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Friday, January 30, 2015

Lamb chopped: Idaho's controversial Racing Commission director suddenly retires

Posted By on Fri, Jan 30, 2015 at 1:28 PM


This week, we tackled the strange slot/horse machine hybrids used to help bolster the dying horse racing industry. Legislators and Idaho's Indian tribes didn't raise much skepticism in 2013 when Idaho State Racing Commission director Frank Lamb described how the machines would allow bettors to view information on historical horse races, bet on winning horses, and then make money off of those bets. 
Frank Lamb, who championed legalizing machines like these, to help save Idaho's struggling horse-race industry, has retired.
  • Frank Lamb, who championed legalizing machines like these, to help save Idaho's struggling horse-race industry, has retired.

But when the machines began showing up at tracks, full of spinning cherries and animated treasure chests, and horse race information typically hidden deep behind multiple menu screens, eyebrows went up everywhere. To the Coeur d'Alene tribe, it they looked like slot machines that didn't even bother to describe themselves as slot machines. 

While Lamb has insisted he wasn't a cheerleader for the machine, we noted how Lamb, a regulator, championed what the machines could do. 

"I can tell you since the inception of this in Arkansas, it has turned things around for Oaklawn Park," he testified in 2013. "It is amazing, the transformation. I believe it can do the same thing here."

Plenty had been written about Lamb's past on the Wyoming Pari-Mutuel Commission in 2003, when the Wyoming state supreme court ruled that similar machines were illegal. (The legislature later changed the law to legalize the machines.)

What wasn't known was that he was simultaneously being paid to lobby for a track in Wyoming, including advocating for instant-racing machines, while talking up the machines as commissioner in Idaho. The Idaho Statesman revealed that on Wednesday. 
 
Today, the Statesman reported, he abruptly retired from the position.

Teresa Baker, spokeswoman for the Idaho State Police, confirmed the story. She says that in August, Lamb announced his retirement, and had planned to retire at the end of 2014. But he agreed to stay through the legislative session and help find his replacement. This week, as he and the Racing Commission were hit by controversy, he decided to retire immediately instead. 

"He decided that it was getting to be a bit much," Baker says. "He doesn’t want anything to cast a shadow on anything the racing commission or the Idaho State Police does." 

While a nationwide search has already been conducted for his replacement, a successor has not yet been chosen, and nobody is holding his seat in the interim. 

Lamb's cell number, which had been working last week, has been disconnected. 
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MB: "Add the Words" anticlimax, and a Romneyless Presidential race

Posted By on Fri, Jan 30, 2015 at 9:42 AM


HERE


After days of passionate, emotional testimony, the "Add The Words" bill in Idaho dies on a predictable party-line vote. (Spokesman-Review)

A court ruling resurrects the Envision Spokane initiative. (Spokesman-Review)

The nail of the "Drive Hammered, Get Nailed" slogan may soon hit even harder. (KREM)

THERE

Almost half of Republicans want to do something about climate change. (NYT)

Romney, after about a month of saucy flirtation with running for president yet again, announces he won't. (Hugh Hewitt)

What's stopping the Secret Service from being reformed? This guy. (Washington Post)

BREAD BAG FOOTWEAR

Poverty in America used to mean being really, really, really poor. (Bloomberg) 
 
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A roundup of four years of coverage of now-fired Deputy Brian Hirzel

Posted By on Fri, Jan 30, 2015 at 6:41 AM

Spokane County Sheriff's Deputy Brian Hirzel
  • Spokane County Sheriff's Deputy Brian Hirzel
Last week, Spokane County Sheriff's Deputy Brian Hirzel was fired for improper personal use of county-owned vehicles, the Sheriff's office announced Wedneday. He had been disciplined for similar issues last year.

But most in Spokane County know Hirzel for different reasons — he's been involved in two separate officer involved shootings. The first was on Aug. 25, 2010, when Hirzel, responding in an unmarked patrol car to a vehicle prowling report, confronted Pastor Wayne "Scott" Creach. In a recorded statement, Hirzel claimed Creach had a gun and refused to drop it or get on the. After Hirzel hit Creach in the knee with his baton, he said, Creach reached for a gun and Hirzel shot him. 

