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“A country run by idiots”

Audience comments during the Spokane City Council’s debate over adding gender identity to local civil rights protections were at times so graphically vile that Councilman Jon Snyder suggested it was evidence of why the ordinance is necessary.

Former state Rep. John Ahern, for example, warned of increased rapes and other violent crimes that he believes would escalate if men dressed as women were allowed to use public restrooms. Another audience member described cases of sexual torture that included setting victims on fire. A woman who drew a mustache on her face and dressed as a man (pictured) took to the podium to declare that America is becoming “a country run by idiots.”

The proposal was approved Monday night on a 5-2 vote, with several councilmen calling the tenor of the testimony “offensive.” Among them was Councilman Mike Allen, who opposed the measure on technical grounds but joined others in expressing disappointment over some of the more vicious comments made by audience members.

Allen said he’s worried that by adding local protections, which already are provided under state law, it would open the city to litigation if lawsuits ever arose over something like equal access to school locker rooms. He said he’d prefer to let the state pick up the tab for that kind of legal fight.

The proposal also added local prohibitions against discriminating based on military status and disabilities. It was proposed by the city's Human Rights Commission. A video of Monday night's meeting can be seen here. The gender identity issue is toward the end.

Interview with Councilman Jon Snyder in Smart Growth America


Smart Growth for America
posted an interview with our very own Councilman Jon Snyder regarding complete streets in Spokane. It goes into how he got a Complete Streets ordinance passed, Photo Red funding, and engaging with your local government. It's a good read and quite an honor. Here's an excerpt:

To Snyder, Complete Streets fits into a larger vision to preserve the best parts of Spokane without draining the city’s resources. “Spokane is a really awesome mid-sized city,” he explains. “It has the benefits of a small city—such as lack of congestion—and a big city, such as terrific arts and culture and high-quality education opportunities. Spokane also boasts incredible access to the outdoors, often in downtown-accessible locations. Here anyone can get an idea off the ground and we can recognize the heartfelt efforts of one person.”

Snyder on signature: I’m left-handed

Yesterday, I asked readers to guess which Spokane leader uses this signature.

It belongs to City Councilman Jon Snyder. The above example comes from this letter.

Snyder claims the signature is simply a big J.

Me: "Is it a backward J?"

Snyder: "I'm left-handed."

He says the simplified signature is the result of laziness, not an attempt to make a statement. It's illegibility came in handy about 15 years ago, he said, when he was the target of identity thieves who forged his signature in a way that was legible.

Since it isn't likely to affixed to dollar bills any time soon, don't expect it to change.

Richard Rush returning to Spokane City Hall

Richard Rush is returning to Spokane City Hall.

After being tossed from office two years ago by Mike Allen, who won by just 88 votes, Rush has been hired by new Councilwoman Candace Mumm to serve as her full-time staff aide.

Mumm called Rush, 62, a logical choice for the job.

"He's very qualified for the position," she said Monday night following her swearing-in ceremony in council chambers. "We'll be able to get to work immediately."

Rush served on many of the same city committees Mumm expects to serve on, and has a strong background with Spokane's various neighborhood councils.

Each city council member gets a staff assistant. Next month, the aides will become full-time city employees under the budget deal approved in November, and will be paid $34,181 a year, which is slightly more than council members receive. Currently, the aides are paid $25,635 as part-time employees.

Rush was a sometimes-divisive council member who wasn't afraid to float controversial ideas or buck the administration despite his overall support for Mayor Mary Verner, who was beat by David Condon in the same election that Rush lost to Allen.

Rush once suggested, for example, that the city should get rid of its utility tax — one of the highest in the state — and replace it with a local income tax, which would be impossible without a change in the state constitution. He also complained during the Otto Zehm fiasco that it appeared the council was being given only "filtered" information from the city attorney's office about the case.

Results don’t change in futile Ahern recount

A recount that couldn’t change the winner also didn’t change the vote totals.

Last week, Spokane City Council candidate John Ahern paid to have a partial recount in his race against incumbent Jon Snyder.

Ahern, a former state representative, lost the race by 5,669 votes in a margin that was nearly 2-to-1 in favor of Snyder.

