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City of Spokane plans park/streets meetings

Spokane city officials will hold six public meetings this month on their plan to refinance bonds to raise money for street maintenance and the proposed Riverfront Park Master Plan.

The proposal involves refinancing three older bond issues, paying them off and raising an extra $25 million for streets and $60 million for the Riverfront Park plan. It would pay off the 1999 park bonds, the 2004 street bonds and the 2007 pool bonds, leaving the 91 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation in place, but extending it for 20 years. The two older bonds are due to expire this year, although the 2007 pool bonds have another 16 years.

City officials liken the plan to a homeowner refinancing to take advantage of lower interest rates.

For a look at the meeting schedule, click here to go inside the blog.

  

Idaho to share in JP Morgan Chase settlement over bid-rigging on bonds

Idaho is one of 23 states that will share in a multimillion-dollar national settlement with JP Morgan Chase & Co. over bid-rigging deals on public bond offerings. The Associated Press reports that J.P. Morgan Securities LLC made at least 93 secret deals with companies that handled the bidding processes in 31 states,  allowing the bank to peek at competitors' offers in trying to secure investment business from state and local governments to invest bond proceeds before the bond-funded projects were fully paid for; the Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission announced the deal today, under which the company will pay a total of $211 million, including $92 million to the 23 states and the District of Columbia.

Few Idaho entities were involved, according to the Idaho Attorney General's office; they'll be reimbursed for any losses; injunctive relief also will prevent such actions in the future. The other states are Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Tennessee and Wisconsin. Click below for a full report from AP business writer Daniel Wagner in Washington, D.C.

Spokane will use bond money to beautify Division Street ‘gateway’

Spokane will borrow about $4 million from itself to pay for improvements near the University District along Division Street.

The money will be repaid in payments of $250,000 a year over 25 years with sales tax money collected in Spokane that otherwise would have been earmarked for the state.

The Spokane City Council voted 7-0 on Monday to issue the bond and to allow them to be purchased by the city’s investment fund, which is made up mostly of money held in reserve for future sewer, water and trash system upgrades.

Valentine Swan Song

  (photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap)

 

    The wind slipped cold, cruel fingers down my collar and teased at the heavy scarf around my neck and it fluttered and danced around my face as I walked carefully down the slushy sidewalk. The afternoon sun was high and bright but the temperature was still bitingly cold.
    I’d been wandering in and out of the shops that line the main street of Traverse City, Michigan,  looking for some kind of token to bring home with me. Valentine’s Day was coming.

    I picked up a few things as I shopped: jam made from Michigan cherries, a postcard, a pair of gloves. But nothing carried the true weight of what I wanted to say.

    Finally, running out of time, I turned off the main street and walked toward the shore of the Lake.


    As I navigated the path, I was careful to avoid the iciest patches. The deep snow formed a high white wall around the edge of the lake and I noticed there were no other footprints. A few cars were parked at the edge and the occupants were protected as they ate their lunches and gazed out at the water, but no one else was foolish enough to get out and face the relentless cold.

    I stood there, open to the wind that poured across the lake freezing everything in it’s path. My face was numb, my eyes watered. My toes and fingers ached.

    The deep azure color of the lake, rimmed by snowy beaches and green hills, flowed up toward the sky in bands of blue broken only by small clouds.  There was a skim of ice on the water closest to the shore and for a few minutes I watched a pair of swans, side-by-side, floating languidly in the frigid water. I remembered reading that swans mate for life and wondered, again, if it is true.

     
     Finally, surrendering, I pushed my hands deeply into my pockets and started to turn away but stopped when the pair of swans moved. As I watched, in a slow, subtle, water-ballet, the pair turned slightly toward one another, long necks gracefully arched, heads pointed down to the water, swimming breast to breast. And for a moment, at least from where I was standing, the space between them formed the shape of a perfect heart.

