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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.

Has the Dream of the ‘90s found its way to Spokane?

Spokane's latest push to expand urban farming opportunities had at least one councilman wondering if TV sketch comedians Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein might be lurking nearby.

“Sometimes when I'm reading this ordinance I feel like I've landed in an episode of “Portlandia,'” Councilman Mike Allen said during this week's debate over allowing small livestock such as goats, sheep and pigs to be raised in residential neighborhoods. “People are trying to create something that may or may not be good for an area.”

The urban farming plan was approved Monday night by the City Council and was described by supporters as a way of helping Spokane residents to embrace more sustainable lifestyles.

Allen, who raises chickens, supported plans to ease restrictions on growing and selling fruits, vegetables and produce in residential areas but opposed plans to allow backyard livestock, though he was out-voted.

Whether that means “The Dream of '90s” is now alive in Spokane remains to be seen.

 

Stuckart relents on supermajority rule

Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart will soon be handing out duties to the city’s six other council members.

The Spokane City Council on Monday unanimously agreed to give Stuckart the power to chose which members serve on what boards.

But Stuckart abandoned his proposal to require a supermajority vote to make future changes in the rules for how the council governed.

Each January, council members are assigned to sit on a variety of boards, including those that govern the city park system, the Spokane Transit Authority and the Spokane International Airport.

The change returns the rules to how they worked until the council revoked that right from former council President Joe Shogan.

Even though Stuckart will select a slate of council members to fill positions, the council still must vote on his picks. He said the process won’t change much.

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.

Allen, Salvatori call on Fagan to apologize

A majority of the Spokane City Council is calling on Councilman Mike Fagan to apologize for the letter he signed calling Gov. Jay Inslee “a lying whore.”

The council's three Democratic-leaning members issued a statement condemning Fagan's letter this morning.

Now two of the council's Republican-leaning members, Steve Salvatori and Mike Allen also say he should apologize.

“I know Mike believes in the intent of his message, but his choice of words were inappropriate and unprofessional, and in my opinion, he should issue an apology,” Allen said.

Council adopts easier-to-enforce noise law

Testimony at Monday’s Spokane City Council meeting included the sounds of William Cruz on guitar and trumpet as some downtown buskers argued against proposed noise restrictions.

But Spokane City Council members said the new rules, which they approved 6-1, protect free speech while making the law easier to enforce when buskers or other sound makers infringe on other peoples’ rights.

The ordinance will replace a law that was approved in 2010 that required an officer to take a decibel reading of the noise in order to issue a violation. It bases most noise limits on how far away the sound can be heard, a standard that many other Washington cities use.

Performers or anyone else making sound on public rights-of-way such as sidewalks will be barred from making noise that is “plainly audible” 100 feet away if other factors are at play, such as if the noise is rattling windows or includes “heavy bass frequencies.” If a performer were playing between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. they also can't make noise that is “plainly audible” on adjacent private property. The distance limit for noise from private property was set at 50 feet or the property line, which ever is shorter.

Spokane City Councilman Steve Salvatori, who co-sponsored the ordinance with Councilman Mike Allen, said the 100-feet distance may the longest distance that any city in Washington allows for noise. He also stressed that the new law, unlike the old one, requires police officers to give offenders a chance to stop making the noise before issuing a citation.

“This is a kinder, gentler ordinance,” Salvatori said.

After his brief, amplified performance Cruz called the 100-foot limit “a joke.”

He and others argued that the standard is less subjective than using decibel readings and could open the city to lawsuits for infringing on people’s free speech rights.

Gonzaga law professor George Critchlow likened the ability of police to issue noise violations without a decibel reading to issuing speeding tickets without using a radar gun.

Condon undecided on gay marriage resolution

Spokane Mayor David Condon said Monday that he still is considering what his position will be on the two hottest topics for next week's City Council meeting.

