Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Expo, earth, air, water — the making of this year's Earth Day Spokane logo

Posted by on Tue, Apr 15, 2014 at 12:04 PM

  • Earth Day Spokane

This year’s Earth Day Spokane celebration is being held April 26 in Riverfront Park to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Expo ’74, the first world’s fair with a environmental theme. Even more so than in 1974, it’s difficult to think about the environment without considering ocean acidification, melting arctic ice and dire United Nations reports about climate change.

But the volunteers organizing Earth Day Spokane — some of whom I spoke to last week for our upcoming Green Issue — are optimistic about creating an event where everyone can learn something and contribute to the celebration. Not everyone is going to hold a protest sign or attend a hearing — or even stop by the more educational booths at Earth Day Spokane — but, they say, appreciating the environment takes many forms and it’s all welcome, from taking a hike to conserving energy at home to making art.

“There’s no point other than co-creating and celebrating this amazing earth,” volunteer and artist Sherri Urann says. “Nobody’s exempt from that party.”

In that spirit, Urann created the event’s logo by building on the structure of the well-known Expo ’74 mobius icon in a way that makes the three symbolic colors — earth, air, water — more personal and organic.

Here’s a timelapse video of the logo's creation featuring music from the B Radicals, who will perform at the event:

Feeling inspired? The Earth Day Spokane website includes instructions and ideas for making Procession of the Species costumes from recycled materials. Event details here.

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MORNING BRIEFING: Blood moon, boy falls, 92-year-old woman hit by car (they're OK)

Posted by on Tue, Apr 15, 2014 at 8:58 AM


A 6-year-old fell off a cliff at Liberty Park. He’s going to be fine. (KXLY)

A 92-year-old woman using a walker was hit by a car on the South Hill. She’s going to be fine. (KHQ)

Police responded to a non-life-threatening stabbing on the lower South Hill early this morning and are searching for two suspects. (KREM)

The Wanapum Dam reservoir drawdown to fix a mysterious crack in the concrete supports has exposed shoreline and Native American archeological sites. (S-R)


Two former Boise State student athletes are suing the school, claiming that athletic officials ignored their reports of sexual assault by a star track and field athlete. (AP)

A 20-year-old Ft. Lewis soldier is missing after he left on weekend hiking trip near Olympia. (TNT)

The death toll is now 37 in the Oso landslide, with seven people still missing. Flags across the state are at half-staff today in memory of the victims. (Seattle Times)


After yesterday’s blast that killed 70 people at a bus station in Nigeria, a terrorist group reportedly abducted 200 girls from a school. (Time)

Changes to the Census Bureau’s annual community survey will make it impossible to compare to previous years, especially on health insurance questions. (NYT)

The US Airways Twitter account had the worst social media debacle since, well, probably ever. (Business Insider)


Here’s a photo of the “blood moon” from Inlander photographer Young Kwak.

  • Young Kwak
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Monday, April 14, 2014

Questions for the CannaBiz panel of marijuana experts

Posted by and on Mon, Apr 14, 2014 at 6:21 PM

The panelists, from left: Hilary Bricken, Matt Cohen and Randy Simmons.
  • The panelists, from left: Hilary Bricken, Matt Cohen and Randy Simmons.

This Wednesday evening the Inlander is hosting a panel discussion about the marijuana market taking form in Washington state. The three panelists are all experts in different areas of the industry:

Hilary Bricken, who we profiled in last year’s Work Issue, is an attorney known for specializing in the legal issues surrounding marijuana.

Matt Cohen, a well-known advocate in the medical marijuana movement, had his farm in California raided by the feds in 2011 and has since consulted with the Washington State Liquor Control Board on I-502 production issues.

Randy Simmons is the deputy director of the state’s Liquor Control Board, who’s been leading research teams as the state figures out how to set up and operate a legal marijuana market.

The forum will include questions from the audience, which is good — for every known fact about how recreational marijuana will work in Washington state, there are still dozens of questions about how it will all turn out. Here are some of our questions for the panelists:

• Some have said much of Colorado's success establishing a recreational market has come from the state already having a well-established medical system. Do you think Washington will suffer in that regard because our medical market, especially in Eastern Washington, is more volatile and unregulated?

• The Legislature failed to pass medical marijuana reform this year, to the relief of some medical marijuana advocates. Do you think we'll see medical marijuana reform in Washington in coming years? Do you have ideas for how best to treat the two markets — can they co-exist or should they be integrated?

