Thursday, June 27, 2013

MORNING BRIEFING: Hoopfest approaches, watered-down DUI law and historic hairdos

Posted By on Thu, Jun 27, 2013 at 8:13 AM

HERE

Holy hell. Hoopfest is coming. Grab your Air Jordans and get ready to hit the court. Here's a quick look behind the scenes. (KXLY)

Detectives search jail cell of murder suspect in West Central killing. (KREM)

After historic Supreme Court decision, same-sex couples still out of luck in Idaho. (S-R)

NEAR

Washington state Senate waters down aggressive new DUI law. (Seattle Times)

An in-depth look at the radical changes at the Oregonian newspaper in Portland and the future of print news. (Willamette Week)

ELSEWHERE

Texas executes 500th person since return of death penalty in 1982. (USA Today)

Zimmerman trial continues over controversial shooting of Trayvon Martin. (NY Times)

Hair style archeologist disputes widespread theories on ancient wigs. (WSJ)

Nelson Mandela shows improvement, daughter criticizes media. (BBC)

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

How downtown got so many one-way streets

Posted By on Wed, Jun 26, 2013 at 2:36 PM

One-way traffic on West Main Avenue. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • One-way traffic on West Main Avenue.

In this week’s paper, we have a story about how city staff, several City Council members, local businesses, and the Downtown Spokane Partnership allsupport the idea of downtown’s Main Avenue becoming a two-way street again.

In researching the topic, however, I wanted to understand how downtown turned intoa mass of one-way couplets. If one-ways are bad for businesses and the downtown climate, why did Spokane create them in the first place?

I dove into Google Archives, through old issues of the Spokesman-Review andthe Spokane Chronicle.

This is what I found:

1950-1951: State highway officials insisted that Second and Third become one-way streets. City officials asked for more time, at least until freeways couldbe built at either end. But highway officials argued that the experience withone-ways in Olympia has been wonderful, and that the change increases trafficflow and decreases traffic accidents.

Most interestingly, they make the counter-intuitive argument that studiesshow an increase in business for retail stores after a one-way isinstalled on their street. A year before, Portland had installed40 miles of one-ways, with surprisingly successful results.

Part of the problem was that, with an interstate freeway more than a decadeoff, Second and Third served as the major arterials, and extensive traffic flowstudies showed that traffic on those two streets justcrawled along. If you were traveling from Coeur d’Alene and Spokane,traveling through Spokane was a slog.

1952: In an editorial, the Spokesman-Reviewpraised the Spokane City Council for the conversions of Post and Wall toone-ways. While the full conversion had yet to take effect, the paper saidthat “… the plans for this diversion and speedup appear to be well conceived andconducive to general public cooperation.”

Noting rush-hour congestion remains a serious problem, the paper says theconversion to Second and Third turned into major successes.

1956: Spokane drivers continue to struggle to comprehend the concept ofone-ways, but a police campaign against making improper turns off the streets reducesthe problem

1959: To remedy the traffic problems and hazards to pedestrians, MainAvenue, between Lincoln and Monroe, is changed to a westbound one-way.Ironically, today, Main Avenue stops being a one-way street at Lincoln.

1964: Frustration over downtownSpokane’s one-way grid came to a head. The city manager and Elmer Leland,the city traffic engineer, found themselves besieged by angry merchants at aChamber of Commerce meeting at the Davenport Hotel.

Today, River Park Square is a major force skeptical of changing back to atwo-way on Main, specifically worried it would drive away out-of-town customers.

But back in 1964, The Bon Marche (located where Macy’s is today at River ParkSquare) led the frustration to what had happened to out-of-town customersbecause of the one-ways. While residents eventually learned the flow of one-waytraffic, it remained confusing for visitors.

"Spokane, more than any other community of its size that I know of, isdependent on people from small towns in Montana and Idaho — but we're losingthis market," said Phillip Alexander, managing director of The Bon, “Ourcommunity will cease to exist if we continue to decentralize.”

In defense, Leland presented the best traffic modeling understanding at thetime, that the one-way system would make traffic move faster.

“I’m trying to move traffic more efficiently,” Leland said. Besides Leland,the lone voice of support for the one-way system came from the bus line owner,who said buses moved 27 percent faster under the new system.

