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Updates: Pardon would let Ague work with troubled youth

Starcia Ague is one signature away from being unshackled from her past.

Let’s just hope Gov. Chris Gregoire steps up and makes it happen.

Ague is a 23-year-old who has become a one-woman campaign for reforming the state’s unforgiving laws on juvenile felons. She helped drive through a law that allows judges to seal a juvenile Class A felony in some cases, five years after a sentence is completed.

Which is all well and good. But that five-year window would still have fallen short of a fair resolution for Ague. She wants to work with troubled youths, and her 2003 felony prevents that.

Ague should be working with troubled kids right now. Like, today. I can think of no better example of hope than Ague – who had a horrible childhood and felony convictions at 15 but has followed that with a record of perseverance and dedication that ought to make the rest of us blush.

She spent most of her teenage years locked up but finished her high school degree and began earning college credits. After her release two years ago, she enrolled in college and began working toward a degree that would allow her to work with troubled kids. She’s set to graduate in December with a criminal justice degree from Washington State University.

She went before the state pardons board Sept. 9, backed by the enormous community of supporters she has amassed, and the panel unanimously recommended that Gregoire pardon Ague.

The process could take months, but I’d be shocked if Gregoire didn’t eventually approve this pardon. For one thing, it would be a gross injustice. For another, it would simply break the pattern Ague has established in the past few years. She gets what she goes after.

At her clemency hearing, her attorney, George Yeannakis, made this statement:

“When she asked me if I would represent her, pro bono, in front of the board, I could not turn her down. No one can turn her down.”

The room, packed with her supporters, burst into laughter.

Nothing a little editing couldn’t fix

How’s this for responsive government? After a judge tossed out two parking tickets because of ambiguous language on a Spokane County “No parking” sign, the county went right out and fixed the problem.

All it took was some reflective tape.

So be warned – there’s now no excuse, legal or grammatical, for parking in the small, employee-only lot at the corner of Madison Street and College Avenue, just south of the courthouse.

Two signs at the lot used to read: NO PUBLIC PARKING PERMIT REQUIRED. On June 2, Bob Strick and Vicki Tomsha parked there, saying they took the sign literally: No permit required.

Each got a ticket, and they challenged them in court, with the aid of a cell phone photo. The judge agreed the signs were misleading and tossed the tickets.

Don McDowell, who’s in charge of county parking, was good-natured about the whole thing, pledging to fix it.

And he has. A line now separates the phrases: NO PUBLIC PARKING / PERMIT REQUIRED.

Neighbors, neighbors, neighbors

So the school board will make its final decision Wednesday on where to put the new Jefferson Elementary.

The board must decide between building at the site of the current school at 37th Avenue and Grand Boulevard or building a new one several blocks west at Manito Boulevard and 37th. Neighbors of the “west option” have been, um, vocal in their opposition.

A few thoughts:

• In a district- commissioned report, three of the five “pros” for the east option involved placating angry neighbors. The pros are: Neighbors don’t like the west option, neighbors might sue if the district selects the west option, and neighbors object to losing what they consider a park (of school-owned land) near their homes.

• Of the six “cons” listed for the west option, five involve the neighbors’ objections. They are: possible ill will among neighbors, possible litigation, possible loss of land neighbors consider a park, opposition from the neighborhood council, and “design encroachment” on neighbors.

• There are two very persuasive pros for the west option. It’s $4 million cheaper – a 13 percent difference. It’s safer for pedestrians, bikers and drivers, and easier for parents to drop off and pick up the kids. The kids. You know – the ones who go there.

If the east end is better, for some reason, then the east end is better. But $4 million is far too much to pay just to shut people up.

Shawn Vestal can be reached at (509) 459-5431 or