• In terms of the price of recreational marijuana, should we expect high costs in the beginning due to novelty and demand? When should we expect that market to stabilize and produce the price of cannabis that will last? What will it take to bring the price to a level low enough to eradicate the black market?

• What changes do you expect in terms of the cultural identity of marijuana? Will we see traditional "stoner culture" fade away in favor of boutique/craft/artisan businesses?

• Do you anticipate marijuana tourism being a boon for the state? What will individual cities need to do to become destinations?

• Drivers from Washington and Colorado have accused Idaho law enforcement of profiling them as potential marijuana smugglers. Should Washingtonians crossing state lines be concerned? Will this difference in laws cause problems with neighboring states?

• What have we learned so far from Washington and Colorado? What advice would you give to other states or citizens starting the initiative process?

CannaBiz Forum • Wed, April 16 at 7 pm • Free • Bing Crosby Theater • 901 W. Sprague Ave.

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What We've Been... listening to

Posted by on Mon, Apr 14, 2014 at 2:50 PM


Excitable Boy put Warren Zevon on the map, so if you know him, chances are you’ve heard this album. I first found it as a teenager going through my dad’s old vinyl records, but it’s made a comeback for me recently. Some people have placed Zevon alongside artists like Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young, and that’s probably fair, but the morbid humor in many of his lyrics sets him and especially this album apart. The record’s two best tracks, “Excitable Boy” and “Werewolves Of London” are pure weird — somehow dark, terrifying and charming at the same time. Among the other tracks are historical tales, ballads and the very dancey “Night Time In The Switching Yard.” It’s available on iTunes, Spotify and probably in your nearest record store.



I’m counting down to May 13. Four weeks and a day. That’s when the Black Keys are releasing their new album, Turn Blue, after a three-year gap with no new material from the Akron, Ohio (now Nashville-based) rock duo. Until then, the Keys are keeping my appetite for new tracks sated by releasing two songs from the new record on their website/YouTube channel: “Fever,” the first single, followed by the title track “Turn Blue,” which dropped just this morning. Critics are already saying this album is a bit of a departure from the hooky, fast-tempo rock of 2011’s El Camino — instead the band’s going with a more psychedelic rock vibe. Four weeks is a ways out, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the chance that Turn Blue previews on NPR’s First Listen before then. And, of course, I’m also impatiently waiting to see what stops the Keys may have planned for Turn Blue’s expected, upcoming tour.



When it comes to good stories, I’m a reader, not a listener. And I like my narratives uninterrupted, which is why I’ve remained a skeptic of the mindset that all multimedia is good multimedia when it comes to journalism. Video! Audio! People will love it! But when it all comes together, as it does in this weekend’s New York Times Magazine cover story by John Jeremiah Sullivan, “The Ballad of Geeshie and Elvie,” about “phantom women” of the early 20th Century music and their two known records still in existence — oh man, it’s so good. Most readers will never even notice how brilliant it is to embed sound clips right into the text with the lyrics, and that’s the point. It’s infinitely better than encountering this story in print, in a way you don’t even stop to think about. It’s seamless. I read this story, I listened to this story — I don’t even know the difference. The music is worth it even if you don’t read the whole piece.



With his band the Pharmacists, nice-guy indie rocker Ted Leo of New Jersey typically hammers out frantic, buzz-distorted rhythms over desperate, politically-charged vocals. He carves out a sort of punk, indie fuzz and insurrectionist pop with lyrics calling out the media and the CIA. But he's recently teamed up with renowned singer-songwriter Aimee Mann to form The Both. Mann's soft authority anchors the jumpy panic in much of Leo's music. Political themes continue through the new project with songs about Monsanto and other subjects as the self-titled album swerves from Leo's punk to Mann's acoustic-based harmony, crossing the tenuous middle ground in surprising and rewarding ways. It doesn't all work, but it's worth listening for the moments when both Leo's and Mann's strengths align into unfamiliar beauty.


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Help Idaho students get the Sherman Alexie book their school district “removed”

Posted by on Mon, Apr 14, 2014 at 2:10 PM


Two weeks ago, the Meridian School Board heard two hours of public testimony over a book on the 10th grade supplemental reading list. Parents at the school district near Boise had complained about the book a few weeks earlier, saying it was unsuitable for students because of profanity, references to masturbation and generally being “anti-Christian.” At the meeting, a student presented 350 student signatures in support of keeping the book.

In the end, the three-person board voted: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie would be removed from the district’s curriculum.

