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Spokane Valley City Council meeting tonight

The Spokane Valley City Council his holding its regular meeting tonight at 6 p.m. in council chambers at City Hall, 11707 E. Sprague Ave. On the agenda are items dealing with the comprehensive plan update, the 2015 property tax ordinance and an informational update on the Fife marijuana ban. In July, the City Council adopted some restrictions to where marijuana businesses may be operated. For more details see tonight's agenda - note that this is an informational agenda item only.

Hello Spokane Valley

- I'm your new designated reporter and I am looking to have some fun with this blog, too. I just spent a good hour visiting with Carolbelle Branch at City Hall, and she helped me come up with a list of people and places to visit as I get a sense of my new beat. 

I will be taking the blog on the road in Spokane Valley on a regular basis - hopefully once a week - and I encourage you to come out and meet with me. The easiest way to keep track of me is to friend me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter; I will be posting invites there as I go. Story ideas are always welcome at piah@spokesman.com 

Today’s highlights

Curt Buyser of Critter Control removes a captured yellow-bellied marmot near the Gonzaga University baseball field earlier this month. SR photo/Dan Pelle

I love Thursday for two reasons: it means it's nearly Friday and it's a Valley Voice day. Today's Voice section is packed with good stuff, so let's move on to some highlights. First up is our primary election coverage. Ballots are being mailed this week. I took a look at city council races in Rockford and Latah and a fire commissioner race in Spokane County Fire District 9. Reporter Lisa Leinberger has information on the candidates runnings for two East Valley School District board seats.

This week the Spokane Valley City Council took a look at several possible locations for a new City Hall. They favored buying the former Crescent building in the old University City Mall even though the building is significantly larger than what they would need for a combined city hall and police precinct. In other city news, the council is considering easing the sign code again to address the number and type of temporary signs and where they can be placed.

Reporter Pia Hallenberg has an interesting story on Curtis Buyser of Critter Control. He's the one you call when you have a skunk in the neighborhood, raccoons setting up house in your attic or marmots burrowing in the bushes.

Today’s highlights

Former Spokane Valley Mayor Mike DeVleming pauses during an interview on March 8, at Vera Water and Power. DeVleming was Spokane Valley’s first mayor and led the new city council in marathon meetings as they put the city together from the ground up. SR photo/Tyler Tjomsland

There is a lot of news packed into today's Valley Voice, so let's get going. The city of Spokane Valley is celebrating its 10th anniversary this weekend and there's a story on the city's early history that includes the city's first mayor and a current city councilman who spent his evenings and weekends trying to get incorporation on the balllot.

Reporter Lisa Leinberger has a story on a very lengthy East Valley School District meeting on K-8 education this week. Parents and teachers packed the meeting room and many gave their opinions on how the district should proceed.

The Spokane Valley City Council had several highlights this week. They appointed a new planning commissioner, signed a new City Hall lease that will save the city more than $73,000 the first year and awarded the first street preservation contract of the season.

There was also a big turn out for the city's public meeting on the proposed Appleway Trail that would run between University Road and Evergreen along the old Milwaukee Railroad right of way. The trail received an enthusiastic response.

Correspondent Cindy Hval has a story on the recent Celebrating Salish Conference, which brought together people involved in keeping the Salish language alive. The language is spoken by several Native American tribes, including the Kalispel Tribe.

Crews Remove City Hall Parking Lot

Spokesman Keith Erickson for Lake City Development Corporation reports on latest development in McEuen Field upgrade:

As expected, crews today finished removal of asphalt from the City Hall parking lot and will soon begin hauling in base rock for that lot, as well as the new East Lot under construction adjacent to City Hall. Meantime, Team McEuen engineer Phil Boyd said Friday that when complete, the McEuen Park upgrade will include parking for 45 boat trailers; 23 in the new East Lot, 19 in the parking facility and three handicapped spots near the launch. The project remains on schedule and Boyd does not anticipate looming rain to hamper efforts.

  • Remember: You can see latest Webcam photos of McEuen Field work by clicking on LCDC button in upper lefthand rail of Huckleberries.

Press: Aim Low On City Hall Raises

As this newspaper has documented several times over recent years, Coeur d'Alene city employees are among the best paid workers around. Add to their ample average earnings a benefits package that exceeds anything the local private sector can offer, and city employees are the envy of many. We have no desire to unleash another personal attack on city personnel. We've seen and heard enough of that in the wake of the McEuen quake. While most of the thunder behind the recent recall movement rumbled because of the controversial park, a lightning bolt or two was generated by the disparity between what the typical private-sector worker receives and what her or his counterpart at the city receives. With that in mind, we respectfully ask city officials and their employees from three separate unions to consider how short-term gain is likely to increase long-term pain/Coeur d'Alene Press Editorial Board. More here.

