Friday, March 17, 2017

STA CEO wasn't worried about Trump slashing transit — but now the Central City Line is in peril

Posted By on Fri, Mar 17, 2017 at 2:58 PM

"Hang on a minute, lads..." - THE ITALIAN JOB
  • The Italian Job
  • "Hang on a minute, lads..."

In the aftermath of the election, with Spokane voters finally approving the high-frequency electric "Central City" bus line, the Inlander asked Spokane Transit Authority CEO E. Susan
Meyer about the impact of newly elected President Donald Trump.

Since STA was anticipating the vast bulk of the Central City Line construction funding to come from the federal government's Small Starts grant, was there a possibility that the new administration could put the electric bus route in jeopardy?

"No! We don't think so. The Small Start and New Starts grants have been in place for, like, 35 to 50 years," Meyer said. "It's hard to predict. Let me say this: No new administration has ever changed the funding for Small Starts and New Start projects that have been approved."

In our conversation back in November, I noted that Trump has floated a big infrastructure package, but asked if there was a concern that he saw infrastructure as mostly about roads and bridges, not buses. Meyer wasn't worried.

"I cannot peg him that way," Meyer says. "He's a big city man. He's an urban experience guy. He knows how important transit is. If he were maybe of another ilk or from a smaller area — we'll just have to wait and see."

Now, we've waited and we've seen: Trump's budget proposal would completely eliminate both the Small Starts and the New Starts grant programs.

So if it passes — and that's a big if — the proposed Central City Line funding plan would suddenly have a gaping hole. "If $54 million dollars are not coming from the federal government, the board will have to decide if there are other options for funding the project," Meyer says.

But that potential conversation is a long way off. And in the meantime, STA is proceeding with the Central City Line grant process with the hopes that the grants program will be saved.

"There is nothing to suggest to us we should do anything but stay the course," Meyer says.

Meyer says she'll communicate with the local congressional delegation in order to stress the importance of these programs.

"[We have a] tremendous amount of community support," Meyer says. "Voters and the public have been counting on this program."

Meyer still strikes a hopeful note that Congress will maintain funding for the grant programs. She points to how Congress overwhelmingly passed the FAST Act in 2015, which reauthorized funding for transit and other transportation projects.

"The amounts of New Starts and Small Starts [grants] have gone up and down over the years," Meyer says. "[But] the programs have never been zeroed out."

Meyer says that it's not just transit hit by eliminations in the Department of Transporation's budget. The budget would also kill the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants. Two of those grants have gone to help fund construction of the North Spokane Corridor.

If the president's budget passes, Meyer says that grant agreements that had already been signed would continue to be funded by the federal government. But the rest would not. While it may take a while for the next budget to get passed by Congress, Meyer says it isn't feasible that STA could get their grant in under the wire before the axe falls. STA's hope was to have funding for constructing the Central City Line in the Trump's 2019 budget.

Asked if she was surprised with Trump's budget slashing transit grants, Meyer said yes and no.

"If one has listened to the president over time, he has talked about reducing the size of government. [But] the surprising thing is that he has committed to a $1 trillion infrastructure package," Meyer says. "Lots of infrastructure projects would not be funded if [his cuts go] forward. There is a contradiction. ... [The Small Starts program] is a huge infrastructure program. Eliminating that doesn't make sense."
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MORNING BRIEFING: Guardian apologizes for Spokane bashing, racist posters posted around town, and other news

Posted By on Fri, Mar 17, 2017 at 11:29 AM

All hail the Rusty Ferris Wheel! - DANIEL WALTERS PHOTO
  • Daniel Walters photo
  • All hail the Rusty Ferris Wheel!

ON INLANDER.COM
Je suis vraiment désolés
That Guardian writer who bashed Spokane inaccurately offers his apology on the Inlander blog.

IN OTHER NEWS

Ah, yes, sorry, for all that rubbish, ol' chap
The Guardian has also offered its apology and some praise for Spokane, home of the Rusty Ferris Wheel!

