Thursday, February 12, 2015

Snag hit in mystery retailer deal

Posted By on Thu, Feb 12, 2015 at 9:45 AM

A large national retailer that’s considering moving into downtown Spokane is objecting to two conditions the city council has placed on it getting legal rights to a stretch of street.

The mystery retailer (sources are worried that if they say who it is, it’ll jeopardize the deal) is eyeing the corner of Main and Wall streets for a new location. But to make the new location work, it would need 17 feet of public right-of-way on Wall Street, meaning that the company would have legal right to it after they pay a fee and the city council signs off on it.

City council is supportive of the project, but in a study session last month several members wanted to impose two conditions on giving the company the right-of-way. Under the conditions, the right-of-way would revert back to the city if the building remained vacant for five years or if the building came down.

But according to Council President Ben Stuckart, these conditions were too much for the bankers financing the retailer and he’s not sure when the project will move forward.

“Apparently it makes it very hard to secure financing for the building,” adds Councilman Mike Allen.

Allen says he doesn’t know what the status of the project is, but he suggests that the city could still grant the right-of-way to the mystery retailer. If things fell through, he says, the city could use its condemnation powers to wrest back the right-of-way.

Bryn West, general manager at River Park Square, a company owned by the Cowles family that has an interest in the project, didn’t return a phone call seeking comment. Neither did Mark Richard, president of the Downtown Spokane Partnership, which is courting the retailer. 
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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Community rallies in wake of attack on transgender woman

Posted By on Tue, Feb 3, 2015 at 10:36 AM

Jacina Carla Scamahorn standing outside of council chambers.
  • Jacina Carla Scamahorn standing outside of council chambers.

It wasn’t the first time Jacina Carla Scamahorn had been beaten up for being who she is, and it happened again last week. But this time would be different.

Last Friday a little before 10 p.m. Jacina Carla Scamahorn was waiting for a ride from a friend outside Boot’s Bakery and Lounge. She was chatting with a woman who had asked to touch the fabric of her skirt.

“You might not want to touch it because I had to sit in dog piss and trash the last couple of nights because I had to stay outside,” Scamahorn, who has been homeless since 2012, remembers telling the woman. 

As she chatted with the woman, two men emerged from Zola, a bar next door, who weren’t so friendly. They began berating Scamahorn for being transgender. They told her that she had invited all of her life’s difficulties on herself for not being normal. The woman who had been talking with Scamahorn tried to stand up for her, and that’s when the beating began.

“I was cowering and the guy was violent,” recalls Scamahorn. “He was aggressive, and he was beyond drunk, and all he saw [in] me was was a punching bag.”
They beat her, she says, punching her left eye and kicking her as she fell to the ground.

“In their eyes,” recalls Scamahorn. “I was a thing, not a someone.”

But on Monday, over 100 people showed up to city council to show they thought of Scamahorn as a someone. During the public comment period over 20 people spoke, expressing outrage at the attack, support for Scamahorn and criticism for how police handled it.

Blaine Stum, legislative assistant to Councilman Jon Snyder, says he heard about the attack on Sunday in an email from Rick Eichstaedt, the executive director of the Center for Justice. Stum, who chairs the city’s Human Rights Commission, started rallying people to come to city council on Monday to show their support for Scamahorn.

Continue reading »

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Monday, February 2, 2015

Bill would overhaul state public records law for police body cameras

Posted By on Mon, Feb 2, 2015 at 4:09 PM

A bill has been introduced in the Washington State Legislature that’ll make significant changes to the state’s public records law — changes intended to make it friendlier to law enforcement agencies now using body cameras.

Although police body cameras are increasingly being adopted by a range of law enforcement agencies in Washington state, from small towns to Seattle, they’ve run into problems with how the surveillance devices interface with the state’s relatively expansive public records law.

In last week’s paper, we wrote about how the Spokane Police Department is reluctant to move forward with its body camera program with the state’s public records law in its current form.

The department, which wrapped up a pilot program and has 25 officers voluntarily wearing the cameras, has had to deal with blanket requests for all the footage, which have already been costly to comply with. Spokane police have also been uncomfortable with some of these videos, depicting people grappling with mental illness or some other crisis, going up on the Internet.

Law enforcement agencies across the state have had been similarly swamped with blanket request for videos. But all that could change.

A bill, written with strong input from the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, was introduced by a trio of Western Washington Democrats on Monday that seeks to address these problems.

The opening section of the bill reads:
The legislature finds that technological developments present opportunities for additional truth-finding, transparency, and accountability in interactions between law enforcement or corrections officer and the public. However, the legislature wants to preserve the public's reasonable expectations of privacy with respect to such interactions; although individuals interacting with law enforcement or corrections officers carrying out their official duties have no expectation that their right to privacy prevents law enforcement or corrections officers from audio and/or video recording their interaction, those individuals do not surrender their right to privacy as it relates to the public records act.
The text of the bill seeks to limit blanket requests by not allowing any video or sound recordings captured by police to be released to the public unless:

  • The request specifically identifies the name of the people involved in an incident captured on camera, or a specific date, time and location of the incident.
  • The request includes a case number.
  • The request is made by someone involved in an incident recorded by a police body camera.
  • The request is made by an attorney representing someone in an incident recorded by a police body camera.

