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First chick hatches under Sandpoint ‘osprey cam’

WILDLIFE WATCHING — An osprey chick has just hatched for all the world to see under the watchful eye of the Sandpoint, Idaho, Osprey Cam.

The chick is the first of three eggs to hatch. The others should hatch soon. Viewers can tune in to watch in real time as the new osprey family begins and grows.

The video camera is on a nest above Sandpoint’s War Memorial Field on Lake Pend Oreille.

Sandpoint in the mood for Bike to Work Week

BICYCLING — Cyclists gathered on 1st St. in Sandpoint on Wednesday for a free breakfast sponsored by the Outdoor Experience shop to celebrate BIke to Work and School Day.

Visitors Already Miss Coldwater Creek

The sun took the edge off the early spring chill as I enjoyed the view. Towering evergreens provided a picture-perfect frame for snow-capped Schweitzer Mountain. Sighing, I sat in a deck chair, cradling a cup of steaming coffee while gazing at the pristine beauty of Lake Pend Oreille. Derek settled into a chair next to me and grinned. “I’m glad we came back,” he said. In March we spent our 28th anniversary at the same place we spent our 27th – Sandpoint. Friends recommended The Lodge at Sandpoint and we fell in love with the beautiful inn and its amazing amenities. Sandpoint has long been a favorite getaway for our family. When the boys were little, we took many picnic lunches to City Beach, and played in the sand and water until exhausted. But lately, Derek and I have discovered the joys of off-season grown-up time in the lakeside town/Cindy Hval, SR Front Porch. More here.

Question: When did you last visit Sandpoint?

HBO Blogos: Recalling A&E Bar

“I wasn't truly sure of my memories when I first heard that PJ's aka A and P's had caught on fire on First Avenue in Sandpoint yesterday morning,” Marianne Love/Slight Detour posts. “After reading this morning's paper, I can safely say A and P's was the first bar I ever frequented AND I was maybe 4 or 5 at the time.” More here.

HucksOnline numbers (for Thursday, Feb. 6): 8,450 page-views/4,716 unique views

Cyclocross — look at those mudders go!

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BICYCLING — Cyclocross is “the steeplechase of bicycling, a hybrid sport of mountain biking and road racing,” according to one rider in Sandpoint last weekend, where S-R photographer Jesse Tinsley caught the action with his video camera at the last race of the cyclocross season.  

Says another cyclist: “If you're going to be out riding, why not have fun with the crowd and play in the mud? There are worse ways to spend a Sunday afternoon.”

How to make a mistake when trying to decipher cryptic company press releases

Entry revised on 11/06/13 12:12 PM

I made a fairly major mistake last week dealing with a business section news item, related to Coldwater Creek. The Sandpoint women's retailer sent out a release saying it would restructure and cut expenses significantly.

It provided a few numbers but did not provide exact numbers on the impact on jobs, which is what many people really care about.

In the absence of information, I tried to generate some of the missing data, and I messed it up.

Here's the scenario that I hope others can learn from: The release from CC said its efforts would reduce “corporate workforce” expenses by 20 percent.  It didn't say how many jobs that meant, and an effort to reach the company for that number did not succeed.

I needed to get some kind of number and I assumed I could work it out, based on public information. I will skip the math I used to come up with the conclusion that “several hundred jobs” would be cut. Using limited absolute numbers, I figured  it would come to at least 300 jobs. 

The next day company representatives informed me that “several hundred” was wrong and I was told it was “less than 100.” We corrected the online story and ran a correction the next day.

I made an inquiry about the types of jobs cut or how to understand “corporate workforce,” but I failed to get additional clarification.

An inside company person said the job number at the Sandpoint office and headquarters was “around 50.” But that was an unofficial guess not for the record.

 

 

 

Sand Creek Byway Up For Award

The Sand Creek Byway (pictured in SR file photo) is among 10 projects nationwide vying for America’s Transportation Award, according to the Bonner County Daily Bee. The 2.1-mile U.S. Highway 95 realignment project in Sandpoint, which opened in July 2012, was among the most expensive, controversial and complex road projects in Idaho history. Planning for the bypass dates back to the 1940s, but was held back due to concerns about its impacts both economic—local merchants were worried the bypass would direct business away from downtown shops—and environmental—built along a shallow creek, the roadway required six bridges, 65 retaining walls and vast quantities of fill to buttress it against the soft creek bed. All told, the project cost $106 million to build/Jessica Murray, Boise Weekly. More here.

