Monday, August 3, 2015

City of Spokane wants Worker Bill of Rights initiative off ballot, files suit

Posted By on Mon, Aug 3, 2015 at 5:14 PM

The city of Spokane has filed a lawsuit in Spokane Superior Court seeking to keep the Worker Bill of Rights initiative off the November ballot.

The initiative is the latest from Envision Spokane (now operating under an offshoot called “Envision Worker Rights”), which has mounted two unsuccessful attempts to pass its Community Bill of Rights using the initiative process.

The Worker Bill of Rights would guarantee a living wage for most employees of larger companies, equal pay and the right to not be wrongfully terminated, while also containing a provision that would make corporate rights subordinate to people’s rights.

The lawsuit, filed Aug. 3, argues that the Worker Bill of Rights should be kept off the ballot because it falls outside the scope of the initiative process and the provision that would subordinate corporate rights conflicts with state and federal law.

“The City has a well-grounded fear that placing an invalid initiative on the ballot will waste valuable resources and confuse the electorate,” reads the lawsuit.

In 2013, a coalition of business groups and Spokane County sued to keep Envision Spokane’s Community Bill of Rights off the ballot. Earlier this year, an appeals court ruled that the county and the business groups didn’t have legal standing to sue because they would not be directly affected.

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Spokane City Council spat: Snyder files ethics complaint against Fagan

Posted By on Mon, Aug 3, 2015 at 3:43 PM

Spokane City Councilman Jon Snyder has filed an ethics complaint against Councilman Mike Fagan alleging that he disclosed the contents of a confidential legal memo.

According to a letter from Synder, sent to the city’s Ethics Commission on July 19, Fagan improperly blabbed to the Inlander about a legal memo circulated to Spokane City Council concerning language that activists had added to an initiative petition. 
Mike Fagan
  • Mike Fagan

The letter alleges that Fagan violated attorney-client privilege between the city legal department and the council, raising concerns that he revealed information that could be used against the city in litigation. The letter also states that Fagan misconstrued the contents of the memo, and its disclosure may make the city’s legal department reluctant to advise the council in the future.

Snyder wasn’t immediately available for comment, but Fagan says that he doesn’t believe he violated any ethics rules, arguing that the memo had been discussed in a public setting by City Council on July 14. Fagan, who is facing a competitive reelection challenge, questions why Snyder, a political foe, sent the letter just as ballots were being mailed to voters.

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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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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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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

MB: Eyman's back, teacher draft picks, and more Airway Heights mayor condemnation

Posted By on Thu, Jul 30, 2015 at 9:25 AM


A Tim Eyman initiative's back on the ballot. And guess what? It's against taxes. (Spokesman-Review)

More than half of Airway Heights' city staff has signed a letter condemning the small town mayor. (Spokesman-Review)

Sandersmania strikes Post Falls! (CDA Press)


A new video of a cop shooting a black man during a traffic stop. (New York Times)

As the mentally ill fill the jails, a psychologist takes control of a jail in Chicago. (New York Times)

What was it like when Marco Rubio was a city councilman? Boring, turns out. (Washington Post)


If we treated teachers like we did athletes:

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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Psych ward at Sacred Heart retains doctors, agrees to cut bed count by two-thirds

Posted By on Wed, Jul 29, 2015 at 2:35 PM

As far as reductions go, two-thirds is pretty significant. Imagine reducing your weight or your wardrobe or the time you spend sleeping by two-thirds. Crazy, right? Now imagine Spokane's only inpatient psychiatric hospital — which currently has space for 48 adults and 24 children experiencing acute mental health crises — reducing it's bed count by 66 percent.  

You won't have to imagine for long; it's about to happen September 6. Providence Medical Group's Sacred Heart Hospital announced the reduction to 12 adult beds and 12 pediatric beds in a press release celebrating the retention of five of the seven doctors who had threatened to quit in June. "We have five right now that have signed contracts," says Providence's External Communications Director Elizabeth DeRuyter.

So why did all of Sacred Heart's seven psychiatric physicians turn in resignation letters in the first place?

"The issue was related to workload. The demand for psychiatric services is high and despite our best efforts to recruit and get more staff, we couldn't keep up with demand," says Providence Medical Group's Chief Medical Officer Kirk Rowbotham. "This was not about money, this was about lifestyle and workload." 

The hospital plans to alleviate the workload problem by reducing the number of patients they take in, at least temporarily. Sacred Heart will  "draw down" the bed count as they transition to a new model of care. By October, Providence hopes to hire additional doctors and begin bringing the bed-count back up. It could be touch and go for a bit, though, due to a national shortage of psychiatric doctors. The shortage of providers is felt more acutely in Spokane County, where 8 percent of residents have psychiatric needs, compared with a national average of 5 percent. "It's very difficult to recruit psychiatrists to the need that we have," says Rowbotham.

Sacred Heart is changing the way providers care for patients to a more team-based model in an effort to make the hospital more attractive to doctors. "We redesigned our program to make it more appealing. It's been very well received by psychiatrists, and we have three viable candidates, including one that's very close to signing a contract," says Rowbotham.

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