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Spin Control

Sunday Spin: Say what No. 2

Keeping track of legislative committees can be a chore for the public during the session, because some panels string several topics together and because the House and Senate have come up with different titles for groups with the same purview. Between sessions, even legislators have trouble.

Take last week, when two House committees held a joint session over problems with the state’s new legal marijuana businesses obtaining bank services.

Rep. Steve Kirby, chairman of the Business and Financial Services Committee, opened the first half of the session and noted he’d turn the gavel over to Rep. Chris Hurst, chairman of the other committee about half way through. But he couldn’t quite remember its name.

“I’ve never known the name. It’s a weird name and I don’t even worry about it,” Kirby said.

“You’re on the committee,” said Hurst.

True, said Kirby, but he still doesn’t know the name.

For the record, it’s the Government Accountability and Oversight Committee. We sometimes call it the sin committee because it has jurisdiction over booze, pot and gambling.

Sunday Spin: Say what No. 1

Last week’s debate between U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Democratic challenger Joe Pakootas veered briefly into immigration policy, with both candidates being asked to address the topic in the context of the need for farm labor and secure borders.

Pakootas tossed off a line that would have passed as a overworked cliché for most people, but it got him a laugh.

“We are a nation of immigrants,” said the former chairman of the Colville Confederated Tribes deadpanned, then added: “Most of us, anyway.”

Sunday Spin: Seattle says Goodbye Columbus

OLYMPIA – Monday is a cause for minor celebration in Spokane as one of the few weekdays of the year in which “free parking” is not just a square on the Monopoly board.

Columbus Day has fallen in the pantheon of American holidays, so it is a regular work day for most of us. But the city still gives people free parking, presumably because the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria didn’t have to plug meters when they dropped anchor in the New World.

The holiday has fallen even farther in Seattle, where the city council decided recently to replace it with Indigenous People’s Day. This managed to please some Native Americans, who have a long list of horribles that start a few minutes after Columbus stuck the flag of Spain on a beach in the Bahamas. It also managed to anger some Italian-Americans, who celebrate the day as part of their heritage, Chris being a paisan. The day is marked by parades in some parts of the country, although in Seattle, not so much.

Seattle’s Italian-Americans rightly point out that indigenous people in Washington and throughout the country already have another day set aside as Native American Heritage Day. It was recognized with legislation passed this spring and signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee, attended by members of local tribes in traditional dress.

Native American Heritage Day, for those like the council were too busy to catch the signing on TVW, is the fourth Friday of November, which is to say the day after Thanksgiving. That’s another holiday that rubs some Native Americans the wrong way, considering the Pilgrims and the folks who followed them to North America exhibited behavior that seemed less than thankful for the help of the Wampanoags in 1621.

But that begs the question: Don’t Native Americans deserve a holiday all on its own, one that isn’t somehow tied to another holiday which commemorates things they’d rather forget?

Stuckart condemns Condon’s budget and pay raises to cabinet

Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart said today that Mayor David Condon’s budget proposal did not have enough votes for approval.

Flanked by four other council members at COPS West in West Central, Stuckart said he couldn’t “in good conscience” vote for a budget that gave raises to a majority of Condon’s cabinet members while not budgeting for council priorities, such as increasing funding to the COPS program and human services.

Council members Amber Waldref, Candace Mumm and Karen Stratton agreed with Stuckart, saying they would not vote for the proposed budget.

“I can comfortably say,” Stuckart said, “that this budget if brought for a vote today wouldn’t get a single vote.”

Councilman Mike Fagan did not confirm this statement. Fagan said he was the “minority” on the council, and did not “condemn nor condone” cabinet members raises. He said city law gave the mayor no choice but to give himself a raise.

Earlier this week, the mayor released a budget proposal that increased his pay by $7,000, bringing his annual pay to nearly $180,000. The 14 people in Condon’s Cabinet, including the mayor, would get on average a 2 percent increase in pay. Pay raises to the eight cabinet members who received them totaled more than $38,000. 

With five like-minded members on the council, Stuckart said the council could craft its own budget and override any mayoral veto. Brian Coddington, the mayor's spokesman, was present at the press event, but would not comment.

Biden in Seattle

This pool report from Vice President Joe Biden's stop in Seattle, courtesy of Joel Connelly of the Seattle P-I, just in via smart phone:

    Vice President Joe Biden riffed from domestic violence to the minimum wage, from CEO salaries to infrastructure needs, as he raised money in Seattle for Democratic women running for the Senate. 