Question: Now that the byway has been open for more than a year, what is your opinion of it?

East Valley vs. Sandpoint (Sept. 6)

S-R photojournalist Kathy Plonka covered the East Valley High game against Sandpoint High. East Valley defeated Sandpoint 37-21. Check out this big picture gallery of her photos.

Raise a glass to summer’s end

With summer winding down, the calendar is filling up with outdoor beer events:

• Laughing Dog celebrates its eighth anniversary with its annual barbecue, Saturday from noon-7 p.m. at the brewery north of Sandpoint.

Along with $5-per-plate chow, there’ll be live music, games and prize drawings, including a free daily beer for one year. Dogs are welcome on leashes.

Brewer/owner Fred Colby will debut a special creation for the occasion: a crisp, tart Belgian-style sour dubbed De Achtste Hond (Flemish for “The Eighth Dog”), weighing in at 7.2 percent alcohol by volume and aged for a month in new oak barrels. If you can’t make the party, look for it later on tap around the area. Rick Bonino, SR

I'm not much of a beer drinker, but my husband is. We stopped in at Laughing Dog in March and had a great time. Cool ambience and an interesting tour. I recommend it.

Have you visited Laughing Dog Brewery?

Randy McNally Still ♥s Sandpoint

Once again, Rand McNally has its eyes on Sandpoint as a candidate for the most beautiful small town in America. Voting is under way for the 2013 Best of the Road contest, which encourages small town residents to vote for their communities in several categories, which this year include most beautiful, most patriotic, most fun, friendliest and best food. This year, the contest also evaluates the best small town to participate in geocaching — an outdoor treasure hunt where participants hide and seek special containers using a GPS receiver or mobile device. Sandpoint broke ground in 2011 when it was named most beautiful small town in America at the end of the first Best of the Road contest. According to Greater Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce president Kate McAlister, the win was one of the biggest coups in recent years for marketing the town/Cameron Rasmusson, Bonner County Bee. More here. (Kathy Plonka SR file photo: Sandpoint resident Cody Evans enjoys Sandpoint City Beach earlier this summer)

Question: Would you move to Sandpoint if you could?

Alaska Highway cyclists lauded for packing bear spray

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — “Credit them for having bear spray,” said Nancy Campbell, Environment Yukon spokeswoman in Whitehorse, referring to a Sandpoint bicycle tourist who, while separated from his companions, was chased on the Alaska Highway by a wolf.

As today's Outdoors column points out, short bursts of bear spray bought Mac Hollan time to be rescued by motorists even though the relentless wolf kept coming back to nip and rip his paniers and tent bag as they raced down the highway.

“We tell everyone to have bear spray with them and in a holster ready to use any time they go into the backcountry, which can be a few steps off your back porch in the Yukon,” Campbell said.

Hollan said he and his friends had fully prepared for encounters with bears by having bear-proof food canisters, keeping clean camps and keeping bear spray readily available clipped to their handlebar bags.

“I never dreamed I'd need it for a wolf,” he said.

WOLF OR DOG?

Some readers are pointing out that chasing a bicycle or motorcycle is abnormal behavior for a wolf but normal behavior for a dog, such as a husky or wolf hybrid that may look like a wolf.   

Indeed, no one, including a biologist, could verify this was a wolf involved in this incident or the June 8 incident with a motorcyclist in Kootenay National Park (photo above) without getting DNA documentation. That could be done from saliva on the packs, I suppose, but no one is likely to fund that effort.

The lesson, regardless of the animal's species, is that having bear spray readily available is a wise prepareation for muscle-powered travelers.

