Monday, October 16, 2017

Spokane's new snowplow plan: Faster plowing, narrower streets, bigger berms

Posted By on Mon, Oct 16, 2017 at 5:41 PM

Mayor David Condon stands in front of a front-end loader equipped with a gate that can drop down to prevent snow from being plowed in front of driveways. - DANIEL WALTERS PHOTO
  • Daniel Walters photo
  • Mayor David Condon stands in front of a front-end loader equipped with a gate that can drop down to prevent snow from being plowed in front of driveways.

Winter is coming to Spokane.

And if it's anything like last winter, it will be a snowy hell of fury and flurries. Last winter, complaints abounded about the city's snow response, including objections from the neighborhoods, downtown businesses and school districts.

In fact, last year, in the middle of snow season, then-Streets Director Mark Serbousek was fired from his position.

But with new Streets Director Gary Kaesemeyer in place, the Condon administration and City Councilwoman Amber Waldref have been pushing to try to reinvent the way the city gets plowed.

They even put out a survey in April to get feedback from Spokane residents.

Today, the city officially outlined their new snow-plowing strategy at a press conference in front of a new front-end loader snowplow.

"The heart of our new plan is really pretty simple," Condon said at today's press conference. "More plowing in more areas sooner."

And so far, at least, they're doing it without spending extra money. Instead, they're shifting staff from other departments to man snowplows during the snow season, and changing the order of planned fleet replacement to buy new equipment.

"We've heard you, and we're going to tackle snow differently as a result," Condon says.

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Here's what else is held up locally while Washington has no capital budget

Posted By on Mon, Oct 16, 2017 at 2:57 PM


In this week's issue, we highlighted some of the issues that have come up while the state doesn't have a capital budget, including lost jobs and construction projects put on hold.

Here are a few details on regional projects waiting on the capital budget to be approved that didn't make it into the story. Proposed allocations came from the Washington State Senate's version of the capital budget:

Eastern Washington University Interdisciplinary Science Center: $67 million
The largest line item coming to the Spokane area is a proposed $67 million for Eastern’s new science building, which will house the four key disciplines: Biology, Chemistry/Biochemistry, Geology and Physics. In the works for years, the building will replace the current 1962-built structure, which isn’t in the best shape, says Dave Meany, EWU spokesman.

“With a 33% increase in students enrolled in STEM programs, this is a critical project for Eastern,” Meany writes in an email.

Eastern Washington Clean Sites Initiative: about $10.3 million
At sites where the party responsible for pollution can’t be held accountable, the state Department of Ecology may take over cleanup. The impacts of not having the capital budget vary between projects, says Angie Wirkkala, finance manager for Ecology’s Toxics Cleanup Program, but most cleanups have been in the works for years, and if they’re near a construction phase, it can be hard to stop and start.

“That makes uncertainty not only for the department about how to find a good stopping point, but for the communities relying on that for economic growth and restoration,” Wirkkala says.

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MONDAY MORNING PLACEKICKER: Eastern now Washington's only Top 10 team

Posted By on Mon, Oct 16, 2017 at 10:53 AM

Is that a blue-and-gold train about to run us over, or just the Cal Bears? - WSU ATHLETICS
  • WSU Athletics
  • Is that a blue-and-gold train about to run us over, or just the Cal Bears?

It was one ugly weekend for fans of the region's top-tier college football teams, with both Top 10-ranked Washington State and Washington falling in huge upsets, and Idaho blowing a big lead at home. At least Eastern Washington seems to have righted the ship after early-season travails. Let's break it down:

NOT EXACTLY COUGIN' IT, BUT REAL BAD
Correct me if I'm wrong, as I'm a relatively new transplant to the area, but "Cougin' it" means losing a game in the last minutes in a painful way that defies explanation, correct? So I guess we'll call what happened in Berkeley on Friday night as a good, old-fashioned ass-kicking, with the Cougs going down to the Cal Bears, 37-3.

Yes, 37-3.

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Firefighters back Prop 2, bombings kill 300-plus in Somalia, morning headlines

Posted By on Mon, Oct 16, 2017 at 9:29 AM


ON INLANDER.COM

DANIEL WALTERS PHOTO
  • Daniel Walters photo

NEWS: Spokane's Firefighters Union has endorsed Proposition 2, which if passed by voters in November would make it a civil infraction and levy a fine on anyone who brings an uncovered coal train car or rail car of untreated crude oil through the city. 

