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Spokane County dog-leash laws to be enforced at conservation areas

TRAILS — Spokane County officials announced today they will begin addressing the issue of unleashed dogs — a long-simmering aggravation that's been been stoked in recent years by the purchase of county conservation lands, which many pet owners wrongly assume to be dog parks

An emphasis patrol to enforce dog leash laws on 12,000 acres of Spokane County park and conservation lands is being launched later this week. The effort is fueled by a $140,000 grant.

Patrols are scheduled for six weeks. The funding also provides for additional patrols by off-duty County Sheriffs officers to deal with issues such as off-leash dogs, shooting and off-road vehicles through June 30, 2013, said Paul Knowles, Spokane Count Parks planner.

The project will start this weekend at Antoine Peak Conservation Area just north of East Valley High School.

Spokane County Park Ranger Bryant Robinson said dogs running off leash is the top complaint from the public, ahead of the No. 2 complaint of off-road vehicles going onto park land.

The breaking point may have come recently when Spokane County Commissioner Mark Richard endured the abuse that's been fetching more and more complaints throughout the county.

During a commission briefing today, Richard said his dogs were attacked by three off-leash dogs and when he confronted the owner of the off-leash dogs, he was threatened himself.

"Some people don't take kindly to telling them how to manage their pets," noted Nicole Montano, animal protection manager for SCRAPS.

S-R reporter Mike Prager was at the briefing and filed this detailed report on the enforcement effort.

Other emphasis patrols currently scheduled include:

During the leash emphasis, authorities will be issuing citations for other violations, including not having a license, which carries a $200 fine, or going onto park land with a motorized vehicle.

Violations of letting a dog run at large, failure to have a current rabies vaccination or having a threatening dog all carry $87 fines.

The $140,000 in funding is coming from a Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office NOVA Education and Enforcement grant.

Mapping the vote: Partisan strength

This map shows the relative strength of the two parties, based on an analysis of votes in key races in 2008 and 2010:

Obama v. McCain for president
Gregoire v. Rossi for governor (2008)
Murray v. Rossi for Senate (2010)
McMorris Rodgers v. Romeyn (2010)
Mager v. French (2010)

There were several shifts in precincts between the two elections, and results were adjusted to reflect those changes.

For a closer look at the map, click on the PDF file.


Documents:

Mapping the vote: New Lege districts

Here's a look at the new legislative districts in Spokane County. For a closer look, check out the PDF file. 


Documents:

New voter cards in the mail

Most Spokane County voters will get cards in the mail updating their voter information.

County elections officials said they've mailed out 195,000 cards listing new precinct information, which is roughly three out of four voters in the county.

The changes were prompted by the redistricting, which happens once very 10 years after a national census. Spokane County remains in the 5th Congressional District, but the lines for all of the legislative districts locate completely or partially in the county were redrawn.

In an effort to save some money, the county is sending cards only to voters whose precinct information changed. The Valley's 4th Legislative District saw the least change, and many precincts in that district remain the same, so those voters won't be getting new cards. But the 3rd, 6th, 7th and 9th districts all had significant changes that effect of their voters.

A bit of voting info trivia of the political geeks: Precincts in Spokane County have a four-digit number that helps explain where that voting sector is. The first digit is the legislative district, so all county precincts start with either 3, 4, 6, 7 or 9.

The second digit tells whether the voter lives inside or outside an incorporated area like a city or town. A zero for the second digit means the precinct is in an unincorporated area; another digit means its a city or town. Most of the cities and towns are in a single legislative district, so a precinct that starts 44 is the City of Spokane Valley and one that starts 43 is Liberty Lake. Airway Heights precincts start 64 and Cheney precincts 67. Spokane city precincts are a bit trickier because there are three Lege districts that have pieces of the city, and the second digit is either 1, 2 or 3, to tell you which City Council district the precinct is in. Northeast is 1, South is 2 and Northwest is 3.

State approaching 1,404 liquor retailers; latest Spokane spirits count: 99

Today we ran a quick story on the plans by Spokane's Dry Fly Distilling to develop a system of getting more of its gin, vodka and whiskey across the state, once the floodgates open on June 1. That's when the vast changes pushed through by Initiative 1183 take effect.

