Wednesday, March 25, 2015

MB: Superfund grain elevators, cheese + ketchup, new Ford car prevents speeding

Posted By on Wed, Mar 25, 2015 at 9:48 AM


The EPA wants a grain elevator in Freeman, south of Spokane, to be named a Superfund site because of a toxic pesticide leaching into groundwater. (Spokesman-Review)

Idaho's Schoolnet instructional management system is a bigger failure than anyone thought. (Inlander)

A driver crashed her SUV into the Apple Tree Inn at Division and Hawthorne. (KXLY)

A women yesterday thought to have been suffering from a drug overdose but who had actually been shot has died from her injuries. (Spokesman-Review)


Two police officers, one in California and one in Wisconsin, were shot and killed yesterday as they responded to incidents. (CNN)

Cheese and ketchup unite in a mega-merger of Heinz and Kraft. (Washington Post)

Ford is introducing a new car that would prevent drivers from speeding. (CNN)

Boko Haram is still abducting women and children in Nigeria — the latest incident includes more than 400 people. (Wall Street Journal)

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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Scathing report confirms what a disaster Idaho’s Schoolnet is

Posted By on Tue, Mar 24, 2015 at 11:21 AM

Mike Nelson, the Coeur d’Alene school district's director of curriculum and assessment, says Schoolnet has long been a source of frustration for Idaho schools. - YOUNG KWAK PHOTO
  • Young Kwak photo
  • Mike Nelson, the Coeur d’Alene school district's director of curriculum and assessment, says Schoolnet has long been a source of frustration for Idaho schools.

Last year, the Inlander took a look at Schoolnet, Idaho’s statewide “instructional management system” that was intended to allow schools to seamlessly share tests, lesson plans and student data across the state. But in reality, teachers reported, it was glitch-prone, poorly organized and excruciatingly slow.

"It became too slow for us to use," said Mike Nelson, the Coeur d’Alene School District's director of curriculum and assessment. “If you were going to offer your own test, a 20-minute test would probably take you up to two hours or three hours to create."

Even worse, it produced flagrantly inaccurate information.

This a week, a report from the state’s Office of Performance Evaluations laid out just how much the system had failed. From the very beginning, it’s pretty brutal:

This evaluation report concludes that poor management, poor decisions, and poor system functionality compounded themselves and prevented the goals for a statewide instructional management system from being realized. The net result is that the project has sunk costs of about $61 million, and the Department of Education and the Legislature are left with few options to consider when deciding the future of the program.

To anyone following the issue, the dismal grade is not surprising. But this report digs deeper, explaining the problems went beyond technical difficulties, and began long before a vendor was even selected. Much of the blame is laid at the feet of Idaho Department of Education, which appeared to have ignored concerns raised, from the start, by multiple groups. Grant funding proposals received dismal scores, highlighting “unrealistic or overly ambitious goals” and “a lack of detail, evidence, discussion, or comprehensive information about implementation of its proposals.”

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MB: Spokane tests new jobs program, French Alps plane crash, dangerous I-90 prank

Posted By on Tue, Mar 24, 2015 at 9:13 AM


The Spokane Use of Force Commission wants Police Chief Frank Straub to decide if a department "culture audit" is needed. (Spokesman-Review) 

Spokane is one of the three Washington cities chosen to test a new federal program to get chronically unemployed people back to work. (Spokesman-Review)

Shoshone County Sheriff's deputies are looking for the culprits behind a dangerous prank in which plastic cling wrap was stretched over I-90, damaging several cars. (KREM)


A plane with 150 passengers on board has crashed in the foothills of the French Alps, and no survivors are expected. (CNN)

Global warming is causing ocean circulation to slow down, and the consequences could be pretty bad. (Washington Post)

Utah has brought back execution by firing squad, but only if no lethal injection drugs are available. (USA Today)
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Monday, March 23, 2015

MB: Gonzaga in Sweet 16, adopt local, Ted Cruz announces White House run

Posted By on Mon, Mar 23, 2015 at 9:58 AM


Gonzaga passes through the first two rounds of the NCAA tourney — next up is a matchup against UCLA on Friday. (Inlander)

As SpokAnimal transfers homeless animals in from outside of the area to fill its shelter, SCRAPS urges the community to adopt local animals to help reduce pet overpopulation in the Inland Northwest. (KXLY)

Catholic Charities of Spokane is planning to build a second transitional housing complex in a vacant downtown lot to match its Father Bach Haven home. (Spokesman-Review)


Republican Senator from Texas Ted Cruz says he'll run for president in 2016. (Huffington Post)

A pregnant Colorado woman was brutally attacked and lost her baby when she went to meet with another woman over a Craigslist ad for maternity clothes. (CNN)

The biggest downside of marijuana legalization? Massive energy consumption. (Washington Post)
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Saturday, March 21, 2015

A former DSP president's assessment of Spokane's economy, "good-old-boy culture"

Posted By on Sat, Mar 21, 2015 at 8:31 AM

Former DSP President Mike Tedesco
  • Former DSP President Mike Tedesco

Back in 2012, Mike Tedesco, for reasons that are still unclear, was fired as president of the Downtown Spokane Partnership, something he ended up suing for shortly after.

