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In Brief 

by Cara Gardner and Pia K. Hansen

Start Your Engines -- SPOKANE - We've seen the Segway and the Tango, both offering creative, environmentally sound alternatives to the gas-guzzlers most of us currently drive. Now there is another option: the Neighborhood Electric Vehicle (NEV). Designed for short commutes in and around urban areas, NEVs have a range of 40-75 miles and can be plugged into any standard 110-volt outlet.

"We don't need a 4,000-pound car to go to the grocery store," says Jim Armstrong, public information officer for Spokane County Conservation District. "For instance, why take vans to go downtown for a meeting? We could just as easily hop in a zero-emissions vehicle. The NEV eliminates high-polluting, low-mileage commutes."

Two NEVs will be on display today, Oct. 23, from 11 am-7 pm, on the main level of River Park Square as part of the Rideshare at River Park Square Clean Transportation Fair. Armstrong says one is a small pickup truck, while the other looks like a Volkswagen Bug.

"They are just like regular cars, only they are electric. They have the same safety standards, except for airbags," he explains.

Armstrong says the cars need virtually no maintenance; they cost about $12,000.

"They have uses as fleet cars for the cities," Armstrong explains, noting that the City of Spokane is buying a few. Though Parking Meter Authorities are currently training on Segways, Armstrong says NEVs are more practical. Licensing for NEVs was only recently made legal in Washington state, which is the 38th state to do so.

"They can only go on streets posted [with a speed limit] of 35 mph," Armstrong explains, noting that NEVs don't go over about 25 mph.

Time to Take Time -- SPOKANE - Feel swamped? You're not alone. Americans' standard 40-hour workweek, which most of us exceed, is longer than almost any other country's. In fact, Americans work more than medieval peasants. It's estimated that job stress costs our economy more than $2 billion a year.

"Over-work and over-scheduling threaten our families, health, communities and environment," says John De Graaf, the national coordinator of Take Back Your Time, an initiative aiming to get Americans focused on balancing their lives.

Friday, Oct. 24, is Take Back Your Time Day. The date signifies nine workweeks before the end of the year. According to the International Labor Organization, the average American works nine weeks (350 hours) longer than his or her European counterpart.

"Theoretically, Europeans would have the rest of the year off," he says.

The Seattle-based De Graaf says the Take Back Your Time movement is spreading and that people all over the country will take the day off, organize and dialogue about over-work in American society on Friday. He hopes people in Spokane will do the same.

The Take Back Your Time movement promotes a 30-hour work week and at least two weeks of paid vacation for every full-time worker. The U.S. Senate passed a 30-hour workweek in 1933, but the Roosevelt Administration abandoned the idea.

"In the state of Washington, we have a bill authored by State Sen. Karen Keiser and State Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson and that is a bill calling for two-week minimum paid vacation," says De Graaf. "Sen. Kaiser has found that about a third of workers in Washington State don't get paid vacation."

For more information about Take Back Your Time Day, visit

Eat To Feed -- SPOKANE -- This Sunday, the 18th annual Bishop's Poor Man's Meal will be held at the House of Charity. Proceeds from the lunch benefit the emergency winter sleeping program for homeless men, which provided a bed and shelter for 837 men during last year's winter.

The menu consists of German sausage and vegetable soup, rolls, fruit and dessert. Bishop William Skylstad is welcoming guests and blessing the food, followed by entertainment by accordion player Bill Exworthy.

Skylstad will also bless a memorial banner created by local artist Louise Kodis in memory of Matthew Lavan, who volunteered at the House of Charity in 1998-99 before passing away at his home in New York last year.

Aside from food and shelter, the House of Charity also offers a free medical clinic, case management, counseling services and a clothing bank for the homeless.

The meal costs $10. The House of Charity is located at 32 W. Pacific Ave. Call: 358-4253

Publication date: 10/23/03
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