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List of rock homes is growing fast

Since the story on Spokane Valley river rock homes ran on Sunday, we've had more than ten people register their rock home on the online map we provided. Don't be left out - submit your home today. In a week or so we will share the map with The Spokane Valley Heritage Museum. Photos can be uploaded with your entry, or you can send a photo with the home's address to piah@spokesman.com 

Spokane Valley City Council meeting tonight

Just as I was hitting my stride with the Tuesday meetings, we're having one on a Monday. Tonight's agenda includes a noxious weed board update and a public hearing on the shoreline master plan, as well as an executive session about a real estate purchase. 

(To get email updates about meetings and other news from Spokane Valley go to the city's website and click on "follow us" at the bottom of the green menu on your left - pick which email lists you'd like to be included in.)

Speaking of executive session: I am overdue for a coffee date in the Valley - how about the Rocket on Argonne Road, Thursday morning? I will be there around 9 a.m. - I'm easy to spot with my newspaper dog tag and laptop computer. Stop by and say hello and tell me a Valley story or two. 

First dance with Mary Jane

You may remember Shelly Clark as one of the organizers behind the protest that lead to Spokane Valley outlawing topless barristas about a year ago. Thursday night, Clark and the Coalition for Community Values called a meeting at CenterPlace to discuss the impact the legalization of marijuana may have on Valley children. 

About 30 people showed up, including some marijuana growers and sellers, Mayor Dean Grafos and other city council members. Linda Thompson, CEO of the Greater Spokane Substance Abuse Council, presented drug statistics showing that many high school students believe it's much less dangerous to smoke pot than it is to smoke tobacco. 

Spokane Valley Police Chief Rick VanLeuven said marijuana related DUIs are up and tried his best to explain the difference between medical marijuana outlets and retail marijuana stores.

Clark said after the meeting that she expects the task force that formed Thursday evening to bring proposed regulation of marijuana to the Spokane Valley City Council soon. 

Watch for a full story in Spokane Valley Voice on Nov. 20 

Is this Spokane Valley as you know it?

Just in time for the election, my colleague Jim Camden wrote a piece about how Spokane Valley has been rated the most centrist town in the United States by USA Today and the website Liveability.com 

Do you recognize Spokane Valley in the description? 

Sunday Spin: Centrist Spokane Valley?

CBS's Sunday Morning show repeated the rather questionable claim that the city of Spokane Valley is the most centrist city in the country, a ranking Spin Control first questioned last week and revisited in this morning's paper.

For our look at this spurious ranking, click here. 


Spokane Valley No. 1 “centrist” city? USA Today says so

Local readers of USA Today might have been pleased recently when the city of Spokane Valley was mentioned in one of those trendy "list" stories as No. 1. But they may have been incredulous that it topped the list it was on.

Spokane Valley was listed as the nation's best city for political "centrists".

That's right, the Spokane Valley, which currently has no Democrats running in its legislative races, where candidates for nonpartisan municipal offices proudly mention their Republican affiliation — and sometimes vie for being a better Republican than the opponent — and have so few Democrats that some D precinct caucuses could be held in a phone booth, if one could find a phone booth. Yes, that Spokane Valley.

USA Today got the Centrist List, as well as the most conservative and the most liberal list, from the Livability Website, which seems to have compiled its rankings with some bad information. . .

River rock homes in Spokane Valley

Together with staff at The Spokane Valley Heritage Museum we are looking for homes in Spokane Valley constructed with river rock. The homes we are looking for don't have to be as elaborate as the original Vera Water Pump House above, but the front or another significant part of the house should be built using river rock (a river rock foundation is not going to make it). However, if you have a stretch of river rock wall or entrance pillars, we'd be curious about those too. Please email your name, address, year the home was built and a snapshot (if you have one) to piah@spokesman.com 

STA open house and forum Thursday

Spokane Transit Authority is hosting a series of open houses asking the public for input on its long-range transit plan, Moving Forward. The first open house is Oct. 9 from 4:30-6:30 p.m. at Center Place, 2426 North Discovery Place. Valley residents are encouraged to show up and share their input on transit service today and in the future. Public input may be emailed to stamovingforward@spokanetransit.com or by calling the STA Moving Forward Hotline at (509) 343-1659.