Question: Do you support 3 percent raises for city of Coeur d'Alene workers?

City Hall Suspect Stole Before

The Coeur d'Alene finance employee fired for allegedly embezzling city funds had been convicted for stealing an Oregon company's money years ago. Sheryl Lynn Carroll, 51 - who was fired July 24 after she failed to show up for a personnel meeting to discuss allegations she transferred city money into her personal accounts - pleaded guilty to first-degree theft March 21, 1983, in Deschutes County for stealing from Everett Turner Realtors, the real estate office where she worked in Bend, Ore. "It was difficult for me," said Everett Turner when he was reached by The Press this week. Turner had hired Carroll in 1980 and caught her stealing in December 1982. "We trusted her. She was like a member of the family. The whole office, 14 people, and she stole from every single one of them." According to Deschutes County court records, as part of her guilty plea, two counts of forgery were dismissed against Carroll, who had the last name Anderson at the time/Tom Hasslinger, Coeur d'Alene Press. More here.

Question: How prevalent do you think embezzlement is?

Press Pinpoints City Hall Suspect

Item: Records request to Coeur d'Alene City Hall pinpoints embezzlement suspect/Tom Hasslinger, Press

JohnA: $48,600 a nice salary to just throw away, well in excess of what the county pays for similar positions. When you throw in six weeks vacation and three weeks sick leave, plus 11 paid holidays per year and the opportunity to retire at 55 with a great pension, it makes you wonder what would drive someone to do what she’s accused of. Whereas I feel sorry for the employee’s family, I’m glad the audit processes in place at the city discovered the suspicious activity and brought it to an end. I’m curious to see how it was done, as a warning to other entities in this age of electronic transfers.

Joker: Six weeks of vacation. Three weeks of sick leave. Is there any private employer in Idaho that gives such a sweet deal?

Question: How much vacation and sick leave do you get?

Reporter Ferrets Out City Hall Suspect

By process of elimination, The Press has determined who’s accused of embezzling thousands of dollars from the city of Coeur d’Alene. A public records request from The Press shows Sheryl Carroll as the Finance Department employee who was fired Tuesday. The request, submitted Tuesday, asked for a list of all city finance employees on Friday, July 20, and a list of all finance employees on Wednesday, July 25. Carroll was the only employee who was not on both lists. The investigation of the alleged embezzlement, headed by the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office, is still open, and the city is not releasing the name of the employee because of personnel rules. Asked Wednesday whether any other city finance employee has left the department in the last few weeks other than the terminated position, City Attorney Mike Gridley said there hadn’t been/Tom Hasslinger, Coeur d'Alene Press. More here.

DFO: Attaboy, Tom …


DTS: Bloem Needs To ‘Sell Ideas’

DTSinIdaho: Democracy is not clean and pretty. There are many wounds that need to be healed. To start with, I hope the council takes a bit to ponder this whole situation to figure out how it all grew to such a rediculous spectacle. First of all, Mayor. This is not your second grade class. They will not do something, just because YOU say it is right. You need to look into getting a professional marketing person to show you guys how to communicate to the general public. SELL your ideas to the public at large… don’t just plop down a very large, and expensive product with out a nice fanfare. Analyse where people were getting their incorrect infromation from and work with those outlets… I realize the opencda site will always be the negative, sour, hateful face of Coeur d’Alene, but you need to follow it so you can be ahead of the propoganda curve.

DFO: I agree with DTS that Mayor Sandi Bloem & the better half of the City Council have done a poor job explaining Lake City Development Corp. and the tremendous progress in this community to the public. They shouldn't waste a minute on the OpenSewer-Dot-Com site, trying to explain that progress. But they no longer can allow Mary Souza, Kathy Sims and other political opponents to define the issues and questions. Propaganda and quarter-truths need to be confronted in print, online, on the air and anywhere else with facts.

Spokane opens new, improved Business Center in downtown City Hall

The City of Spokane  this week launched a new Spokane Business Center on the main floor of City Hall. It came about after a survey of area small businesses learned many wanted a simpler system for interaction with city staff and city agencies.

The main goal will be easier access to resources to help startups get information and to help growing businesses stay focused on reducing red tape.

The center's main thrusts are:

  • To provide  self-help information including a current listing of business workshops and networking events.
  • To connect businesses with partner organizations that can help with business planning, marketing, counseling, and capital.
  • To provide a resource guide on startup information and business development assistance. This information also will be attached to every business license mailed and each on-line license application

Anyone who's used the center so far, let us know how you rate the level of service.

