

And they're running out of time. State law requires at least three members of the commission agree to plans to be submitted to the Legislature by January.

All four agreed to a plan by Commissioner Tom Huff to split into bipartisan  teams of one Republican and one Democratic appointee and try to come up with acceptable legislative boundaries for different regions of the state. Slade Gorton, the Senate Republicans' appointee, will work with Tim Ceis, the Senate Democrats' pick; Huff, the House Republicans' appointee will work with Dean Foster, the House Democrats' pick.

They'll start with the West Side, one group starting from the north and the other from the southwest and try rework boundaries for those legislative districts. Then they'll move on to other regions in Central and Eastern Washington. The legislative maps proposed last month have significant differences for Spokane and some southeast counties. (Click here to read a previous post on how the different plans affect Spokane and surrounding areas.)

“I don't think I'd liked to be here at Christmas time,” Huff said.

But that will likely require meetings at least once a week, and more often if they reach some decisions on different regions. Under state law, the commission can meet with as little as 24 hours notice.

By meeting into December, however, the commission could run into logistical problems. On Nov. 28, the Legislature is scheduled to begin a special session to discuss budget problems. There may be competition for the hearing room the commission uses in the Senate office building that allows its meetings to be broadcast on TVW.

Foster said he wasn't too worried about scheduling problems: “The Legislature may be pretty accommodating to us.”

The State Capitol in autumn

OLYMPIA — So it's the calm before the election night storm here in Olympia, and with time to spare on the way back from the Washington State Redistricting Commission meeting today, (story above) I stopped to admire the fall colors which are still very much on display.

This is the north side of the Capitol Building from the north entrance to the Sunken Garden.

It’s Election Day. So vote already

Spin Control has been counting down to Election Day for you since…well, almost since last Election Day.

And we realize that most people who read political blogs have voted by now. But if for some reason you haven't — or more likely you know someone who hasn't and you're trying to help them out — here's our last bits of advice and assistance: 

 Your ballots have to be either postmarked or deposited in a drop box by 8 p.m.

If you're a Washington voter who has lost your ballot, spilled coffee on it, filled in the circles with an improper writing implement (pencils, red ballpoint, crayon), ripped it up, let the dog chew on it….we could go on, but you get the picture…you can get help or a replacement ballot at a Voter Service Center until 8 p.m.

If you have questions about a particular issue or race, you can find stories and videos on The Spokesman-Review's election archives by going to the home page, and clicking on the links for 2011 Washington Elections or 2011 Idaho Elections. You can also check out the Secretary of State's Voter Guide for statewide issues, the TVW Video Voter's Guide for the state ballot measures, the Spokane County Online Voter's Guide for local candidates and issues.

Go inside the blog to find a list of Voter Service Centers and Drop Boxes in Spokane County. For other counties, click here for the Secretary of State's interactive map for county elections offices.

In Idaho, you have to go to the polls to vote, and show up with photo I.D.. But you can vote today even if you aren't registered if:
—You're a U.S. citizen
—You're at least 18 years old.
—You have proof that you've lived in Idaho for at least 30 days.

To do that, you must go to the proper polling station with photo I.D. and some proof of residency in the state for at least the last 30 days (a document that has the address that matches your photo I.D.) To find your proper polling station, call the county elections office. A list can be found here.

If the thought of the election season being over tomorrow makes you sad, take heart. It's only 365 days until next year's election. If you were listening to the national news on Sunday, you may have heard the election was a year from yesterday. And that's correct, but next year is a Leap Year, so there was an extra day slipped into the count, as there is every presidential election year.

Condon gets second big contribution from state GOP

Mayoral candidate David Condon over the weekend got another big lift from the state Republican Party.

The GOP contributed $38,000 to Condon’s campaign on Saturday, according to reports filed to the state Public Disclosure Commission. Late last month, the party gave his campaign $25,000.

Condon, the former district director of Republican U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, is challenging incumbent Mayor Mary Verner in Tuesday's election. Last week, the executive director of the party said the GOP opted to contribute to Condon to help “take out” Verner to prevent her from challenging McMorris Rodgers in the future.

The late contribution takes Condon’s total tally to $288,000. Verner has raised about $125,000. Independent groups have spent about $26,000 on her behalf.

Most contributors are limited to $800 per candidate per election. But rules enable political parties to give much more. The state Republican Party received several significant contributions from Condon supporters in August, September and October. A Verner supporter filed a complaint with the PDC last week arguing that the party donations violate contribution limits. The state party says it complied fully with the law.

