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Spin Control

Archive for August 2013

Sunday Spin: RIP Edward Thomas Jr.

You could call Edward Thomas Jr. a spark plug in Spokane’s African American community or an activist for the city as a whole.

Call Thomas – who passed away last week from cancer – the founding chairman of the Citizens Review Panel for Spokane police, a member of the Sports Entertainment Arts and Convention Advisory Board, a prolific writer of letters to the editor, a candidate for City Council, the campaign manager of one of the biggest upsets in the city’s mayoral politics, a serious racquetball player or a man interested in an infinite variety of topics and fond of stylish hats.

Call him all of those things and more. But you wouldn’t want to call him Ed, at least not more than once.

“My name,” he once admonished after the unacceptable appellation appeared in a story, “is Edward. Thomas. Junior.”

To Thomas, a given name was an identity of which one should be proud, not to be shortened or nicked. Given that name some 77 years ago when born in New Orleans, he carried it proudly in the U.S. Air Force for 22 years, as he rose to the rank of senior master sergeant before retiring at Fairchild, and for more than three decades in his adopted hometown of Spokane. . .

Feds won’t pre-empt WA pot law

OLYMPIA — The federal government will not try to stop Washington from setting up a way to allow adults to use legal marijuana.

In what state officials described as a “game changer”, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced Thursday the federal government will focus attention on several key areas of illegal marijuana production and sales, but allow Washington to continue setting up systems for legal marijuana to be grown and sold to adults.  .  .

 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.
  


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A mass transit, double-decker bus in Spokane?

At last week’s Planning, Community and Economic Development committee meeting, Spokane city planning director Scott Chesney was discussing the Larry H. Miller empire and its request to temporarily shut down some streets while the car dealer did some re-arrangement.

Not exciting stuff.

Then, off-handedly, Chesney told committee members that it was important to keep the Jefferson Street viaduct open during this work because it was the only railroad bridge tall enough to accommodate the double-decker bus that the Spokane Transit Authority was thinking about bringing into its fleet.

Wait. What?

With visions of those huge, red buses that ply the streets of London dancing through our heads, we called up STA.

“They were looking at it for the EWU route because ridership has skyrocketed,” said Molly Myers, STA’s spokeswoman. “It was just an idea to be able to double capacity. That is a suggestion that came up during our planning process during brainstorming. It never got to that level of specificity.”

So we let it lie. Until Monday, when we saw this.

State transportation hearing coming to Spokane

OLYMPIA — After trying but failing to craft a package of major road projects in this year's Legislature, the Senate Transportation Committee will hold seven forums around the state to try to craft a new package.

One of the stops on the “listening tour” will be in Spokane on Oct. 2 at thle Greater Spokane Inc., offices, 801 W. Riverside Ave.

Sens. Curtis King, R-Yakima, and Tracey Eide, D-Federal Way, who share the chairman duties on the committee, said they want to get public comment for a package that could be introduced next year.

“We’re looking forward to hearing from Washington residents on their priorities for our transportation system, as well as sharing some of our thoughts for how it can be improved,” said King, in a press release announcing the meetings.  

“Transportation is the backbone to a vital economy, both for jobs and for a strong infrastructure that drives economic development,” Eide said in the press release. “We need to make sure the public understands what’s at stake here, and the public needs the opportunity to make their priorities known.”

During the session, proposals to raise the gasoline tax and some motor vehicle fees to pay for as much as $10 billion in new roads and bridges and maintenance on existing structures collapsed in disagreements over the proposed Columbia River Crossing, the amounts to be spent on mass transit and road maintenance, and proposed improvements in the way the state Transportation Department contracts for major projects.

For a schedule of the forums, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

Take a shot at the news quiz

We at Spin Control like to think our readers are better than average when it comes to following the news.

This comes not from any scientific readership survey, but from reader comments that point out any mistakes we make, details we overlook or alternate interpretations we should consider.

So we think you might do well a That's News to You, the newspaper's weekly news quiz. For those not familiar with the quiz, here's how it works:

You can take the online version of the quiz any time from Sunday  morning until 5:59 a.m. Friday. There's also a newspaper version of the quiz in Sunday morning's paper. The newspaper version has five questions, the online version has 10. The top entries in the online version — which almost every week are the ones that go 10 for 10 because the questions aren't that hard — go into a weekly drawing for a $50 gift card at the Davenport Hotel. All of the entries, even the ones that go 0 for 10, go into a separate drawing for the week's other giveaway, which this week is freemovie tickets.

If you're wondering what your chances are to go 10 for 10 and have a shot at both prizes, this week they look pretty good. More than 20 people had perfect scores last night.

Now here's something many online-only readers don't know. Some of the newspaper questions are repeated in the online version of the quiz. So if you take the newspaper quiz first (which you are scoring yourself, so no one else knows how well or poorly you did) you have a leg up on the online readers who didn't.

And here's something some online readers may not realize: You can read the newspaper version of the quiz online, just like you can see all the other stories from that day's paper and find it in the archives.  

How do we at Spin Control know all this insider information about That's News to You? Because most weeks, we put the quiz together. We can't just give you the answers, but we can make sure you know how to play the game.

City Hall Scoop: Foot bridges and vegetated roofs

There were enough members for a quorum, but the dais was a bit spare at Monday's regularly scheduled Spokane City Council meeting.

Councilman Jon Snyder, acting as council president pro tem in Ben Stuckart's stead, politely led the charge through the hour-long meeting. Councilman Mike Allen was also absent. 

Members voted on an emergency spending request put forth by Snyder to shift $350,000 out of general fund reserves to pay for comprehensive inspections on 11 bridges, mainly in Riverfront Park. Our previous story here said nine bridges would be checked, but two bridges on the Fish Lake trail were added. 