The recount was completed today. Officials said the four precincts that he requested to be recounted by hand, which included about 1,600 ballots, were counted accurately the first time by machine.

If the machine count had been wrong, Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton said last week that changes could not have changed the winner because Ahern had not request enough votes to be recounted to make up the difference.

Ahern: Race against Snyder not over yet

Former state Rep. John Ahern, who lost his race against incumbent Councilman Jon Snyder by a nearly 2-to-1 margin is questioning how he could have performed so poorly.

Ahern is requesting a partial recount in the race just to "double-check" the accuracy of the ballot counting.

“I doorbelled a little over 10,000 homes,” Ahern said. “I got a very good reception from just about everybody.”

After thumping in election, Ahern pays for hand recount

A Spokane City Council candidate who lost big in his attempt to unseat incumbent Councilman Jon Snyder is demanding a recount.

John Ahern, a former state representative, sent a letter to the Spokane County Auditor’s Office on Monday requesting that four precincts be recounted. A check for $429.50 was attached. That’s a quarter for each of 1,718 ballots that he wants recounted.

County Auditor Vicky Dalton says candidates have the right to pay for a recount even if a race isn’t close. Ahern probably will end up paying closer to $1,500 because state law says that he has to pay the full cost of a recount.


Documents:

Today’s fun video: Snyder says “Thanks”

 

City Councilman Jon Snyder borrowed a bit — OK, he kind of outright stole — from "Vision Quest" to say thanks to supporters for his re-election. But he acknowledged it on the video.

"Snyder Quest" features the councilman and his bike, has good shots of Spokane and some amusing screen credits.

And for those too young to remember or so old they've forgotten, "Vision Quest" was filmed in Spokane.

14 Spokane City Council votes that would have been different under new majority

So the Spokane City Council will soon have a new, more liberal majority. And while some big issues haven't been decided along easily identified party lines, there likely will be a noticeable change.

To get a sense of the kind of policies that could be affected, here's a review of many of the 4-3 tallies cast since the council shifted to a more conservative bent after the 2011 election. The following votes ended with Republican-leaning Mike Allen, Mike Fagan, Nancy McLaughlin and Steve Salvatori beating out Democratic-leaning Jon Snyder, Ben Stuckart and Amber Waldref.

May 2013

  • Supporting the filing of lawsuits to stop two citizen initiatives from appearing on the ballot, including Envision Spokane’s proposed Community Bill of Rights.

April 2013

  • Rejection of proposal to pull money from reserves to hire 10 police officers.
  • Creation of 13 new public safety departments to allow Mayor David Condon to hire and fire more managers without using civil service rules.

PAC backing Snyder, Mumm missed filing deadlines

The flood of money into Spokane City Council races is accompanied by campaign accusations flowing to the state agency that oversees election spending.

In the last week at least four complaints have been filed with the state Public Disclosure Commission about Spokane races.

In the aftermath, a political action committee has acknowledged that it did not file proper campaign reports.

The Spokane Republican Party this week accused Citizens for Honest Government, a political action committee that supports the campaigns of Jon Snyder and Candace Mumm, of not properly reporting its spending.

Snyder, an incumbent, is running against former Republican state Rep. John Ahern for a seat representing south Spokane. Mumm is running against Michael Cannon for a seat representing northwest Spokane.

Melissa Carpenter, Citizens for Honest Government’s treasurer, said Thursday that the PAC did not intend to hide any expenditures and that it would “take steps to rectify the situation immediately.” She also noted that the PAC reported the expenditures on other reports to the PDC.

Rules require that PACs to report much of their spending on behalf of candidates within 24 hours. But Citizens for Honest Government didn’t report how it spend nearly $50,000 until it filed a required summary report earlier this week.