 The Vice President spoke to more than 800 people at a Women of Valor lunch put on by Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.
   Washington does not have a Senate seat or Governor's office up this year, so had been a fundraising destination for Biden and President Obama.
   “The middle class is not a number, it is a value set,” Biden declared, talking about earning power.  With rising income disparity, he added, “It's fading and we damned well need to reestablish it.”
The Vice President, an original author of the Violence Against Women Act, spoke at length about domestic violence.
      “Men have a responsibility to stand up, men have a responsibility to intervene, men have a responsibility to take responsibility,” he argued.
 What will define success in curbing domestic violence?
   “Success is when not a single woman asks herself, 'What did I do?'” said Biden. “It is never, never the woman's fault. Never. “
  Biden, the partisan, said he hopes the election will “get out of the way some of the dead wood that keeps us from acting.”
   Events at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center have established a kind of popularity pecking order among top Democrats.
    Bill Clinton drew 1,500 to a 2012 luncheon, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren , drew 1,200 earlier this year. 

Biden in Renton

Vice President Biden is visiting Renton Technical College.

Here's the latest pool report from his visit, courtesy of Jim Brunner of the Seattle Times:

Vice President Biden entered a Renton Technical College machine shop shortly after 10:30 a.m., accompanied by U.S. Sens Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, and college president Steve Hanson. 
The group toured the shop floor full of lathes. VP spoke with instructor Henry Hatem and then to a student, Sean Journot. With the press pool gaggle close by, Biden joked to Journot "Don't pay attention" and said it's "intimidating" with "everyone in the whole state looking at you."
 Entering an adjacent room, the Vice President spoke with school alum and instructor Adam Pohlman for several minutes. 
"What are  you gonna show me? As long as you don't test me," the Vice President said.
 Pohlman showed off a fabricator of some sort, paid for with federal grant dollars. He said he was in construction but had to retrain and switch careers when the recession hit. The Vice President looked interested and held what looked like a model framework of a geodesic dome and a piece of metal the machine used. Pohlman also showed off a printout of the computer code used to run the machine. 
Biden looked at the code, impressed. "I can't pretend I understand this," he said. 
The Vice President did not operate any heavy machinery. Press pool now awaiting Vice President's remarks in another building on the campus.

Free Parking: It’s not just a Monopoly square

Politics can be a messy and sometimes depressing arena, so Spin Control likes to pass along good news whenever possible. Here's the best we've had for a while:

Parking is free in Spokane on Monday. You don't have to plug meters.

It's one of the rare days when a parking meter holiday is not also a major holiday like Thanksgiving or Christmas, so more people have more reasons to be downtown other than being the one poor schlump who had to come into the office to answer the phones or monitor the computers.

That's because Monday is Columbus Day, which is possibly the least celebrated holiday in the pantheon of days for which which the parking meters don't grab money. (The full list is inside the blog.)

Columbus Day used to be a really big deal, and school kids all over the country were taught “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” Apparently when he got to the new world, he was able to park the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria for free, so Spokane continues that tradition for drivers.

Columbus Day ain't what it used to be, however. In fact the Seattle City Council recently disavowed Columbus Day and instead will be celebrating “Indigenous Peoples Day”.

But Seattle didn't have free parking on Columbus Day, so they don't have to worry about making the change there. Perhaps next year they can offer free parking to Indigenous Peoples, thus making up for the fact that the folks who followed Columbus took their land, killed many of them with wars or diseases, and made most of the rest to go live far away in places that the new residents didn't want.

It's  not much. But it's a start. I mean, do you know how expensive parking is in Seattle these days? It makes parking at River Park Square seem cheap by comparison.

Biden in Seattle this week

Vice President Joe Biden makes a stop in Seattle this week for a speech at Renton Technical College the next morning.

Biden will be campaigning for Democrats in California on Tuesday and in Oregon for U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley on Wednesday. He'll fly to Seattle from Portland for overnight accommodations, then get up the next morning for a speech at the college. It recently received a grant from the U.S. Labor Department for job training and Biden “will highlight the importance of investing in our nation's workforce and growing the economy,” the notice from the White House said.

One can only hope he gets a good question from the RTC student body like he did at Harvard over the weekend.

He's also scheduled to attend a political event with Sen. Maria Cantwell in the afternoon at the Seattle Convention Center that's designed to raise money for Democratic women senators and several who are running to be senators.

Marijuana banking problems persist

OLYMPIA — The federal government is offering little help to banking institutions willing to set up accounts for legal marijuana operations, making it difficult to bring them out of an all-cash business that has higher risk of theft and money laundering.