1966: The Division Street Businessmen Association absolutelyfreaks out about the prospect of a section of North Division converting to aone-way. They call the plan “hogwash, window-dressing, and ridiculous.”Businesses and homeowners worry about the road will quickly become a “racetrack” and that the Division-Ruby couplet will quickly lead to aDivision-Lidgerwood couplet.

1967: With the new freeway viaduct scheduled two years away, the City Councilexamines a decision to convert Monroe and Lincoln to one-ways, leaving Riversidethe sole two-way street downtown.

1969: The I-90 freeway viaduct, between Pine and Maple, finally opens,forever altering downtown traffic patterns. From here on, it becomes difficultto separate the impact of a one-way street grid and the impact of the freeway.Could the freeway have solved the downtown congestion problem, even if downtownhad never converted to a one-way system? There’s no way to tell for sure.

Today, the North Spokane Corridor promises to have a big impact onnorth-south traffic, something traffic planners have to consider when examiningslow traffic along Division and Market.

1977: After Expo 74, a downtownrevitalization plan supports retaining the one-way street system.

1985: City planning engineers, once again, explore turning Monroe and Lincolninto one-way streets north of the river to reduce North-South Trafficcongestion.

Today, state-of-the-art “smart” traffic signals can adapt to congestion andvehicular flow. Moving through multiple intersections isn’t as slow as it usedto be. And newer cars have improved emissions systems. Cars idling at stoplightsdon’t spit out smog like they once did.

As the city looks at returning Main Avenue to a two-way street, in otherwords, it’s a much different world from the ’50s and ’60s.

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Pullman, Wash.: America's 10th-smartest urban area?

Posted By on Wed, Jun 26, 2013 at 2:30 PM

There are some pretty smart cities on the Palouse, according to a new study that ranks cities by intelligence. Pullman came in No. 10 of 478 urban areas, and Moscow came in No. 29. (The combined Spokane-Spokane Valley, on the other hand, just barely made it into the top half, at No. 227.)

The whole thing is based on Lumosity games, which are described as workouts for your mind — they’re designed on the somewhat controversial notion that people can improve their intelligence through conditioning. Anyone who went online and played a certain number of games was geolocated by IP address and tallied in the group score, with a total sample size of more than 3 million users, the report says.

In some ways it’s not surprising to see Pullman and Moscow near the top — all the highest-ranked places are distinct college towns: Cornell, Penn State, Purdue, etc. They also tend to have large graduate student populations and an emphasis on engineering or high-tech industries.

An Atlantic post quotes a Lumosity data scientist explaining the college association this way:

“College towns tend to do well because education is correlated with cognitive performance. We've seen in our other research that those with advanced degrees tend to perform better cognitively throughout the lifespan.”

That post is written by well-known demographer and urban expert Richard Florida, which lends some credence to the study itself. Because it’s not totally clear who plays these games — are students playing these games for class? Is it just a fun thing to do after studying every night? Are some people trying harder than others? Are the people who are drawn to academia also drawn to little brain puzzles?

Lumosity actively promotes its games for use in elementary, middle and high schools, and with advertisements promoting the “amazing benefits of brain training.”

The company also did rankings last fall specifically for the smartest colleges. Spoiler: Neither Washington State nor University of Idaho are on that list.

But if the Lumosity rankings are not exactly consistent or transparent, it’s at least something new. The study makes a good point that we don’t have a very good system for measuring community intelligence — we mostly rely on “socioeconomic variables like income and education levels” that correlate with intelligence but don’t actually measure it. 

The real lesson here is that if you’re now thinking about checking out those games, and you're not sure if you'll score so well — don’t. We obviously can’t afford to have any newbies bringing down our collective score.

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Washington lawmakers haven't agreed on a budget--yet.

Posted By on Wed, Jun 26, 2013 at 11:39 AM

Indeed. 

This morning, the state Senate's Republican caucus chair announced in an email that Senate leaders had agreed on a final budget plan with House Democrats, thus averting a drastic government shutdown next week

Uh, not so, tweeted Washington state Senate Dems minutes after Olympia reporters began spreading the news on Twitter. 

Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, confirmed to me that no final agreement had been reached. He says he predicts lawmakers will approve a budget deal sometime today, "but a couple of issues remain to be resolved." 

