Friday, April 22, 2016

Why one climate change activist wants you to stand in front of oil trains

Posted By on Fri, Apr 22, 2016 at 11:33 AM

Ken Ward
  • Ken Ward

After working for 20 years as a professional activist, Ken Ward determined that much of his life’s work wasn’t solving a problem that he says threatens civilization itself: climate change.

In May 2013, Ward, who went on to found the Climate Disobedience Center, co-piloted a lobster boat to block coal from being delivered to a coal plant in Massachusetts. He now says the problem is so urgent that it’s time for other people to physically put themselves in front of vehicles transporting fossil fuels.

On Saturday, Ward will be in Spokane with other like-minded activists to talk about their work. The Inlander spoke with Ward by phone about his controversial solution in anticipation of his visit to Spokane this weekend. His remarks have been edited for clarity and brevity.

Inlander: You’re best known for using a lobster boat to block a shipment of coal. What made you decide to do that?

Ken Ward: Well, I’d been working for over 10 years on climate change through legal means, and I didn’t see any any effective response. Partly because we hadn’t come to grips with the scale of the problem and that’s still the problem.

What is the scale of the problem?
At this point we have the arctic ice shelf in unstoppable collapse. The only question is how fast is it collapsing. We now know that the temperature we’ve seen is enough to put major global systems into collapse. Even the more conservative estimates have land under water by the end of this century. That should be the main topic of our national civic dialogue. It should be what presidential candidate are addressing first. But one party doesn’t acknowledge it, and the other is barely acknowledging it.

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Buses & ballots, church arson, Mexican weed and stories to end your week

Posted By on Fri, Apr 22, 2016 at 9:15 AM


NEWSFour big take-aways from Spokane citizens' survey on police body cameras
ARTS & CULTURE: Daily Show host Trevor Noah coming to WSU for Dad's Weekend
NEWS: In role reversal, this time Spokane Valley Councilman Grafos is the one resigning
HAPPY HOUR OF THE WEEK: Andy's Bar and Grill
MUSIC: One of our staff writers reminisces on seeing Prince

• Transit expansion on ballot again

The Spokane Transit Authority board voted 6-3 to once again ask voters for a tax increase to expand bus service and provide funding for the controversial Central City Line. 

• Complaint filed against council assistant
Michael Cannon, a conservative who ran for Spokane City Council, has filed a complaint against Adam McDaniel, the aide for Council President Ben Stuckart, alleging that his outside political work constitutes a violation of the city's ethics code. 

• Investigation launched into grave robbing
A skull found near Downriver Golf Course has been identified as belonging to a 72-year-old man who died and was interred in 1919. Officials have determined that someone broke into his grave and removed his skull. 

• Arson destroys Bonners Ferry church
Historic St. Ann’s Catholic Church was burnt to a crisp. Law enforcement have a person of interest. 

• U.S. suicide rate up
Federal data reveals that suicide rates are on the rise.

• Mexico could relax marijuana laws
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto has proposed legalizing medical marijuana and allowing people to carry small amounts of the drug. 

• Prince is dead
The legendary pop star died in his Minnesota home at age 57. Here he is performing a shredding guitar solo. 
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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Four big take-aways from Spokane citizens' survey on police body cameras

Posted By on Thu, Apr 21, 2016 at 4:48 PM

A body camera
  • A body camera

Last year, researchers at Arizona State University put Spokane police, and the department's new body camera program, under the microscope. 

Initial results from data on citizens' perceptions of the police accountability tool in Spokane were released today. Here are a few big take-aways: 

1. Initial results show that body cameras could enhance citizens' perceptions of "procedural justice" when interacting with police wearing body cameras.

Procedural justice means citizens believe they were treated fairly and with respect and that the officer was honest and listened carefully. Out of the four criteria, only "listened carefully" scored below 80 percent on citizen agreement. 