Uh-oh. Some ballots might not have been mailed

OLYMPIA — Nearly 21,000 residents who either signed up to vote or updated their registration by using a state web site might not  have been mailed a ballot or may have been sent a ballot for their old address.

The Washington Secretary of State's office said late Monday that some voters who used the Department of Licensing's web site to register or change their address may not have received a ballot because the DoL computer wasn't sending that  information to the SecState computer.

Nearly 15,000 voters who tried to update their registration address when they updated their drivers license address filled out a form online and on time, but that information wasn't forwarded to the Secretary of State's office until last Friday. Some of those voters may have received ballots that were sent to a previous address and forwarded to them; others may not have received a ballot

Almost 6,000 who weren't registered may have filled out the “update your voter registration” form which doesn't have enough information for a new registration.

So what's a wouldbe voter to do? On Election Eve, the Secretary of State's office says if you believe you registered but haven't received a ballot — or if you changed your address but received a ballot for your old location — go to your county elections office or a Voter Service Center to fill out a registration form and cast a provisional ballot.

For information on the location of county elections offices and voter service centers, click here.

I-1183: More stores, less variety?

One angle of Initiative 1183 that has not been the subject of millions of dollars worth of commercials for and against is choice – as in will my choice of liquor be better or worse if the measure passes?

With campaigns arguing over whether people will or won’t drink significantly more liquor, get into significantly more traffic accidents and have significantly more problems with alcohol abuse, it’s probably not surprising that neither side has the campaign equivalent of “Dos Equis Guy” saying “I don’t always drink single malt 20-year-old scotch, but when I do, I like shopping at Washington State liquor stores.”

But selection is likely to change, at least initially…

One-third of Spokane ballots in

Spokane County Elections Office says it has received slighly more than 89,500 ballots, or 33.66 percent of all the ballots it sent out a couple weeks ago.

That's counting nearly 10,000 that came in today's mail or the pickup of weekend deposits in drop boxes.

For those who think a hot candidate race will definitely spur turnout, the numbers so far would suggest otherwise.

For example, the city of Spokane has a hotly contested mayor's race, a council president race and three contested city council races. It's turnout is 33.4 percent. The City of Spokane Valley has some contested council seats, turnout there is 33.24 percent.

The 4th Legislative District has one of the state's few off-year senate races. Turnout is 33.76 percent.

Town of Spangle, which has five council races on the ballot, but only one that's contested, turnout 45.8 percent. Orchard Prairie School District, three board seats on the ballot, none contested, 40.4 percent turnout.

Of course, one could note that Spangle and O.P. School District  registration numbers are so small that a handful of ballots boosts the turnout numbers. That's true, but the top part or the ballot is the same for everyone, with five statewide ballot measures and one county-wide proposal. And the process is the same for everyone: Fill out the ballot, put it in an envelope and mail it in or drop it off. For info on where to drop them, go here.

Family not offended by Condon’s critique of city’s handling of Zehm cases

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When David Condon began to publicly criticize Mary Verner's handling of the Otto Zehm case, Verner said Condon's critique was further victimizing the Zehm family “by attempting to elevate himself.”

The Inland Northwest Leadership Political Action Committee, which has spent about $25,000 on the mayoral race in support of Verner, has made similar allegations.

“Unfortunately, David Condon is now desperately trying to exploit this tragedy for political gain,” says an article on the group's website.

But last week, Breean Beggs, who represents the Zehm family and has contributed money to the Verner campaign, said Zehm family members do not feel exploited or victimized by Condon or other city candidates who have discussed the case. Beggs said that's because they feel that police oversight, training, procedures and other issues surrounding the case are legitimate issues that should be considered by those seeking city office.

 

These were the official statements released by Verner and Condon last week after the verdict:

Verner:

“The jury in the trial was in the best position to render a verdict in this case.  And, we accept their decision. This verdict is only one step toward closure and healing for our community.  I remain committed to completing a thorough internal and external review of all aspects of the case.   Our citizens rightfully require their elected officials to acknowledge mistakes and problems and make changes to avoid them in the future.  That’s what we’re going to do.”

“I appreciate your ongoing support of our community, and I am pleased to serve you.”

Condon:

“This is a sad day for our city, a slow-motion train wreck … first the indictment, now the trial and verdict, and next the civil lawsuit which may cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars.  It is an indictment of the mayor and her legal team and of the police department, as well as of an individual officer.  My heart goes out again to the family of Otto Zehm with the hope that this sad spectacle can soon be brought to a final conclusion.”


Where do I take my ballot?

