Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Some tough days for America's journalists

Posted By on Tue, Aug 19, 2014 at 5:54 PM

Every year another survey shows that Americans view journalists as residing somewhere between bottom-feeding lawyers and pond scum. Not that some members of the media don't deserve our scorn. Certainly, some journalists, or what passes for a journalist on cable TV, are in part responsible for the divisive state of American politics, where noise and volume are esteemed above reason and compromise. 

But at its heart, journalism is about serving the public — first, by going where average people have neither the time nor the inclination to go. To city council meetings. To crime scenes. To war zones. And then: relaying what was learned as honestly and candidly as possible. There is something worthy in that endeavor, and the sacrifices of our journalists can be enormous.

Just today, news broke that militants from the Islamic State claimed to have beheaded American journalist James Foley, who was kidnapped two years ago in Syria. The same group claims to have another captured journalist, Steven Sotloff, who it intends to kill if the United States continues airstrikes in Iraq.
The man being held is believed to be journalist Steven Sotloff.
  • The man being held is believed to be journalist Steven Sotloff.

Meanwhile, New York Times reporter James Risen is fighting the Obama administration's efforts to force him to reveal his sources for a story in his 2006 book, State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration. He could end up in prison if he doesn't relent, but the charge against Risen isn't about lying — it's about revealing secret truths.

And in Ferguson, Missouri, reporters are stocking up on gas masks and bullet-proof vests, while 11 cohorts have been arrested covering the protests.

Journalists aren't saints. Many are jackasses. But the vast majority believe in what they do, and do it despite the pay scale or the public's disdain or the very real dangers they may encounter.


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Hafner says again: “I did not predict that STA would move”

Posted By on Tue, Aug 19, 2014 at 3:11 PM

Yesterday, we wrote a post about the Spokesman-Review’s “Signs point to dim future for STA Plaza” story, noting that the one person supposedly predicting the Plaza would move says he doesn’t believe the Plaza would move.

Spokane Valley Councilman Chuck Hafner
  • Spokane Valley Councilman Chuck Hafner

In response, the writer of the Spokesman-Review story, David Wasson, wrote a Spin Control blog post embedding a Spokane Valley City Council briefing where Hafner says: “Mark my words … the only resolution to it will be to move the Plaza.”

In context, one could conclude that Hafner was talking about the only resolution that the business groups would be satisfied with — not what he actually expected to be adopted by the STA board. Several of the comments on Wasson's blog came to the same to conclusion. 

Still, to double-check, we emailed Hafner last night asking him if the first line in the Spokesman article — "Spokane’s business community likely will succeed in pushing the region’s central bus plaza out of downtown, a former transit board chairman predicts” — was accurate.

Here's Hafner’s response this morning:

I am not sure what the intent of the reporter was when it was stated a "former transit board chairman predicts." Evidently he, for sure, misunderstood. I did not predict that STA would move from its present location. In fact, my conversation centered around making it a friendly business Plaza. Neighboring with the other businesses that are involved. Hope this clarifies my position. Take care.

We forwarded the email to both Wasson and City Editor Addy Hatch, and Hatch sent back a reply, saying that Hafner had originally praised the story.

Well, here’s what he sent Dave after the story ran:

Dave—-Thank you for a very well and accurate written article regarding STA. I am sure that others feel the same way. Again, thank you. Take care.

Chuck Hafner

Nevertheless, the board has repeatedly, in votes and rhetoric, indicated it supports the Plaza staying where it is. And current STA board chair Amber Waldref says no board member has come to her and suggested moving the Plaza.

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TONIGHT: Learn how to put on an event without breaking the law

Posted By on Tue, Aug 19, 2014 at 1:06 PM

Those who keep an eye on the culture of Spokane know that there are more homegrown events popping up around town than any one person could possibly attend. This is an excellent thing.

Not so excellent for some first-time event organizers, however, is the steep learning curve that comes along with putting on a party. You need to know what you can and can't do with your event. And most likely, you will need some permits.

Thankfully, Spokane Arts is coming to the rescue tonight with a panel discussion entitled "Let's Put on a Show" featuring representatives from the Washington State Liquor Control Board, the Spokane Police Department, the Spokane Fire Department, parks department, and Spokane city permitting office. Think of it as one-stop shopping for all your need-to-knows.

In our Ideas Issue this winter, writer Leah Sottile, who also produces our Volume music festival and knows a thing or two about putting on a show, suggested something like what's happening tonight to get the cultural community all on the same page . Well, ask and you shall receive. This is a solid and efficient step to making it easier for grassroots arts groups to get off the ground without the trial-by-fire experience most events encounter upon starting up.