On his blog, Snyder said the bridges are “vital bike riding and walking links for our City, a City that has precious few places for those using non-motorized to cross our river.”

Kelly Cruz, who failed to get past this month's primary in the race to replace the term-limited Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin, spoke against spending so much money on inspections when he said some of them were thoroughly inspected four years ago by CH2M Hill.

“I just want to make sure we're not spending money on something we've already covered,” he said.

George McGrath, a vocal fixture at the council meetings, spoke against the plan.

It passed 5-0. Usually members light up a screen showing their yea's or nay's, but with Stuckart gone and city Attorney Mike Piccolo befuddled by his first time use of the electronics, Snyder called for a voice vote.

The council also approved a low impact development ordinance, which encourages developers to utilize innovated approaches dealing with stormwater.

As Councilwoman Amber Waldref said on her blog, “developers will be able to manage stormwater onsite either through traditional methods like swales OR choose rooftop gardens, rainwater collection or rain gardens on their properties. These will be optional, but it is a start for Spokane.”

We wrote about all of this earlier here. Check out the city's website on it here.

Bart Mihailovich, with the Spokane Riverkeeper, said the LID ordinance was an example of the city working across departments to solve problems. 

As for dealing with stormwater on site, Mihailovich said, “This is certainly the trend.”

It also passed 5-0.

Another resolution before the council regarding the appointment of committees to “prepare statements advocating voters' approval or rejection” of this year's ballot propositions was delayed for two weeks.

Finally, next week's meeting has been canceled in lieu of Labor Day.

Lege panel to court: We’re spending $982 million more on schools

Although the Legislature needed two special sessions to agree to a budget, in large part because of disagreements over how much to spend on public schools, a special legislative committee needed only about six minutes Tuesday to tell the state Supreme Court that budget is meeting a mandate to adequately fund education.

With only three members in the room and the remainder connected by telephone, the Joint Select Committee on Article IX Litigation unanimously approved a report that listed four major increases in state money going to school districts over the next two years.

  • $374 million extra for materials, supplies and operating costs
  • $131.7 million extra for transportation costs
  • $103.6 million extra for smaller kindergarten and Grade 1 classes in high poverty schools
  • $90 million extra for all-day kindergarten.

It's part of a total increase of $982 million to be spent on public schools in the 2013-15 biennium. . .

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.


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Spokane drivers: Better than Seattle, worse than Boise

They may run stop signs and attempt left turns from the far right lane, forget to signal when they turn or leave the signal on for miles after making it. But in news that will shock many motorists in and around Spokane, the city's drivers were rated as better than the national average.

Spokane drivers were ranked 45 out of the nation's 200 largest cities, Allstate Insurance Co. said in its annual tabulation of claims data. They average 10.3 years between collisions, slightly better than the national average of 10 years.

So, for bragging rights: Spokane had the best rating for major cities in Washington. Vancouver was No. 82. Tacoma No. 144 and Seattle way down there at No. 160. Drivers in the Emerald City are about 29 percent more likely to  have a collision than the nation as a whole, and average a collision about every 8 years.

But don't get a big head, Spokane. Boise ranks No. 2 in the nation, edged out by  Fort Collins, Colo., for safe drivers. Boise drivers average almost 14 years between collisions, and are 28 percent less likely than the nation as a whole to have a collision.

Worst drivers in the country? Allstate says they're in Washington, D.C., where drivers are more than twice as likely to have a collision than the nation as a whole, and drivers average less than 5 years between collisions. No wonder the Secret Service doesn't let presidents drive anywhere.

To see the complete list, click on the document below.


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Envision Spokane to appeal judge’s ruling barring them from the ballot

Envision Spokane will appeal a judge's ruling that kicked them off this November's ballot.

“We’re not going to take this laying down,” Brad Read, board president of Envision Spokane, said Tuesday. “She chose to side with the powerful interests to tell the people of Spokane what they could vote on.”

Read called Spokane Superior Court Judge Maryann Moreno's ruling an “attack on democracy,” and said his board voted unanimously to appeal her decision.

Read doesn't expect his group's Community Bill of Rights initiative to appear on the ballot this fall simply because time won't allow it.

On Friday, Moreno barred Envision's initiative and one from Spokane Moves to Amend the Constitution from the ballot, siding with a coalition of government and business interests, which argued that the initiatives would have created regulations and protections that were not within the city's power to enact. Moreno said the provisions within the measures either conflicted with state and federal law or infringed upon the power of local government to set policy.

Chris Nerison, who leads SMAC, said Friday he would not appeal the decision.

Read our piece on her ruling here.

Holder asked to explain pot policy to Senate

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is being asked to explain to a Senate committee his department's policy toward Washington and other states that have legalized some form of marijuana consumption.  

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., wants Holder to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 10 to clarify the federal response for Washington and Colorado, which have legalized the recreational use of marijuana for adults, and for the 20 states and the District of Columbia which have legalized medical marijuana.

Afther Washington and Colorado voters passed state laws legalizing recreational marijuana use last November, Leahy asked the Obama administration what it planned to do about enforcement policies and “what assurances the administration can give to state officials responsible for the licensing of marijuana retailers to ensure they will not face criminal penalties for carrying out their duties under those state laws,” he said Monday in a prepared statement.

State laws should be respected, Leahy said. “At a minimum, there should be guidance about enforcement from the federal government.”

Gov. Jay Inslee and State Attorney General Rob Ferguson met with Holder in January, asking what the federal government's response would be to Washington's legalization of marijuana. They have yet to get an answer, and Ferguson said last week he had “no additional knowledge” of what the federal response would be. The state is preparing rules for people who want to obtain licenses to grow, process and sell marijuana legally.

