Friday, December 2, 2016

Healthier health insurance, cutting-edge radiology and new issue on the street

Posted By on Fri, Dec 2, 2016 at 10:00 AM

Former EWU professor Larry Kraft, 91, is one of six local athletes profiled in the new issue of InHealth illustrating a workout/life balance.
  • Former EWU professor Larry Kraft, 91, is one of six local athletes profiled in the new issue of InHealth illustrating a workout/life balance.

InHealth new issue on stands now!
Six local athletes-who-work share the secrets of balancing a career and fitness.

Healthier Health Insurance
In spite of all the political fretting about health insurance, NPR reports that the number of Americans who report they are struggling to pay medical bills has "plummeted" — down by 22 percent in the last five years.

In Washington State, the health plan exchange is "thriving" according to a report by the Wakely Consulting Group. Each Dec. 1, state law requires a formal update on the health of the Washington Health Plan Exchange. This year's report showed the exchange has attracted more insurers, creating more competition and stabilizing rates. "We hope our experience informs federal discussions as we transition to a new administration seeking to repeal the ACA,” says the Exchange's CEO Pam MacEwan in a press release.

The Spokane Shriners Hospital opens a new radiology suite Friday.
  • The Spokane Shriners Hospital opens a new radiology suite Friday.

On the Down Low

The Shriners Hospital for Children in Spokane is cutting the ribbon today on a new radiology suite, with equipment designed to dramatically lower the dosage of radiation children receive from imaging. Shriner's new imaging system, unique in Washington state, can decrease radiation exposure by as much as 85 percent over the course of treatment.
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NIC settles rape lawsuit, slain Tacoma cop identified and morning headlines

Posted By on Fri, Dec 2, 2016 at 9:49 AM


• GIFT GUIDE: Books, music, video games. You need presents, we got ideas.

• POLICE: Public records reveal the mood back in August when Mayor David Condon tapped then-Asst. Chief Craig Meidl for top cop.

• SEXUAL ASSAULT ON CAMPUS: North Idaho College settled a lawsuit with a woman who accused the school of disciplining her, and not her alleged attackers, when she reported she was gang-raped at an off-campus party.


• Members of the city's Ethics Commission are crying foul after Mayor David Condon asked former city utilities director Rick Romero to help shape Condon's policy goals in his final years in office. The Ethics Commission has already rejected Romero's employment because of a city policy preventing retired employees from coming back to City Hall within a year. (Spokesman-Review)

• Retired Marine Gen. James "Mad Dog" Mattis is President-elect Donald Trump's pick as secretary of defense. Mattis has been critical of President Barack Obama's strategy in the Middle East. (New York Times)
Slain Tacoma police officer Reginald "Jake" Gutierrez
  • Slain Tacoma police officer Reginald "Jake" Gutierrez

• A Washington Department of Corrections worker says he was a scapegoat for the agency's sentence-calculating glitch that ended up releasing several prisoners early. David Dunnington, an IT business manager, was identified in a report as one of the six employees who contributed to the DOC's delay in fixing the problem and was demoted. (Seattle Times)

• The Tacoma police officer who was shot and killed Thursday while responding to a domestic violence call has been identified as Reginald "Jake" Gutierrez. Witnesses say he sacrificed himself to protect his partner and the wife of the man who allegedly shot him. The 38-year-old alleged shooter has not yet been identified. (Tri-City Herald, Seattle Times)

• Public colleges and universities in Washington state have to beef up their adjudication process when a student faces expulsion, according to a state Court of Appeals ruling. Only 12 of the 27 public institutions of higher education are giving students a chance to defend themselves, the court found. (Seattle Times)
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Thursday, December 1, 2016

In August, Stuckart suggested "recall" as consequence for mayor not submitting Meidl for council approval

Posted By on Thu, Dec 1, 2016 at 12:56 PM

Things may be smooth now, but records reveal new insights into the turmoil frothing around the Craig Meidl appointment back in August - DANIEL WALTERS PHOTO
  • Daniel Walters photo
  • Things may be smooth now, but records reveal new insights into the turmoil frothing around the Craig Meidl appointment back in August

Records requests, at times, can be like time capsules from a different era. So sure, now things are pretty chummy — the council passed the mayor's budget quickly and unanimously on Monday.