And for several years, Tedesco largely disappeared from the public eye. But now he's back, with a blog called "Spokane Planner." 

"You know, it’s basically just a hobby," Tedesco says. "I’ve been fascinated with cities since I was a kid. Spokane being the chief most fascinating city among them."

A lot of the content in his longer pieces are drawn from his old college research papers at the University of Idaho and the University of Kansas. Yet the writing is lively, even exploring such dry-sounding topics as Spokane's economy and its slow population growth:
If not for generally favorable regional market forces, Spokane would easily be on par with such prosperous communities as Rochester, New York; Flint, Michigan; Youngstown, Ohio; and Scranton, Pennsylvania. The gods of economics have been charitable, however, and granted us the indispensable virtue of being a regional cosmopolitan and financial market center for a broad international geography. Thus, instead of suffering a fate akin to rustbelt communities of similar size, we’ve managed to glide on the contrails of metropolitan areas that have experienced rapid growth since 1990—Boise, Idaho; Colorado Springs, Colorado; Albuquerque, New Mexico.
He sees something symbolic in how long it took the city to find its "Near Nature, Near Perfect" slogan.
And now we come full circle back to “Near Nature, Near Perfect.” Dwelling on a simple city slogan may seem trivial but it’s emblematic of a larger challenge that faces the community. The scale of cause and effect accomplishments within Spokane’s political arena has diminished to a point of such insignificance that even fruit as low hanging as changing a slogan takes months of consensus building and, in the end, they still only get it half right and about a decade too late
Most interesting, however, is Tedesco's assessments of the political culture
Of course, as any local will tell you, the financial and political trauma created by the River Park Square fiasco has yet to wane. The transaction wrought such a large degree of paranoia that Average Joe citizens will no doubt compare the next proposed public/private partnership to that of River Park Square and, worst yet, community leaders will no doubt continue to hesitate from entering into the next public/private partnership for fear of being chastised as creating another River Park Square. Thus, the political environment has diminished to such a state that any prospect of attracting significant investments is paralyzed by speculation and fear on both sides.

This comes as no surprise, however, because the puzzle that is Spokane politics is often an irrational one. The allogamy between people, organizations, business and political interests is fluid and often veiled beneath the surface. Veterans of the local political arena, in particular executive level public and quasi-public officials, choose their words wisely because expressing direct opinions that challenge the status quo, however irrational the status quo might be, is dangerous territory that may well end with a termination notice.

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Friday, March 20, 2015

Envision Spokane files new Worker Bill of Rights initiative

Posted By on Fri, Mar 20, 2015 at 1:49 PM

Envision Spokane, faced with a protracted legal battle over its most recent attempt to pass Community Bill of Rights initiative, has filed a new initiative for the November ballot that, if passed, would grant expansive rights to workers in Spokane.

Filed on Tuesday, the initiative would amend Spokane’s charter to include a Worker’s Bill of Rights that includes four key provisions:

- A guarantee to a “family wage,” to be calculated by the city.

- A right to equal pay regardless of gender, gender identity, race, ethnicity, familial status, religion and other categories.

- Employers would be required to have a “just cause” to terminate an employee.

- Lastly, corporations would not have be considered “persons” for the purposes of challenging any provisions in the initiative.

“There’s momentum around the country for workers to get a decent family wage,” says Brad Read, president of Envision Spokane’s board.

In 2009 and 2011, Envision Spokane placed far-reaching initiatives on the ballot that would have given greater protections to the Spokane River, given greater protections to workers rights and granted neighborhood councils power over local development.

The first time around, the initiative was trounced. In 2011 it came close. In 2013, a coalition of business groups and public officials successfully filed a lawsuit to prevent the initiative from once again making the ballot.

In January, an appeals court reversed the lower court’s ruling, allowing the initiative to move forward.

However, Read, says that opponents of the initiative have used legal maneuvers to delay the initiative from being placed on the November ballot. He says that opponents of the initiative could appeal all the way to the state Supreme Court, a process that could take months and not be resolved in time for the November ballot.

Instead of waiting, Envision Spokane has decided to move forward with an initiative that’s more narrowly focused on worker rights.

He also says that Envision Spokane has laid the groundwork in past campaigns that will allow this effort to finally succeed. Specifically, Read says the group has made inroads with low-income communities, who he says will help pass the initiative.

“We think this message resonates even more with those voters because they are the ones doing the jobs and not getting paid,” he says.

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Local teen inventor heads to the Shark Tank with the ICPooch

Posted By on Fri, Mar 20, 2015 at 11:03 AM


Spokane is full of great talents, but local Brooke Martin will bring the area much acclaim as she appears on Friday's episode of Shark Tank to show off her invention and hopefully receive an investment and partnership from one of the show's famous entrepreneurs. The craziest part? Brooke Martin is only 15 years old. 

