Thursday, December 18, 2014

MB: Bird flu, Inslee's carbon-emissions plan and not seeing The Interview

Posted By on Thu, Dec 18, 2014 at 8:36 AM


The Catholic diocese of Spokane got the okay to pursue its malpractice suit against the law firm that represented it during its 2007 bankruptcy case. (S-R)

The avian flu has made its way into some Washington bird populations. (KREM)

A Kennewick high school student was killed in an officer-involved shooting in Minnesota. (KHQ)


Gov. Inslee is proposing attacking the state's carbon emissions with an aggressive cap-and-trade plan. (Seattle Times)

A Missoula man was convicted of killing a German exchange student in his garage, a major test of the state's stand-your-ground laws. (Missoulian) 

The U.S. normalizing relations with Cuba leaves North Korea as the last Cold War outlier on America's "Cold War blacklist". (New York Times)

That's probably part of the reason none of us will be seeing The Interview in movie theaters. (CNN)

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

MB: CdA arms parades, The Interview's issues, and keep our zombies local!

Posted By on Wed, Dec 17, 2014 at 8:07 AM


Keep our zombies local! Washington film industry supporters want a boost in tax incentives for local productions. (Inlander)

The Spokane City Council had a marathon meeting thanks to a controversial idea about its apprentice program. (Inlander)

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up former Spokane police officer Karl Thompson, Jr.'s case looking to overturn his conviction in Otto Zehm's death. (S-R)

Spokane police are looking for a man who stabbed an acquaintance in Riverfront Park. Were you in the area around 5 pm Tuesday night? (KHQ)


The 4th of July in northern Idaho just got a lot more interesting as the Coeur d'Alene City Council overturned its ban on guns at parades. (KREM)

Portland has released a report detailing how the police should deal with the local hip-hop community. (Oregonian)

Got Comcast? If so, your broadband speed is getting the steroid treatment. (Seattle Times)


Have a cigar! The U.S. and Cuba are in talks to reestablish diplomatic ties. (New York Times)

New York theater cancels its premiere of The Interview due to threats of the Sony hackers. (CNN)
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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A marathon city council meeting takes on unskilled labor

Posted By on Tue, Dec 16, 2014 at 1:21 PM

Spokane City Council’s last meeting of the year was a marathon session that lasted over four hours and brought out the largest group of people the city’s legislative body had seen all year.

The council's agenda touched on a beautification project, a pilot program meant to deter speeders in school zones and an ordinance intended to use the city’s economic clout to boost the number of skilled workers in the area.

It was this ordinance, accompanied by two others meant to steer city procurements and contracts to local businesses, that filled council chambers with people who largely urged its passage.

The ordinance mandated that 15 percent of all labor hours on city public work projects be done by apprentice labor. Spearheaded by City Council President Ben Stuckart, the ordinance is meant to address the shortage of skilled labor contractors are facing in the Spokane area and across the state. Speaking before the crowded council chambers, Stuckart said that the shortage will worsen as construction projects pick up significantly in coming years. 
The council passed an ordinance requiring apprentice labor in public works projects, despite concerns from Mayor David Condon.
  • The council passed an ordinance requiring apprentice labor in public works projects, despite concerns from Mayor David Condon.

“We, as a participant in the market, have to do something,” said Stuckart, who pointed to about a dozen other schools or government entities in Washington that have similar requirements. He also mentioned a slew of multi-million dollar projects the city had planned in coming years, which, under the ordinance, could be used as an incubator for new skilled workers.

The ordinance, starting July of next year, will require 5 percent of all labor hours on all city projects to be done by apprentices, who will get on-the-job training for in-demand professions. That requirement would steadily rise to 15 percent by 2017. The ordinance allows these requirements to be waived under some circumstances, but contractors who don’t meet it could face fines.

The ordinance was amended by Councilwoman Amber Waldref with provisions meant to encourage contractors to hire local labor (particularly minorities, women and people from economically distressed areas).

Stuckart said that in drafting the ordinance he made multiple modifications to address the concerns of contractors, to no avail. Several contractors showed up to testify that the measure was too punitive and imposed unrealistic requirements on an industry still struggling to recover from the Great Recession.

“For our organization, it will not work,” an owner of a small construction company solemnly told the council.

But the majority of the nearly 40 people who testified were in support of the ordinance and included many individuals from the Spokane Alliance, a coalition of religious and labor groups focused on economic issues. A parade of current and past apprentices came before the council to tell stories of how apprenticeship programs gave them second opportunities after plans of college didn't work out.

Councilman Mike Allen noted that his father probably would have fit in with the apprentices testifying in support of the ordinance, but he still couldn’t support placing a new requirement on businesses. Councilman Mike Fagan expressed concerns that the ordinance would “steamroll” local businesses.

