Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Retired cop files Straub-related public records claim against the city

Posted By on Wed, Aug 24, 2016 at 2:15 PM

Retired SPD cop Brian Breen, pictured above, has filed a legal claim against the city, claiming it withheld records related to former Police Chief Frank Straub. - PHOTO COURTESY OF BRIAN BREEN
  • Photo courtesy of Brian Breen
  • Retired SPD cop Brian Breen, pictured above, has filed a legal claim against the city, claiming it withheld records related to former Police Chief Frank Straub.

It wasn't just journalists filing public records requests trying to figure out what happened with former police Chief Frank Straub's resignation. 

Some of the most detailed public records requests came from Brian Breen, a long-retired cop who often writes lengthy manifestos on his blog offering his critical interpretations of internal politics of the Spokane Police Department in granular detail.

And now, as anticipated, Breen has filed a legal claim against the City of Spokane, arguing that the city violated state public records law. Specifically, he claims that significant documents, concerning former police spokeswoman Monique Cotton's sexual harassment allegations against Straub, were withheld until after the election.

The 18-page claim largely reiterates the conclusions of independent investigator Kris Cappel, who determined last month that the city attorney's office had intentionally withheld important documents that had been requested. Both note that the city attorney's office had possession of most of the crucial documents for five months before delivering them to the city clerk's office. They also point out that City Administrator Theresa Sanders knew that the city attorney's office had the documents, but did not alert the city clerk's office to their existence or bother to search for other copies of the documents.

"By delaying the release of the documents that were responsive to Plaintiff's request," the claim reads, "the city of Spokane violated the requirement of the [Public Records Act] that every 'agency... shall make available for public inspection and copying all public records,' and that the responses shall be prompt."

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CONCERT REVIEW: Macklemore and Ryan Lewis give a wild lesson in civic pride

Posted By on Wed, Aug 24, 2016 at 12:34 PM


Good morning Spokane and welcome to the day after Macklemore and Ryan Lewis hit your town to open their Camping Trip tour. And no, those massive dirt ditches surrounding the Bing Crosby Theater are not result of the mayhem that hit that block last night, but it's understandable that you'd think as much.

What I expected to be a simple hip-hop show at an intimate venue turned out to be an all-day hullabaloo in downtown Spokane, where fans were lined up by mid-morning to get a good spot in the pick-your-own-seat show. By 2 pm, T-shirt stands were set up outside the Bing and a few hours later Macklemore and Ryan Lewis appeared to sign gear.

Note, this was still a good three hours before the show was set to begin. With Fitz and the Tantrums nearly selling out the neighboring Knitting Factory, the entire block, and the surrounding bars and restaurants were jam-packed on this rare celebratory Tuesday night.

OK, so after standing in line for a thorough security pat-down, the masses who'd snagged a ticket for this gig that sold out in a matter of minutes when it was announced back in May finally got closer to answering the question: "What the hell is this Camping Trip thing?"

We knew it was a string of shows in smaller towns in Washington at mostly historic theaters and that this was notable because Macklemore and Lewis have just returned to the states after playing stadiums in Europe. But that was about it. Inside, though, we got a look at the log cabin stage motif, decked out with trees and a spartan DJ set-up.

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CONCERT REVIEW: Dave Alvin's Roots on the Rails tour makes most of Spokane stop

Posted By on Wed, Aug 24, 2016 at 10:48 AM

(left to right) Cindy Cashdollar, Christy McWilson, Dave Alvin, Eliza Gilkyson, Rick Shea - DAN NAILEN
  • Dan Nailen
  • (left to right) Cindy Cashdollar, Christy McWilson, Dave Alvin, Eliza Gilkyson, Rick Shea

It's not every day that an artist ends a concert by announcing that the band — and part of the audience — has to hustle to catch a train to Montana. 

That was just one of the moments that made Tuesday night's "Roots on the Rails" tour stop at Chateau Rive, headlined by roots-rock singer-songwriter Dave Alvin, something special. 

Alvin led a crew of stellar folk artists including Eliza Gilkyson, Rick Shea, Cindy Cashdollar and Christy McWilson through two hours of swapping stories and songs to a packed room in the bottom of the Flour Mill building. The cast of performers rotates at each stop of the tour being done by train, and there was nothing to complain about with Spokane's lineup as each artist charmed with their own songs while jabbing and joking with each other in between tunes. 

The audience sat in rapt silence for most of the night, respectful of the performers, and the group included a bunch of folks traveling the whole six-stop tour through the West that came to Spokane from Seattle and headed to Glacier National Park for its next show. Among the travelers were 10 who flew all the way from England, and a couple I chatted with were utterly delighted by show's end. 