You have until 8 p.m. Tuesday to mark your ballot, place it in the proper envelopes, seal and sign the envelopes and take it to a drop box or mail it. Be sure if you mail it on Tuesday, it will be postmarked that day, so taking it to the post office is a good idea, dropping it in the neighborhood mailbox in the afternoon, not so much.

If you're wondering where the drop boxes in Spokane County are, go inside te blog. If you live in another county, click here for a map that has phone numbers for all the county elections offices.

Sunday Spin: Adventures in redistricting

OLYMPIA – Tuesday is Election Day 2011 – or what passes for one in a state that mailed out its ballots two weeks ago and will spend more than two weeks counting the returns – but it could be a key day for Election Days 2012-21.
That morning is the next meeting of the state Redistricting Commission, which is weighing two proposals to redraw congressional and legislative lines in Washington…

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

County GOP endorses - scratch that - recommends Condon, Hession, Allen, Fagan and Salvatori

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The Spokane County Republican Party, which has previously declined to endorse candidates running as Republicans against Democrats when they declined to sign the county party's platform, has sent out recommendations for how to vote in Tuesday's nonparitsan city elections.

The picks include: David Condon for mayor, Mike Fagan, Steve Salvatori and Mike Allen for City Council and Dennis Hession for City Council president. The candidates apparently didn't have to sign any pledges to win the recommendations.

Condon, Fagan, Salvatori and Allen have clear ties to the party, though the party declined to back Allen in his 2009 bid for council. And while Hession has enjoyed some Republican support in past races, he also has been more aligned with the Democratic Party, at least on some environmental and social issues.

The party posted the following statement with its recommendations: “The Spokane County Republican Party acknowledges the non-partisan nature of local elections and makes no claim that recommended candidates are in any way affiliated with the Republican Party.  The following recommendations are not intended to serve as an endorsement of any issue or candidate.”

We're not sure what the difference is between recommending a candidate and endorsing one.

Has Condon closed the gap?

It was clear on the evening of Aug. 16 that the race for mayor was Mary Verner's to lose.

But a lot has happened since then, including the conviction of Officer Karl Thompson.  

So will she hold on?

As far as we at Spin Control know, there has been no scientific polling of the race, at least not the kind of unbiased polling newspapers like to have for campaign 'horse race' stories.

Last month, the Condon campaign wrote to potential donors that polling showed him within 3 points of Verner. Condon, however, has declined to release details of the poll. His campaign expense reports indicate that his campaign paid Pollis Political Service, which is a political strategy consultant firm, not a scientific polling company, for the poll.

That doesn't necessarily mean that the poll isn't relevant. Spin Control heard from someone who received the phone poll and it went something like this (this is extremely paraphrased):

1. Do you support Verner or Condon?

2. If you knew Mary Verner increased water rates would you be you more or less likely to vote for her?

3. If you knew Mary Verner messed up the handling of the Otto Zehm cases would you be more or less likely to vote for her?

4. If you knew Mary Verner eliminated the city's property crime detective division would you be more or less likely to vote for her?

5. Now who do you support for mayor, Verner or Condon?

Tuesday is (fill in the blank) day. Get’cher ballot in

Most readers can remember when Tuesday would've been called Election Day, capital letters included. Most of the ballots would have been cast between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. Barring some problem with equipment, most of them would've been counted between 8 p.m. and some time in the wee hours of the next morning.

Washington state got away from that when it started down the road to mail-in ballots for folks who hadn't fled for warmer climes or foreign shores. It now mails ballots out about three weeks before it starts counting them, and continues to count for another couple of weeks.

So what is Nov. 8 this year, anyway?

The Secretary of State's office sent out a press release today, referring to it as “Washington's 2011 ballot-return deadline, formerlly known as Election Day.” It's accurate, but has sort of the same feeling as “the artist formerly known as Prince.”

Anyway, whatever you want to call it, 8 p.m. Tuesday is your last chance to vote. Get your ballot to a drop box by then, or get it in the mail soon enough that it is postmarked by then.

If you're wondering where the drop boxes in Spokane County are, go inside the blog for a list. If you live in another county, click here for a map that has phone numbers for all the county elections offices.

Can't pick your county out of a map? Then you probably shouldn't be voting, anyway.

One of 10 city candidates signs pledge not to approve Guild contract without stronger oversight

Only one of the 10 candidates on the ballot next week for Spokane city office agreed to sign a pledge promising to oppose any Spokane Police Guild contract unless the union agrees to stronger police oversight, the Center for Justice reported this week.

