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Inslee to Yakima: Don’t appeal Voting Rights ruling

OLYMPIA — The city of Yakima should not appeal a federal judge's order that invalidates the way city officials are elected because is unfair to Latinos , Gov. Jay Inslee said today.

In a letter to the Yakima City Council, Inslee said it should"show leadership" and focus on a plan that will improve its system. 

U.S. District Thomas Rice recently found Yakima in violation of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and invalidated the way city council members are elected. Under the current system, four council members run in districts for the primary but citywide in the general; three others are elected citywide. That system "routinely suffocates the voting preferences of the Latino minority," Rice said and set an Oct. 3 hearing for redistricting plans.

Many jurisdictions in the state suffer from a lack of diversity in political leadership and representation, Inslee wrote in a letter to the council. "This is an opportunity for a show of civic leadership that I believe would be admired throughout Washington," he wrote.

Woman arrested in death of Sunnyside man

YAKIMA, Wash. (AP) — Yakima County sheriff’s detectives have arrested a 20-year-old woman in the death of a 23-year-old Sunnyside man whose body was found Friday in the trunk of his girlfriend’s car on the Yakama Nation reservation.

The sheriff’s office says the suspect was tracked through phone records.

The Yakima Herald-Republic reports (http://bit.ly/1a73LKw ) the sheriff’s office hasn’t said whether the woman arrested is the girlfriend.

Alberto Gabriel Martinez was last seen alive on Thursday night. The autopsy was scheduled for Monday.

Sunday spin: Value of debate over debates is debatable

A sign that Washington’s campaign season remains in the doldrums, despite the fact that ballots are in voters’ hands – or at least languishing under a pile of junk mail on some counter – arrived last week with the announcement two gubernatorial debates had been scheduled.
One will be in Vancouver at the end of August and another in Yakima in early October. This is great news, not solely because putting Jay Inslee and Rob McKenna on the same stage is instructive for voters and good theater for political junkies. These are also two places that often have little chance to get up close and personal with gubernatorial candidates, let alone host a debate.
If Spokane complains about being a second-class citizen in the eyes of some statewide campaigns, other parts of the state might rightfully note they are in steerage. (Information about the venues is in the post below.)
The oddest thing about the announcement . . .

To read the rest of this post, or to comment, go inside the blog.

Gubernatorial debates in the ‘hustings’

The Vancouver gubernatorial debate on Aug 29 will be at the Washington State University-Vancouver campus, and has a long list of sponsors including the local ports, the public schools, development councils, newspapers, civic and business groups. So many that it might be quicker to say who wasn’t on board, which is, apparently, nobody.
Troy Van Dinter, who has the job of herding cats for the debate, said it’s the first gubernatorial debate in the Vancouver area that anyone involved can remember. It will be televised by Portland station KATU, and may be picked up by stations in Seattle and Spokane.
The Yakima gubernatorial debate will take place during a conference of Hispanic chambers of commerce on Oct. 2, and be televised KCTS, Seattle’s public television station, which is supplying the moderator, Enrique Cerna. It might be picked up by other public television stations across the state.
  

Feds: Dad gave marijuana to young kids

A medical marijuana patient arrested in Yakima Monday told authorities he provided marijuana to his three young children.

Troy Mallard Craig, 32, said two of his children also have medical marijuana cards, according to a complaint filed today in U.S. District Court.

Agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration executed a search warrant at Craig's home in the 3300 block of Barge Street about 4:15 p.m. and seized 67 marijuana plants, bags of processed marijuana, a digital scale and several medical marijuana cards.

Craig said he'd been growing marijuana for about two years and giving it to five or six friends in exchange for "donations."

"Craig admitted to providing marijuana in one form or another to all three of his children, ages 2, 5, and 7," according to the complaint.

Craig remains jailed in Yakima after appearing before U.S. Magistrate James Hutton Tuesday.
  

Karl Thompson Taken Into Custody

A federal judge in Yakima ordered Spokane Police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. taken into custody this morning following his conviction on charges of using excessive force and lying to investigators. Some three dozen Spokane Police officers and other supporters stood when someone yeled “Present Arms” and saluted Thompson as he was led away, without being handcuffed, after being convicted of using excessive force on Otto Zehm and later lying to cover up his actions. As the crowd saluted in unison, Jeffry Finer turned and apologized to Zehm’s family, whom Finer is representing in a companion civil suit. “The salute was meant to be respectful,” Finer said. “But it seemed to be given with no thought of the victim’s family seated inches away”/Thomas Clouse, SR. More here. (Dan Pelle SR file photo — of Karl Thompson)

Question: Should Karl Thompson have been taken into custody so soon after the verdict?

AM: Karl Thompson Found Guilty 2X

Spokane police officer Karl Thompson, right, waits to cross the street after leaving the William O. Douglas Federal Courthouse in Yakima, Wash. Wednesday. A federal court jury on Wednesday convicted Thompson of using excessive force on a mentally ill man who died in 2006 after being struck and Tasered at a convenience store. Story here. (AP Photo/The Spokesman-Review, Christopher Anderson)

Clark: Jury Nailed Thompson Verdict

It takes a lot to get to a guy like me. Many journalists hide behind a shield of cynicism, and I’ve had 37 years of practice. But I’ll admit it. I choked up Wednesday afternoon when my Mom called to relay the bombshell she’d just heard on TV. The jurors I had watched so intently the other day during my visit to a Yakima federal courtroom had delivered a courageous verdict. They convicted Karl Thompson, the Spokane thug cop who beat Otto Zehm like a dog five years ago in a North Division convenience store. They found Thompson guilty for all those cruel, unwarranted baton strikes and Taser shocks that robbed the mentally ill man of his dignity and ultimately his life. And guilty for all the lies Thompson told afterward to cover his sorry ass/Doug Clark, SR. More here.

