Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Posted By on Wed, Jan 31, 2018 at 5:05 PM

Voting for the Inlander's annual Best Of issue is now open — a poll that allows our readers to name their picks for the finest food, art, culture and shopping in the area. You can vote here, or look for a paper ballot in the Feb. 1 issue currently on newsstands.

Is there a particular Spokane restaurant you consider a buried treasure? Think your favorite local band deserves some recognition? Wanna give a shout-out to the best play you saw last year? Now's your chance to make your opinion known.

You have through Feb. 14 to participate, and the 2018 winners will be announced in our March 22 issue. For a taste of what folks chose last year, you can see 2017's results here.

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Posted By on Wed, Jan 31, 2018 at 1:40 PM

click to enlarge Chef Steve Leonard, recruited to helm the renovated and rebranded Steam Plant Kitchen + Brewery, has left his post a week after the restaurant's reopening. - YOUNG KWAK
Young Kwak
Chef Steve Leonard, recruited to helm the renovated and rebranded Steam Plant Kitchen + Brewery, has left his post a week after the restaurant's reopening.
This week's issue of the Inlander, on the street and online Thursday, includes a feature on the new look, name and menu for the Steam Plant Kitchen + Brewery, which reopened to the public last Monday following a seven-month, $4 million renovation to the historic downtown space owned by Avista.

To oversee the remodeled and rebranded kitchen, which serves "upscale casual" fare — sandwiches, stone-oven pizza, classic entrees, shareable small plates and more —  the Steam Plant recruited chef Steve Leonard, who previously served as executive chef for restaurants at Chicago's Wrigley Field.

This week, however, word is that chef Leonard has departed the Steam Plant to return to Chicago, and thus the Steam Plant is seeking a new chef to take the helm.

In response to our inquiries into Leonard's departure, Steam Plant Kitchen + Brewery General Manager John Lockhart says via email that restaurant management cannot provide any details on the nature of Leonard's departure, but that they "wish him well on his future endeavors."

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Posted By on Wed, Jan 31, 2018 at 12:50 PM

click to enlarge According to an OFM report released Jan. 31, "Estimates from 2010-13 show that prior to the start of ACA coverage provisions in 2014, Washington’s uninsured rate hovered at about 14 percent. For the next three years, the uninsured rate continually dropped to 8.2 percent in 2014, 5.8 percent in 2015 and 5.4 percent in 2016. The uninsured rate in each of the three years resulted in a new record low in Washington." - WASHINGTON STATE OFFICE OF FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT
Washington State Office of Financial Management
According to an OFM report released Jan. 31, "Estimates from 2010-13 show that prior to the start of ACA coverage provisions in 2014, Washington’s uninsured rate hovered at about 14 percent. For the next three years, the uninsured rate continually dropped to 8.2 percent in 2014, 5.8 percent in 2015 and 5.4 percent in 2016. The uninsured rate in each of the three years resulted in a new record low in Washington."

In the first three years of the Affordable Care Act, Washington's uninsured rate dropped at a faster pace than the rest of the country, according to a study released today by the Washington State Office of Financial Management.

In 2013, about 14 percent of Washingtonians were uninsured, a rate that had remained pretty steady since at least 2010. That was largely in line with the national rates, which sat a little closer to 14.5 percent.

But once the act took effect, with an individual mandate requiring insurance and penalizing those who don't have it, the rates quickly dropped, down to 8.2 percent in 2014, and then to 5.4 percent in 2016, which was expected to be about the same in 2017, according to the state's three-year study. Meanwhile, the national rate dropped to about 8.6 percent uninsured in the same time.

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Posted By on Wed, Jan 31, 2018 at 9:54 AM


First Night's Over
Spokane's New Year's Eve celebration is no more.

A bill sponsored by Spokane Valley Sen. Mike Padden seeks to give judges more leeway to order drug and alcohol testing for people accused of DUIs and minor crimes. But some attorneys say the bill is unconstitutional.


