News

Friday, September 4, 2015

Spokane's first parklet popped up overnight this week

Posted By on Fri, Sep 4, 2015 at 2:56 PM

The new parklet on west Main outside of Wollnick's went up overnight on Wednesday, Sept. 2. - CHEY SCOTT
  • Chey Scott
  • The new parklet on west Main outside of Wollnick's went up overnight on Wednesday, Sept. 2.

The passersby are gawking and stopping in the middle of the sidewalk to check out the unusual sight, but not for the typical rubber-necker reasons. They're just wondering what, exactly, the rectangular wooden structure is, how it got there and why.

Just days after the Spokane City Council voted to pass a resolution to allow a 60-day parklet demonstration downtown, the parklet — a patio-esque park about the size of two parallel parking spaces on the edge of the street — materialized overnight. Situated in a loading zone (and no, it's not taking up metered parking spaces that were otherwise open to the public) just outside of Wollnick's General Store, the city's first-ever parklet was set up by the local nonprofit Yes (You Express Studio), which has been championing the idea since last year. For the past two years, Yes has set up parklets at August's Garland Street Fair to show the public how functional and welcoming the spaces can be. There was also a demo parklet at last year's Terrain arts showcase.

Tonight, the parklet will transform into a performing arts space for First Friday's arts walk around downtown; the event is being hosted by Wollnick's.

Around lunchtime today, Yes event coordinator and a board member Cara Forsman had donned an apron and pair of gardening gloves to spruce up some of the greenery in box planters lining the top of the outside wall of the parklet.

Forsman says Yes was waiting for approval from the city to set up the parklet, so when they got the go-ahead at Monday's city council meeting, a team of volunteers set up the structure within hours this past Wednesday. It's been the talk of the town since. 

Wollnick's has offered to help manage the parklet, and takes the table umbrellas and chairs inside its store at night. The staff there also locks up the box-style benches and tables, and have agreed to help keep the parklet tidy and welcoming. 

While the parklet is currently scheduled to stay open on west Main through October with its 60-day permit, Forsman says there is interest in opening another near the Saranac Building and possibly outside the Nudo Ramen House on west First Avenue. 

"If the weather is nice, and next spring businesses want it outside their location, we'd like to continue what we've been calling this social experiment," she says.

The parklet's construction and materials were funded privately and by donation. Moving forward, Forsman says Yes hopes local businesses that want a parklet near them would help sponsor one since the cost to build one can run into the several thousands of dollars. Another issue the group also faces is finding a place to store the parklets once disassembled for the winter.


The parklet is set up in a little-used loading zone, not public parking spaces. - CHEY SCOTT
  • Chey Scott
  • The parklet is set up in a little-used loading zone, not public parking spaces.


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MB: No teachers strike, mayor's late line-item budget, state auditor faces new felonies

Posted By on Fri, Sep 4, 2015 at 9:24 AM


HERE 

Spokane Public School District teachers will not strike after tentative agreement reached. (Spokesman-Review) 

Mayor David Condon won't release his line-item budget until a day before he faces reelection. Condon released a proposed budget earlier this week, but the more detailed line-item document includes salaries of city employees. (Inlander)

The family of Antonio Zambrano-Montes filed a federal lawsuit seeking more that $25 million in damages after Pasco police officers shot and killed the man. (Tri-City Herald)

The Community Bill of Rights challenge will be heard by the Washington Supreme Court. (Spokesman-Review) 

THERE

State Auditor Troy Kelley faces eight new felony charges, alleging money laundering and tax evasion. That's on top of the 10-count indictment issued earlier this summer. (Seattle Times)

The feds now have to get warrants to use secretive cell phone tracking technology, known as Stingrays, the Justice Department says. (New York Times)

U.S. unemployment rate falls to 5.1 percent, the lowest mark since April 2008. (Washington Post)

The Rowan county Clerk's Office is now issuing marriage licenses to gay couples with clerk Kim Davis behind bars. Davis refused to issue the licenses to gay couples for religious reasons despite the U.S. Supreme Court ruling earlier this year. U.S. District Judge David Bunning says Davids will remain in jail until she complies. (CNN) 
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Thursday, September 3, 2015

How well are Spokane Public Schools employees paid anyway?

Posted By on Thu, Sep 3, 2015 at 5:32 PM


With the deadline for a strike ebbing down, Spokane Public Schools and the Spokane Education Association finally announced a potential one-year contract. It still has to be ratified by the union's general membership on Tuesday, but for now, you can breathe easy young nerds: School will remain in session.