"This finding represents an early, important piece of evidence that [body cameras] may be able to deliver on the claim that the technology can enhance police legitimacy," ASU researchers write. 

2. Support for body cameras is high among citizens who had contact with a Spokane police officer wearing a body camera (while it was recording).

For example, 86.3 percent of those surveyed agreed that all SPD officers should wear body cameras, and 76.7 percent thought the benefits of body cameras outweighed the costs (citizens were not told anything about potential costs; answers were based on their prior knowledge, according to ASU criminology professor Michael White).

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Daily Show host Trevor Noah coming to WSU for Dad's Weekend

Posted By on Thu, Apr 21, 2016 at 3:33 PM

Trevor Noah performs in Pullman Nov. 4
  • Trevor Noah performs in Pullman Nov. 4

WSU has scored a bit of a coup for its 2016 Dad's Weekend entertainment. Forget stale classic rock, they're bringing in the fresh comedy of new Daily Show host Trevor Noah for a show on Friday, Nov. 4, at Beasley Coliseum

Noah rose to fame in his native South Africa, hosting TV shows and through his standup comedy. He was the first South African standup comedian to appear on The Tonight Show and The Late Show with David Letterman when he started coming to the states. 

He recently had a one-hour standup special, Trevor Noah: Lost in Translation, appear on Comedy Central, and of course you can see him pretty much every day on The Daily Show

Tickets for Noah go on sale Monday at 10 am at the Beasley Coliseum box office in Pullman, through TicketsWest, or by calling 800-325-7328. They are $54.50, with a $5 discount available for WSU staff, faculty and students.

Here's a bit of Noah's standup: 

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In role reversal, this time Spokane Valley Councilman Grafos is the one resigning

Posted By on Thu, Apr 21, 2016 at 1:00 PM

Dean Grafos says he was no longer making a difference on Spokane Valley City Council - JEFF FERGUSON
  • Jeff Ferguson
  • Dean Grafos says he was no longer making a difference on Spokane Valley City Council

Five years ago, Rose Dempsey resigned from the Spokane Valley City Council, expressing frustration with being outgunned and treated poorly. In particular, she was frustrated with City Councilman Dean Grafos's intractable opposition.

“He didn’t even bother to learn how these things should be done," she said. "Just boom, let’s vote against it and vote it out now.”

But this time, it's Grafos who became outgunned and frustrated on the council. 

And this time, he's the one who resigned.

Grafos announced his resignation Wednesday after a months-long battle with a new council majority that he says is irrational. 

"You can't reason with these people. It begins to look like it's all about me. And it's not. It's about the citizens of Spokane Valley," he says. "They are so driven by their ideology that it's like talking to a brick wall."

This is not the first time a new majority has taken over in the Valley and made major changes that included firing the city manager and resulted in a councilmember quitting. The same thing happened half a decade ago, with Grafos on the other side — as a member of the council majority's "Positive Change" group. And while new council majority firing a city manager is not unusual, some similarities in the fallout are particularly striking. 

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Happy Hour of the Week: Andy's Bar and Grill

Posted By on Thu, Apr 21, 2016 at 12:26 PM

Andy's Bar and Grill has the requisite whiskeys and beer — but don't forget about the food
  • Andy's Bar and Grill has the requisite whiskeys and beer — but don't forget about the food
Sometimes, the happy hour is about happiness. Exuberance. Celebration 

Other times, it's conversational catharsis. It's about swinging by with coworkers as the exhaustion finally hits you after a whirlwind week at work. You slide into a chair on the patio, gaze up wearily into the sky, and mumble your frustrations into a whiskey glass. 

Andy's Bar and Grill, perched perfectly in between Browne's Addition and Downtown, works remarkably well for both roles of happy hour. 

Summer is the best Spokane gets — especially summer evenings. The afternoon slips into evening, and the sun get lower and the colors get more intense. On days like this, sitting on the patio isn't just an option at Andy's 

On Tuesdays at Andy's PBRs are a $1, coinciding nicely with those few hours in which the the Inlander's issue has been sent to print, but the work on the next week's issue hasn't quite begun. 