Wolf Chases Sandpoint Bicyclist

Growing up in the Yukon, Melanie Klassen had seen numerous bicycle tourists pedaling the Alaska Highway, but never one with a canine companion running behind him. “I thought it was odd until I saw the panicked look on the biker’s face – as though he was about to be eaten,” she said in a telephone interview. “That wasn’t a dog; it was a wolf.” The cyclist, William “Mac” Hollan, of Sandpoint, verified Klassen’s observation of Saturday’s incident: “At this point I realized I might not be going home, and I began to panic at the thought of how much it was going to hurt.” The Grand Prairie, Alberta, woman was among the heroes who rescued the North Idaho elementary school student-teacher halfway through his 2,750-mile pedal to Prudhoe Bay as a fundraiser for a Sandpoint school lunch program/Rich Landers, SR Outdoors. More here. (Courtesy photo: Mac Hollan, left, and his cycling partners)

Question: Do you still believe wolves don't pose a danger to humans?

Sandpoint cyclist survives tense wolf encounter on Al-Can Highway

UPDATE,  July 14, 10 a.m. — See photos of the wolf attacking the bike and an account from the RVer who helped rescue cyclist Mac Hollan from the wolf's relentless pursuit. Also, I've interviewed one of the motorist heroes who drove the wolf away from Hollan's bike. Read her account of the story in today's Outdoors column. — RL

BICYCLE TOURING — A Sandpoint, Idaho, man and two companions riding bicycles on a 2,750-mile tour to Prudhoe Bay as a fundraiser for a school charity had a tense encounter with a gray wolf last weekend.

  • This is similar to a recent incident in Canada, except for one big difference: the man from Banff was riding a motorcycle.

Mac Hollan, 35, who will be student teaching at a Sandpoint elementary school this fall, posted this chilling detailed account on his Point to Bay Facebook page on Monday.

Two days ago I was attacked by a wolf while riding down the ALCAN. With all the planning for bears, road safety, and everything else, this scenario was something that none of us had ever considered. But, if you read on you will find out how I found myself alone on my bike being chased down and attacked by a Canadian Gray Wolf.

It was around 2:30, about 60 miles west of Watson Lake on the ALCAN, I was a bit ahead of the guys when I heard something to my right. Thinking Gabe or Gordo had caught up without me noticing I looked over my shoulder and was shocked at what I saw. The first thought that ran through my head was “that is the biggest damn dog I have ever seen!”. This surreal moment of shock and confusion passed immediately was the “dog” lunged for my right foot and snapped its jaws just missing my pedal.

WOLF!!! At this point I received the biggest jolt of adrenalin I have ever had in my life. Without so much as a thought I shifted my bike to the highest gear possible, started to mash the pedals like never before, and reached for the bear spray in the handlebar bag. I threw off the safety and gave the wolf a quick blast in the face which served to slow him down so that he was now 20 feet behind me but still not stopping. He hung back for maybe 20 seconds and then raced forward and attacked my panniers, in the process ripping my tent bag and spilling my poles onto the highway.

I gave him another shot of pepper spray, which again backed him off to about 20 feet behind. Despite pedaling like I have never pedaled before, the wolf kept pace with me easily. It was at this point that I saw an 18 wheeler round the corner and began to wave, shout, and point to the wolf frantically. As he slowed I began to breathe a sigh of relief, thinking if I could just get off my bike and into the truck fast enough I would be safe. After taking a good look at the scene the driver resumed his speed and drove on.

This same scenario would happen to me 4 separate times, with my desperation growing with each car that passed me by. Every time the wolf would begin to close on me again, I would shoot a quick blast of bear spray behind me to slow him down.

As I came around the corner, to my horror I saw a quick incline, and knew that I would not be able to stay in front of this wolf for much longer. I just kept thinking about all the shows I have seen where wolves simply run their prey until they tire and then finish them. It was a surreal moment to realize that I was that prey, and this hill was that moment. The only plan I could think of was to get off my bike, get behind it, and hope that I had enough bear spray to deter him once and for all when he got close enough.

It was also at this point that I realized I might not be going home, and I began to panic at the thought of how much it was going to hurt. About .2 mile before the hill an RV came around the corner, and I knew this was it. I placed myself squarely in the center of the road and began screaming at the top of my lungs “help me, there's a wolf, please help me” while waving frantically. Seeing the situation the driver quickly passed me and stopped on a dime right in front of my bike. I don't know how I got unclipped or off my bike, but I swear I hurdled the handlebars without missing a beat or letting go of my can of bear spray. When I got to the backdoor of the RV still screaming, the door was locked. In an absolute panic I began to climb in the passenger window, but the driver reached across and threw the door open to let me in. By the time I shut the door the wolf was already on my bike pulling at the shredded remains of my tent bag. I began to shake, and cuss.