After reading about this, Jennifer Lott of Spokane and her friend Sara Baker — who’s also from Spokane but now lives in Seattle — decided to do something about it. They came up with a plan to buy 350 copies of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian — one for each student who signed the petition. They reached out to a Meridian School District teacher, who will help coordinate distribution of the donated books for World Book Night on April 23.

Lott, who has a background in public libraries and issues like Banned Books Week, says she and Baker are pro-education and support the free exchange of ideas.

“Blocking students from learning about controversial ideas just never seems to work, in my experience,” she says.

Over the weekend, they raised two-thirds of their goal of $3,000, mostly in increments of $5 to $25 from individual donors. They haven't discussed a specific plan if they end up exceeding the goal, but they may purchase other books that have been challenged or banned.

The book is Alexie’s first for young adults, and won the 2007 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. It tells the story of 14-year-old Arnold Spirit, known as Junior, who’s growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Wellpinit. He transfers to an all-white high school 22 miles away — where he’s the only Indian aside from the school mascot — and the book chronicles his year attempting to fit in at the new school while being seen as a traitor at home.

Alexie frequently makes the American Library Association’s list of most frequently challenged authors; he’s in good company with other frequently challenged authors such as Harper Lee, Toni Morrison, Judy Blume, Mark Twain, Lois Lowry and John Steinbeck.

Support the book-procuring project here or get more information here.

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City sets public meetings to discuss ombudsman commission

Posted by on Mon, Apr 14, 2014 at 12:15 PM

Current Police Ombudsman Tim Burns will soon answer to a five-member citizen commission.
  • Current Police Ombudsman Tim Burns will soon answer to a five-member citizen commission.

City Attorney Nancy Isserlis will lead two public meetings to discuss details of the soon-to-be-created Office of Police Ombudsman Commission, Mayor David Condon announced today.

The meetings will be April 28 at noon and April 29 at 5 pm. Both will be in the City Council Briefing Center at City Hall.

The OPO Commission was established as part of the most recent changes to police oversight in Spokane. Under the changes, the ombudsman will continue to participate in the Spokane Police Department's Internal Affairs process, but in cases where he or she believes the department is not adequately investigating, the five-member OPO Commission will be able to demand further investigation or call in a third party to look at the case.

While the changes brought mixed reactions from the public, the mayor continues to laud them as "unprecedented citizen oversight" of the police department.

We asked the mayor late last month if he worried about jeopardizing the independence of the process by appointing his city attorney to lead the process. He said such concerns were why he and the police department will not be participating in the meetings, but "the other reality is who is going to? There's some that say why are you doing it at all. I would worry that we wouldn't be moving ahead at all. ... Nancy has a tradition and a respect that she'll take it in a way that she facilitates it. It doesn't mean that she's going to decide it."

When the Spokane City Council approved the latest police guild contract earlier this year, it also passed an ordinance outlining the basic framework of the commission. Two of the five members will be appointed by the mayor and the other three will be appointed by the city council with one from each council district. (As with most city boards and commissions, a majority of the city council must vote to approve each of the five members.) Members must be current city residents who are at least 21 years old. They cannot be current or former city or SPD employees (or immediate family of current city or SPD employees), and must be "able to establish a reputation for even-handedness in dealing with both complainants and the regulated parties," according to the law. The ordinance also says members must pass a background check and have no convictions within the last seven years for "crimes involving dishonesty or moral turpitude."

The public meetings will focus on details not explicitly outlined in the new law, like exactly what kind of background check should be used, what questions should be on the application and what details should be included in the confidentiality agreement the law mandates commission members sign. Isserlis says the one-hour, "free-flowing" meetings will also address more general discussions of what types of applicants the city should seek in order to get enough diversity among the group. She will also use the meetings as a chance to remind potential applicants that all application materials and the results of background checks will be public records.

Isserlis says she is also meeting with members of the Use of Force Commission and Regional Criminal Justice Commission separately to hear their suggestions. After the meetings, she will send her recommendations to the mayor and city council, who will begin appointing commission members by July.

"I hope that everybody can make time in the day to come down and weigh in on this because the seating of the inaugural members for this is really critical," Isserlis says. "I think it has to be a good group of solid citizens to make this commission work."

UPDATE: We've added the current draft of the OPO Commission application below. This is one of the items that will be discussed at the public meetings.

