Visitors' Views

What those out-of-towners said about Spokane; plus, Walt Minnick on health care

Eye on Spokane

One of the best things about Spokane hosting huge sports events — aside from the tourism revenue and the games themselves — is the opportunity to hear what outsiders think of our city. So what were the impressions of all the players, staff, fans and visiting press here for the NCAA tournament?

Maryland sophomore guard Sean Mosley told a reporter from the Washington Post that he preferred playing in Spokane over Kansas City, where the team played first-round action last year. “In Kansas City, there’s nothing to do out there,” he said. “You’re in the middle of nowhere. But Spokane is a nice city.”

Teammate Adrian Bowie disagreed: “There was nothing to do … We just went out walking just to, like, find places to go, and nowhere. Just ended up walking around the hotel.”

Albany Times-Union reporter Pete Iorizzo, here to cover the Siena Saints, complained about the difficulty of getting flights in and out of Spokane. “If Siena’s first [game] had been in Guam, it would have been easier to get to there.”

Not everyone was so negative, though. In a story filed after the tournament wrapped up, Denver Post writer Tom Kensler saluted his Spokane hosts. Noting that the NCAA may require host venues to seat 12,000 people starting next year — and that Spokane Arena seats just shy of 12,000 when it builds in space for media, tournament personnel and pep bands — he begged that they not be sticklers for the rule.

“Yes, Spokane Arena is too small for regional semifinals. But for first- and second-round games, this is a wonderful destination,” he wrote. “When selecting sites, the NCAA absolutely should not discount the ‘care’ factor. People here are passionate about basketball.”

He went on rhapsodize about Hoopfest before concluding (perhaps a little clumsily), “Spokanians must hear the sounds of bouncing basketballs in their sleep. That’s a good thing.” (JOEL SMITH)

Minnick and the Voiceless

Idaho’s lone Democratic Congressman Walt Minnick voted against health care reform on Sunday and then was immediately struck dumb.

This is likely less an example of divine retribution [God is a Democrat?!] than a case of the flu that has made Minnick’s voice raspier and raspier until it all but disappeared, one of his aides says.

In a statement issued after the vote, Minnick calls health care reform “a difficult vote” because he sees the need for lower costs and better access to care. He stuck with his “no” vote from last year, Minnick says, because the reform package is too expensive.

In lieu of speaking to Minnick, we asked his aide John Foster why the recent findings by the Congressional Budget Office, showing the bill would eventually shave trillions of dollars off the deficit, did not sway Minnick.

“Walt has been a businessman for 35 years and has worked in the Office of Management and Budget. He is not a fan of Washington, D.C., math,” Foster says. Instead, Minnick pulled one of his famously wonky escapades and read through the bill, “and did his own tally,” Foster says.

Because of Minnick’s unwavering stance, neither House leadership nor the White House spent much time trying to arm-twist his vote, Foster says.

Idaho Gets a Bit Nicer

Following Washington’s lead, Idaho is cleaning up its language. As reported earlier in The Inlander (“Excuse My French,” March 4, 2010), Washington legislators thought it wise to modernize the state code, making laws gender-neutral and expunging offensive words such as “retarded” and “idiots or insane people.”

Not to be outdone, Idaho lawmakers set forth with a similar goal. As Sen. Les Bock, a Boise Democrat, told KTRV-TV, “I just happened to have a bill in front of me that used the words ‘mentally retarded.’ So I was surprised to see it. So I had Legislative Services look at it and I was surprised at the number of statutes that had ‘mentally retarded’ in them. So we decided to do a complete overhaul,”

The bill passed the Senate earlier this month by a vote of 33-0, and passed the House Monday 68-1. (The only legislator to vote against the bill was Rep. Jim Patrick, a Republican from Twin Falls.) The bill’s headed to Gov. Butch Otter’s desk, awaiting his anticipated signature. (NICHOLAS DESHAIS)