Here's the email Sen. Linda Evans Parlette sent to Majority Coalition Caucus members: 

Colleagues,

I’m happy to inform you that this morning we have reached an agreement with Speaker Chopp and the House Democrats on an operating budget that will allow us to complete our work this second special session.

We conveyed to the Speaker our belief that, with it being day 15 of the second special session, time is of the essence, and that we can no longer afford to delay action if we hope to avoid a government shutdown. Families need to know that they can keep their 4th of July plans because parks will remain open. School districts need to plan their budgets. Mothers and fathers who work for the state need to be confident that they will receive their paychecks in two weeks to put food on the table for their children. And taxpayers have a right to know that the important services that they have paid for and depend on will be available to them.

This agreement will allow us to complete our work and provide the public with the certainty it deserves.

The Majority Coalition Caucus negotiators fought hard to prioritize funding for education and higher education, and the House Democrat negotiators fought equally hard for prioritizing spending on social-service programs. Neither side got everything it wanted (this is truly a compromise budget), but in the end I think we arrived at a balanced approach that everyone can live with and that brings us closer to the education-first budget many of us envisioned.

Thanks to all of you for your hard work and sacrifices over the last 6 months, and for the continued effort that will be required of you over the next few days. I especially appreciate the work each of you has done in your specific areas of the budget.

If you need to complete that work, please do so. Otherwise, please convene in the caucus room at 11:45am, so that we may brief you in greater detail on the specifics of the budget agreement.


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SPD denies selling Stephens firearm, full statements detail department fears

Posted By on Wed, Jun 26, 2013 at 11:32 AM

As additional details emerge on the misconduct investigation against former Assistant Spokane Police Chief Scott Stephens, the department has denied reports its SWAT Team sold Stephens a used MP-5 submachine gun.  

Stephens.jpg
Newly released officer statements make it clear the Spokane Police Department command staff felt extremely threatened by statements Stephens allegedly made during an emotional conversation about being demoted in late December.

Stephens reportedly told a co-worker he would "go home and get a rifle" on Dec. 19. He has since denied making any such alleged threat.

As word spread of the alleged comments, Craig Meidl, who replaced Stephens as assistant chief, voiced concern regarding Stephens access to several personal firearms. Written statements from police officials detail intense debate about how dangerous Stephens might be and whether they should confiscate his weapons.

"[Stephens] owns several guns (he recently bought a used MP-5 from the Spokane Police SWAT Team)," Meidl's statement says.

SPD spokeswoman Monique Cotton issued a statement this morning disputing Meidl's assertion.

"Former Assistant Chief Stephens did not purchase any firearms from the Spokane Police Department," she wrote. "Police officers, like any member of the community, can privately purchase firearms in accordance with state and federal firearm regulations."

Cotton notes Stephens was allowed to keep his duty sidearm, a .40-caliber Glock, upon his retirement in April. She states the department has traditionally allowed retiring officers to keep their sidearms with the approval of the police chief.

Today's SPD statement does not clear up whether Stephens actually owns an MP-5. The SWAT Team uses fully automatic MP-5s, which would typically require a federal firearms license to legal possess.

Stephens' attorney, Bob Dunn, has strongly condemned the allegations against his client, saying Stephens unequivocally denies the department's version of what happened.

"They're all bullshit," Dunn says of the allegations.

The records include many alarmed statements from the SPD command staff regarding Stephens' perceived mental state in the hours after his disputed comments and whether they could ever comfortably work with him again.

"Chief [Frank] Straub and I discussed whether we should send officers to [Stephens'] residence to retrieve his weapons," Meidl wrote, adding, "It was decided the best course of action, and safest for officers, would be to wait until the morning to address this issue with [Stephens]."

Newly promoted Commanders Brad Arleth and Joe Walker both reportedly stated they would have trouble working with Stephens in the future, according to Meidl's statement. Walker reportedly stated he was "not going to let this go."

One SPD official reported his wife was so upset by the alleged threat that she had their children stay at another person's house the next day so they would not be home alone while she ran errands.

The following day, Straub and Meidl confronted Stephens about the reported comments. Meidl reports Stephens denied the statements, but later allowed he "may have" made similar comments while stressing he had no intention of carrying out any threat.

