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Latest from The Spokesman-Review

City of Spokane revises and expands its public records search site

Folks who just can't get enough City of Spokane documents can now plan their summer.

The city recently upgraded access to its public records online, adding (relatively) easy access to about 38,000 records.

The city clerk's new records search tool gives access to resolutions, ordinances, leases, contracts and city council meeting minutes. A press release notes more 800,000 pages of information going back to  2004 are viewable.

Mayor Mary Verner said the expanded access is part of the city's commitment to open government. “This tool provides our citizens with 24-7 access to important information on the activities of the City of Spokane,” she said.

The link and online search tool are at http://publicdocs.spokanecity.org/cityclerkrecords/

Mayor calls for hiring more officers

Spokane Mayor Mary Verner ordered the hiring of at least six new police officers to fill vacant positions within the department and called for adding more officers next year.

The move comes after Verner, facing a contested bid for re-election this year, sent two plans to City Council members last week that would balance next year’s municipal budget without raising taxes and provide enough money to reverse recent cutbacks to the police force.

“Even in the midst of a Great Recession, the city continues to strive to make Spokane the safest city of our size in the nation,” Verner said. “We are simply having to think creatively about other ways to reach that goal.”

Read the rest of Kevin Graman's story here.

Don’t plug city parking meters Monday

Monday is Presidents Day. In honor of that, you can avoid putting those little round metal things with portraits of George Washington, Franklin Roosevelt or Thomas Jefferson in city parking meters.

In other words, it's a parking meter holiday.

Downtown Spokane offers a twin bill for its annual meeting next week

Downtown Spokane is offering a double-barrelled program for its annual meeting, which starts at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 17.
 
It will be at the Spokane Convention Center exhibition hall.
 
Renowned speaker and consultant Roger Brooks, founder and CEO of Destination Development International, will talk about how Spokane can showcase its distinctive urban features, beyond the now-obvious “Near Nature, Near Perfect” marketing approach.
 
The second topic will cover how Avista Utilities and the City of Spokane have begun collaborating on efforts to build a energy future that includes sustained cost savings, respect for the environment and enhanced quality of life, according to a program note.
 
To register, go to DowntownSpokane.net. Registration is $30 in advance before Feb. 10, $35 at the door.
 

Stage 2 Snow Emergency Declared

 

Good evening, Netizens…

 

The City of Spokane this afternoon declared a Stage 2 Snow Emergency. During a Stage 2 Snow Emergency crews will work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week until they complete a full-City plow that includes all residential areas. Of course, early this morning, I heard from Dr. John, who informed me at approximately 6:00 o'clock this morning that Grand Boulevard had seen several of our city snowplows eagerly plying the South Hill thus preventing the more affluent of Spokane's polite society from complaining to City Hall that nothing was being done.

 

As of this evening, and coincidentally another four or five inches of newly fallen snow later, many of the hills on the impoverished North Side have not seen a snow plow coming through nor, for that matter, any of the road graders which did a commendable job during the last snow storm of removing the buildup of ice and snow from the residential streets.

 

Unfortunately this is only day two since the snow began falling. The challenge will be to see how long we will have to wait before they clear the residential streets of this round of snow accumulation. Perhaps this time they will actually visit the Hillyard neighborhood before the weekend, but don't take any big wagers on it.

 

Dave

Snowcropolis II or is it III?

Good morning, Netizens…

According to the City of Spokane, we have entered Phase 2 of the City’s snow plowing plan which means the plows will be running 24 hours per day until all streets, including residential thoroughfares, have been plowed. If one reads the official plan, you see we have to move our vehicles to the positively-numbered side of the streets. They also refer you to the city’s web site so you can tell when and where the plows will arrive. BLZTPH! Sorry, but as of 11:00 AM today the city’s web site doesn’t contain any information about where the city plows are currently working or when they will be plowing residential streets. Even worse, the city’s informational Plow Line recorded message is still stuck in Phase I, main thoroughfares and bus routes, so not even the phone lines can help.

Now, if you are suffering the first phases of long-term depression after hearing all this wonderful news, be aware that once this storm passes, theoretically sometime late today or tomorrow, we actually will have a hiatus from snow falling for a day or two. However, sometime Tuesday an even bigger snow storm is slated to drop additional snow on our fair city, and according to some forecasters, the next storm might be a real doozy, making Snowcropolis III a distant possibility.