Spokane Valley City Council meeting tonight

This evening's City Council meeting is a study session during which city staff will present research on current topics and issues facing the council. Tonight, we will hear about possible restrictions on truck parking in neighborhoods and get a briefing on proposed amendments to the Spokane Valley municipal code. The meeting begins at 6 p.m. at City Hall - here's the agenda. 

Who makes Spokane Valley what it is?

A city is made up from the people who live there. It’s the sum of their experiences, trials, joys, victories and everyday life that makes a community what it is. One reason why I spend so much time driving around Spokane Valley and drink so much coffee (I haven’t slept since I got on this beat…) is because I want to meet the people who live here - and I need your help. 

I would like to do a series of short profiles of Valley residents for the blog. Who do you think I should profile? Your son’s preschool teacher? Your daughter’s soccer coach? Your neighbor? The guy who makes your coffee every morning? Shoot me an email at piah@spokesman.com with name and contact information and let’s see if we can rally some Valley people. I will swing by with my camera and my notepad and visit for a bit – then make you famous here on the Spokane Valley Blog.

The week of the Valley virus

The second week in Spokane Valley did not go quite as smoothly as the first one because the blog got a virus. Actually, I got a virus and was laid up for a day in the middle of the week, but hey, I still got some Valley miles in; 47 miles for those counting at home.

On Tuesday, I met the Valley Rotary Club at their regular meeting at Darcy’s Restaurant. Chris Cargill of the Washington Policy Center did an interesting presentation on policy development in the state and the upcoming election. Among many services and think tank initiatives the center runs WashingtonVotes.org – a website that lets you keep track of bills as they move through the Washington legislature. You can subscribe to email updates about bills you are following. I also got to talk to the Rotarians about the upcoming Rotary Men of Fashion show happening on Oct. 10 – story’s coming right up.

Wednesday was when the virus really hit – I will spare you the details.

Thursday morning I was at Broadway Elementary School and turned a nice story on Farmer Dan Jackson and Central Valley School District’s effort to get fresh, local produce on school menus.

On my way back downtown, I swung by Spokane Valley City Hall to listen to Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich testify before the Senate Law and Justice Committee which was meeting in Spokane Valley. Knezovich was there to talk about the challenges electronic home monitoring (ankle bracelets) poses. Among many issues, there seem to be no statewide standards for supervision of EHM; several different companies offer the service in various ways, and some are surprisingly inefficient. There’s a much bigger story here for the entire Spokane County to look at.

Friday’s been spent responding to emails and phone calls, (finally) updating the blog and getting some stories lined up for next week. You can look forward to reading about SCOPE volunteer award winners, a man who’s de-cluttering his house and blogging about it, and some Spokane Valley neighbors that want their streets fixed up.

I will be at Forza Coffee, 325 S. Sullivan Rd., on Monday Oct. 6 for lunch and an interview at noon – come by after 1 p.m. if you’d like to say hello. And last, but not least, we grew this blog from 112 to 121 followers – thank you! – and we almost made 800 “likes” on Facebook for The Voices page. Not bad for a week’s virus infected work.


Senate Law and Justice Committee meets in Valley

The Senate Law and Justice Committee will meet in Spokane City Council Chambers, 11707 E. Sprague Ave., on Oct. 2 from 1- 3 p.m. Chaired by Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, the committee will hold its regular work session here instead of in Olympia. On the agenda is: Electronic monitoring/home detention; habitual property offenders, subject of legislation introduced by Padden last year; sentencing options related to mental health/illness such as treatment instead of jail; patent trolling; proposed revisions to state law concerning Limited Liability Companies and the constitutional separation of powers between the legislative, judicial and executive branches of state government. 

In the market for a rabbit or two?

SCRAPS is hosting a special adoption event on Oct. 1 from 2-6 p.m. at the Spokane County Fairgrounds, featuring animals from the recent seizure near Deer Park. Up for adoption are: 60 rabbits, 14 roosters and two billy goats. 
A $25 adoption fee is requested for rabbits; $10 for roosters and $50 for the billy goats. The adoption fee helps recover the cost of care and feeding of the animals during their holding period. Call SCRAPS at (509) 477-2532. 

Suspected arson fires continue to flare

Fire investigators believe that the high number of brush fires spotted lately are the work of an arsonist. The fires are within Fire District 8 and there has been more than two dozen of them. Scott Maben wrote today's story on the fires - please keep an eye out for anything suspicious and call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233 with any reports. You can also contact Fire District 8 directly. 