NEWS:
 Ever wanted a closer look at what the crews in the refueling wing at Fairchild Air Force Base do? Here's our look at the way they run a gas station in the sky.


IN OTHER NEWS

Switching off an on-ramp?
The eastbound Interstate 90 on-ramp at Walnut Street could be closed by the state because it's so dangerous: it saw nearly 100 rear-end crashes over a five-year period, reports the Spokesman-Review's Nicholas Deshais. 

Desertion in the desert
Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, from Hailey, Idaho, has pleaded guilty to desertion after he walked away from his base in Afghanistan in 2009 and was held captive for almost five years. Bergdahl told the government that he meant to walk to another base to report leadership problems in his unit, but reportedly said he decided to plead guilty because he didn't think he'd get a fair trial. (New York Times, Idaho Statesman)

More than 300 dead in Somalian truck bombings
Two massive truck bombs killed more than 300 people and injured at least another 300 in Somalia's capital of Mogadishu on Saturday, in what Time reports is one of the world's deadliest attacks in years.

So long, Moos!
Washington State University's athletic director, Bill Moos, left his job Sunday for the same post at Nebraska, where he'll be paid a base salary of $1 million a year (Seattle Times).
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Sunday, October 15, 2017

THIS WEEK: Alchemous Beasts, VolunBEER, horror movie talk, zombie hikes

Posted By on Sun, Oct 15, 2017 at 1:01 PM

A presentation at Gonzaga on Wednesday night explores women of color in horror films, like Blacula.
  • A presentation at Gonzaga on Wednesday night explores women of color in horror films, like Blacula.

The week ahead offers a bevy of entertaining possibilities, so be sure to check out our event listings and Staff Picks when you want to get out of the house. Here are some of the highlights of the week ahead:

Monday, Oct. 16

FILM | The Magic Lantern's Monday Night Movies series presents Motherland, a documentary about the busiest maternity hospital in the world.

Tuesday, Oct. 17

COMMUNITY | The Inland Northwest Sports Hall of Fame honors people vital to athletics in the region with a ceremony at the Spokane Arena.

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Friday, October 13, 2017

WSU at Cal: Unbeaten Cougars contend with Bears, possible poor air quality

Posted By on Fri, Oct 13, 2017 at 1:06 PM

Last November, Gerard Wicks rambled for 128 yards against Cal, averaging more than 14 per carry, in WSU's 56-21 win. - WSU ATHLETICS
  • WSU Athletics
  • Last November, Gerard Wicks rambled for 128 yards against Cal, averaging more than 14 per carry, in WSU's 56-21 win.

A victory tonight in Berkeley would keep undefeated Washington State, the nation's No. 8 team, on the path to a potentially epic Apple Cup matchup. But the Cougars could face an unanticipated obstacle in the nationally televised Pac-12 North matchup with Cal at Memorial Stadium (7:30 pm; ESPN, KXLY 920 AM); poor air quality in the Bay Area resulting from Northern California's devastating wildfires.

After passing the season's first test away from home with flying colors (at least in the second half) in last Saturday's 33-10 win in Eugene, the Cougars (6-0, 3-0) play the second of five road games in their final seven contests; 3-3 Cal — which started promisingly, with non-conference wins at North Carolina and home against Mississippi under first-year head coach Justin Wilcox —  has lost all three of its games in the Pac by increasing margins and comes off a 38-7 beatdown at Washington last Saturday night, particularly notable for the Golden Bears' rushing total: minus 40 yards.

That's music to the ears of a Cougars defense that held the Ducks (who have a much better running game than Cal) to a paltry 2.9 yards per rush and just six first downs on the ground. The Bears, who have surrendered an average of nearly 38 points per game in their three conference losses, couldn't do much to stop the Huskies on the ground or in the air, and it's hard to see how they slow down the Cougars, especially senior quarterback Luke Falk, who continued his assault on the Pac-12 record books in Eugene, throwing for three TDs, good for 19 this season (also the number of times he's been sacked) and 108 in his career, second in the conference all-time. USC's Matt Barkley holds the record of 116.