“Again, I ask, why is OK to make this mandatory?” he asked. “Why is this OK to attach a penalty?”

Although the ordinance passed 5-2, Spokane Mayor David Condon has concerns about it as well. In a letter to Stuckart, he wrote that the ordinance should be reworked to better take into account the concerns of all stakeholders and to broaden its focus to creating more family-wage jobs in the area.

In addition to passing the apprenticeship ordinance, the council also voted to shuffle money from existing funds and direct them toward the $800,000 revitalization of the Division Street Gateway, a heavily used entry point to the city that sees 28,000 pass through it each day. Although Fagan questioned if it was a good use of funds and George McGrath, who spoke against nearly everything the council did during each public comment period, called it a “hair-brained scheme to make Spokane's entry way beautiful on Division Street,” the measure passed.

Additionally, the council voted to set up a pilot program meant to deter speeding at Finch and Longfellow elementary schools. Sponsored by Councilman Jon Snyder, the measure, beginning next year, will set up speed zone cameras that will take a picture of speeding drivers and send them a ticket in the mail.

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Gov. Inslee announces education agenda

Posted By on Tue, Dec 16, 2014 at 11:09 AM

Gov. Jay Inslee
  • Gov. Jay Inslee

At a town hall on Monday evening, Gov. Jay Inslee announced his plan to pump $2.3 billion into public K-12 schools, colleges and teacher workforce training in the next biennium. 

Inslee's education plan would fulfill the state Supreme Court's McCleary mandate to fully fund basic education a year earlier than the court-set deadline; freeze college tuition increases for two years; and restore teachers' cost-of-living pay raises. You read his full plan here

What his plan doesn't do is cover the full cost of the voter-approved class-size reduction initiative, which comes at an estimated $2 billion price tag. Instead, his proposal dedicates $448 million in new spending to reduce K-3 class sizes, as required by the court's McCleary decision.  

"What we've decided here is that we cannot fully fund [the class size initiative] in this first biennium, so what we've chosen to do is fully-fund the K-3 portion of that this biennium," David Schumacher, director of the state's Office of Fiscal Management, told KPLU. "There's just simply not enough money available."

There's no word yet on where or how the governor expects to get the money to pay for his plan. He'll release his entire budget proposal on Thursday. 
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MB: Rodeo queens gone wrong, 10 Barrel's Boise problem and a WSU hero

Posted By on Tue, Dec 16, 2014 at 8:19 AM


Eastern State Hospital got hit with a contempt ruling and some serious fines for the delays in its inmate evaluations. (Inlander)

Spokane's recently departed Catholic bishop is denying he orchestrated a smear campaign against the diocese's old lawyers. (S-R)

The suspect in a Lapwei, Idaho, shooting escaped from police custody Monday. (KHQ)


Idaho beer distributors are trying to shut down 10 Barrel Brewing Co.'s Boise brewpub after the company's sale to Anheuser-Busch. (Idaho Statesman)

A former Boise St. Bronco Girl and Idaho rodeo queen is going to jail for embezzling. Giddy-up! (KREM)

The heroic cafe manager in the Sydney hostage standoff was a WSU alum. (Seattle Times)


The Taliban killed 141 in a school assault in Pakistan, most of them children (AP)

New York Magazine's story about a $72 million-earning teenage stock trader turned out to be bogus. (Washington Post)

Vox takes a look at predictions about millennials from a 2000 book you might recall from our recent cover story on The Selfie Generation. (Inlander)
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Monday, December 15, 2014

Spokane judge fines Eastern State for contempt over evaluation delays

Posted By on Mon, Dec 15, 2014 at 4:29 PM

A Spokane judge found Eastern State Hospital and the Department of Social and Health Services in contempt on Friday for failing to provide timely competency evaluations for jailed defendants. - CHRIS BOVEY
  • Chris Bovey
  • A Spokane judge found Eastern State Hospital and the Department of Social and Health Services in contempt on Friday for failing to provide timely competency evaluations for jailed defendants.

Challenging the state’s mental health priorities, a Spokane County judge last week issued the first contempt of court ruling against an Eastern Washington psychiatric hospital for failing to conduct timely evaluations of several jailed defendants awaiting trial, fining the hospital $200 for each day of delay for each defendant.

Judge Salvatore Cozza ruled Friday that Eastern State Hospital had willfully violated multiple orders by not conducting competency evaluations, or even scheduling them, within court-established deadlines. Cozza notes that several Seattle-area courts have issued similar rulings as backlogs have increased.

“We are clearly in a situation where individuals are languishing [in jail] way too long,” Cozza says during the hearing Friday afternoon. “Their cases are getting backed up and we really are getting into an intolerable situation.”