Do we dare prepare ourselves for Snowcropolis II or III, distant cousins to the blast from the past two years ago, when the entire City of Spokane inexorably ground to a halt once residential streets became impassable? It’s a good thing this falls on a weekend, so none of the city’s Public Works personnel have to appear before those pesky TV broadcasters to explain how well things are actually progressing.

Dave

Spokane Club names Pilcher its new CEO

The Spokane Club today named John Pilcher its new CEO.

After a national search, the club’s board chose Pilcher to move the athletic-social club forward. Pilcher has been serving as interim CEO for the past several months.

“I’m thrilled to be asked to lead this historic enterprise on its path to success,” Pilcher said in a prepared release.

A Harvard MBA, Pilcher has been COO for the City of Spokane and was the city’s first Economic Development Division Director. Pilcher is a former board member of the Spokane Regional Economic Development Council. He has been involved in numerous community projects and civic groups including Rotary 21.

In a recent Sunday Business section story, we looked at the key membership problems the privately funded club is facing.

City on ducks: Let ‘em get their own food

For the umpteenth time, the City of Spokane’s Parks Department has a message for walkers and loungers at Manito Park.

Don’t feed the freaking ducks. Or the geese either, for that matter.

The city’s been trying to get folks to stop feeding the ducks for several years. The bread that is the most common food people bring to the park isn’t good for them, the ducks get fat on empty calories, they don’t get enough exercise and they foul the pond water.

But then, you’ve heard that all before. And YOU are probably not doing it. So the next time you’re at Manito Park and see SOMEONE ELSE feeding the ducks, feel free to read them the riot act.

Or maybe just point to one of the signs that say don’t feed the ducks.

City of Spokane take note: Red light cameras on Mukilteo ballot

OLYMPIA — City of Spokane officials might be watching one election result from across the state pretty closely on Nov. 2. Or if not, they should.

The City of Mukilteo has an initiative that severely limits the use of red-light cameras and speeding cameras which issue tickets to motorists they catch running lights or driving too fast. It would require a two-thirds majority of that city council AND a simple majority of voters to approve the devices, and reduce the cost of a fine to the amount of the lowest parking ticket.

The ballot measure, sponsored by Tim Eyman, had huge numbers of signatures at its turn  it, and qualified for the ballot. When one combines the universe of voters unhappy with their government with the universe of voters who don’t like to make it easier for police to issue them speeding and traffic tickets, it’s would seem this proposal has at least a decent chance of passage. (Note deliberate understatement as an literary device.)

A successful campaign in Mukilteo could spread across the state like  BP oil in the Gulf.  It’s also important to note that Eyman’s two chief lieutenants, Jack and Mike Fagan, are Spokane residents.

Drop that bag. Move away from the bread.

The City of Spokane is asking — actually, it’s sort of pleading, sort of demanding — that people stop feeding the ducks at Manito Pond.

City Parks and Recreation has put up signs to that effect. It has issued press releases and public announcements that feeding bread to the ducks is bad for the water fowl, and fouls the water.

People feeding ducks leads to an increase of ducks on the pond, which quickly becomes more than the pond can support, and some very nasty water. And the ducks don’t get much nutrition out of the bread, so they wind up fat and malnourished.

It seemed to be working for a while, but now, two years into the “Don’t Feed the Ducks” effort, City Parks is seeing an increase in duck feeding, and an increase in bread in the pond. (That seems to suggest that people are bringing bags of bread to the pond, reading the signs and tossing the bread in the water. “Honest officer, I wasn’t feeding the ducks. I was feeding the POND. Not my fault the ducks ate some of the bread before it sank.”)

So, to review. Don’t feed the ducks. Don’t take bread to the pond to feed the ducks.

But if you forget, and you bring the bread and read the sign and say “D’oh!” Don’t just toss the bread in the water, toss it in the trash cans conveniently located in the park. Or, better yet, take it home and toss it in your trash can.

Any questions?

I didn’t attend Hoopfest… here’s why

 Good morning, Netizens…


Yet another year in the life of Hoopfest has come and gone, and all the numb sunburned bodies have finally laid their claims to fame and fortune or ill fame and misfortune as the case may be. But for me and mine, we did not attend Hoopfest; in fact, we didn’t even watch the breathless news breaks featuring the winners on the evening news. Why?


