NEWS BRIEFS: State officials want a new fire-focused license plate

Plus, Spokane leads the nation for housing innovation; and Spokane library and EWU partner up for the arts

While Smokey Bear probably wouldn't approve of you doing donuts, he may soon be on one of the personalized license plate options in Washington state. Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz is working to create a Smokey Bear license plate, with the proceeds going to wildfire prevention and support for wildland firefighters. The plates would need to be approved with legislation, and the Department of Natural Resources is gathering signatures to get the plate considered by the Department of Licensing. That signup can be found at "A Smokey Bear license plate would let people show their support for the firefighters who put their lives on the line every season to keep us, our property and our lands safe from fire," Franz said in an announcement. "Putting his image on vehicles across Washington will increase wildfire awareness by reminding everyone of his signature catchphrase: Only You Can Prevent Wildfires." (SAMANTHA WOHLFEIL)


In a victory for housing advocates, Spokane passed a sweeping slate of reforms last week that make it legal to build diverse types of housing in almost every part of the city. Duplexes. Triplexes. Fourplexes. Cottage housing. Courtyard apartments. Townhomes. In-law units. Even six-plexes. The new law makes permanent a temporary zoning law that earned Spokane national attention when it launched as a pilot program last year. "Spokane can plausibly claim to be the leading city for housing innovation in America right now," the prominent, California-based writer and environmental advocate Alex Steffen wrote on X (formerly Twitter). Many cities have tight zoning restrictions, which have increasingly drawn criticism for prioritizing single-family homes and exacerbating housing affordability issues. City Council members passed the new law unanimously last week after hearing overwhelmingly supportive testimony. Council member Jonathan Bingle noted that the housing reforms had united groups of people who usually disagree. "But on housing, we're sort of together," Bingle said. "There's a real alignment on housing and neighborhood walkability and this entire idea of making our communities smaller and more accessible." (NATE SANFORD)


Earlier this month the Spokane Public Library announced a new partnership with Eastern Washington University's fine and performing arts department. Each fall two recent graduates from the bachelor of fine arts studio art program will receive a six-month artist residency at the Hive. "The first few years after students graduate can be very hard because they lose their school studio space and everyday guidance," Joshua Hobson, the director of EWU Gallery of Art, said in a statement. Spokane Public Library Arts Education Specialist Eva Silverstone says this program will produce "a high-quality lineup of emerging artists in our region." Two graduates, Noelle Bowden and Luu Melon, have already been chosen for this year's residency due to their overwhelming creativity and exceptional applications, according to a statement. Their work can be viewed from 4-7 pm during Open Studio Wednesdays at the Hive. (COLTON RASANEN)

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