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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Shawn Vestal

Stories by Shawn Vestal

Current Position: columnist

Shawn Vestal joined The Spokesman-Review in 1999. He currently is a columnist for the City Desk.


All Stories

News >  Business

Market Mavens

Business students at Gonzaga University have been among the best teams in an annual stock-market investment competition among colleges. This year, their investment strategy is simple: Stay out of the market, at least for now.
News >  Spokane

Spokane homes faring well

A tenth of the people who sold homes in Spokane County in the past year sold them for less than they paid originally, according to a new national report. And home values in the county dropped by 9 percent in the past 12 months, with an estimated 85 percent of all homes declining in value, according to a report prepared by, an online site that compiles and analyzes real estate information. Other real estate reports, however, indicate the decline in value is less than 9 percent.
News >  Spokane

Safe keeping

The credit crunch is bringing back an old payment strategy for the holidays: layaway. A pay-over-time strategy first popularized during the Great Depression, layaway allows customers to put a down payment on regular store purchases – from winter coats to Christmas gifts – and pay them off over time, for a relatively small fee. The practice has disappeared at many retailers, as easy credit made it seem obsolete to many customers. But at the stores that offer it – including chains such as Kmart and the Burlington Coat Factory, and Spokane’s General Store – officials say demand for the practice is stronger than it’s been in years.

News >  Spokane

More Americans are going bankrupt

October was a scary month in more ways than one. More people filed for bankruptcy – in the Inland Northwest and nationally – than in any month since laws governing the process changed in 2005.
News >  Spokane

Biting your food budget

As household budgets get tighter, people are cutting back on eating in restaurants and spending more time in the kitchen. Almost three-quarters of respondents to a recent survey by the Food Marketing Institute said they were cooking at home more often – and 58 percent said they were eating more leftovers.
News >  Spokane

Crisis cripples confidence, trust

Bob Lavigne has a decent understanding of what’s going on with the financial crisis. He can talk about credit swaps, housing defaults, oil bidding and Chinese investment in the economy. And yet, after the last few tumultuous weeks he feels like he’s in the dark.
News >  Spokane

Keeping Finances in check

For some people, a household budget is elementary. For others, though, it’s an alien idea. Either way, making and sticking to a budget is the first step financial advisers suggest for people who are looking to put their economic lives in order. You need to understand where your money is going before you can start to control it, and a budget can help provide the discipline you might otherwise lack. Before you start jotting down numbers, experts say, you should have an idea of what you want your financial life to look like. A basic expectation would be that you spend less than you earn – for many people, achieving that would be a success. But you should also have a long-term goal in mind, whether it’s getting out of debt or boosting your savings. You can use the form at left to at least begin figuring out the contours of a monthly budget. Keep it simple, at least to start
News >  Spokane

Utility expenses, shut-offs on rise

As the economy has weakened during the past year, more people have found themselves without power because they can’t pay the bills. Across the Inland Northwest, power companies report more shut-offs compared to last year. For Avista, disconnects are up 10 percent among electric and natural gas customers in Eastern Washington, North Idaho and parts of Oregon. The increase is 5 percent at Inland Power and Light and Kootenai Electric – two cooperatives that serve more than 50,000 customers between them.
News >  Spokane

Thrift or treat

When the economy’s going sour, Halloween can seem a little sweeter. A new survey shows that more Americans plan to celebrate the holiday this year, and they plan to spend more than in years past. The survey, by the National Retail Federation, puts the average Halloween spending expected this year at $66.54. Since 2001, that figure has increased 75 percent – to a total of $5.77 billion. It’s not exactly bailout money, but it’s not chopped candy corn. With the holiday a couple weeks away, here are 10 tips and random facts to help you plan your Halloween. One caveat: The list doesn’t include costumes that require sewing or extensive creative work. If you’re doing that, you don’t need any advice from us. 1Make your own. Costumes take the biggest bite in terms of Halloween spending, at an average of $24.17. A cruise through a secondhand store can turn up myriad alternatives at a lower price. Value Village manager Shawn Vose said his store now has “costume consultants” dressed up and roaming the aisles, offering customers help. “Generally, we can get a costume together for under twenty bucks,” he said. If all else fails, there’s always the sheet, the scissors and the magic marker.
News >  Spokane

UI researcher won’t be deported

A University of Idaho researcher is back on the job, a year after a tangled immigration case left her unemployed and facing deportation. Katarzyna Dziewanowska, a Polish scientist who has studied possible ways to counter bioterrorism, was granted authorization to return to work in September. In addition, federal immigration officials reopened her application for permanent residency.
News >  Spokane