    Swans live their lives the same way so many humans do, it’s just that our seasons are longer. We court in the spring, have our young in the summer and in the winter, after the young have left the nest, we are content to swim alone, close to our mate for comfort and company.


    My fingers were cold and too slow to bring out my camera and by the time I pressed the shutter the swans had turned away. But I had found my Valentine.


    I was looking for a card or a gift but it took a pair of wild winter swans to show me the way.
 This Valentine's Day, all I really want to say is that when we are winter birds, I will still be here. I will always be the other half of the heart.

Cheryl-Anne Millsap writes for The Spokesman-Review. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com
  

AWB challenges ballot title of Energy Rehab bonds

OLYMPIA — The Association of Washington Business says it will challenge the proposed ballot title for Referendum 52, the measure that asks voters to approve bonds for a half billion worth of energy retrofits at public schools and colleges.

Dubbed “Hans Bonds” during the late legislative session because they were the brainchild of Rep. Hans Dunshee, the bonds would be sold to pay for energy savings rehabilitation that would save the schools money and create jobs in the lagging construction sector of the economy. Or at least that was the pitch from Dunshee and House Democrats, who finally got the bonds past the Senate late in the special session.

But not until the legislation added a refendum clause, allowing voters to decide whether they want to pay for the bonds by making the now-temporary tax on bottled water permanent, and the source for paying off the bonds.

AWB says the ballot title language should state that very fact, and wants to add “and make the sales tax on bottled water permanent” to the end of the title. The challenge will get a Superior Court hearing laster this month.

UPDATE: Jason Mercier of the Washington Policy Center notes this afternoon that legislative Democrats can’t say they weren’t warned that the language would prompt a legal challenge. During debate on the bill, Sen.Linda Parlette, R-Wenatchee, sponsored an amendment to add the language about a permanent water tax to the required ballot title. Democratic Sens. Karen Fraser of Olympia and Lisa Brown of Spokane argued that the tax isn’t really permanent because it could be removed at the Legislature at any time.

The amendment failed 16-30. Mercier has posted a clip of the debate on his blog.

WA Lege Spec Sess: Say what?

OLYMPIA — Debate sometimes gets so heated in the Legislature that the honorables mix their metaphors or jumble their allusions.

Today’s House debate on the Democrats’ “Jobs” bill, which asks for $861 million in bonds to do energy refits in schools around the state, was one of those times.

Rep. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor, warned about the mounting debt, and taking on even more, particulary when the state faces growing health care and pension costs. “Mr. Speaker, the cash register is ticking.”

Clocks tick. Bombs tick. But seems like even in the days of manually cranked cash registers, they didn’t tick, although they sometimes when ka-chunk, and sometimes went ka-ching.

Rep. David Taylor, R-Oak Harbor, tried a topical literary and cinematic allusion, although he prefaced it by saying he didn’t get around to seeing “Alice In Wonderland” on his weekend away from the Legislature. The bond bill was putting money, Wonderland-like, down a bunny  hole, he said.

“This may be the bunny hole of doom,” he warned.

Bunny hole of doom? Go ask Alice. Don’t eat the pills, stay away from the Mad Hatter but remember what the doormouse said.

Early out of the gate: a bill from Driscoll

The state Senate is scheduled this morning to pass a bill, HB 1113, sponsored by local Rep. John Driscoll.

The bill is a $133 million sale of state bonds to pay for school construction projects that are already underway.

The work was already planned, but inflation and faster construction than the state expected means that the school construction fund was running out of money. The bond sale refills that pot of money.

“It would be foolish to stop projects that are halfway done,” said Driscoll.

The list, Driscoll said, include work at the Ferris, Shadle and Rogers high schools, as well as on school buildings in the Mead and Nine Mile Falls districts. All told, there are 167 projects in 67 districts.

“If school districts showed up for reimbursement and we said `Sorry,’ that would give another shock to the economy, a shock we don’t need,” said Hans Dunshee, chairman of the House construction-budget committee.