It took longer than the required 72 hours for the Sheriff's office to release Hirzel's name.

But it was almost a full five days before he was identified as the shooter and it was made public only after questions were raised about why officials were slow to provide details of the fatal encounter.

Meanwhile, Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich fumed over the media leaks concerning the incident. Sheriff's spokesman Dave Reagan inflamed matters when he said, of the slain pastor's son, "I’ve never seen a non-witness be treated so much like an eyewitness. He’s looking at adding zeroes to his check.”

For Prosecutor Steve Tucker, the Hirzel question became a key issue in his 2010 reelection campaign. 
If ever there were a lose-lose choice for Prosecutor Steve Tucker, it is deciding the fate of Brian Hirzel, the deputy who shot and killed an elderly Spokane Valley pastor in August.

If Tucker charges Hirzel with a crime, he risks losing the support of cops and law-and-order types right before the election. If he rules Hirzel did nothing wrong in shooting 74-year-old Wayne Scott Creach, Tucker may add to suspicions that he's too cozy with police and won't hold them accountable.

Continue reading »

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Thursday, January 29, 2015

MB: Hirzel's firing and Comcast name-calling

Posted By on Thu, Jan 29, 2015 at 9:42 AM


HERE


Spokane Deputy Brian Hirzel, known for shooting Pastor Wayne Creach, has been fired for misusing a patrol car. (Spokesman-Review)

STA considers adding express bus service from Spokane to Coeur d'Alene. (S-R)

A bill from Spokane Comcast customer, who is not, as his Comcast bill would indicate, named Asshole Brown, goes viral. (KREM)

THERE

The rise and fall of New York Speaker Sheldon Silver. (New York Times)

In France, prisons help foment extremist Islamic ideology. (Washington Post)

We're still talking about inflated footballs. (NYT)

RADIO FREE AMERICA


In the 1940s, the big free speech battle was over the radio airwaves. (The Atlantic)
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Chief says Spokane police not getting any more military equipment

Posted By on Thu, Jan 29, 2015 at 9:23 AM


The Spokane Police Department doesn’t have much military equipment and it’s doesn’t intend to get any more. That’s the takeaway from a correspondence between the city’s Human Rights Commission and Spokane Police Chief Frank Straub.

In December, the commission wrote a letter to the chief raising concerns over the “militarization of the police,” a topic that rose to prominence in the unrest over the police shooting of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri.

Across the country, police departments have used a federal program to acquire military equipment. Critics of this trend argue that putting more military equipment in the hands of police leads to law enforcement behaving more like an occupying army instead of a force that’s supposed to work with communities to keep them safe.

“In Spokane, preliminary analysis suggests that people of color and low income residents have shouldered the brunt of this trend,” reads the letter. “While we understand the need for police to be prepared for the worst, we also see potential problems that can arise from funneling military equipment to local police departments. Most notably, research, that is included in this letter, has shown that increased militarization of police decreases the level of trust between the police and the community they are serving and can lead to a greater spiral of violence that disproportionately affects minority communities.”

The letter goes on to recommend the department adopt greater transparency on the type of military equipment it has received, as well as how it assess risks associated with dealing with people with mental illnesses. The letter also called on the department to track the race of primary suspects in SWAT call outs.

In January, Police Chief Frank Straub wrote back stating that the police department received ballistic helmets in the late 1990s, which are no longer in use and have been replaced by helmets purchased from police equipment suppliers.

In 2010, the department acquired a “peacekeeper,” which is used to rescue civilians and/or police officers from dangerous environments.

“The helmets and peacekeeper are the only military equipment obtained by the Spokane Police Department,” reads the letter from Straub. “We have no intention of obtaining additional equipment from the U.S. military.”

The letter also mentioned that police undergo crisis intervention training to better deal with situations involving mentally ill individuals, and that the department already tracks the race of all persons contacted by police officers.