West Side weekend

A trip to Seattle – whether it’s for a Seahawks game or a film festival – is a pretty common weekend escape. But depending on how you get there and how many people go along, the price tag for travel can range from less than $100 to more than $1,000.
News >  Spokane

With wise choices, packed lunches pay off

The brown lunch bag – folded at the top, with an apple-shaped bulge – is the very image of thrift. For people looking to cut spending, brown-bagging instead of buying lunch is a dependable way to do it. But what about for your kids? The price of school lunch makes it a closer call – depending on how you fill those sandwiches, you could easily spend more per day than the typical cost at the cafeteria. Full-price lunches range from $2 to $2.90 in our region, depending on the school and grade level.
News >  Spokane

Holy Trinity tradition 73 tasty years strong

The orzo was cooked and the long tables laid. In the downstairs kitchen of the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, cans of green beans stood waiting for the Arger family, who prepare them every year. Outside, people lined up at the grill for souvlakia and listened to Greek music on the loudspeakers. In the chapel, visitors photographed the stained glass and paintings.
News >  Spokane

Albert Wilkerson Jr.

Horses first brought Albert Wilkerson Jr. to North Idaho. The people, he says, made him want to return.
News >  Spokane

Camilo Madero

Camilo Madero came to Spokane for the most typical of reasons. “It’s the ideal place to raise a family,” said the 40-year-old architect, who lived most of his life in Bogota, Colombia, and San Juan, Puerto Rico. “It’s very quiet. It’s a small city. … Big cities are very nice, but they have pros and cons.”
News >  Spokane

Estela Gonzalez

When Estela Gonzalez moved to Rathdrum with her family in 1982, she felt alone and despondent. A Mexican native who’d been living in California, Gonzalez didn’t speak English and felt walled off from the community.
News >  Spokane

Francell Daubert

Francell Daubert’s grandfather found opportunity in Spokane. Along with other black people who came to the Inland Northwest from the pre-civil-rights-era South, Elmo Dalbert and his partner, Jim Chase, ran a successful business and became part of a generation of prominent civil-rights figures in Spokane during an era of expanding prospects and social change. Chase eventually became Spokane’s first and only black mayor.
News >  Spokane

21st century gold rush

Nick Crocker’s seen it again and again: Bad times are good for gold. With every blow to the economy – from the mortgage crisis to the failure of economic giants to plummeting stock values – the solidity of gold shines brighter for some investors, said Crocker, who’s owned the Coin Corner in Spokane Valley for 29 years.
News >  Spokane

College, custom-built

When Brian Campbell heads to college this fall, he’ll be driving five days a week between Spokane and Cheney. His wife, Heather, will head to her home computer – a trip that’s a good bit more fuel-efficient.
News >  Spokane

WSU, EWU chiefs rewarded

Times are lean at Washington’s public universities. Hiring is frozen or nearly so at both Washington State and Eastern Washington universities. Travel budgets have been slashed. Administrators are looking to pinch pennies anywhere they can. But one area that hasn’t come in for the austerity treatment is presidential salaries. At WSU, President Elson Floyd was just given a 21 percent raise after his first year on the job – a boost that takes his annual salary to $725,000 and puts him in the same league as University of Washington President Mark Emmert, one of the best-paid college presidents in the nation.
News >  Spokane

Spokane soldier, 23, killed in Iraq

Rose Marie Alfonso said she was prepared for some kinds of bad news when her husband, Carlo, deployed to Iraq. Post-traumatic stress disorder, perhaps. Struggling to return to civilian life.
News >  Spokane

Colleges resist lower drinking age

A mini-movement among college presidents to consider a lower drinking age isn’t catching on among university leaders in the Inland Northwest. None of the college presidents in Eastern Washington or North Idaho has signed the Amethyst Initiative, an effort that declares the 21-year-old drinking age a failure and urges lawmakers to consider changing it. Some 129 college presidents have signed the initiative, including the top leaders at Duke, Dartmouth and Ohio State.
News >  Spokane

Area colleges getting greener

A garden that lives on rainwater. A no-till wheat field on campus. Campaigns against plastic bottles and paper cups. From cafeterias to research labs, the region’s colleges are making environmental practices and programs a growing priority in every corner of campus life.
News >  Spokane

For big vehicle fleets, eliminating lefts is right

When your annual gasoline bills reach into the millions, every little bit helps. That’s why operators of large vehicle fleets, from the post office to school districts, are examining routes to eliminate the scourge of left-hand turns.