Friday, May 19, 2017

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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What we lost when we lost Chris Cornell, dead at 52

Seattle native and Soundgarden frontman dead of an apparent suicide

Posted By on Thu, May 18, 2017 at 9:20 AM

The first time I saw Chris Cornell, he was leading 
Soundgarden as an opening act for some long-forgotten headliner in a cement warehouse of a venue called the Speedway Cafe in Salt Lake City, around when the band's 1989 major-label debut, Louder Than Love, was released.

The last time I saw Chris Cornell, he was on stage at Spokane's Fox Theater performing an all-acoustic, mostly solo three-hour show that touched on every aspect of his career, from Soundgarden and Audioslave songs to solo originals and favorite covers ranging from Prince to Metallica to U2.

The thing that stood out at both those shows, and the myriad times I saw Cornell in between, was The Voice. Whether he was wailing in one of Soundgarden's Zeppelin-esque stompers or crooning some delicate ballad, Cornell's four-octave range was an undeniable instrument that always made him stand out from his rock 'n' roll peers.

That voice is silenced today as Cornell died in Detroit last night of an apparent suicide in the hours after a Soundgarden show. He was 52.

Chris Cornell last summer performing at The Fox in Spokane. - DAN NAILEN
  • Dan Nailen
  • Chris Cornell last summer performing at The Fox in Spokane.

The reunion of Soundgarden was a joy to fans who saw the band blow up along with the Seattle scene in the late '80s/early '90s. The quartet was one of the brightest lights of the so-called "grunge" movement, providing a more metal-edged sound compared to Nirvana's punk approach and Pearl Jam's classic-rock vibe. At their show Wednesday night in Detroit, Cornell and the band ended with their own "Slaves and Bulldozers," blending in some lyrics from Led Zeppelin's "In My Time of Dying."

Soundgarden was the introduction to metal for many "alternative" fans, and the introduction to indie/alternative music for a bunch of metalheads who just loved their monstrous riffs. When the band split up after several platinum albums, Cornell worked on solo albums that reflected his love of everything from sensitive troubadour Jeff Buckley to beat master Timbaland, and joined all the non-singing Rage Against the Machine guys in Audioslave for three albums.

Through all his twists and turns, The Voice remained one of the best in modern popular music. It was on full display last summer at The Fox, and in my review of the concert I wrote, "if Wednesday's show proved anything, it's that Cornell has as much of an exciting future ahead as he has a storied history."

Sadly, I was wrong. R.I.P. Chris Cornell.
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Downtown nightclub Stray has closed its doors for good

Posted By on Thu, May 18, 2017 at 9:15 AM

The downtown Spokane nightclub Stray and its 509 Ultra Lounge are no more.

The gay/alternative lifestyle bar at 415 W. Sprague 
Stray, which was located at 415 W. Sprague, is gone after less then 15 months.
  • Stray, which was located at 415 W. Sprague, is gone after less then 15 months.
was open less than 15 months after launching last February, moving into the space formerly occupied by one of the city's most legendary nightspots, the gay bar Irv's.

Stray, adjacent to the Satellite Diner & Lounge, was known for its drag shows, DJs, karaoke and dance parties — it made the top three among area dance clubs, as voted upon by Inlander readers earlier this year — as well as a dress code that generally left it up to bartenders what they wore at work: usually, that resulted in the bar staff wearing only underwear; bras and booty shorts for female bartenders, and boxer shorts for the bare-chested males.

While Stray catered to Spokane's LGBTQ community, its clientele certainly was not exclusively gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered, and it was known as a place where anyone who respected other patrons was welcome. A big draw was the thrice-weekly drag shows featuring the ensemble Le Gurlz, led by Spokane's best-known drag queen, Nova Kaine (aka Jason Johnson).

The following statement, which appeared on Nova Kaine's Facebook page earlier this week, was shared on the pages of both Stray and the 509 Ultra Lounge, which opened last June:

"It is with great sadness that I have to confirm the closure of Stray Nightclub. After pouring blood, sweat, and tears into that Building for the last 12+ years I had to pack my wigs, dresses, and shoes out of a dressing room we built. Turning off the lights for the last time was hard. But I have been here before. The closure of Dempsey's, Hollyrock, Spotlight, and 412, Le Gurlz has survived them all. Just another closed chapter of this Epic Adventure. Time to open a new Chapter."

