AND A CARTRIDGE IN A PEAR TREE
Let’s follow Spokane police through a crazy overnight shift (from last Friday night and on into Saturday morning) as they raced around the city chasing 175 calls:
There were “Eight 'saults assaulting, seven drunks a-driving, six brawlers brawling. Five. Car. Crashes! Three armed robb’ries, two gunshots, one gunshot more… And some suspects in custody!” Spokane Police spokeswoman Ofc. Jenn DeRuwe says the department has no statistics to compare this crazy shift to others, “except for the guys saying, ‘Oh my gosh, we were totally slammed.’ And there was no event that triggered it: It wasn’t a paycheck night, it wasn’t a full moon.”
One difference, DeRuwe noted, was “a higher volume of high-priority calls,” such as calls with violence or weapons.
At least anecdotally, she says, patrol officers are seeing more violent crimes in the city. So, bad guys: Where’s the Christmas spirit? (KEVIN TAYLOR)
A MINE RUNS THROUGH IT
A recent very cold and dark night found the Spokane County Commissioners’ hearing room packed with all kinds of people, and everyone had something to say.
They were there to discuss this year’s proposed amendments to the county’s Comprehensive Plan — specifically, they were there to voice their opinions on five planned developments that go against county rules, but could move ahead anyway with the blessing of the commissioners.
And that’s who listened to these gathered people, the county commissioners. As its chairman, Commissioner Todd Mielke began the meeting with a response to a recent Inlander article.
“I have never solicited or received a contribution from Mr. Gillingham,” Mielke said, referring to Randall Gillingham, whose gravel mine was one of the developments on the agenda. The article in question brought up a potential quandary for Mielke, who was facing a decision regarding the mine’s fate, but had received campaign contributions from Gillingham Sand and Gravel, which Gillingham claimed to have owned. Mielke also received substantial contributions from Gillingham’s father, Jack, an old acquaintance of Mielke’s who is involved with the mine, according to documents from the state Department of Natural Resources.
With a rapt audience, Mielke then asked a county attorney, David Hubert, if there was any conflict of interest, or if any ethics laws had been violated.
“It really doesn’t come up at all,” Hubert replied.
The appearance-of-fairness doctrine “does not apply to land-use decisions [and] would not prohibit you participating in the decision-making process.”
Commissioner Mark Richard said the commissioners “are not for sale,” and that limits on campaign contributions make the suggestion of buying a commissioner’s vote ridiculous.
With that, the hearing started. Bev Keating, representing the Marshall Community Coalition, said the five acres on the north end of Gillingham’s 45-acre mine should not be mined any further because they abut the old Marshall Landfill, which is on the state’s Hazardous Sites List.
According to Mike Hibbler, who manages the Department of Ecology’s Toxic Cleanup Program in Eastern Washington, the site was listed a couple of decades ago for releases of trichloroethylene, also known as TCE, perchloroethane or some other common landfill contaminant. The property’s ranked as a 4 on the list, with 5 being the lowest ranking possible. In addition, Hibbler says no setbacks are needed in adjoining properties because a 100-foot buffer is on the landfill property itself.
Jerry Miller asked the commissioners to “mine into the facts as diligently as Mr. Gillingham hopes to mine that property there.” Miller said Gillingham had flouted laws too many times — more to the point, Gillingham has mined 26 acres without permission over the years. “I’m not a NIMBY guy here,” Miller said, adding that there were enough gravel mines in the Cheney area.
Next up was a parade of men who earn their livelihood at the mine, including a guy named Terry who had worked at the landfill and mine before the dump was closed in 1990. His son, Jason, currently works for Gillingham.
Todd Deweese, who works for the company that does the mining, asked the board to approve Gillingham’s request. “I love my job. I need my job. And being able to sell sand and gravel, that is my job,” he said. “I may lose my job.”
Finally, Gillingham stood up to speak. “First of all, I did not make any donations to any campaign,” he said. The mine was beyond its legal borders when he bought it, he said, and he’s been trying to clean it up since.
“It’s a lot better than it was then,” he said. The hearing had gone on for three hours, and almost three more were to come. (NICHOLAS DESHAIS)