Latest from The Spokesman-Review
Alarm over potential Fairchild encroachment is being sounded so often and by so many and over so much these days that it's at risk of becoming a bad Spokane punch line.
Don't like the new paint job on your neighbor's house? Argue that it creates too much of a distraction for Air Force pilots trying to find the Fairchild runway.
Looking for a sure-fire way to either stop or support Spokane's efforts to crack down on all those R-rated bikini barista stands? Suggest that the position opposite of yours puts the future of Fairchild in peril but that base officials have been instructed by the Pentagon to keep mum and stay out of local politics.
The real reason it's taking so long to get the North Spokane Freeway built? No one has figured out yet how to link its rapid completion to possibly helping keep Fairchild off the BRAC closure list.
To be sure, Fairchild is a critical piece of Spokane's economy and no one questions taking all reasonable steps to keep the base viable.
But with the dizzying number of times the encroachment issue is getting raised these days by groups at odds with each other over one project or another, it's getting tougher to discern reasonable from opportunistic. Casinos. Municipal zoning. Trailer parks. Industrial expansion. Gravel pits.
The latest salvo came yesterday, when Gov. Jay Inslee openly questioned why Spokane County commissioners are creating new encroachment risks with a controversial industrial expansion while at the same time trying to persuade voters to increase taxes to pay for alleviating a separate risk. Inslee has joined others in trying to get the expansion overturned.
Commissioners suggest Inslee's concern is misguided and are hoping to meet with him to iron things out. But that sounds a lot like the kind of response commissioners tend to get from backers of proposals that they're trying to block by raising the specter of encroachment.
Regardless of where anyone might stand on any of the various proposals, the real risk right now seems to be political fatigue.
Spokane County Commissioner Al French has been elected secretary of the board of directors of the Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington. That puts him on track to become vice president in 2014 and president in 2015.
French in a news release said he will be working on issues and programs cut costs in government and improve service to citizens. He also serves on the board of the Washington State Association of Counties.
MRSC provides consultation, research and information technology services to government agencies in the state.
Spokane County’s loss of more than $1 million in a land deal with the Spokane International Airport was completed Monday by the Spokane City Council.
In 2008, the county paid $3.2 million for nearly 400 acres between the airport and Fairchild Air Force Base to relocate a rail line that crossed the base and protect the base from encroaching development. County commissioners agreed to sell the land to the airport late last month for $1.75 million.
The Spokane City Council, which along with the Spokane County Commission must approve major airport financial decisions, unanimously approved the deal on Monday. The airport’s ownership is shared by the city and county.
Former Spokane County Commissioner Mark Richard will lead downtown Spokane main business group.
The Downtown Spokane Partnership announced today that Richard started this week as the organization’s new president.
In September, the partnership’s board fired then-president Mike Tedesco, who earned $95,000 a year in the position.
The Downtown Spokane Partnership contracts with the city to manage about $1 million the city collects in special taxes on downtown merchants and business owners in the city's Parking and Business Improvement Area. The group uses the money to boost security, employ cleaning crews, market downtown and make other improvements.
Spokane County Commissioners on Tuesday approved a $400,000 settlement in a six-year-old case stemming from an open records request.
The Neighborhood Alliance of Spokane County won on appeal before the state Supreme Court last September, setting the stage for Tuesday’s action.
The alliance in 2005 sought public records to learn whether Steve Harris, the son of former Commissioner Phil Harris, was given a job prior to a formal hiring process. The alliance was seeking evidence of nepotism.
Copies of a seating chart had the names of “Ron and Steve” on one cubicle, and the alliance sought corroborating records to identify the two.
The trial court dismissed a subsequent lawsuit in 2008, but the alliance appealed.
The justices ruled the county did an inadequate search and that the county improperly rejected an alliance request to identify “Ron & and Steve.”
The case was sent back to Lincoln County where it was initially filed to determine penalties under the state’s open records act.
County officials later said the seating chart was a reference to another employee named Steve. However, a plaintiff’s attorney said there were two people named Steve on the chart.
The county’s risk manager estimated that penalties and legal costs under the law could have reached $650,000.
An agenda summary said the Supreme Court essentially gave the alliance a “blank check.” The penalties and lawyer fees have accrued over time.
Tim Connor, communications director for the Center for Justice, which represented the alliance, said in a prepared statement that the settlement is reportedly the third-largest involving public records in the U.S. He cited a state assistant attorney general as the source of that information.
My in-laws were in town last week and asked, “Who is Al French?”
It was another indicator that French has been effective in getting his name out in the community.
With eight years on the Spokane City Council, French already had an advantage in name recognition — at least over his GOP rivals.
Now French has mailed a flyer that takes aim at his Republican competitors over the Spokane County Raceway. This morning, it sparked a response from Steve Salvatori, one of his Republican opponents who also hopes to represent the county’s 3rd Commissioner District. Salvatori accuses French of “deliberately” misstating his position.