Those issues are Councilman Jon Snyder's resolution in support of the state's gay marriage law and Councilman Mike Fagan's proposal to change the city's initiative process.

Two Republican-leaning council members, Mike Allen and Steve Salvatori, have said they likely will support Snyder's resolution.

The state approved same-sex marriage this year, but opponents are expected to collect enough signatures to force the issue on the November ballot.

Although supportive of the law, Salvatori has questioned the purpose of the council weighing in on gay marriage since it's not an issue that will be decided at the city level. He doubts the City Council will change anyone's mind on such a passionate topic.

“If I wanted to be in state Legislature, I would have run for the state Legislature,” Salvatori said.

The council has taken up several non-binding resolutions this year, including ones focused on federal marijuana law, the proposed Spokane Tribe of Indian's casino on the West Plains and campaign finance.

City Council President Ben Stuckart said while some of the issues may not be considered City Council business, they are important topics that affect the citizenry. He added voting on a resolution provides a forum for local residents to debate high-profile issues.

“Being an elected official means you have a voice, and you should us that voice,” Stuckart said.

Where Condon and GOP-leaning city leaders stand on race for president

With the race for the Republican nomination for president heating up and candidate Ron Paul headed to Spokane, Spokane Mayor David Condon said he doesn't plan to endorse a candidate.

“I'm not going to get involved in national politics,” he said.

Condon said he hasn't decided if he will participate in the March 3 Washington caucus.

Meanwhile, other Republican-leaning elected Spokane officials haven't solidified their presidential picks.

Council members Nancy McLaughlin and Mike Fagan said this week that they are trying to decide between Paul and Rick Santorum.

Councilman Mike Allen said he's leaning toward Mitt Romney, and Councilman Steve Salvatori said he's undecided.

Rush concedes race to Allen, calls off hand recount

Spokane City Councilman Richard Rush said this afternoon that he has decided against paying for a hand recount in his race against Mike Allen.

Rush said after further consideration of the results of the machiine recount, as well as the hand recount that was completed in the 4th Legislative District Senate race, it was highly unlikely that a hand recount would change the outcome.

The hand recount had been scheduled to start on Tuesday.

The council race for the city's south district was recounted by machine because the gap between Allen and Rush was only 88 votes and less than half a percentage point. After ballots were run through the counting machines again, Allen's lead increased to 91. In the hand recount in the state Senate race that was paid for by losing candidate Jeff Baxter, results barely changed.

 

“That was valuable information that I hadn't been able to thoroughly process,” Rush said.

Rush had been concerned about the number of voters in the district who opted not to make a choice in the contest and requested the hand recount, which candidates can request at their expense. State law requires races to recounted by hand at government request only when they are within a quarter of a percentage point.

Donors gave more than $6,000 to the Spokane County Democratic Party to cover the cost of the Rush-Allen hand recount.

“I don't think the manual recount would be a wise use of their money,” Rush said.

He said he left a message for Allen this afternoon to congratulate him.

Asked what his plans are, Rush said: “I plan to think about my plans.”

“It's a relief to put this behind me and think about the future.”

Allen wins second count, but a third awaits

Former Councilman Mike Allen's lead over incumbent Richard Rush grew by three to 91 on Wednesday after a recount of the Spokane City Council election for the city's south district.

The race was recounted by machine because the result from the first count was within half of 1 percentage point. Rush said he still plans to pursue a hand recount, which the Spokane County Democratic Party has agreed to finance.

Results of a hand recount in the 4th Legislative District senate race, which also was completed Wednesday and was paid for by candidate Jeff Baxter, may not give Rush much hope for much change.

Baxter paid more than $1,700 to have 10 precincts recounted in his race against state Sen. Mike Padden. Election workers who tallied the ballots Wednesday morning found two errors. Baxter lost a vote, and one vote that had been counted as blank was changed to a write-in, for the candidate “N/A.”

In the Rush-Allen race, Rush's tally was found to be too high by two and Allen gained a vote after a ballot that had been counted as blank was found to have been marked for Allen.