Martin first launched her idea for her invention called ICPooch in 2012 when she was only 12, and since then it has taken off. The ICPooch is a device that, with the help of a smartphone or tablet, allows pet owners to video chat with their pets while they are away. The contraption also gives users the option of dispensing a treat for their pet with the push of a button. 

The first prototypes of the ICPooch were created in Martin's garage with the help of her father. Since then, Martin has paired up with CEO James Pelland to refine the product and make it as marketable as possible. The two then moved the company into the McKinstry Innovation Center, and the results have been overwhelmingly positive, with the Martins and the ICPooch earning a variety of prizes and honors. The invention has earned Martin 2nd Place in the Microsoft 2015 Small Business Contest, the International "Appreneurs" Scholars Program 2015 College Scholarship, and a spot on Catalyst Magazine's "20 under 40" list for business achievements. 

To celebrate Martin's invitation onto Shark Tank, McKinstry will be hosting a viewing party for the airing of the episode. The event, Friday from 8 pm to 10 pm, will offer attendees not only the opportunity to see how Martin's invention was received by the "sharks," but to meet Martin herself and hear her talk about her experiences in entrepreneurship. 

If you can't make it to the viewing party, the episode will air Friday at 9 pm PST on ABC. For those who want to get an idea what the product is like, check out Martin's video below: 

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Amazon drones, swinging bloggers and the big, gay western U.S.

Posted By on Fri, Mar 20, 2015 at 7:50 AM


A previously dismissed defamation lawsuit between former employees of the Spokane Civic Theatre — one a blogging swinger, the other the target of his ire — has new life thanks to a state appeals court. (Inlander)

The second teen involved in the murder of Delbert "Shorty" Belton was sentenced to 16 years in prison. (KREM)

Some men just don't read enough, including the signs about increased police crackdowns on prostitution on Sprague. (KXLY)


The West is the best — a new analysis shows that metro areas in the western U.S. has bigger populations of gay and lesbian citizens than other parts of the country. (New York Times)

A math error in the new budget proposed by the House in D.C. could mean severe cuts for federal employees. (Washington Post)

Suicide bombers in Yemen killed or injured nearly 200 people. (BBC)


Amazon won approval from the FAA to start testing drones. (Seattle Times)
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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Court allows defamation suit against swinging former employee of Spokane theater

Posted By on Thu, Mar 19, 2015 at 1:58 PM

A state appellate court has allowed a previously dismissed defamation lawsuit against a polyamorous former employee of Spokane Civic Theatre who engaged in vitriolic blogging against the arts center to proceed.

The court’s decision is the latest development in the story of Yvonne Johnson, the former executive artistic director at the Civic who helped turn the financially struggling theater around, but also left a trail of enemies before being abruptly fired from her position.

One of those enemies was James Ryan, who was hired in 2010 as the theater’s full-time music director. After being hired, the theater received an anonymous email disclosing the non-monogamous nature of Ryan’s marriage as well as his use of nude photographs and texts while searching for sexy times online.

The theater, according to the court, also discovered that Ryan mentioned his place of work and used his employee photo while cruising for sex online. According to the court, the theater also learned that Ryan initiated some of his solicitations while on its premises.

When Johnson found out, she wrote him a lengthy letter stating that he was being terminated not because of his “swinger lifestyle” but because he had coupled it with his employment, which the theater worried had the the potential to alienate potential donors. According to the court, Ryan admitted to posting to Craigslist looking for sex, but denied that he linked it to the theater.

Freshly unemployed, Ryan started an invective-filled blog against the theater. He also obtained the domain names “” and “” According to the court, Ryan used his Internet presence to stymie the future job prospects of Johnson.

In 2013, Johnson responded by filing a suit against Ryan for intentional interference with business expectancy and defamation. Ryan got the motion dismissed using an anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) defense.

Many states, including Washington, have anti-SLAPP laws that are designed to prevent libel, slander or interference-with-business lawsuits that are designed to stymie free speech regarding issues of public concern.

However, the appeals court ruled that Ryan’s blogging activities were of a personal, not public concern, and reversed the lower court’s dismissal.

(Clarification: Polyamory and swinging are not the same thing. Swingers are couples seeking seeking sexual relationships with other individuals that aren’t emotional or romantic in nature. Polyamorists seek relationships that are also romantic or emotional in nature.)
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MB: Wildfires in WA, ski plans get another look and Starbucks catches flak

Posted By on Thu, Mar 19, 2015 at 7:58 AM


A new report shows the Spokane Police Department's tendency to stop people of color more often than white citizens. (Inlander)

Environmentalists want a new review of the Mount Spokane ski-area expansion into some old-growth forests. (Spokesman-Review)

The expected drought conditions this summer most likely mean dust storms and wildfires for Eastern Washington. (KXLY)

March Madness goes into full effect today, and Eastern Washington University tips off against Georgetown around 7 pm. (Spokesman-Review)


Starbucks is catching some social-media static for its race initiative. (New York Times)

A San Francisco church that installed sprinklers designed to keep homeless people from loitering has decided that wasn't a great idea. (BBC)

Arizona shooting suspect has ties to racist hate groups. (Washington Post)
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