DSP: Just Say No
The city of Spokane and the Downtown Spokane Partnership will launch a "GIVE REAL CHANGE" campaign Friday encouraging residents to stop giving money to panhandlers and instead donate to local service providers. The campaign cost $25,000, with half funded by DSP and half by the city.
On realchangespokane.org, the groups have provided a list of local shelters and other organizations to which they encourage people to donate. They also plan to launch a campaign on Crowdswell (a sort of Kickstarter for community projects). The money raised there would benefit three initiatives identified by a task force convened by the mayor, including job training for young people and new resources to help homeless adults connect with housing and apply for federal benefits.
"It's about changing the behavior of the person inclined to give," says DSP President Mark Richard.
Along with business interests, some service providers agree that giving to organizations can be more beneficial than handing cash to panhandlers. Spokane Homeless Coalition Chair Rob Bryceson says his group is supportive of raising awareness of local nonprofits (they also have a list of organizations at spokanehc.org). In a statement about the campaign, Catholic Charities Executive Director Rob McCann says, "In reality, when we give money to panhandlers we are actually doing a disservice. Each dollar handed out a car window marches the recipient closer to a life of chaos, addiction, suffering, and even death." (HEIDI GROOVER)
Kreidler to the Rescue?
Software glitches on Washington's insurance exchange website have prevented 6,000 customers from making payments on their plans, leaving thousands without coverage or care. Now, state Insurance Commissioner MIKE KREIDLER says he may step in and offer affected customers a special enrollment period to purchase health insurance outside the exchange if these issues aren't resolved by the end of next month.
"He doesn't have authority over the [Washington Health Benefit Exchange], but he does have the ability to open a special enrollment," says Stephanie Marquis, a spokeswoman for the Insurance Commissioner.
Health insurers, Exchange staff, and Deloitte, the contractor responsible for creating the online insurance marketplace, wahealthplanfinder.org, have agreed to work together to identify and correct the problem by the end of August. Meanwhile, Marquis says her office has received 1,200 calls since March from Exchange customers complaining about these technical glitches.
The next open enrollment period under the health reform law begins in mid-November. (DEANNA PAN)
Deputies Test Body Cams
As many other law enforcement agencies have moved toward implementing officer-worn body cameras, the SPOKANE COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE recently completed a multi-week pilot program to test out the new technology, allowing officials to weigh costs and equipment options.
Department spokesman Deputy Mark Gregory says about 20 to 25 deputies volunteered for the program, wearing Taser Axon Body chest-mounted cameras on duty for about two months. He says the trial period just finished up.
"This is the very first, preliminary, baby-step kind of thing," he emphasizes. "We don't even have funding."
Gregory says deputies tested out functionality, work flow, data storage equipment and other aspects of the body cameras. The department will review feedback from the deputies before moving forward with any implementation or funding plans.
No initial cost estimate was available. Gregory says outfitting the department could vary based on the camera model, data storage needs and maintenance fees.
The Spokane Police Department plans to roll out body cams on its officers by September. Police accountability advocates have strongly supported the use of body cameras to improve officer oversight, but many have also questioned whether policies can protect against misuse. (JACOB JONES)