The story said the state will likely have more than 1,600 spirits retailers when that date comes, and that Dry Fly clearly wants to be more widely distributed than it is today.

A day later, we can be a bit more precise than that.

According to the state Liquor Control Board website, one can look and find exactly how many spirits retailer licenses have been applied for.

Statewide, as of April 24, the total is 1,404 applications, including applications by former operators of contract liquor stores (for an example, we wrote about the store in Medical Lake a month ago).

Add the 167 or so state stores whose liquor licenses were recently auctioned off, that brings the current total to 1,571 licenses, either approved or pending.

One caution: applications for the state stores are not yet officially filed.

Will it hit 1,600?  Very likely. The Spokane County application total, as of April 24, is 99 locations.

A month ago when we wrote about the list of applicants, the statewide count was just 1,200 and the Spokane County count was 90 license applications.

County buys 269 acres for Glenrose conservation area

CONSERVATION — The Dream Trail through the Dishman Hills of Spokane Valley has come 269 acres closer to reality this week with the purchase of two parcels in the Glenrose area.

Two adjoining parcels were purchased with $473,500 from the Spokane County Conservation Futures Program plus $257,500 donated by the Dishman Hills Natural Area Association, said John Bottelli, County Parks assistant director.

"DHNAA exceeded their original pledge by ultimately covering more than the county's share of the Stone Estate acreage by $35,000," Bottelli said. "Their $257,500 represents 54 percent of the purchase price and is an incredible accomplishment for any non-profit!"

The Dishman Hills group scraped up the money and secured the property before other interests could lock it up privately.

Click here for the details on this great acquisition for future generations and how it fits into the big picture for maintaining wildlife movements and public access to wildlands in our ever-more-populated region.

Mack Speech Goes Off Without Hitch

Richard Mack felt apprehensive about coming to Coeur d'Alene. Speaking moments before he was to take the stage as the controversial keynote speaker during the Republican party's primary fundraiser, Mack said he never felt as unwelcome as he did before coming to Coeur d'Alene. "This has never happened to me before," the Republican candidate in Texas for the U.S. House of Representatives told The Press about the decision by the local party to bar him from speaking. But the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee re-invited Mack to speak at its Lincoln Day Dinner and Mack said he was glad to accept it - again. "After I saw the crowd and talked to the people I felt good," he said. "I guess I didn't hurt attendance any"/Tom Hasslinger, Coeur d'Alene Press. More here.

Question: What will be the fallout of this event?

North Idaho GOP Rift Surprises Mack

A former Arizona sheriff whose speaking appearance today in North Idaho has created a rift among local Republicans called on Spokane County politicians Friday to make protecting the Constitution their No. 1 priority. Richard Mack disputed claims that he’s a darling of the militia movement in his speech at the Spokane County Republican Party’s annual Lincoln Day Dinner. Mack, who frequently speaks at national tea party events and is an outspoken critic of gun control, said he’s never advocated violence against federal officials. “My message across this country has been one of hope – that we can take our country back in a peaceful manner,” Mack told the packed crowd, which included many Spokane County GOP officials. “Where we take America back is county by county and sheriff by sheriff”/Meghann M. Cuniff, SR. More here.

Question: Put on your prognosticating hat and predict what will happen at the Kootenai County Lincoln Day Dinner tonight, featuring speaker Richard Mack.

Divisive Mack Coming To INorthwest

A former Arizona sheriff revered by the militia movement for his outspoken criticism of gun control and government tyranny is returning to the Inland Northwest for meetings with local GOP groups, triggering a rift among some Republicans. Richard Mack, who now lives in Texas and is running for U.S. Congress, is a self-described conservative constitutionalist with ties to various political parties and movements. He served as sheriff of rural Graham County, Arizona as a Democrat, ran unsuccessfully for governor of Utah as a Libertarian and now is trying to unseat a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives in the GOP’s upcoming Texas primary. He will be a featured speaker at fundraisers for the Republican parties of Spokane and Kootenai counties, though his North Idaho appearance was canceled at one point, then re-established after fraud allegations arose from the intra-GOP process used to disinvite him/Meghann Cuniff, SR. More here.