The attorney general's office “continues to prepare for the worst case scenario, which would be litigation” if the federal government tries to stop that, Ferguson said.

Sunday spin: Initiative predictions usually wrong

Opponents of two proposed charter changes for Spokane won their fight to keep the initiatives away from voters when Superior Court Judge Maryann Moreno on Friday barred them from the November ballot.

Cue the huge sighs of relief from the home builders and various nice-sounding organizations fronting for local businesses. The groups insisted the two proposals were illegal and “if enacted they would have cause serious harm to Spokane and our economy,” Michael Cathcart, government affairs director for the home builders said shortly after Moreno ruled.

An appeal is possible, so this might be hashed out for months. But if anything is certain about initiatives it is their very uncertainty. Dire predictions by opponents of what a particular ballot measure will do are almost always off target. . .

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

Use of Force and Snowmageddon: A tale of Spokane’s savings account

Snowmageddon 2008 and Spokane's Use of Force Commission don't have much in common.

One was the harshest winter in a generation that paralyzed Spokane, and the other aims to reform the Spokane Police Department. 

But both are tied together by one of the city's savings accounts.

Earlier this month, we wrote about Mayor David Condon's 2014 budget proposal, in which he proposed adding 25 new officers to the force by paying off an old street bond with funds primarily from the contigency reserve. At that time, we said the fund was “intended to be saved for emergencies, such as 'Snowmageddon' in 2008, Ice Storm '96 and the eruption of Mount St. Helens.”

Which is true. That's the intent of the fund. But at last week's Finance Committee meeting, city Finance Director Gavin Cooley detailed how the fund has been used in the last ten years. Only one of the five times it's been dipped into could be described as an emergency, as most people would define it. (Of course, city leaders could make a case for the other four.)

In 2003, they dipped into the fund for a $1 million withdrawal, which went towards paying for early retirements for some of the city's workers. 

In 2008, $500,000 was taken out for the apocalyptic Snowmageddon, which dumped 100 inches of snow on us, snarling traffic, shutting the city down and cursing the lives of every person to lift a snow shovel that dreaded winter. 

In 2009, another $400,000 was taken out for more early retirements.

In 2011, the city used $336,000 to purchase JustWare, a fancy new computer program used to integrate our region's criminal justice system.

And earlier this year, $1.112 million of contingency reserve funding was used to implement some recommendations from the Use of Force Commission, which we wrote about today.

So, obviously, the fund isn't used simply to combat the excesses of Mother Nature. She just isn't that punishing in the Inland Northwest. And that's why the city is reviewing how it uses this fund. 

But for the time being, the city is using it for one time purposes, which go toward budget reduction, police accountability or snow plows. We can all agree on that last one.

AG: Public hospitals have to follow abortion law

OLYMPIA – Public hospitals that provide maternity services must also provide access to contraception and abortion, even if they contract with a private company that bars such services, state Attorney General Bob Ferguson said Wednesday.

In a formal attorney general’s opinion, Ferguson said state law, approved by voters in 1991, requires a public hospital offer “substantially equivalent” abortion and contraceptive services if they provide maternity care.

Private hospitals, including those run by the Catholic Church which has religious objections to contraception and abortion, have no such obligation, he said. . .

Former Spokane mayor threatened with arrest in Pasco after attempted filibuster

Former Spokane Mayor John Talbott made headlines in the Tri-Cities this week after speaking to the Pasco City Council, getting his microphone cut off and being escorted out of the building by the police chief.

Talbott, who was elected to one term in Spokane City Hall in 1997, was there to raise questions about bonuses given to City Manager Gary Crutchfield, as well as $50,000 Crutchfield’s given out to the city’s employees in pay increases.

After speaking for a little more than two minutes, Pasco Mayor Matt Watkins asked Talbott to wrap up his comments, telling him he had a minute left.

“That isn’t going to do it,” Talbott responded. “Would you excuse me, I'm going to continue, and when you want to shut me up, you can ask the chief of police to come and escort me out.”

As Talbott continued speaking, even as Watkins tried to persuade to stop, his mic was cut and Police Chief Bob Metzger was beckoned.

Talbott, who continued his tirade, rebuffed Metzger, accidently slipping back to the Lilac City as he told the chief he wouldn’t stop his filibuster.

“I’m sorry,” he said to Metzger. “I came down here on behalf of the citizens of Spokane to keep them from getting raped and pillaged by this council.”

Metzger threatened to arrest him, at which point the two walked out together.

See the video of the whole thing here. Talbott steps to the mic at 13:45.

Then check out the Tri-City Herald’s report here.

Today’s fun video: Sasquatches need park passes?

 

OLYMPIA — The state Department of Natural Resources apparently thinks Sasquatches, like everyone else, need a Discover Pass if they want to spend any time in state parks or state lands.

The DNR is kicking out a whole line of public service announcements trying to boost sales of the passes, which so far have been underperforming revenue estimates. The spots feature a Sasquatch family. Possibly the worst-acting Sasquatch family in the history of movies, television or Internet videos. The other folks in the videos aren't likely to be starring in a Hollywood blockbuster any time soon, either.

From the videos we learn that Sasquatches take hula-hoops when they go camping, cram lots of junk into their car, like to ride dirt bikes and have questionable fashion sense. But they buy a Discover Pass, even if means going back to town after they get to the park and realize they forgot to get one before they home.

The real question: Where did the Sasquatch get the $35 to buy the Discover Pass?

NY Times discovers the coal train issue

Always fun to see how other folks view Spokane. Here's the take of a New York Times writer who reported this week on the controversy over coal ports and coal trains expanding in the Northwest.