The week to come

Here's your Monday afternoon blog update and a quick look ahead at the week to come. Remember, there's no Spokane Valley City Council meeting tomorrow, Sept. 30.  the council will resume its regular meeting schedule with a study session on Oct. 7. At that meeting, city staff will present two ordinances aimed at regulating semi truck parking on residential streets. Look for a preview story about that issue in The Valley Voice on Oct. 2.  

On Sept. 30, I will have lunch with the Rotary Club of Spokane Valley at noon. The group's fashion show is coming up on Oct. 10, so look for a story about that next week. I'm looking forward to meeting the good folks at Rotary and would be happy to come meet with your Spokane Valley based community group as well. Just shoot me an email at piah@spokesman.com 

On Wednesday, Oct. 1, I will be at Forza Coffee Co. - 325 S. Sullivan Rd. - at around 9 a.m. for another round of Valley morning coffee. Please stop by and say hello and share a Spokane Valley story with me. 

Finally Friday

It's Friday at the end of my first official week on the Spokane Valley beat - what did I do? Well, I put 140 miles on my little car. I'm a spoiled woman, used to a 10 minute commute and the ability to walk to many of my assignments downtown, so that's a lot of miles for me. 
I met the entire Valley City Council at the meeting I covered on Tuesday. I'm happy to say that everyone was really friendly and helpful.

Sullivan Bridge project celebrated

The Spokane Valley City Council and dignitaries from around the area gathered on the shore of the Spokane River to kick off the Sullivan West Bridge Replacement Project, today at 3:30 p.m. The west bridge is the southbound part of the 60-year-old structure which is currently held together with temporary reinforcement. Before the ribbon cutting, Spokane Valley Mayor Dean Grafos told the gathering that bridge safety never was an issue but that replacement was badly needed. “This is one of the most vital pieces of Valley infrastructure,” Grafos said, adding that it’s a major north-south arterial. “More than 4,500 jobs depend on smooth flow of traffic on this bridge.”


Friday morning coffee

The Spokane Valley Blog is touring coffee houses in the Valley and surrounding municipalities starting at Galaxy Grind, 12402 E. Saltese Rd., at 9 a.m. on Sept. 26. That's tomorrow. Feel free to stop by and say hello. The morning coffee dates will continue for the next couple of months as I get to know Spokane Valley in more detail. To keep updated, follow me on Twitter or like me on Facebook - and of course, read the blog. It's good for you. 

Don’t park it here

It's not easy driving a big rig: In downtown Spokane they get jammed under railway overpasses and soon they may be restricted from parking on residential streets in Spokane Valley. The City Council has scheduled a study session on Oct. 7 to possibly adopt an ordinance restricting parking - read the story here.

The Valley Precinct wants your drugs

The Spokane Valley Police Precinct is giving everyone a chance to get rid of their old drugs on Sept. 27. Drop off expired, unused and otherwise not needed medication between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. at the Precinct, 12710 E. Sprague Ave.

Spokane Valley City Council meeting tonight

The Spokane Valley City Council his holding its regular meeting tonight at 6 p.m. in council chambers at City Hall, 11707 E. Sprague Ave. On the agenda are items dealing with the comprehensive plan update, the 2015 property tax ordinance and an informational update on the Fife marijuana ban. In July, the City Council adopted some restrictions to where marijuana businesses may be operated. For more details see tonight's agenda - note that this is an informational agenda item only.

Sullivan Bridge project kickoff

The replacement of the Sullivan Bridge begins on Sept. 25 and the public is invited to stop by for a project orientation at 3:30 p.m. Spokane Valley Mayor Dean Grafos will be there together with other city dignitaries and project staff. The $15 million project is expected to be finished in 2016. Read more about it here. 

To sign up for traffic alerts and project updates from Spokane Valley visit the city's website and click on "follow us." 

Valley Fest took flight

This weekend marked another wonderful Valley Fest celebration - the 25th to be exact. Check out photographer Dan Pelle's slide show from the festive weekend here. And share your favorite Valley Fest memories in the comments below. 

Zombie breakfast not a dead affair

I attended the Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce "Zombie Breakfast" this morning at Mirabeau Park Hotel and got a chance to say hello to the new president and CEO of the chamber, Katherine Morgan. John Guarisco said that Morgan was selected from a group of 20 highly qualified applicants. 

"It was very difficult," Guarisco said, "but she was the one person who was just a bundle of passion for Spokane Valley."