More cars began to pull up and honk at the wolf, but he would not leave my bike, as though he thought it was his kill. It took someone finally beaning him in the head with a rock to get him to leave. At this point Gabe and Gordo showed up looking confused and concerned with a set of shattered tent poles in hand. While I know I got the names of the man and woman who saved me, for the life of me I can't remember them now. I do remember the woman giving me a hug that felt like the greatest hug of my life.

Still jacked on adrenalin, all I wanted to do was get out of that place, and get out fast. The folks in the RV were nice enough to watch our backs as we got a ways down the road before leaving, and gave one final wave as they passed by. I gave them a card for the ride and I hope they are reading this so that they know how much I am in their debt and how grateful I am that they stopped to save me. Otherwise I honestly don't think this story would have ended well.

We made it about 10 miles down the road before the full adrenalin rush wore off and then everything seemed to go into slow motion and I just felt dizzy and tired. We pulled over to a roadside creek where I stumbled down to splash water on my face and basically sat in the creek and lost my s%$t. The full implication of what had just happened to me sank in, and I just lost it for a good 15 minutes.

We have spent a lot of time talking about the incident since, and the only conclusion we can come up with is that the wolf was old, sick, or injured, to be chasing something down on the highway. I would not doubt I am the first cyclist ever to have this happen to them on the ALCAN. That being said I have tried not to let this experience change my positive feelings about being out here, but I do look over my shoulder more, and am a bit jumpy.

While other things have happened since the last update, this is all I can really remember. We're in Whitehorse, Yukon now, having pulled off a century before 2:30. We're planning on doing some bike work here and relaxing for the afternoon. That's all for now.

Point to Bay is a charity bicycle tour from Sandpoint, ID to Prudhoe Bay, AK supporting the Sandpoint Backpack Program. The Sandpoint Backpack Program provides students in need with backpacks full of food for the weekend to ensure they return to school on Monday fed and ready to learn. This ride is 100% self-supported, and 100% rider funded, meaning every bit of your donation goes directly to students in need. The 2,750 mile ride begins June 17th, 2013 and will take roughly 6 1/2 weeks to complete. For more information please follow the links to the Point to Bay website. Full bellies, full minds!

Followup:  

Sandpoint Native Markets SF Giants

Since graduating from Sandpoint High School in 1999, Jens Weiden has won two World Series rings, run some of the nicest golf courses in the Bay Area, and rubbed elbows with the likes of Willie Mays, Magic Johnson, Shaq and countless other celebrities. Now Weiden is about to become the chief financial officer of the Rose Bowl, overseeing everything from ‘The Granddaddy of Them All’ football bowl game to Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z concerts, not to mention UCLA football games, international soccer events and plenty more. To say hometown boy makes good would be stating the obvious for the 32-year-old Sandpoint native, who is currently the marketing manager for the San Francisco Giants, hoping his team can win a third World Series during Weiden’s sixth and final season with the Bay Area baseball team/Bill Plummer, Bonner County Bee. More here.

Question: If you could work for a professional sports team, what team would it be and what job would it be?

Local Woman Seeks Huntress Title

Amanda Lowrey of Sandpoint takes aim in her back yard on Monday, June 3, 2013. She is in competing for Extreme Huntress, a national competition for female hunters. (SR photo: Kathy Plonka)

Amanda Lowrey pulls the string of her hunting bow back and aims at a 2-foot target behind her Sandpoint home. With a sharp twang, she releases the arrow. Her aim is true; the arrow lands just centimeters from the center of the target. Lowrey, 24, is a mother, a wife and an avid hunter. The camouflage of her shirt is interrupted by bright pink snaps. A pair of sparkling silver antlers hangs from her necklace. Her manicured hands clutch the PSE Baby G hunting bow, which shoots arrows at 280 feet per second. Now, Lowrey is facing nine other women across the country for the title of Extreme Huntress, a competition that pits female hunters against each other for a spot on national television. The contest is intended to encourage more women to hunt and continue the tradition of hunting through generations/Kaitlin Gillespie, SR. More here.