Here's the announcement: 
Tentative Agreement reached between District and Spokane EA

The Spokane Education Association and Spokane School District are pleased to jointly announce we’ve finally come to a Tentative Agreement avoiding a strike tomorrow morning.

Spokane EA members are meeting at a General Membership meeting Tuesday evening to go over the new contract and to discuss whether or not to ratify the TA.

SEA members voted at a General Membership Meeting last Friday to strike beginning tomorrow if no Tentative Agreement was reached. Talks stalled before the two sides agreed to work with a state-appointed mediator.

The one-year contract makes progress toward several issues pertinent to building world class schools including professional development, workload and compensation.
We’re very proud of the high-quality education our students deserve and receive here in Spokane, Supt. Shelley Redinger says. We’re very pleased we’ve come to an agreement that meets the needs of the District and values our employees.

We appreciate the dedication of our members to the families and students in our District and we’re happy we can avert a strike, SEA President Jenny Rose says. Our bargaining team says they feel they have worked hard with the District to come to a fair and reasonable settlement.

Both teams say they appreciate working with the state mediator who was assigned to help them move forward and both teams say they appreciate the patience and support shown by our parents and other community members during this difficult negotiations period.

School and activities will continue on Friday as scheduled. 
But the underlying question remains: How well are the district's teachers, instructional assistants, maintenance workers and other staffers paid anyway? And because a salary in Spokane can get you a lot further than that same salary in Seattle, how does that compare if you adjust for things like supply, demand, and cost of living? 

It's a question the district asked a Segal Waters Consulting consulting group earlier this year

The lengthy resulting study highlights just how complicated things can are during union negotiations. Electricians, for example, do a lot better when compared to their peers than Nutrition Services employees. But while entry-level Nutrition Services employees only get paid 92 percent of the market rate, they top out at 115 percent of the market rate. 

Give it a look.
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Mayor delays release of budget; opponent says it's politically motivated

Posted By on Thu, Sep 3, 2015 at 5:20 PM


Mayor David Condon won’t release a more complete version of his proposed budget until a day before he faces reelection. His opponent says the move is politically motivated, but the city administration insists it’s intended to allow for more time for community feedback.

Earlier this week, Condon released his program budget, a document that provides the broad contours of the mayor’s spending priorities. It's followed up with a line-item budget, a more detailed document that includes salaries of city employees and items that City Council wants funded. In previous years, the line-item budget –– a hefty, numbers-dense document –– has been released in October and sent to City Council for modification and final approval. 

Last year, City Council and the mayor clashed over the budget, with the council taking issue with raises for the mayor and his cabinet while disregarding some of their funding requests. This year, the line-item budget won’t come out until November 2, a day before ballots are due. 

Shar Lichty, an organizer with the Peace and Justice Action League who is challenging Condon, finds the timing suspicious. She says that the mayor is trying to avoid a similar dust-up as last year as he seeks to become the first candidate to be reelected to the position since 1973.

Continue reading »

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MB: Teacher strike looms, Lichty hits Condon on ombudsman issues, Brady suspension lifted

Posted By on Thu, Sep 3, 2015 at 9:18 AM


HERE 

Mayoral candidate Shar Lichty blames problems with the Office of Police Ombudsman on Mayor David Condon, who ran on a platform of greater police oversight. (Inlander)

With the deadline for contract negotiations looming, the Spokane School Board voted to allow the district to take the Spokane Educational Association to court if teachers strike Friday. (KXLY)

Inmates in Spokane will soon be using tablet computers. (Spokesman-Review) 

THERE

The Kentucky county clerk who still won't issue marriage licenses to gay couples is due in court today. She faces contempt charges, but she can't be fired. (Washington Post, NPR) 

Tom Brady's four-game suspension nullified by judge. (Yahoo)

Pretrial hearings for the six police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray began yesterday. Here's what you need to know. (Baltimore Sun) 

Desperate Crossing: A stunning photo essay showing 733 African migrants crammed onto two fishing boats as they drift across the Mediterranean Sea to a destination 300 miles away. (New York Times)

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Wednesday, September 2, 2015

[Updated] Lichty says Office of Police Ombudsman is "the mayor's mess"

Posted By on Wed, Sep 2, 2015 at 5:05 PM


Mayoral candidate Shar Lichty blasted Mayor David Condon’s handling of the Office of Police Ombudsman, saying that he broke his promise of bringing greater accountability and transparency to the Spokane Police Department.

In a blistering press release issued earlier today, Lichty, an organizer with the Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane, faulted the mayor failing to negotiate with the Police Guild in 2013 to give the Office of Police Ombudsman better independent investigative authority. She also faulted Condon, who ran in 2011 on a platform of bringing greater oversight to the police department, for failing to fill the ombudsman position, which has sat vacant since January.

