Friday, December 2, 2016

Read notes local churchgoers wrote after Trump's election to show love to local refugees

Posted By on Fri, Dec 2, 2016 at 3:30 PM

This week we have a story on how the friends, family and teachers of refugees are standing up in defense of their neighbors, survivors of war and devastation who Donald Trump's son has compared to poisonous Skittles.

And sure enough, just a few hours after we'd sent the story to print Tuesday, Trump decided to share some more of his early morning thoughts on refugees.

But in this week's story, I didn't want to focus on outrage over Trump or even on debunking misconceptions about American refugee policy. I wanted to focus on what Spokane was doing to show the people already here — many who'd gone through hell before every getting here — they were loved.

A lot of these were relatively small acts that nevertheless can matter a lot.

Like the notes that three churches — Branches, Salem Lutheran and The Porch — wrote to local refugees.

Brent Hendricks, head of the refugee employment and assistance organization Global Neighborhood, says he got the idea from a former volunteer who'd moved to Nebraska. The volunteer was teaching English as a Second Language to refugee woman, noticed some of them were really freaked out after Trump's election, and so asked some of his colleagues to write little notes of support.

He decided to steal the idea and emailed a few churches he'd partnered with.

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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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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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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

Trump's cabinet grows, 85-year-old suspected molester and morning headlines

Posted By on Tue, Nov 29, 2016 at 9:27 AM


NEWS: This is something you probably don't want to hear: syphilis rates in Spokane are rising.


Sexual predator
An 85-year-old man was arrested for first-degree child rape, child molestation and unlawful imprisonment of a young girl, and Spokane County Sheriff's deputies suspect the man, Marvin E. Petersen, had been sexually assaulting girls since the 1950s. (KXLY)

Budget approved
The Spokane City Council approved its 2017 budget last night. The budget will devote more money to services for the poor. (Spokesman-Review)

Downtown opening up
The construction project that has caused lane closures on Monroe and Lincoln downtown should be complete next Monday, according to the city. (KHQ)

Knife attack
What was originally described as an active shooter on Ohio State's campus yesterday was actually a student who crashed his vehicle into pedestrians, then slashed at students with a butcher knife. The attacker was shot and killed by a university police officer. Eleven people were hospitalized, with one in critical condition. (USA Today)

Repeal and replace
Donald Trump has picked Tom Price, a six-term Republican congressman, as his secretary of health and human services. Price is a leading advocate of dismantling the Affordable Care Act. (New York Times)

Free speech
Donald Trump made more news on Twitter this morning, stating "Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag - if they do, there must be consequences - perhaps loss of citizenship or a year in jail!" This is a direct conflict of free speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.
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Monday, November 28, 2016

Shooter at Ohio State University, Castro is dead and other headlines

Posted By on Mon, Nov 28, 2016 at 9:42 AM


THIS WEEK: Die Hard at the Bing, a poetry reading in Cheney and The Chris Robinson Brotherhood to kick off the first week of December.

Fake News: a new study out of Stanford found that middle school, high school and college aged students are easily duped into thinking sponsored content is real news or fail to see the influence of political bias.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE: How confidential informants keep the justice system out of the public's view.


• At least eight people have been taken to a hospital after reports of an "active shooter" at Ohio State University. One of those people is in critical condition, authorities say. (New York Times, CNN)

• Former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro died last week. Although he leaves behind a complicated legacy, many remember the Communist leader for his oppressive regime that eliminated dissent and deprived Cuban citizens of basic human rights. He was 90. (Miami Herald, New York Times)

• Talk of changing the law that protects Washington state cops from criminal prosecution moves forward. The law, which some prosecutors say makes it nearly impossible to bring charges in use of deadly force situations, says officers cannot be charged unless they acted with malice and in bad faith. (Seattle Times)

• A federal judge will allow the man accused of killing nine African American church worshipers to represent himself at trial. Dylann Roof, 22, could be sentenced to death if convicted. (Post and Courier)
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Friday, November 25, 2016

Study: Students easily tricked by fake or biased news

Posted By on Fri, Nov 25, 2016 at 10:29 AM

People may know how to use this tablet, but can they identify fake news?
  • People may know how to use this tablet, but can they identify fake news?

It's not only adults who have trouble judging fake news from real news. Students, even if they're more digital-savvy than adults, often are duped by sponsored or politically biased content, too, according to a new Stanford study.

Stanford researchers collected responses to more than 50 tasks from 7,804 students across 12 states between January 2015 and June 2016. The study, released this week, came to the conclusion that middle school, high school and college students are easily tricked into thinking sponsored content is news or fail to see how political bias can influence content. Researchers described students' ability to discern information on the internet as "bleak."

"Our 'digital natives' may be able to flit between Facebook and Twitter while simultaneously uploading a selfie to Instagram and texting a friend. But when it comes to evaluating information that flows through social media channels, they are easily duped," the study says.

Inlander contributor Scott A. Leadingham wrote about the spread of fake information on social media in last week's paper. On Facebook, for example, a fake story about Megyn Kelly being fired from Fox News for supporting Hillary Clinton became a "Trending Topic" on the social media site.

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