Hello Spokane Valley

- I'm your new designated reporter and I am looking to have some fun with this blog, too. I just spent a good hour visiting with Carolbelle Branch at City Hall, and she helped me come up with a list of people and places to visit as I get a sense of my new beat. 

I will be taking the blog on the road in Spokane Valley on a regular basis - hopefully once a week - and I encourage you to come out and meet with me. The easiest way to keep track of me is to friend me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter; I will be posting invites there as I go. Story ideas are always welcome at piah@spokesman.com 

More about those business licenses issued to new pot lounge

Spokane Valley officials are concerned that some readers may have mistakenly inferred the city is sanctioning marijuana use at a new members-only social club because it issued business licenses to the establishment.

The Lounge, located in the former Ringo's casino at Sprague and Bowdish, is getting around state prohibitions on public marijuana use by operating as a private club. Owners acknowledged in a July 26 article that they're operating in a legal gray area but believe they've cobbled together a legally defensible business model.

City spokeswoman Carolbelle Branch says the only business licenses the Valley has issued to the Lounge are for its social club and its consulting service, which is how the company refers to its on-site medical marijuana dispensary. Branch said the licenses in no way reflect the city's sanctioning of marijuana use on the premises, noting that regulatory power rests with other agencies.

The establishment is blending Washington's newfound tolerance for recreational marijuana with the more loosely regulated medical marijuana and the built-in loopholes that private social clubs have long enjoyed in this state. The result is a mix of regulatory jurisdictions, many of which are still trying to sort out the state's largely untested laws and how to enforce them.

Either way, as noted in the original article, law enforcement has pledged to take a zero tolerance approach to impaired driving regardless of whether it's drugs or alcohol

Valley imposes more restrictions on pot retailers

Valley leaders unanimously adopted new restrictions on recreational marijuana retailers tonight despite warnings from pot entrepreneurs that it could doom the fledgling industry's success here.

The local restrictions go beyond the existing state prohibitions on marijuana operations within 1,000 feet of schools, parks and libraries. In the Valley, retail operations also are now prohibited within 1,000 feet of the Centennial Trial and planned Appleway Trail, as well as any land earmarked for future schools, parks or libraries. A late addition to the ordinance also prohibits retail operations near Spokane Valley City Hall or city-owed property that could be used for parks or city operations in the future.

Several people urged the council to reject the additional restrictions, with some prospective retailers warning that they may have to consider a lawsuit against the city if the additional restrictions prevent them from finding suitable locations to open their stores.

Crystal Orcutt called the restrictions hypocritical because no other industry faces the same types of restrictions. Orcutt noted that there's an adult products emporium across the street from city hall and several bars and cocktail lounges nearby, both of which she suggested pose greater threats to the health of the community.

"The zoning restrictions that are being suggested here tonight are too restrictive," she said.

The proposal was approved unanimously without comment by council members.




Remember this restaurant?

You probably can't take your eyes off those cars.


Loud music leads to arrest

A man who refused to turn his music down after repeated visits from the Spokane Valley Police Department found himself temporarily housed in the Spokane County Jail.

An officer was called to the 1100 block of North University Road around 7:45 p.m. Monday on a noise complaint. The officer reported hearing the music well down the street and feeling the bass in his body, said police spokesman Deputy Craig Chamberlin. The resident, identified as 27-year-old Zachary Villareal, was less than cooperative and reportedly told the officer “This is the third time you guys have been here. Why don’t you just give me a ticket so I can go back to my music.”

Once Villareal made it clear he had no intention of lowering the volume he was arrested for a violation of the city’s noise ordinance, said Chamberlin.

City eases its own pot restrictions

Spokane Valley eased restrictions tonight on where recreational marijuana can be grown and packaged.

The move is designed to open industrial sites north of the Spokane River along the city’s eastern edge that were excluded when Spokane Valley imposed a 1,000-foot buffer around the Centennial Trail. Retail marijuana stores are still prohibited within the buffers.

Commercial real estate agents, industrial property owners and would-be marijuana producers told council members the river is a better buffer than an arbitrary 1,000 feet, and that opening up the industrial sites even to limited production and processing will bring new companies and jobs to the city.

The council unanimously approved the change.

More than 30 companies have applied to the state for production and processing licenses in Spokane Valley, while 43 more have applied for retail licenses. The state will allow just three retail operations in the city, but there’s no geographical limit on the number of licensed producers and processors.