Question: What will be the long-term fallout from Libertarian-Constitutionalist wing of local GOP forcing Mack onto Reagan/Reasonable Republican wing?

Washington state sees same housing trend: more home sales, falling prices

A week ago we ran out some numbers on the increasing number of home sales in Spokane County. The trend here is an increase number of sales, especially over the final six months of 2011 and continuing in January.

But average and median home sales continued to fall, compared with one year earlier. The reason, as stated by Rob Higgins of the Spokane Association of Realtors, is the large supply of distressed properties still being moved off the market.

So we will here offer a statewide view: Washington’s housing market in the final quarter of 2011 saw the highest seasonally-adjusted sales since the second quarter of 2010, according to the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies at the University of Washington.

Sales strength reflected bargain hunting as well as the persistently large number of distressed properties being sold in lower-priced neighborhoods, said Glenn Crellin, associate director of the Runstad Center.

Statewide the seasonally adjusted sales rate during the quarter was 91,080 homes, meaning that if the relative sales rate for the quarter were continued for a year, that number of homes would be sold. The rate is 6 percent above the prior quarter and 9.6 percent higher than the closing quarter of 2010, when tax credit programs to stimulate housing demand were ending.

Just like in Spokane, statewide sales prices continued dropping. Median home prices continued to reflect the weak economy, Crellin said. The statewide median home price was $219,700, the lowest fourth-quarter price since 2003 when the median was $205,700.

That median home sale price declined 8 percent between the end of 2010 ($238,800) and the end of 2011.

Sales, median home prices and affordability data for each of Washington’s 39 counties are available at the Runstad website.

What Does It Take To Can A Cop?

I’m hotter than a car hood baking under a July sun over the rehiring of Travis Smith, that disgrace of a deputy who was rightly canned last year by Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich. Smith racked up three internal investigations in one year, which could be some sort of record. His many infractions, including the mishandling of seized painkillers, established what Knezovich dubbed a poor performance pattern. No, duh. But the real nugget came when Smith committed malicious mischief by stabbing the seat of a truck he was searching like Brutus skewering Caesar. Claimed he thought it was funny. Et, tu, Travis? The bottom line is that Ozzie did the right thing for humankind by firing this clown. But apparently we have gone through the looking glass/Doug Clark, SR. More here.

Question: Which is harder to do — can a cop in Spokane County or properly discipline a Republican lawmaker behaving badly in the Idaho Legislature?

Saturday’s highlights

The city of Spokane Valley’s new snowplow is parked next to one of the original plows at the Public Works Facility in the Industrial Park. The old snowplows, purchased from the WSDOT, averaged 2,500 miles each during last year’s snowy winter. SR photo/J. Bart Rayniak

Here we are again on another lovely Monday morning, which means it is time to look at the Saturday Valley Voice highlights. The city of Spokane Valley is working on breaking in its first brand new snow plow, which was ordered last year but didn't arrive until April. It will be the only white plow truck you see out on the road.

Reporter Lisa Leinberger highlighted the high number of absences at the Liberty Lake City Council, which was brought into focus last week when the council meeting didn't have a quorum for nearly an hour. The Mayor is considering a chance to the council's absentee rule.

The state Public Disclosure Commission has decided not to persue a camplaint filed against former Spokane Valley City Council candidate Marilyn Cline. The complaint was filed in October. Spokane County has wrapped up sewer construction work in the Valley for the season, but residents in the Green Haven neighborhood can expect to see crews back in the spring. Large boulders and old concrete irrigation system conduits slowed work so much that the project wasn't completed in time.

One-third of Spokane ballots in

Spokane County Elections Office says it has received slighly more than 89,500 ballots, or 33.66 percent of all the ballots it sent out a couple weeks ago.

That's counting nearly 10,000 that came in today's mail or the pickup of weekend deposits in drop boxes.

For those who think a hot candidate race will definitely spur turnout, the numbers so far would suggest otherwise.

For example, the city of Spokane has a hotly contested mayor's race, a council president race and three contested city council races. It's turnout is 33.4 percent. The City of Spokane Valley has some contested council seats, turnout there is 33.24 percent.