The usual drinks and cocktails, naturally, but the untold story of Andy's is the full-menu of food. The $12 burger that comes with all the typical burger fixings plus swiss plus cheddar plus ham plus bacon? And garlic parmesan fries on the side?

Yes, it was delicious. But, then again, I was expecting it to be delicious. 

I was a bit more nervous, on the other hand, about the Chicken Cordon Bleu Bites ($7 during Happy Hour.) After all, I've been betrayed by various cheese-filled foodstuffs in the "popper" genre before. 

Not this time. The bites have the perfect mix of breading and chicken and cheese. They come with honey mustard sauce and crumbled bacon bits and green onions. I'd promised I would share with my coworkers. That, in hindsight, was a mistake. 

Happy hour 
runs from 4-7 every day, and all days on Sundays. It features 
$1 off all draft beers, well-liquors and house wines, and $2 off appetizers. 

For information on more Happy Hours around town, download the Inlander's Drinkspotter app from your phone, or go right here
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Prince has died at 57 — Remembering the first time I saw him live

Posted By on Thu, Apr 21, 2016 at 10:59 AM


The first time I saw Prince was in the summer of 1997 at The Gorge, driving frantically after work from a job in Moscow to get there in time to see what friends had told me was an amazing show. 

They weren't kidding. It turned out to be life-changing for me, turning me from a casual fan to an obsessive one as His Royal Badness played every instrument on stage at some point, danced like a demon, hit every note while moving with insane energy, and throwing up fiery guitar solos the equal of any axeman I've ever seen or heard. 

The guitar is now silent, as Prince died today at 57, according to various media reports. This comes after a recent incident when his private plan had to make an emergency landing on his way home to Minnesota after an Atlanta concert. 

That Gorge show led me to buying a hell of a lot of Prince albums — the cat was incredibly prolific — and going to see him every chance I could. I saw him in hockey arenas, outdoor amphitheaters. I'd convince every friend I could to join me (which they usually did, because even if you thought Prince was nuts, songs like "Let's Go Crazy," "When Doves Cry" and "Little Red Corvette" are just undeniable). The shows were never anything less than awesome. Awe-inspiring, even. 

And if friends didn't want to go? I'd go solo. I once drove to Vegas from my then-home in Salt Lake City a couple days before Christmas to see him in a 1,200 seat theater, and the show was littered with LA celebs who'd made the trip to see him in a small venue (and in Vegas, naturally). And I made sure to weasel my way into one of his notorious post-show "surprise" gigs in a local club once, where he basically just jammed funk instrumentals with legendary sax-man Maceo Parker and his backing band just an hour or two after finishing a near-three-hour gig for 12,000 people. And there were only about 50 people there, in a club where we usually saw indie-rock and metal. It was surreal,  to say the least. 

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Trouble brewing in Spokane Valley, ESPN's Curt Schilling fired, charges in Flint water crisis and more

Posted By on Thu, Apr 21, 2016 at 9:28 AM

• The Green Issue is here! This year we touch on sustainable farming, water conservation, garbage disposal and, appropriately, weed

• A looming local real estate bubble

• Trouble is brewing in the Spokane Valley as some are calling for another layer of police oversight (Inlander) and (now former) Councilman Dean Grafos resigned. (Spokesman-Review)

• Spokane Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich thinks Gov. Jay Inslee should pay the $12,000 it cost his office to search for escaped Western State Hospital inmate, Anthony Garver. (Spokesman-Review) Garver was recaptured earlier this month after about a week on the lam. 

