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Parking Lots and Pot 

People are trying to legalize dope; plus, we don’t need more parking lots, and soldiers are people too

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SAVING THE SEVEN

From building to parking lot to building again, a structure raised during the First World War was preserved last week.

John Waite, owner of the downtown gaming shop Merlyn’s Science Fiction-Fantasy Store, bought the neighboring 7 W. Main, preventing the building from becoming yet another Diamond parking lot.

“A bunch of us got together because we noticed Deb put in a demolition permit,” Waite says. “Diamond wanted to buy her building and tear it down.”

Debbie Roffler, who runs Main Street Antiques in the building, says her only motivation was getting back on her feet. “At this point, business was bad and I needed to sell the building,” she says. “I had it listed and then, evidently, Joe Diamond was interested in it. I didn’t really know what I was doing with that whole demolition thing.” A campaign to prevent the building’s razing was launched, spurred on by the Spokane Preservation Advocates’ Matt Cohen. Facebook alerts went out and the Spovangelist blogger wrote an impassioned plea to “Save the Seven.”

Waite says Mayor Mary Verner and council members Richard Rush and Jon Snyder showed interest in saving the building.

But when it came down to it, Waite bought it — and he’ll renovate the rest of the building while allowing Roffler to keep on selling her antiques.

“I’ve been down here for 13 years, when people were afraid to get out of their cars,” she says. “I’ll be here until I decide to retire. Could be five years, 10 years. I don’t know.” (NICHOLAS DESHAIS)

AN ARMY OF SOMEONE

When former Spokesman- Review photographer Jed Conklin went to Iraq as a freelancer late in 2008, he had a list of projects to work on, but one more hit him when he arrived.

“It was interesting to me, if you look at a group of soldiers from afar, they all look the same,” Conklin says. Indeed, he’s right. Soldiers in their gear tend to blend and become, well, uniform. Perhaps this is what it means to be, as the commercials say, an Army of One.

Conklin riffed off his observation and set out to portray an Army of this one and that one — an Army of discrete someones. In his short time in Iraq, he tracked down 25 soldiers from Spokane, serving with the 1-161 infantry in the Washington National Guard.

“I wanted to zero in on their faces to show they were individual soldiers, but I also wanted them to look the same because they are all part of a unit,” Conklin says. What emerged, after sometimes getting only two minutes with a subject, were 25 photos with the same framing and same background but dominated by specifi c faces — faces that eerily bear nearly the same intent expression.

When the portrait series was unveiled at River Park Square last year, Jamie Sijohn of the Spokane tribe was struck by one of the faces – that of tribal member Tony Wynne.

Here were 25 everyday people from Spokane, she thought, captured in a moment when they were at war on the far side of the globe. She made a pitch for a gesture that’s small but touching. The tribal council has donated framed copies of the portraits, and on Monday, Feb. 1, at 6 pm, will host a ceremony at the Saranac Building, 25 W. Main Ave., to honor the citizen soldiers.

Recognition. For this one. And for that one. (KEVIN TAYLOR)

UP IN SMOKE

Just as quickly as they received a hearing, the two bills that would have de-regulated marijuana died in committee last week.

Last week, Rep. Timm Ormsby, a Spokane Democrat, voiced optimism:

“This bill has a much better chance [this year],” he said about one of the bills that would have significantly lessened the penalty for pot possession. The other bill would have legalized pot altogether.

Before the vote, Rep. Sherry Appleton, D-Poulsbo, said she fully supported the bills. “This is a time to challenge the federal government,” she said, according to the Seattle Times. “The only way we are going to do it is to legalize it and see where it goes.”

But Steve Kirby, D-Tacoma, who voted against the bills, said he wanted voters to have a fi rst crack at legalizing.

Which is where it’s headed, thanks to Sensible Washington. The activist group is gearing up to collect the 241,000 signatures needed to get full legalization — its possession, purchase and manufacture — on November’s ballot. (NICHOLAS DESHAIS)

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