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With trains rumbling on the BNSF viaduct behind her and flanked by uniformed Spokane firefighters, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Washington, called for greater federal oversight and stricter regulations for the nation’s railways carrying crude oil. Cantwell – who was joined by Spokane Mayor David Condon, Council President Ben Stuckart, Fire Chief Bobby Williams and Spokane Valley Deputy Chief of Operations Andy Hail – stood in front of Spokane Fire Station No. 4 and said Spokane had a particular interest in oil train safety but was not unique in its concern.
Residents in the Hillyard neighborhood won’t need long to learn that the head of the new North Police Precinct, Capt. Craig Meidl, is friendly and has a sense of humor. He’s also happy to give tours of a facility so new that there is no furniture, and the coffee pot hadn’t even been plugged in. The new police precinct at the southeast corner of Market Street and Diamond Avenue had a grand opening celebration Tuesday afternoon. Once you are past the front desk and reception area, there’s a large open room that has only two desks tucked in a corner.
Residents in the Hillyard neighborhood won’t need long to learn that the head of the new North Police Precinct, Capt. Craig Meidl, is friendly and has a sense of humor. He’s also happy to give tours of a facility so new that there is no furniture, and the coffee pot hadn’t even been plugged in.
Before you get angry that a section of Northwest Boulevard will be closed for an entire year, count to 10. Actually, count to 43, because that’s how many city of Spokane projects are planned for this year’s construction season, which began Monday just south of the intersection of Northwest Boulevard and West Garland Avenue.
Pacing back and forth at the edge of the stage, far from the lectern but nearer his audience, Spokane Mayor David Condon gave a confident, upbeat appraisal of his first three years in office in his annual State of the City address, noting that much of his administration’s work at City Hall began with the premise: “What would happen if?” Condon pointed to changes at the city during his tenure, including a revamped plan to keep pollutants out of the river, the hiring of more police officers, and the success of the Riverfront Park bond and street levy.
A BNSF freight train pulling 103 cars of crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken formation derailed in rural Illinois last week, sending flames and jet-black smoke into the sky and triggering warnings from federal officials of a “substantial danger” of contaminating the Mississippi River. Last month, a similar incident occurred in rural West Virginia when an oil train carrying 70,000 barrels of Bakken oil derailed and exploded, engulfing 19 tanker cars in flames, destroying a home and sending giant fireballs 300 feet into the air. In 2013, a train carrying Bakken crude crashed in a Quebec town, killing 47 people.
An emergency rule issued last month by the Washington state Agriculture Department to protect the state’s $2 billion apple industry has threatened to derail Spokane’s curbside yard waste recycling program – just as the city is preparing to begin picking up green bins this week. The rule, which strengthens the department’s regulatory power over composting facilities, surprised city officials and the private operators of the city and county’s shared composting facility in Lincoln County. They warned that the rule could cost the city more than $1 million in upgrades or shut down entirely the green waste operation, which collects food scraps and yard debris.
When police Chief Frank Straub steps before the Spokane Use of Force Commission for the final time today, he will have a lot to report. But if he had to boil it down, he might just say: Crime is down, and so is the use of force by officers.
Spokane’s volunteer group Community Oriented Policing Services will move its headquarters out of the Public Safety Building this year, thanks to a city push to make the group more independent. For 2015, the group’s proposed contract with the city calls for COPS to manage its own leases, computers, utilities and other business expenses – expenses the city used to cover.
Envision Spokane, the twice-failed initiative seeking to bolster environmental protection and neighborhood and labor rights, will be before voters again, after a decision Thursday by a state appellate court. The ruling reverses a 2013 decision by a Superior Court judge to remove the controversial measure from that year’s general election ballot. The court ordered the city to put the measure on the next available ballot.
Jan Quintrall, the embattled head of Spokane’s Business and Developer Services division, announced her resignation from the city Tuesday, saying she had “broken the public’s trust, and I can’t repair that.” In a letter to her employees, Quintrall said the city’s “ongoing progress is continually being sidelined by the negative attention on me, with the focus being directed away from all the good staff is doing here.”