The event, which is part of the excellent and ongoing monthly Cultivate Spokane Salon series, kicks off tonight at 6 pm at the Bartlett.

Also, if you're putting on any sort of event, we want to know about it for our calendar. Here's where you give us the low-down on your show, party, knitting circle, mustache sculpting contest, etc.
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MORNING BRIEFING: New skywalk's approved, hospital system hacked, and a ceasefire in Gaza's broken

Posted By on Tue, Aug 19, 2014 at 9:36 AM


Chinese hackers breached Community Health Systems' computer network and stole data on 4.5 million patients. Community Health Systems owns Rockwood Clinic, Deaconess Hospital and Valley Hospital. (S-R)

City Council approved Spokane's first new skywalk in 20 years. The $1.5 million walkway will connect the convention center with the Grand Hotel Spokane. (S-R)

Contrary to predictions made in a Sunday Spokesman story, the future of STA plaza downtown isn't "dim." (Inlander)


Spasms of violence interrupted mostly peaceful demonstrations in Ferguson, Missouri, Monday night, where almost two weeks ago, 18-year-old Michael Brown was fatally shot by a cop. Last night, 31 people were arrested. Police confiscated two guns and a Molotov cocktail. (NYT)

Trayvon Martin's mother wrote this moving letter to the Brown Family. (TIME)

Israel's military says Hamas broke a temporary ceasefire in Gaza on Tuesday. Israel has retaliated with air strikes. (WaPo)

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Monday, August 18, 2014

STA board chair, member: Future of the Plaza isn't "dim"

Posted By on Mon, Aug 18, 2014 at 3:17 PM

A Sunday Spokesman-Review story — “Signs point to dim future for STA Plaza: Transit board member predicts hub will be forced to leave downtown” — began by saying that Spokane Valley Councilman Chuck Hafner predicted the Plaza would be forced to move because of downtown business opposition.

That flew in the face of what Hafner, former chair of the Spokane Transit board of directors, and other board members have been saying for years. Reached by phone today, Hafner directly contradicts the Spokesman’s characterization of his views.

“To me, the STA Plaza has a future downtown,” Hafner says. He says he can't understand why the Spokesman headline called the future of the Plaza “dim.”

Instead, Hafner says his point was that opposition to the Plaza's downtown location from groups like Visit Spokane, Downtown Spokane Partnership and Greater Spokane Inc. will continue no matter what the transit agency does.

“This is so ingrained that I don’t know if you’re going to change anybody’s mind,” Hafner says, explaining opposition will “continue and continue and continue… until the STA board says a definite, ‘This is where we’re going to stay.'”


Indeed, some downtown business interests, including the Cowles Company, which owns the Spokesman-Review  and River Park Square, have raised concerns about the impact of Plaza patrons. But the STA board, not downtown business groups, controls the Plaza’s future. 
While the board voted to delay the renovations in order to answer the questions raised by those groups, it voted last year to keep the Plaza in the same location. A study on the question highlighted major costs and problems with moving or closing the Plaza.
The actual chance of the Plaza being moved is extremely unlikely, Hafner says.

“That’s the last thing in my estimation right now. Why would we move it? Look at the cost,” Hafner says. He also argues that moving the Plaza to a less central location would inconvenience workers who commute to downtown. Unless some uniquely compelling alternative for moving the Plaza were presented, he doesn’t think the board would even consider it.

Spokane City Councilwoman Amber Waldref, the current STA board chair, also doesn’t see any appetite for a Plaza relocation. “No board member has come to me and said, ‘Maybe we should move,'” Waldref says.

In fact, she says, that’s not even what the conversations between STA and business leaders have been about.
"I’ve spent the last three weeks talking with [DSP President] Mark Richard, working to put together these facilitated meetings,” says Waldref. “Mark and I are on the same page: We’re not talking about moving the plaza.”

She says she’s open to discussions about how downtown transit will look like a decade from now, but any of those conversations rely on the STA acquiring more funding.

In an email sent out to other STA board members this afternoon, Waldref calls the Spokesman headline inaccurate:

I woke up on Sunday morning to a Spokesman Review headline that I believe inaccurately represented the views of this Board and the direction we have been taking in working with stakeholders regarding the STA Plaza. I hope the other Board members feel, like I did, that the headline was not reflective of the information shared to the reporter. http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2014/aug/17/signs-point-to-dim-future-for-sta-plaza/

I know we are all frustrated by the amount of time we have spent on the “Plaza” topic over the last 2 years, which has taken away from our ability to make innovative changes to  our system to improve and strengthen transit access in Spokane County. However, the Board voted last year to remain committed to using the STA Plaza as our major operations hub. We as the Board agreed to pause the Plaza renovations to receive more input from Downtown stakeholders and I have been working diligently on your behalf to make that process one that brings value to all involved in the conversation.