Question (to the woman of Huckleberries Online): Do you hunt?

Walk-run benefits Bay Trail at Sandpoint

TRAIL – Introduce yourself to the developing Pend Oreille Bay Trail near Sandpoint with a running OR walking benefit on June 1, National Trails Day.

Pre-register online by May 28 for the 5K and 10K events, which include t-shirts and prizes. The route starts and finishes at Trinity at City Beach and goes along the lakeshore and Sand Creek.

The event will benefit Friends of the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail, a group working to link a natural waterfront trail from City Beach to Black Rock and Ponder Point along the lake’s northwest shore.

Info: (208) 946-7586 or email friends@pobtrail.org.

Coldwater Creek’s stock over past five years: a humbling graphic

The good news for investors in Coldwater Creek, it has to get better.

We spotted this chart in the Sandpoint-based women's clothing retailer's annual report for the fiscal year ending Feb. 2. The chart came with the company-written explanation below.

 If you can't read the graphic, here's the summary of what the FOUR key lines represent: (Also, click the chart to enlarge it.)

SOLID line with rectangle is Coldwater's stock valuation measured as an index starting in Feb. 2008 at 100. All four indices started at the same 100 point five years ago.

DASH line: NASDAQ composite.

DOT dash line: S&P apparel retail group.

SOLID line with circle: Apparel peer group.

The following graph compares the cumulative five-year total return to stockholders on Coldwater Creek Inc.'s common stock to the cumulative total returns of the NASDAQ Composite Index, the S&P Apparel Retail Index, and a customized peer group of Chico's, Christopher & Banks, and ANN INC (referred to as the “Peer Group”). Due to Talbots, one of the companies that was included in the Peer Group for fiscal 2011, becoming a privately held company, and in an effort to include a broader range of companies that includes industry sectors in which we operate, instead of comparing our stock performance to an individually selected group of peer companies, we have used a published industry index. Accordingly, for fiscal 2012, we are including the S&P Apparel Retail Index and we do not intend to present the Peer Group in future fiscal years. The stock performance shown below is not necessarily indicative of future performance.

SR Blogs: Sandpoint Still Emerging

“Although I thought Sandpoint had arrived long ago,” posts Rich Landers/Outdoors, “the North Idaho town has just been  named one of the nation’s 'top 10 emerging ski towns' in the March 2013 issue of  National Geographic’s Adventure magazine.” More here.

Sandpoint among National Geographic’s top ‘emerging’ ski towns

WINTER SPORTS — Although I thought Sandpoint had arrived long ago, the North Idaho town has just been  named one of the nation’s “top 10 emerging ski towns” in the March 2013 issue of  National Geographic’s Adventure magazine.

“These 10 North American ski towns may not have the name recognition of the world’s best-known destinations, but that’s just fine with them. These are the local’s favorites, the up-and-comers. They’re real towns, often cheaper and friendlier than the big dogs—at least for now. If you’re on the hunt for great skiing without the crowds and glitz, read on.” said the article's author, Aaron Teasdale.

Sandpoint, and more specifically, the 2,900 acres of ski terrain at Schweitzer Mountain Resort, is described as being ”Best For: Non-extreme skiers and boarders seeking the famed tree skiing of the Selkirks without the trip to Canada.”

Other ski towns in the Top 10 include Red Lodge, Mont.; Ogden, Utah; Reno, Nev.; Revelstoke, B.C.; Nelson, B.C.; Driggs, Idaho; Mammoth, Calif.; Waitsfield, Vt.; and Durango, Colo.

The article asked locals in each town for suggestions on where to eat, sleep and spend time away from the ski hill, as well as the best ski run on the mountain.

With unanimous council vote, Boise bans job, housing discrimination against gays

Boise has become Idaho's second city to enact an ordinance banning discrimination in employment, housing or public accommodations based on sexual orientation or gender identity; the Boise City Council last night voted unanimously in favor of the ordinance, a move that was followed by a standing ovation in a packed Capitol Auditorium. You can see a full report here from KBOI2 News.

