Not One for the Mantle -- Governor Gary Locke and Tom Fitzsimmons, director of the Washington State Department of Ecology, have one thing in common: The Dead Swan Award. The Upper Columbia River Group of the Sierra Club gave its 2002 Dead Swan Awards to Fitzsimmons for signing away Washington's influence on the cleanup of mining wastes in North Idaho. In August, Fitzsimmons put his name on a Memorandum of Agreement that transferred authority on the cleanup process to a commission controlled by the state of Idaho. Why did Locke get the same award? Because he did nothing to stop Fitzsimmons.
The award is named for the Sierra Club's poster children in the battle -- the swans that have died from lead poisoning after feeding in the wetlands of the Coeur d'Alene River Basin.
Not Done Yet -- Still suffering from RBB (Rose Bowl Blues)? Well, you'll get one more chance to see not the entire team, but at least Cougar quarterback Jason Gesser in action on Super Bowl Sunday. Gesser will take part in the fifth annual College Football All-Star Challenge, matching the nation's best college players, including Brad Banks of Iowa and Lee Suggs of Virginia Tech. Tune into Fox at 9:30 pm on Sunday, Jan. 26. Maybe you can finally haul out the Crimson and Gray sportswear again.
We're No. 1! -- That's right, Washington State has won the coveted title of the most buckled-up state in the Union. State officials are crediting the "Click-it-or-Ticket" program for a jump from 81 percent to 93 percent since May, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The national average is 75 percent. If you get caught without your belt on, get ready to fork over $86.
Misery Loves Company -- The Western states' economic doldrums have Oregon planning to cut back on the school year, Washington planning to let some criminals out of jail and Idaho raising taxes. Predictably, we're starting to hear arguments of why one state isn't as bad off as another. In an article on the Web site oregonlive.com, the writer makes fun of Washington for its measure of a few years ago that has spurred a binge of convention center construction, including the expansion planned here in Spokane. "When they confront an estimated $2 billion budget deficit in January, state legislators may be kicking themselves for allowing this building frenzy," wrote Allan Brettman.
All we can say is, nyah, nyah, nyah -- Oregon's just jealous. After all, we'll be able to set up some deluxe soup kitchens in primo convention space. Down in Oregon, all they have are a bunch of old boarded-up public schools.