Monday, August 3, 2015

The birth and death of North Central High School’s "smoker’s corner"

Posted By on Mon, Aug 3, 2015 at 2:07 PM

A young assistant principal, Mick Miller, gathers cigarette butts at the North Central High School smoker's corner in the early 1990s - PHOTO COURTESY OF MICK MILLER
  • Photo courtesy of Mick Miller
  • A young assistant principal, Mick Miller, gathers cigarette butts at the North Central High School smoker's corner in the early 1990s

Back when I attended North Central High School in the early 2000s, one of it’s most iconic features was the smoker’s corner. Across the street from the school, at the corner of Augusta and Howard, crowds of high school smokers would huddle together and smoke before school and during lunch. The tenacity —  the willingness to stand and smoke in the rain or the snow — was almost inspirational.

While the corner still exists, the smokers have stopped showing up. What happened? I made some quick calls to find out how the smoker’s corner was created, and why it no longer exists.

Mick Miller, assistant principal of North Central High School back in 1990, says that for years, North Central students smoked directly outside the school doors on an area called the “slab.”

“It was very convenient. Those were a lot of kids I dealt with all the time,” Miller says. “Everyone was contained. We knew where to find people.”

But in the 1990-1991 school year, a new law took effect, banning smoking on school property. Suddenly, smoking on the slab was out. Smokers had to walk all the way across the street and smoke there.

“We had a break during the day, called ‘Powow,” — 15 minutes between second and third period,” Miller says. “We would have this exodus of kids who were smokers, or kids who wanted to hang out with kids that were.”

The neighbors, unsurprisingly, hated it. 

Miller remembers walking back and forth at smoker’s corner with a big black garbage bag, asking the students to throw in their cigarette butts, and getting a call from the Rick Miller radio talk-show. 

“He calls me on my cellphone, while I’m out there supervising, saying, ‘You’re on live radio,’” Miller says. “It was the topic of his radio show conversation: Why were we allowing kids to smoke at school?”

But Miller took a practical approach.

“I’d rather have a kid smoke and come to school than smoke and not come to school,” he says.

What killed the smoker’s corner a decade later wasn’t a health initiative, a PSA ad campaign, or a new state regulation.

“We locked the slab doors, as simple as it was,” says Steve Fisk, North Central High School principal. For years, North Central had had an “open lunch.” I’d often drift over to the nearby Pizza Rita during lunch, grab a slice and and read a copy of the Inlander.

But a lot of kids who leave during lunch end up deciding not to come back. Attendance slips. So do grades. And, as plenty of research has shown, just a few absences can cause the dropout rate to soar.
So a few years ago, Principal Steve Fisk says, North Central barred students from leaving during lunch. They phased it in, starting with just the freshman class.

“It made better sense in terms of kids' management of time and kids' management of decision-making,” Fisk says. And since students couldn’t leave during lunch, the smoker’s corner essentially, well, went up in smoke. 

“It is no longer in existence,” Fisk says. “It was kind of funny how that changed.”

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Tuesday is the last day to vote in the primary election

Posted By on Mon, Aug 3, 2015 at 1:07 PM

It’s not too late to vote, but if you want your voice heard in this week’s primary election, now is the time to act. If you need a run-down on who is running for mayor and who is running for Spokane City Council, click here.

Mike McLaughlin, Spokane County elections manager, says that you can drop your ballot into a Post Office box by pickup time Tuesday tomorrow (Aug. 4) to have it counted. However, your best bet is to put it in one of the dropboxes run by the county by 8 p.m. tomorrow. A dropbox can be found at almost every library in the county. Here’s a complete list.

He says that if you’ve lost your ballot, you can log into to get another one.
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Spokane Human Rights Commission calls on Justice Department to investigate jail

Posted By on Mon, Aug 3, 2015 at 11:54 AM

Last week, the Spokane Human Rights Commission sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice requesting an investigation in light of recent inmate deaths

"While some of these incidents are currently under investigation by the Spokane Investigative Regional Response Team (SIRR), we are concerned that the frequency of deaths speaks to larger, systemic issues that plague the jail system in Spokane County, and believe that these untimely deaths warrant a broader look at how Spokane County Jail operates," the letter says. 

It lists the four inmates who died while in custody within the past three months, including the most recent, Tammy Sue Heinen. Heinen was found dead in her cell July 13. She was arrested on a warrant for a parole violation while on her way to the hospital.

"I think so many people have swept it under the rug," says Heinen's mother, Barbara. "I just need it all to be settled and find out why, not only for her but so many others before her. What is going on that these people have to die in jail?"

Lorenzo Hayes' death in May was recently ruled a homicide by the Spokane County Medical Examiner's Office. The medical examiner found that Hayes died from choking on his vomit while restrained in the jail's booking area. There was also meth in his system. 

The other two men who died recently in the jail were John A. Everitt and Scott Stevens. 

Blaine Stum, the chair of the Human Rights Commission, says he was influenced to write the letter after several people contacted him with concerns about the recent slew of jail deaths. 