Election Manager Mike McLaughlin said he can't say for sure why Rush's count fell by two. One possibility is that after paper jams occurred in the machines, ballots that already had been counted may have been sent through a second time, he said.

Each campaign involved in the two recounts had observers at the Elections Office.

Baxter lost to Padden by 3,638 votes. He said he paid for the recount with his personal money and did so because results in some precincts conflicted with data campaign workers collected when going door-to-door. The outcome hints that in a future race volunteers need to do a better job reaching voters when they're home, he said.

“I didn't think anything insidious was going on,” Baxter said. “I'm just saying that we need to work a little harder in different precincts.”

Baxter said he hasn't decided if he will run again next year.

Last week, Rush indicated that Baxter may have paid for a recount to prevent Rush's race from being recounted by hand. Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton originally requested that the City Council race be counted by hand to test new scanners in the county's voting machines. But she changed course after Baxter opted to pay for a recount in his race.

“It had absolutely nothing to do with his race,” Baxter said. “I don't have the time to be playing those games.”

Recounts moved to Wednesday

Spokane County Elections Manager Mike McLaughlin said this afternoon that sorting ballots for recounting took longer than expected.

Therefore, the Spokane City Council recount between Richard Rush and Mike Allen and the 4th Legislative District Senate race between Jeff Baxter and Mike Padden won't start until 9 a.m. Wednesday, he said. County should be complete by 1 p.m., when the Spokane County Canvassing Board meets to certify the new results.

Recounts start Tuesday

Spokane County election officials expect to start and complete on Tuesday the first two of the three recounts they need to complete to finish work from the November election.

Elections Manager Mike McLaughlin said the office plans to count the ballots from the Spokane City Council race between Richard Rush and Mike Allen and the 4th Legislative District senate race between Mike Padden and Jeff Baxter starting around 9 a.m.

The Rush-Allen recount will be completed by computer and is required because the race ended with the two candidates within a half percentage point. The senate recount will be completed manually because it was paid for by Baxter.

After this set of results is complete and the Canvassing Board meets on Wednesday, the Allen-Rush hand recount, which is being financed by the Spokane County Democratic Party, can begin.

Rush trails Allen by 88 votes.

Baxter trails Padden by 3,437 votes.

Spokane Democrats write check for Rush-Allen recount

Spokane City Councilman Richard Rush will get a hand recount afterall.

The incumbent councilman who trails former Councilman Mike Allen by 88 votes submitted a check this afternoon to the Spokane County Election's Office for $6,240 to pay for a full manual count of ballots in his race for the south district. He said the amount was provided by the Spokane County Democratic Party.

A recount is required because Allen's margin of victory is less than a half percentage point. The margin is larger than a quarter a percentage point — the level that requires recounting done by hand.

The Spokane County Canvassing Board earlier this week voted to do a hand recount in the race on the advice of Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton, who said it would be better to recount by hand to allow the county to run a thorough test of new vote-counting equipment with real ballots. Soon after, however, Jeff Baxter, who lost his state Senate seat representing Spokane Valley, decided to pay $1,774 for a partial hand recount of ballots in his race, despite losing by more than 3,000 votes.

Dalton, a Democrat, said it no longer made sense for the county to pay extra for a hand recount in the Rush-Allen race since one already would be done for 10 precincts in the 4th Legislative District. Dalton and the two other members of the Canvassing Board voted Thursday to change the Allen-Rush recount to a machine count.

Rush has questioned if Baxter, a Republican, was motivated to pay for a hand recount in order to prevent his race from being recounted by hand. Baxter has declined to provide a motivation.

“He's 10 points behind,” Rush said. “How can he make that up?”

The computer recount of the Rush-Allen race will move forward, along with the recount of the Baxter race against Mike Padden, next week. Dalton said the Rush-Allen race will be recounted by hand starting Dec. 12.