Here is my update to you. Please feel free to contact me at any time on my cell phone if you have any questions or concerns about the process.

I have been in almost daily conversation with Mark Richard of the DSP for three weeks. I had several requests for Mark and he has been very accommodating. I asked that the STA Board Operations Committee (me, Al French, Mike Allen, Tom Trulove) be the representatives of STA at any meetings. I also requested a neutral, outside facilitator to help identify mutual goals and structure the meetings to get to outcomes. I am meeting this week with Mark, the facilitator and other DSP leadership to help put together the agenda for the first meeting, which should be scheduled soon for next week. The two areas of facilitated conversation will be: 1. input into (re)design of building; 2. Input into long-term vision for Plaza and downtown transit (any change from use of Plaza in the 10 year+ future will take a planning process that includes many other stakeholders, as well).

I am very hopeful that this process will bring out all concerns and issues and give STA staff and Board a chance to listen, learn and also for downtown stakeholders to listen and learn and that all input will be given by mid-November so this Board can “move forward” with decisions regarding redesign of the Plaza AND that this Board can receive input on our 10-year Moving Forward program and make a decision by end of the year regarding a ballot measure.

If you have concerns or input, please let me know. Enjoy the rest of your summer!

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MORNING BRIEFING: SWAT standoff in South Hill, Soap Lake apartment fire, and updates from Ferguson, Mo.

Posted By on Mon, Aug 18, 2014 at 10:02 AM


A brief SWAT standoff in the South Hill on Saturday night resulted in the arrest of a seven-time convicted felon. (S-R)

One person has died in the Soap Lake apartment complex fire early Sunday morning. (KXLY)

A terrible person tossed a five-week-old kitten out of a car window while driving down Trent. Luckily, the veterinarian treating the kitten says she'll pull though. (KREM)


A private autopsy reveals that Michael Brown, the unarmed 18-year-old who was killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., was shot at least six times, including twice in the head. (NYT) 

A county investigation shows that Brown had marijuana in his system. (WaPo)

Meanwhile, Attorney General Eric Holder has ordered a third autopsy of Brown's body by a federal medical examiner. The Justice Department has already launched a civil rights investigation of Brown's death. (WaPo)

Following a violent night of clashes between protesters and police, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has ordered the National Guard to restore peace in Ferguson. (NYT)

A NYT reporter calls Obama the "greatest enemy of press freedom in a generation." (Guardian)

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Friday, August 15, 2014

THIS WEEKEND IN MUSIC: Boris, Tom Petty, Ray LaMontagne and Spokane native Myles Kennedy

Posted By on Fri, Aug 15, 2014 at 3:32 PM

There is A LOT happening this weekend! Are you ready?


Japanese metal three-piece Boris is going to be so loud tonight at the Big Dipper you’ll probably need to stand outside the building if you want your hearing to remain intact. The show starts at 8 pm and is $17 at the door. Master Musicians of Bukkake will open. 

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers finally have a No. 1 record. Seriously, it took decades for them to achieve that. Tonight, they take on the Gorge Amphitheater. This music is freedom from the mundane and pairs well with summer (yes, even if there's a bit of rain). The show starts at 8 pm and tickets begin at $65.

The Festival at Sandpoint continues with folk-rock crooner Ray LaMontagne tonight, touring for his awesome new album. The Belle Brigade opens for the 7:30 pm show and tickets are $65.

Tonight, at the Bartlett there’s Black Joe Lewis, the funky bluesman who knows how to throw one big party. You might want to be a part of it. The show starts at 8 pm and is $15. Loomer will open. 


For those of you who missed the Gaytheist show Thursday night, there is still a chance to catch some Total Fest (the Missoula underground music festival) bands in Spokane, including Lord Dying and Prizehog at the Big Dipper Saturday night. The show starts at 8 pm and is $10.

The Garland Street Fair & Block Party lasts pretty much all day starting at 10 am. The music lineup includes: Mayfair, Elijah and the Tufnels, Endangered Species, An Dochas, The Bucket List, Karrie O’Neill and Real Life Rockaz. Best of all, this thing is free and great for the entire family. 

In place of Dr. John at the Hive this Saturday will be Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk and Taylor Hicks. It starts at 8 pm. 

Good news, Aerosmith WILL make the Gorge show Saturday night, after canceling a show earlier in the week. This mean Slash and Spokane native Myles Kennedy will also rock the stage (see below). The show starts at 7:30 pm and is $55.