Fire District safe from Ahern

In the KSPS debate that aired earlier this month on KSPS City Council candidate John Ahern spoke in confusing terms about the area served by the city's Fire Station No. 9 on the South Hill. So confusing, apparently, that Spokane County Fire District No. 9 has issued a clarification:

Here's a portion of the district's press release sent today from Fire Chief Jack Cates:

In his rebuttal, John Ahern stated that “another area I think we really need to shore up is Fire District 9.” Furthermore he felt that that area was only half-staffed at this time and indicated he had been knocking on doors talking to taxpayers in that area. The context of Mr. Ahern’s rebuttal appears to indicate that he was actually referring to the area around the old Fire Station 9 on the south hill area in the City of Spokane. He even referred to the Eagle Ridge neighborhood near Highway 195.

City Hall Scoop: Foot bridges and vegetated roofs

There were enough members for a quorum, but the dais was a bit spare at Monday's regularly scheduled Spokane City Council meeting.

Councilman Jon Snyder, acting as council president pro tem in Ben Stuckart's stead, politely led the charge through the hour-long meeting. Councilman Mike Allen was also absent. 

Members voted on an emergency spending request put forth by Snyder to shift $350,000 out of general fund reserves to pay for comprehensive inspections on 11 bridges, mainly in Riverfront Park. Our previous story here said nine bridges would be checked, but two bridges on the Fish Lake trail were added. 

On his blog, Snyder said the bridges are "vital bike riding and walking links for our City, a City that has precious few places for those using non-motorized to cross our river."

Kelly Cruz, who failed to get past this month's primary in the race to replace the term-limited Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin, spoke against spending so much money on inspections when he said some of them were thoroughly inspected four years ago by CH2M Hill.

"I just want to make sure we're not spending money on something we've already covered," he said.

George McGrath, a vocal fixture at the council meetings, spoke against the plan.

It passed 5-0. Usually members light up a screen showing their yea's or nay's, but with Stuckart gone and city Attorney Mike Piccolo befuddled by his first time use of the electronics, Snyder called for a voice vote.

The council also approved a low impact development ordinance, which encourages developers to utilize innovated approaches dealing with stormwater.

As Councilwoman Amber Waldref said on her blog, "developers will be able to manage stormwater onsite either through traditional methods like swales OR choose rooftop gardens, rainwater collection or rain gardens on their properties. These will be optional, but it is a start for Spokane."

We wrote about all of this earlier here. Check out the city's website on it here.

Bart Mihailovich, with the Spokane Riverkeeper, said the LID ordinance was an example of the city working across departments to solve problems. 

As for dealing with stormwater on site, Mihailovich said, "This is certainly the trend."

It also passed 5-0.

Another resolution before the council regarding the appointment of committees to "prepare statements advocating voters' approval or rejection" of this year's ballot propositions was delayed for two weeks.

Finally, next week's meeting has been canceled in lieu of Labor Day.

Stuckart 1, Condon 0

It shouldn’t be any surprise that Candace Mumm topped all the candidates for Spokane’s Northwest City Council seat. Her two main opponents lean Republican and were bound to split the vote.

Topping 50 percent in a four-way race, however, is a win of sorts for her and clearly puts her as the front-runner for November.

On the other hand, Mumm was actively involved in this campaign:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So we assume Mumm knows that she can’t take Tuesday’s win for granted.

That's because for one, summer turnout is low and few are paying attention. For another, the votes for third-place finisher Curtis Fackler are likely to go to Mumm’s November opponent, Mike Cannon. Perhaps most importantly, the race is likely to have an unprecedented amount of attention for a single City Council election, making it hard to know where the race goes from here.

Smart growth discussion with Councilmembers Jon Snyder and Amber Waldref


Pushing east on I-90 from the city, as Spokane Valley, Liberty Lake, Post Falls, and Coeur d'Alene form one contiguous metropolitan area, it would appear smart growth is a regional challenge. Too often, development requires residents to drive long distances between jobs and homes and we are simply not maximizing our investments.

In Spokane County, 25% of growth in the last decade has happened outside our urban areas and the Urban Growth Area itself has not reached the population it was planned to accommodate. Also, it was estimated that Spokane County is expected to grow from 472,000 to 612,000 people between now and 2031. The situation becomes clear: Growth needs to be focused inside our cities and towns to keep them economically vibrant instead of making infrastructure investments for sprawl which increases costs to taxpayers and stretch our urban services so thin.

