News

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

MB: Heated council hearing, Iran nuke deal reached, Obama pardons drug offenders

Posted By on Tue, Jul 14, 2015 at 9:26 AM


HERE


Spokane City Council had a long hearing on a controversial initiative petition last night. (Inlander)

Spokane County is continuing to fight a tax break that it says the city illegally gave to military veterans and low-income retirees. (Spokesman-Review)

Neighbors in the Shadle Park area have successfully gotten a nuisance house boarded up. (KXLY)


THERE
Iran and the U.S. have reached a deal intended to curb the Middle Eastern country’s nuclear ambitions.(Reuters)

The Pentagon will lift its ban on transgender people serving in the military. (New York Times)

President Barack Obama has commuted the sentences of 46 people doing time for drug offenses. (CNN)

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After long hearing, council sends immigration-petition signatures for review

Posted By on Tue, Jul 14, 2015 at 9:15 AM


The legitimacy of an initiative petition that would undo a city policy barring police from contacting or detaining individuals solely because they are suspected of being an undocumented immigrant was called into question by its opponents during a drawn-out and emotionally heated meeting of Spokane City Council Monday night.

During the four-hour meeting, the council heard from the initiative's proponents, who insisted that they just want to see the nation's immigration laws upheld, and opponents, who insisted that undoing the ordinance would make immigrants less likely to cooperate with police and broadcast an unwelcoming message from Spokane to the rest of the world.

The ordinance in question was adopted into city code by the council last October, codifying a 10-year-old police directive that put Spokane among dozens of cities with some sort of policy intended to steer local police away from enforcing immigration laws. The council had the options of voting the petition into law or sending it to the county to have its signatures verified and potentially placed on the November ballot.

But Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart, an opponent of the initiative, didn't like either of these options. He questioned if the initiative would violate the city charter, calling attention to one of its provisions that would require a referendum on any change to city policies or ordinances that dealt with immigration. He also took issue with a “legislative history” that supporters added to circulated petitions without the city's approval.

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Monday, July 13, 2015

MB: Spokane shooting near North Central H.S., El Chapo escapes, Scott Walker runs

Posted By on Mon, Jul 13, 2015 at 10:11 AM



HERE

Spokane is looking for input on the redesigned Wall Street section making way for Urban Outfitters. (Spokesman-Review)

Spokane police are looking for a shooting suspect near North Central H.S. (KREM)

155 firefighters were working a fire near Cheney Sunday night. (KXLY)

THERE

European leaders reached a deal on the Greece debt crisis, but that doesn't mean it's over. (New York Times) 

Scott Walker, the Koch Brothers-fueled governor of Wisconsin, has joined the GOP race for president. (Washington Post)

Mexico's biggest drug lord made an escape from prison using a mile-long tunnel. (CNN)
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Friday, July 10, 2015

The Central City Line chugs forward, despite ballot measure failure

Posted By on Fri, Jul 10, 2015 at 3:15 PM

The Central City Line probably won't look like this, exactly, but STA's hoping for a big economic impact along the electric-bus route
  • The Central City Line probably won't look like this, exactly, but STA's hoping for a big economic impact along the electric-bus route

With the class-size initiative budget mess cleared from the track, the Washington Legislature moved full steam ahead to approve the last details of the $15 billion transportation package.

And while every local Republican House member voted to oppose it (it came with a 11.7 cent gas tax increase), the package was chock-full of goodies for the Spokane region — $879 million to connect the North-Spokane Corridor to I-90, $8.8 million for the controversial Spokane Pedestrian Bridge, and $15 million for the Central City Line, a six-mile electric bus transit route going though downtown to Spokane Community College. 

"The pedestrian bridge and the Central City Line are going to be catalytic projects," celebrates Spokane Transit Authority CEO E. Susan Meyer. 

Wait a moment. Didn't Spokane County voters just recently reject a sales tax increase that would have raised $12 million to pay for the Central City Line? And it's going ahead anyway?  

"Losing by 572 votes was not a referendum on STA" or specific projects in its plan, says Meyer. "On the ballot measure, there wasn’t a question about voting for the Central City Line. It was about maintaining or expanding service."  

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WOULD YOU RATHER: A) lower K-12 class sizes, or B) eliminate WA public college tuition?

Posted By on Fri, Jul 10, 2015 at 12:03 PM


$2 billion is a lot of money.

That's the amount that the Washington state Office of Financial Management estimated Initiative 1351, fully implemented, would have cost the state every year. 
Lower class sizes, or no tuition at colleges like WSU?
  • Lower class sizes, or no tuition at colleges like WSU?