Sandpoint last year became the first Idaho city to enact such an ordinance; Pocatello has one in the works. It's an issue the Idaho Legislature has repeatedly refused to consider, despite an outpouring of support across the state last year for the “Add the Words” campaign, which called for adding the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the Idaho Human Rights Act. That's the law that currently makes it illegal to fire someone, evict them or deny them service in a restaurant on the basis of race, sex, color, national origin, religion, age or disability. The state legislation has been rejected for six straight years; this year's push included well-attended rallies across the state, including one that drew more than a thousand people to the state Capitol.

Boise's ordinance takes effect Jan. 1; it exempts churches and private organizations like the Boy Scouts.

Coldwater Creek gets a nice stock price bump, up 17 percent to $5.72

Just in time for the holidays, we spotted a nice Friday afternoon pop for Coldwater Creek's stock price, on the Nasdaq.

A few months ago the company had to do a reverse-split to keep the price per share above $1. When it did that, its recalculated price came to about $3.89 or so.

Today it rose to $5.72, up 17 percent from Thursday's closing price.

Recent announcements that might have helped the Sandpoint women's fashion retailer is a third quarter report that showed it's trimmed losses, and the announcement this week that a new CEO will take over in January for co-founder Dennis Pence.

Things are picking up stock-wise. Friday's trade volume was 412,519 shares, compared with a recent average volume of  211,332 shares.

Coldwater Creek selects a woman to head the company, starting Jan. 1

Sandpoint women's clothing retailer Coldwater Creek did an interesting thing on Wednesday. It appointed a woman as the next CEO.

The women's apparel retailer said its co-founder and CEO Dennis Pence will retire at the end of 2012.

Jill Brown Dean, the current president and chief merchandise buyer,  will take over as CEO on Jan. 1.

The company reported a smaller-than-expected third quarter loss, helped by higher comparable premium retail store sales and improved margins. In after hour trading Wednesday, the stock moved upward, approaching the $5 mark for the first time in a long while.

Normal Wednesday trading closed at $4.87 on the Nasdaq.

Coldwater Creek has been posting losses for more than two years. It has been losing out to larger rivals such as Chico's FAS  and Ann Taylor Stores Corp.

Boiseans pack five-hour hearing to support anti-discrimination ordinance

Hundreds of Boiseans turned out for a five-hour public hearing last night, with nearly all in favor of a proposed city ordinance to ban discrimination in housing and public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Citizens shared emotional stories of living in fear of losing their jobs if employers found out they were gay; business leaders said the ordinance will help the city attract employers. You can read the Boise Weekly's account here, and the Idaho Statesman's report here; and see KTVB-TV's report here and KBOI2 News' report here.

For some background, here's a link to my Aug. 5 story on how Idaho's cities are moving to ban such discrimination, after the the state Legislature repeatedly refused to consider legislation for a statewide ban. Boise's City Council is expected to vote on the ordinance Dec. 4.

Coldwater Creek on a roll, passes $4, in part due to reverse stock split

Catching up after some time away:  Sandpoint women's apparel retailer Coldwater Creek is faring better, stock-price-wise, since it went through a recent four-to-one reverse split.

The change took effect last Monday on the NASDAQ exchange where CTWR trades. A number of analysts have taken note and are moving their ratings from neutral to hold. They're citing improved apparel choices and a strong push to attract more purchases through customer loyalty programs.

The company's CEO and President Dennis Pence said, in a release, the split “was necessary for us to maintain our listing position on the Nasdaq Global Select Market, attract high quality investors and more effectively capitalize on the positive changes we have made to our brand which we believe will result in sustained long-term profitability and shareholder value.”

The stock price this week is above $4.

The charts above and below show the stock's climb. The top one adjusts stock prices to agree with the new split price. The one below doesn't.

Also notable: daily volume is very small and is shown in the lines at the lower half of the chart below.

AM: Byway Restores Small-Town Feel

Traffic moves along the onramp of the $106 million Sand Creek Byway last week. New traffic volume counts obtained from the Idaho Transportation Department show that about 8,500 daily vehicles mid-week and 9,600 on Friday are using the two-mile shortcut around downtown Sandpoint. That includes all commercial trucks, which number around 1,500 a day. Story here. (SR photo: Kathy Plonka)

Question: Do you prefer calling the new stretch of H95 through Sandpoint “byway” or “bypass”?