Draft OPO Commission Application

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MORNING BRIEFING: Apartment fire, driver profiling, Jewish site shootings

Posted by on Mon, Apr 14, 2014 at 9:09 AM


An apartment fire in North Spokane on Saturday afternoon displaced 40 people, and many lost everything. (KREM)

Sandpoint is reeling from the Friday bankruptcy announcement of Coldwater Creek, one of the largest local employers. (Cda Press)

Spokane philanthropist Myrtle Woldson, who donated $3 million for the restoration of the Fox Theater and also helped restore the Moore-Turner Heritage Gardens, died at age 104. (S-R)


Drivers from Colorado and Washington have accused Idaho law enforcement of profiling out-of-state drivers as potential marijuana smugglers. (S-R/Idaho Statesman)

More than 1,000 concertgoers were evacuated from Portland’s Crystal Ballroom last night over concern about a structural beam. (Oregonian)

A Washington State Fair building in Puyallup burned down early this morning. (AP)


A known white supremacists is accused of shooting three people, including a grandfather and grandson, at Jewish centers near Kansas City on Sunday. (CNN)

A Utah woman is accused of killing seven babies after police discovered remains in cardboard boxes in her former garage. (USA Today)

A United Nations report says governments must act quickly and drastically to stop the increase in greenhouse gas emissions. (WSJ)


A most excellent correction. (NPR)

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Friday, April 11, 2014

Talking to my dad about Gail Gerlach

Posted by on Fri, Apr 11, 2014 at 4:54 PM


My dad, Dennis Baumgarten, is the most fastidiously moral person I have ever met or known. He is so deeply Good — capital G — I often feel that I’ll never match his kindness, compassion or selflessness. The way he treats people is a model for the way I try to treat people. I always come up short, but his is a signpost I guide myself by.

At the same time, my dad is very wary of “People” — anyone in the reckless, 24-hour news cycle of anonymous chaos that defines modern life — who might do harm to my mother or my brother or me. He is a veteran, an avid hunter, a passionate advocate for gun rights, and a lifetime NRA Member (a membership he purchased, he remembers precisely, in 1977 for $106).

My dad grew up in a violent part of a bad town in central California. He came to the woods of North Idaho and, eventually, Eastern Washington to be closer to nature, certainly, but also, I think, to have more control over his physical environment and the people in it.

The two most salient things I remember from my childhood living up a long country road northeast of Chattaroy are these: my parents always kept the door to our home open to anyone who needed our help, and they always kept a pistol close at hand in case someone wanted to do us harm.

When Gail Gerlach was found not guilty on charges of manslaughter in the death of Brendon Kaluza-Graham yesterday, I felt such an intense and nauseating swirl of emotions, it was as if the world had lost its mooring.

So today, I did what I do whenever I feel my moral foundation and my understanding of the world shaken. I called my dad.

Have you been following the Gerlach case?

I have a little, but I also know people who know him and from what I understand, the man [Gerlach] is extremely frustrated with the amount of crime around his home and they’ve always had problems and problems and he’s just had it. He was frustrated.

The police are a reactionary force. They don’t prevent crime, so I understand that frustration, but would I shoot somebody who is stealing my truck? I wouldn’t go to that extreme, myself.

So when would you consider using your gun?

The only time I would ever use it is if our life was threatened. If there’s no other way out.

How do you make that decision?

It would be a really hard call to make. You never have ideal circumstances. But if somebody’s stealing my truck, psh. I’m not going to use a gun. I’ve never seen a U-Haul behind a hearse. You can’t take that with you. The guy stealing [Kaluza-Graham] was in the wrong in every possible way, but that’s still too far.

Gerlach says he believes [Kaluza-Graham] pointed a gun at him as he was driving away. He said he feared for his life.

Well, if someone fired a gun at me I’d return fire. I’d protect myself.

But [Kaluza-Graham] didn’t fire. He didn’t have a gun.

[Gerlach] may have seen something, or thought he saw something, but that’s a horrible thing to live with. If I felt my life was in danger, I’d return fire. I’d empty the clip.

But the first thing you taught me — the first thing I learned in gun safety — is to check your backstop. Would you unload a clip into a car driving away when your neighbor’s houses are the backstop?

If there’s people around and someone’s shooting at me, I wouldn’t miss. But I would avoid [shooting] all costs because if there were kids anywhere around, [and one of them got hit] that would just be awful.

And then once you kill the guy, that truck is just out of control!

You’re right. A truck is like a missile.

You wouldn’t just get back into the house until the guy was down the block or around the corner? If he’s driving away and you think he might be pointing a gun over his shoulder?