Gookin Rips City For Edinger Dustup

On his campaign blog site, Coeur d'Alene City Council candidate Dan Gookin spotlights the current dustup involving nepotism charges against Councilman Ron Edinger. Gookin criticizes city officials rather than Edinger for the problem. Gookin isn't running for Edinger's seat: "This episode with Mr. Edinger isn’t about him as much as it’s about the failure of City staff to do their jobs. There’s also a responsibility for follow-through by the City Council to provide oversight and accountability. The article mentions city employees who apparently were supposed to know and follow the law: City Attorney Mike Gridley (next year’s salary $125,000) and Chief Administrator Wendy Gabriel ($123,000). The article should have also included the City’s Human Resource director, Pam MacDonald ($112,000). I would assume, based on their high level of pay ($360,000), and the continuing praises lavished upon staff by the incumbent council, that these City employees are all doing a super job. Apparently not." More here.

Question: Who is most to blame for the problem? Edinger? Bloem administration? Other?

Big turnout for crime prevention summit

This blog was a twittering and facebooking fool last night at City Hall's crime prevention summit. On stage were Mayor Mary Verner, Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick and Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich. Colleague Jonathan Brunt had this story in today's paper.

It was interesting that only a handful of people stood up in support of Ivan Bush, long-time civil rights leader, when he talked about how Spokane has a race problem.
The crowd was more supportive of speakers who talked about preventing domestic violence, not that the two issues can be compared.
Interesting statistic from Chief Kirkpatrick: the Spokane Police Department made contact with people 132,000 times last year, made 4,516 arrests and visited 2,649 people on warrants.

The NAACP is hosting a community meeting at East Central Community Center (500 S. Stone) on Feb. 21 at 7:30 p.m. to continue the conversation about the bomb found prior to the Martin Luther King Day March, race relations and policing.

Saturday’s highlights

Members of the extended  Hughes family pose for a Christmas portrait in Spokane Valley. From left are  Cohen, 1, Mary, Andrew and Tula Hughes, 2 ; Sam, 8, Nichole,  Max, 11, and Matthew Bergam;  Janice Hughes stands beside her husband, Steve; Ian Hughes, far right, and his son, Hayden, 10, in front. The families recently purchased new homes with three of them swapping homes with other family members. SR photo/J. Bart Rayniak.

There was a lot to see in Saturday's Valley Voice. The Hughes family did a four-way house swap among themselves, buying each other's houses one after the other. Spokane Valley city councilman Dean Grafos has been advocating putting a city hall near CenterPlace in the future, but city staff has to check and see if that's possible to do on the land donated for a community center and park.

The Liberty Lake City Council finally passed its 2011 budget with a unanimous vote. Painful cuts were averted, but there was considerable discussion on combining the golf course superintendent and park superintendent positions. Plus the Spokane Valley Fire Department is nearly ready to award a bid for construction of a new administration building.

Coming on Saturday

We've got a bunch of good stuff coming up in Saturday's Valley Voice. The Liberty Lake city council passed their 2011 budget this week. A lot of proposed cuts were washed away at the last minute thanks to some revenue changes. The golf pro is back, the library will be open as usual and the police department is getting a new car.

The Spokane Valley Fire Department is preparing to award a construction contract to build a new administration building next to Station 8 on Wilbur and do some repair and remodeling work at the training tower at Sullivan and Marietta. Spokane Valley city councilman Dean Grafos has been advocating building a city hall on land the city owns near CenterPlace and a preliminary evaluation suggests it would be feasible.

One scheduling note for next week: the Central Valley School District board meeting usually held on the fourth Monday of the month has been cancelled.

Kennedy Bill Busts Litigation Budget

Item: The rising cost of litigation: Like others, Cd’A splits city attorney duties from courtroom cases/Tom Hasslinger, Coeur d’Alene Press

More Info: The city of Coeur d’Alene will pay $108,434 in legal fees defending the 2009 general election challenge. That total more than quadruples the $24,770 the city’s legal department had budgeted for litigation in each of the last two years. That’s because the city agreed to pay the fees for two defendants, City Council seat 2 incumbent Mike Kennedy, who was sued personally for his then 5-vote victory, and the city of Coeur d’Alene, which was included in the yearlong suit as a potential remedy provider had the judge ruled for another election. While paying Kennedy’s tab was unique, hiring outside counsel to defend the city was not. Coeur d’Alene, as other Idaho cities do, separates its city attorney office duties from courtroom cases.