"I felt the Human Rights Commission should find a way to address the possible larger issues at the jail, and knowing that the DOJ has statutory authority to investigate jails and other places of incarceration, I figured that would be our best bet," Stum says. 

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THIS WEEK: Garland, Hillyard and Gleason fests, Caddyshack, First Friday and tons of tunes

Posted By on Mon, Aug 3, 2015 at 10:46 AM

Welcome to August, a month we greeted with appropriately scorching temperatures, and we'll depart with thoughts of school and fall dominating. But let's not think about that now. Instead, there's plenty of summer fun to be had, and you can find it in our event listings and staff picks. 

Here are some highlights for the week ahead: 

Monday, Aug. 3

LIVE BANDS | Michael Franti and Spearhead bring endless good vibes and a sound blending hip-hop, reggae and rock to the Knitting Factory tonight. Read our interview with the man, and here's a sample of his sound: 

LIVE BANDS | The Big Dipper plays host to the hard-rocking Texas Hippie Coalition along with Red Sky Mary and Marry the Mistress; Baby Bar has Sarah Bethe Nelson with Hannah Reader and Loomer, and The Pin! has Visitors headlining a fat bill. In other words, Monday is full of tunes all over town. 

FOOD & DRINK | Ever thought of pickling your own veggies? Of course you have. Head to the South Hill Library for a free class tonight at 6 pm. 

Continue reading »

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VIDEO: Scenes from Spokane's KuroNekoCon 2015

Posted By on Mon, Aug 3, 2015 at 10:04 AM

The KuroNekoCon took over a large part of the Spokane Convention Center over the weekend to host fans of Japanese anime in a family-friendly environment. Among the programming were costume contests, speed-dating rounds, dance lessons, foam-sword battles and all manner of arts and crafts opportunities for cosplayers to learn some new tricks. 

Inlander intern Erin Robinson checked out the scene, and came back with this video: 

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MB: Smoky haze, hitchhiking robots, the West is on fire

Posted By on Mon, Aug 3, 2015 at 9:14 AM


Today and tomorrow, the Spokane County Fair & Expo Center hosts a free health care clinic, offering medical, dental and vision services. (Inlander)

Fires burning across the Northwest include a 600-acre fire near Sprague, one near Long Lake, and another outside of Ione, Washington. (KXLY)

Despite these nearby forest fires, the smoke covering the region this morning is actually from fires in Western Washington, and it's really hurting local air quality. (KREM)

A regular at the Coeur d'Alene Casino won $1.3 million over the weekend, the largest payout the casino has ever given. (KREM) 


If it seems like the entire Western U.S. is on fire, it's because it kind of is. In California, firefighters are working to contain 21 fires, including the 60,000 acre Rocky Fire in Northern California. (New York Times)

As the outrage over the killing of Cecil the lion continues, Zimbabwe officials are now looking for another American whom they believe illegally killed another protected lion earlier this year. (BBC)

Why we can't have nice things: An internationally traveled hitchhiking robot was "beheaded" less than two weeks into its journey across the U.S. (CNN)
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Friday, July 31, 2015

Free health care for two days at Spokane County Fair and Expo Center

Posted By on Fri, Jul 31, 2015 at 1:58 PM

Your Best Pathway to Health seeks to provide free medical, dental and vision services to cities all over the world.
  • Your Best Pathway to Health seeks to provide free medical, dental and vision services to cities all over the world.

This week, on Monday, Aug. 3, and Tuesday, Aug. 4, Spokane residents can receive free health care services at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center. The two-day event is made possible by Your Best Pathway to Health, an organization that partners with the Seventh-Day Adventist Church to provide medical, dental and vision services to various communities around the world for no cost. The group has also partnered with Adventist Health West, and is co-sponsored by the Office of Spokane Mayor David A. Condon and the Spokane County Commissioner's Office. 

Over $8 million in free health-related services will be offered thanks to 1,400 healthcare professionals and volunteers. 

No insurance or identification is required to receive services, which include primary care visits, women's health services and consultations. Many other services will be offered, including gastroenterology, neurology, infectious disease, general and orthopedic surgery, as well as immunizations, root canals, eyeglass fittings, STD screenings, x-rays, haircuts, and a free meal. 

Free surgeries are being offered, but require a pre-surgery visit, which can be arranged by calling 1-888-447-Pathway (1-888-447-2849). All other services can be done without an appointment.

The event is first-come, first-served and opens at 7 am on both days. 
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THIS WEEKEND IN MUSIC: Country overload, the Ongoing Concept, Mon Chéri & Michael Franti

Posted By on Fri, Jul 31, 2015 at 12:16 PM


Does that pop-country sound get you hot and bothered? There are two big options for you this weekend with the sold-old-months-ago Watershed Music Festival and the Stateline Music Fest at Nashville North. Carrie Underwood, Dierks Bentley and Florida Georgia Line headline the Gorge Amphitheatre fest, while Reckless Kelly, JT Hodges, Luke Jaxon, Cody Canada & the Departed and Nashville North co-owner Jeremy McComb take on the Stateline Fest. It’s all about how much money you want to spend and how hot you want to get these next three days. Yeehaw! And please, remember to drink lots of water.