Dalton said the request marks the first time the county has recounted the same set of ballots twice since the 2004 governor's race.


Documents:

Baxter pays for recount

Former state Sen. Jeff Baxter is paying for a partial recount of ballots in his unsuccessful bid to retain his Spokane Valley seat despite losing the race by more than 3,400 votes.

Baxter’s opponent in the contest, Mike Padden, was sworn in as senator representing the 4th Legislative District on Tuesday soon after the Spokane County Canvassing Board certified the results.

Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton said Baxter submitted a check for $1,174 to recount 10 precincts. She said he was required to make a down payment of 25 cents per ballot. He will get a refund if the cost of the recount is less.

Baxter, who was appointed to the seat earlier this year, lost it in the November election by 3,437 votes after garnering only 45 percent of the vote.

Reached Wednesday afternoon, Baxter declined to comment when asked if he thought the race was fair. He noted that state law doesn’t require candidates to say why they are asking for a recount and said he would answer questions after a recount is completed.

Mike Padden, who was in the middle of his second day as the 4th District’s new state senator Tuesday afternoon, said he had just been informed that Baxter had asked for a recount but didn’t know “what his rationale is.”

“The vote was pretty overwhelming. It doesn’t make sense to me,” Padden said.

“There is a high undervote,” he said, referring to the term used for a ballot that had no candidate marked for that race. “But you’d expect a high undervote when there’s no Democrat in the race.”


Documents:

Rush-Allen recount will be done by hand

The final outcome of the City Council race for a seat representing south Spokane won’t be decided until next week.

That’s when the Spokane County Election’s Office will recount ballots in a contest so close that state law required a second examination.

Former Councilman Mike Allen leads incumbent Richard Rush by a mere 88 votes.

Although it’s a lead of less than half a percentage point, it is a wide enough margin that is unlikely to shrink enough to change, considering past recounts. Recounts in Spokane County have generally changed tallies by a few votes or less.

The Spokane County Canvassing Board on Tuesday unanimously agreed to Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton’s recommendation to count ballots by hand. State law only would have required the recount to be done manually if the difference had been within a quarter of a percentage point.

Dalton argued that the council race is the county’s first chance to test official ballots on a large scale since new scanners were installed this summer in the county’s six vote-counting machines, which were manufactured by Nebraska-based Election Systems & Software.

“A recount is a very rare opportunity to let us test the accuracy of the machines using the real ballots marked by actual voters,” Dalton said.

She added: “It’s an attempt to give closure to the candidates in the most definitive way possible.”

Allen lead over Rush grows by 6

This post has been changed to correct the change in Allen's lead.

The race between Richard Rush and Mike Allen for Rush's Spokane City Council seat representing the south district remains headed for a recount after the sixth day of counting.

Allen's lead grew by 10 to 98 on Wednesday, but the gap between him and rush remains within a half percentage point. Allen has 50.23 percent of the vote to Rush's 49.77 percent.

There are 268 votes left to count in the race, and most of those are ballots that won't be counted unless the voters come to the elections office to clear up descrepencies with their signature, said Spokane County Elections Manager Mike McLaughlin. No more counting is expected until Nov. 28. The results will be certified on Nov. 29. If the race remains within a half percentage point, a computer recount would occur early next month, McLaughlin said.

A recount in the Rush-Allen race would be the first computer recount in Spokane County since John Driscoll beat John Ahern for a 6th Legislative District House seat in 2008. That recount changed the tally only by two votes. McLaughlin said the office has completed a couple hand recounts since then for races that were within a quarter of a percentage point, including the 2009 race for Airway Heights mayor.

Allen-Rush contest now within recount margin

The race between incumbent Councilman Richard Rush and former Councilman Mike Allen for Rush's south Spokane City Council seat was sent within recount margins by counting on Tuesday.

Only 92 votes now separate the two, and if the race remains within a half percentage point, it will be recounted by computer. If it gets within a quarter of a percentage point, it will be recounted by hand.