When all you need is a printer, scotch-tape and malicious intent
Someone keeps posting racist posters in Spokane. Don't they know that's what comment sections are for? (Spokesman-Review)

Trust no one
Scammers keep tricking people by pretending to be law enforcement and then telling them not to call law enforcement. (KXLY)

Man of Faith
Donald Trump continues to believe Obama wiretapped him, despite essentially everyone else telling him there's absolutely no evidence. (New York Times)

The Budget Descends
Trump's budget hits rural Americans — the ones who voted for him — the hardest.
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Thursday, March 16, 2017

On Spokane

Posted By on Thu, Mar 16, 2017 at 2:33 PM

When I wrote an essay about the Gonzaga basketball team and Spokane, which ran on The Guardian U.S.’s website on March 14, I had meant to capture how important the Gonzaga basketball team has always been to me. But by characterizing the city in an unfairly negative way with errors in fact of various sorts, it has led to a lot of understandable frustration among Spokanites.

The Guardian released an apology today about the way the article came off, but I wanted to pen my own mea culpa as well.

The goal of any piece like this should be to humanize, and this essay didn’t do so. My piece was meant to highlight a point of genuine optimism. It was written as a response to the people outside of Spokane who speak poorly of our hometown. Where I am able to tell these people that they’re wrong about Spokane, is, in part, in the success of the Zags and the sense of community the team engenders. This is what I had tried to show, but in lacking a greater nuance and understanding of contemporary Spokane, it was poorly conveyed. Instead of a piece of optimism, it came across as someone panning a town from afar. That is a thoughtless thing to do, and was never the intention.

Honestly, I’ve been enthralled and charmed by much of the response. The #CodyComeHome hashtag is hilarious and creative, and I really do want to check out all the new shops and restaurants that have popped up in the recent past. I’ve been blown away too by the civic pride so many Spokanites have had in responding to this piece, and, it’s been perversely flattering to read the mirthful stuff that nationally beloved writers like Shawn Vestal and Sharma Shields have penned in response.

Spokane still has problems; every city does. But there is also an overwhelming amount of development and progress and wonderful happenings there. Politically, it’s a different city than from when I grew up. The downtown food scene has gotten way better, the literary and music scenes are thriving, and, most importantly, it is home to some of the most fantastic people I have ever met. These aspects of Spokane deserve their fair share of focus as well. Short articles often have to sacrifice nuance for a clear narrative, and in trying to emphasize the team’s success, the struggling Spokane angle was drawn out more than needed. Clearly, it is not “dreary” and “desperate” as Vestal jokingly wrote. Clearly it’s not the only source of “hope” for the city.

Spokane is still home for me. It is where I went to school, where I grew up, where I went to my mother’s funeral, and it is where I left; but I always come back. It is a place I love, and it is far stronger than a single article. To anyone who was hurt by the essay, I apologize. Spokane is a place, as so many residents know, that is full of courage and progress and success. (No doubt even Larry Gagosian would be proud.) ♦
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Trump's new travel ban swatted down, March Madness starts and morning headlines

Posted By on Thu, Mar 16, 2017 at 9:29 AM


ON INLANDER.COM

NEWS: After Washington legalized weed, opponents feared rates of teens smoking it would skyrocket. A new survey found that pot use among Washington teens has stayed the same statewide, and actually declined in Spokane.

MUSIC: STRFKR recorded its latest album isolated in a hilltop rental house near Joshua Tree National Park. Perhaps the "poppiest" album yet, the three-piece plays the Knitting Factory next week.

BOOK: The late newspaperman Hill Williams' final book traces his lifetime covering the Pacific Northwest — an atomic bomb explosion, riding in submarines, walking in the crater of Mount St. Helens — and the lessons he learned.

IN OTHER NEWS:

Strike Two
President Donald Trump's second travel ban — a revised version of the one halted by a federal judge in Seattle — was also blocked. By two other federal judges. Orders by judges in Hawaii and Maryland stop the revised ban nationwide. (New York Times)

Obamacare helped police officer's widow
zag_fans.jpg

The widow of slain Coeur d'Alene Police Sgt. Greg Moore says Obamacare was the reason she could stay home with her daughter in the aftermath of Moore's death. In an open letter to Idaho lawmakers, she urges them not to repeal the Affordable Care Act without a "comparable replacement." (Spokesman Review)

Mad March
That tournament that everyone's been talking about? The basketball one. It starts today. Click here for the schedule. Click here to print a bracket. Now you better hope the Zags win, otherwise Spokane is in serious trouble.

