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Time to Speak Up 

Three opportunities to comment on Mayor Condon's proposed budget; plus, recognition for the Inlander's "State of Mind" series

Your Two Cents

Mayor David Condon's preliminary 2015 budget promises to avoid layoffs and fund major public safety efforts, like a hire-ahead program for the Spokane Police Department. The city council has been meeting weekly to prepare their feedback before the mayor's more detailed line-item budget is released later this fall. Now is your chance to do the same.

The mayor will host three TOWN HALL MEETINGS to discuss the budget: Sept. 9 at the Northeast Community Center; Sept. 16 at the Corbin Senior Center; Sept. 17 at the Southside Senior and Community Center. Each meeting will begin at 6 pm.

Read the budget and send feedback by email at MySpokaneBudget.org.

— HEIDI GROOVER

Honoring 'State of Mind'

click to enlarge Jacob Jones
  • Jacob Jones

Inlander reporter Jacob Jones has won the 2014 WASHINGTON MENTAL HEALTH REPORTING AWARD for two of his stories in our ongoing "State of Mind" series. The yearlong series looks at challenges facing the regional mental health care system.

Jones' piece "Locked Away" told the story of Amanda Cook, who took her own life in the Spokane County Jail while awaiting a mental health evaluation. The second story, "Changing of the Guard," followed local law enforcement's efforts to implement Crisis Intervention Team training, which was mandated as part of the city's settlement with the family of Otto Zehm. Zehm was a 36-year-old schizophrenic janitor who died in police custody in 2006, leading to ongoing calls for reform in the department.

"Jones' vivid storytelling helps readers understand the impact that mental illnesses can have on the family and friends of those in need of treatment, many of whom are also at high risk for suicide," wrote the judges, who included media and mental health professionals.

Find the more two dozen stories in the "State of Mind" series at Inlander.com/StateOfMind.

— HEIDI GROOVER

BlueStar Extinguished

Last November, BLUESTAR DIGITAL TECHNOLOGIES, self-proclaimed innovator Erick Hansen's much-hyped Blu-ray company, was raided by the FBI. For a time, the company — long dogged by lawsuits, mounting debt and fraud accusations — continued to operate, producing small quantities of Blu-ray disks.

But now BlueStar has been evicted from the Commercial Building, and NAI Black is looking for new tenants to fill the vacancy on the troubled West First block.

In an email, former BlueStar engineer Allen Pabst says that BlueStar hasn't existed as a Blu-ray manufacturer in Spokane since March. "All equipment is now being sold," Pabst says. "Some already sold and shipped out."

The Nevada Secretary of State, however, still lists the company as officially "active," showing Hansen filed his annual list of officers on July 15.

BlueStar's exit has left a big vacancy. NAI Black agent Chris Bell has listed the now-vacant Commercial Building for $2.29 million. He says he's had interest from developers, investors and a nonprofit involved in community services, transitional housing and job training.

Back in 2007, while city leaders praised the company's promise to bring hundreds of jobs and a sizable economic development, BlueStar kicked out low-income tenants residing in the Commercial Building.

Now, Bell says, the building could become low-income housing once again.

"It's a perfect building for a nonprofit to acquire, occupy the office space on the first floor, then run a commercial kitchen or restaurant," Bell says. Tenants, he suggests, could stay in the apartments upstairs, and then work at the commercial kitchen downstairs.

"It's amazing how everything comes around full circle," Bell says.

— DANIEL WALTERS

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