State law calls for jailed defendants to undergo mental health evaluations within seven days, but wait times often average more than a month. Cozza faults state lawmakers and administrators for setting such deadlines without the staffing and budgetary support to meet them, leaving defendants caught in limbo.

“There have been conscious decisions … that have created this problem,” Cozza says. “This is not something that snuck up on decision makers without warning. This has been coming for a long time.”

Mental health advocates have repeatedly asked for stronger enforcement of deadlines on competency evaluations. Some defendants have served more time awaiting evaluation than they would face upon conviction of their alleged crimes, upward of six months in some cases.

In December of 2013, 25-year-old Amanda Cook killed herself in the Spokane County Jail after waiting several weeks beyond the state deadline for an evaluation.

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Tonight: A packed agenda for the last council meeting of 2014

Posted By on Mon, Dec 15, 2014 at 9:02 AM

The last Spokane City Council meeting of the year will be held tonight, a week before Christmas. It won’t include any presents for the council’s conservative minority and will have a lump of coal for one council member.

Included in the council’s packed Monday night agenda is a vote on an ordinance that will mandate that contractors for public works projects worth over $350,000 hire apprentice labor. If passed, the ordinance will require beginning next year that 5 percent of all labor hours on public works projects be done by apprentices. That requirement, which can be waived under some circumstances, will rise to 15 percent in 2017.

“Everyone agrees that there is a skilled worker shortage that’s here now and is going to get worse in the future,” say City Council President Ben Stuckart, who points to a survey of Washington state contractors who’ve had a hard time finding qualified workers.

Stuckart says the city has half a billion dollars worth of public work projects lined up. The ordinance, he says, will use the city’s heft to help incubate new skilled workers, which are in high demand for both public and private projects.

“We have a vested interest in making sure that we have a skilled workforce to meet that demand,” says Stuckart, who expects the ordinance to pass on a 5-2 vote.

If it somehow doesn’t, there will be at least one administration employee with not much to do. In November, the City Council passed a budget that included a $60,000 salary for a compliance officer to oversee the yet-to-be-passed ordinance.

Councilman Mike Fagan says that while he’s supportive of having more apprentices, he views this ordinance as an overreach.
Council President Ben Stuckart is pushing an ordinance that would require a certain percentage of apprentices to work on public projects.
  • Council President Ben Stuckart is pushing an ordinance that would require a certain percentage of apprentices to work on public projects.
“Basically, what we are going to do is ram this apprenticeship program down the throats of people that will be employing these people,” he says. “We will be biting the hand that feeds us.”

Fagan says that the construction industry hasn’t entirely rebounded from the recession and this mandate won’t help.

Cheryl Stewart, the managing director of the Inland Northwest Association of General Contractors, opposes the ordinance as well. She agrees that there is a shortage of skilled workers, but she says that ordinance will just make it more difficult for the industry to manage its workforce and some contractors will avoid city projects.

“We all want the same things,” says Stewart, who blames the worker shortage on not enough people being steered toward construction professions. “Instead of mandating and punishing, [the City Council] should be incentivizing and encouraging.”

Fagan also doesn’t care for the politics he says are driving this ordinance.

“We know that there is an outside special interest called Fuse Washington is driving this train,” says Fagan, referring to a Seattle-based progressive advocacy organization.

Melissa Carpenter, the president for the Spokane Alliance, a coalition that supports the ordinance, says that there were a few people from Fuse Washington involved in the campaign, but she says it’s being driven by people in Spokane.

To that end, she says that supporters of the ordinance will be packing the council chambers on Monday.

While this ordinance is likely to be the biggest thing on the council’s agenda, it’s also notable what’s absent.

The council was originally slated to consider a pair of measures from Fagan related to how the mayor’s salary is set. The mayor’s salary is currently set by a clause in the city’s charter, which the council has complained results in overgenerous compensation. Fagan’s measures would have created a ballot proposition, which, if passed, would task the city’s Salary Review Commission with setting the mayor’s salary. He had hoped to get the proposition on the February special election ballot, which he says would have allowed enough time after its passage to apply the changes to the next budget cycle.

However, he said it was taken off the agenda by Stuckart at the request of the school district, which has a levy on the February ballot.

Stuckart defends the decision.

“We were asked by another taxing authority not to put this on the same ballot,” he says. “It’s a respect issue when they don’t want something on their tax ballot.”

He says that different issues bring out different voters, and “schools get 20 percent of funding from local levy, and we don’t ever want to be in position where it fails because we had something on the ballot.”

Now, the proposition likely won’t be considered by voters until August, and Fagan suspects there won’t be any changes to how the mayor’s salary is set until 2017.

“The question that should be asked by the public is: Who does the council work for?” says Fagan. “Does it work for the school district?”