A coalition of groups including the Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane asked the candidates as well as four City Council members not running in elections this fall if they would sign a pledge promising not to vote for a guild contract unless the union agrees to the provisions of the ombudsman ordinance that recently was repealed.

The city's 2010 police ombudsman law was thrown out by the City Council last month after an arbitrator ruled that the rules needed to be agreed to by the guild.

Only Donna McKereghan, who is running for the City Council seat in Northeast Spokane signed the pledge. Another candidate, Joy Jones, said she would not vote for a contract without stronger oversight but declined to sign the pledge. Jones is running for Spokane City Council in the Northwest district.

The center created a scoring system based on each candidate's response to its request. To see the rankings, continue reading the post.


Documents:

The politics of ‘It totally sucks’

Police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer DeRuwe declined to comment this week about her “totally sucks” comment becoming a major highlight of the David Condon campaign for mayor.

DeRuwe made the comment last month soon after sending a news release announcing that the department eliminated its property crime detective division earlier this year.

Mayor Mary Verner has argued that the change was about reallocating existing resources and that property crimes still will be investigated by detectives who now also will investigate other crimes. Chief Anne Kirkpatrick says fewer property crimes are being investigated but that the department still works many cases.

The statement from DeRuwe is pretty powerful and was quite a gift to the Condon campaign. My only question as someone who grew up with a mom who detested the word “sucks” is: How will posting it on televisions over the dinner hour play with the 'Wheel of Fortune' crowd?

Today’s fun video: Daylight Savings Time explained

Daylight Savings Time ends Sunday, which means we fall forward…No, we spring up…No, we autumn leave. Dang, I never can remember that saying.

Whatever.

This video explains the whole concept of saving daylight (or not)  in great detail.

Not to rub it in, but…

Fall colors on the Capitol Campus.

OLYMPIA — November is a month when the weather in Western and Eastern Washington shift, and at some point it's nicer over here than it is in Spokane.

I think that happened on Thursday, when the snow fell, as predicted, in Eastern Washington, and the rain did not fall as predicted in the South Puget Sound.

Barring some snap freeze, the Capitol Campus may have a week or two more of fall colors.

2011 elections: Who’s spending what

OLYMPIA – Led by a multi-million dollar battle for who controls liquor sales in Washington, initiatives and candidates on the Nov. 8 ballot have spent more than $18 million on trying to sway voters in the last three weeks.

This may come as no surprise to state residents who can’t turn on the television without seeing firefighters argue whether voters’ lives will be better or worse if state-run liquor stores go the way of the Model T. Other state initiative campaigns have their own TV messages, and campaigns big and small are filling mail boxes with slick mailers.

Campaigns were required this week to report all spending through Tuesday to the State Public Disclosure Commission. While more money will be spent by some campaigns that remain flush with cash, that won’t be reported until Dec. 12, when most bills are paid and many campaigns tally their final account.

Tuesday’s deadline covers some of the most intense spending of any campaign season…

Click to go inside to read the rest of this item.

Jumping into 2012 races

OLYMPIA — Five days left in this election cycle, but here's some candidates for the 2012 election.

Sen. Craig Pridemore, D-Vancouver, said today he'll run for State Auditor. Longtime Auditor Brian Sonntag announced more than a month ago he wouldn't seek re-election, and Rep. Mark Miloscia, D-Federal Way, got in the race in October, and Rep. Chris Reykdahl, D-Olympia set up “an exploratory committee” to consider the run. One possible factor in Pridemore's decision: Sen. Lisa Brown, the Senate Majority leader from Spokane, said earlier this week she would not run for auditor.

Rep. Zack Hudgins, D-Tukwila, is running for Secretary of State. That seat is also open, as longtime Sec. State Sam Reed announced this summer he was retiring.  State Sen. Jim Kastama, D-Puyallup, and Republican Thurston County Auditor Kim Wyman are already in that race.

All the state reps will give up their seats if they stay in the race. So will Pridemore and Kastama, because they face re-election in 2012. So the dominoes could start falling in legislative districts around the state.

State liquor monopoly: All in or all out?

OLYMPIA – It’s apparently all in, or all out, for Washington state’s involvement in the liquor business.

After studying two proposals to take over the state’s liquor distribution system, the Office of Financial Management is calling for a pass on both. Voters could still order that system sold, and remove the state’s involvement in wholesale and retail liquor sales, by passing Initiative 1183.

If that measure fails, the system stays as is, at least for a while.