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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

After legalization, Spokane teen pot use lowest it's been in at least a decade

Washington teen pot use numbers mostly unchanged

Posted By on Wed, Mar 15, 2017 at 4:24 PM

art19323widea.jpg

When weed was legalized in Washington state, opponents feared that making it widely available would increase use among teens.

But according to a new state survey, pot use among Washington teens has stayed about even since marijuana became available commercially in 2014. And in Spokane, the number of teens reporting marijuana use actually dipped lower than its been since at least 2006.

In 2016, 16 percent of Spokane County 10th-graders surveyed said they used marijuana within the previous 30 days, according to the Washington Health Youth Survey that was released today. That's four percentage-points lower than the 2006 number of 19 percent. Reported use among 10th-graders increased in 2008 to 21 percent, but in 2014 dipped back to 19 percent of teens reporting using marijuana.

Statewide, the percentage of students reporting marijuana use has remained steady since 2006. In 2016, 17 percent of 10th-graders statewide said they used marijuana, down 1 percent from 2014. For 12th-graders, 26 percent reported using marijuana, also down 1 percent from 2014.

For full survey results, look here.

Continue reading »

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Trump's taxes, Spokane is the worst (or is it?), and more headlines

Posted By on Wed, Mar 15, 2017 at 9:25 AM


ON INLANDER.COM


SPORTS: The Zags made the cover of Sports Illustrated!

NEWS: Maybe you already heard about the piece that ran in the Guardian on Tuesday insinuating that Spokane is a broken town with nothing more to look forward to than a Gonzaga basketball win. But the bigger problem with the story was that it just got a lot of facts wrong. The Inlander spelled out some of the errors. 
DANIEL WALTERS
  • Daniel Walters


IN OTHER NEWS


"Life here is hell, and you know it"
Okay, okay, so if you're still obsessing over the Guardian's take on Spokane, you might also want to read this comedic riff on it by Shawn Vestal. (Spokesman-Review)

"Lives like a king, but wants to pay taxes like a Walmart Cashier"
David Cay Johnston was first to obtain two pages of President Donald Trump's 2005 tax returns, and explains that had it not been for something called the Alternative Minimum Tax, which Trump wants to eliminate, Trump would've only paid $5.3 million on his income that year, instead of $36.6 million. (DCReport.org)

Make room for the revelers
Butte, Montana, police were making room in their jail in anticipation of a rowdy St. Patrick's Day, since it falls on a Friday for the first time in more than a decade. (Montana Standard)

A laughing matter
Women in labor can now opt to use laughing gas (nitrous oxide) for pain relief instead of an epidural at Deaconess Hospital. (KXLY)
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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Yeah, that Guardian piece on Spokane and Gonzaga is totally full of it.

Posted By on Tue, Mar 14, 2017 at 2:27 PM

Despair and misery, everywhere you look! - DANIEL WALTERS PHOTO
  • Daniel Walters photo
  • Despair and misery, everywhere you look!

You've probably already read the piece in the Guardian about Spokane. No, not the one about Rachel Dolezal. The one about how Gonzaga men's basketball became the one scrap of hope for the "struggling" city of Spokane.

It portrays Spokane as the equivalent of the town Dillon, Texas, in Friday Night Lights; a washed-up backwoods town racked by rural poverty and crime. Basketball is all we've got, man.

Now, to be fair, there are the seeds of a moving personal essay in here, about how the author 
Spokane has a lot more spirit than the Guardian gives us credit for. - DANIEL WALTERS PHOTO ILLUSTRATION
  • Daniel Walters photo illustration
  • Spokane has a lot more spirit than the Guardian gives us credit for.
— who graduated from Lewis & Clark High School in 2010 — has used talk about basketball to connect with his Zag-loving dad after his mother's death. In fact, he wrote an essay in Catapult in December that did just that, but refracting it through the sport of tennis instead of basketball.

But in the case of the Gonzaga basketball piece, his personal essay is buried under heaps of prose describing Spokane as a broken city that can only wring a few desperate drops of hope out of its college basketball team. It all reads a bit like conservative satirist David Burge's parody of liberal New York Times' reporters venture into the heart of darkness of the American Midwest.