• Spokane County deputies avoided a suicide-by-cop situation by using pepper spray on a man who reportedly stabbed himself and repeatedly asked police to shoot him. (Spokesman-Review)

• 500 migrants are believed dead after a boat sank in the Mediterranean, according to the United Nations

• All-Star pitcher Curt Schilling can now add "ESPN analyst" to the "previous positions held" section on his resume. ESPN fired Schilling after he shared a Facebook post ostensibly in support of North Carolina's law that bars people from using restrooms that don't correspond to their gender at birth. This isn't the first time the outspoken conservative has mouthed off. Also: Chicago Blackhawks' Andrew Shaw will miss tonight's NHL playoff game against the Blues for shouting what appeared to be an anti-gay slur from the penalty box. 
 • Here are the bureaucrats facing charges in the Flint, Michigan water crisis. Neither the governor, the former head of the state Department of Environmental Quality, the city's former emergency  manager, nor any other names mentioned prominently in reports about the poisoning will face charges.

• "Voices" told a Spokane man to kill his mother, he told police. (KXLY)
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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Straub story: 7 takeaways from the former police chief's sworn statement

Posted By on Wed, Apr 20, 2016 at 4:59 PM

Mayor David Condon and former police Chief Frank Straub
  • Mayor David Condon and former police Chief Frank Straub

Friday's court filing in former Spokane police Chief Frank Straub's $4 million lawsuit against the city is chock-full of fascinating details. Straub's lawsuit accuses the city of recklessly spreading damaging allegations about him without due process.

In his declaration, Straub suggests he was pushed out with very little warning, and without being given any chance to defend himself. It's worth reading the whole thing. But here are a few takeaways: 

1. In the documents, Straub says Mayor David Condon and City Administrator Theresa Sanders threatened to ruin his reputation if he didn't go quietly.

The Sept. 22 press release in September announcing Straub's ouster said that he had "decided to resign." At the press conference that day, Condon answered a question about whether Straub was forced to resign by saying, "it was mutually agreed this is the best way" to move forward. 

But Straub says that his decision was between two choices: Jump, or be pushed. 
Mayor Condon told me that if I resigned instead of him firing me I could "keep my reputation intact" and talk about my accomplishments. 

Ms. Sanders told me that I had "rebuilt" my reputation "after Indianapolis" and "had accomplished so much" and that I needed to resign in order to "keep my reputation intact." If I didn't "it would be another Indianapolis."

 I realized I was being terminated, but I was also being threatened with damage to my reputation unless I agreed to go along with a resignation. 
At another meeting, on the day his ostensible resignation was announced, Straub says Sanders told him "you need to resign — there is no reason to discuss this further." 

Straub's declaration suggests he fought like hell to try to stop it, contacting an attorney and asking repeatedly for an investigation into the accusations made by police leaders. In fact, Straub didn't actually sign his letter of resignation until Oct. 6, and only then, reluctantly.  

2. Straub says he was worried that concerns over his leadership were being discussed at a Sept. 10 meeting with the command staff. But both Sanders and then-Assistant Chief Rick Dobrow told him not to sweat it. 

Straub says that he asked Sanders about the meeting, and she assured him that there were no issues raised at the meeting he needed to be concerned with. Dobrow, Straub says, told him it was about "the budget." 

The city's timeline published in December, however, says that Condon met on Sept. 10 with the command staff and the police guild about the concerns over Straub's behavior. 

3. Straub says he had requested an investigation into former police spokeswoman Monique Cotton's allegations months before his resignation. 

It's not completely clear, but this doesn't appear to be a reference to Cotton's sexual-harassment allegations. Rather, it appears to be a reference to his allegedly abusive and profane behavior at a March 31 meeting. 
Months before, I had been made aware of one complaint arising out a meeting in March 2014 from an employee named Monique Cotton. I had asked at that time that Ms. Cotton's claims be investigated because it is a standard policy for any such claims, and it protects me as well as any claimant.  
In other words, both Straub and Cotton desired and expected a full-scale investigation into the allegations about Straub's controversial management style. And while Sanders and City Attorney Nancy Isserlis looked into the March 31 meeting, both Straub and Cotton were surprised there wasn't anything more formal or extensive.  

