Dean's List Grows -- SPOKANE -- Monday morning at 9 am, approximately 1,000 Spokane residents squeezed into the West Central Community Center to sit in on a town meeting conducted by Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean. The former Vermont governor is traversing the country -- they call it the "Sleepless Summer Tour" -- in a grassroots effort to build support for his bid to become the Democratic Party's 2004 nominee for president.
Dean was introduced by Spokane Democratic Party Chair Tom Keefe. In his opening statements, Dean criticized the Bush administration for the handling of the war in Iraq, for the loss of 3 million American jobs, for the record size of the federal deficit and for neglecting average Americans. He also accused President Bush of turning his back on minority groups and veterans and expressed his desire to appoint judges to the Supreme Court who are fair, balanced, hard-working and respectful of the Constitution.
Dean was particularly critical of the President's justifications for the war in Iraq. He told the crowd that while he opposed U.S. military action in Iraq, he supported the first Gulf War and the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan because "they had just killed 3,000 of our people." He further stressed that, as president, he would "never hesitate" to send troops anywhere to defend the United States.
"But I will never send our sons and our daughters and our children to die in a foreign country without telling the truth to the American people about why they're there," he added.
Dean's team and local Democrats were surprised by the size of the turnout, which quickly filled the West Central Community Center to capacity.
"We were expecting around 200," said one campaign worker. "This is amazing."
Among the members of the national press corps on hand to cover the event was Newsweek contributing editor and McLaughlin Group regular Eleanor Clift.
Desire Named Streetcar? -- SPOKANE -- The Downtown Spokane Partnership (DSP), Spokane Regional Transportation Council (SRTC) and Spokane Transit Authority (STA) are teaming up to complete another transportation study for Spokane. No, it's not light rail and it's not about the use of buses. Together, the three organizations have contributed about $150,000 to investigate the concept of a fixed-rail streetcar system for downtown Spokane.
"In Sacramento and in Portland [fixed-rail streetcars] are well used," says Mary Ann Ulik, parking and operations director for the DSP. "You can carry more people than on buses because they're larger. They're viewed as making for a friendlier downtown."
Ulik says streetcars serve a different purpose than city buses or a light rail. "They are different types of systems entirely. [Light rail] alleviates traffic along the interstate and [fixed-rail streetcars] connect areas with high concentrations, like downtown with Browne's Addition, the University District and the Hospital District."
WorkFirst Working -- SPOKANE -- Washington State's WorkFirst program, which helps struggling parents get off welfare, will be expanded to include a new service called the Targeted Wage Initiative, (TWI). The TWI helps steer WorkFirst customers into higher-paying jobs.
"The Targeted Wage Initiative is meant to be a bigger first step, a quicker journey to financial freedom," said Gov. Gary Locke in a press release announcing the TWI service.
Spokane served as a test pilot for the TWI. Albert Garza, the WorkFirst program manager for Spokane County, says the pilot program was a success.
"It's been a breath of fresh air how the program has changed direction," says Garza. "It gets people training and ready for the jobs. Here we give them time to get stuff in order, like childcare and transportation arrangements."
The TWI service assesses a variety of the customers' skills and job readiness. "It's a great tool to help the individual find a direction that he/she is suited for," says Garza. "We tell the customer, 'Here is where you scored, these are your skills, and this is where you want to go. We'll try to find you the highest paid job possible.' "
Since WorkFirst began in 1997, the number of families on welfare in Washington state has dropped by 43 percent; more than 132,000 parents have left welfare and stayed off. The proportion of people on welfare in Washington state is at its lowest point in more than 30 years; slightly more than 2 percent of families receive assistance.