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The Northwest's drought continues; plus, surprising support for Washington's charter schools

click to enlarge Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, a Democrat, has filed a challenge to the state Supreme Court's charter-school ruling.
  • Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, a Democrat, has filed a challenge to the state Supreme Court's charter-school ruling.

RUNNING DRY

Remember that HISTORIC DROUGHT you spent the summer hearing about? The one that ravaged fish populations, shriveled crops, exacerbated wildfires to seemingly insurmountable levels and caused levels in waterways to plummet? Yeah, that one.

Well, the beginning of autumn hasn't meant the end of the drought. Not even a little. The Washington State Department of Ecology has concluded that the state is carrying a significant water deficit into the fall and winter.

Idaho also remains in dire condition. Almost every North Idaho county is still experiencing "extreme drought," according to the most recent figures from the U.S. Drought Monitor, and more than three-quarters of the state is in severe or extreme drought.

To avoid a second year of drought, which could put the region on the path to experiencing the cripplingly dry years seen in California, there will need to be a normal snowpack this year. However, climatologists are predicting an El Niño weather pattern that could produce a warmer winter and another year of drought, which Ecology is already planning for. (JAKE THOMAS)

"THE WILL OF THE VOTERS"

The Washington Supreme Court's Sept. 4 decision ruling CHARTER SCHOOLS unconstitutional has drawn criticism from a wide variety of sources.

Even State Superintendent Randy Dorn, who has previously called the charter school bill "a clear violation of the constitution," has said he was "surprised and disappointed" by the timing of the court's ruling. Over 1,000 students had already been enrolled in charter schools, and many of them had already started class when the ruling came down.

Now add the current state attorney general, a Democrat, to the list of critics. AG Bob Ferguson officially filed a motion last Thursday to challenge the state Supreme Court's ruling.

"It is my duty to defend the will of the voters," Ferguson says in a press release. In 2012, charter schools were narrowly legalized by a voter initiative.

Ferguson's critique argues the ruling "goes beyond what is necessary to resolve this case, creates tension with other decisions of this court, and calls into question programs far beyond charter schools."

In particular, Ferguson echoed the concerns of several Republican lawmakers who have expressed concerns that the ruling's argument that the state can only fund "common schools," governed by elected board members, would also make programs like Running Start and tribal schools illegal.

"Regardless of one's feelings about charter schools, the Court's reasoning in striking them down raises serious concerns about other important educational programs," Ferguson says. (DANIEL WALTERS)

EVIL INTENT

Only one police officer in Washington state has faced criminal charges in state court for illegal use of DEADLY FORCE in the past three decades. He was eventually acquitted.

Washington state's law for holding police accountable for use of deadly force is one of the most restrictive in the country, according to a report released in June by Amnesty International, a human rights group. So this week, prosecuting attorneys from each of the state's 39 counties will meet to discuss the law passed in 1986.

In order to bring charges against police for illegal use of deadly force in Washington, prosecutors must prove that the officer acted with malice and without good faith, also known as the "evil intent" clause. In other words, even if prosecutors believe officers committed a wrongful killing, as long as they didn't act with evil intent, they cannot face charges.

"[The law] should be changed," says Rick Eichstaedt, executive director for the Center for Justice. "The statute makes it nearly impossible for any sort of prosecution."

After Franklin County Prosecutor Shawn Sant declined to file charges against the three officers who shot Antonio Zambrano-Montes earlier this year, the ACLU of Washington called for a change in the law.

"To bring greater accountability to police statewide, the most important action our legislature should take is to change to state law on use of force," ACLU Executive Director Kathleen Taylor says. (MITCH RYALS)

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