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Wenatchee continues to fight marijuana; plus, new crime data for Idaho

WENATCHEE VS. WEED

As marijuana stores prepare to open across Washington, Wenatchee is facing a lawsuit over the issue that could take years to resolve.

Last month, a man hoping to open a pot retail store sued the city over a requirement that to get a license, businesses must follow federal law — effectively a ban on marijuana businesses in the city. Some on the Wenatchee City Council had argued that cities cannot ignore federal law banning marijuana, a theory attorney Hilary Bricken, who filed the complaint, says undermines the promise of citizens' initiatives. Now, Wenatchee is looking to state instead of federal law for their defense.

"It's not our job to enforce federal law. That isn't necessarily what we're trying to do," says City Attorney Steve Smith, who plans to file the city's response to the lawsuit this week. "It is our function to regulate the businesses within the city."

Since Initiative 502 didn't explicitly require local governments to enforce the new law, Smith argues that cities can refuse to allow the new businesses. (The state attorney general issued a similar, though non-binding, opinion in January.) Smith says the case could see a trial verdict by the end of the year, but that further appeals could take up to two years.

— HEIDI GROOVER

Presidential Polling

At a board of trustees meeting last Friday, the Eastern Washington University faculty made it clear they weren't happy with the trustees' pick of Mary Cullinan as the university's new president.

It's not anything she's done at EWU so far — it's that the trustees picked her even without faculty support.

The EWU Faculty Organization had unanimously voted that the EWU's current provost, Rex Fuller, would be an acceptable choice for president. But when it came to Cullinan, only nine of 28 faculty senate members found her to be acceptable.

Part of that concern stemmed from Cullinan's previous job as president of Southern Oregon University. In March, nearly two-thirds of the SOU faculty senate passed a vote of no confidence in her and two other administrators, citing poor leadership and financial mismanagement.

Outgoing EWU Faculty Organization president Julia Smith was on the committee that winnowed down the presidential nominees to the final three, including Cullinan. She says that SOU's financial troubles reflect the fiscal challenges at universities across the nation, but that EWU seems to have managed them more smoothly.

"We've gotten through it feeling better about each other," Smith says. "That is not what happened at Southern."

But Jo Ann Kauffman, vice-chair for the EWU board of trustees, says Cullinan distinguished herself from the other candidates during her interviews and public forums. "She presented herself as a leader and a visionary in terms of fundraising," Kauffman says.

The no-confidence vote was considered in the board's unanimous decision, she says, but was not disqualifying. "Trying to poison the well before she gets here is a big mistake," Kauffman says.

— DANIEL WALTERS

Idaho Crime Down

A new 2013 report from the Idaho State Police shows crime rates dropping statewide compared to the previous year as reported property and violent crimes both fell slightly. Hate crimes against minorities also decreased to 32 incidents, with 16 of those reported in Boise.

In the annual Uniform Crime Report released Tuesday, Kootenai County suffers the third highest crime rate by population with 7,048 crimes per 100,000 residents — dropping the county from the highest spot in 2012 after the number of total crimes fell by about 1 percent in 2013. Idaho's average crime rate in 2013 was 4,974 offenses per 100,000 residents.

The Panhandle Region of Idaho's five northernmost counties listed a total of four murders last year — two in Kootenai County, one in Post Falls and one in Osburn. The region also reported 73 rapes, 495 aggravated assaults and 1,416 burglaries.

"Crimes against society," such as drug use, pornography or prostitution, did increase statewide by 9.4 percent in 2013, the report states, with 17,700 total offenses. Nearly 90 percent of those crimes were listed as drug possession.

— JACOB JONES

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