But back at the beginning of August?

Well, that was a different, more chaotic time. A trove of emails obtained by the Inlander last week centered on the days leading up to Police Chief Craig Meidl's initial appointment, illuminate a few interesting things:

1. City Council President Ben Stuckart suggested a "recall" was the proper consequence if the mayor refused to seek confirmation from the city council.

It's important to consider just how tense things were back then: Meidl's initial appointment had come less than a week after the controversial report had been released about how the mayor had handled issues surrounding the previous police chief, Frank Straub. The report concluded that Mayor David Condon's administration had intentionally withheld documents about sexual harassment allegations about the chief until after the 2015 election. Condon fervently denied this.

The sudden appointment of Asst. Chief Craig Meidl, which bypassed the lengthy process other police chief candidates had gone through, tossed fuel on that fire. In particular, the mayor suggested he would not be seeking city council confirmation. At least not at first.

"Unfortunately, I made the difficult decision to not bring Chief Meidl for confirmation at this time out of an abundance of caution and concern for him and his career," Condon wrote in a statement to council shortly after. While he maintained he would eventually seek council approval, he did not lay out a timetable.

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Sasquatch! Music Festival announces headliner early

Posted By on Thu, Dec 1, 2016 at 11:26 AM

We're praying for more awesome bands to join Frank Ocean at Sasquatch! 2017.
  • We're praying for more awesome bands to join Frank Ocean at Sasquatch! 2017.

It's hard out there for a music festival these days, even one  as established as Sasquatch! What once used to sell out tickets in mere minutes has recently seen fewer concertgoers walk through its doors. But for Sasquatch! 2017, promoters have already announced a few key developments that have the power to reignite people's interest in the annual Memorial Day Weekend Gorge Amphitheatre event.

Just this week, it was confirmed that mega R&B superstar Frank Ocean will headline the 2017 festival. Having just released his new album Blonde to critical acclaim, Ocean will head out on tour next year. This is a huge get for the festival that has also hosted visionaries such as Beastie Boys and Kanye West. We can only hope the rest of the lineup, which won't be announced until early next year, will be just as thrilling.

The other big change for the 2017 addition of the festival is that it will only be three days instead of the usual four — which, as I've stated for years, is the best decision ever. That means the shows will run Friday through Sunday (May 26-28), giving festival goers the entirety of Monday (Memorial Day) to recover, pack and head on their merry way.

For those looking to pick up some awesome Christmas gifts, the three-day early bird GA wristbands will cost $275 each, or $295 when those run out, until Dec. 4 at 10 pm. Otherwise, regular-price tickets go on sale January 28.

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NIC settles lawsuit with woman who says school ignored her gang-rape

Posted By on Thu, Dec 1, 2016 at 10:45 AM


North Idaho College has settled a lawsuit with a woman who accused the school of disciplining her, and not her alleged attackers, after she reported being gang-raped near campus.

The woman's attorney, Rebecca Rainey, confirmed to the Inlander that North Idaho College settled the lawsuit, which was filed in federal court, for $75,000.

The college did not admit any wrongdoing as part of the settlement. In a statement, NIC spokesman Tom Greene said NIC settled to "limit the costs and distraction associated with lengthy litigation." It was paid through insurance and does not impact the school's operating budget.

"The settlement agreement expressly acknowledges that NIC denies any liability or wrongdoing regarding [the woman's] allegations in her lawsuit. [The woman] further agreed that the settlement was a compromise of doubtful and disputed claims and that she agrees to release NIC from any claims and to dismiss the current lawsuit."

The woman was a 17-year-old freshman at NIC in November 2013 when she says the assault took place. She was falling in and out of consciousness from intoxication, but says she recalls three men she knew sexually assaulting her. At one point, she says one man raped her, as another stood by "asking for a turn" before he did, too, according to the lawsuit.

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The 80s, support for refugees, Tacoma police officer killed and morning headlines

Posted By on Thu, Dec 1, 2016 at 9:38 AM


As fear and anxiety over what a Trump presidency means for refugees, local residents find ways to show support.

MUSIC: No, it's not the former Soviet security agency, man. It's the Kyle Gass Band, or KGB. They're at the Big Dipper next Monday, and you should check them out.