The 4th Legislative District has one of the state's few off-year senate races. Turnout is 33.76 percent.

Town of Spangle, which has five council races on the ballot, but only one that's contested, turnout 45.8 percent. Orchard Prairie School District, three board seats on the ballot, none contested, 40.4 percent turnout.

Of course, one could note that Spangle and O.P. School District  registration numbers are so small that a handful of ballots boosts the turnout numbers. That's true, but the top part or the ballot is the same for everyone, with five statewide ballot measures and one county-wide proposal. And the process is the same for everyone: Fill out the ballot, put it in an envelope and mail it in or drop it off. For info on where to drop them, go here.

Today’s highlights

Spokane Chiefs, from left, Collin Valcourt, Mac Engel and Tanner Mort prepare lunch Oct. 18 at the House of Charity in Spokane. The hockey players spent parts of three days volunteering and interacting with homeless people. SR photo/Dan Pelle

We've got a little bit of everything in today's Valley Voice. Reporter Pia Hallenberg went along when the Spokane Chiefs hockey team visited the House of Charity recently to visit, give away hats and serve lunch. The team got a warm reception from the shelter's clients.

The Spokane Valley City Council unanimously approved the city's new Bike and Pedestrain Master Program on Tuesday, which was a bit of a surprise since it has been so heavily scrutinized. There's also an update of several other actions the council took, but the meeting was so long I couldn't fit everything in. Expect to see another story on the council meeting in Saturday's Valley Voice.

Correspondent Jill Barville has a great story on grandparents who raise their grandchildren and the unique challenges they face. I also checked in at the open house held Monday to present the Urbran Growth Area boundary adjustment alternatives that are being considered. Several areas in Spokane Valley are being considered for addition to the boundaries, which allow denser development. This will be on ongoing issue over the next several months.

Urban Growth Area open house

A regional review of the Urban Growth Area is under way and there are discussions about changing the boundaries in the Spokane Valley area. An open house is being held tonight so people can get information on what areas are impacted. The open house is from 5 to 7 p.m. at Spokane Valley City Hall, 11707 E.Sprague. Other open houses are scheduled for the Geiger area and north Spokane County later in the week. Visit www.spokanecounty.org/bp for more information.

Urban Growth Area discussion is a pivotal moment for Spokane’s future


Spokane County and its cities and towns are collaborating on a regional review of the Urban Growth Area. The Urban Growth Area is the area designated to accommodate projected urban growth and development for twenty years and was first established in 2001. The regional review will determine the Urban Growth Area’s ability to accommodate growth and development for the next twenty years. Analysis of potentially expanding or retracting the existing Urban Growth Area is also a part of the review.

The upcoming Open Houses will focus on the impacts of the projected growth on the natural environment and the services and facilities needed including transportation, police, fire, parks, schools, water and sewer.

I went to one of these two years ago and I was astounded by the turnout: Mostly developers.

Spokane is in a crucial development stage. As local environmental advocate Kitty Klitzke pointed out at the time of the meeting in 2009, “our county’s Urban Growth Area (UGA) already covers over 89 square miles, this is over 2.5 times larger than the City of Paris, France. And Paris we ain’t. Their population, at 2.2 million is almost 5 times the population of Spokane County.”

In the last decade, 25 percent of county growth has occurred in rural spaces while enough land already existed in the urban growth area to accommodate their projections.

All the more reason to focus growth inward as the city of Spokane's infrastructure is strained due to unsustainable sprawl.

GSI says it will study raising the idea of a Spokane port district

Spokane-based Greater Spokane Inc. is launching a preliminary study to determine if area voters would support a port district.

Mentioned during the recent GSI annual meeting, the idea of a port district has resurfaced several times among proponents who say it can help economic development.

GSI CEO and President Rich Hadley said on Friday that the group will likely create a task force from area officials and business leaders to study the idea.

 In 1982 Spokane business leaders put a port district to voters and saw it defeated resoundingly, 4-to-1 against.

State law allows counties and government bodies to form a port district and raise funds through taxes. Port districts can be formed anywhere regardless of proximity to water or an airport.