As well they should be, given what filled the show. Shea's straightforward folk kicked things off  with story-songs like "Mariachi Hotel" and "Sweet Bernadine." He then introduced Gilkyson, who dotted her set with hilarious commentary. At one point, she explained that she was trying to avoid repeating any songs over the course of the train tour, "so I keep going back to earlier and earlier material, from several marriages ago." 

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Teachers union deal lets kids out early some days, growing fires and morning headlines

Posted By on Wed, Aug 24, 2016 at 9:41 AM

The police chief interviews are restarting, less than a month after Meidl was appointed - DANIEL WALTERS PHOTO
  • Daniel Walters photo
  • The police chief interviews are restarting, less than a month after Meidl was appointed



The Bartlett's music festival, Bartfest, has been canceled

Tour please
Brett Dennen's "Tour Por Favor" is touring in Spokane. Buy tickets now, por favor. 


Heeeere weee go agaaaaain...

Police chief interviews are happening all over again, leaving those who did it the first time optimistic, but cautious. "Cautiously optimistic," as the kids are saying these days. [Spokesman-Review]

For When the Bells Toll

The Spokane Education Association has already approved an initial contract this year, which includes early-release Fridays — good news for harried teachers and kids who hate school. [Spokesman-Review]

And Fire in the Sky

The fires on Hart Road and Cayuse Mountain are growing. [KXLY]


Buzzfeed will split its entertainment division off from its news division. That may be bad news for Buzzfeed's incredible investigative journalists — which profits from cat videos and Jurassic Park GIFS have supported. [CNN] 

The $ting

Want to stop your throat from constricting, and your eyes from watering and hives from breaking out? Want to be able to breathe again after a bee sting? Well, get ready to fork over 
as much as $600, as the EpiPen manufacturer has hiked prices to incredible rates. Congress is now looking into it. [New York Times]

Maybe It's All a Giant Coincidence Like When Clinton Made Tons of Money on Cattle Futures? 

The Associated Press reveals that "at least 85 of 154 people from private interests who met or had phone conversations scheduled with Clinton while she led the State Department donated to her family charity or pledged commitments to its international programs." If you're a math nerd, that's more than half. [AP]
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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Bartfest 2016 is canceled, as promoters cite low ticket sales

Posted By on Tue, Aug 23, 2016 at 3:10 PM

Twin Peaks are still heading to the Bartlett this fall. - DANIEL TOPETE
  • Daniel Topete
  • Twin Peaks are still heading to the Bartlett this fall.

In a day and age where music festivals continue to pop up like dandelions, some festivals are now struggling to compete (this year's Sasquatch! and Paradiso festivals didn't even sell out). Today, the Bartlett owners announced they would cancel Bartfest, a two-day music festival they had scheduled to run the last weekend of September/first of October at their venue and neighboring nYne. 

Although a two-day pass was listed at $30 (a far cry from the first Bartfest's $90) for a lineup consisting of up-and-coming indie acts Twin Peaks, TOPS, Tangerine, White Reaper, Soft Sleep and the Echolarks, the pre-sales were not enough to keep the 3-year-old festival afloat. Although Spokanites are notorious for not purchasing tickets until close to a performance/event date, owners Karli and Caleb Ingersoll had been burned before when their first Bartfest outing only sold a third of tickets needed to break even. 

"Canceling is definitely a self-protective move," the Ingersolls wrote in a Facebook post today. "If people don't buy tickets, our venue is put at risk because festivals are based on guarantees only and not percentages of ticket sales. So, when people don't show up, we suffer."

But all is not lost. Twin Peaks is still booked to perform at the Bartlett that weekend and TOPS will play at the Observatory, both on Sat, Oct. 1. The owners plan to keep moving forward. 

"Bartfest may re-emerge at some point, but for now we are going to focus on what we feel the most confident in — bringing in really great bands weekly and giving them a great space to play in," the Ingersoll's wrote. 

Read the full Facebook post below: 

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Brett Dennen bound for Spokane on Tour Por Favor

Posted By on Tue, Aug 23, 2016 at 12:50 PM

Brett Dennen brings his folky acoustic style to Spokane come September.
  • Brett Dennen brings his folky acoustic style to Spokane come September.

Brett Dennen has known some degree of stardom ever since he released his self-titled debut album in 2004. The folk singer/songwriter was born in Oakdale, California, and spent his early homeschooled days basking in creative freedom and learning to play the guitar and write music. A social activist at heart, Dennen led anti-smoking campaigns during his time at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and is still involved with The Mosaic Project, a Bay Area nonprofit dedicated to fostering peaceful intentions in youth of different backgrounds and ethnicities. 