First, there is no place for aging fat bodies in the mass mayhem of thousands of basketball players vying for first place. Granted, there are a few elder members of our society who have banded together and thus compete on the courts downtown, but there should be strict disclaimers for televised images. After all, the pictures of septuagenarians hitting the tarmac with an ugly splat should not be broadcast where innocent youngsters can see them unless accompanied by, “Before you laugh, remember someday you, too, could look like this.”


Of course, no Hoopfest would be complete without a whirlwind tour of the vendors on food row. The selection of food and drink is just like Pig Out in the Park but with muscle strains and those fancy T-shirts. In fact, if you look closely, you’ll see that most of the vendors also appear at Pig Out in the Park as well. Once again, aging fatbodies, particularly those with Type-II diabetes should avoid the temptation. My, but what a wonderful selection of temptation we have in Spokane.


A great deal of noise has been made about how Hoopfest makes all this money for the City of Spokane and worthy charities, and thus justifies its existence. It does a lot of good for charities, in fact. However, I would much rather choose the charities I support, rather than have someone else choose them for me. Remember, this is day 70 of the Gulf Oil Spill.


The biggest reason we have studiously avoided Hoopfest all these years, however, is that I develop a severe rash of a most private nature when I am in a vast warbling mass of unwashed people, regardless of their intentions or why they came together. Yes, I admit it. I get a severe rash on the forefront of my brain just thinking about 30,000 plus strangers in close proximity to me and mine. Give me a quiet afternoon sitting out back in the Virtual Garden watching the Garden Gnomes and a few closely-held friends celebrating the ripening strawberry plants and the serenity of the rose bushes.


Dave

City of Spokane no longer paying Chism

Spokane firefighter Todd Chism has been placed on unpaid layoff status pending the resolution of felony charges that he assaulted Washington State Patrol troopers in Stevens County last month.

City Administrator Ted Danek informed Chism, a lieutenant, of the change during an afternoon meeting at City Hall today, said city spokeswoman Marlene Feist. The change takes effect Friday. Chism earned $93,535 per year.

Chism had been on paid leave from the Spokane Fire Department since April 8, two days after an early-morning confrontation with two troopers alongside Highway 291 just outside the driveway to Chism’s home.

Unpaid layoff status means Chism is no longer employed by the city of Spokane but could be reinstated if felony charges are dropped or reduced to misdemeanors. That happened to Spokane police Detective Jay Mehring and Officer Jay Olsen, but Olsen then resigned before Chief Anne Kirkpatrick fired him.

Mehring and Olsen both received back pay for their time on unpaid layoff status because neither was convicted of a felony.

Past coverage:

April 23: Chism threatened to kill troopers, WSP said

April 9: Firefighter Tasered in DUI arrest

Before the power goes out, read this

Anticipating that some power might be knocked out by high winds, the ever-helpful folks at Spokane City Hall sent out some tips, which Spin Control is happy to provide despite the obvious underlying irony that when you most need them, you won’t be able to read them here.

So read now and commit to memory:

**********************************************

WHEN THE POWER’S OUT, EVERYBODY STOPS

Expected high winds could lead to power outages, other street obstructions

**********************************************

 

With high winds in the forecast for today, here’s a reminder for motorists:  When the power’s out, everybody stops.  Motorists should use caution and treat a signalized intersection without power like a four-way stop, allowing vehicles to take turns.

 City Street crews are monitoring weather conditions closely today.  They are prepared to deploy generators to busy intersections, if needed, but they note that citizens should be prepared for dark signals as well as the possibility of downed power lines and trees blocking the roadway.

 Don’t approach a downed power line; call 9-1-1 for assistance.  To report a tree blocking traffic, call 625-7733.

City of Spokane looks at creating new jail

The city of Spokane wants to spend less money housing low-risk inmates and will begin exploring cheaper options, including the possibility of creating its own minimum-security lockup rather than rely on the county jail.

The idea, which could include using a private jail contractor, caused tension this week with county leaders concerned that a city jail could torpedo a four-year regional process aimed at building a new countywide lockup and putting greater emphasis on rehabilitation. The county currently charges daily incarceration fees for housing inmates from the cities.

Read the rest of the story here.