Hadley said Spokane leaders met with officials from Benton County and Moses Lake, both of which have used port districts to boost economic activity.

Moses Lake used its district in 1998 to enlist a large expansion by Genie Industries, which makes construction equipment. Genie built a manufacturing plant there after port officials spent $2.5 million renovating a former airplane hangar for the company's use.

Districts can focus on adding infrastructure to attract businesses or help existing firms expand. That can range from building new roads to adding utility lines, Hadley said. They also serve as marketing arms, encouraging new investment.

Spokane and Yakima are the only two Washington counties to not have a port district, he added.

In 2000 area officials studied the port district idea but shelved it when interest and momentum behindg the idea lagged.

A lot of people filled out applications for Trader Joe’s jobs

About 2,500 people turned in applications this week to work at the new Spokane Trader Joe's store, said company spokeswoman Alison Mochizuki.

A new photo of applicants filling out forms outside the building will appear in Saturday's edition of The Spokesman-Review and Spokesman.com.

Mochizuki said not all the Spokane store jobs have been filled, and more applications will be accepted next week.  The location is the Spokane Lincoln Heights Shopping Center.

Spokane County foreclosure rate inched up in June, compared with 2010

CoreLogic, a company that aggregates real estate data, said Spokane County's foreclosure rate inched up in June compared with 12 months ago.

Here are the general data, which are not pleasant. They show a clear steady increase in delinquencies. Though the increase is minimal month by month, the trend is disturbingly upward. (Click the map of Spokane County for a larger format version.)

The trend line for 90-day delinquencies and foreclosures in Spokane.

Spokane 90+ Day Delinquency Rate Foreclosure Rate
June 2011 4.58% 1.69%
May 2011 4.57% 1.67%
April 2011 4.56% 1.71%
June 2010 4.40% 1.27%
May  2010 4.39% 1.25%
April 2010 4.38% 1.20%

Source: CoreLogic: www.corelogic.com

READ below the jump for a key explanation of what CoreLogic is tracking in these data.

Today’s highlights

Freeman Elementary kindergarten teacher Angie Smith greets new students and their parents during the open house and kindergarten orientation, Sept. 1. SR photo/J. Bart Rayniak

In today's Valley Voice we visit with Freeman Elementary students, who are attending classes in a newly renovated school. Reporter Lisa Leinberger talked to parents and the principal about the new building. A new multipurpose building is also complete, but the new gym won't be done until November.

Residents in the Green Haven neighborhood are finding that remnants of the past are slowing down plans for the future. Sewer construction has hit a bump in the road in the form of giant boulders washed in during a long ago flood event and huge concrete siphons that were part of the Valley's old irrigation system. Other sewer projects, however, are going well and are either essentially complete or will be by mid-October.

The Spokane Valley City Council discussed the proposed 2012 budget this week. A couple of council members were talking about cutting proposed pay increases for non-union staff. No vote has happened yet, though. There are still two public hearings to be held before the budget moves forward.

Coming Thursday

We've got some good stories coming your way in Thursday's Valley Voice. Reporter Lisa Leinberger headed down to check out the new Freeman Elementary School, which opened for the first time this week. I'll have an update on the sewer construction work out in the Greenacres area. Problems have cropped up in some areas, delaying the work. Other areas, though, are repaved and doing fine.

The Spokane Valley City Council discussed the proposed 2012 budget at this week's council meeting. The City Manager called it "enviable" because the city has a balanced budget and healthy reserves.

Today’s highlights

Spokane County owns the abandoned Great Northern right of way, which crosses under Trent Avenue east of Argonne Road in Millwood. It may be used for a commuter bicycle trail. SR photo/J. Bart Rayniak

For those of us who melt in high temperatures, let's start the day with an appeal to Mother Nature for a nice cold front. After that, let's take a look at today's Valley Voice. The old Great Northern railroad has been largely ignored for years, but now is being sought by Spokane Valley, Millwood, Spokane County and Avista. Spokane Valley and Millwood want it for a prosed Spokane Valley-Millwood Trail that would run from Spokane Community College to Liberty Lake. Spokane County wants to put in a pipe to carry treated wastewater and Avista want to use a section of it for a high-voltage electric line. Reporter John Craig's story includes details on all the plans, plus a map of the proposed trail.