Following the release of his first album, Dennan has put out five subsequent records, including his most recent, Por Favor, which hit shelves in May. Over the course of his musical career, he's toured with John Mayer and Pete Murray, and collaborated with Jason Mraz on a song included on the compilation album Songs for Survival, the proceeds of which went to charities focused assisting tribal peoples in the Amazon.

Now, Dennen is on tour to promote his latest album's release — a tour that will take him to Spokane's Knitting Factory on Friday, Sept. 30. It's not the first time Dennen has graced the Inland Northwest with his presence, but a number of years have passed since his last visit.

At the show, the artist is likely to focus on songs from his newest record, one that he strived to imbue with raw honesty and some degree of looseness. It's an album with a generally uplifting sound despite the seemingly somber nature of some of its subject matter, which includes Dennen's grappling with feelings of loneliness and loss.

Tickets to the show go on sale Friday, Aug. 26, at 10 am on the Knitting Factory's website, and will cost $20 before fees. At the door, the base price will increase to $22.

Here's Dennen performing one of the songs on Por Favor, titled "Cassidy," live:

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Police chief confirmation stalls, wildfires continue and news to start your day

Posted By on Tue, Aug 23, 2016 at 9:07 AM

Craig Meidl has not yet been confirmed as Spokane's police chief - DANIEL WALTERS PHOTO
  • Daniel Walters photo
  • Craig Meidl has not yet been confirmed as Spokane's police chief


NEWS: A Spokane County Sheriff's Office detective has been sharing memes, videos and articles on Facebook that trash the Black Lives Matter movement.

: We thought Spokane City Council would vote last night on Mayor David Condon's pick for police chief, but then we found out Meidl's fate would not be decided until later. He will now go through the same interview process as the other candidates.

: Spokane Arts director Laura Becker is leaving Spokane for Santa Monica, California. 


Eastern Washington fires
The Yale Road fire 15 miles south of Spokane has now burned 4,000 acres and destroyed at least 10 homes. The Hart Road fire northwest of Spokane has burned 10,000 acres and nearly a dozen buildings and forced evacuations of the town of Wellpinit. Both fires are at 0 percent containment, according to firefighters.  (Spokesman-Review)

Smoke in the air
You may have noticed Spokane is filled with smoke. The air quality is now somewhere between "Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups" and "Moderate," according to Spokane Clean Air. Check for yourself here. (KHQ)

Clinton's emails
A federal judge has ordered that the State Department accelerate the release of nearly 15,000 Hillary Clinton emails, meaning they could be released weeks before the election. Meanwhile, Republicans allege that emails released Monday from Clinton's tenure as Secretary of State show that Clinton traded favors for donations to the Clinton Foundation. Clinton and the foundation deny the charge. 

Trump on immigration
Donald Trump says he has an immigration plan, and it apparently no longer involves deporting 11 million people using a "deportation force." Rather, it will be similar to what Obama is doing, but with "a lot more energy." 
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Monday, August 22, 2016

Actually nevermind, the city council probably won't vote on Craig Meidl's appointment tonight

Posted By on Mon, Aug 22, 2016 at 5:02 PM

Meidl's confirmation will have to wait, mayor agrees. - DANIEL WALTERS PHOTO
  • Daniel Walters photo
  • Meidl's confirmation will have to wait, mayor agrees.

Earlier today we posted a blog about the impending decision before the Spokane City Council tonight — whether or not Craig Meidl will be Spokane's next police chief. 

Well, about that... 

We just got word that Meidl's fate likely will not be decided tonight. Instead, he will go through the same process as the 10 semifinalists considered by the selection committee, according to a press release from the city. That means Meidl will answer the same written and video questions that other outside candidates were required to answer.

"We appreciate the Mayor's willingness to take this additional step in the process of finding Spokane's next police chief," Councilwoman Lori Kinnear says, who along with Councilman Breean Beggs submitted a letter with this proposal to Mayor David Condon. 

"We want to be clear that our call for completing the promised public process with a comparison between candidates is in no way an indication of a negative judgment on Craig Meidl's ability to perform the job," the letter reads (embedded below). "We have worked closely with him over the last few months as he has performed his duties of acting chief and found him to be very cooperative, talented and sincere."

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City Council to vote tonight on Mayor David Condon's pick for police chief

Posted By on Mon, Aug 22, 2016 at 2:41 PM

Craig Meidl addresses reporters following his nomination as chief of police - YOUNG KWAK PHOTO
  • Young Kwak Photo
  • Craig Meidl addresses reporters following his nomination as chief of police

Tonight is the night. 

The City Council is scheduled to vote to approve or reject Craig Meidl as Spokane's next chief of police. 

In interviews leading up to tonight's vote, City Council President Ben Stuckart says he intends to vote against Meidl's approval. 

