Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Councilwoman Amber Waldref also wants the city to revamp its snow-plowing strategy

Posted By on Tue, Feb 28, 2017 at 5:20 PM

click to enlarge The wholesale replacement of streets — like this one at First and Cedar — continues to be a long-term strategy to fight potholes. - DANIEL WALTERS PHOTO
Daniel Walters photo
The wholesale replacement of streets — like this one at First and Cedar — continues to be a long-term strategy to fight potholes.

In the aftermath of the ouster of streets director Mark Serbousek on Feb. 2, the city went largely silent about the street department. It turned down multiple requests for sit-down interviews from the Inlander including with new interim Street Director Gary Kaesemeyer, Public Works & Utilities Division Director Scott Simmons, and city spokeswoman Marlene Feist.

The initial response from Simmons — that the Inlander should check in again on the street department in six months — suggested it could be a very long time before the city divulged more about how it was operating the department.

But on Friday, the city veered in the other direction, with an all-hands-on-deck press conference featuring Simmons, Kaesemeyer, Mayor David Condon and Amber Waldref. While they continued to refuse to answer any questions about Serbousek's ouster specifically, they painted the scene of a flurry of experimentation over the past three weeks.

At times, City Council President Ben Stuckart has said that he's been frustrated by the pace of innovation in the street department — though he also says that sometimes the department may be unfairly blamed for decisions elsewhere in the city that stymie innovation.

But in the span of only a few weeks — after the last big snow plow finished and the melting snow revealed a series of massive craters in the streets — under Kaesemeyer's new leadership, the department has undergone a flurry of innovation and experimentation intended to strike at one of Spokane's oldest punchlines: potholes.

"The innovative approaches that the team has come up with has really been a grassroots efforts by employees," Simmons said at the press conference, "They've been the ones identifying, how we might go out and tackle this thing."

While the traditional methods had been effective in past years, the sheer amount of moisture under the roads has exacerbated the issues with the city's freeze-thaw cycles.

"There's no better time than when you went through some trial by fire, when things were tough," Simmons says. "It's allowing us to make sure were not being complacent."

It was like a perfect storm, but, you know, for weather.

"The wettest October, in decades," Condon says. "The coldest January, in decades. Those two pieces together."

The severity of the season, Kaesemeyer says, presented an opportunity to seize upon the knowledge the department already had. They'd had other experiences in other cities. They had friends in other departments in other states. And they had plenty of ideas of how to solve Spokane's pothole crisis.

"We'd be sitting in a meeting and have crews come in and saying, 'hey, I had this spot here while I was driving around in the truck today,'" Kaesemeyer says. "We're getting good ideas from all kinds of places. A lot of citizens are calling in, saying, 'hey we did this, we did that.' I had a person from Alaska stop by the other day, saying, hey, used to do this up in Alaska."

By Friday, the city presented a wide range of potential solutions — and experiments — to tackle the pothole crisis.

click to enlarge Interim streets director Gary Kaesemeyer (center) is flanked by Public Works & Utilities Division Director Scott Simmons (left) and Mayor David Condon as they outline the city's pothole-filling strategy.
Interim streets director Gary Kaesemeyer (center) is flanked by Public Works & Utilities Division Director Scott Simmons (left) and Mayor David Condon as they outline the city's pothole-filling strategy.

1) Team up with the water and wastewater departments.
Before becoming the interim street director, Kaesemeyer actually served as the superintendent of wastewater collection and maintenance for the wastewater department. And that, Simmons says, has been helpful.

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Posted By on Tue, Feb 28, 2017 at 3:05 PM

click to enlarge Manito Tap House offers more than a hundred beers on tap and in bottles and cans. - COURTESY MANITO TAP HOUSE
Courtesy Manito Tap House
Manito Tap House offers more than a hundred beers on tap and in bottles and cans.

Craft beer has been booming in the Inland Northwest for the past five or so years, and this latest accolade proves that our fair Lilac City continues to make its mark on the national movement.