Question: Were you surprised by the guilty verdicts in the Karl Thompson case?

Thompson Guilty On Both Counts

A jury has convicted Spokane Police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. of needlessly beating Otto Zehm and then lying about it to cover up his actions. The verdict comes five years and seven months since Zehm’s life ended and growing questions of police accountability began. Prosecutors are expected to seek a prison term of six to eight years, arguing that Thompson was in a position of trust and that Zehm, who was schizophrenic, was particularly vulnerable. … Despite the criminal conviction, Thompson, 64, was allowed to remain free pending a follow up hearing before a magistrate in Spokane to argue continued release conditions. He posted a $50,000 signature bond following the criminal indictment in 2009/Thomas Clouse, SR. More here.

Reaction to verdict?

Clark: Venue Change Slaps Spokane

The verdict is in. Anyone desiring to watch the upcoming federal trial of Karl Thompson Jr. – the Spokane cop whose deadly encounter with Otto Zehm earned him an excessive force charge – must fill up the tank and travel 200 miles to Yakima. Apparently we wags of the local media are to blame for potentially tainting the jury pool with our blather. Yakima? I can’t recall the last time I was in Yakima, but I think it had something to do with mad cow disease. There’s no use whining. U.S. District Court Judge Fred Van Sickle has made up his mind, sort of.  The judge, according to our news account, conceded he wasn’t convinced that Zehm-related coverage by local media created “actual” or “perceived” bias against Thompson. Not about to be swayed by the soundness of his logic, however, the judge moved the trial anyway/Doug Clark, SR. More here.

Question: Come to think of it, I've never been to Yakima, Wash. Have you? Good experience?

Yakima bans sex offenders at swim pools

YAKIMA, Wash. (AP) — The Yakima City Council has voted to ban sex offenders from using city swimming pools, a move allowed under a little-used 2006 state law.

City officials believe the ban approved Tuesday is a first under a Washington trespass law that allows cities and other entities such as schools, libraries and day-care centers to ban certain sex offenders from pools, parks, playgrounds and other facilities with the primary purpose of educating or caring for children.
 
"This is just one protection that we feel is important," said Councilwoman Kathy Coffey, who pushed for the policy. "We're doing what we can to protect the youth of our city."
 
The pre-emptive application of the law, rather than on a case-by-case basis, could draw a civil rights challenge, the Yakima Herald-Republic reported.
 
The ban applies only to Level 2 or Level 3 sex offenders whose crimes involved children.
 
There are about 50 sex offenders residing within city limits and another 50 in the Upper Valley who qualify for the ban, interim police Chief Greg Copeland told the council.
 
A detective already assigned to track sex offenders would add notifications to his caseload and update the list on a quarterly basis, Copeland said. Process servers will ensure notifications are made in person.
 
City officials became aware in December that a Level 3 sex offender had been swimming at Lions Pool, one of the city's two municipal pools. The other is Franklin Pool.
 
The 49-year-old man attended a budget hearing at City Hall because he had heard a rumor the council was considering closing Lions Pool. Then-police Chief Sam Granato recognized the man, who has a history of run-ins with police. The man was convicted of attempting to molest an 8-year-old girl in 1996.
 
Many states ban registered sex offenders from living close to or loitering at schools and other places frequented by children.

Longton Wins 44th Annual Yakima Speedway Apple Cup

2008 Yakima Fall Classic winner and past late model champion, Mike Longton, jumped out to the lead at lap 48 of the 44th Annual Yakima Speedway Apple Cup and never looked back en route to the victory.

Where the jobs are: go to Yakima, the Tri-Cities…

So says a quarterly survey by the staffing company Manpower, reported recently in Forbes. From the article:

Cities in the Pacific Northwest and Texas have the best employment outlook for April through June, while cities in the the Southeast have the weakest, according to the study.

Yakima’s 21 percent projected increase in employment — apparently due to a strong apple crop and processing — gave it “the strongest employment outlook in the country” for Q2 of 2009.

Kennewick was No. 2, with 19 percent growth expected. No. 3 was Anchorage, Alaska.

And the worst job prospects? Hello, Florida, hit hard by the construction bubble and then hit again by the tourism slump.

State Rep. John Driscoll — whose predecessor, John Ahern, frequently talked about “a great sucking sound” as employers took their jobs to nearby Idaho — said he was pleased by the news.

“Well, he indeed heard a sucking noise, but he had the direction wrong,” said Driscoll, D-Spokane. “The good jobs are coming here.”

Former state Rep. Mary Skinner dies at 63…

Former state Rep. Mary Skinner died this morning at her home in Yakima, less than a year after announcing that she was stepping down from her legislative seat to battle colon cancer. She was 63.

Elected to the House in 1994, Skinner served 14 years in Olympia, including two as vice chair of the House Republican caucus. The daughter of migrant workers in California, she spent virtually all her life in the Yakima Valley, moving to Wapato with her family when she was 3 months old.

Among the bills she championed in Olympia: double fines in school zones, a car seat safety law, hiring a state poet laureate, and extending insurance coverage to cover colon cancer screening. She pushed for state money to revamp Yakima’s downtown, including the Capitol Theatre.

Skinner was diagnosed in early 2006, undergoing surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatments. After a brief remission, the cancer returned.

Skinner was married for 40 years to Henry Harlow “Hal” Skinner Jr., a surgeon. Dr. Skinner died Jan. 17 at 88.

The two will be honored at a joint funeral service, which is still being scheduled.