THE 80s: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, leg warmers, synthesizers, the original Nintendo and, of course, Devo. For these reasons and more, we still love the 80s.


• A Tacoma police officer was shot and killed last night while responding to a domestic violence call. The 45-year-old officer has not yet been identified. The suspect, who was reportedly using two children as a shield, was killed by a Pierce County sheriff's deputy after an 11-hour standoff. Both children, 11 and 8 years old, are not injured, according to news reports. (News Tribune)

• A 10-year-old Spokane County boy is the 9th child in Washington state diagnosed with acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), a polio-like disease (though the state Department of Health website cites 12 possible cases). Officials can identify no clear underlying cause. (Seattle Times)

• The police officer who shot and killed Keith Scott in Charlotte, North Carolina, will not be charged. The district attorney who announced the decision cited a "cocked" .380 semi-automatic with Scott's DNA on it as evidence that the officer's use of force was justified. A "generally peaceful" protest broke out after the DA's announcement. At least four people were arrested, according to news reports. The Charlotte Observer has published a trove of evidence officials used to make their decision. (Charlotte Observer)

• It's a longshot, but at least two Washington state electors have pledged to try and deny Donald Trump the presidency. (Seattle Times)
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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

State auditor's office clears Spokane Valley of wrongdoing in firing of city manager

Posted By on Wed, Nov 30, 2016 at 4:31 PM


When Spokane Valley City Council voted 4-3 to oust city manager Mike Jackson in February while offering no explanation for the move, many citizens were outraged. Two councilmembers — Dean Grafos and Chuck Hafner — who voted against Jackson's firing eventually left their seats, citing the decision as a major reason for leaving.

Comments and actions made by the council majority — Mayor Rod Higgins, Deputy Mayor Arne Woodard and councilmen Ed Pace and Sam Wood — did little to alleviate concerns that they may have violated the state's Open Public Meetings Act in the way they decided to get rid of Jackson. In a March interview with the Inlander, Pace admitted that the week before Jackson was fired, Higgins and Woodard told Jackson that he should resign — potentially marking a decision made outside of a public meeting. Email records later obtained by the Spokesman-Review revealed that councilmembers emailed about the city manager before ousting Jackson, furthering the notion that the decision was a violation of state law.

But an investigation completed this month by the state auditor's office has addressed those questions. The Spokane Valley City Council did not do anything inappropriate, according to the evidence the auditor's office reviewed.

Grafos isn't satisfied.

"I'm very disappointed that the state of Washington failed, or chose not to recognize, the spirit of the law in regard to the secretive, serial meetings and disrespect by the council for the citizens of Spokane Valley and their tax dollars," Grafos says in response to the findings.

The auditor's office explained their findings in a letter to the current city manager, Mark Calhoun, dated Nov. 10, 2016. The office says there were 14 instances where there was "communication between a quorum of board members," but all instances were a "passive receipt of information."

The "passive receipt of information," says audit manager Brad White, includes the email that Mayor Higgins received from former Spokane County Undersheriff Dave Wiyrick suggesting that Jackson would  "need to be put under control" shortly before Jackson's ouster. Higgins forwarded that to Wood, Pace and Woodard, but not the other three councilmembers.

But because only Pace responded to the email, that does not represent a quorum, and therefore does not violate state law. If Wood and Woodard would have responded, it likely would have violated open meetings laws, according to White.

As for the mayor and deputy mayor approaching Jackson and telling him he should resign days before his ouster, White said there was no documentation of any encounter Jackson had with the mayor and deputy mayor for the auditor's office to review.

"We can only look at things officially documented," White says.

A total of 10 citizens shared concerns with the auditor's office. Aside from accusing the city council of discussing city business outside of public meetings, they accused the city of paying Jackson $320,000 more than he should have received "to go quietly" (Jackson, as part of the deal, agreed not to disparage officials). Finally, the citizens alleged that the city intentionally and illegally diverted $270,000 in community development block grant funds to other governmental entities.

Responding to the allegation that the city paid Jackson to go quietly, the auditor's office found that the "main reason" for the larger payment was because of negotiations allowing him to be paid 18 months of salary and his entire sick leave balance. In regards to the final allegation of diverting money to other governmental entities, the auditor's office found that the transfer of funds was "not inappropriate."

