Friday, May 8, 2015

[UPDATED] John Ahern, Mike Fagan announce bids for Spokane City Council

Posted By on Fri, May 8, 2015 at 9:51 AM

Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart has drawn his first declared challenger in John Ahern, a former Republican state representative.

Ahern, 80, had filed to run for the seat being vacated by Councilman Mike Allen, but he’s changing course and will file paperwork on Monday to challenge Stuckart, who is seeking a second term as head of the city’s legislative body. He tells the Inlander that it made more sense to challenge Stuckart rather than risk splitting the conservative vote with LaVerne Biel for Allen’s seat.

If elected, Ahern says he’ll focus on improving the business climate in Spokane, which he says is causing some companies to relocate to Spokane Valley or Idaho. He also says he’ll place a moratorium on the sale and production of marijuana. Additionally, Ahern will reverse the city’s so-called “Sanctuary City” ordinance, which prohibits city employee from inquiring about people’s immigration status, saying that it invites terrorists and foreign criminal elements into the city.

“The city council needs adult supervision and parental guidance,” says Ahern, who made an unsuccessful bid in 2013 for the council seat currently held by Councilman Jon Snyder.

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MB: U.S. unemployment hits seven-year low, Spokane River plane crash, WA loosens liquor laws

Posted By on Fri, May 8, 2015 at 7:18 AM


A small plane crashed into the Spokane River Thursday, killing two. (Spokesman-Review)

Washington's governor signed a bill loosening liquor laws in several ways — but powdered alcohol is now officially a no-go. (Spokesman-Review)

Envision Spokane kicked off its campaign for a Workers Bill of Rights, and the mayor's only announced opponent (so far) made the scene. (Inlander)


What was thought to be a tight race in Britain's election turned into a Conservative sweep over Labour, keeping Prime Minister David Cameron in power. (New York Times)

GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush called his brother and former president George W. Bush as one of his campaign's top foreign policy advisers for the Middle East, a shock to some in the private meeting given W's disastrous decisions regarding Iraq during his tenure. 

Joblessness hit a seven-year low in the United States in April, but wage growth still lags. (AlJazeera-America)
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Thursday, May 7, 2015

Prostitutes migrate to Idaho following Spokane enforcement actions

Posted By on Thu, May 7, 2015 at 2:16 PM

Regulars at the Coeur d’Alene Casino began complaining early this year that they were being approached by prostitutes, says the tribe’s Public Relations Director Heather Keen. The resort casino’s security team had been noticing suspicious activity, too.

They reached out to the Coeur d’Alene Tribal Police for assistance. The CdA cops sought guidance from the Kalispel Tribal Police, the Airway Heights Police and the Spokane Police Department, Keen says. The Washington law enforcement agencies had successfully cut down on prostitution at Washington casinos in 2012 and were able to provide suggestions on staging a sting operation.

With the help of the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, tribal police swooped in April 29, taking eight suspected prostitutes into custody. The team returned the evening of April 30 hoping to arrest a few johns, but word about the enforcement action had gotten out on social media and only one man was arrested.

“Several social media posts were being made warning of the 'prostitution sting' at the Casino,” says Lieutenant Stu Miller in a press release. “Which ultimately aided in the goal to reduce the number of prostitutes in Kootenai County.”

The women who were arrested are all in Kootenai County Jail awaiting $300 in bail money. In Idaho the mugshots of arrestees are made available to the public (not a thing in Washington, where the state law keeps it classy, eliminating the clickbait mugshot galleries that are so ubiquitous in states like Oregon and Montana), so the women arrested in the bust had their photographs featured on the evening news. Even the Spokesman listed the names of the arrested women.

Such sex worker shaming seems like a dubious move in Spokane, where police are moving away from treating sex workers as criminals and are instead trying to better connect them with social services. Instead of arresting prostitutes, Spokane police have been focusing on criminalizing the demand side of the sex trade. Recent enforcement actions have focused on arresting the men who patronize prostitutes, not on making things even more difficult for the women who sell sex to survive.

The women arrested range in age from 18 to 46. Six are from Washington and four from Spokane.

“As Washington law enforcement agencies have been conducting similar enforcement operations, prostitution activities have been migrated to the Kootenai County area,” wrote the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office in a press release. Keen couldn’t say for sure why the casino has seen such an influx of prostitution activity this year. She’s just relieved the enforcement action succeeded in sending the activity back out of sight.

“It was a success,” says Keen. “The bottom line is public safety, keep it clean and keep it safe.”
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Envision Spokane draws mayoral candidate to campaign kickoff

Posted By on Thu, May 7, 2015 at 1:07 PM

Shar Lichty
  • Shar Lichty

Envision Spokane held the kickoff for its Workers Bill of Rights initiative petition, drawing a handful of supporters that included Shar Lichty, the only declared challenger to Mayor David Condon.