SPOKANE, Wash. — The Pacific Northwest’s sense of itself can sometimes seem green to the point of parody: a medium-roast blend of piney peaks and urban cool, populated by residents who look descended from lumberjacks or fishermen… .

Spokane grew up with the rattling of the rails as its theme song. As a transfer hub for freight and passenger service — four competing intercontinental lines once met on the edge of town — the city hitched its star to the idea of an America on the move. The graceful, filigreed architecture of downtown speaks to a moment around World War I when that economic chemistry reached its zenith.

But where the coastal areas around Seattle — a hotbed of energy-rail opposition — are largely liberal, Spokane is more conservative, and while the Puget Sound region has boomed in the post-recession years, Spokane has struggled. The unemployment rate here was 8.1 percent in June, according to federal figures, compared with 5.9 percent in the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue area.

Despite the somewhat condescending beginning and some over-reaching prose throughout, the story is an OK look at the controversy. Not great, but OK. And the photos, by former Spokesman-Review photojournalist and current local photographer Rajah Bose, are nice.

County primary turnout comes up deuces

Twenty-two point twenty.two

That's the percenage of turnout for those areas of Spokane County that had something on their ballot in the August primary.

About halfway between one voter in five and one voter in four.  Not quite abysmal, but definitely not very impressive.

Precinct-by-precinct, the results were pretty mixed. Highest turnout was in the town of Latah, where 72 of its 125 voters sent back a ballot, for a turnout of 57.6 percent. A three-way race for a town council seat was the big draw there.

Lowest turnout was in a northwest precinct of the city of Spokane Valley, which includes Mirabeau Park and homes south of the river. It managed only 60 ballots back of the 868 sent out, for 6.91 percent.

VA Center name-change ceremony Wednesday

The Spokane Veterans Administration Medical Center will officially get its new name at a ceremony Wednesday morning.

The Northwest Spokane facility will become the Mann-Grandstaff Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in honor of Pfc. Joe E. Mann and Platoon Sgt. Bruce Grandstaff.

Mann was a member of the 101st Airborne in World War II who was wounded four times while destroying an enemy artillery position near Best, in The Netherlands. Later that night, with both arms bandaged to his body, he volunteered for sentry duty and when the Germans attacked and a grenade was thrown, he threw himself on the grenade to save other members of his unit.

Grandstaff was a member of the 4th Infantry Division in Vietnam who was leading a reconnaisance mission that was ambushed near the Cambodian border. He crawled through enemy fire to rescue his men, and crawled outside the safe position to mark the location with smoke grenades for aerial support. He continued to fight until mortally wounded, then called in an artillery barrage to knock out enemy forces.

On hand for the 10:30 a.m. name ceremony will be Sen. Patty Murray and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki.

Today’s fun video: Talking about how it’s too soon to talk about 2016

Talking Points Memo's take on Monday: Let's talk about how it's too early to talk about 2016.

And the kid mayor. He's going to get obnoxious real soon.

Washington, Hyogo mark the big 5-Oh

Inslee and Ido finish the planting of a tree to mark the sister state anniversary.

OLYMPIA – Leaders of Washington state and Japan’s Hyogo prefecture marked the oldest “sister-state” relationship in either country by making speeches, planting a tree and feasting on smoked salmon and barbecue.

The link between the two regions Washington and Hyogo marked its half-century this summer since that relationship started.

“These ties are as important now as they were then,” Gov. Jay Inslee told a Senate chamber where the floor and the galleries were filled with local residents and visitors from Japan. . .

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

Park department reorganization vote delayed

The Spokane City Council won't vote on proposed changes to the city's park department tonight.

Park Director Leroy Eadie pulled the proposal at the last minute after discussions with City Council President Ben Stuckart, who is opposed to the changes. 

Under Eadie's proposal, more senior department employees would be placed outside of Civil Service protections, and therefore be appointed by a mayor. Currently, just Eadie falls under such rules since he runs the department without an assistant.

Stuckart approached Eadie about delaying the vote after learning that Eadie wanted to come back with a similar proposal to further change the department. Now Eadie says he nwill wrap all his changes in a later ordinance.

Read our Sunday story on the proposed changes here.

Preparing for a feast

A member of the Chehalis tribe cooks king salmon over an open fire near the Capitol.

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee and Hyogo Prefecture Gov. Toshizo Ido had Kobe beef for lunch at the Executive Mansion. But food to be served after a mid-afternoon ceremony might have more of a cowboys and Indians motif.

Or maybe Puget Sound Native Americans and cattlemen.

Members of the Chehalis Tribe have been smoking king salmon all day in the lot south of the Capitol. In the early afternoon, the cattlemen arrived with large bags of charcoal and grills to cook up some beef.

The smell of cooking food, wafting all over the Capitol campus, is going to make it hard to get much work done this afternoon, Inslee said as he passed the salmon.

Washington has 50-year-old ‘sister’

Gov. Jay Inslee and his wife Trudi greet Hyogo Prefecture Gov. Toshizo Ido at a ceremony marking the sister state relationship between the two areas.

OLYMPIA — Washington state officials will mark the 50th anniversary of a relationship with Japan's Hyogo prefecture with some pomp and circumstance around the capital today.

Gov. Jay Inslee will welcome Hyogo Gov. Toshizo Ido and members of the prefecture's assembly at the Temple of Justice this morning, and the two chief's of state will have lunch at the governor's mansion at noon while various business, education and cultural groups will have seminars around the Capitol Campus. They'll renew the sister-state relationship with a signilng ceremony  in the Senate Chambers, then attend a reception with food and entertainment from both locales.