Long Bridge Swim Unique Experience

In this SR file photo by Jesse Tinsley, Hundreds of spectators line the long bridge in Sandpoint for the Long Bridge Swim, where swimmers try to swim the 1.5 mile distance from south to north.

On Big Major Cay located in the Bahamas you will find a family of pigs that do nothing but eat, sleep and swim. The hungry pigs happily throw themselves into the waves when they see a yacht and swim a few hundred feet to the vessel with the hopes of a free meal. While the unusual sight of a swimming pig has never been spotted on Lake Pend Oreille, last Saturday more than 800 swimmers entered the water to make the 1.76 mile crossing of the 18th annual Long Bridge Swim. The morning dawned clear and sunny as swimmers gathered at Sandpoint High School for a warm welcome from founder Eric Ridgway, the national anthem sung by local Kristine Oliver and also received the necessary information required to safely complete the swim/Hillary DeCecchus, Bonner County Bee. More here.

Question: How far do you think you can swim?

Sandpoint Bans Sex Orientation Bias

Sandpoint city attorney Scot Campbell walked along downtown Sandpoint on Wednesday. He drafted Sandpoint's new non-discrimination ordinance for sexual orientation and gender identity. (SR photo: Kathy Plonka)

Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce President Kate McAlister wasn’t expecting it when a woman in her 60s walked up to her at a community event, hugged her and started crying. “She said, ‘I want you to know that because of what you did, for the first time in all our lives I can take my partner to a Christmas party without fear of being fired,’ ” McAlister recalled. This was after McAlister helped push through a citywide ordinance in Sandpoint barring discrimination in employment, housing or public accommodations based on sexual orientation or gender identity. In Idaho, it’s still legal to fire someone because they’re gay, or to evict them from their home or deny them service in a restaurant. But it’s no longer legal within the city limits of Sandpoint/Betsy Z. Russell, SR. More here.

Question: Are you surprised that Sandpoint was the first city in Idaho that has banned discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity?

Sandpoint is first Idaho city to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation; others lining up

Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce President Kate McAlister wasn't expecting it when a woman in her 60s walked up to her at a community function, hugged her and started crying. “She said, 'I want you to know that because of what you did, for the first time in all our lives I can take my partner to a Christmas party without fear of being fired,'” McAlister recalled.

This was after McAlister helped push through a new city-wide non-discrimination ordinance in Sandpoint barring discrimination in employment, housing or public accommodations based on sexual orientation or gender identity. In Idaho, it's still legal to fire someone because they're gay, or to evict them from their home, or deny them service in a restaurant. But it's no longer legal in Sandpoint.

“When it passed, there was a round of applause from the audience,” said Sandpoint Mayor Marsha Ogilvie, who added that she was surprised to learn that Sandpoint was the first Idaho city to enact such a law. Sandpoint's seen no opposition to its ordinance, which passed unanimously. Pocatello is now drafting a similar ordinance; its city council could take a vote on it as soon as this fall; and Boise is now looking into an ordinance. Said McAlister, “If tiny little Sandpoint can do this, anybody can do it. I'm not sure what's stopping us.”

Idaho appears to be in the early stages of a process that's already happened in neighboring states. In Oregon, a dozen cities or counties, including Portland, Salem, Bend, Corvallis, Eugene and more, had passed local non-discrimination ordinances regarding sexual orientation before a statewide non-discrimination law was enacted in 2007. In Washington, local laws also were passed in a dozen cities and counties before a statewide law passed in 2006. Spokane's local ordinance passed in 1999; Seattle's passed back in the 1970s. In Utah, 15 cities or counties have now enacted non-discrimination ordinances for sexual orientation, including Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County, which did so with the strong support of the Mormon church, the state's dominant religious organization.

But Utah hasn't yet passed a state law, despite repeated attempts in the Legislature. And in Washington, the process was a long one - the bill there was introduced every year for 29 years before it finally passed. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com, and my sidebar here on how in neighboring states, employers have led the push to enact such laws.