Monday, July 6, 2015

MB: Fires everywhere, Greece votes ‘no’ on austerity and U.S. women win World Cup

Posted By on Mon, Jul 6, 2015 at 9:13 AM


New Spokane NACCP President, Naima Quarles-Burnley, just wants people to move on already. (Spokesman-Review)

The Cape Horn fire in Idaho has grown to nearly 2,000 acres.  Fires raged all over the area throughout the weekend thanks to lightning, rogue fireworks and natural causes. (KHQ)

Seriously, it’s so dry, even a Washington rain forest is burning. (Seattle Times)


Greece votes ‘no’ on more austerity measures, causing its finance minister to resign. (The Guardian)

The U.S. Women’s National team won its first World Cup title in 16 years this weekend in Vancouver, B.C. (USA Today)

The Grateful Dead held their final concert ever. (New York Times) Now Deadheads will have to find something else to do with their lives. 
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Thursday, July 2, 2015

MB: Killer robot attack, serial arsonist and advice on blowing things up

Posted By on Thu, Jul 2, 2015 at 9:00 AM


Kootenai County detectives are on the lookout for a serial arsonist who they suspect has ignited eight brush fires this week. The fires have all been in or around Hayden, Idaho. (KREM)

Spokane County Prosecutors slapped former Pasco cop Richard Aguirre — who stands accused of killing a woman 29 years ago — with a new witness tampering charge after he allegedly tried to contact an ex girlfriend. (Spokesman-Review)

Inland Northwest dwellers are buying more cars; popular picks include trucks, SUVs and crossovers. (Spokane Journal of Business)

Headed to Coeur d'Alene to celebrate the 4th of July? So are 30,000 other people and the CdA downtown association is recommending revelers plan their parking strategy in advance to avoid headaches.  (CdA Press)


This just in for the 4th of July: advice on blowing stuff up from three professional firework technicians. (VICE)

ISIS continues to loot ancient archaeological sites in Iraq and Syria and make big bucks selling the pilfered antiquities on the black market. (New York Times)

A 22-year-old worker at a Volkswagen production plant in Germany was killed by a robot. (The Guardian)

BP will pay $18.7 billion to make up for that time in 2010 when the Deepwater Horizon spilled millions of barrels of crude oil all over the Gulf of Mexico. (Wall Street Journal)
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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Why Sen. Andy Billig voted against freezing the $2 billion class-size initiative

Posted By on Wed, Jul 1, 2015 at 6:19 PM

Today, Gov. Jay Inslee signed what looked like a balanced budget, but left with a $2 billion question mark. 

Blame the class-size initiative, narrowly passed by voters last year. Initiative 1351, which did not specify any source of funding, was basically ignored in the budget-writing process by the Senate, the House and the governor. 

Sen. Andy Billig
  • Sen. Andy Billig
Instead, the Legislature set out to delay the implementation of the initiative by four years. The liberal House, controlled by Democrats, easily gathered the 2/3rds votes necessary to delay the law. When I spoke with Sen. Michael Baumgartner yesterday, he expected the Senate, controlled by Republicans, to easily follow suit. But Rich Wood, spokesman for Washington Education Association, cautioned leaping to such conclusions. He knew what he was talking about. 

Come this morning, the celebration about the initial budget had turned to anger. On Twitter, state Sen. Michael Baumgartner, who had been celebrating the victory for students in the operating budget, was calling Sen. Andy Billig and several other Democrats liars. Billig had refused to vote for the bill to be delayed. 

"Reckless, irresponsible Senate Ds break budget deal, decide to play [Russian roulette] with poor to try to again force tax increase," Baumgartner wrote on Twitter.  "Budget now $2B out of balance and illegal. Chaos." 

He told KIRO radio the same thing.
"Half the Senate Democrats kept their word, the other half decided to play politics," Baumgartner said. "There was a huge fight among the Senate Democrats on the floor...and the whole thing broke up."