The mailer shows two racecar drivers, one labeled Steve (for Salvatori) and one labeled Jeff (for Jeff Holy). The text says, “Steve says Zoom” and “Jeff says V-room.”
French’s ad says he’s the only GOP candidate that “says stop wasting tax dollars on a raceway.” In a Spokesman-Review questionnaire last month, French wrote that the county should “develop a strategy for getting the racetrack back into the hands of the private sector.”
The flyer is accurate if his point is that he’s the only Republican candidate currently advocating the sale of the track — at least based on the candidates’ responses to the newspaper survey. But the flier appears to exaggerate his opponents’ enthusiasm for the track. Here’s what Holy, the Spokane County Republican Party’s preferred candidate, told The Spokesman-Review about the raceway: ”I would not have purchased the racetrack when other essential services weren’t being adequately funded. It’s all about failing to make the priorities of government a priority. To protect county tax dollars, we now must avoid the mistake the city of Spokane made with the purchase and subsequent desperation sale of Playfair Race Course, where lack of adequate planning caused a multimillion-dollar loss.”
That’s a position that may be hard to equate to ”V-room.”
Here’s an excerpt from Salvatori’s news release: “The mailer implies that both Jeff Holy and I advocate spending tax payer dollars on the Spokane Raceway and that Al is the only republican candidate against it. I want to make clear that Mr. French is free to distribute as many mailers as he can afford, but he does not have the right to deliberately misstate the positions of his opponents.”
Salvatori says his position is to convert the track to “an enterprise fund. That would ensure it breaks even on an operating basis, and prevent any further outlay of taxpayer money.”
Republicans on the county commission bought the track in hopes of the raceway generating enough revenue to pay for its operations, but the track has thus far struggled to pay its own way.
To read all the candidates’ responses to The S-R’s questionnaire, click here.
(As a member of City Council, French supported the purchase of Playfair for sewage treatment and later fought the selling of the land, arguing that it should be used as a train-loading center to spark commerce. When that proposal didn’t gain support, French said he would support the sale of the land to a business.)
The race for county commissioner is one of the most competitive in Tuesday’s election. As the only Democrat, incumbent Bonnie Mager has the easiest path to the November election. If French’s campaign fliers are any sign, she also could benefit from her strong stance against the raceway. One of her recent mailers highlights her opposition to the track as well as her criticism of the cost of plans to replace Geiger Corrections Center.
A day after announcing an end to his campaign, David Elton says he’s back in the running for Spokane County Commission.
On Monday, Elton wrote a news release announcing his departure from the race. Today, he told a Spokesman-Review reporter that he’ll still be a candidate because it’s too late to get a refund on his $930 filing fee.
“I will be running,” he said. “But I will not be running a full-fledged campaign.”
Elections Manager Mike McLaughlin said Elton’s check that he submitted earlier this month when he filed to run for the seat bounced. Even so, McLaughlin said it’s past the deadline for him to withdraw.
David Elton, a civic gadfly and former radio show host, announced Monday that he is dropping his bid for Spokane County Commission.
Elton had filed to run as a Republican for the seat held by Democrat Bonnie Mager. Elton faces harassment charges related to e-mails he sent that allegedly threatened City Council President Joe Shogan and Cowles Co. Chairwoman Betsy Cowles. The Cowles Co. owns The Spokesman-Review.
Elton recently was ordered by a Spokane County Superior Court judge to undergo mental evaluations to decide if he’s competent to stand trial.
“Mr. Elton believes that he cannot get fair and accurate media coverage from the local journalists,” said a news release from Elton that announced his departure from the race.
Spokane County Elections Manager Mike McLaughlin said it’s too late for Elton to pull his name from the August primary ballot. Mager and Republicans Jeff Holy, Al French and Steve Salvatori remain in the race for County Commission.
There’s been a lot of talk about regional cooperation from local leaders this year, but recent incidents spotlight continued tensions between the city of Spokane and Spokane County.
Last week, county officials expressed frustration that the city had decided to explore the possibility of opening its own jail after the county has spent nearly four years planning to open county facility. Despite that friction, Mayor Mary Verner and Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich were able to agree enough by the end of the week to make a joint statement that they would continue to work together.
A Monday night confrontation between Spokane City Council President Joe Shogan and Spokane County Commission Chairman Mark Richard may be harder to patch.
Richard had come to the City Council to ask the city to join a board that will determine how to spend money aimed at preventing homelessness. Richard said Spokane was the only local government that had not yet agreed to join. Verner and the city’s Human Services Advisory Board had advised the council to use a city-run process to decide how to spend the city’s portion of the homelessness money, which is raised by fees on recording at the county auditor’s office.
Richard addressed the council a few times and got up to speak to a point made by city staff when Shogan demanded that he sit down. Richard paused and remained standing for several seconds, before walking out.
To read the transcript, continue on ….