Eastern fans will see a familiar face on Cal's sidelines: longtime Eagles coach Beau Baldwin, who in his first year as the Bears' offensive coordinator and running backs coach, has yet to light a fire under the unit: Cal's offense resides at or near the bottom of the Pac-12 in nearly every offensive category. The Bears don't look likely to break out of their offensive doldrums against an Alex Grinch-coordinated WSU defense that's at or near the top in nearly every respective category.

And Greater Spokane League fans will see a familiar face on the Cal defense: inside linebacker Evan Weaver, who starred at Gonzaga Prep. The 6-foot-3, 245-pound sophomore has appeared in all six games, starting three, and led the Bears last week at Washington with six tackles, two for losses.

Last November, Falk strafed Cal for 373 yards and five TDs as the Cougars routed the Bears 56-21 at Martin Stadium, only their second victory in a dozen games vs. Cal, both in the Mike Leach era.

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Spokane's Firefighters Union has endorsed the anti-oil-train Proposition 2

Posted By on Fri, Oct 13, 2017 at 12:05 PM


Safer Spokane's Proposition 2 — which would fine the owners of any train cars lugging high-pressure crude oil or uncovered coal — has struggled to draw high-profile supporters. Other than Breean Beggs, who wrote the initiative, other city councilmembers have been reluctant to jump on board, despite their fears regarding the utter devastation that an oil-train disaster would inflict upon Spokane.

But last week, Safer Spokane announced they'd won over at least one powerful political group: the Spokane Firefighters Union.

"We want to be able to save everybody from everything," says Randy Marler, president of the Spokane Firefighters Union. "It happens downtown, we’re not going to be able to save everybody. That’s concerning."

An oil tanker derailing downtown might not only result in a massive fireball that could consume nearby buildings, it could send flaming oil sloshing down streets and leaching into the Spokane Valley-Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer, the sole source of water for most people in Spokane County and North Idaho's Kootenai County.

"There's not something that we can do to effectively fight a fire like that," Marler says. "If there’s anything that the industry can do to make it safer, we would support it."

This has had firefighters worried for quite a while.

"No amount of preparation, no level of staffing, no amount of equipment, apparatus or personnel, would keep this from being anything less than catastrophic to our community," firefighter Dave Kovac told the Spokane City Council last year.

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Fairchild team seamlessly runs a gas station at 22,000 feet

Posted By on Fri, Oct 13, 2017 at 11:23 AM

Staff Sgt. Travis Peirce operates the boom at the back of a KC-135 Stratotanker, refueling a Thunderbird fighter jet over Nevada on Thursday, Oct. 12. - SAMANTHA WOHLFEIL PHOTO
  • Samantha Wohlfeil photo
  • Staff Sgt. Travis Peirce operates the boom at the back of a KC-135 Stratotanker, refueling a Thunderbird fighter jet over Nevada on Thursday, Oct. 12.

On our slow descent back to Fairchild Air Force Base after refueling the Thunderbirds show fighter planes mid-flight above Nevada on Thursday morning, I ask the two pilots steering this KC-135 Stratotanker what it's like to fly the 1962-vintage plane.

"I like to think of these like a '60s muscle car – it doesn't turn very well, but it goes well in a straight line, and has a lot of power," says 1st Lt. Adam Less.

At every stage of this refueling flight, with local media tagging along to watch a mission normally run by just two pilots and a boom operator, there's a reminder of old mixing with new.
img_3113.jpg

Hints of the plane's age are everywhere: the color of the mint-green insulation coating the tube-shaped body of the plane; the labels for gauges and switches in the cockpit, printed in the Futura font, popular at the time these planes were built; the bronze-gold color of the throttle. 

The thriftiness of maintaining these more than $40-million-apiece gas stations in the sky, which are stripped of paint, taken apart down to the bolts and rebuilt every five years, makes the contrast with the new more evident.

These old workhorses still manage to fuel planes incredibly quickly, without the need to land, which expands the military's ability to get planes anywhere around the globe in hours. Though the F-16 fighter jets fueled up on Thursday are part of the military's demonstration team, the Thunderbirds, they demonstrated how fast the fueling process can go.

Staff Sgt. Travis Peirce uses a chin rest and mirrors as he guides a fuel boom with two joysticks from the belly of a KC-135 on Thursday. - SAMANTHA WOHLFEIL PHOTO
  • Samantha Wohlfeil photo
  • Staff Sgt. Travis Peirce uses a chin rest and mirrors as he guides a fuel boom with two joysticks from the belly of a KC-135 on Thursday.