Anyone else who wants to request any police body camera footage has to get a court order that concludes that the public interest in disclosing the video significantly outweighs privacy concerns. If they want to disclose video from a police body camera, according to the bill, they have to give anyone (excluding law enforcement officers) the opportunity to get a court order to prevent it from being disclosed. Law enforcement agencies can require someone requesting the footage to pay the costs of redacting any part of the video that’s not subject to disclosure (i.e. images of minors, Social Security numbers, etc.)

Previously, the Washington ACLU had called the bill “one-sided” and expressed concerns that it would become too difficult to get policy body camera footage.
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Thursday, January 29, 2015

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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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

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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City council is ready for some football (and some cute boys and fried chicken)

Posted By on Tue, Jan 27, 2015 at 12:05 PM

Sometimes city council meetings can be heated and divisive events. But last night, city council appeared united on one topic: football.

The Inlander caught up with a few of the 12th men (and women) to see what they’re doing for the game.

Councilman Mike Allen

What’s going to be the score?

“I think Seattle, defense under 20 points.”

Where are you watching the game?

"We're hosting a house party."

Do you have any rituals or food you’re planning?

“Pomegranate martinis.”

Councilman Jon Snyder

What’s going to be the final score?

That’s going to be a tough one. 24-17, Seahawks.

Where are you going to watch the game?

“Probably at home with family and friends.”

Snyder says he doesn’t have cable, but does have an “ancient antenna” on his roof that allows him to watch the game.

Any special rituals or food?

“I gotta watch the game with people interested in the game. I always wear the colors. I gotta eat before because I get too nervous.”

“Last year’s game was the perfect Super Bowl because if you’re rooting for the perfect team you want no doubt. But this year could be a nail-biter.”


Council President Ben Stuckart

What will be the final score?

“Seahawks, 34-24.”

Where will you watch it?

“At home with my wife and mother.”

Do you have any rituals?

“I just yell a lot and cook good food.”

What do you cook?

“I think we are going to have prime rib this year.”


Councilwoman Karen Stratton

So where are you watching the game?

“I don’t pay any any attention to it. I look for the cute ones and point them out to my husband who tells me who they are, and then I watch the commercials. I don’t understand it.”

Councilwoman Amber Waldref

What will be the final score?

“Seahawks by 14.”

Where will you watch it?

“At home. We’ll project it onto a wall and have people over.”

“I’m much more the football fan than my husband, so I gotta twist his arm.”

This weekend Waldref will be attending a conference in Baltimore. She told her husband that by

“Sunday you better have this figured out.”

Any special rituals or food?

“KFC this year.”

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

WW: Spokane city councilman wants fewer weed-related explosions and diet weed and weed sex spray

Posted By on Wed, Jan 21, 2015 at 4:02 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]

One of the byproducts of the growing social acceptance of marijuana is exploding houses and cars.
Some marijuana users will pack the drug tightly into a glass tube or PVC pipe, pour butane through it and heat the mixture until it turns into a highly potent concentrate. But because butane is so highly flammable people have caused explosions while making the oil.

The problem has caught the attention of the New York Times, which ran an article on the problem on Saturday. It’s caught the attention of the Colorado attorney general, and, locally, it’s caught the attention of Councilman Jon Snyder who has introduced an ordinance that would ban the making of butane hash oil in Spokane.

“Don't do it at home; just don't,” says Snyder. “Find a professional to extract your hash oil. Just don't do it. People compare it to home brewing or home winemaking; it's not really a comparison.”
Jon Snyder is concerned about weed in cars and people blowing things up while making hash oil.
  • Jon Snyder is concerned about weed in cars and people blowing things up while making hash oil.

Snyder points to several instances where DIY butane hash oil operations have gone badly, and he says the issue is a matter of public safety

Under Snyder’s ordinance, only those with processing licenses could make butane hash oil and would they would also be required to get approved equipment, submit to an inspection and get a permit from Fire Department.

Snyder was also in Olympia last week to testify in favor of a bill that would require pot users to stow away their stash while in the car. Snyder says that the bill, which has some opposition, is supposed to mirror current laws that prohibit open containers of alcohol in cars.

“it's aimed at passengers,” he says. “You could say that if someone is smoking pot with the windows closed there’s a chance the driver could get a psychoactive effect from the second-hand smoke.”

He says it’s also aimed at potentially difficult situations where a police officer pulls over a marijuana-perfumed car where the passenger admits to smoking but the driver insists they’re sober.

Here’s the news elsewhere:

Marijuana businesses in states that have legalized pot have run up against a big problem: banks worried about legal risks won’t serve them. But one bank in Oregon is doing so anyway.

Another Colorado-based credit union is attempting to provide banking services to the weed industry.

Get ready for diet weed.

While you’re at it, get ready for weed sex spray.

The attorneys general of Nebraska and Oklahoma are suing Colorado for legalizing pot and allowing the drug to flood over its borders. The governor of Wyoming is considering suing the federal government for letting Colorado legalize pot in the first place.