Supporters have until July to collect about 2,500 signatures to get the initiative on the November ballot. If passed, most employers would be required to pay their workers a “living wage” that will be calculated by the city. It would also bar employers from firing workers without a “just cause” and require them to pay employees equally regardless of gender, gender identity, race, ethnicity, familial status, religion and other categories.

Lichty, who works as an organizer for the Spokane Peace and Justice Action League, made an appearance at the event held Wednesday night at the Community Building downtown to show her support.

“I grew up in a working family,” said Lichty of her support for the initiative. “It’s who I am.”

Lichty said she supports the initiative because it was crafted in a way to minimize its impact on on small businesses while raising wages. She said there would be no coordination between the campaigns.

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MB: NSA phone surveillance ruled illegal, Tom Brady is a liar and topless baristas—again

Posted By on Thu, May 7, 2015 at 7:43 AM


A Northwest Spokane man was shot by police after he'd fired shots at them from his backyard. (Spokesman-Review)

The Coeur d'Alene officer shot and killed in the line of duty had a body camera on that captured the incident. (KREM)

Spokane City Council members are considering new ways to cover up topless baristas — again. Bikini baristas would be free to continue letting it all hang out. (Spokesman-Review)


A U.S. Appeals Court ruled today that the NSA phone data collection program is illegal, invalidating a big part of the Patriot Act, at least for now. (New York Times)

Yup, Tom Brady is a liar and the Patriots cheated. (Washington Post)

Google is pumping $150 million into an effort to increase diversity in the tech biz. (CNN)


A company in Kentucky is selling a candle that smells like fried chicken. (KXLY)
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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Retired Pasco cop Richard Aguirre pleads not guilty to rape charge

Posted By on Wed, May 6, 2015 at 1:23 PM

In Franklin County, recently retired Pasco Police Department Officer Richard Jay Aguirre pleaded not guilty to the charge of third-degree rape Tuesday afternoon. Aguirre's criminal defense attorney Scott Johnson says he expects the charge will ultimately be resolved.

“There was a lot of alcohol that night,” says Johnson. “Once the whole story comes out, I think we’ll be alright on that one.”

Charging documents received from the Franklin County Superior Court outline the allegations of the night last November. 

The alleged victim, an adult female relative of Aguirre's, agrees that a lot of alcohol was consumed that night. Beyond that, though, the accounts diverge drastically.

She was staying at his house that night. Aguirre only had one bed, so they both slept there. They had shared a bed before and nothing untoward had happened. The two were blood relatives, after all. She wrapped herself in a blanket, burrito style. 

“She believed Aguirre was fully aware that she was not consenting to sexual relations because of this conduct and because of the nature of their familiar relationship,” writes Detective Jason Nunez in a deposition submitted to Franklin County Prosecutor Shawn Sant.

She fell asleep and woke up a bit later to find Aguirre trying to kiss her. Still intoxicated, she did her best to resist but couldn’t push him off, either because of the alcohol or the shock — she wasn’t sure which.

“Who are you?” she asked, touching his face.

“It’s me,” Aguirre replied.

Afterwards, he lay next to her and tried to cuddle. She asked him again “who are you?”

“Aguirre again said it was him and giggled,” according to charging documents. 

Nunez interviewed Aguirre after the victim reported the incident. He says Aguirre acknowledged that they went to sleep in the same bed. 

"He said they each slept on their own side of the bed and there was nothing sexual about this encounter and nothing sexual about their prior relationship," wrote Nunez. Aguirre told Nunez there was no reason his saliva should be on the victim's clothing. He volunteered to submit some DNA so the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab could check.

A forensic scientist at the crime lab used the sample to identify Aguirre's saliva on the panties the victim wore that night in November.

Aguirre's DNA was later entered into the Combined DNA Index System where it was found to match another sample collected long ago from the body of a murder victim.

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MB: CdA officer dies after shooting, DDT found in silo, Hillary goes bold on immigration

Posted By on Wed, May 6, 2015 at 7:35 AM


The Coeur d'Alene police officer shot early Tuesday died, and the  man accused of the killing is in jail with a $2 million bond. (KREM)

About 1,000 pounds of banned pesticide DDT was discovered in a Spokane County silo. (Spokesman-Review)

The Spokane City Council won't be hearing anyone use the word "Hookerville" again any time soon. (Inlander)

The Seattle Seahawks draft pick Frank Clark continues to be a PR nightmare for the team due to a domestic violence incident when he was a college student. (Seattle Times)


The suicidal pilot in the Germanwings flight that crashed might have practiced his fatal dive on a flight earlier in the day. (New York Times)

Hillary Clinton is calling for a path to full and equal citizenship for immigrants, introducing a big wedge issue between the Democrat and her GOP rivals. (CNN)

The ACLU has some questions about surveillance planes who watched the scenes unfolding in Baltimore from the sky. (Washington Post)
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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Spokane Council builds sick-leave task force, says goodbye to "Hookerville"

Posted By on Tue, May 5, 2015 at 3:43 PM

Here’s what happened at the May 4 Spokane City Council meeting:

People will no longer be allowed to utter the word “Hookerville” at Spokane City Council meetings.