Given an unfortunate decision by the County Commissioners on our Urban Growth Area that could open the floodgates for development outside the Urban Growth Area, it's time for a discussion. Tomorrow night, Councilmembers Jon Snyder and Amber Waldref, after attending National Smart Growth conferences, will share what they’ve learned and how we can build stronger communities that boost local revenues.

Waldref cruises to Bloomsday win

Congratulations to Councilwoman Amber Waldref, this year's top Bloomsday finisher among elected leaders (at least among those whose time we checked).

She easily beat out the rest of her City Council cohorts, though in defense of the others, she is the youngest elected official we located who ran the race.

Spin Control also offers the following trophy-less awards:

Participation Award: The Spokane County Commission. All three members finished the race. They are a shining example to the legislators serving the Third Legislative District. None of them completed the race even though the race is in their district.

Doomsday Hill Award: Jon Snyder, barely beat out Michael Baumgartner for the fastest time up Pettet Drive.

Here are the finishers we found. They are a bit slower than last year when former county commissioner and mountain climber John Roskelley ran the race.

In parenthesis are the official's age, followed by his or her final time, per-mile pace and his or her time on Doomsday Hill.

Spokane legalizes pot possession

Following the lead of state voters, the Spokane City Council on Monday legalized the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by anyone 21 and up.

Councilman Jon Snyder, who has led the effort on the City Council to consider the impacts to the city from marijuana legalization, said that Monday’s unanimous vote was a routine matter to keep city law consistent with state law. But bigger decisions are ahead as officials consider if they should regulate pot more strictly than what was approved in Initiative 502, the law that legalized marijuana, he said.

City Council debates right to debate gun laws

To take a stand or not to take a stand.

That was the question hotly debated by the Spokane City Council Monday night on two nonbinding resolutions related to gun laws and gun rights.

The results were a curious lesson in the unpredictability of a sharply divided council.

Council adopts Condon’s budget in predictable split

Spokane’s city government is shedding 92 jobs.

The Spokane City Council on Monday voted 4-3 to freeze the city general fund budget, largely accepting the recommendations of Mayor David Condon.

Condon proposed a $161 million general fund, which pays for police, fire, parks, libraries and other services paid with taxes. The total budget, including utilities like trash and water, will be $615 million.

The mayor’s budget eliminates the arts, and weights and measures departments. It will fund the equivalent of 2,033 full time jobs. It removes 19 police officer positions that already were vacant. It shrinks the on-duty firefighting force from 61 to 58 and removes the first-response firefighting capabilities of Fire Station 9 on the South Hill.

The council split was predictable. Republican-leaning council members, Mike Allen, Mike Fagan, Nancy McLaughlin and Steve Salvatori, voted for the budget. Democratic-leaning members Jon Snyder, Ben Stuckart and Amber Waldref opposed it. The same 4-3 split rejected Stuckart’s plans to shift money to pay for public safety positions or items that the city’s Use of Force Commission is expected to recommend to improve police services. They also reject for the second time in less than a month a 1 percent increase in property taxes.

Council Member Snyder hosts Council Connection on coal trains, libraries

Have you ever heard of Council Connection? It's a monthly cable television program featuring Spokane City Council members as hosts. It's sort of like Wayne's World meets CNN, making Spokane the only place where you'll find such a program.

Photo by Ben Tobin.

The next episode will be shown live tonight at 6 p.m. on CityCable 5 and Council Member Jon Snyder, from District 2, will host. The program, which will look at two topics, the first segment covers the effects of the Gateway Pacific Terminal coal project. Guests will include Richard Burris, a retired railroad worker, and Bart Mihailovich, the Spokane Riverkeeper. Good timing too, after yesterday's well-attended hearing.

The second segment will cover the current state of the Spokane Public Library and the potential levy lid lift for libraries. Council Member’s Snyder’s guest will be Jack Fallis, Library Board Member and CEO of Global Credit Union. (Hey, going to the library is pretty green!)

Ceremony for Iron Bridge tonight

Never has the adage, "if you build it, they will come," rang more true. 

