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Law enforcement to vigilantes: “Chill out.” Plus, the State of the City, Part II

click to enlarge Mayor David Condon
  • Mayor David Condon

Uninvited Vigilantes

While authorities might admire the enthusiasm, the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office wants to remind people that catching a shoplifter is probably not worth risking serious injury or death.

Deputy Craig Chamberlin says authorities have seen several recent shoplifting incidents in which store employees confronted a theft suspect and the suspect brandished a weapon, usually a knife.

“We do not want anyone putting themselves at risk,” he says.

Chamberlin says law enforcement agencies occasionally have to discourage vigilantism and the recent uptick in confrontations justified a reminder. He asks citizens to stick to serving as informative witnesses.

“Absolutely you have the right to defend yourself,” he says. “[But] property can be replaced, lives cannot.”

Chamberlin acknowledges some increased public apprehension over crime rates, but overall he argues Spokane County remains quite safe.

— JACOB JONES

COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE

Among the dozens of unknowns that come along with being one of the first states to legalize pot is one big one: How can the state be sure its prices are competitive enough to compete with not only the black market but also the untaxed medical one?

While it didn’t touch current medical marijuana law, Initiative 502 mandated a 25 percent tax on the sale of recreational marijuana, which it legalized. But medical marijuana remains untaxed and largely “unregulated,” according to Chris Marr, a former state senator who now sits on the Washington State Liquor Control Board. While dispensaries on this side of the state have struggled to survive federal raids, the market in the Seattle area is booming. Marr says customers who may be buying medical pot for non-medical use would have no motivation to buy the state’s more expensive recreational herb.

House Bill 1789 would add a 25 percent tax on medical dispensaries’ sales in an effort to standardize both markets.

“We’re very concerned that having two systems, one almost completely without oversight, would make it difficult to win federal approval for overall marijuana legalization,” says Rep. Reuven Carlyle, a Seattle Democrat who co-sponsored the bill, in a statement. “It will distort the market and drive non-medical use inappropriately into the medical channel.”

Sponsors expect the House Government Accountability and Oversight Committee to hear the bill Friday.

— HEIDI GROOVER

DO IT TWICE

Standing in front of a sea of business people, Spokane Mayor David Condon gave the first of his two State of the City speeches. The public is welcome to attend the second such speech at noon on Friday, Feb. 22, inside City Council Chambers.

In his first speech, Condon spent little time talking about the changes he made this year — consolidating city services, laying off staff, reducing water rates. Nor did he mention many specifics of what he wants to do this upcoming year, other than keeping utility rate increases below inflation.

Condon also didn’t spend much time talking about public safety and the city’s troubling crime rate. After a quick mention of hiring Police Chief Frank Straub and a resolution to the death of Otto Zehm in 2006 at the hands of police, the mayor breezed right along.

Instead, he solicited the crowd to text him suggestions — which appeared on a giant screen in real-time — to make the city a dynamic place that will attract people. One of the biggest audience reactions was the mass giggling when someone suggested “less snow.”

— JOE O’SULLIVAN

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