If I thought it was going to endanger someone else, I would duck! If he’s shooting at me and there’s a bunch of people behind him, I’m just gonna hug the dirt as hard as I can. If I get hit, I get hit. And if I die, I die. I can’t really endanger somebody else — innocent people — like that.

So here’s the question I’ve been really fighting with. All of this is assuming there are a bunch of people walking around, carrying guns, trying to kill people. Is it good — is it a good idea — to always be this hyper-vigilant against violence?

That’s the big question of the day.

Are we too scared of each other in this country?

Well, I feel like there’s a lot of — with gangs and stuff — the news spreads this mentality that the world is unsafe and maybe the world is getting more dangerous or difficult. I don’t really see it myself, here. But if someone comes in my shop, I’d avoid everything, but if they want to shoot at me, I’m going to have to live with the choice to do this.

Violent crime isn’t getting worse, though. It’s going down.

I did read that! I did, but I hear about these shootings in places — the gangs and the Colorado shooting and [Newtown]. I don’t know why anyone would do those things, but there are innocent people getting shot right and left and it worries me.

But it’s not newsworthy to not shoot someone. It’s not newsworthy to show restraint, so of course all we hear about is violence.

You’re right about that. You also never hear about the good people who carry [guns]. There are a lot of good people who carry.

You carry. And you’re the best person I know.

[Laughs] I don’t know about that. But if you have a home invasion, what are you going to do? Yeah, take my stuff, but what if they want more than stuff? Nine times out of 10 you don’t need a gun —

Do you really think you need a gun 10 percent of the time?

No, no. Say 99 times out of a hundred you don’t need a gun. But that one time, I want to be able to defend myself. I’m getting to an age where I probably couldn’t win a fight, and I’ve got to protect your mom and our family. You’ve got to be prepared.

I get that, and if someone is standing in your living room he’s moving toward mom, defending her and yourself makes total sense. But the guy Gerlach shot didn’t have a gun, and Trayvon Martin didn’t have a gun, and [Chad Oulson] in the movie theater didn’t have a gun. I feel like people are getting so worried about that 1 time in 100 that they’re afraid of every person they see. I feel like this vigilance against the perception of violence is driving everyone crazy.

I think that’s true to a huge degree. We don’t have any compassion or love for our neighbor. And that doesn’t just have to be your next door neighbor. Your neighbor is anyone around you. It’s the guy stealing stuff, even.

You need to be concerned about your neighbor. You need to care for them. You love them. People who get on dope, you don’t stop loving those people. It’s your job to do what you can to help them. And if they don’t want help, you let them go. You say, “alright, buddy.” But you have your arms open if they come back.

As a Christian you’ve got to put other people before yourself, and you try to figure out how to do that as best as possible. But it’s very, very hard to know. ♦

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CAT FRIDAY: Keep cats away from lilies this Easter

Posted by on Fri, Apr 11, 2014 at 4:48 PM

Easter weekend is now a week away, which could be bad for your cat(s) because of one major thing: Easter Lilies.

The trumpeted blooming flowers often given as gifts in the weeks leading up to Easter’s observance are certainly lovely icons of spring, but if you have cats — beware. Out of all types of plants that, when ingested, can cause minor to severe symptoms in cats, lilies are one of most dangerous and deadly of all cultivated plants. And that’s lilies of any kind — not just the traditional Easter Lily. 

Thankfully these lilies look fake, because this kitty is getting a little too close to the toxic plant.
  • Thankfully these lilies look fake, because this kitty is getting a little too close to the toxic plant.

Though obligate carnivores — meaning their diets must be animal protein-based — many domestic cats are naturally attracted to greenery both in and outside their homes because plants serve as a small source of fiber. Cats can’t efficiently digest plant matter, though, so if you see your cat nibble on something green only to puke it up later, that’s not unusual, either. Cats may intentionally eat plants to induce vomiting to pass a hairball.

That said, even if your cat has never shown interest in nibbling plants, it’s still a good idea to avoid the risks entirely by not bringing any lilies into your home.

Ingesting any part of the plant can cause death if not treated, but the first symptoms are vomiting, lack of appetite, lethargy and kidney failure, according to the ASPCA, which offers a lengthy guide on all plants known to be harmful to pets.

It’s not known what specific toxin in lilies is so deadly to cats, but even one bite of a leaf or taste of pollen can bring on symptoms. If you suspect your cat has eaten part of any houseplant, seek immediate veterinary care. It’s also a good idea to take a picture of the suspected plant(s) if you’re not sure so the vet can give an accurate diagnosis and treatment.