The Spokane administrator who led Spokane’s engineering, streets, business and other departments, announced Tuesday that she was resigning her position.
For nearly a decade, Spokane city leaders have called for expanded fire service in the southwest corner of town. This week, Spokane Mayor David Condon said his administration was making it a reality with the help of a $2 million federal grant, but solutions for funding a new fire station after the grant’s expiration remain unclear. Condon announced Thursday the city will “provide full-time, round-the-clock coverage in the area surrounding Thorpe and Highway 195,” thanks to the federal Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant. The grant money will be used to hire and train 12 firefighters, six of whom will staff a temporary fire station in Latah Valley. Two more positions for the station will be funded from the fire department’s current budget, providing for a two-person-per-unit station that can respond to fires and medical emergencies.
With $500 million of public works projects scheduled during the next five years, Spokane Mayor David Condon has a plan to create a qualified local workforce to help in construction. Condon announced Monday his idea to convene a group to discuss how best to train workers for construction careers, which he said will help raise Spokane’s depressed median income to national standards. The group will consist of veterans, people with disabilities, women, minorities, people with criminal records and young people, as well as contractors and union and business representatives, according to the mayor’s spokesman, Brian Coddington.
Whoever wrote the blotter report for the Post Falls Police Department on Thursday is a kindred spirit of Huckleberries. One brief report told of a woman and her roommate who were frightened by someone trying to break into their apartment. Upon investigation, the two women discovered that a “cat burglar” had tried but failed to enter their home. The report concluded: “This is most likely due to the absence of opposing thumbs.” … Another item told of a man who called the cops because a Post Falls convenience store clerk wouldn’t let him use the restroom. The man demanded his right to pee in the store because, after all, restaurants allow patrons to use their restrooms. The blotter noted: “The officer provided the male with clues that would help him later differentiate between a convenience store and a dining establishment.” … Finally, there was the Taco Bell worker bee who discovered “after a long night of nacho building” that he had locked himself out of his car. An officer opened the door with a slim jim. The blotter read: “A slim jim is a tool used to unlock a vehicle. Not to be confused with a stick of processed meat” … The report received 332 likes, 33 shares and 76 comments on Facebook, including this one from Councilwoman Kerri Thoreson: “I give this report two thumbs up!” He shall overcome
On Friday, the Justice Department will release its audit of the Spokane Police Department that began in February 2013. Follow our live coverage of the report’s release, which is expected to take place at a news conference at 11 a.m.
Almost 200 people packed the Spokane City Council chambers and Chase Gallery on Monday night for the council’s final meeting of the year. Most of them came to support an ordinance put forth by Council President Ben Stuckart mandating that a certain amount of work on public works construction projects be performed by apprentices. The measure passed in a veto-proof 5-2 vote after hours of testimony. It will “create a more skilled workforce” in Spokane, Stuckart said.
After hay bales were piled inside streetcar No. 202 and its blaze reddened the sky, after the flames were doused by firefighters and their six bathing suit-clad assistants, the day belonged to the bus. Billed as both celebration and commemoration, the public burning drew a crowd of 10,000 on Summit Boulevard in Spokane’s West Central neighborhood on Aug. 31, 1936. The event at Natatorium Park did more than mark the final journey of one streetcar in Spokane, which reportedly had logged more than 1.6 million miles during its 26 years of service. It marked the end of an era.
It was pouring hard when the time came to flip the switch to light up dozens of holiday light displays in Riverfront Park on Friday night, but the crowd of nearly 200 people stuck it out. Some even took the time to walk through the park to look at the displays before heading for cover.
Today I’ve got follow-ups on two recent columns – one about the mayor and city pensions, and one about magnificent facial hair. A couple of weeks back, I wrote about beards, hipster beardos and the notion of a “bearded lifestyle.” I poked some fun at the over-the-top seriousness of the modern beard trend, and in particular about the marketing hype that emerges from a company formed in Spokane, Beardbrand.