There was a moment last month when things seemed to be falling apart for Mayor David Condon.
The city council had, in a rushed emergency vote, unanimously rejected a contract agreement the mayor had spent 21 months hashing out with the Spokane Police Guild. Council members said it didn't do enough to strengthen the city's police ombudsman, whose power has been under scrutiny since the office was created in the aftermath of the death of Otto Zehm, an unarmed mentally ill man who died after a confrontation with Spokane police, landing an officer in federal prison.
Today, the ombudsman monitors misconduct investigations as an observer within the Internal Affairs process; many have called on the city to grant him the authority to investigate on his own outside of that process.
After the emergency vote, Council President Ben Stuckart, impatient and frustrated, told the Inlander the agreement didn't meet "what everybody's been working toward for five goddamn years." A statement from the mayor's office told the media, "Now we start over." Lawmakers and activists speculated about how long it would take the mayor to renegotiate a brand new agreement with the guild. Another year?
But now, things look very different. City Hall seems to be lining up behind the mayor and his plan for an ombudsman who would now be overseen by a citizen commission but whose actual authorities will not change. Council members say they're still waiting to hear more public input, but, as we reported last week, even Councilman Steve Salvatori, one of the most vocal proponents of a stronger ombudsman, now supports Condon's plan.
Tonight brings the final installment of the mayor's push to sell his plan to the public: a town hall meeting at the West Central Community Center (1603 N. Belt) at 6 pm. He'll present his latest plan and take public testimony. The council will vote Monday.
At issue here are several big questions.
First: What type of ombudsman is most effective? Because of state law, most people agree anything the ombudsman might uncover outside the scope of an Internal Affairs investigation could not be factored into officer discipline. The ombudsman would also be unable to require that an officer testify (that power belongs to the chief). That reality has led some, like the mayor and Police Chief Frank Straub, to argue that an ombudsman working inside the Internal Affairs process is more effective than one who works independently. But others argue an independent ombudsman would be at least as effective and, more importantly, seemingly more impartial on the public's behalf.
"As a function of human nature, individuals who are part of a group are more likely to favor the interests of the group over 'outsiders,'" wrote the Use of Force Commission in its final report to the city. "In the context of an investigation into a fellow group member’s alleged misconduct, the peer investigator is apt to be more selective about the investigation’s scope and depth, and may be inclined to avoid a transparent process. All of this behavior can compromise the quality of the investigation and negatively impact the public’s trust in the process and the institution."
Regardless, the process of the ombudsman working within the department's Internal Affairs process was already in place at this time last year, which brings us to the next question.
What were voters asking for when they passed Proposition 1? If they were satisfied with the process of the ombudsman investigating officers within the Internal Affairs process, why did they seek a charter amendment? Throughout this debate, many cite a February special election in which 70 percent of city voters supported changing the city charter to add new investigative authority as well as a citizen oversight commission to the Office of the Police Ombudsman. That language, calling for a "totally independent" ombudsman, can be found here.
In explaining their newest plan, the mayor and chief have continually said the definition of independence in this context is unclear and have pointed to these varying descriptions from all seven city council members. Meanwhile activists like those at the Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane and the nonprofit Center for Justice, have said it's obvious: voters want an ombudsman who works outside the Internal Affairs process.
Does state law limit how much Spokane can empower its police ombudsman? With legal challenges behind us, this may be the longest standing and most convoluted point of contention in this fight. Condon and Straub continually point to state law as a limit on getting what some are demanding. Straub has said proponents of an independent ombudsman need to take their fight to Olympia.
To be clear, the power of an independent ombudsman is certainly limited (see above) and union protections in Washington mandate that an employer (the city) bargain with its employees (the guild) in order to change working conditions. (Disagreements over what exactly is a change in working conditions are another layer of the issue.) But there is no state law forbidding the city from bargaining with the guild to craft a contract that would allow the ombudsman to investigate incidents outside the Internal Affairs process. Those calling for stronger, more independent oversight say that's what the mayor should have done: negotiated with the guild until he could get them to agree to an independent ombudsman. Just how much Condon's negotiating team may have asked for remains unclear as city representatives have declined to disclose details of those closed-door negotiations.
Condon's latest plan keeps the ombudsman working within the Internal Affairs process, creates the oversight commission, and includes a "relief valve" option giving the commission the ability to seek review of disputed investigations from an outside third party. More about the plan, which Salvatori called "as good as we're going to get," here.