But when The Iron Bridge across the Spokane River was first completed in 1911 by the Oregon & Washington Railroad and Navigation Company, I bet they never planned on seeing what it would be come nearly a century later.

The bridge orginally serviced mining areas in Silvery Valley, Idaho and the northern Bitterroot Mountains of Montana before closing in 1973 to make way for the 1974 Spokane World's Fair. Fast forward twenty years later when a growing collection of local community members, business owners and advocates began concepts and then worked with the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) to re-open the historical railroad bridge 

Now, it has a new life - it's open for pedestrians and bicyclists. You can join Spokane Mayor David Condon, Council Members Mike Fagan and Jon Snyder, representatives from Friends of the Centennial Trail, the Flying Irish Running Club, and the Logan and Chief Garry Park neighborhoods for a completion ceremony on the west end of the newly renovated Iron Bridge off of Superior St., tonight at 6 p.m. (Then go to this!)

“Restoring the Iron Bridge was a significant project for our community,” says Mayor David Condon. “This project provides a critical link for cyclists and pedestrians and adds to our outdoor recreational amenities.”

Council will consider repeal of beer restrictions

The West Central Neighborhood Council wanted restrictions on the sale of high-octane beer and now it doesn’t.

But while council members used the council’s support as a reason to create a voluntary Alcohol Impact Area in West Central, the neighborhood’s change of heart won’t make an open-and-shut case when the Spokane City Council considers a repeal next month.

Benn secures spot on November ballot; Snyder endorses Riccelli

Spokane City Councilman Jon Snyder ended his campaign for state House on Thursday and endorsed Marcus Riccelli in the November election.

Snyder conceded after the third day of counting in Tuesday's primary showed that Republican Tim Benn's hold on second place getting more secure.

Riccelli, a Democrat, was the top-vote getter in the race for an open House seat in Spokane's 3rd Legislative District. The top two candidates face each other in the general election.

The Spokane County Elections Office counted about 500 ballots in the race today. Out of the more than 24,000 ballots cast in the 3rd Legislative District, only about 1,500 are left to count.

In today's count, Benn's lead for second place over Democrat Snyder grew slightly to 426. His lead over former Spokane City Councilman Bob Apple, also a Democrat, increased to 565.

After the first day of counting, Benn, Snyder and Apple were within 100 votes.

The election's office won't resume counting until Monday.

Mapping the vote: 3rd District House race

Marcus Riccelli is comfortably in first place in the 3rd District House race, but three candidates are bunched up in the race for second place and a spot on the general election ballot.

As this map shows, Riccelli owes his first place standing to doing well in the western and southern precincts of the district.  Bob Apple ran strong in the northeast portions of the district, which correspond closely to his old council district. Tim Benn won a few of his precincts big, and Jon Snyder was strongest in the precincts in or near his south Spokane Council District.

For a closer look at the map, check out the PDF file.


Documents:

Thousands left to count in Spokane House race

About 24,000 people voted in Spokane's 3rd Legislative District in Tuesday's primary election, according to election statistics that include ballots received in today's mail.

So far, about 17,000 of those votes have been counted. That means the second-place battle for state House among Democrats Bob Apple and Jon Snyder and Republican Tim Benn to determine who will face Democrat Marcus Riccelli hinges on more than 7,000 uncounted votes.

The second round of counting will start at 3 p.m., Spokane County Elections Manager Mike McLaughlin said. New results will be posted after 5 p.m.

Intriguing possibilities for Spokane House race

After an intense three-month campaign, the race for a state House seat representing central Spokane only revealed the first- and last-place finishers.

The three candidates in between will have to wait at least through the end of the week  – and perhaps through a round of recounting – to determine who will face top vote-getter Democrat Marcus Riccelli in November.

Two of the three possible challengers to Riccelli also are Democrats and offer intriguing general election matchups.

Former Spokane City Councilman Bob Apple, a Democrat and former Republican, appeals to some Republicans and even won the endorsement of the Spokane Home Builders Association during the primary. With a solid base of support in northeast Spokane, he could offer a formidable challenge to Riccelli – though he would have to massively step up his efforts to match Riccelli’s financial support and professional organization.

