Friday, May 19, 2017

Why does the weather in Spokane keep disappointing us?

Meteorologist says this spring has been wettest in the past decade

Posted By on Fri, May 19, 2017 at 5:37 PM


If you spend your weekdays checking the weather on your phone, hoping that it will show two bright yellow sun icons next to Saturday and Sunday, then you've likely been tricked into the same misguided optimism this year as I have.

Sure, on Monday, Spokane's forecast for the weekend says it should be nice, once we get through the rain and clouds of the weekdays. But then Friday comes, and it turns out Saturday's forecast is mostly cloudy, that it's probably going to rain a little bit, and that the day when you can enjoy the warm spring sun will have to wait.

Why does it seem like this keeps happening this year more than normal? As National Weather Service meteorologist Steven Van Horn explains, this spring's weather has been difficult to predict for a couple reasons — but mostly because of the rain. And if you think it has been wetter and cloudier than normal, then you're right.

The normal amount of precipitation in the period from March 1 until today is 3.8 inches, he says. But this year, Spokane has recorded 6.72 inches. That's the highest amount in the same period in the last decade, and it's near the highest ever recorded in that period — 7.54 inches.

The Inland Northwest has seen more low-pressure weather systems this year than in the past. That brings more rain, and it also makes it harder to give accurate forecasts, he says. It's easier to forecast when there are high pressure patterns, but it's harder to model low-pressure systems.

"That's why forecasts will change or be modified when we get closer to the event," he says.

He notes that meteorologists have significantly less confidence in forecasts seven days out than a couple days away from the weekend, anyway. But it's not uncommon for an unforeseen tropical disturbance in the Pacific Ocean to throw off all the models a day or two before the weekend, he says.

Looking out toward late spring and summer, Van Horn says the outlook is even less certain. Last year, they had a pretty good idea that it would be a dry summer. This year? Everything is in play. The models show "equal chances" when it comes to the amount of precipitation this summer. That means "we have the same chance of below normal precipitation, of around normal precipitation, and above normal precipitation."

"The predictability is not as good," Van Horn says.

So not only is the weather this year hard to predict in the short term, but there aren't too many answers long-term, either. But keep checking the weather app if you want.
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Why a Spokane Valley man could face life in prison for growing pot — and why the case may now be falling apart

Did U.S. Attorneys withhold information that could point to his innocence?

Posted By on Fri, May 19, 2017 at 1:05 PM

Jerad Kynaston faces a potential mandatory life sentence for his involvement in a Spokane Valley grow operation six years ago. But have U.S. Attorneys withheld information that could prove his innocence? - YOUNG KWAK PHOTO
  • Young Kwak photo
  • Jerad Kynaston faces a potential mandatory life sentence for his involvement in a Spokane Valley grow operation six years ago. But have U.S. Attorneys withheld information that could prove his innocence?

The life that Jerad Kynaston has built for himself in the past five years — including his construction company, long-term girlfriend and their new puppy — could come crumbling down because of his involvement in a Spokane Valley marijuana grow operation.

In 2011, local and federal law enforcement raided the house where Kynaston, now 29, and at least seven other people were growing a bunch of weed. Police found more than 1,000 plants (though 677 of those "plants" were either empty pots, or pots that contained "the root structure of suspected harvested marijuana plants") and one handgun.

All seven men were indicted in 2012 on violations of the Controlled Substances Act and, if found guilty, some are potentially facing mandatory 10-year sentences due to the amount marijuana that police found. Kynaston, who has two prior marijuana-related felony convictions, is facing a potential mandatory life sentence. He's also facing a firearms charge.

The case has languished in the system for the past five years. This week, it seemed that Kynaston was ready for it to end; he and at least two co-defendants were ready to plead guilty.

But less than 48 hours before the hearing at the Thomas S. Foley U.S. Courthouse in Spokane, the defense team stumbled on police reports written in March 2012 that had not previously been turned over to the defendants.