Straub then placed Stephens on administrative leave and ordered him to surrender his badge and sidearm while an internal investigation was conducted.

"Chief Straub had [Stephens] remove his holster with the firearm in it," Meidl notes — an apparent safety precaution.

Dunn argues Stephens has not had an opportunity to challenge the statements included in the investigative records. The attorney called the release of the officers' statements a breach of the city's settlement with Stephens

The full statements from Officer Jennifer DeRuwe, Capt. David Richards and Assistant Chief Craig Meidl — as well as the final investigative report from retired Judge Michael Hogan — can be read below:

Spokane Police Stephens Statements


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MORNING BRIEFING: Army downsizing, Texas filibusted and gay marriage triumphs in Supreme Court

Posted By on Wed, Jun 26, 2013 at 8:18 AM

HERE

New records detail alleged threat that ended former Assistant Chief Scott Stephens' career with the Spokane Police Department. (Inlander)

Roommate of Nine Mile murder suspect compares crime scene to "Breaking Bad." (KREM)

Regional developer Marshall Chesrown files $72 million bankruptcy. (S-R)

Cheney teen wins car, immediately hands keys to BFF. (KXLY)

THERE

U.S. Army downsizing Tacoma-area forces, dropping one Stryker Brigade as part of restructuring. (Seattle Times)

Snohomish County sheriff sergeant charged with protecting/promoting bikini coffee stand prostitution. (Q13)

ELSEWHERE

In a highly anticipated new decision, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act. Justices also opened the door for same-sex marriages in California. (WaPost)

More coverage of the Supreme Court decision. Because it's kind of a big deal. (NY Times)

Dramatic filibuster blocks wide-reaching anti-abortion bill in Texas Legislature. (Texas Tribune)

And Obama sings Daft Punk. Enjoy:

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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Yes, the AP thinks we should know what's going on in Boise's private prison

Posted By on Tue, Jun 25, 2013 at 2:47 PM

ap_prisons.jpg

Behind private prison walls in Boise, six gang members attacked eight inmates with a slew of makeshift weapons. One prisoner was stabbed 18 times. And that’s just one problem.

In a lawsuit against Corrections Corporation of America, the private company that runs a prison in Boise, Idaho, the eight prisoners claim that prison officials have lied about staffing hours, ceded control to prison gangs, and failed to protect inmates from gang assaults.

AP Boise reporter Rebecca Boone has been covering the problems with the private prisons for years. But recently, she learned that CCA’s defense attorneys brought a motion to seal most of the documents related to the case. Many documents, the attorneys argued, involved potential confidential information, some of which detailed security procedures.

“This is a company that is paid $29 million a year by the state of Idaho, by its taxpayers,” says Todd Dvorak, correspondent in charge of the AP Boise Office. “There’s a lot of responsibility to run their prisons. There’s a question, an issue of government accountability. Are we getting what we pay for. If not, why not?”

The AP didn’t want to take a risk that a crucial document wouldn’t be available to them. The AP gathered together 16 other media organizations, including the Spokesman-Review and the Coeur d’Alene Press, to file a legal challenge against the motion. Last year, with many of the same organizations, the AP successfully challenged Idaho’s limitations on reporters viewing executions.

The coalition hired the same attorney, Charles Brown of Lewiston, to challenge the court order being sealed. The Ninth Circuit requires balancing the need to keep documents sealed with the public interest, Brown argues, but the blanket order would be much too broad.

“We think that the court records should be open to the public and the news agencies. At its essence, this is a case about whether it’s safe for inmates in Idaho’s prisons, and whether that company is playing by the rules,” Dvorak says. “We take our job of doing accountability reporting very seriously.”


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No need to hitchhike around downtown CDA this summer

Posted By on Tue, Jun 25, 2013 at 2:32 PM

Construction on the McEuen Field Park is cramping downtown Coeur d’Alene’s style, especially when it comes to parking. But fear not, Lake City and your infinite number of confused tourists! The Downtown Association, Kootenai County, Citylink and the City of Coeur d’Alene have devised a solution: free shuttle bus.

Parking in downtown CDA has been limited since McEuen Park construction began in May, when it destroyed the popular Third Street parking lot and blocked street parking on Front Street. The new park will boast a two-story parking structure, but in the meantime, downtown patrons have been competing for street parking, crowding the library parking lot and otherwise trying to avoid paid lots.

