Guns 'n' Safety -- OLYMPIA -- The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has joined a nationwide, $50 million firearms-safety initiative called Project Childsafe, spearheaded by the U.S. Department of Justice, making it possible for WDFW to hand out free gunlocks.
"We focus on safety for hunting, so we [figured], why not focus on additional safety at home?" says Mik Mikitik, hunter education administrator with the WDFW.
The gunlocks can be used on handguns, revolvers and on many rifles.
"The objective is to minimize the number of firearm-related incidents," says Mikitik. "If you look at incidents with regard to hunting weapons, virtually every one of them could have been prevented with proper care. Sixty percent of firearm incidents occur in and around the home." Because of safety education programs like Project Childsafe, incidents with hunting firearms have declined dramatically in the past few years, Mikitik says.
Where the WDFW focuses on gun safety, another program is aiming at gun related violence. Project SAFE Neighborhoods, which kicked off last May, joins federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in the investigation, arrest and prosecution of criminals on gun charges.
Nearly $1.5 million has been invested in Eastern Washington's Project Safe Neighborhoods program, including funding for community education, research, public service announcements and two new federal prosecutors.
Between January 2000 and January 2003, police confiscated more than 2,000 guns in Spokane County. More than two-thirds of them were linked to criminal activity. Firearms were the murder weapons in half the homicides in Spokane County in 2002.
"The message is simple," said Spokane County Sheriff Mark Sterk, in a statement. "If you commit a gun crime, we will catch you and put you in prison for a long time."
The WDFW is sending gunlocks to anyone who sends two dollars in stamps to: Free Gunlock, WDFW Enforcement Program, Hunter Education Division, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA 98501-1091
COEUR D'ALENE -- The Lake City may be naturally graced with beautiful landscapes and Northwest kitsch, but it also works hard to be aesthetically pleasing. Coeur d'Alene has recently enlisted eight local artists to beautify public spaces throughout the city, beyond the downtown core. The artists, working in six teams, will build 10 city benches out of discarded pieces of granite. Each bench will be artistically formed out of about 2,000 pounds of illegally dumped granite that the city has saved for just such an opportunity.
"The great thing is we had suitable material for free and had money in the public art fund for the call to artists," says Fred O'Gram, chairman of public art for the Coeur d'Alene Arts Commission. "We had several [artists] come together with different conceptual ideas. It went through public comment, and we got positive responses from the community."
The artists' renderings were displayed at last summer's Art on the Green and during Art Walk in October. The panel chose multiple artists rather than just one so that, as O'Gram says, "we'd have an expression of art from a lot of different points of view."
O'Gram says the cost of each of the 10 benches is about $6,000. Most will not be installed until the weather is better, but O'Gram says that artist Keith Powell's bench should be on display in front of City Hall within the next month.
-- Cara Gardner
Davenport De-listed -- SPOKANE -- If you've spent any time at the newly restored Davenport Hotel, chances are you weren't aware that the ground below the hotel was listed as a hazardous site by the Washington State Department of Ecology.
The good news is that Spokane's grand ol' dame has been cleaned up -- literally -- from top to bottom, and Ecology is now ready to de-list the hotel. A public review period of the cleanup and related documents runs until Feb. 5, after which the hotel is expected to be off the list for good.
"We're always pleased when we can take a site off the list," says Flora Goldstein, manager of Ecology's cleanup program in Eastern Washington.
The contamination stemmed from six small fuel storage tanks, which had leaked into the soil and groundwater below the hotel. The cleanup was completed back in 2000, but it took another three years of monitoring for Ecology to be certain that the groundwater is no longer contaminated.