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MB: Sydney standoff ends, Seattle cops need hackers, Warren NOT running

Posted By on Mon, Dec 15, 2014 at 8:43 AM


CdA police are looking for a runaway teen, who disappeared Sunday night with no shoes or coat. (UPDATE: Teen was found safe and sound on Sherman Ave). (KXLY)

Merry Christmas! A Spokane company is laying off 45 workers just in time for the holidays. (KHQ)

A look into Spokane's long-term transportation plans. (S-R)


Seattle police are looking for a few good hackers as they deal with sensitive video issues. (Seattle Times)

Need a kidney transplant and living in Idaho? It could be a while. (Idaho Statesman)

A Portland demonstrator was hit by a car while taking part in a "Black Lives Matter" protest, and then charged for being in the street.


A Sydney hostage standoff came to an end when police raided the place. (New York Times)

Turkey has started mass arrests of journalists, and the country's president doesn't want to hear any bitching about it. (BBC)

Elizabeth Warren is NOT running for president. According to Elizabeth Warren. (CNN)
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Friday, December 12, 2014

Spokane police ombud Burns to retire from oversight position

Posted By on Fri, Dec 12, 2014 at 12:57 PM

Spokane Police Ombudsman Tim Burns confirmed today he plans to retire from his police oversight position with the city just weeks after the newly seated ombudsman commission voted to extend his contract. Burns says his last day will be Jan. 2, but he hopes to provide continued advice or insight as the commission selects a replacement.

“Hopefully with my departure there won’t be too many loose ends,” Burns says, noting the new commission will have several large issues to take on in the coming months.

Police ombudsman Tim Burns today confirmed he plans to retire Jan. 2. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Police ombudsman Tim Burns today confirmed he plans to retire Jan. 2.

Burns, a former police officer and community developer, has served as the city’s first police ombudsman for more than five years. He has provided civilian oversight of the Spokane Police Department through a tumultuous period of community distrust and reform.

When the city seated the Office of Police Ombudsman Commission, the five members moved to quickly consider extending Burns’ contract. The commission cited his experience and community rapport in its 4-1 decision to extend his contract an additional three years.

During the time of the commission’s deliberation, Burns says, he applied to several other jobs and has now accepted a position that takes him back to community development in California. He says taking the new positions allows him more time to spend with his family.

In the meantime, Burns says he plans to spend the next couple of weeks helping the OPO Commission prioritize the issues before it, including the search for a new ombudsman. He plans to brief the commission on what he has learned and what skills he believes would be valuable.

“I want to be a resource for them,” he says. “Just because I’m leaving doesn’t mean I won’t make myself available.”

The OPO Commission will have its next meeting at 5:30 pm Wednesday in the City Council Briefing Room. Burns says he expects his departure to be discussed during that session.

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Weekly report: Mountain day, winter fishing and problem predators

Posted By on Fri, Dec 12, 2014 at 11:03 AM

Do you have a favorite international mountain? Mine is Mount Rundle near Banff, Alberta. Look at that thing. - JACOB JONES
  • Jacob Jones
  • Do you have a favorite international mountain? Mine is Mount Rundle near Banff, Alberta. Look at that thing.

OUTLANDER serves as a weekly round up of Inland Northwest outdoor recreation and natural resources news. This feature will highlight a wide variety of issues and events, ranging from camping tips to national environmental disputes. We’ll also try to include some scenic photos. Feel free to pass along suggestions or curiosities celebrating the Great Outdoors.

Yesterday was International Mountain Day, so I hope you took a moment to consider the majesty of the world’s great peaks large and small. Here’s a start. (MNN)

Wildlife officials are investigating what may be first livestock animal killed by wolves in Whitman County (KXLY)

Kayak anglers find success at Rock Lake southwest of Spokane. (Seattle Times)

Recycle Man hits the ice to promote ecological responsibility. (Inlander)

Winter fly fishing tips on the Spokane River and other area waterways. (Silver Bow)

Spokane native’s Surviving the Tribe TV show looks at first season and future goals (S-R).

Idaho may resort to cloud seeding. (Idaho Falls)

Salmon restoration along the Columbia River (HCN)

As the movie Wild brings new attention to the Pacific Crest Trail, hear from an expert. (WTA)

The most popular Instagram outdoor photos from the Department of the Interior (Time)

Another slideshow, this time with crazy animal photos. (Time)

Also, an impressive photo of a deer getting heli-netted in Wyoming. (Wyodeer)

A sniper hunts foxes in the streets of London. (NYT)

Discovery Channel’s Eaten Alive disappoints. (WaPost)

Cross a metrosexual with a grizzly bear and you get the new “lumbersexual,” most commonly observed in beard, flannel and work boots. (The Atlantic)

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