What’s news in the Northwest today:
LEWISTON – Idaho consistently has one of the nation’s highest suicide rates, but a group of Lewis-Clark State College students wants that to change. And anyone on campus Tuesday will find it hard to miss their message. Ninety-nine life-size human silhouettes cut from stark white cardboard will be displayed throughout campus, representing those who have made the tragic decision to take their own lives. More importantly, the members of the campus Active Minds club hope the silhouettes will start discussions about one of the most taboo subjects in American culture. The silhouettes will be displayed in the Student Union Building, Activity Center West, the Sam Glenn Complex lobby and the library.
Official: Cuts threaten forest rules enforcement
VANCOUVER, Wash. – State Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark is protesting deep cuts to his agency’s budget that he says will make it difficult to enforce forest practices rules across the state. Goldmark also warned last week that a House budget proposal to make timber companies pay the full cost of enforcing logging rules through steep hikes in the cost of their permits was not realistic. “To ensure that timber harvests are done in a manner that protects the public, we need boots on the ground,” Goldmark said in a statement. “Rules without compliance are meaningless.” Goldmark, an elected official, oversees the Department of Natural Resources, which administers the state’s forest practices rules on more than 12 million acres of private and state-owned forestlands including 58,000 acres of state forestland in Clark County. Forest practices rules set standards for timber harvesting, forest road building and reforestation that are designed to protect streams and prevent landslides and flooding.
Bainbridge police officers wearing cameras
BAINBRIDGE ISLAND, Wash. — Four Bainbridge Island police officers are now wearing a video camera on their chest. Commander Sue Shultz says the cameras document encounters with the public and provide evidence. The Kitsap Sun reports the cameras have a battery life of four hours, which means they can’t be left on for an entire shift. Officers turn them on during interactions with the public. Officers aren’t required to turn them on, but if they do they can’t be turned off in the middle of a call. The cameras cost about $1,000 each. The money comes from funds paid by the Suquamish Tribe from the Clearwater Casino.
Hundreds of Washington convictions in doubt
BELLINGHAM, Wash. — At least 17 criminal convictions in Whatcom County could be overturned on appeal because jurors were questioned inside a judge’s chambers, possibly violating the defendants’ rights to a public trial. The Bellingham Herald reports appeals courts have been overturning cases based on state Supreme Court rulings and sending them back for new trials. Pam Loginsky with the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys says similar appeals could affect hundreds of cases statewide. The association has asked the state Supreme Court to revisit a 1995 ruling in a Whatcom County case on public trials.
Flooding causes $250K in damage to Glacier High
KALISPELL, Mont. — A broken pipe led to flooding that caused up to $250,000 in damage at Glacier High School earlier this winter, and it’s still not clear who will pay for the repairs and cleanup. A frozen fire-suppression line burst on Feb. 26, pouring 3,500 gallons of water into the school in 15 minutes. The flooding damaged classrooms and offices, displacing students for about a month. Superintendent Darlene Schottle tells the Daily Inter Lake that the architect that designed the building and an engineering firm found that insufficient insulation caused the pipe to freeze as temperatures dipped below zero. The architects and engineers found similar insulation shortages in other parts of the building, which opened to students in the fall of 2007.
City of George fined for storm drain drowning
GEORGE, Wash. — The Washington Department of Labor & Industries fined the city of George nearly $16,000 for safety violations discovered during the investigation of the death of the public works director. The Wenatchee World reports Wallace Bushman drowned last August when he fell into a storm drain while working alone. Mayor Elliot Kooy says the city is appealing the fine — a large amount for the small Grant County city. He says the circumstances around Bushman’s death were not within his typical work duties.
Surge in Oregon public employee retirements
PORTLAND, Ore. — More public employees in Oregon are retiring early, apparently to lock in medical coverage before state lawmakers tighten benefits. The Oregonian reports nearly 1,700 public employees retired in the first three months of the year — a 50 percent increase over the average. At this pace, the Public Employees Retirement System is likely to have it highest level of retirements since 2003, when the Legislature changed the retirement plan. The system covers more than 200,000 public employees. A state human resources administrator, Diana Foster, says workers don’t want to risk possible changes. And Ed Hershey with the Service Employees International Union says workers are saying, “I’m going to get out before they take it away from me.”
Yakima lawyer accused of jail contraband
YAKIMA, Wash. — A Yakima lawyer charged with theft and introducing contraband in the county jail expects to hear the verdict today. Testimony in the trial of Kimberly Grijalva wrapped up Friday. The trial is being conducted by visiting Judge Brian Altman without a jury. The Yakima Herald-Republic reports she is accused of giving inmates access to a private phone line so they could make calls free of the jail charge. She’s also accused of letting an inmate use her cell phone during a visit. Cell phones are jail contraband. The lawyer said she was unaware the private line was being used improperly and she thought it was OK for an inmate to use her cell phone during a visit.
Seattle’s Museum Of Flight Anxiously Awaiting NASA’s Decision
SEATTLE – Will Seattle be the “Final Frontier” for one of NASA’s retired space shuttles? The Museum of Flight is expected to learn on Tuesday if NASA will make it the permanent home for one of two NASA’s Space Shuttles, the Atlantis or Endeavor. NASA has already been decided that the Smithsonian will house the Space Shuttle Discovery. Mike Bush, Marketing Director for the Museum of Flight, says everyone is optimistic. “Well, it’d be tremendous, not just for the museum, but for the state and the entire Pacific Northwest.” He says it would add to the already expansive aerospace history at the museum, and the space gallery just across from it. In all 21 museums are vying for one of only three Space Shuttles in existence at a cost of $28.8 million dollars. Seattle’s Museum of Flight applied, and actually began constructing a space gallery for it last June, says Bush.
Montana residents shun cellphone reverse 9-1-1
HAMILTON, Mont. — Authorities in Ravalli County in western Montana say they are having a hard time persuading residents to sign up to receive automatic emergency notifications on cellphones due to mistrust of the government. Dispatch Director Joanna Hamilton tells the Ravalli Republic that only about 250 of the county’s 40,000 residents have signed up. Dispatchers say residents have refused to give their cell phone numbers to county officials due to concerns of government intervention or the possibility of receiving marketing calls. Frustrated county officials say those fears are unfounded and that the system has the potential to save lives in an emergency.