The city’s legislative body appointed members of task force that will help craft an upcoming earned-sick-safe-leave ordinance, which will include an opponent of the entire idea.

And a regulatory framework for short-term rentals, such as Airbnb, was approved.

Don’t say “Hookerville”
George McGrath, civic gadfly, said "Hookerville" for the last time in front of City Council on Monday.
  • George McGrath, civic gadfly, said "Hookerville" for the last time in front of City Council on Monday.

During city council’s open forum period, when anyone gets three minutes to tell Spokane’s lawmakers almost anything they want, George McGrath, who regularly shows up to berate the council, was ordered to stop using the word “Hookerville” to refer to East Sprague Avenue, a part of town that has struggled with prostitution. 

In the past, McGrath has referred to a pedestrian bridge that will link Washington State University Spokane to East Sprague Avenue as the “bridge to Hookerville.” But last night, two members of city council weren’t having it.

“That is just offensive, and I think we are all getting a little tired of hearing the term 'bridge to Hookerville,’” said Councilwoman Karen Stratton, interrupting McGrath, who was in the middle of an anti-City Council tirade when he used the offending word. “So I respectfully request that Mr. McGrath not use that term anymore.”

McGrath pushed back, but Council President Ben Stuckart cut him off. “I'm asking that you not to use that word any more in City Council Chambers,” said Stuckart. “It's offensive and many people have complained about it.”

“So my First Amendment rights are gone because I'm at the meeting of the Spokane City Council and some people don't like the terms I use?” said McGrath.

“Your three minutes are up,” replied Stuckart.

“Yes they are,” scoffed McGrath.

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KHQ's conspiracy-laden chemtrails story is false balance at its worst

Posted By on Tue, May 5, 2015 at 3:13 PM

It's a "sweeps" period for local TV news stations, which sometimes means we get top-shelf investigatory journalism. Other times, we get stories like this one from KHQ. 

Those streaks of white in the sky left by planes? Scientists will tell you they're "contrails," the result of condensed water vapor freezing around aircraft exhaust. But KHQ talked to some other guys, who will tell you they're "chemtrails" — poison dumped from the sky for nefarious purposes. 
  • KHQ Local News
  • Fiction.

"Victor Correa researched the topic, talked with some experts, and he has both sides of the stories," anchor Dan Kleckner begins.  

That's the first problem. This isn't an issue where there are truly "both sides." There's a factual question here — are planes secretly spraying harmful chemicals onto unsuspecting civilians below? — that has a true-false answer. (And all the actual experts say "false.")

It's a problem that media critics call "false balance." It comes up with GMOs, climate change, vaccines, creation science, and other issues, where the vast majority of scientists believe one thing, but media outlets give equal time to "both sides," calling the issue a "controversy."

(Watch this Last Week Tonight clip to get an idea of how absurd that can be.)

"It's an issue raised by people who have genuine concerns, but are often labeled as 'crazy' or 'conspiracy theorists' and tonight we've given them an opportunity to voice their concerns," Correa says. "Some say it's simply exhaust from airplanes, but others, like Brian Sawyer of Spokane, say it's much worse."

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Ex-prosecutor's ex-con "pen pal" sentenced for gun charge

Posted By on Tue, May 5, 2015 at 10:44 AM


You might remember Matthew Baumrucker, the 31-year-old who pleaded guilty to a felony possession of a firearm charge earlier this year. He's the man who captured the heart of the former Spokane County deputy prosecutor Marriya Wright in 2013, along with the attention of the national media

Baumrucker was sentenced to 92 months in federal prison yesterday and has elected to serve that time at a facility in Florida.

As for Wright, she pleaded guilty last year to second-degree rendering criminal assistance after she gave Baumrucker a ride to a motel in Spokane Valley when he was being pursued by police for assault in March of 2013. She is no longer a Spokane County prosecutor, though she is still able to practice law in Washington. Police eventually arrested Baumrucker at the motel, where officers found a firearm on the air conditioning unit outside the window. 

According to a previous Inlander story, Baumrucker's first encounter with Wright was in 2010 when she prosecuted him for violating a protection order. Later that year, he sent her a letter without response. In 2013, though, he continued writing to her from jail, appealing to her Christian sensitivities.

When he was released later that year, the relationship blossomed. Witnesses say the two met in person several times, including at least one time when they made out in her car. They also texted almost daily — detectives counted 1,280 texts over a period of a few months — wishing sweet dreams at night and sharing intimate secrets. 

Even after Baumrucker was arrested from that Spokane Valley motel in March 2012, the relationship continued. Wright visited him at least 10 times, according to Spokane County Jail records. The letters continued as well, one of them contained a picture of her in a bikini at a body building competition. 

An excerpt from one of Wright's letters reads: "Sometimes when I talk to you or read your letters, I would swear that we must have been best friends/soulmates/whatever you want to call it, and I'm sure great lovers too in a past life or something. I never really believed in that kind of thing before, but something about you is always so familiar."   
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