In the late afternoon, I caught up with Billig to ask him what happened. Did he have an agreement, then go back on his word?

"Absolutely not. Absolutely not," Billig says. "That’s a complete fabrication." If there were agreements of any kind, Billig says he wasn't told about them. 

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MB: Fireworks danger, required vaccines and doctors leaving Greece

Posted By on Wed, Jul 1, 2015 at 9:25 AM


The Spokane Tribe has partnered with the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino and hopes to open a branded casino in Airway Heights. They're still waiting on a signature from Gov. Jay Inslee to determine if they can build a resort casino at all. If Inslee does green-light the development, the Spokane Tribe says it will create 5,000 new jobs. (KREM)

Spokane County settled a lawsuit brought by the father of a mentally ill man who was denied medication while in custody at the Spokane County jail. The suit hinged on a public records law violation and was settled for $27,000. (KXLY)

Fireworks are super-dangerous this year. Everything in the state is dry and hot and ready to catch on fire; we've had 300 brush fires so far this year. Plus, fireworks aren't even legal most places in Spokane County. Choose people and houses over fleeting entertainment. (Spokesman-Review)


Californians can't decline vaccines based on 'personal beliefs' anymore thanks to a new law. Kids whose parents choose not to have them vaccinated — assuming there's no bona fide medical reason — will not be allowed to attend public school. (VICE)

Jeb Bush has made a lot of money since leaving the Florida governor's office, as evidenced by his newly released 33-year archive of tax returns. He's earned about $29 million since 2007 through speaking engagements, consulting and investments. He's also paid 36 percent of the last three decades income in taxes, setting him apart from past presdiential hopefuls like Mitt Romney who managed to keep far more of their income than the average American. (NPR)

Following in the footsteps of other highly educated professionals, doctors are leaving Greece en masse. "The country is hemorrhaging talent, as professionals in medicine, engineering and academics flee for a better economic climate and more stable employment," reports the New York Times. Since 2010 Greece has lost 3 percent of its population — about 300,000 people in total — as many as 5,000 of them doctors. Yikes. (New York Times)
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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich vs. ISIS, white supremacists and the ACLU

Posted By on Tue, Jun 30, 2015 at 4:49 PM

The air-conditioned auditorium at Central Valley High School filled with badge-wearing Republicans eager to hear Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich's take on domestic and international threats and the war against police. Also, the "myth" of police militarization.

Knezovich's presentation of the "True Threats" facing our community, in brief:

Sovereign citizens: You know, those people who live in the United States but refuse to acknowledge the authority of the state. They carry documents declaring all this and are increasingly likely to resort to violence, Knezovich says.

The myth of police militarization: Knezovich scoffed at the "myth of police militarization." Which isn't to say that his department hasn't received helicopters, an MRAP and 57 M16s from the Department of Defense’s 1033 surplus-war-gear program. But his office needs those things, he said. They have long been up against a dizzying array of foes.

Just ask the U.S. Attorney: "The U.S. Attorney is in the audience, folks," said Knezovich, nodding towards Michael Ormsby, who was seated stage-side. "And he will tell you that the FBI is probably the most tight-lipped organization in the world, and they will talk about nothing. You have no idea what those men and women that serve you on a daily basis have prevented in this county. You have no concept. And I’m going to get into some case studies that happened in Spokane. We didn’t know about it — nope. Why not? The FBI doesn’t talk about cases. Right?" 

Ormsby nodded.

