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News In Brief 

by Inlander Staff

Belt-Tightening--SPOKANE -- The budgetary storm clouds have been gathering for some time, and they will soon burst: Spokane city administrators have asked all departments to prepare suggestions for trimming their spending by next week.

Due to falling sales tax income, the City of Spokane will probably have to cut $6.5 million or more to balance revenues and expenses, say officials.

"All departments are looking at how best to make recommendations," says Greg Sweeney, a spokesman for the mayor's office. "We're moving aggressively to try to get ahead of this budget situation."

Officials say they aren't exempting any departments from potential cuts, and that some services may get scaled back.

There are, says Sweeney, no sacred cows. What forms the cuts will take, though, won't materialize until at least next week, he says.

Retail sales taxes provide a fifth of the city's general fund income, according to city figures. The problem is that local sales taxes this year haven't kept up with expectations, falling about 3.5 percent in the first quarter of 2002, as compared to the same time in 2001.

Falling sales taxes are plaguing local governments around Washington, reports the state's Department of Revenue. During the crucial holiday shopping period several months ago, shoppers spent $200 million less (about 1 percent) in taxable sales than the same period in 2000, says the DOR's Mike Gowrylow.

-- Dan Richardson

GMA Critique--SPOKANE -- The debate over the Washington Growth Management Act (GMA) is not over. On Thursday, the Evergreen Freedom Foundation (EFF) of Olympia -- which works to advance individual liberty, free enterprise and responsible government -- is hosting a GMA forum at the Shilo Inn.

EFF released a study of the GMA earlier this year, concluding that the act has failed. Ten years after the GMA became law, the EFF report says that traffic still hasn't become more efficient, businesses are suffering and citizen involvement in land-use planning has not been increased.

"The GMA has done more harm than it has helped," says Marsha Richards, communications director for EFF. "Especially the hearings boards. They are not elected, and they are not close to the needs of the citizens."

The city and the county planning departments have not been invited to participate in the panel discussion at the forum. Richards says she's not sure why that's the case.

But managed growth proponents from the organization 1,000 Friends of Washington are going to be represented on the panel.

"We think [the EFF] report is misleading and inaccurate; it's an extremist diatribe," says Aaron Ostrom, executive director of 1,000 Friends. "That report completely ignores the damage done by unmanaged growth."

The American Planning Association recently evaluated Washington's GMA and found it to be "one of the most comprehensive and modern planning statutes in the country," mainly because it directs growth toward urban growth areas and cuts down on sprawl.

Bonnie Mager from the Neighborhood Alliance of Spokane County is going to be on the panel, too, as well as local attorney Cary Driskell.

-- Pia K. Hansen

The Evergreen Freedom Foundation's GMA Forum is Thursday, April 25,

at 5:30 pm at the Shilo Inn, 923 E. Third Avenue. Call: (360) 956-3482.

Poverty and Prejudice--SPOKANE -- Poverty is the buzzword this spring, it seems. It began last year when the Spokane Regional Health District announced that it was going to assess poverty in the community.

In a recent report, the Health District established that Spokane's poverty rate is 13.7 percent -- higher than the rest of the state and the rest of the country.

Mayor John Powers is going to hold a Summit on Poverty on May 28, though the name has been changed to One Spokane Summit.

But already this week, St. Mark's Lutheran Church is hosting a community conference on poverty and prejudice, to get the discussion going. On Friday evening, Rev. Paul Benz, who is director of Lutheran Public Policy, will be speaking on the theological and social aspects of poverty and prejudice, together with former city council member Dean Lynch.

Then, on Saturday, workshops and lectures on community work with low-income families, community outreach and civic involvement will be held all morning.

-- Pia K. Hansen

A community conference on poverty and prejudice runs Friday, April 19, from 7-9 pm and Saturday, April 20, from 8:30 am to noon, at St. Mark's Lutheran Church on Grand Blvd. and 24th Ave. Call: 747-6677.
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