“It’s the mayor’s mess because he ran on that platform and it’s arguably what he won his election on,” says Lichty.

Lichty points out that in May, City Council passed a resolution calling on the police ombudsman selection committee to come up with a list of three possible interim candidates for the ombudsman position until a permanent replacement could be found. She also faulted the ombudsman selection committee, noting that it was chaired by city attorney and Condon appointee Nancy Isserlis, for failing to look into the backgrounds of the three candidates for ombudsman. She specifically took issue with Allen Huggins, who made controversial comments on the website of the Wall Street Journal, being made a finalist.

“They didn’t vet the applicants if Huggins was a finalist,” she says.

Lichty also questions why Andrea Brenneke, a Seattle attorney with a background in restorative justice, didn’t even get an interview after applying for the position.

Councilman Jon Snyder, a Condon foe who chairs the council’s public safety committee, also faulted the mayor for why the city hasn’t had a permanent ombudsman since January. He says the reason he was given by Isserlis for no interim ombudsman candidates being offered was because no one was qualified.

“That’s just patently false,” says Snyder. He says that he wouldn’t support Huggins for a permanent position, but pointed out that he lives nearby in Idaho and could have served as an interim.

The mayor did not respond for comment. 

City spokesperson Brian Coddington, who stressed he was not speaking in a political capacity, says that the mayor’s office has had conversations about having a process for selecting an interim ombudsman in case the position should fall vacant.

As for why Brenneke wasn’t considered, he said that committee examined the ombudsman applicants and she didn’t have support on the selection committee. He also noted that the mayor wanted the selection process to unfold independently of him.

“The mayor has been very intentional about staying out of that process and not even meeting the candidates,” says Coddington. 

Condon says that his administration has put more oversight and citizen confidence back into the Police Department, noting it’s implemented the recommendations of the Use of Force Commission report, collaborated with the U.S. Department of Justice on reform of the department and has begun training equipping officers with Crisis Intervention Training and body cameras.

“We see the confidence in our Police Department growing substantially,” says Condon.

He also says that the family of Otto Zehm, a man who was killed by Spokane police, has endorsed his campaign.

As for the delay in finding an ombudsman, he says that the commission wanted to first reexamine the job description and the whistleblower complaint in June further derailed the process, which he has been independent of. 
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MB: Whitworth students in blackface, Baltimore protests, push for County cop ombudsman

Posted By on Wed, Sep 2, 2015 at 9:58 AM


HERE 

Whitworth University students posed in blackface and posted it to Instagram. They were supposed to be the Jackson 5. (KXLY)

Proponents of independent police oversight will present 1,000 signatures to the County Commissioners today in support of a county ombudsman. Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich says the effort is a tactic by his political opponents. (Inlander, Spokesman Review) 

Spokane City Council approves "parklets" by vote of 5-1. (Inlander) 

THERE 

Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland announced her support of President Obama's Iran Nuclear deal, the final vote needed to survive a congressional challenge. (CNN)

Emails released by hackers reveal Sony Pictures altered the script and marketing of the new film "Concussion," which depicts death and demential football players endure from head injuries, to appease the N.F.L. (New York Times)

Activists and police prepare for protests in Baltimore as hearings in the death of Freddie Gray begin today. (Baltimore Sun)


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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Spokane City Council signs off on "parklets"

Posted By on Tue, Sep 1, 2015 at 10:28 AM

artsculture2-1-abd5cffd00d672c4.jpg

Parklets — small parks about the size of two parking spaces — could be coming to downtown Spokane and throughout the rest of the city.

Last night, Spokane City Council passed a resolution requesting Mayor David Condon’s administration work with the Downtown Spokane Partnership, downtown’s business association, to implement a 60-day parklet demonstration.

The idea was spearheaded by a nonprofit organization Yes (You Express Studio). The group’s president José Barajas told the council that parklets, which were championed in San Francisco, will include seating, bike racks and vegetation.

“But one thing that it does is that is serves as a platform or as a stage for cultural events: music, dance, performance,” he told the council. “It not only does that, but it encourages people walk and to shop and to stay downtown.”

Barajas said that his group surveyed downtown businesses to see what they thought about the concept. While most thought it was a good idea, he said some were concerned about losing parking. He said his group could install a parklet in two hours and disassemble it an hour.

“One thing to know is this is all privately funded,” he said, noting that Yes will cover all the insurance and maintenance on the first parklet, which could be installed between Stevens and Washington streets. Yes will also monitor who uses it.