Spokane's own Manito Tap House today was named one of CraftBeer.com's 2017 Great American Beer Bars, taking the title for Washington state.

Owner Patrick McPherson found out about the honor in late January, and says he was surprised by the news because he and his staff didn't actively encourage locals to nominate the pub for the reader-based award. (They last publicized their role in the competition a few years back, and then the bar made it to a second round of voting, he adds.)

"We're pretty stoked," McPherson says. "It goes to show that Spokane is catching up, and I think it says a lot for the local scene of beer and restaurants."

Opening in 2011, Manito Tap House has since established itself as a destination for local craft beer lovers, offering 50 tap handles and an extensive list of bottles and cans stored in its beer cellar. The Tap House is also known for employing staff who've become certified Cicerones after passing an extensive, four-hour test covering the wide world of beer service and knowledge. And, it's a Four-Star Certified Green Restaurant for its environmentally-conscious practices.

CraftBeer.com is the online publication of the national nonprofit trade group the Brewers Association, and offers a wide range of resources for beer brewers and connoisseurs of all levels.

To choose the 50 best beer bars, one for each state in the U.S., CraftBeer.com readers are asked each year to nominate locations in their state, filling out a survey that asks about a bar's atmosphere, staff, beer selection and special events. More than 7,000 votes were cast late last year for the site's 2017 awards.

To celebrate the big honor, Manito Tap House is hosting a special Spokane Rocks Party tonight, starting at 6 pm, and for which local breweries are bringing some special new brews. Perry Street Brewing is bringing a firkin of its 2016 Great American Beer Festival-winning India Pale Lager (IPL) infused with kumquats, Iron Goat has a Dry Fly bourbon barrel-aged Cap'n Kidd Scotch Ale, and No-Li pours a special version of its Big Juicy IPA infused with oranges.

Tonight is also the sixth of 10 nights for Inlander Restaurant Week — of which Manito Tap House is a participant — so the gastropub is bound to be quite busy.

"It'll probably be standing room only, but it should be a fun night," McPherson says. "I think it's huge for Spokane any time we win an award, whether it's a restaurant winning a James Beard Award, or the best beer bar."

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Posted By on Tue, Feb 28, 2017 at 12:43 PM

click to enlarge Longtime former foster parent Connie Kerbs and her children
Longtime former foster parent Connie Kerbs and her children

Abused or neglected children in Washington likely won't be guaranteed legal representation any time soon, after a bill that would have automatically appointed them an attorney in dependency proceedings failed to make it out of committee in the state legislature.

When children are removed from their home and placed in the foster care system, dependency proceedings in court will decide where the child stays, what services they receive, and what kind of relationships they will be have with the family.

But many children do not have an attorney to represent their wishes during these proceedings. Washington does not have a state law that automatically appoints counsel for abused or neglected children, and a majority of counties have no such requirement, either. In Spokane, attorneys are automatically appointed for children 12 and older, but the majority of dependency cases in Spokane are for younger children. (The Inlander wrote about this issue in this week's paper).

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Posted By on Tue, Feb 28, 2017 at 12:27 PM

click to enlarge Officer Chris McMurtrey
Officer Chris McMurtrey

Spokane Police Officer Chris McMurtrey has filed a complaint against whomever leaked details about his expletive-laden rant unleashed on a suspect in the back of his patrol vehicle.

SPD Chief Craig Meidl confirms that the complaint seeking discipline for a potential internal leaker has been filed. Investigators are still looking into the "improper release of information" allegations, he says.

"Confidential is confidential, and in law enforcement, you don't get to release information just because it's juicy," Meidl says. Any potential discipline could range from suspension to termination.

The leak in question led citizen journalist and retired SPD detective Brian Breen to request a copy of the internal investigation and body camera video of McMurtrey's conduct.

City Councilman Breean Beggs invoked McMurtrey's conduct in a discussion with police about their decision to replace complete internal affairs investigations posted online with summaries of the cases.

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Posted By on Tue, Feb 28, 2017 at 9:43 AM

Modest Mouse is heading to Spokane in May.
Modest Mouse is heading to Spokane in May.

