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Letters for Oct. 19, 2023

There is a better way – vote Lisa Brown

Upon receiving an honorary degree from Whitworth last week, Bryan Stevenson said: “If I’ve helped anybody, it’s because I’ve gotten proximate to a condemned person and heard his song. Sometimes we just have to be close enough to put our arms around them and affirm their humanity.” Substitute “homeless” for “condemned” and think about what his philosophy means for us in Spokane.

“Affirming the humanity” of people who are marginalized is a driving force behind how Lisa Brown approaches public service. Ensuring government works for people who are struggling – whether it be with housing, health care, personal safety, or employment – is behind her long list of accomplishments. Lisa has listened to the life stories of people who are unhoused, learned from the nonprofits who are on the front lines of serving them, and knows that it will take a range of community strategies to help people to housing and personal security.

In contrast, Nadine Woodward’s stated goal is to “make it more difficult to be homeless.” She believes some frontline providers are trying to “embarrass” her and “tar her administration.” I have heard her go after them by name in public debates this fall, while in the next sentence touting herself as someone who “brings people together.”

A mayor who blames the unhoused for their situation and takes public challenges as personal affronts cannot move our city forward. There is a better way. Elect Lisa Brown as our next mayor!

Sally Pritchard


Barging wheat on the lower Snake River

Once again, supporters of the lower Snake River dams claim the sky may soon be falling – that if Snake River barging is lost, farm bankruptcies will spread across Eastern Washington and north central Idaho.

When all container-on-barge shipping on the Lower Snake ceased in 2016, similar predictions were made about growers of pulse (lentils, peas and garbanzos). If any splurge of bankruptcies occurred, this was a well-kept secret.

Currently, about 75% of wheat shipped to Washington’s and Oregon’s deep-water ports is transported by rail; only 15% is barged on the Lower Snake.

Throughout much of Eastern Washington, and from as far away as Montana and North Dakota, farmers ship their wheat by rail. Without the benefit of subsidized barging, using rail has nevertheless left these farmers financially intact.

Wheat farmers who do barge their wheat on the lower Snake pay just one-third the dollar cost of Lower Snake River shipping. Taxpayers fund the other two-thirds, at least $30 million per year – over $40,000 per loaded barge – even when excluding additional barging costs on the lower Columbia and the costs of fish and wildlife mitigation.

Barging is the most expensive means of transporting wheat to the West Coast.

Linwood Laughy


Oppose Spokane County’s jail tax

It’s hard not to be cynical about the Spokane County’s Measure 1 initiative to authorize paying $1.7 billion over 30 years for a new jail and other public safety improvements. I don’t doubt their sincerity. I doubt their integrity. Current and former county commissioners – Al French, Shelly O’Quinn and Josh Kerns – spent years in opposition to the Spokane Tribe Casino. Think of all the time and money they wasted fighting what city leaders in Airway Heights have praised as a major economic driver on the West Plains. Then there was the bipartisan state initiative to expand the board of county commissioners from three to five, bringing better representation of Spokane County’s 560,000 residents on the commission. Al French sued the state challenging the law’s constitutionality which the Washington State Supreme Court unanimously rejected.

Finally, there was former Spokane Regional Health District Administrator Amelia Clark’s chaotic, confusing and apparently illegal attempt to fire the county’s Health Officer Dr. Bob Lutz, a well-respected public health official with a reputation for speaking up for underserved communities. Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward called it the “best news I’ve heard in a long time.” Al French said, “she is doing what we hired her to do.”

I will vote “no” on giving a huge blank check to a group that’s proven many times that it is not accountable, reliable or even respectful of Spokane citizens and taxpayers.

Mark Bryant


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