Tonight's push is the third in a series of chances for public input ahead of the council vote. Condon presented the plan last week at a Community Assembly meeting (a formal meeting environment, where some citizens have complained they didn't get enough time to comment) and during a telephone town hall. Ahead of the phone call, during which city officials also discussed fire service, 40,000 city residents got automated calls from the mayor asking them to join the call. During the call, a moderator asked questions for which listeners could press a key to register their answer. Among them is this question, with answer choices that further highlight the divide in how the mayor and his opponents see this.
What is the most important element in making enhanced independent civilian police oversight successful?
a. Establishing an independent civilian Police Ombudsman Commission as oversight
b. Ability to consider information gained by the Ombudsman in officer discipline
c. Ability to conduct an investigation outside of the Internal Affairs process
d. Authorizing the Ombudsman to participate fully in all police Internal Affairs interviews, including asking unlimited questions, reviewing all investigative materials and expanding the scope as the Ombudsman deems necessary
In response, 51 percent of telephone voters chose option d. Condon has said he believes an ombudsman who operates within the departments internal process with access to all interviews (answer d), combined with an oversight commission, satisfies the "totally independent" ombudsman added to the city charter by Proposition 1. But others argue an ombudsman who does the same type of investigating — but does it outside the department (option c) — is critical. The city's current police ombudsman, Tim Burns, has told the Inlander he believes that independence is important to public trust.
In the end, the outcome of this is likely to strengthen the ombudsman in some way, as evidenced by this tepid endorsement from Pierce Murphy, previously the ombudsman in Boise and currently director of Seattle's Office of Professional Accountability. But just how much strengthening of independence does it take to get the council back on the mayor's side? That's yet to be seen.
With only a couple weeks of 2013 left, we've entered that oft harrowing time of year during which we look back and reflect on everything that's happened over the past 12 months: social trends, big news headlines, entertainment highlights and our own personal goals.
The long animated page first features a scroll-through with a bunch of stats, like that 24 million active users streamed more than 4.5 billion hours of music in 2013. Then it moves into the top artists/songs/albums of the year. There aren't many surprises here, but topping the most "most popular" categories (male artist/track/album) is Washington state's own rap/hip-hop duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis.
The review also highlights top plays in different countries and major cities around the world. Getting even more specific, find out what the best "Hangover Cure" song and playlist is, or the best "Guilty Pleasure" and "Workout" songs. How Spotify nailed down these specifics is unclear, but we'd guess it's based on the titles of playlists these songs appear on.
Finally, after you scroll through the entire animated page (side note: it was quite glitchy for me in Chrome, but worked okay in Safari) you can login to your Spotify account and find out what your top artists, tracks and playlists for the year were, as well as how many minutes and unique streams of songs you've logged. Here's mine.
The page gives you the option to download or share your results via Facebook, but the download doesn't save the file as an image, so if you want to share it with someone via an image attachment or something, save it as .png file.
Don't stop there. At the very, very bottom of the page, Spotify tells us that 80 percent of all tracks available to stream have been played at least once. That means the other 20 percent of the service's entire library remains completely undiscovered. Click the play button at the bottom to hear a surprise "undiscovered" play, or just search for the hashtag #undiscovered to find Spotify's official playlist.
In other related news, Spotify recently announced it now allows mobile users to steam music for free, whereas up until now users had to be paying subscribers to use the service's mobile app. The one caveat: free subscribers can only listen on a mobile device via shuffle play — no on-demand streams. Also, Led Zeppelin finally agreed to allow their entire music catalog to be streamed via Spotify.
There are only two more weeks of the South Perry winter market, including the one happening right now from 3 to 6 pm. And even if the produce isn’t as abundant in winter, that just means you don’t have to feel so bad about buying cupcakes instead of kale.
Zombie outbreak! This week’s Entree newsletter has more details about a new espresso stand called Zombies Espresso, as well as news of Sante’s new Butcher Bar and the soon-to-open Spokane Downtown Daiquiri Factory.
Spokane Cheesecakes will be opening their doors this Saturday, at 1420 E. Sprague.
Also on Saturday, Kendall Yards is hosting a holiday bazaar with local vendors including Brain Freeze Creamery. Then, on Dec. 21, Kendall Yards has a caroling and marshmallow roast event that features Veraci Pizza.