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City Council may strike a ban on 'immoral or obscene dancing' — and cut the license fee for Spokane cabarets

Venues that allow dancing are now charged triple the license fees of venues that don't

Posted By on Fri, May 19, 2017 at 1:02 PM

Entertainment venues that allow dancing are currently charged $300 for license fees — as opposed to $100 for those that don't. - YOUNG KWAK PHOTO
  • Young Kwak photo
  • Entertainment venues that allow dancing are currently charged $300 for license fees — as opposed to $100 for those that don't.

Right now, the mere act of allowing dancing triples licensing fees for Spokane entertainment venues. On Monday, the City Council will consider changing that, as well as an 80-year-old “immoral or obscene dancing” ban still left on the books.

City Council President Ben Stuckart proposed leveling entertainment licensing fees and removing the 1937 dance ban.

“How do you even determine what is immoral or obscene?” said Adam McDaniel, Stuckart's legislative assistant. “A lot of people would say my dancing is obscene.”

When piecing together ordinances to regulate cabarets in 1937, A.B. Colburn, City Commissioner at the time, told the Spokane Daily Chronicle that his original intention was to halt dancing in saloons. Dancing on Sundays was also banned at the time. But Colburn was not strictly opposed to all dancing and drinking, as long as the two were separate and done at a place and time he thought was appropriate.

“If a decent dance hall is operated adjoining a beer parlor, that is a different matter,” Colburn told the Chronicle. He did not want people drinking and dancing at the same time.

The Spokane Federation of Women’s Organizations staunchly opposed the measure, saying alcohol and dancing should be entirely separate, and that allowing cabarets to earn licenses unfairly favored their generally upper-class patrons.

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East Sprague neighborhood rebrands as 'Sprague Union District'

City accelerates work on streetscape improvements

Posted By on Fri, May 19, 2017 at 11:02 AM

As the city ramps up its improvements to East Sprague, businesses in the area want to move away from the "East Sprague" name altogether.

From now on, they want you to call it "Sprague Union D
Jim Hanley, owner of the Tin Roof in the newly dubbed Sprague Union District. - WILSON CRISCIONE
  • Wilson Criscione
  • Jim Hanley, owner of the Tin Roof in the newly dubbed Sprague Union District.

The new name came by popular vote of business owners and neighbors of the area, says Jim Hanley, owner of the Tin Roof furniture store on East Sprague and a member of the East Spokane Business Association. The businesses are now in the process of creating a trademark, coinciding with city construction to improve the East Sprague streetscape.

The hope is that this name change goes better than the most recent time businesses around East Sprague tried to brand themselves, when they pushed to be called the "International District" in an effort to build up more international businesses.

"It didn't seem to work. It didn't catch on," Hanley says.

ESBA ran a survey asking local business owners and residents what they should name the district that encompasses the area from the Hamilton Street Bridge to a little bit east of Freya Street, and they came up with Sprague Union District. The name stems from the area being called Union Park in the late 1800s and early 1900s, when it was a factory section of the city, with working-class citizens and immigrants.

Hanley says referring to the area as East Sprague is too broad, and could refer to anywhere from downtown Spokane to parts of Spokane Valley. He says the reputation of East Sprague referring to a hub for prostitution was considered in the name change, though he says that prostitution hasn't been a problem there for a couple of years.

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"We're number 44! We're number 44!" Spokane ranked 44th most attractive city for millennials

Posted By on Fri, May 19, 2017 at 10:17 AM

On a list of 100 cities that'd be best for millennials to move to, media company Growella has ranked Spokane 44th.

That's memorable, right? It's one of only, like, 9 palindr
Hey, it's better than being 50th.  - Right, millenials?
  • Hey, it's better than being 50th.
    Right, millenials?
omic numbers on the list, so that's basically like being in the top 10, right?

Or! If you divide our ranking by 2 (for the number of times you can hear that the guy who wrote "White Christmas" is from here without getting annoyed) and then divide that by 11 (think of it as a numerical representation of the smoke stacks), and then divide that by 2 again (for our 2 milk bottle-shaped buildings), we're number 1!

To be fair, Spokane was beat out for the other 43 slots by some steep competition. Really, who can upstage the perennial millennial favorite Seattle (how will we ever get out of your shadow???), or the place where you couldn't buy alcohol outside of a bar or restaurant until 2009, and still can't on Sundays: Lubbock, Texas (number 18! 18th, for blue-law's sakes!).