Instead, it has set up “a huge avalanche of additional regulations” for banks and credit unions willing to offer those accounts, members of a pair of legislative committees were told today.

And even with those regulations, there's no guarantee a new administration won't decide to go after banks that accept money from businesses licensed by the state to grow, process or sell a substance illegal under federal drug laws, members of the House Financial Services and Government Accountability committees were told. . . 

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

Last call for online voter registration

Today is the final day Washington residents can register to vote in the November election with the click of a mouse buttons and some key strokes.

In other words, it's the final day for online voter registration. It is not the absolute, final, drop-dead deadline, because after today you can still go to the county elections office and fill out the forms up until about a week before the election. But let's face it. If you were energetic enough to sign up that way, you'd probably already have it done by now. 

To get started with an online voter registration, click here and follow the instructions.

But will he dance `Gangnam Style’

Former Attorney General and GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna will headline an Oktoberfest fundraiser in Spokane next month for state Sen. Michael Baumgartner.

McKenna lost his bid for the governor's office two years ago but produced perhaps one of the campaign season's most memorable moments when he and his wife, Marilyn, joined a Washington Korean Association dance troupe performing Korean pop star Psy's over-the-top video hit Gangnam Style, which at the time was sweeping U.S. pop charts.

The former AG holds his own to the very end but Marilyn, who joined in from the sidelines, is clearly the better dancer.

No word from the Baumgartner camp on whether McKenna will be reprising an Oktoberfest version of the crowd pleaser, though.

The fundraiser comes as Baumgartner prepares for the final November push in his race against Democratic challenger Rich Cowan for the 6th Legislative District seat. Baumgartner already is leading in the money race, having raised $410,520 to Cowan's $216,147 according to the latest campaign finance reports.

Tickets for the Oktoberfest fundraiser range from $40 to $320. Lederhosen optional.

Sewage researcher discusses potential Spokane THC test

University of Puget Sound professor Dan Burgard says the academic response to his study of drugs in waste water has been a mix of curiosity and bewilderment.

“Everybody thinks, 'Wow, you can do that?'” Burgard said in an interview Wednesday. “Then they say, 'Wait, what else can you find?'”

Burgard's research on the presence of amphetamines and other drugs in the sewage at college campuses prompted American Civil Liberties Union attorney Alison Holcomb to suggest Spokane look at his process for testing marijuana use trends Tuesday. Burgard said he's intrigued by the idea, but there would be many logistical hurdles to scale for his direct involvement and the numbers would not be as illuminating as if sewage prior to retail shops opening could be tested.

“You can still watch trends over the next couple of years,” Burgard said. “As more stores open, do we see more (THC), or do we see the same old, same old?”

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

Warning: Light blogging ahead

Spin Control will be a bit less active for two weeks. The political staff in Spokane will be contributing items but primary writer Jim Camden is out of the office. 

In the meantime, here's an early reminder: You've got until Oct. 6 to sign up online to vote in the November election. If you haven't done so, don't put it off until the last minute. Click here to do it now.


Sunday Spin: Where the Lege could look for some new money

OLYMPIA – Washington’s projected take on legal marijuana is a shade over $200 million, state economists guesstimated last week.

That’s not nothing, as non-economists who don’t mind a double negative will agree. But it clearly won’t be enough to stave off the upcoming legislative fighst between those who want to find more revenue – read raise taxes – and those who would make government more efficient – read cut programs – to balance the budget.

While it would be hard to argue that a $33 billion budget doesn’t have some things that could be cut, there are few things that have so little support that they can be drastically reduced or completely axed without a vocal constituency putting up a fight. Similarly, while the belief that some taxes could be raised enjoys support in some quarters, agreement on which ones should be raised often proves elusive. The working theory seems to be get the most taxes out of the fewest people to avoid a nasty referendum defeat.

This is where marijuana taxes offer a lesson in fiscal policy the Legislature should heed. The combination of sales, excise and business taxes and registration fees are high – maybe one should say exorbitant to avoid giggles – yet they seemed to generate no serious challenges from the usual anti-tax crowd. That may be because most of that crowd doesn’t indulge in marijuana, and thus doesn’t care that people who do will pay them. The people who are paying them really want marijuana, but don’t want to break the law to get it, and thus are willing to fork over some extra cash for the privilege.

Using that as a guidepost, the Legislature could find revenue from a new area with limited constituencies who would generate little sympathy from the general public – politicians and their campaign supporters. Continue inside the blog for some options…


Nov election turnout prediction: 62 percent

OLYMPIA — Slightly less than two out of three Washington voters are likely to cast ballots in the November general election, Secretary of State Kim Wyman estimated today.