A Washington couple were investigated for abuse because they smoke pot.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Civil Service Commission will investigate Quintrall's hiring of temp

Posted By on Tue, Jan 20, 2015 at 1:36 PM

Jan Quintrall, division director of business and development services for Spokane. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Jan Quintrall, division director of business and development services for Spokane.

The Spokane Civil Service Commission voted earlier today to investigate whether or not the city’s Business & Development Services Division had violated the civil service system by improperly hiring a temporary worker.

On January 6, Joe Cavanaugh, president of AFSCME Local 270, complained to the commission that Jacqueline Luenow, who was hired as a temporary worker, was performing work that should go to an employee that had gone through the city’s civil service system. City employees hired through the merit-based civil service system must pass an exam and are given union protection.

Cavanaugh told the commission that he understood that there is a place for seasonal or temporary workers in city government, such as Parks and Recreation, which sees its staffing needs change depending on the season. However, he said that he is concerned that the position held by Luenow, who supervises clerical employees, should have gone to an employee that had gone through the civil service system and he wanted the commission to look into it.

“Temporary-seasonal [workers], as I’ve stated earlier and I’ll state it again, are to supplement the [civil service] workforce not supplant it,” he said.

Jan Quintrall, division director of business and development services who has been at the center of hiring-and-firing controversies in the past, made an appearance at the meeting and told the commission that she had originally asked city council to make the position exempt from civil service requirements but was turned down. She said she then approached the commission to begin the civil service testing and hiring process for the position in November and is still waiting. In the meantime, she said, the work needed to be done and she hired a temp.

“It’s a stop-gap just to make sure we have supervision of these clerks,” she said.

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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Inslee has new plan to reduce property crime

Posted By on Thu, Jan 15, 2015 at 11:58 AM

Gov. Jay Inslee has unveiled his plan to reduce the state’s sky-high property crime rate (a problem present in Spokane) that’s based on the idea that repeat offenders should receive supervision and treatment.

According to the a press release from the governor’s office, the problem is that Washington sends repeat property offenders to prison for sentences that are two to three times longer on average than other states that have sentencing guidelines. However, when the offenders have done their time, they aren’t supervised, and, according to the governor’s office, there is research that shows that supervision and treatment are the most effective methods to reduce reoffending.

The problem, according to the report, is particularly bad in high-population areas. In fiscal year 2013, King County, which accounts for 29 percent of the state’s population, saw 33 percent of the state’s reported property crime. Spokane County, which accounts for 7 percent of the state’s population, saw 11 percent of its reported property crime.

If enacted, the plan, which has bipartisan support, would require a mandatory period of post-release supervision and treatment for property offenders.

The Washington State Institute for Public Policy, another think tank, found the plan would reduce crime by 1,000 victimizations annually and the number of people reoffending would fall by 13 percent. It would also save the state up to $290 million in corrections spending over a six-year period.

The plan is outlined outlined in a report by the Council of State Governments Justice Center, a think tank with offices in Seattle, Washington D.C. and elsewhere.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

WW: New Airway Heights pot store; Nancy Grace versus 2 Chainz

Posted By on Wed, Jan 14, 2015 at 11:31 AM

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]

Airway Heights is getting a new member of the “I-502 family” called the Top Shelf.

The proprietor of the recreational marijuana shop is Florence Childs, an 80-year-old who opened it up on Saturday, January 10. Her family always told her that she was the luckiest person they knew. So when the lottery opened up for licenses, she decided to apply, drawing a license.

She doesn’t smoke any pot herself, but, she says, “I believe it’s here to stay, and I believe it does a lot of good.”

The store’s selection of bud is, for the moment, grown entirely in Spokane, Cheney and Liberty Lakes, says Jenn Bordoy, the store’s manager.

“I just think from having gone from a bartender to budtender that the local just does better with people,” she says.

The store sells marijuana-infused cookies for $12, grams ranging from $15 to $25 and half grams of concentrates that go for $20 to $40.

The Top Shelf, located at 1305 S. Hayford Road, is having its grand opening on Saturday, January 24. It’ll feature glass-blowers and local farmers who will be available with “sniffy jars” and answers about their products.

Childs and Bordoy stressed that they they don’t give any advice on medical marijuana or give out any samples. So don’t expect any.

Here’s the news:

Under federal law, marijuana is as bad as heroin or LSD. But a federal judge in California could challenge that.

Rumors are swirling in New York City that Mayor Bill de Blasio and his wife regularly smoke pot. Gawker reports that these rumors are coming from the police, who’ve had a frosty relationship with the mayor.

The Buckeye State might be next to legalize pot. 

Indiana lawmakers pushing for some sort of medical marijuana bill can’t get other legislators on board and it’s all the fault of states with more liberalized pot laws. 

About half of Michigan voters want to legalize pot.

Illinois has a medical marijuana law, but Pat Quinn, who recently left the governor’s office, didn’t allow a single license for growers or sellers despite vowing to do so. His successor, Republican Bruce Rauner, isn’t much groovier.

Lastly, here’s a video of Nancy Grace and 2 Chainz arguing about marijuana:

This post has been updated to reflect a new grand opening date for Top Shelf.

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