Ostensibly, other factors, like how far your paycheck goes, how many other young people live there, how many jobs there are, and what public transportation and the commute are like factored into the rankings to objectively rank cities around the country. The site does declare that it didn't look for hip factors, like where you can get your wine ('cause apparently we millennials all love wine), artisan coffee, or second-hand clothing.

"You’ll find no mention of the trendiness of a town, or its hipness. Grades are assigned based on statistics and our algorithm only," Growella's piece says.

Jokes aside, if you like these kinds of lists, you might be interested to know that when compared to other cities in our region, Spokane came in 6th in the West, according to the list, trailing:

5) Boise
4) Anchorage
3) Denver
2) Seattle
1) Colorado Springs
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Most citizen complaints against Spokane cops in 2015 not reviewed, Weiner now a sex offender, and other news of the day

Posted By on Fri, May 19, 2017 at 9:29 AM

Ombudsman Bart Logue's report doesn't pull punches — but also has praise for the Spokane Police Department. - YOUNG KWAK PHOTO
  • Young Kwak photo
  • Ombudsman Bart Logue's report doesn't pull punches — but also has praise for the Spokane Police Department.


When the cops don't listen
In 2015, amid Spokane's police chief chaos and without an ombudsman, the vast majority of citizen complaints were not reviewed or acted upon.

In memory of Cornell
The Inlander's Dan Nailen remembers Chris Cornell, the former frontman of Soundgarden.

Closing the garage

Spokane's new City Attorney pick has resurrected old arguments about the River Park Square parking garage — but Ben Stuckart says it's time to stop re-litigating the past.

Printing a heart

Technology might someday allow us to use 3-D printing to create new organs.


Raúl of law
At one time, Idaho Rep. Raúl Labrador seemed like one of the best hopes for an immigration compromise in the House. But now, the bill he's pushing would crack down, deporting more people and punishing "sanctuary cities." (Spokesman-Review)

Hug of death
Former FBI Director James Comey really, really disliked getting hugged by Donald Trump. (New York Times)

Sext offender
Anthony Weiner, the man who — through his inappropriate text messages helped to made Trump president — will plead guilty to transferring obscene material to a minor. (CNN)

Mueller time
How Robert Mueller's investigation into Trump's presidential campaign may complicate other investigations into the Russia connection. (Washington Post)
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Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Ridpath saga hits the latest roadblock: a $1.75 million lien

Ron Wells' attorneys call lien 'frivolous' and 'absolutely ridiculous'

Posted By on Thu, May 18, 2017 at 5:01 PM

Ron Wells' longstanding plan to turn the Ridpath Hotel into an apartment complex isn't out of the woods yet. - YOUNG KWAK PHOTO
  • Young Kwak photo
  • Ron Wells' longstanding plan to turn the Ridpath Hotel into an apartment complex isn't out of the woods yet.

UPDATE: According to city Chief Financial Officer Gavin Cooley, at this morning's hearing, the lien from Crystal City LLC against Ron Wells' Ridpath Penthouse LLC was dismissed as a "frivolous interruption," and a $5,000 fine was imposed.


A little more than a week after the Spokane City Council voted to extend $1.75 million in credit to developer Ron Wells to turn downtown's old Ridpath Hotel into affordable housing, the troubled project was hit by another blow: On May 2, a lien was filed against Ridpath Penthouse LLC, the company owned by Wells.

The lien claimed that Crystal City LLC had, in the span of seven days, conducted work on the Ridpath project that also happened to total exactly $1.75 million.

The fact that the lien was for the exact same amount as the loan extended by the city seemed particularly weird to Gavin Cooley, Chief Financial Officer for the city of Spokane.

"It seems like a really strange coincidence. I have not been able to come with a rational basis for this being tied to the city’s participation in this transaction,” Cooley says. “It has all the hallmarks of someone sticking a wrench in the spokes of the wheel to try to stop the transaction."

There's a general rule when it comes to the reporting on the Ridpath Hotel: There's always another problem around the corner.