In a letter Wednesday to the Liquor Control Board, OFM Director Marty Brown said the two proposals from private companies to take over the liquor warehousing system “do not represent ‘net positive benefit’ to the state or local governments.” Because of that, OFM officials say, state law doesn’t allow the board to accept either proposal….

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

Long freeze coming for some candidates

OLYMPIA — The upcoming special session of the Legislature may complicate campaign cash-grabbing for some candidates, but give others a leg up.

State law bans state elected officials from accepting campaign contributions during a special session and from 30 days before a regular session until that session ends.

The freeze, as it's called, starts on Nov. 27, the day before the special session starts, and continues until that session ends. If the special session lasts past Dec. 10 (something for which you could get really good odds, if Vegas bookmakers were foolish enought to bet on Legislatures) the 30-day ban in front of the regular session kicks in, so the freeze continues into January, February … and however long it takes for the Legislature to finish the rest of its business.

Will they need a special session to get everything done? Who knows. But they've need them for the last two years.

So incumbents up for election in 2012 might not be accepting checks from Thanksgiving weekend until sometime in mid March, at the earliest. Their challengers who aren't in office can.

Also affected are state elected officials who will be running for some other state office. So State Attorney General Rob McKenna's campaign for governor is frozen out, starting Nov. 27. But his chief Democratic challenger, Rep. Jay Inslee, isn't because the law doesn't — in fact, can't — cover federal officials.

That principle that a state can't put limits on federal candidates works in reverse, too. State Sen. Mike Baumgartner, R-Spokane, for example, isn't barred from raising money for his campaign for U.S. Senate against incumbent Maria Cantwell. Neither are any of the other legislators who might run for Inslee's old seat, once they know where the boundary lines are.

OFM: Pass on both bids for liquor warehouse

OLYMPIA — After studying two proposals for taking over the state's liquor distribution system, the state Office of Financial Management is calling for a pass on both.

In a letter to the Liquor Control Board, OFM Director Marty Brown says the proposal's “do not represent 'net positive benefit' to the state or local governments.”

Selling the state's liquor warehouse has been a popular proposal in the Legislature, where many members believe the state has no business in the liquor business. Some budget proposals in the last session counted on revenue from the sale of the warehouse to help close the gap between expected revenues and scheduled expenses, but critics questioned whether the revenue estimates were realistic.

Opposition to state control of liquor has generated three ballot initiatives in the last two years, the most recent being Initiative 1183 on the Nov. 8 ballot and would get the state out of the wholesale and retail end of liquor sales

Before I-1183 was filed, the Legislature passed a law requiring a study of the possible financial benefits of selling or leasing the state's warehouse and distribution system, while maintaining its retail stores.  Companies were invited to submit bids, and OFM was directed to examine them and make a recommendation to the Liquor Control Board, which has ultimate authority over the state's booze business.

Only two companies bid. . .

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

Not a list we aspire to make

Different organizations regularly put out lists of cities that they think are the most livable, most environmental, best for kids or seniors or families.

And then there are the other lists, the mirror images of the ones above.

Daily Beast has a new list of the latter category. Brokest Cities in America.

And no, Spokane isn't on it. In fact there's only one city from Washington or Idaho on it.

So, see. Things could be worse.

Murray in Common Cause sights for defense $

Super committee co-chairwoman Patty Murray gets more money from defense contractors than any other member of the panel assembled to find ways to cut the budget deficit.

So says Common Cause, a public watchdog organization and longtime critic of the campaign financing system, in a new report.

Murray, D-Wash., has received more than a quarter million dollars from the defense industry since 2004, $247,000 to her re-election campaign and $29,000 to her “leadership PAC” a separate campaign fund that funnels money to other candidates.

Of course, one could argue that's not surprising, considering one of the nation's biggest defense contractors is also one of Washington state's biggest employers, Boeing.

Common Cause looks at it another way: That military spending doubled in the last decade and contracts to defense suppliers went up even faster. And 20 percent of all those contracts went to just five companies, one of which was Boeing.

“These companies are pooling their resources – working through vehicles such as their trade group, the Aerospace Industries Association – in an attempt to keep Pentagon spending as high as possible in the face of pressures to reduce the federal deficit,” the report contends. “Their most immediate goal is to keep defense spending out of the super committee’s deficit reduction proposal.”

Not so fun video: The Obama Zombie ad

If you're wondering about what the fuss is over an ad from a county GOP party  in Virginia, this is one of the early local reports that shows the renderings of President Obama and Rep. Nancy Pelosi as zombies.

It was far enough over the top to draw condemnations from elected officials of both parties, and Virginia state Republican Party officials

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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.

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