NEWS BRIEFS: Cities can enforce homeless camping bans

Plus, fires are banned; and Spokane Public Schools will wait to ask for money

In a decision that could have major consequences around the country, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 on June 28 that cities can penalize camping on public property even if there isn't sufficient shelter space. The opinion stemmed from Johnson v. Grants Pass; under that case in 2022, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that homeless camping bans are cruel and unusual punishment. The Supreme Court disagreed. Leaders in many Western cities have complained that the former ruling made it hard to address camping. Advocates, however, argued that it's inhumane to punish someone for sleeping outside if there's nowhere to go. Spokane City Council member Jonathan Bingle, who has pushed the city to remove encampments, described Friday's ruling as a major win. Julie Garcia, a homeless advocate and CEO of Jewels Helping Hands, described it as devastating. "There's no protection for them under the law any longer," she said. The ruling could impact Spokane's Proposition 1 — a citizen-led ballot measure that criminalized camping within 1,000 feet of schools, parks and playgrounds. Police haven't cited anyone for violating it, and in an interview last week, Mayor Lisa Brown said it was unclear how or if the Grants Pass ruling would change that. Read more here. (NATE SANFORD)


Don't plan to sit around a fire this holiday weekend. This week, Spokane-area fire marshals enacted a burn ban that restricts all recreational fires (including backyard campfires or fire pits) and all open burning of fields or yard waste. The ban was enacted July 2 by Spokane, Spokane Valley, Spokane County, Cheney, Airway Heights and Deer Park, and will remain in place until the agencies lift it. You're still allowed to use propane and charcoal barbecues, outdoor fireplaces, and patio warmers, so burgers and brats can still make the menu. Fires in designated campground fire pits may be allowed, depending on the agency in charge of the site. Violating the ban can result in a misdemeanor charge. "To help protect our community from the risk of human-caused wildfires, the regional fire marshals are enacting countywide burn restrictions," Spokane Fire Marshal Lance Dahl said in a news release. "Burn restrictions are common during warm summer months, serving as additional protection from significant wildfire incidents for our homes and wildlands." (SAMANTHA WOHLFEIL)


The already-packed November ballot will not include another construction bond request from Spokane Public Schools. Since failing to pass a $200 million bond to replace and update facilities in February, the district's school board has been undecided about rerunning it this year. Finally, in a June 26 meeting the SPS Board of Directors voted 3-2 to postpone any bond issue until an undetermined future date. School Board President Nikki Otero Lockwood was joined by Hilary Kozel and Mike Wiser in this decision, while Vice President Jenny Slagle and Melissa Bedford voted to rerun the bond in November. During the same meeting, the board discussed condensing the bond to a $75 million ask that would only fund the replacement of Adams Elementary School and modernize the oldest parts of North Central High School's aging facility. (COLTON RASANEN) ♦

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