In January of last year, we catalogued all the times that the Spokesman-Review or the Inlander thought the Ridpath ownership mess was this close to finally getting fixed, only to see the plan collapse, run into a massive roadblock or get tangled up in court.

The lien had been filed by Crystal City LLC, run by a guy named Ivan Kriger, who'd long been an obstacle to Wells' dreams for the Ridpath. Crystal City was working with Stephen Antonietti, the developer who'd been keeping the Ridpath project alive when it was left in shambles by now-imprisoned con artist Greg Jeffreys. Their plan: Revive the thing as a hotel.

Kriger had initially outbid Wells for the property, only to continue to fail to close the deal. The property was put back on the market, and Wells turned to the city of Spokane to help with their financing.

"I've talked to Mr. Kriger in the past. He wants to develop the Ridpath," says Jonathan Mallahan, the city of Spokane's ‎Community and Neighborhood Services Division Director. "He knows that if he was to bring a proposal forward for affordable housing redevelopment, we'd be open to talking about a loan with anyone who [can successfully do that.] The reality is Ron Wells' plan does that, and he's looking forward to that."

Kriger's lien is yet another complication.

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Creating organs with 3-D printing, be wary of common heartburn remedies, and a senior health assessment

Posted By on Thu, May 18, 2017 at 2:44 PM

3-D print an organ
A team of Northwestern University 
A team from Northwestern has used 3-D technology to produce a prosthetic mouse ovary, with real implications for humans.
  • A team from Northwestern has used 3-D technology to produce a prosthetic mouse ovary, with real implications for humans.
researchers has successfully created a mouse ovary structure using a 3-D printer. The bioprosthetic ovary was created from a 3-D printed "scaffolding" into which immature eggs were placed. The ovary was implanted into an infertile mouse and the mouse ovulated, became pregnant and delivered healthy pups.

"This research shows these bioprosthetic ovaries have long-term, durable function," said Teresa K. Woodruff, a reproductive scientist and director of the Women's Health Research Institute at Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine. "Using bioengineering, instead of transplanting from a cadaver, to create organ structures that function and restore the health of that tissue for that person, is the holy grail of bioengineering for regenerative medicine."

Do commonly used heartburn remedies damage your kidneys?
People taking photon pump inhibitors, such as Nexium or Prilosec, for heartburn may find themselves at risk for kidney disease. In fact, “The risk of chronic kidney disease is as much as 50 percent higher in people who’ve taken the drug compared with those who’ve not — although no causative link has been proven and manufacturers insist they are safe,” according to a new report by Kaiser Health News. But while the FDA approved the drugs only for short-term use (a few weeks or months) many Americans are staying on them for years.

Are we better with age?

A new report on the health of Washington's seniors contains some good news: the state ranks 9th in the nation, up one place from a year ago. But the report identified challenges, including a 10 percent uptick in the number of seniors who smoke and a high prevalence of excessive drinking. On the plus side, there was a low prevalence of physical inactivity. The top three states for healthy seniors? Minnesota, Utah and Hawaii.

That uptick in smoking is a bummer, because smoking is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke. In fact, strokes are the leading cause of disability in the U.S. according to the American Stroke Association. The Rehabilitation Hospital of the Northwest in Post Falls is offering stroke education and risk assessments at a free Stroke Awareness Fair on Wednesday, May 24, from 1:30 to 4 pm. Dr. Madeleine Geraghty, stroke hospitalist at Deaconess Hospital and Rockwood Neurology Center, will discuss heart health and stroke prevention in a presentation at 1:30 pm. For more information, call 208-262-8700 or email [email protected]

Looking for more health-related information? Check out the current issue of InHealth.
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Vast majority of citizen complaints in 2015 not reviewed or acted upon, police ombudsman's annual report finds

Posted By on Thu, May 18, 2017 at 1:06 PM

Spokane Police Ombudsman Bart Logue
  • Spokane Police Ombudsman Bart Logue

An overwhelming majority — 82 percent — of citizen complaints against Spokane police officers in 2015 were not reviewed by police brass, resulted in no action and instead were classified as "inquires" or "administratively suspended."