Question: Should Coeur d’Alene pay for outside counsel for courtroom cases involving the city?

Mayor Verner wants to meet with Spokane small business owners

Spokane Mayor Mary Verner is hosting a “Let’s Talk” conversation focused on small business and its challenges on Thursday from 10:30 a.m. to noon at the city council chambers in City Hall, 808 W. Spokane Falls Blvd.

Three area small business owners will talk about their challenges during the recession. Others are invited to take part.

The city will also release results from a recent survey that asked questions about the impact of economic conditions, workforce issues, access to capital, and local government’s role.

CityCable 5 will carry the 90-minute session live. It will also be streamed live on www.spokanecity.org under the “Watch It Live” section for CityCable5.

City spokeswoman Marlene Feist said the mayor held a series of business talks in 2008. Wih the economy still weak, “we decided to go back to look at where are there impediments to small business and are there any places where the city can place renewed focus?” she said.

What do you do on Earth Hour?

Turn out the lights.

Or at least, that’s what will happen at the Capitol Building in Olympia and City Hall in Spokane from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Saturday. It’s part of a worldwide observance of Earth Hour.

Not to be confused with Earth Day, which is in April. (And considering that the Earth is, like, the only planet we have, shouldn’t it at least get a month? But don’t let’s go down that road…)

The Capitol dome lights will go off for that hour, and Washington residents are being encouraged to turn their lights off then, too, in a show of support. (At the rate the Legislature is going, one might argue the lights could stay out in that part of the Capitol for days, and no one would notice.)

Gov. Chris Gregoire will sign a proclamation supporting Earth Hour, although it’s not quite clear if she’ll sign it by candle light, kerosene lantern, or just have someone flick their lighter until it’s signed. Or everyone could just open their cell phone, and the screen glow will light the room.

Spokane City Hall, the Clocktower in Riverfront Park and the Pavilion will also be lights out at that time at the direction of Mayor Mary Verner.

So if you’re out and about on Saturday evening, and the light on a public building suddenly go off, it’s not a sign that someone forgot to pay their Avista bill.


Friday Quote: Dude, please.

Who needs Comedy Central when you already have Fox News? Seriously. But we briefly check in, if only to understand America’s anger and paranoia. This is Glenn Beck, currently number one on the NYT bestseller list, on climate change a while back, over tears no doubt: Let me tell you something. For those of you who think climate change is real and manmade, you should know this, that — I mean, you don’t have to be a socialist, I guess, to believe in global warming. It’s just that almost everyone who does believe in global warming is a socialist. I mean, believes in manmade global warming that now can be fixed and reversed or whatever. And we’ve got the tools to fix it. Almost everybody who says, “I’ve got a plan to fix it” is a socialist.

Or something.

Beck actually says it best: The evil empire, if you will, is back. Does this at least partially explain the City Hall theatrics in Spokane and Town Hall madness sweeping the nation?

We’ve been wondering for a while.

The Clowns in Government…

Good morning, Netizens…

I must admit I hope Al Franken is as intelligent and on-point as a member of Congress as he was as a comedian. As David Horsey expresses in this morning’s cartoon, perhaps he is among his comedic peers, as there are a lot of clowns in the Congress. Despite the accuracy of the two clowns beside Al Franken, I do believe we have a locally-grown despot who qualifies as a clown, a man whose boundaries for sadistic humor knows few boundaries, our very own City Council President, Joe Shogan.

There is almost an element of the unworldly about City Hall these days. However, when it comes to the City Council meetings, Joe Shogan is in charge and rules with an iron gavel. God pity the poor person who dares to speak out on any given topic, especially if Shogan thinks the issue is moot, a done deal and the Council has already reached their conclusions before voting. After all, despite the fact we, the taxpayers, are paying for the numerous fiascos that flow unimpeded from City Hall, we fall short of the Glory of God before the all-powerful presence of the Great Shogun.

There are but a few rules in the new-and-improved City Council meetings. Bow down deeply and knock your head upon the worn carpet of the Council Chambers before speaking, cast not any aspersions in the direction of the dais and above all else, kiss the backside of the Council President before, during and after your presentation. When Joe laughs, everyone must put on their most-joyous faces and laugh with him. To do less may be subject to being ejected from the Council’s august presence.

Come to think of it, when I look at the caricatures of the two clowns in this morning’s Horsey cartoon, I can almost see the Great Shogun with makeup and a clown’s hat.

How many other clowns do we have in City Hall these days?


Thursday’s Loose Thread

Any thoughts about today’s editorial on City Hall pay?

Or anything else?