Spokane's sister city, Nishinomiya, is located in Hyogo prefecture. So which came first, the sister city or the sister state?

The relationship between Nishinomiya and Spokane predates the Washington-Hyogo relationship by a couple years.

State toll system: High tech, low marks

OLYMPIA – Add to the long list of things the Puget Sound communities have that Spokane residents can be glad they don’t: Toll bridges.

Spokane’s last such facility, the Maple Street Bridge, removed “Toll” from its title in 1990 after some 42 years of collecting spare change. For most of that time, the toll was a dime. In one of the best signs of how – shall we say thrifty? – Spokane was, many people drove a half-mile out of their way and waited through several more traffic lights to use the Monroe Street Bridge rather than toss two Tom Jeffersons or one FDR in the basket. . .

To continue reading this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

Seattle PD to Hempfesters: Have some Doritos!

Using the theory that the way to pot smoker's brains is through their stomachs, or perhaps that no one will pass up a good munchie, Seattle police have a plan to get the word out about marijuana policy at Hempfest this weekend.

For those unfamiliar, Hempfest is a large gathering of people who support just about all things marijuana in the parks along the Seattle waterfront. Copious amounts of marijuana are smoked or otherwise consumed in public view, but arrests were rare even in the days before the passage of Initiative 502.

This year, Seattle PD has decided to take a more proactive approach, handing out one ounce bags of Doritos Nacho Cheese chips that will have a link to the department's frequently asked questions on legalized marijuana, Mariwhatnow?

The Seattle Times reports this plan is dubbed Operation Orange Fingers. Seriously.

One wonders how the department will up it's game for 2014. Small boxes of Screaming Yellow Zonkers?

Defense Department announces same-sex benefits

Following several declarations from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel the Pentagon would be extending health care and housing benefits to same-sex couples in the military, the Department of Defense announced Wednesday they would be available to employees Sept. 3.

In a news release, the Department cited the U.S. Supreme Court's finding that a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional on June 26 as the basis for extending benefits. “Entitlements such as TRICARE enrollment, basic allowance for housing (BAH) and family separation allowance are retroactive to the date of the Supreme Court’s decision,” the Department said in its release.

Benefits are only available once couples present a valid marriage license. The Department will grant leaves for same-sex couples to travel to states where same-sex marriage is permissible in order to obtain that license, the news release said. Thirteen states, including Washington, and the District of Columbia currently permit same-sex marriage.

“It is now the Department's policy to treat all married military personnel equally,” Hagel said in a memorandum to Defense employees.

Audit criticizes Developmental Disabilities wait list

OLYMPIA – More than 15,000 people who qualify for a program to aid the disabled are on a waiting list and receive no services because there's not enough money, a state audit of the Developmental Disability program says.

The program spends about $900 million a year on assistance to state residents with developmental disabilities, but that's not enough to cover more than 35,000 who qualify for aid, the state auditor's office said. Among its recommendations was for the Legislature to significantly increase the amount it spends on the program and develop a plan to reduce the wait list. . .

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

Board delays pot rules

OLYMPIA — The state's rules for legally growing and selling marijuana will get another rewrite.

The Washington State Liquor Control Board voted unanimously this morning to delay final approval of the rules while the staff crafts new provisions in several areas, including a possible limit to the amount of marijuana to be grown in the state and changes to the way the 1,000-foot restrictions for stores will be calculated.

The changes were prompted in part by hearings around the state last week.

“We've definitely heard some things some people didn't like in the first rules,” Chairwoman Sharon Foster said. “Things have changed as people have become more educated on the issue.”

The new rules will be filed by the first week of September, and at least one hearing will be held on them in early October. The board would approve them, unless the hearing prompts further changes, on Oct. 16 and begin accepting applications for licenses for marijuana growers, processors and retailers in mid November. Under that timetable, the board would comply with the mandate of Initiative 502 to have rules in place by Dec. 1.

Board member Chris Marr said it was possible, but “highly unlikely” that the rules would have to be revised again as a result of the October hearing, unless there's some clear direction from the federal government how they will react to the state's legal system for recreational marijuana. Production, transporting and sale of marijuana remains illegal under federal law even though Washington and Colorado have legalized it for recreational use by adults and 19 states have legalized it for medical uses.

If there is some direction from the federal government “we'd be smart to heed that” even that meant missing the Dec. 1 deadline established by I-502, Marr said.

Court to Obama: Follow the law on waste repository

The federal government must resume work on the Yucca Mountain repository in Nevada that would store the high-level nuclear waste from Hanford and other sites around the country, a federal appeals court said today.
In what amounts to a judicial smackdown of the Obama administration, the court said the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Obama administration can't override Congress, which ordered the repository built in 2002.
Washington state, which is the home to an estimated 56 million gallons of highly toxic nuclear waste from the production of nuclear warheads at Hanford, had joined the lawsuit against the commission. Along with South Carolina and some residents of the Tri-Cities, Washington sought a writ of mandamus, or order from the court for the federal government to follow the law.  Today they got what they wanted …
  

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

State delay of marijuana rules likely

OLYMPIAWashington should revise its proposed rules to grow and sell recreational marijuana and delay adopting them by a couple of months, the staff of a state board recommended Tuesday.

The Washington State Liquor Control Board was scheduled vote Wednesday on the final rules needed to begin setting up the legal marijuana industry called for in last year’s successful voter initiative. But less than 24 hours before the meeting, the board’s staff urged a rewrite of the rules significant enough to require more review, and at least one more public hearing.

Among the rules the staff proposes adding are limits on the total production of legal marijuana in the state and the number of stores where the drug could be sold…

 

 

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

Today’s fun video: Can’t we wait a while for 2016 coverage?