The 62 percent she's predicting is about twice the turnout of the August primary, but less than the last two previous mid-term elections. Wyman believes it will drop from the 71 percent in 2010 and 65 percent in 2006 because there's no major statewide office up for election. But the gun initiatives and the class size initiative, coupled with the fact that this is an all-mail election, should produce better turnout than 2002, the last time Washington had a midterm without a U.S. Senate seat on the ballot.

Overseas and military ballots have just gone out, so technically the election is underway. Ballots go out to the rest of us starting Oct. 17.

It's possible to register to vote online through Oct. 6. Click here for details.

Spin Control Files: When Spokane was bipartisan Ground Zero

If ever there was a metaphor for bipartisanship in national politics over the last quarter century, it would be the American elm tree planted 25 years ago this Friday in Riverfront Park.

 The elm from the White House was planted by a Republican president and a Democratic speaker of the House. They didn’t just smile and shake hands stiffly for the cameras but went out to dinner, shared a couple bottles of wine, got up the next morning and planted a tree in a show of bipartisanship.

The concept may seem as quaint today as eight-track tape players and phone booths, but there was a sunny day in 1989 when Spokane was kind of Ground Zero for national bipartisanship. . . 

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

Pot may bring state $25 million by next July

OLYMPIAWashington tax coffers could get a $25 million boost by next July and nearly $200 million by mid 2017 from legal marijuana, state economists estimate. But much of that money is spoken for and won't help the general fund.

The estimates for taxes and fees the state can expect from recreational marijuana, the first such available, are contained in overall economic and revenue forecasts released Thursday afternoon. In general, the state's budget outlook is changed slightly for the better from the June forecast, economist Steve Lerch said. . . 

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

Harvard poll:Most millennials could skip election

The youngest segment of American citizens are none too excited about the upcoming mid-term elections, a new survey from Harvard University says.

HeadCount, a group concerned about civic engagement, or the lack of it, by that segment — dubbed Millennials by whoever is tasked with naming generations — plans to do fight that by encouraging them to register and vote. Are they going to explain the responsibilities that come with citizenship and show the connection between political involvement and daily life? Well, probably, but mainly HeadCount plans to have celebrities and musicians stage concerts and use social media to send out pictures of themselves holding Register to Vote clipboards and links to websites that will sign people up. 

Because apparently nothing will drive young voters to fulfilling their civic duty like a tweet from a celeb.

Some numbers: When the Harvard Institute of Politics surveyed 3,058 millennials recently, only about one in four said they definitely planned to vote in the mid-terms. That's down from about one in three in a poll last year and 31 percent from a poll at this time before the 2010 elections. The news was worse for Democrats than Republicans. . . 

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


Spokane skywalk staircase comes down

If a skywalk staircase comes down and no one's around to see it, does it make a sound? Okay, there were plenty of people to see it slowly get dismantled at the corner of Main Avenue and Howard Street, but we were a little disappointed that nobody chained themselves to it, like you see in those history preservation movies.

Anyway, here's the a scene of the missing staircase:

And another:

For a bit of background, read our earlier coverage on why the staircase came down. Not to spoil it or anything, but the staircase was kind of in the way.

Federal judge rejects Coe request for release

OLYMPIA — A federal judge in Tacoma turned down the latest request from convicted rapist Kevin Coe to be released from McNeill Island, where he is incarcerated as a sexually violent predator. He has exhausted one avenue of appeals, but still faces annual reviews by the state of the civil commitment that could keep him behind bars for life.

U.S. District Judge J. Richard Creatura rejected Coe's argument that he had ineffective lawyers when fighting the civil commitment trial. He had already served his sentence for the criminal conviction of a sexual assault that was part of a string of attacks in the late 1970s and early 1980s attributed to the South Hill rapist.

Coe’s also argued he is entitled to a new civil trial because he wasn’t able to cross-examine or depose some of the rape victims whose testimony formed the basis of a psychologist’s diagnosis that he suffers from a series of personality disorders and mental abnormalities. It might warrant a new trial if this was a criminal conviction, Creatura said, but the Sexually Violent Predator program is a civil commitment, so the standard is different. Coe had the right to cross-examine the psychologist about her diagnosis or offer a rebuttal the jury could consider, the judge noted.

“The court has found that no error was committed in either of (Coe's) claims,” he wrote in a decision released late last week. . . 

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



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About this blog

Jim Camden is a veteran political reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Jonathan Brunt is an enterprise reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Kip Hill is a general assignments reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Nick Deshais covers Spokane City Hall for The Spokesman-Review.

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