That is one of the most significant revelations in the Office of Police Ombudsman's annual report released this week. Suspending or misclassifying a case, Logue believes, feeds the perception that discipline for officer misconduct is inconsistent and arbitrary.

The statistic only applies to citizen generated complaints filed in 2015, when the ombudsman's chair was vacant. Notably, only 6 percent of complaints in 2015 that originated internally — rather than with a member of the public — were classified as inquiries or were suspended. In other words, in most cases where a cop told on a cop, SPD's administration reviewed the case, and either sustained the allegation or dismissed it.

"I think there was a lack of care paid to [citizens'] concerns in 2015," Logue says. "They didn't try to get to the heart of what the citizen felt and what brought the citizen to their attention. It's a big thing to file a compliant against a police officer."

For 2016, the first year in Logue's tenure, the percentage of suspended complaints dropped from 82 to 58. Still, Logue cites the U.S. Department of Justice's report on the beleaguered Baltimore Police Department, which found that only 33 percent of allegations were suspended and 43 percent were administratively closed over a five-year period.

The report (scroll down to read the whole thing), was prepared with the help of ombudsman analyst Luvimae Omana and marks the first comprehensive, yearlong review of civilian police oversight in Spokane under Logue's watch. It both sheds light on SPD's previous shortcomings in holding its officers accountable and gives reason to be optimistic going forward.

Logue says the department changed the way it classifies cases when he brought this issue to Chief Craig Meidl's attention.

"I'm not satisfied with 2015 at all," Logue says. "But just having that little bit of influence and ability to nudge [internal investigators] has changed behaviors from 'We're not looking into that,' to 'We're going to investigate anything you bring to us.' There's been such a significant change."

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City Council President Ben Stuckart is sick of people whining about the River Park Square scandal

New City Attorney Michael Ormsby's ties to the debacle have revived the controversy

Posted By on Thu, May 18, 2017 at 12:03 PM

Spokane City Attorney Michael Ormsby's apppointment caused River Park Square issues to again rise to the surface. - DANIEL WALTERS PHOTO
  • Daniel Walters photo
  • Spokane City Attorney Michael Ormsby's apppointment caused River Park Square issues to again rise to the surface.

City Council President Ben Stuckart is frustrated with the River Park Square scandal. Not the messy public-private partnership a decade ago that cost the city millions of dollars, but the ongoing reaction to the scandal.

The subject came up during Monday night's narrow 4-3 vote to confirm former U.S. Attorney Michael Ormsby as Spokane's new city attorney. Several speakers — including Councilman Breean Beggs — brought up concerns about Ormsby's controversial role in the scandal, resulting in Stuckart delivering an impassioned monologue decrying "the anger that holds us back as a community to continue to re-litigating the thing over and over and over, by the same angry small group of citizens."

"I just — I hate that we keep litigating River Park Square over and over and over in our community," Stuckart says.

For a quick Cliff Notes overview of the River Park Square scandal, check out our coverage of the incident from last year's Scandal! issue. Here's the even quicker version: In the mid-'90s, Nordstrom was threatening to leave, potentially dealing a death blow to the retail market in downtown Spokane. In order to save Nordstrom, the Cowles family — publishers of the Spokesman-Review, real estate tycoons and among the city's wealthiest families — offered to revitalize River Park Square, turning it into a swanky, modern shopping mall, complete with a parking garage.

That's where the city got entangled. As part of a public-private partnership, the city borrowed Department of Housing and Urban Development money and sold bonds to get the facility built. The catch: If the parking bond failed to bring in enough revenue, the city would be on the hook to make up the difference. But it turned out that the estimates for the garage were wildly  — some claimed fraudulently — optimistic.

The city, furious, defaulted on its loans and spent years tangled in lawsuits involving the garage. It arguably cost three  — count 'em, three — mayors their jobs.

Ultimately, Stuckart says it left the city paying $2 million a year, with half that amount because the city defaulted on its loans.

Monday night, Stuckart underscored how much of a mistake that was.

"Think about for the last 17 years, if we would have been able to have control of that garage as an asset, and had been receiving all that parking revenue?" Stuckart says. "That's $17 million!"

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