Another thing to avoid at Easter if you have cats, especially kittens — fake Easter basket grass, at least of the non-paper variety. If accidentally ingested by a cat, the foreign object could potentially require surgery to remove.

The ASPCA has a 24-hour poison emergency hotline (888-426-4435; note there is a cost involved) for pet owners who are concerned their cat or dog is showing signs of ingesting a harmful substance, plant or not. 

Sources and more info on plants harmful to cats and other pets:

Cat Fanciers Association
Animal Planet

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The Gerlach verdict and the value of stuff over people

Posted by on Fri, Apr 11, 2014 at 3:47 PM


In an alternate universe, Brendon Kaluza-Graham is working at a meaningful job and has enjoyed access to all of the services he may need to succeed. He has options outside of crime to pursue a living, and a supportive community helping when he slips up. Gail Gerlach never shot him, because he didn't have a reason to steal his SUV. Opportunities for people to redeem themselves for past mistakes abound in this other place, but not in the here and now. In our universe, just yesterday, a jury of 12 Spokane residents confirmed a cultural story about dangerous criminals, people less than you or I, who deserve punishment, even punishment outside of the law, for their actions.

Yesterday, the jury determined Gail Gerlach was not guilty of manslaughter. Just over a year ago, Gerlach shot dead Kaluza-Graham as he drove away in Gerlach's SUV, stolen from the driveway as it warmed up for its morning commute. Directly after the shooting, a heated debate sprouted around the issues of self defense, gun rights and vigilante justice. I was disturbed then by the amount of fervent support for Gerlach's right to shoot dead a person who threatened only his property.

Is the SUV an extension of the self? When driving, a vehicle acts as an extension of the driver's body and their safety becomes tied up together. An SUV in the driveway, though? Occupied by only the would-be thief? According to many barstool pundits in the weeks following, and now seconded by a jury in Spokane County, killing a person as they steal property is legitimate self defense.

I have had three bikes stolen in as many years. While the value of a basic commuter bike and the value of Gerlach's SUV look very different on paper, they serve a proportionate function in each of our lives. I depend, as he does, on my vehicle to get me to and from work and play. I transport the necessities of life from their source to my home on its back, and he does the same with a little more elbow room. We both put time and money into maintenance of our vehicles and take pains to keep them safely locked. Two of my bikes have been stolen right under my nose, off of the porch of my house. I can understand the rage that Gerlach must have felt when he caught the perpetrator red-handed. If I had seen the people who took my bikes in the act, it's very likely that I would have lost my temper, chased them down. It is wrong to take things from people without their permission, and those actions have consequences.

I have a temper, and I might have socked that bike thief pretty hard had I caught him. But I also have a sense of perspective and a sense that my bike is important to me, but not irreplaceable. In our culture of incredible materialism coupled with disconnection from one another's humanity, incidents like this shooting are one of many likely consequences. As the media and the criminal justice system further dehumanize criminal offenders, the general public becomes less aware of their humanity. People who steal cars have, in all likelihood, already made a series of mistakes in their lives. Statistically, they have been victims themselves. Abuse, neglect, mental illness, addiction and a free-fall through the many deep cracks in our safety nets are the common traits that those in our jails and prisons share. None of these factors makes a person less human than an object, even an object we depend upon in our daily life.

Rather than being about gun rights or gun control, this case has sent a message about who is valuable and who is disposable in the eyes of the average people who comprise a jury. The front page story about the acquittal in today's Spokesman-Review pulls out a quote from Gerlach to top the headline. He said, “As Christians, we believe in redemption. The greatest tragedy is that Mr. Brendon Kaluza-Graham will not have a chance to turn his life around.” As a non-Christian, I believe in redemption too, both for Kaluza-Graham and for Gerlach. Unfortunately, our justice system's focus on punishment and isolation over treatment and our culture's devaluation of people who have made mistakes join forces to create an atmosphere in which the odds are not in redemption's favor.

I can only hope that the work being done in Spokane around moving toward Smart Justice, which matches offenders with services that can help mitigate their unmet needs, continues to move forward and provide a real chance at redemption for people who make mistakes. I expect that in the courtroom, the jurors felt a great deal of empathy for both the slain Kaluza-Graham and the defendant. Let's see if we can move our society to one where expressing our empathy happens sooner and the expression is deeper. Then the alternate universe described above can become part of our reality. ♦

Taylor Weech, who hosts the weekly public affairs program Praxis on KYRS-FM, is a Spokane writer and activist. She's advocated, among other things, for environmental sustainability and all-ages access to the arts.

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