Apparently, Spokane doesn't just see Mark Few as a darn good coach of a darn good basketball team. In this telling, we see Few as something close to a Messiah.

But that's not the big problem with it. The big problem is that the story is rife with inaccuracies, despite coming from a person who used to live in Spokane.

We'll tackle some of these discrepancies below:
But in the deeply conservative, largely rural, college-basketball-obsessed town of Spokane, Coach Few is the famous equivalent of about nine Larry Gagosians.
Let's set aside the question of whether fame is best measured in units of art dealer Larry Gagosian. Spokane is not "largely rural." Less than 14 percent of the county was considered rural in the 2010 census, and it's only grown since.

Continue reading »

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Zags make cover of Sports Illustrated March Madness issue—see it here

Posted By on Tue, Mar 14, 2017 at 11:17 AM


Okay, so did everyone else, but it's pretty cool to see big Przemek Karnowski among the four players from the NCAA men's tournament's No. 1 seeds displayed so prominently on the cover.

The issue will hit newsstands on Thursday, the same day Gonzaga tips off against South Dakota State in Salt Lake City (the game is at 11 am Pacific, and airing on TBS), and the same day our new Zags-heavy Inlander hits the streets.

Here's a look at Sports Illustrated's full cover:
si-cover--march-madness.jpg

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Spokane's snow plan; McMorris Rodgers' healthcare stand; and morning headlines

Posted By on Tue, Mar 14, 2017 at 9:23 AM


ON INLANDER.COM


NEWS: STA bus drivers want a plexiglass shield to protect them from violent or angry passengers.

MUSIC: Paul Simon is coming to play a show at the Spokane Arena in June.

NEWS: Did you know Spokane Public Schools had a safety tip line? Probably not, which is why the district is "rebranding" it.

IN OTHER NEWS

Cathy McMorris Rodgers - CHRISTIAN WILSON
  • Christian Wilson
  • Cathy McMorris Rodgers
Broken promise?
Remember how U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers once said that "no one who has coverage because of Obamacare today" will lose coverage? Well, the Congressional Budget Office released a report saying the House Republican plan to replace Obamacare would leave 14 million people uninsured by next year. (Spokesman-Review/New York Times)

We learned our lesson
The Spokane City Council voted last night to change its plan for snowplowing next winter. The plan calls for speedier snow removal and for the city to prioritize plowing downtown, near schools and hospitals. (Spokesman-Review)

Mumps still getting worse
You didn't think the mumps outbreak in Spokane was going away, did you? According to the Spokane Regional Health District, cases of mumps are still on the rise, with 269 verified cases in the county. (KXLY)

Searching for evidence
The House Intelligence Committee has asked the Department of Justice for evidence of President Donald Trump's claim that Barack Obama wiretapped him during the election. If no evidence is given by March 20, the committee threatened to use a "compulsory process."
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Monday, March 13, 2017

STA bus drivers want plexiglass shield to protect them from violent or angry passengers

Posted By on Mon, Mar 13, 2017 at 2:36 PM

YOUNG KWAK PHOTO
  • Young Kwak photo

A sudden assault against a Spokane Transit Authority bus driver last week has the bus drivers union asking for plexiglass shields that drivers could lower if they feel unsafe.

On Friday, March 10, as an experienced driver was training a colleague, a departing passenger sucker-punched the driver.

"The next thing [the driver] knew he as looking up at the ceiling of the bus," says Thomas Leighty, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1015. "He was bleeding."

Leighty says the driver was wondering about what would have happened if he had been at the wheel when he was punched instead of his trainee. Would he have come to a stop? Would he have careened through the intersection?

This and other recent incidents have caused the union to join other drivers nationally in demanding STA install protective driver barriers.

The barriers, manufactured by New Flyer, are already used in New York City and Washington D.C. Last year, Metro Vancouver in Canada — which had 110 assaults against drivers in 2015 — began testing the barriers as well.

At times, even minor frustrations can set passengers off.

"Most of the stuff we've had that people get upset over is a fare dispute," Leighty says. "They’re having a bad day. [The driver] didn’t tell them hello.’"

Drivers being assaulted outright by passengers is relatively rare, he says, but it happens. Leighty references a time a few years ago when a passenger had taken a bottle of his own urine onto the bus.

Continue reading »

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