Kerry Arnold isn't dead
Despite what you may have heard, Kerry Arnold is still alive. The 41-year-old man was shot last October in a car jacking. Days later, police found his car, and shot and killed the man in the driver's seat.

Yesterday, Spokane County Prosecutor Larry Haskell announced that the two Spokane police officers who shot and killed the suspected vehicle thief, Chad Cochell, would not face criminal charges.

Haskell also erroneously reported that Arnold, the victim, was dead, which is not true. Kerry Arnold is alive. Haskell apologized when he realized the error. (Spokesman-Review)

Fact checking the president
President Trump delivered his first State of the Union address last night. True to form, the president's statements weren't completely truthful.

The tax bill passed in December was not the biggest cut ever, as Trump claimed; nor does the green card lottery randomly hand out green cards "without any regard for skill, merit or the safety of our people," as he said during the address. (PolitiFact)

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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Posted By on Tue, Jan 30, 2018 at 12:56 PM

click to enlarge STEPHEN SCHLANGE
Stephen Schlange

If you didn't attend First Night Spokane to ring in 2018, well, you weren't alone. A lack of ticket sales and financial support means that, barring some dramatic change, First Night Spokane is no more.

In a statement sent to The Inlander Tuesday, the event's executive director, Nanette Miller, said that there just isn't enough money to keep First Night going forward. A combination of last-minute cancelled sponsorships and low attendance due to New Year's Eve falling on a Sunday conspired to make continuing the annual community party untenable.

"We are aware there is a time and a season for all things, and although First Night is a wonderful addition to our city, it is time to let the final curtain fall," the statement reads. "The attendance needed to financially maintain an event of this magnitude has not been present; therefore we are stepping aside to make room for new ideas and opportunities to emerge."

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Posted By on Tue, Jan 30, 2018 at 9:15 AM


NEWS: The tragic story of a woman and her rooster, Sir Rhubarb, who had to be given up because of Spokane's urban farming rules.

NEWS: Spokane County Commissioners plan to repeal restrictions on building permits today following the state legislature's so-called "Hirst fix."

NEWS: A year after a woman filed a sexual harassment complaint against an EWU cop, the cop found a job at a local school district.


Say no to Joe
Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff who Donald Trump pardoned of criminal contempt and who wants to deport all of the Dreamers who were brought to the U.S. as children, had an event scheduled in Spokane as of yesterday morning. By the evening, however,  the event was canceled following community backlash. (Spokesman-Review)

No harm no foul
After Shadle Park High School students discovered their milk was actually a cleaning solution, Darigold explained to the Department of Agriculture that it was a mistake in the company's distribution lines. (Spokesman-Review)

Getting the IMAX
The city of Spokane started tearing down the IMAX building in Riverfront Park on Monday. (KREM)

Battling intelligence
The House Intelligence Committee voted to #releasethememo detailing alleged surveillance abuses by the FBI and Justice Department, once again putting conservatives at odds with the nation's intelligence agencies. (Washington Post)

Billionaires to the rescue

Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffet, and Jamie Dimon have an idea that they think could save health care. (CNN)

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Monday, January 29, 2018

Posted By on Mon, Jan 29, 2018 at 4:24 PM

click to enlarge Mr. Roo, back when he was still allowed to roam free within the confines of West Central - DANIEL WALTERS PHOTO
Daniel Walters photo
Mr. Roo, back when he was still allowed to roam free within the confines of West Central

Alas, Sir Rhubarb. She knew him well.

Sir Rhubarb, previously "Mr. Roo," was among the chickens in the urban garden of Bea Lackaff. She lives on Bridge Avenue, the dividing line between swanky Kendall Yards and the low-income West Central.

You see, Lackaff used to have a problem with her chickens being massacred.

"Skunks or raccoons or neighbors dogs would get in," Lackaff says.