 

The Daily Show asks that question, then has Rand Paul on as a guest…

Which politics are more progressive: Seattle or Spokane

One footnote from last week's primary elections, prompted by an item by colleague Jim Brunner of The Seattle Times:

Seattle's mayoral primary results — State Sen. Ed Murray and incumbent Mike McGinn advance from the Top 2 to the general election — mean Seattle will extend its streak of 85 years without a woman at the helm of its City Hall. The one, and only, female mayor of Seattle was Bertha Landes, elected to a single two-year term in 1926. Since then, the mayor's post has been a guy's only club, and except for Norm Rice from 1989-1997, all white guys.

This reminds Spin Control of many conversations over the years about how Seattle politics are so much more progressive and forward-looking than Spokane politics. There are significant differences in policies and partisan leanings, as well as government structures between the two cities. In fact, for half of the 20th Century, Spokane voters didn't even elect their mayor, they elected a five-member commission which picked the mayor from among its ranks. That was later replaced by what some called the weak-mayor system in which citizens elected the mayor, whose main job other than sticking a shovel in the dirt at construction openings or cutting ribbons at their completions was to run the City Council; a full-time city manager ran government day-to-day.

But during the period in which Spokane elected a major, strong or otherwise, it had three women in the job: Vicki McNeill, Sheri Barnard and Mary Verner. (It also elected an African-American mayor, Jim Chase, eight years before Rice, but that's kind of rubbing it in.)

All three were very different politically. None campaigned primarily on being a woman or won because of, or in spite of, gender. In McNeill's case, she ran against another woman, Margaret Leonard. Seattle has never had a general election mayoral race between two women.

Spin Control would never use the gender diversity of a city's chief executive as proof of much of anything. But the next time a Seattle resident gets too over the top about how forward thinking his or her city is, remind them that Spokane has had three times as many female mayors, who held the office six times as long as Seattle. It might keep them quiet for a minute or two.

Sunday spin: Cleaning out the Inbox

 

OLYMPIA – Things are quiet enough at the Capitol that it’s possible to do something reporters generally avoid: clean out the unsolicited emails clogging up the inbox.

We avoid wading through such correspondence for several reasons, like being busy most days with face-to-face and phone conversations, supplemented by Facebook postings, Twitter musings and actual news events. In that hierarchy, emails that come unbidden rank just slightly above nasty memos from the accounting department about expense vouchers.

Even with an aggressive spam filter, at least 100 unsolicited politically related emails a day ping into the account and tend to pile up during newsier times. The dog days are good times to thin out the 4,600-plus messages in my inbox.

Here’s a chance to wish Barack Obama happy 52nd by electronically signing a birthday card. Organizing for Action, which was the Obama for America campaign before his re-election, never misses a chance to ask for money, including this chance to “chip in” $5. Considering I didn’t get birthday wishes from him, I feel OK about pushing Delete. A follow-up suggests I should “go old-fashioned” and sign OFA’s card, so I “don’t get lost in the flurry of Facebook posts.” Not sure how electronically signing an e-card qualifies as old-fashioned. Delete. . .

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

House Majority Leader grabs a Spokane cup o’ joe

A member of U.S. House of Representatives leadership grabbed some java to go at a Spokane-area Dutch Bros. Coffee this morning. And it wasn't who you might think.

Franchise owner and state Republican lawmaker Kevin Parker hosted House Majority Leader Eric Cantor at one of his drive-thru espresso stands this morning, tweeting out “Look who stopped by our coffee stand this morning.” Accompanying the pic was a shot of both men grinning in front of a drive-thru window, ties not included.

Parker said Cantor was in town to attend an area fundraiser for Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers on Thursday night. While there, Parker talked to Cantor about the business he started, and the Virginia Republican expressed some interest in seeing one of the stands before he left from the airport Friday morning.

Cantor, who graduated from Columbia University in New York with a Master of Science degree in Real Estate Development in 1989, worked at his family's real estate firm for a decade in the '90s while beginning his political career in the Virginia State House of Delegates. Parker was surprised and impressed by Cantor's private sector acumen.

“He's a pretty big business guy,” Parker said Friday afternoon.

Is Doc Hastings eying House Oversight chair?

Politico's Rachel Bade reports this morning U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Pasco, may be considering a slot as chairman of the House of Representative Oversight Committee, to be vacated by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., at the end of next year.

“Call this Boehner ally and personal friend the wild card,” Bade writes, introducing the nine-term House Republican who was the last to defeat current Washington Gov. Jay Inslee in a Congressional race when he wrangled the District 4 seat from Inslee, the incumbent, in 1994.

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

Legal pot rules criticized

OLYMPIAWashington’s proposed rules for growing and selling recreational marijuana were conflict with federal drug laws and state environmental laws, critics said Wednesday.

 

They would make the end product to be smoked or eaten too expensive from taxes, some said. They might favor the big corporations over the small producers, said others.

 

The Washington State Liquor Control Board, which is drafting rules to implement Initiative 502, is trying to get a final version of laws by mid September to start taking license applications from prospective retailers, processors and producers by October. Some cities and counties are balking…

 

 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

 

The Washington State Liquor Control Board holds its final hearing on the latest draft of rules to grow, process or sell recreational marijuana in Spokane on Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Spokane Convention Center.

MoveOn petition on Spokane sister city years behind the times

A liberal political group trying to rally its members to fight discrimination against gays and lesbians in Russia asked Spokane residents Wednesday to petition their City Council to cut “sister city” ties to a Russian city.

