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Spokane City Council’s war on the poor; plus, more Matt Shea drama

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Council Compromise

Despite almost every member expressing doubts about it, Spokane City Council voted 6-1 Monday to restrict panhandling in downtown. The ordinance outlaws stepping into major streets to get handouts from passing cars within a square of downtown, with Boone and Seventh on the north and south, and Hamilton and Maple/Ash on the east and west.

Councilman Mike Allen, who originally introduced a citywide ban, struck the compromise after facing criticism from groups like the Spokane Guild School, which raises money each year through a penny drive where volunteers stand in the street to gather donations.

Councilman Steve Salvatori argued a full ban was necessary for safety and gave a lengthy, teary-eyed testimony about seeing a teenager killed during a bike ride along the road. He said the council would be “pants-on-the-head crazy” to allow stepping into busy streets in one part of town but not in another. During two and a half hours of public comment, others argued the new law unfairly targets poor people, calling it “class warfare.”

Still, the council fell in line. Councilman Mike Fagan, who was mostly quiet, was the lone no vote.

— Heidi Groover

Full Board

The Board of Trustees for the Coeur d’Alene school district appointed Domino’s pizza franchise owner Jim Hightower to fill the fifth and final slot on the board. He’s the second trustee on the board to have extensive experience in the fast-food industry.

Jim Hightower — a very different person from the populist commentator with the same name syndicated in The Inlander — says he hopes to be a voice of “safety and security” for the school district.

“I would really like to try to focus on helping move the curriculum toward real-world education,” Hightower says. “They don’t do a lot of preparation in the schools to give the kids practical education — in how to interview for a job, open a savings account, how credit’s really important.”

The pick will do little to ease concerns from some parents that the board has shifted rightward. Hightower’s on the board of the Kootenai County Reagan Republicans, a group that campaigned for the only two elected members currently on the board.

— Daniel Walters

Talk to the Hand

State Rep. Matt Shea is paying no mind his opponent, the media or even his own local Republican Party leader.

It’s been three weeks since Shea’s Democratic challenger, Amy Biviano, called on Shea to remove a photo he’d taken on her driveway while doorbelling. As of Tuesday afternoon, the photo remained on Shea’s Facebook site.

Spokane County GOP Chair Matthew Pederson says he has called for Shea to remove the photo. Pederson, who also says he tried to call Biviano, says the whole kerfluffle is a distraction from the race and the candidates’ ideas to tackle state issues.

Biviano says she’s heard nothing from either Shea or Pederson.

“Matthew and I have spoken previously, and I’m quite sure he knows how to contact me,” she says.

In other Shea news, the state legislator has begun blocking journalists who follow his Twitter page. Several Inlander reporters and Spokesman columnist Shawn Vestal all say they’ve been blocked from Shea’s account.

Calls to Shea’s district office and emails to his campaign weren’t returned by press time. Pederson did not return a call Tuesday afternoon.

Biviano, who lost to Shea by about 20 points in the August primaries, says she thinks she can make up that margin in November.

— Joe O’Sullivan

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