Currently, Allen leads Rush 50.22 percent to 49.78 percent.

There are 369 votes to count. Rush needs to capture about 63 percent of them to win.

Also in Spokane, Proposition 1, the Community Bill of Rights, finally went to defeat on Tuesday. It trails by a little over 1,000 votes. It captured 49.1 percent of the vote. The group that worked to place it on the ballot, Envision Spokane, might consider the neck-and-neck outcome a victory since its first attempt to pass a different Community Bill of Rights was defeated with only 24 percent support in 2009. 

The results for Spokane mayor haven't changed much from election night. David Condon had 52.4 percent of the vote to Mary Verner's 47.6 percent after Tuesday's count.

In Spokane Valley, Ben Wick definitively captured a seat on City Council in Tuesday's count. He leads Marilyn Cline by 360 votes. There are only 364 votes left to count in the race.

Countywide, there are about 2,600 votes left to count.

Allen and Rush headed for recount? Prop 1 headed for defeat

A race for Spokane City Council inched closer to an automatic recount on Monday in the fourth day of ballot counting from the Nov. 8 election. Former Councilman Mike Allen’s lead over incumbent Richard Rush for a seat representing south Spokane fell by 17 votes to 135.

There are about 1,143 votes left to count in the contest, and if it tightens to within a half percentage point, an automatic computer recount will occur. Allen currently has 50.33 percent to Rush’s 49.67 percent.

Spokane Proposition 1, the Community Bill of Rights, appears to be headed to defeat after the fourth day of counting. It lost ground and is trailing by 1,013 votes with 2,777 left to count.

In Spokane Valley, Ben Wick’s lead over Marilyn Cline for City Council position 6 grew to 354 votes. There are 1,120 votes left count.

Candidates prepare for results

Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton said she expects only one count of votes tonight.

Results should be released about 8:15 p.m. She said including today's mail, the county has received about 100,000 ballots. About 90,000 of those will be counted in the numbers released tonight.

Dalton said once all the ballots are returned, the county expects to receive between 130,000 and 140,000 ballots. What's not counted tonight will be counted later in the week.

Here's where some candidates will wait for results tonight:

Mary Verner: Taaj Indian restaurant, 128 W. Third Ave.

David Condon, Mike Allen and Steve Salvatori: Barrister Winery, 1213 W. Railroad Ave.

Ben Stuckart: Two Seven Public House, 2727 S. Mt. Vernon St. 

Donna McKereghan: Geno's, 1414 N. Hamilton St.

Richard Rush and Joy Jones: Hamilton Studios, 1427 W. Dean

Mike Padden, campaign headquarters, 10807 E. Montgomery

Jeff Baxter, Luxury Box, 10512 E. Sprague

County GOP endorses - scratch that - recommends Condon, Hession, Allen, Fagan and Salvatori

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The Spokane County Republican Party, which has previously declined to endorse candidates running as Republicans against Democrats when they declined to sign the county party's platform, has sent out recommendations for how to vote in Tuesday's nonparitsan city elections.

The picks include: David Condon for mayor, Mike Fagan, Steve Salvatori and Mike Allen for City Council and Dennis Hession for City Council president. The candidates apparently didn't have to sign any pledges to win the recommendations.

Condon, Fagan, Salvatori and Allen have clear ties to the party, though the party declined to back Allen in his 2009 bid for council. And while Hession has enjoyed some Republican support in past races, he also has been more aligned with the Democratic Party, at least on some environmental and social issues.

The party posted the following statement with its recommendations: “The Spokane County Republican Party acknowledges the non-partisan nature of local elections and makes no claim that recommended candidates are in any way affiliated with the Republican Party.  The following recommendations are not intended to serve as an endorsement of any issue or candidate.”

We're not sure what the difference is between recommending a candidate and endorsing one.

