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Oil and Cop-Watching 

Idahoans don't seem too enamored of oil gear mucking up their highways, and the Spokane City Council actually voted on stuff.

click to enlarge Spokane Police Ombudsman Tim Burns got increased power this week - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Spokane Police Ombudsman Tim Burns got increased power this week

The combination of BP’s Gulf of Mexico disaster and mounting concerns of residents in rural north-central Idaho is making things sticky for Exxon/Mobil’s plans to transport 204 shipments of enormous mining gear up the Lochsa Canyon, a federally designated wild and scenic roadway.

Exxon’s Canadian holding, Imperial Oil, and the Idaho Department of Transportation held open houses Monday in Moscow and Lewiston to explain the project of moving oversized gear, which weighs up to 586,000 pounds, from Lewiston, up Highway 12 to Lolo Pass and then north through Montana to the Kearl Oil Sands in Alberta. Imperial Oil is using the gear to extract bitumen from tar sands.

Nobody in the standing-room-only crowd at Moscow spoke in favor of the project, the Lewiston Tribune reports.

The open houses were originally scheduled for late fall but, “In the last six weeks there’s been a groundswell of, to be quite frank, protest,” Idaho state Rep. Tom Trail, R-Moscow, tells The Inlander. (KEVIN TAYLOR)

A WATCHDOG'S DAY

The Office of Police Ombudsman, Spokane’s first civilian watchdog over police conduct, finally has more than bark.

On Monday night, the City Council voted unanimously to allow Ombudsman Tim Burns independent authority to investigate complaints against police. Previously, Burns’ office could only forward complaints it received over to police and monitor Internal Affairs investigations.

“The last week or 10 days on this have been amazing,” says Tim Connor of the Center for Justice, one of 12 social justice advocacy groups that have badgered the council and administration for a tougher ombudsman ordinance. “Now we have the means to hold the ombudsman accountable to do a real job.”

The ombudsman still has no role in officer discipline. But now, as soon as a complaint reaches the office, Burns can begin interviewing the complainant and witnesses to conduct his own investigation. (He cannot interview police officers outside of Internal Affairs sessions.) Burns must also summarize the outcome of each complaint and publish it online at spokaneombudsman.org.

Council members say they expect a lawsuit from the Police Guild, which sees more independence in the ombudsman’s office as a change in working conditions. Such changes must be made through labor bargaining. (KEVIN TAYLOR)

FROM SUGGESTION TO GUIDANCE

Until last Monday, the City of Spokane’s “Sustainability Action Plan” didn’t mean much. The City Council hadn’t even really adopted it — they’d recognized the documented existed and they read it, but they made it clear they didn’t endorse it.

Until now. Despite the chorus of Tea Party conservatives claiming the plan was a Trojan horse for more governmental control, the council voted 5-2 to officially adopt the plan.

Now, Councilman Jon Snyder says, the plan becomes a sort of guiding philosophy for Spokane, similar to its Comprehensive Plan. He says it officially gives Spokane another advantage in gunning for grants.

Snyder writes that opposition came from council members Nancy McLaughlin (expressing skepticism over global warming research) and Bob Apple (worrying the plan would ultimately cost the city more money.)

But Snyder argues it’s still not a mandate. It’s not a law. Even now, the city could still choose to ignore it. (DANIEL WALTERS)

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