In addition, Stray posted this short message on its Facebook page:

"It is with regret we must announce that Stray/509 Ultra Lounge is now closed. We want to thank all you who have supported us and enjoyed our shows and hope that you have a great  Summer!" — Stray/509 Management

Calls to Stray's telephone number (624-4450) were not answered. Co-owners Brenton Holland and Tyler Newman, who ran the business and own two similar bars in Everett, were not available for comment.

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Chris Cornell dead at 52, Stray nightclub closes for good and morning headlines

Posted By on Thu, May 18, 2017 at 9:05 AM


MUSIC: Soundgarden and Audioslave frontman Chris Cornell has died at 52. An official cause of death has not yet been released, but Detroit police responded to an "apparent suicide" of a white man with the same birthday as Cornell (July 20, 1964), the New York Times is reporting. Cornell (and his iconic voice) is credited as one of the architects of grunge rock.

Stray nightclub in downtown Spokane has officially closed, less than 15 months after it opened. The club was known for its thrice-weekly drag shows and its bartenders' unconventional dress code.

NEWS: For thousands of Washington state high school seniors, one end-of-course biology exam could be the only thing standing in the way of graduation.


Don't drink the water!
Air Force officials are giving few specific details about the well-water contamination near its Fairchild base — including the location of each well that is affected and the level of dangerous chemical concentrations in them. Studies dating back to the 1950s have linked the perfluorinated chemicals, used by the Air Force to extinguish fires, to serious health defects. (Spokesman-Review)

The special prosecutor
The U.S. Department of Justice has appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller III to oversee its investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. (NPR)

As he is wont to do, Trump tweeted his response:

Additionally, Republicans are calling on ousted FBI Director James Comey to spill his guts about his conversations with the president leading up to his termination. (New York Times)

What Ailes you
Roger Ailes, accused sexual harasser and ousted chairman of Fox News, is dead at 77. The man who built Fox News into a conservative news empire was forced out of the network amid allegations that he sexually harassed female employees. (CNN)
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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

One test may block thousands of high school seniors in Washington from graduating this year

State Board of Education asks the legislature to take action

Posted By on Wed, May 17, 2017 at 4:06 PM

Thousands of high school seniors in Washington may not graduate because they haven't passed a biology end-of-course exam, according to the State Board of Education.

The board has asked the state legislature to eliminate 
The biology end-of-course exam is an obstacle between thousands of Washington high school students and graduation.
  • The biology end-of-course exam is an obstacle between thousands of Washington high school students and graduation.
the end-of-course test  as a graduation requirement, but it's unclear when, and if, the legislature will take action, says Alissa Muller, communications consultant for the state board.

After the legislature passed a two-year delay in 2015, the biology end-of-course test is supposed to become a graduation requirement with the graduating class of 2017. The requirement is in addition to other tests required for graduation in math and English language arts. In language arts, students must pass the statewide Smarter Balanced assessment or an approved alternative.

The same goes for math, though students can pass an algebra or geometry end-of-course exam instead of Smarter Balanced in order to graduate.

But the biology end-of-course exam is proving to be a major obstacle for many students. Muller says there are slightly fewer than 6,000 students who may not graduate because they didn't pass a test in one of the three subjects, but 3,000 of those students have passed all requirements other than the biology exam. For about 1,500 students, the English language arts test is the only obstacle; the math test is the last hurdle for 1,000 students.

In Spokane Public Schools, 72 students have met all requirements for graduation other than passing the biology end-of-course exam, according to Travis Schulhauser, SPS director of assessment and program effectiveness.

The state board is asking for action on the biology exam, specifically, because currently it is preventing the most students from graduating. Additionally, the state legislature has already agreed to defund the biology exam in the budgets on the table in both chambers.

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Spokane City Hall now offers moms who work there a room to breastfeed

Posted By on Wed, May 17, 2017 at 12:22 PM

Women who return to work at Spokane City Hall after having a baby now have a private space to nurse their babies or pump milk.

City Councilmembers Candace Mumm and Karen Stratton worked to get the room with the Gender and Pay Equity Committee and city administration. 

“Our working culture doesn’t always make it easy on moms and babies and we want to support new and growing families,” Mumm says in a news release.

“A Mother’s Room provides a private space for mothers to breastfeed or breast-pump, which will make the transition back to work much easier. Supporting new moms returning to work is not only the right thing to do, but it can also help us attract and keep talented young women on our city workforce.”

More than 500 women work for the city of Spokane. Those who choose to have children typically get 6 to 12 weeks for maternity leave, depending on medical need, and up to 12 weeks of bonding time allowed for under the Family and Medical Leave Act, according to city spokesman Brian Coddington.

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