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News In Brief 

by Inlander Staff

The Gloves Are Off - SPOKANE -- In uncharacteristically hard-nosed statements at a City Hall press conference Tuesday, Spokane Mayor John Powers challenged the developer of River Park Square to drop what he calls an "attack campaign" against the city and settle the controversy.

The developer, headed by Betsy Cowles, whose family also owns The Spokesman-Review, is spending about $25,000 a month on PR, mass mailings and advertisements, Powers says.

Powers spoke at a special press conference in City Hall -- a counter-PR campaign effort -- "to express my strong disapproval for the cynical PR attack campaign that the developer of River Park Square is waging against Spokane."

Noting that the campaign is run by national public relations firm Hill & amp; Knowlton -- which has also tried to shine the reputations of tobacco companies and Enron executives -- Powers said Cowles and company have tried to run down the city's reputation and lower its bond ratings to leverage a legal leg up.

For instance, he says, the ads (which have appeared in the S-R and The Inlander) gloss over the fact that the parking garage is falling farther behind on its projections than ever. The garage lost about $98,000 in the first quarter of this year, as opposed to approximately $70,000 in the first quarter of 2001.

"The situation is getting worse, not better. The developer knows this. The numbers don't lie." It's time, Powers said, to "come to the table."

The attorney for River Park Square, Les Weatherhead, says the developer has no intentions of calling off the campaign. "There is no attack campaign," he says. "There is a very public dimension to this controversy, and it's important to my client that the public understands the facts as we see them. The ads aim to educate the public."

A frustrated Powers said that he has tried twice in the last two weeks to approach Cowles with offers to discuss RPS resolution - both times to no effect. Weatherhead says he hasn't seen any written settlement proposals from the mayor's office.

Peace of Mind - SPOKANE -- It was a nice change of pace: Local activists got to meet their congressman without getting arrested.

Earlier this week, Rep. George Nethercutt -- who called the meeting -- sat down with four members of the Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane (PJALS) for about 35 minutes. This was a month after federal police arrested and cited eight PJALS activists for a sit-in in Nethercutt's downtown Spokane office, when he declined to speak with them.

The federal charges are scheduled to be heard on May 16.

This time, activists praised Nethercutt's polite hearing of their views, which spanned from the case for a non-military response in Afghanistan to cautions against military tribunals as unconstitutional and oppressive.

"I thought the meeting went very well. However, I didn't really see any indication that we changed his mind on anything," says activist and U.S. Air Force veteran Richard Harger.

Nethercutt, too, characterized the meeting as productive. There were even some areas of agreement, as in the lifting of an agricultural embargo against Cuba.

"I listened to their concerns, I asked questions... I hope we can meet again from time to time," says Nethercutt. As for forcing arrests to get attention and a meeting -- that, says the congressman, "is unnecessary with me."

Techno Lift-Off - COEUR D'ALENE -- Launch Pad Productions is hosting the third in a series of tech fairs -- Launch Pad 3.0 -- a popular mix of high-tech demonstrations, cutting-edge technology, information booths, networking, microbrews and great food. And for the first time, the event will be in Idaho.

"North Idaho's technology economy is growing rapidly," says Bob Potter of JobsPlus, North Idaho's economic development organization. "This will be a great opportunity for the region to see what we have to offer, and for us to create ties between Idaho and Spokane."

Among the exhibitors will be Riverstone Development and the University of Idaho Research Park, plus regional high-tech businesses. More than 1,000 people are expected to attend, and the 2001 Launch Pad Entrepreneur of the Year will be announced as well.

"There are so many companies with tremendous potential in North Idaho," says Bill Kalivas, one of the founders of Launch Pad Productions. "This is a chance to shine the spotlight on them."

Launch Pad Version 3.0 is Wednesday, May 15, at 6 pm at the Coeur d'Alene Resort, 511 S. Second St., Coeur d'Alene. Free and open to the public. Call: (509) 953-3305.
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