Reporter Lisa Leinberger has been visiting local SCOPE stations this summer and this week she is profiling Trentwood SCOPE. It's somewhat unique because it is housed in an apartment and only has four volunteers. The four are extremely dedicated, though, and accomplish a lot. The Newman Lake Fire District is in the final stages of deciding how much to ask voters for in a bond on the November ballot to build a new Station 1. The estimated cost to build the station is $2.2 million. My story has a report from a special meeting this week and there's another meeting planned for next week for a final vote.

People who have been paying attention to vehicle prowling reports in Liberty Lake may remember that police there have arrested the same person twice after catching him in the act. But last week Liberty Lake officers arrested a duo for vehicle prowling who were also caught in the act and in posession of stolen property.

Comcast ups cable prices in Spokane, and the timing is notable

We were snoozing or on vacation when, earlier this summer, Comcast announced TV and other service rate hikes for Washington customers. The formal announcement said:

“We are making investments in next-generation technology to add value to our products and improve service. We’ve also launched new interactive applications and multi-platform content that customers want and value.  We’ve worked hard to hold down price adjustments, even given the impact of higher programming costs, and in 2011, the average customer bill will increase by 2.8 percent.  These adjustments will not impact about half of our customers because they currently receive services as part of a promotional offer.”

So, a good number of cable customers in Spokane didn't see a hike. But once those promotional deals end, the hike will come.

What's notable is the timing of the increases. This increase took effect July 1.

The previous new rate hike took effect on Aug. 1, 2010.

The one before that took effect on Oct. 6, 2009.

It used to be Comcast went roughly 12 months before increasing prices. That's apparently been replaced by some other, quicker system. We need to do some research on what the industry practice is.  Do cable companies no longer bother to wait a year before another price hike?

We asked Steve Kipp, a Comcast West side spokesman, to elaborate on the pricing schedule. We wondered if the pattern is to squeeze increases in a little earlier each year.

Kipp emailed back a quick reply, saying he would not comment.
  

Coming Thursday

The Valley Voice will be full of news you can use on Thursday. Reporter John Craig will have a story on the old Great Northern Railroad right of way that is suddenly popular. Spokane Valley and Millwood want to use it as a trail. Avista Utilities wants to put in electrical transmission lines. And Spokane County wants to lay pipe under it for treated wastewater.

Reporter Lisa Leinberger is continuing her tour of Spokane Valley area SCOPE stations. This week she checked in with Trentwood SCOPE. Since there was no Spokane Valley City Council meeting this week, I took the opportunity to head out to Newman Lake to attend a special meeting of the Newman Lake Fire District. Fire commissioners have been discussing for months (well, years actually) plans to build a new Station 1. The meeting was called to present the public with three different funding options and get input on which plan people preferred.

In Liberty Lake there were two arrests for vehicle prowling and it wasn't anyone known to be a repeat offender for that crime in Liberty Lake.

Spokane foreclosure, delinquencies rose in May, says CoreLogic

Foreclosures in Spokane County are a growth industry. A recent CoreLogic study found Spokane foreclosures increased in May compared to the same period last year.

CoreLogic's data show the rate of foreclosures among outstanding mortgage loans is 1.67 percent for the month of May 2011, an increase of 0.42 percentage points compared to May of 2010 when the rate was 1.25 percent.

Foreclosure activity in Spokane is less than the U.S. rate of 3.45 percent for May. That's a 1.78 percentage point difference in Spokane's favor.

Spokane has a mortgage delinquency rate of 4.56 percent. The term refers to mortgage loans 90 days or more delinquent.

A year ago in May 2010, the delinquency rate was 4.40 percent, showing a 0.16 percent hike year over year.  

The image shows the May 2011 CoreLogic map of foreclosures in Spokane County. Click image for slightly larger version; color key shows the varying foreclosure rates.

Local women living longer

Women in Spokane County can expect to live about a year longer than women a quarter century ago, and Kootenai County women about two years longer.