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MB: NAACP moving on, bees all over I-90 and lawmakers figured out the budget

Posted By on Tue, Jun 30, 2015 at 9:18 AM


The Spokane NAACP is moving on following the whole Rachel Dolezal debacle, president Naima Quarles-Burnley told those in attendance at the group's Monday meeting. The NAACP has a 95-year legacy in Spokane. (Spokesman-Review)

Four million bees spilled along I-90 near Coeur d'Alene when the tractor trailer carrying them tipped over. It is unlikely there will be any survivors; casualties will be removed by dumptruck. (KHQ)

There will be no government shutdown in Washington. Legislators came through in the clutch and approved a $38.2 billion two-year state budget. Also, Gov. Jay Inslee is happy and released a statement indicating his intent to sign off on the budget this afternoon. (King 5)


The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been throwing its weight around on behalf of big tobacco. Officials have been sending letters to governments around the world in an effort to dissuade them from enacting anti-smoking laws. (New York Times)

The FBI and the ATF are taking over the investigation into the recent string of suspicious fires at black churches in the South. (VICE)

Even though Bahrain is really awful on human rights, the State Department announced we're going start selling them guns again. The State Department issued a statement indicating that Bahrain is an important ally in the "counter-ISIL campaign". (The Intercept)

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced his decision to pursue the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. (CNN)
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Monday, June 29, 2015

MB: New heat record, wild fires raging, Greece and Puerto Rico have serious debt issues

Posted By on Mon, Jun 29, 2015 at 9:12 AM


Spokane set an all-time June temperature record this weekend. (Spokesman-Review)

No fewer than 24 buildings have been gobbled up by the wild fire raging near Wenatchee. The 3,000-acre brush fire has forced over 1,000 people to evacuate. (KHQ)

A man and woman were injured in a drive-by shooting in North Spokane this morning; the police are preparing to execute a search warrant on the home the pair were standing in front of. (KREM)


The Supreme Court ruled that the sedative midazolam can continue to be used in executions. A group of death row inmates from Oklahoma challenged the use of the drug after it failed to render three inmates unconscious before they were injected with the painful drugs that actually killed them. A newcomer to the lethal injection game, midazolam was adopted after the manufacturers of the barbiturates traditionally used in executions began to refuse to sell them for that purpose. (Gawker)

Puerto Rico's governor regrets to inform the world that the island can't pay the $72 billion in municipal bond debt they've accrued. This puts the island — already plagued by crime and a constant exodus of residents to the mainland — in a situation similar to Detroit or Stockton, who also defaulted on municipal bond debts in recent years. (TIME)

Economic meltdown is happening is Greece, too, and it's sending stocks plummeting around the world. (Guardian)

The two prisoners who escaped from a New York prison 24 days ago are no longer roaming the forest. One was shot and killed by a federal agent, the other was shot and captured by the state police. (New York Times)
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Friday, June 26, 2015

State Democrats want indicted auditor Troy Kelley out

Posted By on Fri, Jun 26, 2015 at 4:53 PM

It's time for embattled State Auditor Troy Kelley to go, say 29 Democrat legislators in a letter released this afternoon. The lawmakers call on Kelley to "immediately resign your office", citing the State Auditor's "unique mission of auditing how state and public agencies use public resources" and the necessity for Washingtonians to have confidence that their auditor is telling them the facts.

It's hard to trust an auditor to tell anyone the facts when one's personal integrity has been called into question to the degree Kelley's has of late.

Basically, the state auditor protects how all of our tax dollars are spent. He keeps an eye on spending and if things pop up that look shady, he investigates. Except, right now, Kelley isn't doing any of that. He hasn't even been around since leaving for an "indefinite leave of absence" shortly after his personal scandal broke in April

Which is totally appropriate for him as an individual given the disastrous situation he's found himself in. The feds have accused him of stealing $1.4 million from clients of a real estate reconveyance business called Post Closing Department, which he operated from 2003 to 2008. This month, prosecutors presented evidence that his attorney may have advised him on what to do with the stolen money. If that's true, the attorney will become a witness and Kelley will have to find new legal representation in the middle of his complex case. In all, there are 10 charges against Kelley. 

"The State Auditor must be beyond reproach and have the trust of the people of Washington," says the aforementioned letter, noting that Kelley's personal shady dealings make him hard to trust, eroding public confidence in the Office of the State Auditor.