Allen, Rush support more street funding, but differ on specifics

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Here is what likely will be the last of the videos featuring the City Council race between Richard Rush and Mike Allen. They debate if the city should go for a new 10-year street bond and if the city should consider creating fees for streets on utility bills.

The other five Allen-Rush videos include an intro and their thoughts about:

Water rates.

Red light cameras.

Budget cuts.

Moving Jefferson Elementary School.

During KSPS debate, Rush questions Allen’s work ethic

NOTE: This post has been corrected from an earlier version to accurately reflect the number of times Allen was recorded absent during Spokane Employees' Retirement System board meeting. An earlier version was incorrect because of a reporter error.

Before tonight's KSPS candidates debate was filmed last week, Councilman Richard Rush handed out the minutes for each meeting in 2009 of the Spokane Employees' Retirement System board to each debate panelist.

The records didn't come up in the debate. When asked about the minutes afterward, Rush pointed to the attendence listings that show Allen was absent for seven of the 10 meetings when Allen served as the City Council representative on the board. Rush said if Allen is so concerned about financial accountability, Allen should have been present.

Allen, who served two years on the City Council, is challenging Rush's bid for re-election.

Allen said this week that the pension meetings conflicted with his job at the time as an administrator at Eastern Washington University. He said he did attend, though often late, at least half of the meetings and is unsure why he was listed as absent, he said. Allen said missing meetings won’t be a problem now that he owns his own business.

“I control my own schedule now,” he said.

Rush and Allen differ on decision to move Jefferson

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The Spokane City Council didn't make the decision to move Jefferson Elementary School, but it's one of the more divisive issues specific to the south district. Here's what the two candidates for the south district, Richard Rush and Mike Allen say about the School Board's vote.

Rush, Allen debate eliminating city departments

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Here's part three of our election video series.

Rush, Allen debate water rates

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Here's part two of our video series on race between Richard Rush and Mike Allen.

Allen and Rush critique Rush and Allen

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Today, we release the first of several election videos. We'll start with one of the races that didn't have a primary, the Spokane City Council seat representing the South Hill.

Allen will challenge Rush for City Council

Former City Councilman Mike Allen announced last week that he is entering the race to challenge Richard Rush in hopes of once again representing south Spokane.

Allen, a former Eastern Washington University administrator,  was named to the council to replace Mary Verner after she was elected mayor in 2007. He lost the seat to Jon Snyder in 2009.

Allen and Rush had worked closely on some issues and were quite friendly when they both served on the council — often carpooling together to council meetings. But Rush endorsed Snyder late in the 2009 campaign, a decision Rush said wasn't personal and that Allen said at the time didn't bother him.

Still, it makes for an interesting race.

Allen, 43, was considered a moderate when he served on the council and was unsuccessful at earning party backing for his 2009 race. He said after he lost that it may not be possible to win a City Council race without the help of Republicans or Democrats. Last year, Allen was elected a Republican Party precinct committee officer.

Here’s a map for that District 2 council race

Jon Snyder continues to lead Mike Allen in the South Spokane Council District race. Latest tally:

Snyder 7,091

Allen    6,412.

New numbers expected soon; turnout rises above 50 percent

We’re about two hours from another drop of election numbers in Spokane County. Elections Manager Mike McLaughlin said he expects 8,000 to 10,000 votes to be included in the count. That will leave roughly 30,000 votes left for the rest of the week.

The county received 22,567 ballots in the mail on Wednesday, pushing turnout to 52 percent. McLaughlin said another 500 to 1,000 more could be expected the rest of the week.

There goes the English teacher vote



As a reporter responsible for my share of embarrassing typos over the years, I am hesitant to point out spelling and grammatical errors in others’ work (especially in a blog that usually isn’t edited before it’s posted).

That said, City Councilman Mike Allen’s campaign flier that arrived in South Hill mailboxes last week has enough grammatical and other errors that the candidate declared himself “disappointed” in the mailer.