So for the past 20 years, she had the occasional rooster, partly as first-line of defense against an attack. Roosters are more aggressive, more willing to put up a fight to protect the hens against an invading army of chicken-killers.

"It’s the natural order of the flock to have a rooster," Lackaf says. "There’s a social balance there. They’re a good defense — even if they’re not strong enough to fend off a predator, they will sound an alarm."

But back in 2014, the city passed new urban farming rules.

"We increased the number of chickens but got rid of roosters," City Council President Ben Stuckart says. "Because they’re loud."

And yes, dogs can be loud, too. But not all dogs bark loudly. Roosters are predictably loud.

Citizens told the council they didn't want roosters waking them up every morning. Not only that, but other cities banned roosters from urban farming.  Existing roosters would be grandfathered in.

Lackaff doesn't remember whether she had Sir Rhubarb back in 2014. But she hoped that, because the Banty roosters were a bit quieter, nobody would complain.

"I didn’t think many of my neighbors minded," Lackaff says. But at the beginning of January, while she was on a trip to Portland, her house-sitter called to let her know that she'd have to get rid of Sir Rhubarb — someone had complained to code enforcement.

"I’m a little bit dismayed that whoever it was wouldn’t tell me," Lackaff says.

It took her a while to find a couple willing to take him — the code enforcement officer was stern, but patient — but finally she found a couple in western Spokane County who was willing to take her rooster.

She says she understands the necessity of her sacrifice.

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Posted By on Mon, Jan 29, 2018 at 12:57 PM

If you're arrested for drunk driving in Washington state, a judge can order you to stop drinking and doing drugs until the charge is resolved. But the way in which a judge can monitor that restriction is up for debate.

In a 5-4 decision last year, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that random urinalysis tests for people accused, but not yet convicted, of DUIs are unconstitutional. Pee tests are too invasive, the majority ruled.

Secondly, the court pointed out that state law only allows for that level of pretrial testing for felony charges or those people with prior DUI convictions.

In response to the Supreme Court's decision, Spokane Valley Sen. Mike Padden has introduced Senate Bill No. 5987, which would allow judges to order random pee tests for those accused of drunk driving.

"Based purely on a technicality, the state Supreme Court held that a judge can't require a person arrested for a DUI to abstain from, and randomly test for, alcohol," Padden says through a spokesman via email. "Our bill is a common sense solution focused on putting public safety first."

Not everyone agrees with Padden's rationale.

The Spokane attorney who argued the case before the state Supreme Court says Padden's bill is an attempt to sidestep the court's ruling, and therefore is unconstitutional. The legislature cannot enact a law that would overrule a Supreme Court decision, Spokane County public defender Michael Vander Giessen says.

"It's such a fundamental concept of constitutional law, I'm surprised Sen. Padden would go to this point," Vander Giessen says. "He knows better. It strikes me as disrespect for the judiciary and its role."

Jaime Hawk, a legal strategy director for the ACLU of Washington, shares Vander Giessen's concern.

"Violating our state constitution is not a technicality," Hawk writes via email. "The Supreme Court of Washington established court rules regarding when those who are presumed innocent should be released before their day in court. The proposed bill exceeds the scope of our court rule and seeks to expand the basis in which a court can detain someone or limit their freedom pretrial."

Padden, who used to serve as a Spokane County District Court judge, notes that prosecutors and judges have testified in support of his bill. Part of their argument is that judges might feel more confident releasing people from jail before trial, if they can be assured the defendant will follow the court's restrictions.

"While ultimately the courts will have to decide matters of constitutionality, legal experts with whom I have discussed the matter are confident that the bill is indeed constitutional," Padden says through a spokesman.

There is some question, Vander Giessen adds, over how broadly the Supreme Court's ruling will apply. Specifically, the high court considered three DUI cases in Spokane. Two of the three defendants had no prior DUI convictions, and the third had been accused of a marijuana-related DUI.

