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Spokane to give back; plus, WSU weighs its own medical school

A Week of Service

Saturday kicks off Spokane Gives Week, the city's push to get residents to volunteer on projects ranging from covering up graffiti to knitting hats for homeless youth.

Last month, the city unveiled a website — spokanegives.org — where organizations can post projects for which they need volunteers, and citizens can sign up to help with those projects. While April 12-19 is the official week of giving, city leaders hope the website stays active all year and becomes a hub for volunteers and service organizations to connect.

Nearly 80 projects have been listed online so far, including park and river cleanups, community garden workdays, food sorting and packing for Second Harvest and a donation drive for Catholic Charities' furniture bank. (Visit the site to learn more, sign up for any of the projects or register your own volunteer opportunity.)

Mayor David Condon said Monday that more than 2,500 people have registered on the website as volunteers, and he urged others to follow suit.

"The ultimate goal is to be a community that isn't just compassionate next week or within the city limits," Condon said, "but a region with a mindset of compassion and a heart for yearlong service."

— HEIDI GROOVER

Drone Regulations Vetoed

Gov. Jay Inslee vetoed a bill last week that would have restricted the use of drones by local and state government agencies in Washington.

Inslee did, however, issue a moratorium prohibiting executive-branch state agencies from purchasing or using drones over the next 15 months. Likewise, he also has asked local law enforcement agencies to refrain from acquiring these devices with an exception for emergencies, like natural disasters.

"The legislature is rightfully concerned about the effects of new technology on our citizens' right to privacy," Inslee says in a statement. "Unfortunately, I do not believe this bill is the appropriate first step."

Inslee says he objected to House Bill 2789 in part because the measure would require government agencies to destroy any surveillance data collected by drones.

"This could lead to shielding government uses of this technology from public disclosure," he says. "We must ensure that government transparency and accountability are amply provided, which are not clearly guaranteed in this legislation."

Inslee says his office will create a task force later this month to study the issue and craft new legislation ahead of the 2015 legislative session.

— DEANNA PAN

Starting School

At the end of 2013, ribbons were cut for Washington State University-Spokane's Health Sciences building. The building was the result of years of lobbying and millions of hard-won dollars from the legislature, and it included room for students in University of Washington's medical education program to study in Spokane.

But only a few months later, as the future of the five-state "WWAMI" partnership (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho) is being studied, Washington State University is weighing an even more ambitious step: Creating a separately accredited WSU medical school.

"WWAMI is going to change," WSU President Elson Floyd says. "Whether it changes as a consequence of our work, or what happens in Boise or Montana, it's going to change. Let's have a thoughtful conversation on the increased production of primary care docs."

Currently, the University of Washington's 120 slots can only educate a fraction of the Washington students who apply to the med school, and Washington lags behind much of the country in producing new doctors.

The university has launched a feasibility study, due to be completed at the end of June, to look at the possibility of the school, the impact on the region, the state and the production of medical students.

While UW and WSU have long partnered in their medical education programs — and have lobbied together for funding — that relationship recently has become more strained: Last spring, WSU expressed annoyance UW failed to initially recruit enough medical students to fill all the slots in the Spokane campus. And in March, WSU objected again when UW's three-page news release announcing a study over the future of WWAMI barely mentioned WSU at all.

— DANIEL WALTERS

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