Another Total Fest overflow lineup here in Spokane hits Mootsy’s this Sunday with Losing Skin and He Whose Ox is Gored. Other bands on the lineup include Zan and Rot Monger. The Show is $5 and starts at 8 pm.

Cleveland-based Chimaira is freakin' loud as hell. They are being joined by the Plot in You, Allegaeon, Upon this Dawning, Silence the Messenger, Cold Blooded and Raised by Wolves at the Hop! Sunday. The all-ages show starts at 6 pm and is $15. 


If you are a music lover, and we can only assume you are if you’ve made it this far down the blog, then you’ll need to check out the Cliff Martinez-penned soundtrack for the new medical drama The Knick. It just gets inside you. 
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Will the city council's liberal majority reverse sit-lie?

Posted By on Fri, Aug 15, 2014 at 12:35 PM

Seen in downtown Spokane July 28 - LISA WAANANEN-JONES PHOTO
  • Lisa Waananen-Jones photo
  • Seen in downtown Spokane July 28

There was a moment during a usually diplomatic Spokane City Council meeting in June when Council President Ben Stuckart was especially blunt.

"If we want to repeal this law, we've got to have more than anecdotes," Stuckart told Joan Medina, who does street outreach to homeless people and had come to council chambers to speak against the city's sit-lie law, saying it was targeting people who work downtown, along with the homeless. "We've got to have statistics and we've got to have the person and show that they got a ticket and that they are being wrongfully singled out. Because just saying that there's a list of people that have been targeted by this isn't enough at this point. ... We've got to have more to go on. Somebody's got to go and get a ticket and they've got to go to [Police Ombudsman Tim Burns] and make a complaint that they're an employee of somewhere downtown or they're from out of town shopping or something like that because right now I just don't have enough to go on."

The council's expansion of the ban on sitting and lying on downtown sidewalks — from the previous 7 am-9 pm to 6 am-midnight — has been controversial since its passage in December. Along with some homeless advocates, Stuckart and other liberals on the council were outspoken about their concerns that it would unfairly target people with nowhere else to go, effectively "criminalizing homelessness." In the months since, opponents of the rules have testified to council often and protests have sprung up, including a group that's organizing frequent "sit downs" via Facebook. This spring, the United Nations Human Rights Committee identified sit-lie laws in a review of civil rights in the U.S., writing that, "the Committee is concerned about reports of criminalization of people living on the street for everyday activities such as eating, sleeping, sitting in particular areas, etc. The Committee notes that such criminalization raises concerns of discrimination and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment."

Meanwhile, since January, when Councilwoman Candace Mumm replaced Nancy McLaughlin on the council, the new left-leaning majority has been flexing its muscles. They've legalized backyard farming in the city, passed a series of environmentally friendly ordinances and continued to fight the Republican Spokane County Commission on growth issues. They even rescinded the previous council's opposition to the Spokane Tribe's casino project. In the next two weeks, they'll add another councilmember, one of five finalists all favored by the council's liberals. So, should we expect to see the new "supermajority" take on sit-lie?

In short, probably not.

In a council committee meeting last month, Stuckart and Police Chief Frank Straub discussed the issue. A police department report to the council showed that most of the sit-lie tickets given from March to July were written in the afternoon and all of them were before 11 pm. Considering that, Stuckart asked Straub if he would support ending sit-lie enforcement at 11 pm instead of midnight to "alleviate that concern" about the law unfairly targeting homeless people looking for a place to rest. Straub emphasized that he doesn't think the law is meant to target homeless people, but "problem" groups in downtown. He still advised against a change.

"My counsel would be not to do that because probably what'll happen is it'll move back and the activity will start and we'll be in a position where we have to push it back again," Straub said. "People tend to adjust themselves to policing action, so my concern is if we dial it back, they'll adjust themselves."

The council has also received a letter from Downtown Spokane Partnership President Mark Richard warning against changing course on sit-lie. While pledging support for "providing services to those who are willing to accept them," Richard wrote that an effort to change sit-lie would be "counter to the pledge I received from Council this winter; that you would not seek to repeal these changes with the new make up on the council."

"Is this ordinance perfect; no, and it never will be," Richard wrote. "We remain as committed as the day it was passed, however, to reviewing it and ensuring it is used as a positive tool; replacing fear with a feeling that every human being of all walks are welcome in downtown. ... If it is revoked, we have every reason to believe you will embolden the group that continually violates the law like never before and we will be hard pressed to gain back a mutually respectful sidewalk experience. My point is this; we can ill-afford to go backward."