If it was implemented, it would have bumped class sizes down to 17 in grades K-3, 24 in grade 4, and 25 in the rest of the grades. And for schools with more than half of their kids on free or reduced lunch, it would have gone even lower: Fifteen students per class in K-3, 22 students in grade 4, and 23 students in the older grades. (Schools without the space to decrease class sizes would have been able to use the money for other instructional costs.)

When I took a look at the research on the issue last year, I found it showed that lower class sizes did help students, especially at the early grades, and especially low-income students. But I also found a study showing that the flood of inexperienced teachers, necessary to meet the class-size reductions, wiped out most of the gains. Many of the studies came to the conclusion that, while lower class sizes can help students, it's a very expensive way to do it. 

The $2 billion per year cost is on top of the K-3 class size reductions already being implemented because of the McLeary court decision. Instead, the legislature agreed today to delay the initiative for at least four years. A lot of the narrowly passed initiative's supporters are angry about this, accusing the legislature of defying the voters' will

But since the initiative didn't specify exactly how to fund the initiative, it's easy to miss how titanic that number is (for example, it's 10 times the budget of Titanic.)

I talked with Paula Moore, senior budget analyst for education in Office of Financial Management, who confirmed something I'd heard discussed by legislators: For the cost of I-1351, you could roughly make every public university and community college in the state tuition-free for Washington resident undergrads. 

"We have a very rough, back-of-the-envelope estimate," Moore says. It looks at what students are paying for tuition now, and subtracts the amount of state financial aid (which wouldn't be necessary if tuition was eliminated.) It assumes no budget cuts or cost increases or changes in the number of people who enroll. Students would still have to pay for fees and textbooks.

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Sex-worker advocates' safety concerns after Backpage.com blacklisted by credit card companies

Posted By on Fri, Jul 10, 2015 at 10:00 AM


It’s been a bad week for Backpage.com, all thanks to one man in Cook County, Illinois. Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart took his grievances with advertisements for prostitutes on Backpage.com straight to Mastercard and Visa. His letter got results — with a quickness — as Backpage got blacklisted from both, effectively leaving sex workers without an affordable and accessible platform to advertise. Backpage has now shifted to Bitcoin and is offering temporary free listings in the "adult services" section, but it is unclear how long that will last or if their online classified ad service will survive at all.

Backpage.com isn't glamorous or fancy. It's a sleazy online classified page that picked up the slack when Craigslist ditched its Erotic Services section in 2010. For sex workers looking to get off the streets, though, it's a solid option with few barriers to entry and a tiny extra slice of safety.

As sex workers' rights advocates across the globe began to fret that Dart’s move would push workers back onto the streets, politicians around the country began to call out Backpage for its proximity to murders involving prostitutes and instances of human trafficking. Just last week a woman in Massachusetts was shot and killed by two armed robbers masquerading as Backpage clients. Calling on Backpage to close, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey issued a statement indicating that most human trafficking cases prosecuted by her office involve Backpage, too. Former Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna tangled with Backpage back in 2011 after a rash of incidents involving underage girls selling sex via the site. 

Dart has gone up against the online sex advertisement game before. In 2009 he sued Craigslist over their Erotic Services section. That effort failed, but Craigslist stopped allowing the advertisements a year later anyway, at which point Backpage became the hub of easy entry into online sex-work advertising.

In Spokane, we’re all too used to this shifting of prostitution from one forum to the next. The 2012 spa raids in Airway Heights led women to head back to East Sprague. The signs along Sprague push street-based workers onto side streets and into residential neighborhoods where they are less safe, says Spokane Regional Health District Outreach worker Lynn Everson. 

There's no clear substitute for Backpage like there was for Craigslist, either. Other online forums are more complicated to use and produce less immediate results. 

“You can grab a prepaid Visa from a supermarket or gas station and put up a Backpage ad; it's not anywhere near as easy with bitcoins,” says Bella of Spokane’s Sex Workers Outreach Project. “Those are the workers who are most likely to be raped, robbed or murdered. They're being driven out onto the streets, where they are most vulnerable, because they have no other choice.”
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MB: Government hack affects 21 million, Robert Yates still on death row and fires, still

Posted By on Fri, Jul 10, 2015 at 9:31 AM


HERE

In wildfire news: A rise in respiratory illnesses is being linked to all the smoke in the air these past couple weeks, and the Cape Horn fire was likely started by a flare. (KXLY)

Once again the Washington Supreme Court has rejected Spokane serial killer Robert Yates’ plea that his death penalty conviction be overturned. (KREM)

After anti-Muslim graffiti was discovered outside the Bosnia Herzegovina Heritage Association, Ramadan prayers will continue. (Spokesman-Review)

Mayor David Condon has raised more money for his reelection campaign than anyone else running for local office in Washington. (Inlander)

THERE

The exclusive first chapter of the hotly anticipated To Kill A Mockingbird sequel by Harper Lee is here. (Guardian) The book drops next week.