Spokane’s snow plow Web site ranked No. 1

Spokane hasn’t had much of a chance to show off its new snow plan this winter thanks to mild temperatures. It has, however, earned props for its snow plow Web site.

Over the past couple of rough winters, Spokane created an online interactive map so residents can check which streets have been plowed during storms. That effort earned the No. 1 rank on the list of the “10 best cities for tracking snow removal online” by OhMyGov, a Web site that writes about government issues.

A new map for: Fire District bond

The only race that seems to be hanging fire still is the City of Spokane Fire Bond.

As of Friday, it had inched up to a 59.43 percent approval rating, or

29,611 for

20.215 against

It needs to get to 60 percent.

The county elections office estimates it has about 8,000 votes left to count. If half of them are from the city (which is about what we can expect in most elections), the bond issue is going to need about 67 percent approval rating in those ballots to close the gap.

Turn the valve to OFF

If the stalactite sized icicles around your sprinkler heads aren’t enough incentive, the City of Spokane has a request for homeowners.

Turn off your sprinklers.

Seems there are problems this morning with water from sprinklers running down the street, turning to ice and making slick spots on the streets. That’s apparently from sprinklers that are watering frozen ground, which, as one might imagine, does not soak up much water. For a homeowner, that might be marginally better than the alternative, which involves the water in the pipes being just as frozen as the ground, bursting the pipes and sprinkler heads and creating improptue ice sculptures.

So, to repeat, turn off your sprinklers. And drain the system to avoid frozen pipes and heads.

City Water Department also has some other cold weater suggestions, which are reprinted inside the blog. They’re the standard things, but this may be the earliest we’ve printed them.

What do you think about MKL Way?

The City of Spokane is considering naming a new stretch of street just east of downtown as Martin Luther King Way. It’s the section of what might more cartographically be labelled an extension of Riverside Avenue east of Division, which would be built through the old railroad warehouse area that will become part of the university district.

It’s also thinking of naming the pedestrian bridge in the university district as the Coretta Scott King Memorial Bridge.

If you think that’s the best idea since sliced bread or the worst idea since disco, or something in between, the city is inviting you to send comments. They can be e-mailed to tpalmquist@spokanecity.org  .

Or you could just wait for the public hearings that will be scheduled later for the Plan Commission and the City Council.

Ground “broken” for sewage treatment plant

One of the largest public works projects in Spokane County history — one that has been nearly 30 years in the making — got its official start Thursday as local officials held a dirt turner for the $140 million wastewater treatment facility.

For those unfamiliar with such events, a dirt turner is news media terminology for a standard arrow in the public officials’ quiver of events. A bunch of people who have little or no business on a construction site go out to a piece of land that’s been cleared for some big construction project, stand around near heavy equipment, and at the appropriate time stick shovels in the ground and hoist up what is often a pitiful amount of earth to signal the beginning of the project.

Standing on land off Freya Street once occupied by stockyards — any allusion to the by-product of so many cows standing around for so many years is strictly the fault of the county here — elected and appointed government leaders from the county, the city of Spokane Valley and the city of Spokane stuck shovels into the pre-softened soil and complimented each other for their cooperation.

Really. They were extremely nice to each other. Dirt turners bring out the best in public officials.

Two-armed pickup

It’s such a nice day that anyone with time on their hands Wednesday morning should consider stopping by Corbin Park at 11 a.m., where the city plans to show off one of its newest vehicles.

A new garbage truck that can pick up cans on either side of the alley in a single pass. It’s sure to be a big event; even Mayor Mary Verner is supposed to be there.

Hmmm. Garbage pickup. Corbin Park. Alleys. Mary Verner.

Where have we seen those concepts all together in the past?

Oh, yeah…

The difference between bond issues

Although it’s too early to declare the Spokane School District’s bond issue a winner, it is clear that it did considerably better than the City of Spokane’s bond issue.

It pulled more votes out of almost every city precinct that the two proposals shared. Sometimes lots more, as the above map of the first night’s vote totals shows.

This is interesting for several reasons.

Bond report: Dist. 81 yes; “police and pets” no

Spokane School District officials can probably rest easy tonight. Their $288 million bond issue has a comfortable lead, and seems headed for passage.

News for the City of Spokane’s Police Department and animal control plans is not so good. The $18.5 million “Police and Pets” bond issue was thumped. Hard.

The above map is a look at the city bond issue as of Tueday night’s count.-