Engage brain before opening mouth…

Good morning, Netizens…

One of my favorite slogans, particularly if the day isn’t getting itself properly attired and ready for another prosperous business day is, “It’s another wonderful day in Paradise”, typically spoken with a leer on my face, a mild-mannered form of non-verbal punctuation to the sentence being spoken. It seems that a person had a wonderful day in Paradise yesterday when he threatened to blow up City Hall when asked to sign himself in as a Guest.

Thomas D. McMillan ended up being arrested, charged with one count of threatening to bomb or injure property, a class B felony that prohibits threats against public buildings for his threat.


Here comes my question: can you think of any circumstances, any justification at all under for making threats to blow up City Hall?

Remember, we ostensibly have a representative government, in which we as citizens gleefully elect at predictably sometimes-macabre occasions, and anyone can run for public office in Spokane if they wish. So long as Council President Joe Shogan does not rap his imperial gavel, anyone can remonstrate, disagree or express an opinion to the City Council during the public input component of the City Council meetings. Of course you can always write letters, because so few of the Council members seem to answer e-mail, based upon my experiences. I submit there are lots of alternatives one should consider before resorting to making threats to blow up City Hall, and I am curious whether anyone can come up with some good rationale for McMillan’s behavior.

Or was he just having another wonderful Day in Paradise that somehow got away from him in that he should have engaged his brain before opening his mouth? 


Peaceful protest at City Hall

A group of young adults tried to bring some attention to the kidnapping of children in Uganda by camping outside Spokane City Hall over the weekend until they could be “rescued.”

They were part of a national protest called “Invisible children” which set up demonstrations in some 80 cities around the United States.They started Saturday at Lewis and Clark High School, about 160 strong, on Saturday, then shifted to City Hall on Sunday where they passed the time drawing on the sidewalks and streets with chalk and wrapped in blankets and sleeping bags.

By Monday morning, about 30 were on or around the grassy knoll outside the Post Street entrance to the council chambers. According to the rules for the nationwide protest, they couldn’t leave until a high-ranking government leader or a celebrity came to make a public statement on behalf of the kidnapped children, thus “rescuing” the protesters and setting them free.

Considering that the kidnapping of children in Uganda and other East African countries is pretty far down on the list of local concerns, just about anything they did would raise consciousness to some higher level. So they can count themselves successful.

But the protest had a few unusual twists.

Who’s to blame?

Good morning, Netizens…

After some considerable research and introspection of the case of the Citizenry of Spokane versus City Hall, and upon hearing of the woman in Arlington, Washington who stole $73,575.18 from the church where she was the administrative assistant, (http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20090319/NEWS01/703199921/0/FRONTPAGE) and blamed it on Satan, I believe we have found the culprit behind the gaffes at City Hall.

My God, there has to be something hard at work that makes our lives in the Incredible City unbearable.

Suddenly an entirely new world of possibilities that none of us thought about emerges. You forget to plug the parking meter and that lascivious little cart comes sneaking around the corner with a demon fire in the ticket box while you’re standing there empty-handed. Uf da! Blame it on Satan for stealing your change. If that doesn’t wash, try blaming the children or grandchildren. Sometimes it does appear our offspring are in collusion with the Devil, but then they change back into angels. Go figure.

The disingenuous Major Crimes Detail of the Spokane Police Department, (http://www.spokanepolice.org/investigations/majorcrimes/default.aspx) ostensibly the voice of the victims according to their website, have disproven their lack of worth at investigating the Otto Zehm murder or the assault on Shonto Pete. Satan is your essential multi-tasker and hard at work on victim’s cases everywhere. There is no other explanation.

Of course, now we know who made the tape disappear from 911, don’t we? Nobody else could crack the mythological SPD security and make that tape of Shonto Pete telling a supervisor of 911 that he stole Olsen’s truck disappear into thin air. The electronic hands of the Devil are hard at work. Perfectly logical.

Closer to home, Avista, formerly known as the benevolent Washington Water Power, jacks its rates, paying its nefarious upper-echelon staff incredible salaries while most of us suffer beneath its narcissistic lead foot. You never know where the evil hand of Satan may crop up, do you?

The ideal solution to all this mischief and evil afoot everywhere in our fair city is to join the battle for goodness and mercy, and drive the evil forces from our midst. But then we wouldn’t have anyone left to blame for our misfortunes, now would we?


MC Verner y’all

While far better than MC Rove (and she did mention bit about mining for those curious), a video posted on The Spovangelist of our soft-spoken Mayor rapping at the Spokane City Council chambers must be seen to be believed. Watch here.

Moments like this are the primary function of the internet.