Earlier this week, the commission discussed the response from the chief. While they praised his quick response, several members wanted more information on what other type of equipment fits the definition of “police militarization,” and to specifically address officers wearing battle dress uniforms, which resemble military garb. In the past, Councilman Mike Fagan has suggested that having more traditional uniforms would improve relations between the police and the public.

The commission is drafting another letter to the chief.

Human Rights Commission Letter on Police Militarization

Chief Response to Human Rights Commission, Blaine Stum 010815


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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

WW: Washington State Legislature thinks about marijuana; Jamaica is about to change law on pot

Posted By on Wed, Jan 28, 2015 at 2:19 PM


Welcome back to Weed Wednesday, your weekly dose of pot news. Wondering what this is about? Click. Looking for our previous marijuana coverage? Click. Got a question or tip? Email me at [email protected]

The Washington State Legislature is in full effect, and some lawmakers have pot on their mind as they scramble to get bills pushed through before the session ends.

Perhaps the most notable weed-related topic this session are attempts to bring greater clarity to the state’s freewheeling medical marijuana program and its relationship to the restrictive recreational market. One proposal that’s getting attention is the idea of essentially folding the medical program into the recreational. Proponents of the idea say that it makes no sense to have a largely untaxed and unregulated medical market running parallel to a tightly regulated recreational market. Opponents says that it will undermine the medical marijuana market, which patients rely on for medicine.

Here’s a smattering other marijuana-related bills lawmakers are pondering:

SB 5417 would direct more marijuana tax money to local governments. Jurisdictions that have banned marijuana shops would get none of it.

SB 5002 would make it a traffic infraction to posses an open container of marijuana in a car where it could accessed by the driver or passenger.

HB 1041 would allow people who have a marijuana-related misdemeanor on their record to apply to get it vacated because the drug is legal now. A similar bill introduced last session ended up going nowhere after pushback from prosecutors.

SB 5051 would allow marijuana businesses to deliver their products right to your door.

HB 1650 would allow law enforcement to auction off pot and concentrates that have been illegally grown or produced.

SB 5493 would establish that cannabis health and beauty aids (which are pot-enhanced products intended to enhance the health or appearance of the user that don’t cross the blood-brain barrier) shouldn’t be regulated like pot.

Here’s the news elsewhere:

The American Academy of Pediatrics, citing how a pot conviction can ruin someone’s life early on, is calling for the decriminalization of marijuana while also concluding that some kids could benefit from medical use of the drug.  

Which recreational pot shop in Washington is the highest grossing (drum roll), it’s one right next Oregon.

In Ohio, activists are saying that a marijuana legalization initiative will “positively, absolutely be on the ballot” in 2015.

Apple says it won’t allow marijuana apps on its App Store.

After the feds announced last year that tribal governments can make their own pot laws, one tribe in Mendocino County, California (of course) will start growing its own medical marijuana.

Jamaica looks like it’s poised to decriminalize marijuana. Decriminalization is not the same as legalization, but still.


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MB: Jan Quintrall resigns while Michelle Obama rocks the Middle East

Posted By on Wed, Jan 28, 2015 at 9:55 AM


HERE


Jan Quintrall, Spokane's beleaguered division director of business and development services, resigns from the city. (Inlander)

Autism intervention will be studied in Spokane County. (SR)

In our new issue hitting the web today and the streets Thursday, we have a story about controversial "instant-racing machines" that are supposed to be historical horse-race wagering machines, but look a lot like slots: Turns out, the Idaho State Racing Commission head, the guy who regulates the machines in Idaho? He's simultaneously a lobbyist for a track in Wyoming. (Idaho Statesman)

THERE

Months after Bergdahl, another prisoner-trade-for-hostage deal is offered. (NYT)

Finally, a story where Michelle Obama's fashion choices are actually newsworthy. (Washington Post)

The Atlantic takes on the housing vacancy story that no one's talking about. (The Atlantic)

GREENSHAMING

Seattle has figured out a way to get its residents to compost food waste — shame those who don't. (The Atlantic)

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Quintrall leaves City, saying "... I have broken the public’s trust, and I can’t repair that."