In each case, Spokane Judge Greg Tripp, who is now retired, imposed random monthly urinalysis testing. Defense attorneys took issue with those conditions because there was no evidence, in at least two of the cases, that the defendants would not comply with the court's orders to abstain from alcohol.

Ultimately, the Supreme Court ruled that state law did not allow Judge Tripp to impose the random tests, while also declaring urinalysis tests overly intrusive for defendants.

One potential alternative, Vander Giessen says, is a transdermal bracelet — a device that can detect whether a person consumes alcohol.

"I think those would qualify as constitutional," Vander Giessen says. "It might be good public policy to use something like that. The hardcore alcoholics who cannot stop drinking may really benefit."

Hawk, with the ACLU, notes that Spokane has become a pilot project of sorts for pretrial and bail reform efforts statewide. Efforts to expand Spokane's Office of Pretrial Services, and develop and implement an algorithm to assess defendants' risk to reoffend, are a couple examples (though Hawk says she has some concerns about the assessment tool).

A statewide task force to study and address potential issues with Washington's pretrial practices launched last summer.

"From a policy perspective, it's a challenging area," Hawk says. "There are some real separation of powers issues here. Our position is that this is an area that the courts typically have control over. The legislature has some role in pretrial release, but it needs to comport with the court rules."

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Posted By on Mon, Jan 29, 2018 at 12:20 PM

click to enlarge Killian Tillie and his fellow "bigs" are vital to the Zags success this season. - LIBBY KAMROWSKI
Libby Kamrowski
Killian Tillie and his fellow "bigs" are vital to the Zags success this season.

It used to be that Gonzaga was known as the school of guards: Stockton, Hall, Santangelo, Dickau, Stepp, Raivio, Pargo, Pangos and Bell.

But it appears the front court is where the Zags' bread gets buttered as of late. And that narrative stayed true in the last week's matchups versus the Portland Pilots and San Francisco Dons. One night a barn burner and the other a nail biter, but ultimately both decided by the advantages Gonzaga had in the paint.

Sophomore Killian Tillie had a helluva week, dominating the glass with 43 points and 15 rebounds over the two games. The Frenchman showcased the aerial and ambidextrous skills that has put him on scouts' radars.

It's tough sometimes for players to assert themselves and find a groove in an offense and rotation as diverse and packed as Gonzaga's. How do you hunt your play when you're weaving through minutes and possessions with up to 5 other guys? Perhaps the emergence of Rui Hachimura could be part of Tillie's quiet nights offensively, but credit to the big for consistently racking up rebounds and effort plays.

And the nightly carousel of success is due to Coach Mark Few and the players finding the best way to attack opponents' mismatches when they're presented. The Pilots didn't have an answer for Tillie, just like the Dons couldn't figure out a way to stop the bleeding against Tillie, Hachimura and Johnathan Williams.

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Posted By on Mon, Jan 29, 2018 at 11:11 AM

click to enlarge Chris Stapleton plays Spokane July 19
Chris Stapleton plays Spokane July 19

Chris Stapleton, one of the leading lights in traditional country's recent re-emergence to commercial success, is heading to Spokane to headline the arena on July 19 as part of his "All-American Road Show" tour.

The announcement comes hot on the heels of Stapleton's Grammy takeover Sunday night, as he took home trophies for Best Country Album (for his From A Room: Vol 1), Best Country Song ("Broken Halos") and Best Country Solo Performance ("Either Way"). Stapleton was also the featured act on this weekend's Saturday Night Live, bringing rabblerouser Sturgill Simpson along for the ride:

Stapleton will be joined by country legend Marty Stuart and rising star Brent Cobb for his Spokane show. Tickets go on sale Friday, Feb. 9, at 10 am. As of now, prices have not been released; we'll update this post when prices come our way.

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POAC Arts & Crafts Fair @ Downtown Sandpoint

Sat., Aug. 8, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sun., Aug. 9, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
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