4. Straub says he was told the earlier allegations from former police spokeswoman Monique Cotton had nothing to do with his termination. 
On Sept. 21, I thus asked both Mayor Condon and Ms. Sanders if that older complaint had anything to do with this. They told me it did not, and that there was no complaint from (Cotton) on file.
5. Straub says he fought to keep the reasons for his forced resignation off the press release.

The first draft of the press release announcing Straub's resignation was sent by City Spokesman Brian Coddington at 1:32 pm on Sept. 22, only about a half-hour after Coddington denied to the Spokesman-Review that Straub's job was in danger. It included quotes from Mayor Condon and Straub. 

But Straub tried to get one section removed:
Members of the police leadership team expressed concerns in recent weeks about Straub's management style. They submitted letters last week summarizing their concerns. 
"I objected to this language. The entire point of my resignation was to prevent harm to my reputation," Straub said. For two hours, Straub says, he unsuccessfully pleaded with Coddington and Isserlis to remove that language.

Ultimately, the press release included this passage:  
Spokane Mayor David Condon accepted Straub’s resignation today and reassigned him to work on criminal justice initiatives and assistant in the transition to the new chief after some police leadership members submitted letters last week summarizing their concerns about his management style.
Further upsetting Straub, the city also distributed two letters from police leaders discussing their concerns. Straub says he had fervently disagreed with those letters, but his requests for an investigation into the matter were rebuffed.

6. Straub was offered a "name-clearing hearing" — but only after he'd been ousted. 

A week after Straub had been forced to resign, Assistant City Attorney Erin Jacobson sent Straub's attorney, Mary Schultz, an email stating that “the City would offer Frank the opportunity for a public name-clearing hearing should he so request.”

But Schultz said the offer came too late to matter. 

"Your offer is in no way meaningful, because the cascade had already been triggered, and the Mayor remained out in public condemning Chief Straub," Schultz wrote in a Dec. 24 letter to the city's outside counsel. 

She continued to call Condon untruthful. 

"There is no precedent where a City Mayor apologizes for misrepresenting to the public, while continuing to misrepresent to the public, all at the expense of his police chief," Schultz wrote. 

7. While others blame Condon for hiding sexual harassment allegations, Straub blames Condon for telling the media about it. 

Straub describes the media blitz that occurred immediately after the Sept. 22 press conference where Condon and announced Straub's resignation. 

Then he says this: 
Within days, with continued intense media publication regarding my "misconduct," the mayor began telling the media and the public that employee Monique Cotton had also filed a sexual harassment complaint against me months before, and that he didn't tell the public because he wanted to protect her. He issued a press release now entitled "MAYOR CONDON'S STATEMENT ON PERSONNEL MATTER" and in it, states that "our concern from the beginning has been for the employee...
Yet Condon wasn't the one who revealed Monique Cotton's sexual harassment allegations. In fact, when the Inlander asked, "were there any sexual harassment complaints lodged against Frank?" on Sept. 22, Condon gave a flat out "no." 

The information was only revealed by the Spokesman-Review on Nov. 24, thanks to series of records requests made between Aug. 18-21. Initially, in fact, the mayor initially refused to comment on the revelations. 

Condon's statement wasn't published until Nov. 25, 65 days after Straub had been fired, and it didn't even use the word "sexual harassment." Instead, the statement spoke in vague generalities about how Cotton "raised concerns" that this was "an already difficult situation." He only addressed the issues at length at a press conference a few days later. 
Read Straub's entire declaration below:

Straub Declaration

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Spokane Valley discussion raises issues of creating a public safety oversight committee

Posted By on Wed, Apr 20, 2016 at 4:00 PM

Spokane Valley City Councilman Ed Pace thinks his proposed public safety oversight committee "would bring power closer to the people...and bring people closer to the City Council."

