Here we are, three days into 2010 and yet something feels, well, amiss.
Of course things are amiss. We have yet to hand out the Budnick Awards, the only true way to kick-start a new year.
These awards – the 22nd running, no less – are given in recognition of my favorite local dubious newsmakers from the past year.
The Budnicks, by the way, are named after Thomas P. Budnick. He’s the former Massachusetts social worker who took a brief ride on the fame train after I outed his proclivity for filing Martian mining claims through Spokane County.
Unlike the Nobel Peace Prize, Budnicks aren’t handed out to just any Tom, Dick or Barack.
Choosing Budnick-worthy recipients is a painstaking, 365-day process that involves reading the newspaper and then cutting out all the zany, ironic and oddball stories that make me spew my coffee.
The clippings then go into a file where they languish in a disorganized aggregate of crumpled newsprint until I free them and scream …
“Why in the sacred name of Percy Sledge do I always put this off until the LAST FREAKING MOMENT!?!”
Enough whining. Let the Budnicks begin!
MORE NUTS THAN A PLANTERS FACTORY
Eastern State Hospital officials delay calling 911 after Phillip A. Paul, a mental patient with a homicidal past, escapes his handlers while on a hospital-approved field trip to the Spokane County Interstate Fair.
THE BLOCKHEADS’ RED GLARE
A letter from PETA asks Spokane Mayor Mary Verner to end all of the city’s critter-scaring Fourth of July fireworks displays and replace them with more humane laser light shows.
PROGRESS, SPOKANE STYLE
Public confusion over who can park and for how long prompts the city to remove all the new blue “4 Hour Limit” disabled parking signs a month after they went up in the downtown Spokane entertainment district.
TIPOFF WAS FRANKLIN’S NOSE RING
Two Cheney teenagers are busted after trying to buy turtle food at a Spokane Valley pet store with fake $100 bills.
THAT’S NO SKUNK, THAT’S EAU DE COUNCIL
A sign ordinance debate is delayed when the overpowering odor of a skunk permeates the Spokane City Council chambers.
HAT RUSTLERS HANG IN IDAHO
J.R. Simplot’s signature cowboy hat is stolen from a floral centerpiece display at a memorial service honoring the late Idaho billionaire, who died at age 99.
INSTEAD, THEY GET PAID VACATIONS
Washington State Patrol officials change their minds and decide not to fire eight troopers who used fake diplomas to claim pay raises.
REAL TURKEY’S WEARING ROBES
Federal Judge Cynthia Imbrogno OKs a defense lawyer’s request to give Terrence A. “T-Baby” Kinard a furlough from jail so he can spend Thanksgiving dinner with his family despite T-Baby being a dope dealer who has failed to show up for court 75 times.
CHIEF DOUBLETALK AT YOUR SERVICE
Spokane police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick says she’s not actively seeking another job even though she applied for the chief’s job in San Francisco.
OUR LITTLE WEASEL’S ALL GROWN UP
Eddie Ray Hall, the Spokane area’s infamous felon with more than 20 convictions, 50 arrests and a few escapes, is indicted for the first time by a federal grand jury.
NEXT UP: PRESCHOOL POLE DANCING
The Spokane parks department offers the “route to a smoking hot body” with an “Exotic Strip Tease and Fitness Conditioning” class for teens and women.
WE’RE also NO. 1 IN YELLOW SNOW
The winter of 2008-’09 is the snowiest in Spokane history.
LOUIE’S CAVITY SEARCH, TAKE 46
A crew for the Discovery Channel is filming at the Spokane County Jail for an episode of “Behind Bars.”
BIDDERS GO TO ‘BEARD OF JESUS’ TACO
Coeur d’Alene’s Paul Grayhek fails to sell his 9-foot-tall, hand-shaped, “Hand of God” rock on eBay when all the bidders back out.
SQUIRREL BITS TASTE LIKE CHICKEN
Spokane parks department solves its squirrel problem at Finch Arboretum by exploding the critters in their burrows with a propane-pumping device called the Rodenator Pro.
FINALLY, TRUTH IN GOVERNMENT
Lisa Brown, majority leader for the Washington Senate, selects Bob Dylan’s “Everything is Broken” as the theme song for the 2009 legislative session.
BUGGIER THAN A BAIT SHOP
Daniel A. Zupan, 29, is jailed after allegedly threatening a Spokane bus driver with a knife and demanding to be taken fishing.
MUST’VE RUN OUT OF REAL ISSUES
Spokane officials order the removal of all bus benches with advertising, saying they violate a 2001 sign code.
SQUEAKY BADGE GETS THE GREASE
A report indicates prosecutors felt they had enough evidence to charge former sheriff’s Sgt. Pete Bunch with at least two crimes, but they let it go because he was a veteran cop.
OUR AMBASSADOR OF GOOD SWILL
News breaks that Spokane’s Jo A. Trilling was arrested three times in three days for drunken driving in Wisconsin in 2008.
NOT PARALYZED, JUST SPINELESS
Former Bonner County sheriff’s Deputy James M. Sebero pleads guilty to lying about being paralyzed. Officials say he defrauded the VA out of more than $1.5 million in benefits.
KID COULD BE NEXT S-R COLUMNIST
Two phony Chase Youth Awards are traced to a Lewis and Clark High School student who concocted the winning nomination letters.
DUBIOUS IDAHO MOMENTS, VOL. I
North Idaho white supremacists litter Coeur d’Alene lawns with racist propaganda.
IT’S SMOKY AND THE BONG HIT
Four pounds of weed and $18,000 are discovered in Scott Shupe’s station wagon after an Oregon trooper stops the Spokane marijuana dispenser for crossing the centerline.
YOU CAN FOOL 12 PEOPLE SOME OF THE TIME
A jury acquits Spokane police Officer Jay Olsen for his besotted off-duty chase and shooting of Shonto Pete.
DUBIOUS IDAHO MOMENTS, VOL. II
Idaho Republican Rex Rammell says he was just joking about wanting to buy a license to hunt President Barack Obama.
LEAVE PULLMAN? HE MUST BE INSANE!
Men’s basketball coach Tony Bennett stuns Washington State University by accepting an offer to become head coach at the University of Virginia.
THANK TODD MIELKE AND MARK RICHARD
The year at county-owned Spokane Raceway Park: Cleaning solvent found in water. Commissioners fire operator Bucky Austin over $1.2 million in unpaid construction debt. Contractors file lawsuit against county for payment.
MORE OF A WYATT BURP THAN EARP
Livid with some of his council colleagues, a vacationing Spokane City Council President Joe Shogan says he’s coming back “and to quote Wyatt Earp, ‘I’m bringing hell with me.’ ”
THERE’S DUMB, THEN THERE’S DUMBER
Christopher C. Wilson, 34, gave Ziggy’s employees his name and number to call if they found the item he dropped in the Spokane building-supply store. They found it – a bag of meth – and instead called the cops, who took Wilson to jail for possessing a controlled substance.
DUBIOUS IDAHO MOMENTS, VOL. III
A swastika is found affixed to the door of Coeur d’Alene’s human rights center.
I KNEW SOMETHING WAS HOLDING US BACK
“Spokane’s biggest drawback is Doug Clark,” writes Tom Simpson, adding in his letter to the editor that my bashing “significantly deters economic growth and prosperity in Spokane.”