Late last month, Stuckart told the Inlander he's not planning to push for a reversal of the law or a reduction in the hours it's enforced.

"They're not out there ousting homeless people at 11:30, which was my concern," he says. "I haven’t seen specifics that that’s happening. I can’t reverse the law on a couple stories."

Stuckart also said he expects some sort of lawsuit over the ban in coming months: "We'll let the courts rule on whether it's unconstitutional or not."

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Law and Justice Council launches reform efforts, sets subcommittees

Posted By on Fri, Aug 15, 2014 at 10:04 AM

Local law enforcement and justice officials gather Thursday for the first meeting of the renewed council. - JACOB JONES
  • Jacob Jones
  • Local law enforcement and justice officials gather Thursday for the first meeting of the renewed council.

Law enforcement officers, judges, jail administrators and elected officials gathered Thursday evening to reconvene a long-abandoned county Law and Justice Council dedicated to introducing reforms and best practices across the regional criminal justice system.

A yearlong Spokane County Regional Criminal Justice Commission issued more than 40 recommendations in January for reshaping and enhancing the local justice system. Renewing the council was a top priority.

The 18-member panel of local leaders filled a large conference table while community members packed the surrounding room, sitting shoulder-to-shoulder against the walls.

"We're very happy with the turnout," says retired Judge Jim Murphy, who helped author the commission's recommendations. "I think there's a well-laid out road that's been suggested."

Jacqueline van Wormer, left, and Todd Mielke break down the new subcommittees. - JACOB JONES
  • Jacob Jones
  • Jacqueline van Wormer, left, and Todd Mielke break down the new subcommittees.

The renewed council will take on the logistics of implementing aspects of the commission's 61-page "Blueprint for Reform," which offers suggestions for adapting to new programs and highlights "pockets of excellence" in the current system that should expand to other departments.

County Commissioner Todd Mielke, who chairs the new council, says much of the work will focus on transitioning Spokane's system from offense-based programs to offender-based programs, which take the entire individual's risks and needs into consideration for rehabilitation.

"It is a very complex system," he says, adding, "Recidivism is a big issue. … [It may be] a central theme that ties us all together."

Mielke says the county's research, in partnership with WSU's Criminal Justice department, has found many communities engaging in a similar conversation, but none on the comprehensive scale Spokane plans to attempt over the next five years.

Jacqueline van Wormer, an assistant professor with WSU, will serve as a temporary coordinator to help organize and monitor countywide reform efforts. She noted the council has no established protocols, so the members must first decide how they want the council to operate.

"This is your process," she says. "This is your group."

Members voted to establish five initial subcommittees to start identifying priorities and gathering research. The council expects subcommittees to have eight to 12 members.

Those subcommittees include: Goals and Objectives (which will also address process and organization), Data (for identifying problems through statistics and measuring successes), Technology (for targeting obsolete equipment or implementing new systems), Facilities (for evaluating and prioritizing infrastructure needs), and Risk-Needs (for addressing the offender assessment programs).

Mielke and others emphasized they would like to see local citizens and advocates seated on those subcommittees, not just council members. For information on joining a subcommittee contact Karen Westberg at: kwestberg@spokanecounty.org.

Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart, who sits on the new justice council, argued citizens should be involved at every level of the process, including having sitting members on the council. Spokane Valley also asked for an additional council seat for a representative from their city.

Van Wormer says she will start organizing the structures and members for the subcommittees. She also plans to send out information on what other law and justice councils have done in other parts of the country.

The council plans to meet again in mid-September, and van Wormer noted they would probably need a bigger room.

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MORNING BRIEFING: Albertson's hacked; Ferguson protests turn peaceful; Spokane dogs on patrol

Posted By on Fri, Aug 15, 2014 at 9:46 AM


The CdA Police Dept. is wrapping up its internal investigation into the controversial officer shooting of Arfee the black lab. (S-R)

A Spokane man equipped his dogs with cell phones and sent them out to patrol for riffraff in his neighborhood. (KREM)

Fairchild AFB airmen and their families expressed their concerns during a military families summit yesterday co-hosted by Cathy McMorris Rodgers. (S-R)

Several Spokane artists are displaying their edgy pieces in a Missoula gallery this week after not finding any local spaces willing to showcase their work. (Inlander)


Violent protests in Ferguson, Missouri have suddenly turned peaceful. (WaPost)

Police have also released the name of the officer, Darren Wilson, who fatally shot Michael Brown, and revealed that Brown was a suspect in a nearby robbery the night of the shooting. (NYT)

Albertson's and its umbrella of stores is reporting a data breach of its credit card payment systems, though hasn't discovered the extent of the attack. (CNN)

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