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Bikes, Boots and Justice 

Spokane approves parking changes; plus, Valley bikers hit the road

Boots Are Coming

Tire boots are coming to parking "scofflaws" in Spokane.

In a 6-0 vote Monday (Councilman Steve Salvatori was absent), the Spokane City Council voted to change the city's parking laws to allow booting of cars after at least four unpaid parking tickets. The change had originally also done away with four free parking holidays, like Veteran's Day and Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, but the council struck those changes after complaints that removing the holidays was disrespectful.

The city estimates more than $4 million in unpaid parking tickets are outstanding and about 3,500 people have four or more unpaid tickets, making them subject to booting. Dave Steele, who's led the city's recent parking overhaul in the Business and Development Services Department, says he hopes to buy between 10 and 20 boots early next year and, after a six month "amnesty period," begin using them next summer. — HEIDI GROOVER

Valley of the Bicyclists

Just one week after the city of Spokane dumped its Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator position, its neighbor to the east — Spokane Valley — was named the No. 1 city in America for women bicyclists by the League of American Bicyclists.

The data for the list came from the U.S. Census Bureau's 2012 American Community Survey, which samples one in every 38 households in the U.S. every year. Despite being a decentralized city without a defined downtown, Spokane Valley has a healthy number of female bike commuters.

While the total bicycle commuter rate in Spokane Valley is nearly twice Spokane's rate, it's still less than a fifth the rate of Portland. Instead, the data relied mainly on the percentage of female bicyclists: More than two-thirds of Spokane Valley bike commuters are women. Another way to look at it: Men don't bike nearly as often as women in Spokane Valley.

Over the last three years, Spokane Valley has been gradually improving its bicycle infrastructure. Back in 2011, Spokane Valley overhauled its bike plan by passing an updated Bike and Pedestrian Master Program. The council had been skeptical of the initial plan, opting to water down the initial language to make the plan less of a mandate and more of a suggestion.

Since then, however, the Valley has embarked on nine separate projects to add, widen or repaint bike lanes throughout the city.

"Having a program in place that identifies ways to improve our bicycle/pedestrian facilities is important to our growth and economic development," Spokane Valley spokeswoman Carolbelle Branch writes in an email. — DANIEL WALTERS

Upgrading Justice

Due to age and increased demand, the Idaho Supreme Court says the state's computerized case management system needs to be replaced, pushing for a new $21.6 million network over the next five years. Justices voiced support for a program called Odyssey, by Tyler Technologies, that incorporates new online bill payment, electronic record filing and video conferencing services.

In its recent report on legislative priorities, the court called on state officials to approve one-time funding of $11.4 million for software and e-filing equipment along with another $5.6 million in new computer equipment and $4.6 million for video conferencing services. The ongoing annual service costs were expected to be $5.9 million statewide.

"Idahoans need and deserve a modern, efficient court system," the report states.

Justices say developers of the current system, ISTARS, acknowledged the program was at "end of life." The proposed Odyssey system is being used or implemented in 10 other states, including Washington and Oregon.

The court also recommended a salary increase for district and appellate judges, saying the majority already qualify for retirement and replacements may prove difficult to find. "Low salaries have been repeatedly cited as the primary impediment to judicial recruitment," the report states. — JACOB JONES

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