Hard to believe Modest Mouse has been kicking around since the early '90s, when they formed as a trio in Issaquah specializing in surprisingly expansive indie-rock, given their diminutive lineup.

Both the band (led by Isaac Brock) and its sound have only grown larger in the years since. Recent iterations of Modest Mouse have featured up to eight members on stage, giving the group the ability to experiment and stretch out beyond anything fans from the early days could possibly imagine. That expansion has been met with much success; the band's album from 2007, We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank reached No. 1 on Billboard's album-sales chart.

Modest Mouse is heading to Spokane to headline the Knitting Factory on Tuesday, May 23. Tickets are $37.50 in advance, $40 day of show, and go on sale Friday, March 3, at 10 am through the Knitting Factory website and TicketWeb.com. There will be a select number of tickets available via presale on Wednesday, March 1, as well.

The band's most recent album, Strangers to Ourselves, came out in 2015, and they've also re-released some remastered older gems like The Lonesome Crowded West and This is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About in recent years.

The Spokane show is the first date on a spring tour that will take Modest Mouse throughout the that lonesome crowded West and toward the middle of America.

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Posted By on Tue, Feb 28, 2017 at 9:10 AM


click to enlarge Craig Meidl - YOUNG KWAK PHOTO
Young Kwak photo
Craig Meidl
NEWS: Spokane Police took internal affairs investigations off of its website and replaced them with shorter summaries of cases, something one councilman calls a "big step backward" with transparency.

NEWS: The Rachel Dolezal revelations weren't made by a private investigator, they were made by two Coeur d'Alene Press reporters doing their job.


Back to his roots

Mark Serbousek, the former Spokane streets director who was silently relieved of those duties, has been pegged to be the city's bridge engineer, which was his job until 2001. (Spokesman-Review)

Nobody wants to see that
Several Logan Elementary School students saw a man exposing himself along Hamilton Avenue yesterday. Police will watch the area during the next few days to find the man, described as a white male in his 40s with a graying beard. (KXLY)

Infant murdered
A man allegedly beat an infant to death while babysitting, according to Spokane police. The man has been booked into jail. (KHQ)

Trump realizing what he's getting into
President Donald Trump talked about healthcare Monday, and the plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, saying, "I have to tell you, it's an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew that healthcare could be so complicated."

Bomb threats continue

The bomb threats to Jewish community centers and schools haven't stopped. The Anti-Defamation League says 20 threats were made Monday, and since Jan. 1, there have been 90 incidents in 30 states and one Canadian province, according to the JCCA.

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Monday, February 27, 2017

Posted By on Mon, Feb 27, 2017 at 4:56 PM

click to enlarge Rachel Dolezal has continued to make international news, with the upcoming release of her new memoir. - YOUNG KWAK PHOTO
Young Kwak photo
Rachel Dolezal has continued to make international news, with the upcoming release of her new memoir.

This weekend, the Spokesman-Review had a quick takedown of another outlandish claim in the latest international profile of former NAACP President Rachel Dolezal: that Dolezal's lies about her race were revealed because former Police Chief Frank Straub, wanting to sabotage her work on the police ombudsman commission, hired a private investigator who uncovered Dolezal's subterfuge.

But while it busts one myth, the Spokesman-Review article perpetuates another: That it was private investigator Ted Pulver that played the crucial role in revealing that Dolezal was pretending to be black this entire time: "The private investigator who discovered information that led to former NAACP Spokane chapter leader Rachel Dolezal’s family identifying her as white has denied he was hired by then-police Chief Frank Straub."

In fact, the credit goes to the Couer D'Alene Press, the paper that actually broke the story.

"Rachel Dolezal was a case that, when I started working on it, there were other people working on it as well," says Pulver. Pulver says he did tip off the Spokesman-Review and KXLY that he was working on the case. But when he contacted reporter Jeff Selle at the Coeur d'Alene Press, Selle was already working on the story.

"He was on the case before I met him," Pulver says.

