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More parking meters coming to Spokane; plus, new data on Obamacare

Pay Up

Parking is increasingly coming with a price tag in the city of Spokane. City crews are now in the process of installing 225 PARKING METERS in currently unmetered areas of the city.

The new installations will begin near Lewis and Clark High School, as well as on the southern edge of downtown near Browne Street and Second and Third Avenues. In the next phase, another 185 will be installed on the lower South Hill on McClellan and Bernard Streets near Fifth and Sixth Avenues. The city already has added new meters near Sacred Heart — sparking some complaints from residents who say they weren't warned of the plans — and offered parking passes to residents in the area for free for the next year. Residents in the newly metered areas will be offered the same free passes for one year.

"We want to soften the blow," says Julie Happy, a spokeswoman for the city's Business and Developer Services Division.

The meters are the coin-operated ones the city removed to install its credit-card-friendly meters in the downtown core, and they've been out of use since. Happy says the 225 meters are expected to yield between $30,000 and $50,000 a year. (HEIDI GROOVER)

Young and Solitary

Eldon Samuel III turned 15 years old only recently, but he's already been held in SOLITARY CONFINEMENT in Kootenai County Jail for 70 days. And he hasn't even had a trial or been convicted yet.

On Friday, the ACLU of Idaho filed documents supporting the attempt of the Kootenai County Public Defender to end Samuel's solitary confinement.

"Solitary confinement is well known to cause grave psychological harm to adults, and youth are even more vulnerable to prolonged isolation," says Leo Morales, interim executive director of the ACLU of Idaho, in a statement.

According to the ACLU's brief, Samuel's guardian called the cell "worse than the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. He only has a steel bed and steel toilet-sink as amenities. Meals are slid in through a slot in the door. He is let out of his cell only for legal or religious visits, or to exercise on a bare cement slab."

The ACLU argues that, since he hasn't been convicted, the confinement works as "undeserved punishment before trial, resulting in violation of his constitutional rights to due process."

Samuel is accused of gunning down his father and killing his mentally disabled younger brother with a machete. For a time, he was placed in the Juvenile Detention Center, until District Judge Benjamin Simpson, citing a "small risk but a very grave danger" of keeping Samuel with other adolescents, ordered him to be moved to the adult Kootenai County Jail. Because he is the only child in the jail, letting him out of isolation requires a full lockdown of the facility.

The Kootenai County Sheriff's and prosecutor's offices could not be reached for comment. (DANIEL WALTERS)

More Insured and More Headaches

The ranks of the UNINSURED in Washington state have decreased by nearly 40 percent, thanks largely to the Affordable Care Act, according to new data from the state Office of the Insurance Commissioner.

The OIC estimates that roughly 600,000 people are uninsured — down from 970,000 last year — dropping the uninsured rate in Washington from 14 percent to 8.65 percent of the population. Officials credit sign-ups for Medicaid and private insurance plans during the health care law's open enrollment period.

The individual health insurance market also grew 30 percent, the OIC reports, to more than 327,000 in Washington. That number includes approximately 156,000 people who bought private plans inside the health insurance exchange and 171,000 who enrolled outside of the exchange.

Meanwhile, software glitches on the state's insurance exchange website, Washington Healthplanfinder, have prevented up to 6,000 customers from making their payments. Exchange officials say they're working closely with Deloitte, the contractor primarily responsible for building the site, to resolve the problems. (DEANNA PAN)

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