On Sunday it’s the annual Gingerbread Build-Off at the Davenport.
Coeur d’Alene has a new restaurant, Asian Twist, from the owner of Fu-Ki Japanese Steak House in Post Falls.
12 String Brewing Co. is having a 2nd Anniversary party this Sunday with the release of their Volume 2 Anniversary Ale.
With less than 12 hours to spare, Batch Bakeshop met its Kickstarter campaign goal this morning. There are still a few hours left if you want to get in on the rewards.
One Tree Hard Cider found a location in Spokane Valley.
The Pour Fool, an authority on Northwest beer, named Selkirk Abbey the best brewery in Idaho for 2013: “Selkirk isn’t a household name yet. It’s quite possible this is the first you’re heard of them. But with the sheer flavor and quality of what they’re pouring every day, obscurity has the life expectancy of a fruit fly, there in Post Falls.” Selkirk Abbey also announced they’re getting close to distributing in Montana.
The annual holiday gift guide came out this week, and the various categories include a whole bunch of local food-related ideas. Speaking of Selkirk Abbey, a quick gift guide addendum: If you’ve got a family member who drank an IPA one time and got scared off craft beer, bring a bottle of the Deacon Pale Ale to holiday festivities.
Read previous food news here.
Inlander photographer Young Kwak is traveling with a crew from Fairchild Air Force Base to the Transit Center in Manas, Kyrgyzstan. Read his previous post here.
After about 18 hours of flight time and an overnight stay in RAF Lakenheath, England, flight Reach 5252, a KC-135 originating from Fairchild Air Force Base, arrived at the Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan, around 8 am PST. The 28 Air Force personnel on the flight will deploy out of Manas for an average of three to four months.
Inlander photographer Young Kwak is traveling with a crew from Fairchild Air Force Base to the Transit Center in Manas, Kyrgyzstan. We will be posting updates and photos during his trip, and you can also find his photos on Instagram.
Co-pilot First Lieutenant Jacob Mueller goes over a pre-flight checklist with pilot and Captain Joe D'Agostino, in a KC-135 on the tarmac at Fairchild Air Force Base. They check and re-check the weight distribution on the airplane. They have more passengers and cargo than usual. The flight, designated Reach 5252 — initially with 32 passengers, including four to be dropped off in England — is destined for the Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan.
This is 25-year-old Mueller's first deployment. He will be leaving his wife Kayla and 2-year-old daughter Emma at home for two months while he works as a mission planner and tanker pilot over Afghanistan. He's already thinking about his family, as Christmas will fall during the middle of his two-month deployment.
As a graduate from the Air Force Academy in 2010, Mueller had decisions to make. He knew he wanted to be a pilot, but what kind? He spoke with tanker pilots and decided that might be a good fit for his personality. He says, "I like being around people. I like the crew mentality and like having conversations." Mueller feels he could get more of that interaction in a tanker, rather than a single seat fighter. He also said tanker pilots are "on-the-road" less often than cargo pilots, another option that Mueller rule out.
The amount of time"on-the-road" is important for Mueller. He and his high school sweetheart, Kayla, were married 10 days after his Air Force Academy graduation, on June 5, 2010.
Speaking about his family, he says, "I miss them and I love them." But he also has other things to worry about right now. He's anxious about his first deployment. He's heard about what to expect, but isn't really sure. But, he does look forward to adding to the one hundred twenty KC-135 flight hours he currently has.
We almost put an Upworthy-style headline on this one: You won’t believe how sweet and resourceful these two young duct tape entrepreneurs are.
Post Falls sisters Jaylie and Maleah have been making creations out of colored and patterned duct tape for the past three years, according to their video. They can make tote bags, pencil pouches, headbands, rings, flower pencils, wallets, bows and more. One problem: They like to give their creations away, and are running short on duct tape. They would also like to build a website to better market their work.
Jaylie already has an established record as an innovator. Last April she was a 1st place winner in the games category at the Invent Idaho State Championship at the University of Idaho. Her invention, Artist Agency, is a game about famous artists and sculptors.