Current Spokane City Councilman Jon Snyder holds nearly identical views on the issues as Riccelli and is popular with the Democratic Party, but faltered as the party’s establishment fell in line behind Riccelli, who was Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown’s choice. Republicans would struggle to choose between the two, and Snyder would have to successfully woo them to win.

Day care center co-owner Tim Benn, as a Republican and first-time candidate likely would have significant difficulty in a race against Riccelli, as shown in two-person races between Democrats and Republicans in the district, including Tuesday’s primary for state Senate between Democrat Andy Billig and Republican Nancy McLaughlin. Billig has a nearly 20 percentage point lead over McLaughlin, who has won big in her nonpartisan races for Spokane City Council.

Still trying to decide among Apple, Benn, Oyler, Riccelli and Snyder?

Tuesday is the last chance to mail your Washington primary ballot. If you live in central Spokane and are having a hard time deciding who to choose among the five candidates for the position 1 House seat in the 3rd Legislative District, try studying their stances on 15 issues in the following links:

Bob Apple

Tim Benn

Morgan Oyler

Marcus Riccelli

Jon Snyder

And here are their responses to one of the questions The Spokesman-Review questionnaire:

8. Do you support the legalization of marijuana for adults, including for recreational purposes? If not, do you support the legalization of marijuana for medical use? How would you address the conflict that currently exists between state law allowing marijuana for medical use and federal law banning it?

Sunday Spin: Appealing to the geeks

Politicians are always looking to expand their base, even when they divide the electorate into different groups. Business owners. Union members. Blue collar workers. Soccer moms. Seniors. College students.

John Waite is offering some political training next week to a segment he believes is generally uninvolved, and as such, often underrepresented in politics.

Geeks. . .

Waite drops out, endorses Snyder

Downtown Spokane businessman John Waite said Friday that he has decided not to run for the state House afterall.

Waite said earlier this month that he would run as a Democrat for the seat held by state Rep. Andy Billig, who is giving up his seat to run for state Senate.

With five candidates who have filed for the seat, Waite said he decided this afternoon that it already was too crowded and that the entry of former City Councilman Bob Apple would make the race more difficult because he was hoping for strong support in Apple's former council district in Northeast Spokane. Waite ran for Apple's seat last year.

Waite said he will support City Councilman Jon Snyder in the race because of Snyder's experience in small business and his work promoting sustainability.

"He fits my agenda as well as anybody," he said.

Filing week is nearly here. Candidates take note

Everyone thinking about running for political office this year, take note: You have less than a week to make up your mind. Everyone talking about running and acting like they’re already a full-fledged candidate, take note: It’s not official until you file your paperwork and pay your fee.

Candidate filing week starts Monday morning, and ends when the office where that paperwork and fee must be deposited closes on Friday. Here’s a tricky part – because of budget cutbacks, some county elections offices close as early as noon on Fridays, others at 4 p.m., and some stay open until 5 p.m. Anyone planning to wait until the very last minute to build suspense would be wise to make a phone call to the appropriate office and check when that last minute is.

For some positions that’s the county elections office in the county seat; for others, it’s the Secretary of State’s office in Olympia. How do you know what goes where?

Go inside the blog to read more, or to comment.

Apple joins crowded field for Spokane House seat

The field to replace state Rep. Andy Billig is getting larger.

Former City Councilman Bob Apple today became the fifth person to say he will run for the Third Legislative District House seat that Billig is leaving to run for state Senate.

Apple, 56, joins Democratic candidates City Councilman Jon Snyder; downtown businessman John Waite; and Marcus Riccell, senior policy analyst to state Sen. Lisa Brown; and Republican candidate Tim Benn, a child day care center owner.

Apple left the City Council at the end of last year after finishing his second term. He was term limited from running again. He ran for the same House position in 2010 and finished third among four candidates in the primary.

A former roofer, Apple said he currently isn't employed and will be able to campaign full-time.

Apple is more conservative than many in the party. He opposed former Spokane Mayor Mary Verner's sustainability plan, for instance. He said he likely will vote against same-sex marriage in November, though he'll accept whatever the voters decide on that issue.