Posted By on Tue, Jan 27, 2015 at 4:59 PM

news1-1.jpg
It's been nearly three months since Jan Quintrall, division director of business and development services, kicked off a wave of controversy for firing city planning director Scott Chesney. Now Quintrall herself is leaving.

"I love the City, and I’m terribly proud of what we’ve been building and the progress we’ve made,” Quintrall said in a press release from the city. “The recent attention on me has made it clear that I have broken the public’s trust, and I can’t repair that.”

In December, the Inlander wrote about Quintrall's powerful role and her penchant for controversy with her hiring and firing decisions.

Without a college degree, Quintrall did not meet the minimum qualification — cited in her job description when she was hired — of having of "a Bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university with a major in Business Administration, Marketing, Finance, or a closely related field." 

But she came highly recommended from Condon's city administrator, Theresa Sanders, and former city chief operating officer, John Pilcher, for her work at the Spokane Club and the Better Business Bureau. After she took the job, she was praised for swiftly bringing about considerable improvements in her division, particularly in decreasing permit times. 

“Jan has broken down barriers, pushed her division and others in the City to think beyond traditional ways of doing things, and delivered tremendous results for the citizens she served,” Mayor David Condon said in a press release. “She has laid a tremendous foundation and built a great team that Scott will continue its good work with Scott.”

The scrutiny over Quintrall, however, has not let up since she fired Chesney. The city council expressed frustration over a big ticket lunch at the Spokane Club — she complained about the expense of Chesney's staff lunches when firing him. She was also being investigated by the Civil Service Commission over her hiring of a temporary worker. 
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Kinnear running for city council

Posted By on Tue, Jan 27, 2015 at 2:37 PM


Lori Kinnear, legislative assistant to Councilwoman Amber Waldref, tells the Inlander that she’s filed paperwork to run for city council in District 2.

The position is currently held by Mike Allen, who hasn’t announced if he’s running for reelection later this year. Downtown business owner and perennial candidate John Waite has announced he’s running.

Kinnear has served as a legislative assistant for the past six years, working on legislation that encompasses dangerous dogs, economic development, human trafficking and other issues. “I’ve learned a lot and I think it’s time to apply what I’ve learned,” says Kinnear, who also wants to work with her boss as more of an equal.

Kinnear says that she is particularly proud of recent work done by the city council on development incentives meant to avoid urban sprawl as well as a neighborhood notification system that apprises residents of cell tower construction and other development.

“I am excited about this,” she says. “I’ve wanted to do this for a long time. It’s a way of giving back to the community.”

Kinnear says that she’ll likely have to cut back on her hours as a legislative assistant as the campaign picks up, but she says she has no intention of resigning at this point and has the blessing of Waldref.

“I work at the pleasure of Councilmember Waldref, and the rules clearly say that she can hire me and fire me,” she says.

Kinnear, who previously lived in Seattle, has worked as a newspaper reporter, an ad copywriter, a small business owner and for TINCAN, a defunct nonprofit that helped people access technology.

She moved to Spokane in 2000 with her husband, whose family has lived here since 1896.


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MB: Good cops, bad tech firms, and more drilling for oil

Posted By on Tue, Jan 27, 2015 at 9:32 AM


HERE


Washington state already has the highest minimum wage in the nation. But it's looking at kicking up the minimum wage even higher, to $12. (Spokesman-Review)

The County and the sheriff square off over the future of the Drug Task Force. (S-R)

WSU presents its case for a med school in front of the legislature today. (KXLY)

A Post Falls cop helps a woman pay for gas. Warning: Video autoplays. (KREM)

THERE

The Army denies reports that Beau Bergdahl has been found guilty of desertion. (Army Times)

With gas prices incredibly low, the Obama White House proposes expanding drilling in the arctic. (New York Times)

The U.S.'s restoration of diplomatic relations with Cuba has spurred a wave of immigration from Cuba. (Washington Post)

The firm that screwed up HealthCare.Gov is still getting paid. (WP)

HAND IT TO THEM

What's with all the obsession with hands in the movie Divergent? (AV Club)


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