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Spin Control: Spokane could have two holidays honoring Native Americans

The Spokane City Council will probably spend part of Monday’s meeting arguing whether changing Columbus Day to “Indigenous Peoples Day” is an exercise in cultural sensitivity or political correctness.

In fact, it’s an exercise in redundancy. Which is not to say that indigenous folks don’t deserve plenty of recognition. But still.

Washington already has a date dedicated to honoring the first inhabitants of the hemisphere. It’s called Native American Heritage Day, and is officially celebrated on the day after the fourth Thursday in November. Also known as the Friday after Thanksgiving.

The Legislature passed that law in 2014 with a unanimous vote in the Senate and a 93-5 vote count in the House, which was pretty impressive considering 2014 was a fairly contentious year. The prime sponsor was Sen. John McCoy, a member of the Tulalip Tribe and one of the few Native Americans to serve in the Legislature. Took him four tries, but he got the bill passed.

Part of the discussion at the time revolved around the right day to honor Native Americans. Seattle already had changed Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day – a fact that by itself could doom the idea in Spokane. Some Native Americans weren’t too thrilled about having a day honoring their heritage tied to Thanksgiving. That day isn’t as much cause for celebration among some Indians as it is for Americans of European descent, considering things worked out much better for the Pilgrims and other white people than for the Wampanoags and other Indians.

But the day after Thanksgiving was already a state and school holiday – it just didn’t have a name. Dubbing it Native American Heritage Day meant some people would have the day off. And as any kid can attest, it’s not much of a holiday if they have to go to school.

Columbus Day has fallen into the realm of “not much of a holiday” in the state. Students will be in class. Some banks may be closed on Oct. 10 this year, even though Columbus actually spotted land on Oct. 12, 1492. That’s a Wednesday this year, and Americans love their three-day weekends.

About the only sign that Columbus Day is a holiday in Spokane is motorists don’t have to feed parking meters, apparently because the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria got to park free in the Caribbean.

That may be the biggest obstacle for Spokane going with Native American Heritage Day rather than Indigenous Peoples Day. Native American Heritage Day is also Black Friday, and the city may be reluctant to give up its downtown meter revenue for the biggest retail shopping day of the year.

Computer problems abound

To err is human, as Shakespeare observed, but for real problems you need a computer. This was proved twice last week. First, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife reported that someone had hacked the records of people who had purchased hunting and fishing licenses.

Also with computer woes is Sound Transit, the controversial agency that runs buses and commuter trains in the heart of Pugetopolis and is hoping for a $54 billion ballot measure this fall. The Seattle Times reported that the agency released email addresses it had collected for 173,000 holders of its ORCA passes to the campaign committee in favor of the ballot measure, Mass Transit Now.

Opponents of the ballot measure have asked the Public Disclosure Commission to look into the possible violation of the Public Records Act, which seems to require such information be redacted before those records can be released.

Sound Transit is now faced with two bad outcomes of such an investigation: If it was intentional, there could be legal penalties. If it was inadvertent, some voters might wonder whether this agency should be trusted with an extra $54 billion.

Once more unto the breach

The dog days of summer are a slack time for news, and campaigns often scramble to fill the void. Last week’s attempt to commit news in the governor’s race involved debates.

The Spokane debate this month apparently whetted Republican challenger Bill Bryant’s appetite, and he tried to seize the initiative by challenging Gov. Jay Inslee to a debate solely on homelessness and mental health. When the Inslee camp didn’t bite, Bryant doubled down by touring several homeless camps in Western Washington, including “The Jungle,” a fairly notorious site in Seattle. Maybe that would be a good venue for a debate, he said.

The governor traveled a bit, too, but to Spokane for a briefing on how things were going with Eastern Washington wildfires.

The Bryant challenge comes as the campaigns are allegedly negotiating the details of proposed televised debates to be sponsored by a coalition of news media outlets and civic organizations that could follow the national presidential debates.

Jamal Raad, Inslee campaign spokesman, wouldn’t commit to a debate solely on homelessness and mental health but added, “I’m sure those issues will come up” in any future debate.

Spin Control, a weekly column by political reporter Jim Camden, also appears online with daily items and reader comments at www.spokesman. com/blogs/spincontrol.


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