The Ongoing Concept — that Rathdrum, Idaho, band of brothers who signed with Solid State Records, a subsidiary imprint of Christian label Tooth & Nail Records — are finally in town this weekend at The Pin! touting their new record Handmade. The album’s name is no misnomer; the four-piece not only recorded the whole thing in their home and crafted their own music videos, they also built their own musical instruments to play on the record. The all-ages show starts at 6:30 pm and is $10 at the door.

The Hoot Hoots soar into the Big Dipper tonight. The Seattle indie-rockers like to play Spokane a lot, and we like to come out and support — their shows include rainbow outfits and insanity. Other cool Spokane acts on the bill include Bullets or Balloons, Fun Ladies and Dem Empire. The all-ages show starts at 7:30 pm and is $13 at the door.

Continue reading »

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MB: Gas tax eve, Ken Hopkins fundraiser, and Wet Hot American Summer

Posted By on Fri, Jul 31, 2015 at 9:47 AM


A bicycle has been hit by an STA bus. (Spokesman-Review)

Good news for gas-tax fans! The gas tax is going up 7 cents tomorrow. (Spokesman-Review)

State Rep. Kevin Parker is holding a fundraiser for KZZU radio host Ken Hopkins at his Dutch Bros shops. 16 oz. drinks are just $2, and $1 dollar of every drink goes to help Hopkins recover from being paralyzed in a bike accident. (KXLY) 


The startup boom may be doomed. (Vox)

The U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife can't find Cecil the Lion's killer. Has it asked the angry Internet mob?  (Washington Post, Vox) 

How Republicans are reaching out to black voters. (Washington Post) 


Happy Wet Hot American Summer Netflix TV Series Day everybody! At the AV Club, there's an annotation of the pop cultural references in the original American Movie Classic. 
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Thursday, July 30, 2015

CONCERT REVIEW: Whitey Morgan converts the Bartlett into a honky-tonk

Posted By on Thu, Jul 30, 2015 at 10:45 AM

  • Dan Nailen

Even before Whitey Morgan and the 78's took the stage Wednesday night, you could tell it was going to be an atypical night at the Bartlett just by scanning the crowd. Mohawked fans mingled with unironic cowboy hats, and some country-loving fans brought their pre-adolescent kids along for the show at a place more known for indie-rock and modern folk than honky-tonk tunes.

Then again, almost everything about Whitey Morgan's sound in 2015 is atypical, too. While arenas across the U.S. are selling out shows by atrocious "bro-country" clowns and pop stars in country clothing, Morgan is delivering real-deal twang with edge that harkens back to '70s outlaws like Waylon Jennings, George Jones and Johnny Paycheck. With a band that included three guitars (including Morgan), as well as pedal-steel, bass and drums, his songs veer from drinking song to drinking song, with occasional tangents into heartbreak ballads. And then more drinking songs. 

It all makes for a highly entertaining show for the people there to hear some authentic country as well as those yearning to do a little two-steppin'. Last night, Morgan and his charges filled the set with songs from his excellent new album, Sonic Ranch, a record that captures the stellar interplay between the leader and his band. Three-part harmonies between Morgan, acoustic guitarist Tony Martinez (who opened the show as well) and lead guitarist Joey Spina were genuinely thrilling to hear fill the room, and those three locked into numerous guitar rave-ups throughout the night, joined by pedal-steel master Brett Robinson, whose crying instrument is as responsible for giving Morgan's songs their authentic-country vibe as the man's lyrics full of woman-done-me-wrong tales.

"Ain't Gonna Take It Anymore," with its sing-along refrain of "If I'm going down tonight / I'm going down drinkin'!" was one boisterous highlight among the new songs, as was "Me and the Whiskey" about halfway through the set. Among the new ballads, "Drunken Nights in the City" stood out as a song Morgan will surely include in his shows for years to come. 

Well-chosen covers that introduce young fans to the legends who inspired him are a big part of Morgan's shows and albums, and Wednesday night was no different. The band's stellar take on Johnny Paycheck's "Cocaine Train" offered the first round of those stunning harmonies. Another cover of Bruce Springsteen's "I'm On Fire" featured Morgan and Co. taking the slight pop ditty and turning it into a sprawling instrumental workout that showcased all six men on stage. A cover of Waylon Jennings' "Waymore's Blues" toward set's end was excellent, particularly teased with the Eagles' "Seven Bridges Road," which Morgan abruptly cut off to shift the band into arguably his most prominent influence's tune. 

Elsewhere, old favorites likes "Bad News," "Another Round" and "Sinner" thrilled the folks filling about two-thirds of the Bartlett. And "Turn Up The Bottle," dedicated to George Jones, had the crowd hoisting beer cans and bottles skyward. The size of the crowd didn't disappoint Morgan, who noted that he and the band have traveled through Spokane "thousands of times" before this, their first gig in the Lilac City. 

"Spokane, this is our first date," Morgan mused five songs into the show. "I feel like it's going pretty good. I'm feeling like I might get lucky." 

On this night, it was the Spokane outlaw country fans who were the lucky ones. Hopefully Morgan and the 78's enjoyed it enough to call again. 
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