It would oversee police services provided to the Valley by the sheriff's office and operate independently of the Sheriff's Office Citizen's Advisory Board. Yet the most recent discussion of a potential Spokane Valley public oversight committee reveals that it may not have much power at all. 
Spokane Valley City Councilman Ed Pace
  • Spokane Valley City Councilman Ed Pace

Pace first proposed creating a Spokane Valley public oversight committee last month amid the turmoil that followed when the council forced the resignation of city manager Mike Jackson. Last night, during another discussion of the proposal, he described his vision for the committee and how it oversees the sheriff's department using an analogy of going to the dentist.  

"I don't try to tell my dentist how to numb my jaws or how to fill a filling. But I am going to give feedback on, 'I don't like the music in your waiting room. I don't like the magazines. I don't like the way people talk to me here...but I do like this, this and this,'" Pace said. "If, over time, they don't listen to my advice, I'm probably going to look for another dentist."

Either the city or the county can give notice to terminate the contract for police services during an 18-month period starting June 30 of this year, otherwise the contract automatically renews. Pace, ever since proposing the possibility of an oversight committee on March 1, has repeated that the proposal has nothing to do with terminating that contract — or, to use his analogy, choosing another dentist. Both Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich and Spokane Valley Mayor Rod Higgins have also said there is no desire on either side to terminate the contract. Such a move would likely cost the city large sums of money.

But that contract limits the type of oversight a city advisory committee can have over county services, Spokane Valley city attorney Cary Driskell explained during a council meeting last night. 

"We are paying the service provider to give us services, and we don't tell them how to do it. We don't control the manner, method, or means [of how they do it]," Driskell told the council. "We're paying for the end result." 

Though Pace later said that telling them "how to do it" was also not the goal of his proposed committee, Driskell pointed out further issues that would need to be resolved before such a committee is ever formed.

Driskell said it could be a potential cause of liability for the city. He set up a scenario where, due to either alleged police action or inaction, somebody gets seriously injured or dies. The current Sheriff's Office Citizen's Advisory Board would then review that incident, and so would the Valley's oversight committee. But the Valley's committee might not have the same access to police reports as the sheriff's advisory board, so the two committees would end up reviewing the same incident but with different information. 

Rick Eichstaedt, executive director of the Center for Justice, told the council that there are challenges in reviewing an agency that has no hiring or firing power over specific officers. But even though adding another oversight committee of the sheriff's department, on top of the Sheriff Citizen's Advisory Board, may be redundant, he doesn't view that as a bad thing. He clarified his point in an interview with the Inlander following the meeting.

"I think more oversight in general is good," he said. "The challenges (with the Valley) are, given that it's a contract, what authority do they really have?"

He said there have been legitimate concerns in the community about the sheriff's citizen advisory board. The Inlander reported last year that the written decisions of the board have been short, and never critical of the sheriff or his department. Last week, Sheriff Knezovich and Kathryn Olson — a consultant who was head of the Seattle Police Department's Office of Professional Accountability — held a forum in which community members voiced concerns about the board's lack of transparency and the outcomes of specific investigations done by the board. 

Bob West, Vice Chair of the Citizen Advisory Board, said the Valley can come to them whenever they see an issue. He added that the sheriff is "not our puppeteer." 

"They could come to us, as an independent board, and say, 'hey, we have a problem with some of the things going on out in the Valley.' And we would do the same thing with that as anything we might get from Ozzie," West said. 

Eichstaedt said a Valley oversight committee still could have a role if the issues of liability are addressed, though it may be purely advisory. He said it could still document and report concerns to the City Council and city manager in the Valley. 

The committee, as proposed by Pace, would be comprised of an attorney from the Center for Justice, a Spokane Valley police officer, a police officer from another agency, two city councilmembers and two citizens. It was originally supposed to oversee all public services. Driskell pointed out potential liability in city oversight of things like fire, water or court services, so the discussion focused mostly on law enforcement services. That discussion will continue at a later date. 
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