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News In Brief 

by Inlander Staff

Road Bond Hits a Pothole -- SPOKANE -- Looks like those rough roads won't be getting smoother any time soon. Preliminary results indicate that City of Spokane voters have rejected the $50 million road bond.

In initial results, elections officials Tuesday evening said that about 14,000 residents had voted on the issue, with 52 percent voting against it. Given that the law requires 60 percent approval for passage, the bond appears to have been handily defeated. Elections officials must still count most absentee ballots. They expect to tabulate final results by Friday.

The money would have paid for about a third of necessary city road repairs, according to City Hall officials.

The vote is a defeat for city officials who put the measure before voters. As a candidate for office, John Powers had said he wanted to wait longer to put such a proposal out, to give him time to rebuild the city's trust, but he finally got behind the City Council plan to move ahead.

"I'm disappointed for the citizens," Powers said on election night, "but I am not discouraged. Nearly 50 percent -- nearly a majority -- saw the benefits of the plan we proposed, and that's a step in the right direction."

Still, more citizens appear to prefer deteriorating roads to trusting the city with higher property taxes. Lingering questions hurt the effort, as in why the backlog of work was allowed to get so out of control in the first place.

And in the end, the entire election may have been for naught, since a turnout of 17,302 was required to validate the election. Unless absentees exceed 3,000, that threshold will not even be met.

Dodging a Bullet -- SPOKANE-- The County's assessor, Sadie Charlene Cooney, walked into trial last week with the possibility of $150,000 in fines hanging over her head -- yet she walked out owing just $3,000.

Given that the Attorney General's office was alleging that Cooney willfully violated campaign laws and asked for $20,100 in fines, Judge Richard Miller's ruling counts as a win for the defense, says Cooney attorney Thomas Luciani.

"The entire trial focused on whether the violations she'd committed were intentional violations," says Luciani. "We're pleased with the decision, to the extent that the judge found there was no intentional violation of the statute."

Cooney had all along disputed charges that she'd retaliated against employees who didn't help her campaign -- allegations the state later dropped -- and that she intentionally broke the law.

Had Miller ruled that Cooney acted with intent, he could have tripled her fine. Assistant Attorney General Robert Hargreaves prosecuted the case, and he argued for the triple penalties.

"We had a different view of the facts and we argued it, but the court found different," says Hargreaves. Still, "It was a fair decision."

What's Your Status? -- SPOKANE -- The Spokane Regional Health District has launched a new program aimed at testing more people for HIV -- the virus that causes AIDS. The initiative, called "Know Your Status," is modeled after a similar project in Los Angeles, and after its launch in Spokane County, it will be expanded to the rest of Eastern Washington later this spring.

The goal is to get people who are at high risk for attracting the HIV virus to come in for testing. How? By paying them.

"Once people know they are infected with HIV, they change their behaviors to avoid affecting others," says Dr. Kim Marie Thorburn, health officer for the Spokane Regional Health District.

The Know Your Status project targets individuals who are at the highest risk of attracting HIV, says Health District Spokeswoman Melanie Rose.

"It's all voluntary," says Rose, "it's not like we are asking people to hand over these long lists with their friends' names on them." Potential clients are reached through various community organizations, which already do outreach work among high-risk people.

"Those who are referring others get $15 for each referral," says Rose. "When people come in for the test, they get $10, and when they come back for the results, they get another $20."

The project is funded by a $100,000 grant from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention.

In Spokane, a total of 405 AIDS cases have been reported since 1984, but as many as 1,500 are living with HIV or AIDS.

"We are very concerned about the population that is testing positive for HIV," says Thorburn. "Over half are quite young -- in their twenties -- and likely became infected while in their teens. We are optimistic that Know Your Status will help slow this alarming trend in our community."

For information about the program, call: 324-1542.
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