At 22,000 feet, the shiny, newer planes take turns sidling up to the underbelly of the KC-135, where boom operator Staff Sgt. Travis Peirce lays on his belly, ready to direct the boom the last few feet to contact with their receiving equipment and drop 3,000 pounds of fuel in what feels like the blink of an eye. Less than a minute after contact, each Thunderbird disconnects and the next in line gracefully moves over to fill up.

Peirce, who's been a boom operator for six years at Fairchild, and has at least another three years here, isn't fazed as reporters and photographers scramble down the steps, laying down on either side of him and snapping photos and video of the fueling as fast as they can.

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CONCERT ANNOUNCEMENT: "Weird Al" Yankovic to hit the Fox Theater in May

Posted By on Fri, Oct 13, 2017 at 10:52 AM

"Weird Al" Yankovic will perform at the Fox Theater on May 27.
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic will perform at the Fox Theater on May 27.

Parody artist and accordionist extraordinaire "Weird Al" Yankovic is hitting the road next year, and his tour will bring him to the Fox Theater on May 27. Yankovic last performed in the Inland Northwest in 2015; cult comedian Emo Philips is slated to open for him.

Billed as "The Ridiculously Self-Indulgent, Ill-Advised Vanity Tour," these upcoming shows will apparently be more intimate and scaled-down than Yankovic's typical shows — basically, don't expect him to bust out the latex suit from the "Fat" video. Interestingly, the set lists will apparently focus mostly on Yankovic's original compositions, which are often hilarious in their own right (check out "Midnight Star," "Albuquerque" or his Devo pastiche "Dare to Be Stupid," if you haven't already).

In the pantheon of parody musicians, Yankovic certainly reigns supreme. First gaining prominence through L.A. radio personality Dr. Demento, Yankovic became an unexpected  superstar in the early years of MTV, with the videos for "Like a Surgeon" and "Eat It" in heavy rotation. He's maintained his presence in the cultural zeitgeist since the '80s, parodying everyone from Coolio to Nirvana to Lady Gaga; his most recent album, 2014's Mandatory Fun, was his first to hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts.

Tickets for the Spokane show go on sale next Friday, Oct. 20 at noon, through the Fox's box office and all TicketsWest outlets.
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A death threat, another death threat, a snowy forecast, morning headlines

Posted By on Fri, Oct 13, 2017 at 9:20 AM

We might be looking at another snowy Spokane winter. - DANIEL WALTERS PHOTO
  • Daniel Walters photo
  • We might be looking at another snowy Spokane winter.

ON INLANDER.COM

Dry Fly, you fools
Dry Fly, the distiller of some of my favorite whiskey, is celebrating their 10th anniversary today. There will be drinking involved.

An A to Zika
InHealth: The Zika virus could be used to treat brain cancer — exactly the sort of crazy rogue medical treatment that Dr. Gregory House would use if he were still practicing medicine.

To catch a threatener
A Lake City High School student was arrested for making threats against other students on social media while posing with a gun.


IN OTHER NEWS

A racist with a gun

A 66-year-old black man in Spokane grew up in the South in the Jim Crow era. But it was this week, in Spokane, when a racist is accused to pressing a gun against his nose and threatening to kill him. (Spokesman-Review)

Here we snow again
Weather patterns indicate that this winter might be another snow-packed doozy. (Spokesman-Review)

Ozzie's ambition

Despite his increasing tendency to weigh in on politics in the city of Spokane, County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich maintains he's not looking to run for mayor. (Spokesman-Review)

Pulling the rug out from under Obamacare
Certain Obamacare subsidies were already in legal jeopardy. But President Trump's decision to scrap subsidies for low-income people could put the law in serious danger. (New York Times)

Flag team
Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has his staff fly a special little flag whenever he's in the building. (Washington Post)

Iran contrarianism
Trump hasn't killed the Iran nuclear deal yet — but he's trying to make it easier for himself to do so in the future. (The Atlantic)
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Meet the Makers Film Screening

Meet the Makers Film Screening @ Magic Lantern Theatre

Tue., Oct. 17, 7 p.m.

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