Goal: $313 • Deadline: Friday • Minimum donation to get something: $10 for a large multipurpose bow
Batch Bakeshop is planning to move into an actual storefront in West Central next year, and the campaign ends today at 7 pm. The outlook didn’t look so great earlier this week, with the campaign stalled out at about 50 percent of the goal. But some big pledges yesterday pushed it toward success with less than 12 hours to go. However, there’s still a bit of time to contribute for those who want to get in on the rewards. Most involve future sweets, including wedding packages and an ongoing Dessert of the Month Club.
Goal: $15,000 • Deadline: Today! • Minimum donation to get something: $25 for shortbread cookies and assorted swag
Goal: $55,000 • Deadline: Jan. 6 • Minimum donation to get something: $1 to get insider updates; $15 to get a digital copy of the film
Chef Adam Hegsted is opening two restaurants in Kendall Yards next spring, and we wrote more about it last week. The restaurants are already under construction, so this campaign isn’t to fund the whole project — it’s more about community buy-in, and most reward levels include getting your name on the wall as a supportive founding member.
Goal: $34,000 • Deadline: Dec. 31 • Minimum donation to get something: $10 to get your name on the wall
Down in Lewiston, farmer Keegan Athey launched a campaign for her dream of starting a small, all-organic farm that will distribute produce through a CSA. You can read more about her project and philosophy here.
Goal: $5,000 • Deadline: Jan. 4 • Minimum donation to get something: $10 for a sticker; $500 for a full CSA share
Finally, in Moscow two artists are launching a company called Opus, a workshop for reviving historical styles and craftsmanship for manuscripts and bookmaking. The campaign ended last week, but it’s worth checking out the cool stuff they’ve been making. Follow along here as they get things up and running.
The man believed by police was driving the car that drove through Life Center Church Tuesday has been identified as 19-year-old David Evans. He is facing felony charges of 1st degree malicious mischief. (KHQ)
The Idaho “Grinch” was back at it Tuesday, this time in Post Falls when Christmas laser lights were stolen outside a residential home. (CDAP)
Looks like the Bartlett all-ages music venue will finally open its doors tonight. The band headlining the night is aptly titled People Get Ready. (FB)
This morning, the photo-sharing phone app Instagram introduced a messaging service that would let users send private photos and videos to their friends directly. Private being the operative word here. (NYT)
The South African sign language interpreter accused of using fake signs at Nelson Mandela's memorial service this week said he suffered a schizophrenic episode. But apparently, this isn’t the signer’s first time faking it. (USAT)
The Academy Awards are the only movie awards program worth watching, but the Golden Globes nominations are always fun to look over, just to see what to expect come Oscar time. See the full list here. (HP)
Washington state has released the top baby names for the 87,415 babies born in the state in 2012. It’s the third year Sophia took the top spot for girls. Liam edged out Mason by just one baby boy, 409 to 408.
Here are top Washington names of the past two decades. Are elementary schools just full of Emmas these days? (And it’s worth noting that Jacob, after a long run at the top, fell out of the Top 5 to No. 8 in 2012.)
Looking for a local music gift? We now have limited numbers of discounted $15 two-day wristbands available for holiday purchase until Dec. 23. Volume 2014 will be held on May 30-31 in downtown Spokane.
You've got two options:
• Print out your receipt at home and bring it in to the Inlander office to swap for a wristband before Christmas. (Perfect for wrapping.)
• Save your receipt until May 30, and swap it for a wristband at Will Call.
Find other details on the Volume site here.
A University District pedestrian bridge is now seemingly on the path toward construction after years of speculation. (Inlander)
Today, the Christmas Bureau opens at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center, inviting low-income families to pick from a selection of quality toys and books to meet their holiday needs. (S-R)
Washington State may still win the 777X deal. Tuesday, a Boeing executive met with the Machinists union officials who last month led the rejection of the company’s contract offer. (ST)
A modern-day "Grinch" stole a Hayden man's house Christmas decorations last weekend. (CDAP)
Thank God it wasn’t Miley Cyrus; Pope Francis has been named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year. Edward Snowden, Edith Windsor, Bashar Assad and Ted Cruz were runners-up. (TIME)
Apparently, the House and Senate are capable of reaching a budget deal. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray helped announce the $85 billion agreement. (WP)
Around this time every year, “Best of” lists appear from every media outlet (be sure to check out our own in the weeks to come) but even more entertaining are “Worst of” lists. Here are the worst movies of the year as deemed by A.V. Club.
Don't forget Santacon Dec 14th(this Saturday).
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