Selle and his fellow Press reporter Maureen Dolan say that it was her spate of hate-crime allegations that inspired them to start investigating.

(The Inlander started investigating for the same reason, but the Coeur d'Alene Press got to the truth first.)

Pulver says he and Selle compared notes on their separate investigations.

"We had the back and forth. We both had a little bit of something," Pulver says. "We both were very interested in pursuing it. He did his thing, and I did my thing."

Selle, in a comment on Facebook, confirms that he spoke with Pulver, but says that the only thing that Pulver had that he didn't was an interview with her ex-husband — an interview the Press ultimately didn't end up using.

"I didn't have to convince Rachel's parents to talk to Jeff Selle," Pulver says.

After the Press story broke, KXLY's famous interview with Dolezal helped the story go viral, but even there, the Press provided an assist.

"I am the one who provided KXLY with the photo of her so-called African-American father and her birth certificate that her mother sent me," Selle writes. KXLY was more than generous enough to credit the Press with the scoop.

(Pulver wouldn't say exactly who his clients were — only that there were more than one of them, some of them were "very, very affluent," from out of state, and that absolutely none of them were associated with law enforcement.)

So why does all this matter? Because the Dolezal revelation isn't a story about mysterious forces successfully using a P.I. to take down a troublesome racial justice activist. Nor is it the story of an embittered family spontaneously deciding to call up a local newspaper to out their actually-white daughter.

Instead, it's the story about two reporters at a small-town publication picking up the phone and doing the legwork to find the truth.

"This 'private-investigator conspiracy' is just ridiculous," Selle writes. "I was the one who contacted Rachel's parents."

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Posted By on Mon, Feb 27, 2017 at 3:37 PM

When a cop is accused of doing something wrong — whether it be an actual crime or a violation of internal policies — the department's internal affairs office investigates.

Those investigations have historically included the officers' names and details of their behavior, and investigative records were posted on the Spokane police website.

That is no longer the case.

In the spring of 2016, SPD scrubbed its site of the investigations and only recently replaced them with watered-down summaries of 2016 cases, modeled after the Seattle Police Department. No summaries from subsequent years, or from 2017 so far, are posted. Currently, SPD does not intend to write summaries for cases before 2016, Chief Craig Meidl says, due to lack of sufficient staff.

"Right now our level of transparency is limited by staffing," Meidl says, adding that the department has lost at least two clerical employees since former Chief Frank Straub left the department.

"We essentially wanted to move away from having names on the website," SPD Assistant Chief Justin Lundgren told city council members during the Public Safety Committee meeting last week. "We've been hearing complaints from witnesses, witness officers and accused officers."

Lundgren also explained that posting information on the internet ensures that it will live forever. Although not illegal, Lundgren acknowledged, publishing investigations online means the public can access the information beyond the time limit past which SPD is required to retain the records.

"Sometimes the names, under the law, aren't allowed to be redacted," he said. "So unless there's some sort of specific concern by the complainant or by the officers involved, there's very narrow legal justification that we have to redact names."

In other words, part of SPD's gripe is that they're not allowed to redact information that used to be easy to access on their website.

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Posted By on Mon, Feb 27, 2017 at 9:15 AM


Rose Hemingway and Curt Hansen perform in the traveling production of Kinky Boots. - MATTHEW MURPHY
Rose Hemingway and Curt Hansen perform in the traveling production of Kinky Boots.

WHAT'S UP: We could all use a few good laughs, so here's a few ways you can tickle your funny bone and have some fun this March: catch comedian Brian Posehn at the Spokane Comedy Club, see Workaholics' Adam Devine at The Bing, and don't miss the touring version of Broadway hit Kinky Boots (read our story about it here).

FOOD: Need some help deciding which Inlander Restaurant Week eatery to check out this week? Check out some opening night reports (raviolo al uovo reviews and prime rib analysis) from Inlander team members — you have until this Saturday to get a piece of the goodness.

NEWS: Spokane opens its doors to homeless families at a new daytime shelter, Open Doors, which offers hot showers, case management and emergency shelter.