Now the shuttle can take you to and from two free parking lots: one at City Hall and one at Memorial Field. Both lots will be flagged as free public parking.

The shuttle loops around downtown via Lakeside between City Hall and Memorial Field every day of the week. The loops are meant to take 20 minutes total, depending on traffic, both vehicular and human.

The first shuttle starts at 9:30 am and the last will turn in at 6:30 pm, every Monday through Saturday until September. The Sunday shuttle has limited hours of 11 am to 5 pm.

Here’s the route. 


View Downtown Coeur d'Alene Shuttle in a larger map

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Dispatches from the local music scene: New albums and other summer cheer

Posted By on Tue, Jun 25, 2013 at 2:16 PM

Just when the weather started to rid our city from all of the happiness and cheer of the summer season, the music gods up above gave Spokane beautiful creations, news and happenings to be jolly about. 

Marshall McLean is working on a new album, with help from Caleb Ingersoll of Cathedral Pearls and Jamie Frost from The Makers, and from the fans who are actively feeding his Kickstarter campaign. As of today, he is at 29 percent of his goal of $4,000. All you cats out there, hop on the Marshall McLean bandwagon ASAP. He's opening for The Avett Brothers in August at the music festival in Sandpoint. This cat is going places. Go along for the ride.

Mrs. Ingersoll is also keeping busy. You most likely know her as one of the talented foursome behind Cathedral Pearls. In her spare time, Karli Ingersoll has been featuring other local groups via CollectSpokane on YouTube. The latest of these Collect Sessions was posted a few days back and features the band Mama Doll. Take a peak, fall in love and show your friends.

Next up is some great news for Folkinception. Thanks to over 100 people, their Kickstarter project has been funded, meaning they can finally record their first full-length album. We loved going to their shows and now in just a short amount of time we can carry their folk greatness where ever we go. Consider us excited.

And finally, we leave our dear local music fan with a joyous reminder. Terrible Buttons is releasing their album RUNT on July 12. Mark your calendar.

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Glenn Beck interviews Idaho "Citadel" planners

Posted By on Tue, Jun 25, 2013 at 12:21 PM

The people who say they're behind plans to build a walled city in the mountains of North Idaho where citizens will be armed with AR-15s sat down last week with everyone's favorite angry conservative, Glenn Beck.

"I feel foolish for saying this, but what are you afraid of?" Beck asked the creators of the Citadel, two people who plan to move into the complex and the president of the arms company the group says will fund the Citadel.

"We are not bound by anything except for Jefferson's definition of rightful liberty," idea-man Christian Kerodin tells Beck during his show on conservative network The Blaze. "It is a simple principle and boiled down it means we stay out of each other's business as long as we're not hurting anybody. That's the entire premise of being in the Citadel. It's the way that this country used to be. People minded their own business and they helped each other and it was a community. And I don't know about where most people live but I know that where I live that's not the reality today anymore. … This is our opportunity to choose our neighbors, to choose the kind of people we're going to live with."

We told you about the Citadel plans and how people in the sleepy nearby town of St. Maries were reacting back in February. Since, the group's gun manufacturer says he's been building rifles, but it's no clearer whether the walled compound will ever become a reality.

In the interview, the group talks religion, industry, Kerodin's sketchy background, and what would happen if Idaho outlawed guns (ha!).

The Citadel has also been linked with Beck's "Independence, USA" city idea (on Gawker and The Daily Show), so Beck also took this chance to talk about "my independence village, which is completely different. It's not a stronghold; it's not a shut-it-down. It is a place where people who are dreamers are free to go and create and people come in."

Despite an active blog and website with application forms, this is the first time the generally media-shy survivalist "patriots" behind the Citadel have done a major interview about their plans.

Afterward, organizers posted on the blog: "We feel that Mr. Beck gave us a fair shake and are excited about this opportunity. We talked about the same things that are on our blog and web site, but there is an interesting bit of new information for those who desparately want to label us as racist. See if you can spot it.  :-)"

Dramatic camera pans and a sharp-dressed Beck make the whole thing more fun. The full show requires a subscription, but here are two segments up on the site

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