Please turn your heads and cough as we present the 24th running of the Budnick Awards.
This is a much-anticipated event here at the old newspaper. It is the day we ring in the new year by revisiting the odd, the weird and the dubious news items from the past 12 months.
But let’s first take a moment to acknowledge the man behind this beloved tradition.
Thomas P. Budnick, that is.
Budnick was a Massachusetts social worker some 25 years ago when I wrote about his obsession for filing Martian mining claims through Spokane County.
See, he had searched the country and found Spokane County was the only government greedy enough to take his money and stamp his claims for mineral rights on the planet Mars.
Selecting Budnick-worthy items is not easy.
All year long, I painstakingly clip and save contenders from the daily paper in a file that grows thick as the months roll by.
Then, just after Christmas, I realize that Budnick time is upon me.
That’s when I wander around the house in a panic, yelling, “HAS ANYONE SEEN THE #&!$%ING BUDNICK FILE?”
Once it is located, however, I set about the difficult business of separating the cream from the crud and writing appropriate, snappy headlines. This year’s job was easier thanks to my good pal (and retired features editor) Rick Bonino, who graciously collaborated with me in the headline writing.
But enough already.
Let’s get on with the 2011 Budnick Awards.
Take Me Out to the Brawl Game
A wild, bench-clearing melee during a Spokane Indians baseball game with the Vancouver Canadians at Avista Stadium leads to six suspensions and a league record 51 players fined.
Accelerating to Civic Fame
Spokane ranks No. 1 among Washington cities and No. 4 in the nation when it comes to the rate of auto thefts.
The Graft Is Always Greener …
After less than a year as a Washington state senator, Spokane Republican Michael Baumgartner decides to run for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Maria Cantwell.
She’s Just Resting Her Case
A Spokane County juror is removed after she falls asleep during a vehicular manslaughter trial and then tells the judge that it’s OK she’d missed some testimony.
But Not the Bats in Her Belfry
Barbara Lampert, who has run for office every year since the mid-1990s, loses her bid to become Spokane mayor despite promising voters that, if elected, she will mount a crackdown on city-dwelling skunks, crows, squirrels and marmots.
Coach Crying Wulff
“The people that know football know I should keep the job,” says Washington State University football coach Paul Wulff, who, in his four years, has led the Cougars to a 9-40 record with no bowl game appearances.
No Wrinkles in This Caper
Coeur d’Alene police search for a woman suspected of stealing $1,700 worth of Botox and Juvederm treatments from a dermatologist’s office.
Grub Waits With Baited Breath
The giant Palouse earthworm loses its second bid to make the federally protected endangered species list.
Better Off at Barber College
Students arrive for classes at Alpine College only to find the doors locked and a note proclaiming the Spokane Valley vocational school to be “permanently closed.”
Punks, Hoods and Scum Work Fine
A federal judge bars prosecutors from using terms like “Hells Angels,” “Mongols” and “gangs” in the upcoming Spokane trial of Ricky Jenks, the sergeant-at-arms for the Washington state chapter of the Hells Angels.
Voters Spoke Loud and Clear
Spokane mayoral candidate Robert Kroboth, who is creamed in the primary election, won’t appear in candidate forums or participate in candidate interviews during the campaign.
Give Guy Hazardous Booty Pay
During a search of Richard D. Hall, a Spokane County jailer discovers 14 grams of meth in the man’s shoe and “bodily orifice.”
Who Asked These Artless Dumbos?
Ganesha, an artwork depicting the Hindu god with an elephant head, is an “abomination” according to members of the Kootenai County Constitution Party who protest the public unveiling of the four-armed sculpture in downtown Coeur d’Alene.
Inducted into Hall of Shame
Eddie Ray Hall – one of the Spokane area’s most notorious career criminals with at least 20 felony convictions – heads off to a lengthy prison stretch after pleading guilty to a federal drug charge.
Hail Mary, Holy Molar
Spokane Valley dentist Michael Trantow removes an old crown covering a patient’s tooth and sees the image of the Virgin Mary staring back at him on the exposed tooth.
What’s Happened to Skipping Class?
A bomb threat at Coeur d’Alene’s Lake City High School is linked to a 16-year-old boy who left the note to get out of math class.
We’re Proud of Our Potholes, Too
Spokane has 650 miles of missing sidewalks.
Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow
Hayden nurse Cynthia Lynn Van Holland is arrested in California, ending her four-state, 21-bank holdup spree as the wig-wearing Bad Hair Bandit.
More Like Party Planning Director
Scott Chesney, Spokane’s new planning director, used city credit cards while working at Surprise, Ariz., to buy alcohol for himself and his staff.
Pop Go the Weasels
Police suspect “neighborhood hoodlums” for blowing up a soda machine in front of Broadway Foods, a Spokane grocery store.
Proud Mary Ain’t Rollin’ No More
Riding high after a landslide primary win, Spokane Mayor Mary Verner is beaten soundly in the general election, becoming the 10th mayor in a row to fall victim to the city’s Curse of the One-Term Mayor.
Bigfoot? Naw, That’s Steve Tucker
Hikers claim to capture video image of Bigfoot traipsing through the woods near Downriver Golf Course.
A Costly Interception
NFL great Drew Bledsoe’s visit to Coeur d’Alene is marred when the retired quarterback’s $5,000 mountain bike is stolen off a rack on his car.
Not Only Racist, But a Neo-Nutsy
Self-avowed racist Kevin W. Harpham claims the remote-controlled, rat poison-laced bomb he planted on the route used by Martin Luther King Jr. Day marchers was not terrorism, but just a “creative” protest against the so-called evils of multiculturalism.
Damn That Evil Ganesha!
Kootenai County property values slip for the fourth year in a row.
Thin Blue Line of Bull
“We don’t want people to have that false impression that just because you make a police report a detective is going to look at it,” says Spokane Police Officer Jennifer DeRuwe on the disbanding of the SPD property crimes unit.
Gave Him a Civil Right-Cross
Marlon Baker, who is black, delivers a one-punch knockout to Daren Christopher Abbey after the self-proclaimed skinhead tells Baker that black people don’t belong in Bayview and threatens to stab him, police say.
No Wonder Chesney Came Here
According to a survey sponsored by a liquor company, Spokane is America’s boldest town.
Wham, Bam, Goodbye Ham
A 500-pound pig’s escape from a minivan in the Spokane Valley is short-lived when Washington State Patrol Trooper Morgan Mehaffey fatally guns down the beast after Taser shocks prove ineffective.