MoveOn.org briefly had Spokane on a list of 27 cities for which it was pushing petitions to punish the Russians for threatening to enforce laws against homosexuals, bisexuals and transgender people during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

There was just one little problem…

 

To continue reading this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

7th Dist. Senate follow up: The map

The Secretary of State's office has a map of Tuesday's results in the 7th District Senate race that shows John Smith on top in four counties and Brian Dansel on top in one.

That one, Ferry County, which is Dansel's home county. So one would expect him to run strongest there. But the bad news for Dansel was, that's also the least populous county in the district.

It's true that Spin Control creates precinct maps of election results most days after an election. We're passing this time because of the small number of races, the odd shape of  coupled with the fact that in most of them, the person in first place finished in first in most of the precincts in the district.

Stuckart 1, Condon 0

It shouldn’t be any surprise that Candace Mumm topped all the candidates for Spokane’s Northwest City Council seat. Her two main opponents lean Republican and were bound to split the vote.

Topping 50 percent in a four-way race, however, is a win of sorts for her and clearly puts her as the front-runner for November.

On the other hand, Mumm was actively involved in this campaign:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So we assume Mumm knows that she can’t take Tuesday’s win for granted.

That's because for one, summer turnout is low and few are paying attention. For another, the votes for third-place finisher Curtis Fackler are likely to go to Mumm’s November opponent, Mike Cannon. Perhaps most importantly, the race is likely to have an unprecedented amount of attention for a single City Council election, making it hard to know where the race goes from here.

Spokane Council 2: Snyder v. Ahern

South Spokane voters will pick between two familiar candidates for the Second District council seat this fall.

Incumbent Jon Snyder will face former State Rep. John Ahern in the general election.

Snyder finished Tuesday night's count with nearly 56 percent of the votes; Ahern had just over 24 percent. Political newcomer LaVerne Biel finished third with about 19 percent.

Smith v. Dansel for the 7th Dist. Senate seat

Appointed State Sen. John Smith will face Ferry County Commissioner Brian Dansel for the rights to fill northeast Washington’s 7th District Senate seat in next year’s legislative session.
  

Smith easily finished first in the off-year primary and at the end of ballot counting Tuesday night had more than half the votes cast in the three-way race. He said Tuesday night the general election campaign will likely focus on the economy in the hard-hit district.
  

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

7th Dist Primary: Smith leads Dansel, Brunson

Early returns put State Sen. John Smith of Colville firmly in first place in the primary for the 7th District Senate seat.

Smith has 51 percent of the vote and Ferry County Commissioner Brian Dansel is second with about 28 percent of the vote. Mike Brunson of Springdale is third, with about 20 percent of the vote.

The top two finishers will go on to the November general election to fill out the term of Bob Morton, who retired at the beginning of this year.

Four of the district's five counties have reported results. Stevens County is still out as of 8:30 p.m. 

Spokane Council Dist. 3 Mumm v. Cannon

Candace Mumm will face Michael Cannon this fall in the race for the open council seat in Northwest Spokane's 3rd District.

In Tuesday night's count, Mumm was easily in first place with 56 percent of the vote. Cannon was solidly in second, with 27 percent of the vote. Curt Fackler had 10 percent and Kelly Cruz 6 percent.

Today’s fun video: RNC v. Hillary Clinton

Talking Points Memo does a synopsis about the Republican National Committee's threat to ban CNN and NBC from its 2016 primary debates if the networks do Hillary Clinton documentaries.

Then there's The Hillary Project, a New Hampshire-based PAC intent on keeping Clinton from running, that released a “Slap Hillary” game. And yes, it's as misogynist as it sounds.

We don't have a good way to embed the game, but if go to their website, you'll find it there.

90 percent of ballots could be counted tonight

Spokane County could count as much as 90 percent of the ballots for the primary tonight.

Elections Manager Mike McLaughlin said county elections staff have processed and readied for tabulation all ballots received by this morning. That leaves only the ballots being placed in the drop boxes today and those that come in the mail Wednesday and beyond.

Turnout is light, but mail delivery on the day after the election is usually heavy for ballots.

As of this morning, the county had received 36,564 ballots out of the 194,626 mailed out, or just under 19 percent.

McLaughlin estimated the final turnout will be around 40,000.

They'll release a single tally tonight just after 8 p.m., and another on Wednesday around 5 p.m.

If you still have your ballot and plan to vote, see the post below.

Today’s the last day for primary ballots

This is the last day to turn in a ballot for the primary election.

For most Eastern Washington voters, it's a short ballot, if they have one at all. One or two races for city council seat, a fire district or school board. Northeastern Washington's 7th Legislative District has a state Senate primary.

Some cities, towns or districts don't have enough candidates for their offices to warrant a primary, so those voters don't have to worry about the deadline. Voters who do have primary races to decide were sent a ballot about three weeks ago. Once they've marked the ballot, they have two options for getting it back on time:

Seal it in the envelope, sign it, put a stamp on it and mail it so that it's postmarked before 8 p.m. Tuesday. (Hint: dropping in a mail box or at a closed post office at 7:59 p.m. isn't going to cut it. For those waiting until the last day, it's a good idea to take it into the post office, had it to a postal clerk and ask to have it postmarked.)

Or seal it, sign it and deposit it in a ballot drop box before 8 p.m. Tuesday. (Dropping it off at 7:59 p.m. Tuesday actually will work for this option. But don't push your luck because election workers are usually there sharply at 8 p.m. to pick up the ballots.)

All public libraries in Spokane County have drop boxes, although the drop boxes at Medical Lake and Cheney aren't open for the primary, because voters in those areas have no primary ballots to cast. (Editor's note: an earlier version of this post incorrectly listed an incorrect library that wasn't open for ballots.) For a list of addresses for the Spokane County drop boxes, go inside the blog.