It appears so
"La La Land" producer Jordan Horowitz holds up the winner card reading actual Best Picture winner "Moonlight" with actor Warren Beatty onstage during the 89th Annual Academy Awards. - KEVIN WINTER/GETTY IMAGES
"La La Land" producer Jordan Horowitz holds up the winner card reading actual Best Picture winner "Moonlight" with actor Warren Beatty onstage during the 89th Annual Academy Awards.

The Zags' run for an unbeaten regular season came to an untimely end after Saturday's 79-71 upset by BYU over former-No. 1 Gonzaga. (Spokesman-Review)

And Best Gaffe goes to...
One wrong envelope and it all goes to chaos — Moonlight took home best picture after an Oscars blunder in which the mistaken La La Land cast was still up on stage giving speeches when they found out that they were actually not the winners. Check out the play-by-play. (New York Times, CNN)

Father of fallen Navy SEAL calls out Trump admin
After declining to meet with Trump, Bill Owens is calling for an investigation into the death of his son William "Ryan" Owens during a late-January raid in Yemen, questioning why there was a mission so early into the administration. (CNN)

Have a great week!

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Sunday, February 26, 2017

Posted By on Sun, Feb 26, 2017 at 1:00 PM

click to enlarge Comedian Brian Posehn headlines five shows at the Spokane Comedy Club this week.
Comedian Brian Posehn headlines five shows at the Spokane Comedy Club this week.

Plenty of good ways to great March can be found in our event listings and Staff Picks, so check those out along with the dining options of our ongoing Inlander Restaurant Week and get out on the town.

Here are some highlights of the week ahead:

Monday, Feb. 27

FILM/WORDS | The Moran Prairie Library hosts a free screening and discussion of Unslut, a film about so-called "slut shaming" and gender bullying. Read our story about the film here.

Tuesday, Feb. 28

THEATER | The touring version of Broadway hit Kinky Boots opens its Spokane run tonight. Read our story about it and get ready to get kinky.

LIVE BANDS | The Northwest of Nashville rootsy throwdown returns to The Bartlett tonight, with sets by Jenny Anne Mannan, Folkinception and The Holy Broke.

Wednesday, March 1

LIVE BANDS | Andy Black (aka Andy Biersack) is best known as the founder and frontman of Black Veil Brides, but on his debut solo album The Shadow Side, he jumps feet first into a world of programmed beats, ’80s-flavored synths and anthemic choruses, according to our music writer Ben Salmon. Black headlines the Knit tonight; here's a little sample of his sound:

COMEDY | Adam Devine's career could go right down the shitter from this moment forward and he'd still be a legend just for helping bring the glorious Workaholics to life. I don't expect said toilet-bowling to occur, though, because he's a funny cat. And he's bringing his standup to The Bing tonight.

Thursday, March 2

LIVE MUSIC | I'm not typically one to extoll the virtues of the ukulele, having seen far too many unskilled players in my life. But I can say that Jake Shimabukuro is easily the best uke player I've ever seen (granted, a short list), and well worth seeing in person if you can. Think of him as the Jimmy Page of the uke, or Hendrix, or Eddie Van Halen. Whatever your shredder of choice — he's it on the ukulele. He's headlining the Bing. Here's a taste:

COMEDY | Brian Posehn is one of the best standups around, a veteran of the touring circuit and favored presence on shows like Mr. Show and The Sarah Silverman Program. He's playing all weekend at the Spokane Comedy Club, starting tonight.

Friday, March 3

WORDS | PBS personality Rick Steves swings by Spokane for a European Travel Talk, where you'll hear great stories and prepare to make your own.

Saturday, March 4

COMMUNITY | Join the festivities for International Women's Day in Spokane at the Women's Club of Spokane, featuring keynote speaker Favianna Rodriguez, an interdisciplinary artist, cultural organizer, and activist based out of Oakland.

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American Inheritance: Unpacking World War II @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Tuesdays-Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Continues through May 23
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