"I'd be doing a great disservice to all the citizens involved ... if I discounted all their work," Stuckart says. "Two of the [Police Leadership Advisory Committee] recommendations are very specific to involving the public from the beginning." 

Two weeks ago, Councilwoman Karen Stratton indicated to the Inlander that she hadn't yet been convinced to vote in favor of Meidl's confirmation. Councilman Mike Fagan has come out in support of Meidl.

Councilman Breean Beggs did not say whether he's decided either way, though he articulated potential compromises — such as appointing Meidl for a "test period" and allow for more vetting. 

Councilmembers Amber Waldref and Candace Mumm have not publicly stated which way they're leaning. Last week, Kinnear indicated that she was still sifting through the public comment before making her decision.

The vote comes three weeks after Mayor David Condon discarded two outside candidates for chief and appointed Meidl, sparking outrage among those who participated in the vetting process.

In the aftermath of former Chief Frank Straub's forced resignation, Condon hired a recruiting firm and assembled a selection committee of nine city leaders and community members to help whittle down the original list of 31 candidates. He also arranged four interview panels, totaling more than 40 people to vet the finalists.

Those who participated in those events expressed frustration with Condon's unilateral decision to appoint a man who did not apply for the job and initially stated he did not want to be chief. 

In February, Condon had reiterated his commitment to using an outside firm to recruit a police chief through a national search. 

"We will do a national search and the citizens will have the best person to fill the job," Condon said then. "One of the key things the PLAC suggested was to use an outside firm ... As they provided feedback on what would be their prerogative, the vast majority of them thought we should use a recruiting firm to recruit nationwide."

Following the announcement earlier this month, Condon also announced that he would not, at that point, seek approval from the City Council, as is required by the city's charter, "out of an abundance of caution and concern for [Meidl] and his career." 

That prompted the city council to schedule two community forums followed by tonight's vote.

"Had Craig Meidl gone through the process and come out as the top candidate, we'd be having a very different conversation," Stuckart says. 

Daniel Walters contributed reporting
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Spokane Arts director Laura Becker to leave the citywide arts nonprofit this fall

Posted By on Mon, Aug 22, 2016 at 2:09 PM

Outgoing Spokane Arts director Laura Becker, in a photo illustration from the Inlander's 2015 Fall Arts issue. - KRISTEN BLACK / CHRIS BOVEY
  • Kristen Black / Chris Bovey
  • Outgoing Spokane Arts director Laura Becker, in a photo illustration from the Inlander's 2015 Fall Arts issue.

After a little more than a year and a half at the helm of the city's nonprofit arts fund/commission, Spokane Arts executive director Laura Becker is leaving her role there later this fall.

In a recent email letter to the organization's supporters, the Spokane native expressed sincere appreciation for the opportunity to lead the organization since the start of 2015, and being able to contribute to the growth of the local arts community, which has been building positive momentum for several years now.

Becker has accepted a position as cultural affairs supervisor for the City of Santa Monica, California. In her resignation announcement, she writes:
There were several factors informing my decision to move on. First, my partner is wrapping up his time here in Spokane and is moving back to his home state of California. This is a move that I have delayed for as long as possible but ultimately, I needed to consider this relocation a reality for us. In addition, I have been offered and have accepted an incredible opportunity to serve as the Cultural Affairs Supervisor to the City of Santa Monica’s public art program, a role for which my background and experience make me an ideal candidate.

Looking forward, I must prioritize my family and manage my professional life with greater balance – this position and a move closer to my family are a clear path for me. I have great love for Spokane and am honored to have led this organization for as long as I have and with so many accomplishments to account. I am immensely hopeful that Spokane Arts will attract an extremely qualified and passionate leader who can continue the work that we have all contributed to this organization’s young life. Given this decision, I have heavily considered plans for a sound and harmonious organizational transition. 
Becker was hired in fall 2014 to take on the role as Spokane Arts' executive director after the departure of its first leader, Shannon Halberstadt, who left after just a year to relocate back to Seattle with her husband. Becker brought years of experience to her role with Spokane Arts, having worked in administrative positions for several Seattle arts groups since 2001.

During her tenure at Spokane Arts, Becker helped bring in thousands of dollars of grant funds, assisted with the implementation of numerous public art projects like the downtown Mobile Murals project and the traffic signal-box art, and continued to grow October's Spokane Arts Month, along with many other initiatives. 

Until a new director is hired, starting on Sept. 23 Spokane Arts will be led by interim director Ellen Picken, who currently serves as its program manager. Karen Mobley's duties as public art program contractor will also expand, along with those of other staff members.

A search committee for Becker's replacement has been formed, and the job posting for Spokane Arts next executive director is posted online.
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