White says the auditor's office took the allegations seriously.

"I think we did as thorough an investigation as we can," White says. "We were not looking to come out on the side of the city, or of the citizens. We have to go by what the state laws are, and we didn't find any violations."
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Elton John returning for Spokane Arena show on March 5

Posted By on Wed, Nov 30, 2016 at 10:00 AM

Elton John at Spokane Arena in 2014 - AMY HUNTER
  • Amy Hunter
  • Elton John at Spokane Arena in 2014

Here comes the regular.

Elton John, who came through Spokane just two years ago, is coming back to the Lilac City for a show at Spokane Arena on Sunday, March 5. Tickets are $49, $79 and $159, and go on sale next Saturday, Dec. 10, at 10 am through TicketsWest outlets and the arena box office. So mark your calendars, people!

John is touring with his long-time band that includes Nigel Olsson on drums, Davey Johnstone on guitar, John Mahon on percussion, Kim Bullard on keyboard and Matt Bissonnette on bass.

John's last performance in Spokane garnered the "Best Concert of the Past Year" prize in our Best of the Inland Northwest issue in 2015, so clearly he still has the chops that made him a superstar in the '70s and beyond, thanks to hits like "Rocket Man," "Philadelphia Freedom" and "I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues," among many, many more.
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Black and white and surprise outdoor weed bans (and other morning headlines)

Posted By on Wed, Nov 30, 2016 at 9:44 AM

I imagine Trump on my left shoulder whispering into my ear, trying to get me to be evil, and Romney on my right, trying to convince me to be good - GETTY IMAGES
  • Getty Images
  • I imagine Trump on my left shoulder whispering into my ear, trying to get me to be evil, and Romney on my right, trying to convince me to be good


Paint It Black
Lewis Black, he of bulging angry forehead vein fame, is coming to Spokane.

Paint It White
Snow is beginning to fall, ominously, over the city of Spokane. Here's where you can ski.


Weed Pulling

The Spokane County Commissioners quietly passed an ordinance to put a moratorium on outdoor marijuana farms, with County Commissioner Al French saying “You don’t want to advertise these things before they even take effect.” (Spokesman-Review)

Interior Decorating

The Spokesman-Review reports that Cathy McMorris Rodgers is being considered for Secretary of the Interior. (Spokesman-Review)

A Solid Bee
WSU is working on breeding stronger honey bees, because apparently they haven't seen that terrifying Black Mirror episode yet. (KREM)


Air Conditioner Repair
Trump and Pence help keep air conditioner jobs in the United States — but we don't know the details yet. (New York Times)

Deal With A Donald
Mitt Romney, who slammed Trump as a danger to the country, looks to be repairing things with the President-Elect in an attempt to be Secretary of State. Is this an example of Romney's patriotism — trying to do what he can to limit the damage of the Trump presidency?  Or has he been seduced by the trucker-hat-stitched promises of Trump, like so many of his fellow Republicans. (Washington Post)

Priced In
Tom Price, Trump's pick for the Health and Human Services  Committee — gasp! — doesn't even like Obamacare! (The Atlantic)
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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Lewis Black brings his standup tour to Northern Quest March 19

Posted By on Tue, Nov 29, 2016 at 2:53 PM

Lewis Black performs at Northern Quest Resort and Casino on March 19.
  • Lewis Black performs at Northern Quest Resort and Casino on March 19.

Chances are decent that you're already exhausted by all the chatter surrounding our president-elect. But if there's one guy who might inspire you to willfully — even gleefully — take in a full night of Trump Talk, it just might be the perpetually outraged comedian Lewis Black.

Well, lucky you, because The Other Man In Black is returning to the Inland Northwest for a show at Northern Quest Resort and Casino just a couple months after Trump takes office. Who knows what kind of shenanigans the country will have witnessed by then?

Black has plenty of material beyond politics to stoke his outrage, but it's hard to imagine the longtime Daily Show regular will be able to resist focusing on the election's various characters, from candidates to media pundits to the so-called "basket of deplorables."

Black performs on March 19. Tickets go on sale Saturday at 8:30 am through the Northern Quest website; they cost $45, $55 and $75.

Black last performed in Spokane in 2014 on his The Rant Is Due tour, when frustration at the midterm elections had him up in arms.
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