The Office of Personnel Management computer systems data breach affected more than 21 million people, investigators believe. (CNN)

Egyptian actor Omar Sharif (Lawrence of Arabia, Funny Girl, Doctor Zhivago) died at age 83. (BBC)

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Thursday, July 9, 2015

Forget “wide-ranging interviews” of politicians. Go narrow and deep.

Posted By on Thu, Jul 9, 2015 at 3:58 PM

Focus, Cnn. Focus.
  • Focus, Cnn. Focus.

Tuesday night, CNN landed a rare thing indeed: A full-length interview with presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

The reviews were mixed: Baltimore Sun TV critic David Zurawik praised journalist Brianna Keilar for “asking hard questions,” while conservatives lambasted it as “softball.”

I saw it as suffering from a different problem. Within the span of 19 minutes, Keilar asked about Clinton’s e-mail scandal, the Clinton Foundation, Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, corporate taxes, her trustworthiness, her Republican rivals, sanctuary cities, her treatment of the media, which woman should be on the $10 bill, and who did the better Hillary on Saturday Night Live, Kate or Amy?

It was, in other words, the “wide-ranging” interview of a politician. The problem is that there are too many wide-ranging interviews of politicians, and not enough deep-digging ones.

This gets to conservative critiques that Keilar didn’t ask the right follow-up questions. It could be because Keilar was ill-prepared. Or it could be because Keiler had a list of topics she had to cover and needed to get to the next one. 

That’s the issue with wide-ranging interviews: Politicians that like to dodge or filibuster can more easily duck, weave or stall on topics to get out of putting forth substance on topics they don’t want to talk about. Clinton, of course, is known for being reluctant to take a detailed stand even on subjects as trivial as which woman she’d like to see on U.S. currency or her favorite ice cream flavor.

Keilar could have taken one topic: (Hint: Not Donald Trump) and lasered in on that instead. It doesn’t have to be e-mails. It could be transparency in general. Or her views on Iran. Or Syria. Or the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Or immigration. Or legislation pertaining to Wall Street. Or tax reform. And spend the next 20 minutes talking about that.

Look at how great this interview with Jeffrey Goldberg and President Obama is. Goldberg had an hour with the president, not an easy thing to get. But instead of skipping along the surface of numerous issues, Goldberg homed in on one: The Middle East.

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Condon has raised more cash for reelection than any other local candidate in WA

Posted By on Thu, Jul 9, 2015 at 2:15 PM

mayor-condon.jpg
Mayor David Condon has raised more money for his reelection campaign than anyone else running for local office in the state, according to filings with the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission.

Spokane is the second largest city in the state, but Condon has raised more than candidates running for office in Seattle or King County.

Condon has raised $294,559.93 for reelection. Coming in second is Jane Hague, who has raised $237,434.86 for her bid for King County Council. In third is Timothy Burgess, who has raised $222,916.88 to keep his seat on Seattle City Council, who is followed by Kshama Sawant, another Seattle City Council member, who has raised $192,948.71.

Condon’s opponent Shar Lichty, an organizer with the Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane, has raised $8,459.54. Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart, also elected city-wide on a city-wide vote, has raised $78,024.04.
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MB: Bat + girl, WA education deal nearing and South Carolina to take down flag

Posted By on Thu, Jul 9, 2015 at 9:51 AM


HERE

A rabid bat bit a young girl in Liberty Lake. She is currently being treated with shots. (Spokesman-Review)

In fire news, Twenty-One Mile Grade fire is not expected to grow, Cape Horn fire evacuees are allowed to go home and Complex 231 fire is still on the move. (KHQ)

After much gridlock in Olympia, an education deal made today could at last send Washington state lawmakers home. (KREM)

THERE

Southern Carolina will take down the Confederate flag from the lawn of the state Capitol building. (Daily Beast)

Former AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd has been sentenced to house arrest for possession of drugs and death threats. (BBC) This shouldn’t hinder in any way AC/DC’s chances of playing the Spokane Arena — a band voted No. 2 on the Arena’s recent Bucket List poll. (INLANDER)

IBM has announced it's made working versions of a powerful new computer chip. (New York Times) 
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