Those averages are contained in a new study by the University of Washington which shows that while women in some parts of the United States have slightly lower life expectancy, those in Washington, Idaho and most of the Northwest have slightly higher life expectancy.

After studying data from the National Center for Health Statistics, the UW developed a county-by-county map that shows the change in life expectancy across the nation between 1987 and 2007. It shows a decline in life expectancy for women in 313 counties, mostly in the South, Southern Midwest and Appalachia.That's the largest decline since the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918.

 Declines in life expectancy for men went down in only six counties.

To see the map, or read the analysis, click here.

Hikers make the most of the longest day of the year

HIKING — Several groups of hikers celebrated the summer solstice by trekking to the top of Antoine Peak after work and hiking down into the sunset.

Antoine is a Spokane County Conservation Futures acquisition that forms the green mountain backdrop north of East Valley High School.

An 8.5-mile round trip from the new Lincoln Road parking lot-trailhead put us on the top of the peak for great views of Mount Spokane to the north and the Spokane Valley and Mica Peak to the south.

‘Sovereigns’ gaining attention locally

Deputies were prepared for the worst as they stood by in a Spokane County courtroom earlier this month during routine hearings for mostly low-level felonies.

Their focus was on one of the more benign cases – possession and distribution of marijuana.

But it wasn’t the nature of the allegations that got their attention. It was the defendant, a self-proclaimed “sovereign” who doesn’t consider himself a citizen of the United States even though he was born and raised here.

Adrian B. Shannon, 30, is among a growing number of people who question the legitimacy of federal, state and local government agencies and employ a series of legal maneuvers they believe exempt them from driver’s licenses and birth certificates, paying taxes, or even criminal charges.

“People call it a movement, but it’s individuals, literally sovereigns, that are all learning, ‘Hey we don’t have to put up with these ridiculous laws, because we are the government,’ ” Shannon said.

Read the rest of my Sunday story here.

Kootenai Co., Spokane Share Ideas

What if:

  •  Kootenai County’s free Citylink bus system connected with Spokane Transit Authority routes to allow commuters to travel back and forth across the state line?
  • Spokane County could ease its landfill needs by shipping some of its waste to Kootenai County’s Fighting Creek Landfill?
  • Law enforcement in the two counties established a regional pay structure so Kootenai County didn’t regularly lose officers to Spokane County’s higher salaries?

Realistic or not, those were some of the ideas tossed on the table Monday during the first joint meeting of Spokane and Kootenai counties’ boards of commissioners.

Question: I'd be willing to give up studded tires to drive to Spokane Airport if Spokane County would limit the amount of visitors it allows to pack our waterfront. Can you think of any other sweet deals the two counties could make?

Spokane County’s rate of patents stagnant, according to Indicators report

The Eastern Washington University-sponsored Community Indicators Initiative recently posted a summary of how Spokane and the area are doing in numbers of patents awarded.

The partents-awarded indicator shows Spokane is doing less well than the rest of the state (forget comparing Spokane with Seattle, as it makes no sense). In general, the number of patents awarded in any community is a fair measure of the level of innovation and dynamic business development.

The summary, penned by Community Indicators Initiative Manager Anna Halloran, is at http://www.communityindicators.ewu.edu/newsletter/page87.html. The chart above is from the CCI newsletter. The red line in Spokane County patents, per thousand; the green line is Washington state.

The key point is that Spokane's economy isn't gaining steam in part because we're not producing enough young companies and eager professionals that are creating patents and product innovations.

First the good news: Spokane County residents or firms obtained more patents in 2010 compared to the year before. The gain was from 75 awarded in '09 to 105 in 2010.

But compared with the state, we're not faring well at all. In general, Halloran notes, Spokane County's patent rate, per thousand residents, has remained flat for the past 10 years.

In 2010, Washington state's patent rate per 1,000 people was 1.02, an increase of close to 143 percent from its patent rate going back to 2000.

Other data worth noting from the report:

  • Washington state received 6,835 U.S. patents in 2010.
  • Seattle accounted for 2,642 of them.
  • Pullman residents or businesses received 39 patents in 2010.