Return of the Ports
Back in 1982, Spokane voters were asked to consider creating a port district. The measure was rejected four to one. Now, Spokane leaders are making a new push for the idea. State Sen. Andy Billig and Representatives Timm Ormsby, Marcus Riccelli and Kevin Parker (all from Spokane) are sponsoring companion House and Senate bills that would allow the creation of "less than countywide" port districts, which are publicly elected economic development groups that can collect taxes. The Spokane City Council is scheduled to vote Monday on a resolution supporting the bills, and the idea has broad council support.
Councilmen Steve Salvatori and Mike Allen, who introduced the resolution, say creating a port district that would focus effort and tax dollars on a specific part of Spokane County, rather than countywide, could build infrastructure that would make the region more attractive to industries like aerospace. Plus, targeting the tax to a certain area could make voters still recovering from the recession more open to the idea of a new tax. "Considering there [are] less and less federal dollars to help support infrastructure, this is an important conversation we need to have," Allen says. — HEIDI GROOVER
Deputies Named in Shooting
A week after a fatal officer-involved shooting near the Spokane Valley Mall, the Spokane County Sheriff's Office on Tuesday released the names of six deputies who reportedly fired on Jedadiah Zillmer, killing the 23-year-old Army veteran after a lengthy highway pursuit and a desperate roadside confrontation last week.
The sheriff's office named deputies Brian Hirzel, Brett Hubbell, Dale Moyer, Jeff Thurman, Ryan Walter and Randy Watts in the shooting. Hubbell has the longest career with the agency at 14 years. Watts joined just 10 months ago. Four deputies have commendations for professionalism.
Investigators say Zillmer armed himself with multiple weapons and donned a ballistic vest amid a pursuit to Coeur d'Alene and back to Spokane Valley on Feb. 11. Once stopped by authorities, Zillmer allegedly made a threatening move with a firearm and was killed by deputy fire, officials say.
Hirzel, a five-year Spokane deputy with 17 years of previous law enforcement experience, was earlier cleared in the fatal 2010 shooting of Spokane Valley pastor Scott Creach. The Creach family later received a $2 million settlement in the controversial shooting outside Creach's home.
Zillmer's death remains under investigation by the multi-agency Spokane Investigative Regional Response team. The Spokane Police Department is leading the investigation.
— JACOB JONES
The Race is On
Long-time incumbent Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers now has two challengers looking to unseat her this fall. Joseph Pakootas, the CEO of the Colville Tribal Federal Corporation, is running against the Republican congresswoman on the Democratic ticket. Dave Wilson, the founder and former president of Interface College, a technical school in Spokane, will fight for her 5th District Eastern Washington congressional seat as an independent candidate.
Pakootas, who grew up in Inchelium, touts his background serving 16 years as an elected official for the Colville Confederated Tribes' governing council. He also points to his experience running the Colville Tribal Federal Corporation's 13 tribal businesses, transforming a faltering enterprise on the brink of bankruptcy into a thriving, $86 million business during his tenure as CEO.
Wilson, who originally hails from the Midwest, bills himself as a centrist whose goal is breaking political gridlock in Washington D.C. Wilson's priorities include deficit reduction, campaign finance reform and initiating a serious discussion on climate change.
McMorris Rodgers is the fourth-ranking member of the House's GOP leadership. She won her first congressional race in 2004. McMorris Rodgers entered the spotlight this past January when she delivered the Republican response to the president's State of the Union address.
— DEANNA PAN