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In brief: Group to evaluate Oso slide response

EVERETT – An independent commission has been assigned the job of examining the emergency disaster response to the March 22 Oso mudslide and land-use planning in slide-prone areas, Washington state and Snohomish County officials announced Friday.

The 12-member commission is expected to release a report by Dec. 15, the Daily Herald of Everett reported.

“Today we begin a new effort to understand” the landslide, Gov. Jay Inslee said. “Through this effort, we will act on what we learn and support the healing process of this community.”

Members were appointed by the governor and Snohomish County Executive John Lovick.

Border kid numbers small in Pacific NW

PORTLAND – Federal officials say a relatively small number of the unaccompanied immigrant children who have been flooding into the United States from Central America have been sent to Oregon, Washington and Idaho during the past six months.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said 50 immigrant children were released to sponsors in Oregon, 211 in Washington state, and eight in Idaho between Jan. 1 and July 7. Sponsors can include relatives, family friends or foster parents.

In a statement to the Associated Press, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber said the state welcomes the children and that the border surge was a reminder of Congress’ failure to enact immigration reform.

“These children are fleeing their homelands because of overwhelming violence and economic hardship, and they do not deserve to become political fodder,” Kitzhaber said. “Oregon has been a welcoming home to unaccompanied minors and refugee children, and will continue to be so while we wait on Congress to adopt more responsible immigration policies.”

In Washington, Gov. Jay Inslee’s office is monitoring the situation, spokeswoman Jamie Smith said.

Joint Base Lewis-McChord, south of Seattle, has been in consideration as a place to house the children, but no final decision has been made.

Medical scholarships to benefit area

Gritman Medical Center Foundation and Auxiliary have given $100,000 to create the Gritman Medical Center Foundation and Gritman Medical Center Auxiliary endowed scholarships through the University of Washington School of Medicine’s Idaho WWAMI Medical Education Program.

The donations from Gritman will be matched by a $100,000 donation from the Huckabay family of Coeur d’Alene, said a Thursday news release. A combined total of $200,000 will be donated.

Washington State University President Elson Floyd has discussed opening a new medical program in Spokane to increase the number of physicians being educated in the area.

J. Anthony Fernandez, Lewis-Clark State College president, said in June that Idaho has among the lowest supply of physicians per capita in the nation, and those physicians are on average 55 years old and nearing retirement age.

Class size initiative to be on fall ballot

SEATTLE – The secretary of state’s office has certified that a ballot initiative to decrease public school class sizes has enough qualified signatures to make the November ballot.

Secretary of State Kim Wyman said a team of 10 signature checkers finished checking signatures for Initiative 1351 late Thursday afternoon.

Washington voters considered a similar measure in 2000 and approved Initiative 728 with 71 percent of the vote. The Legislature has suspended that law several times because of the budget.

The class size initiative will be the only “initiative to the people” on the ballot this fall. Two initiatives to the Legislature on background checks for gun purchases also will appear.

The class size proposal would require smaller classes at every grade level. Lower goals would be set for high-poverty schools and in early grades.