"The State Constitution clearly requires an elected official to execute the duties of the State Auditor. Your inability to execute these duties for an indefinite period raises serious constitutional concerns that we strongly believe must be addressed," it letter concludes. Here is the letter:

Auditor Kelley Resignation Request From Legislators Final 06-26-15

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Appeals court didn't buy Spokane County's UGA expansion explanations

Posted By on Fri, Jun 26, 2015 at 4:23 PM

An older proposal for expanding the Spokane County UGA in March of 2013, before the Spokane County increased its population projection.
  • An older proposal for expanding the Spokane County UGA in March of 2013, before the Spokane County increased its population projection.

Want a quick primer on the Urban Growth Area boundaries, vesting, and why that matters for the future of Spokane County? We made a fun explainer using Monopoly pieces.

Feel you already have a decent understanding? Then you'll get the gravity of the fact that, last week, an appeals court confirmed the Growth Management Hearings Board conclusion that Spokane County's expansion of the Urban Growth Area in 2013 was invalid.

To be clear, neither the appeals court nor the Growth Management Hearings Board focused on whether the expansion itself was justified. Instead, before the larger aspects could even be considered, the county's decision was invalidated for failing to live up to public participation standards. 

The county did not fair well defending its actions in court.

"It was a pretty brutal oral argument," says the Center for Justice's Rick Eichstaedt, who has often clashed with the county over growth lawsuits. "At one point the court laughed at the county attorney who was arguing it."

The problem stemmed from how the county, late in the process, changed their projection of future population growth. Instead of using a population projection to calculate how much the Urban Growth Area should be expanded, the court pointed out, it selected their desired UGA expansion first, and then changed their population projection to fit it. 

"I agree with you that, yes, we're saying that the UGA boundary is going to tell us what population projection we have to adopt, but it wasn't simply a 'desire' kind of a decision," the county attorney told the Growth Management Hearings Board. "It was a complex decision that was made, we believe, under the requirements of the GMA."

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What will happen with a Washington state government shutdown?

Posted By on Fri, Jun 26, 2015 at 1:29 PM

What are you doing at midnight Tuesday? You should be out ringing in the new fiscal year. Meanwhile, the Washington state government might be shutting down. If the legislature can't get the whole budget thing figured out by June 30 — they've had six months so far to do it and haven't — the state government could shut down July 1.

If that happens, more than half of the state's 50,000 employees will be on indefinite stay-home status. All the more reason for end-of-fiscal year debauchery Tuesday night, because, you know, no work the next day for 26,000 people that normally work. State agencies have been prepping for weeks to keep the shutdown from being too much of a disaster. Here are a few of the major shake up areas:

Prison Problems: The Department of Corrections' Jeremy Barclay has been busy making contingency plans for the impending shutdown. "Community corrections will shut down the 30th, it will be suspended," says Barclay. "A lot of our educational programming, those would be suspended." Work programs, too.

Barclay says they won't be cutting inmates loose or anything, though. "It's important that we keep those sentenced to our care away from the public, they will remain," says Barclay. But sex offenders who are currently on round-the-clock GPS monitoring will cease to be monitored. They'll still technically have their monitoring equipment, it's just that the actual monitoring won't be happening 24 hours a day anymore. Aside from that, the gist of the effect on corrections is that prisoners will remain locked up but their days will get more monotonous.

Fish: Fish hatcheries — home to millions of salmon, trout and steelhead who rely on the Department of Fish and Wildlife to feed them — are slated to close. Millions of hatchery fish are equivalent to even more millions of dollars. Salmon and other endangered fish would continue to be cared for.

Fishing and hunting: Planning to go kill some animals or fish and don't have your license yet? Get it before the shutdown — the Department of Fish and Wildlife won't be issuing licenses or Discover Passes until it ends. Of course, enforcement of hunting and fishing rules not related to endangered and protected species will also be on hold, so license scofflaws are unlikely to be ticketed. 

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