Wednesday, October 31, 2012

CITY HALL EYEBALL: As jobs get slashed, Condon wants big raises for city department heads

Posted By on Wed, Oct 31, 2012 at 4:48 PM

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It turns out at least three city directors making over $100,000 would get massive pay raises under Spokane Mayor David Condon's 2013 budget.

Council President Ben Stuckart told The Inlander Wednesday that the raises were not included in any of the city's budget presentations. According to numbers provided by Stuckart, Condon's budget includes:

- Chief Financial Officer Gavin Cooley will get a 13.7-percent pay increase to $143,091.

- Management and Budget Director Tim Dunivant, a 15.7 percent increase to $128,350.

- Accounting Director Pam Dolan, will get a 9.6-percent pay increase to $125,760.

Meanwhile, union employees like Spokane's firefighters have agreed to forego raises for 2013. And many city employees are receiving layoffs.

"Nobody's talking about giving the police a bunch of more raises because [fewer officers are] going to be covering more of the city," City Council President Ben Stuckart said.

More City Hall Eyeball right . . . about . . . here

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Behind the scenes of this week's cover story on Catholic nuns

Posted By on Wed, Oct 31, 2012 at 4:03 PM

In my reporting for my story, Holy War on Women, I found that not only are nuns not radical feminists — as they've recently been called — but incredibly selfless, hardworking believers in a very powerful, all-loving God.

But they're a dying breed: a population shrinking everyday, a group whose work is constantly overlooked and who, now, are being told to be more loyal and more doting to the Vatican.

And yet, despite all that, these women remain more faithful than ever.

For years, I've long been fascinated by the passion that drives the faithful and the God that presents itself in so many different ways to so many different people.

I used to think about God everyday. As a longtime product of Catholic schools, thinking and learning about religion was a large part of the classroom for me. As a kid, I was never instructed how to believe, but — as a friend recently put it — instead, taught how to think critically and understand the religious motivations that fueled the lives of so many around me, regardless if they were Catholic.

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I didn't grow up Catholic, though: my parents were the types that smiled wide when my brother bought a Buddha statue for his bedroom, and who smiled just as wide when I told them I thought I might be Catholic. And, again, a few years later when I said I might not believe anything at all.

But those people who do adhere to a strict religious code — regardless of what religion they call themselves — have always fascinated me. That curiosity led me to start this story in 2009, when the local Catholic diocese was emerging from a massive sexual abuse scandal. I wondered: who has faith so strong, right now, to lead them to want to be a priest or nun in that institution? Who has faith that can shield them in the face of adversity?

I didn't finish that story for one reason or another — but that question arose again recently when American Catholic nuns were hand-slapped by the powers in the Vatican on claims of "radical feminism." I thought, again, who has faith so strong, so unshakable, that they can still call themselves believers when they're on trial with the very institution they represent?

These women do. And their story — and the long fight they have ahead of them — is truly fascinating.

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Spokane Symphony drama gets national attention

Posted By on Wed, Oct 31, 2012 at 3:45 PM

The kerfuffle surrounding the Spokane Symphony's decision to cut the pay of its musicians has made waves outside of the Inland Northwest.

Huffington Post caught wind of the Symphony's 13.5 percent pay cut to musicians after they cut short negotiations with the players. We covered this in last week's edition of the paper.

The HuffPo story, is essentially an opinion piece arguing that the Symphony's musicians got a raw deal. Here's a sample of the piece by David Beem (who himself is a cellist):

Reflecting on the financial toll the 13.5 percent pay cut will have on Spokane Symphony's 62 full time musicians is an exercise in frustration. The identity of its musicians is largely married couples. (17 singles/45 married.) Poverty level in Spokane, for two adults and one child is $18,304. One adult, without children, hits the poverty threshold at $10,836. The contract in contention is offering roughly $15,000.

Things become more depressing when one grasps that poverty models don't accurately reflect the realities of musicians' lives. Spokane players, for instance, are saddled with considerable student debt. Masters and doctoral degrees are common among their ranks. Instruments, and instrument maintenance, cost a fortune also. Management is gorging itself on the benefits of these expenses, which are absorbed by labor on insultingly low wages, disproportionate to the symphony's fiscal outlook.

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Brad Pitt wants you to support marriage equality

Posted By on Wed, Oct 31, 2012 at 12:34 PM

Brad Pitt cut a check to the Human Rights Campaign in support of same-sex marriage, and he wants you to do the same.

The national organization, which is working in support of marriage equality across the country, announced the movie star's pledge today asking supporters to match his generosity in the next 24 hours.