Responding to a question from Councilman Mike Allen, Barajas said that there is no incident of a car running into a parklet in cities where they’ve been installed and they’ve exceeded Seattle’s safety standards. Barajas was also asked by Councilman Mike Fagan about how parklets would be affected by Spokane’s sit-lie ordinance, said that the parklet would be watched by Yes and nearby businesses to prevent any vandalism or unsavory activity.

Barajas said he hopes parklets will eventually spread throughout downtown and across the city after the pilot project.

“I’m very fond of this idea because I love Spokane,” said Barajas. “I think it’s a hidden gem.”

The five people who spoke during the public comment period all seemed to like the idea. Even civic gadfly George McGrath, who is typically opposed to almost everything the council does, noted that the parklet “looks good.” But lefty activist Alfredo Llamedo told the council that he would use the parklet to challenge the city’s sit-lie ordinance.

“I intend to get every homeless person I can find to sit in this structure,” he told the council.

“We’ll sleep in them; we’ll camp in them,” he said. “This will be fun.”

The resolution passed 5-1 (Council President Ben Stuckart was absent), with Fagan voting no. 
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MB: Possible teachers' strike, still no gay marriage licenses in KY, murder rates rising

Posted By on Tue, Sep 1, 2015 at 9:36 AM


HERE 

A Spokane public accountant was indicted on federal tax fraud and evasion when he failed to report $1.7 million in income and filed fake personal tax returns. (Spokesman-Review) 

Spokane Public School teachers start school this week with the looming possibility of a strike as soon as this Friday. (KREM) 

Mayor David Condon released his 2016 capital and operation budget proposals Monday. (Spokesman-Review)

THERE

A federal judge ruled that employers can refuse to provide insurance coverage for contraception based on moral, not just religious, beliefs. Judge Richard J. Leon wrote that religious groups' special exemption amounted to "regulatory favoritism." (The Boston Globe)

A Kentucky Clerk is still denying gay marriage licenses despite the Supreme Court's decision in Obergefell v. Hodges earlier this year. (CNN)

Murder rates are on the rise in many U.S. cities . Milwaukee, St. Louis and Baltimore are the top three. (New York Times)

POLICE 

A video of police shooting a man in San Antonio appears to show that he had his hands up when he was shot. (KSAT)

Crime and punishment could be a major issue at the center of the 2016 presidential campaign, as several Republicans, including presidential candidate Ted Cruz, are stepping up their pro-police rhetoric in the wake of the shooting of a Texas police officer. (Dallas Morning News)

A bipartisan group of Senate Judiciary Committee members is expected to announce a deal meant to relieve overcrowded federal prisons. The bill would give judges more discretion in sentencing nonviolent drug offenders, and well-behaved inmates could earn time off their sentences. (The Daily Signal)
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Monday, August 31, 2015

MB: Spokane SWAT incident, McKinley now Denali, ISIS's war on history

Posted By on Mon, Aug 31, 2015 at 9:06 AM


HERE:

Washington fires cause loss of livestock, grazing land, miles of fence and water sources for ranchers. (Spokesman-Review)

An eastern Idaho woman filed a complaint that says an Idaho State Trooper coerced her to have sex with him in his patrol car. (KXLY)

The Spokane County Sheriff's SWAT team arrested a man Sunday who officials say was holding a woman hostage. Neither the victim nor the suspect were seriously injured during the incident. (KREM)  

The three candidates for police ombudsman made their way around town last week. Will one candidate's online comments hurt his chances? (Inlander) 

THERE: 

North America's tallest mountain, Mount McKinley (20,237 feet), will be renamed Denali as it was first known by Alaska Natives, thanks to an executive order by President Obama. (USA Today). Obama will be in Alaska today to talk about climate change. (New York Times)

The man accused of shooting a Texas sheriff's deputy "execution-style" will be arraigned today on capital murder charges. If indicted by a grand jury, he could face the death penalty. The shooting occurred last week at a Chevron station in Houston as the deputy was gassing up his patrol car. (Washington Post)

Syrian officials are unsure how much damage an explosion near the Temple of Bel caused the ancient structure. Activists are saying the Islamic State is responsible for the blast. (Chicago Tribune)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Missouri is number one in death penalty executions per capita (yes, even more that Texas). (The Marshall Project)

A 24-year-old black man was found dead in his jail cell while he waited for trial. Jamycheal Mitchell was held for four months without bail in Virginia for allegedly stealing $5 worth of groceries. (The Guardian) 

The trial of a North Carolina cop who shot an unarmed black man in September 2013 ended in a hung jury last week. North Carolina Attorney General, Roy Cooper, says the case will not be retried. (WCNC)
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