For voters in other counties, check with the elections office for the nearest drop box.

Voters who have lost their ballot can get a replacement at the county elections office or at a designated voter service center. The service center's for Spokane County are also inside the blog.

Voters looking for information about the unfamiliar names on the ballot can check the Primary Section of The Spokesman-Review's Election Center. Spokane County voters can get some candidate-provided info at the county's Online Voters Guide.

Time running out to vote in primary

Tuesday is the last day to turn in a ballot for the primary election.

For most Eastern Washington voters, it's a short ballot. One or two races for city council seat, a fire district or school board. The names might not be household words. The campaign may have slipped by unnoticed.

The good  news in all this: Getting up to speed on the primary choices won't take very long. You could tap into Primary Section of The Spokesman-Review's Election Center. Spokane County voters can get some candidate-provided info at the county's Online Voters Guide.

Remember, Washington votes by mail. Ballots were sent out about three weeks ago, so it may be in that stack of unopened bills and coupons on a desk or counter somewhere.

Once the ballot is marked, voters have two options.

Seal it in the envelope, sign it, put a stamp on it and mail it so that it's postmarked before 8 p.m. Tuesday. (Hint: dropping in a mail box or at a closed post office at 7:59 p.m. isn't going to cut it. For those waiting until the last day, it's a good idea to take it into the post office, had it to a postal clerk and ask to have it postmarked.)

Or seal it, sign it and deposit it in a ballot drop box before 8 p.m. Tuesday. (Dropping it off at 7:59 p.m. Tuesday actually will work for this option. But don't push your luck because election workers are usually there sharply at 8 p.m. to pick up the ballots.)

All public libraries in Spokane County have drop boxes, although the drop boxes at Medical Lake and Cheney aren't open for the primary, because voters in those areas have no primary ballots to cast. (Editor's note: an earlier version of this post incorrectly listed an incorrect library that wasn't open for ballots.) For a list of addresses for the Spokane County drop boxes, go inside the blog.

For voters in other counties, check with the elections office for the nearest drop box.

Sunday Spin: How nonsignificant is legal marijuana

OLYMPIA – As Washington develops rules for its new recreational marijuana industry, even the most casual observer might be hard pressed to argue this change isn’t significant.

We’re going to declare a truce in one theater of the War on Drugs, after all, and pull out of a long-standing alliance with Uncle Sam.

We’re going to let folks grow and sell pot if they follow a long list of rules and regs, file their paperwork, keep kids away from the plants in the fields and the brownies in the stores. And pay their taxes, of course, even if they have to hire armored cars to haul stacks of slightly aromatic bills into the Department of Revenue office.

So it may surprise some that the Washington State Liquor Control Board last month filed a “Determination of Nonsignificance”, or DNS, for the new system of rules it is putting together for legal marijuana. . . 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

Today’s fun video: On fast-food wages

 

If you ever worked at a fast-food restaurant, you may get an even bigger laugh than  normal out of The Daily Show's take on the back and forth over proposals to raise the minimum wage for workers in that industry.

John Oliver's bit goes so long that it is broken into three parts on the web site, and this is the middle part that takes on the talking head TV gasbags talking about how minimum wage worker doesn't need raises because if he or she has any gumption, he or she will get better wages at better jobs, just like they did.

 To see the whole thing, click here.

Shea angry at S-R for Lewiston Trib item

State Rep. Matt Shea is castigating The Spokesman-Review on Facebook, essentially suggesting that the newspaper is picking on him again. He's interested in truth in journalism, so we'll offer a bit.

First, the post:  

There they go again…the Spokesman Review published another flat our untruth this morning trying to claim by implication that Dale Pearce and myself want to “rewrite the constitution.” I am calling for a formal retraction by the Review. In fact, Dale Pearce was arguing AGAINST any modification or rewriting of the Constitution by an Article V convention. In the interest of truth in journalism just thought you would like to know…

Because this was posted on Thursday morning, a casual reader might assume there's something in the Thursday edition of the newspaper that mentions Shea, Pearce or the survival gathering at Farragut State Park last weekend. Don't go looking for a copy. There isn't.

There is an item in the Huckleberries blog from Wednesday which probably caught his eye, and maybe he didn't notice the date. Or maybe he assumed everything online goes into the newspaper. Or maybe he just didn't sign into Facebook on Wednesday and got around to posting Thursday. In any event, for those who don't check Huckleberries . .

To read the rest of this post, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

Two speaker prospects from Inland NW?

Roll Call thinks so, anyway.

In one of its “what if” pieces- - - as in What if John Boehner was no longer speaker, who would get the job? —  the Washington, D.C., newspaper for Congress and those who watch it closely lists Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Raul Labrador as two of its 10 possible replacements.

They'd have to be called long-shots, considering that the majority leader usually ascends to the speakership unless one party loses control of the House. So Eric Cantor is at the top of the list. . .

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

State GOP to pick new leader in Spokane

The Washington State Republican Party will pick a new chairman or chairwoman in Spokane later this month during the quarterly meeting of its state committee.

State chairman Kirby Wilbur, a long-time conservative activist and former Seattle radio talk show host, resigned earlier this week to take a job in Washington, D.C. Vice Chairwoman Luanne Van Werven was elevated to the top spot for the interim.

Van Werven said the election needs to happen at the previously scheduled quarterly meeting to be a strong party “not only in the 2014 elections, but also during this November's important election as well.”

The state committee consists of 117 members, three each from the state's 39 counties.

 

Today’s fun video: Wednesday in brief

 

If you were busy with other things yesterday, Talking Points Memo boiled Wednesday down to its necessary 100 seconds.

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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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