$25,000 of his gift will go toward the fight to pass Washington's Referendum 74, which would uphold the legislature's legalization of same-sex marriage. The rest will go toward efforts in Maine, Maryland and Minnesota.

"This is our last chance to make a difference," Pitt says in a statement on the Campaign's website. "If you're like me, you don't want to have to ask yourself on the day after the election, what else could I have done."

According to Washington's Public Disclosure Commission, the Human Rights Campaign National Marriage Fund has raised about $517,000 so far. Washington United for Marriage, the pro-R74 camp, has seen plenty of other high-profile support, including $2.5 million from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and $600,000 from Bill and Melinda Gates. With that kind of backing, it's no surprise the campaign is out-fundraising Preserve Marriage Washington by about $9 million.

Read more about Washington's battle over same-sex marriage here.

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MORNING BRIEF: Idaho's laptops, money for the charter initiative and the return of presidential campaigning

Posted By on Wed, Oct 31, 2012 at 7:18 AM

Around here

More details are out about Idaho's new contract with Hewlett-Packard for school laptops. (SR)

The mother suspected of leaving her two young sons on the side of I-90 yesterday was arrested overnight. (KXLY)

In one of Washington's highest funded ballot fights this year, supporters of the charter school initiative — Initiative 1240 — have gotten another $1.5 million in recent days. (ST)

Out there

Mitt Romney is back on the campaign trail. (CBS) 

More gays are seeking Congressional office than ever before. (AP)

A breakdown of America's most expensive storms. (NPR) 

TV reporters who should probably just go inside already

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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

UPDATE: Hurricane death toll nears 50

Posted By on Tue, Oct 30, 2012 at 2:54 PM

The death toll in the U.S. from Hurricane Sandy's carnage has risen to nearly 50. (The hurricane already killed 69 people in the Caribbean before showing up here.) Rescue crews across the Jersey Shore are performing what New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie described as "urban search and rescue" for people who didn't evacuated before the storm made landfall yesterday evening.  

Here's some raw footage of the coastline shot today by a National Guard helicopter:

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Seven more Tibetans set themselves on fire to protest China

Posted By on Tue, Oct 30, 2012 at 12:19 PM

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When we interviewed Geshe Thupten Phelgye, one of the saddest subjects he spoke on was the young Tibetan Buddhists who are setting themselves on fire to protest China's occupation of their homeland (our story here.) Phelgye is a Tibetan Buddhist monk now in residence at Gonzaga University (that's him getting some birthday cake earlier this year).

The immolations continue to grow in number. Seven more have reportedly doused themselves in gasoline and burned in the past week alone, according to a Washington Post story out today. Chinese authorities, in fact, are offering big cash rewards to people who alert them in advance about suicidal protesters.

Phelgye wasn't optimistic about China leaving his homeland anytime soon.

“It’s very difficult, it’s very unfortunate, very painful, what can I say?” he told me in the interview. “Unless China’s authorities give some consideration over their problems, I don’t see so much change coming.”

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MORNING BRIEF: Hurricane Sandy kills 33, floods everything. Also, Spokane registers to vote

Posted By on Tue, Oct 30, 2012 at 8:15 AM

Here

Crime rates fall in Spokane, nationally (SR)

Lots of people registering gonna go vote (KXLY) 

Lots of Spokanistanites lose power after hit & run (KREM)

Sandyland 

Hurricane Sandy kills 33 in U.S., floods East Coast (WashPo)

Photos of Atlantic City, storm's epicenter (AC Press)

Photos of Jersey Shore (JS Hurricane News)

Photos of NYC (NYT)

Electricity and water: they don't mix

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Monday, October 29, 2012

MORNING BRIEF: WSU student dies, church pumpkin vandals, Hurricane Sandy

Posted By on Mon, Oct 29, 2012 at 9:52 AM

Here

WSU student dies in dorm (SR) 

Pumpkin vandals hate charity, destroy dreams (KXLY) 

There

Hurricane Sandy out for East Coast blood AC Press; Gawker; NYT; Wash Post.

San Fran Giants win MLB playoffs, spark riots (Huff Po)

More death in Syria (Guardian) 

The hurricane approaches

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Short fiction contest: We need your stories by Nov. 22

Posted By on Mon, Oct 29, 2012 at 9:33 AM

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Ladies and fellas: lock yourselves in the garrett with that typewriter.

It's time for The Inlander's Short Fiction Contest. 

The theme this year is "The End."

Be as literal or tangential as you'd like.

Multiple stories are ok too, just make sure that each story is 2,000 words or less.

The deadline is Nov. 22. Send stories as attached documents to Joe O'Sullivan, by 11:59 pm that evening. 

Questions? Hit me at joeo@inlander. com.

Good luck!


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