Congresswoman among community leaders responding to post-election racial slurs; plus, remembering Judge Sam Cozza

click to enlarge Washington Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers got an earful from discontented constituents at this year's MLK Day rally. (This shot is from 2015 rally) - YOUNG KWAK
Young Kwak
Washington Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers got an earful from discontented constituents at this year's MLK Day rally. (This shot is from 2015 rally)


Remember the days when angry conservatives yelled at their representatives regarding Obamacare at town hall meetings? Now that the GOP is preparing to repeal Barack Obama's health care reform, it's Republican representatives facing disruption.

U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers' Martin Luther King Jr. Day speech Monday was interrupted by boos and chants of "liar" and calls for her to "save health care."

But McMorris Rodgers' MLK Day was also defined by the first meeting of a group formed to respond to the racial slurs that had been written on the MLK Jr. Family Outreach Center and in the Logan neighborhood shortly after the election. Spokane NAACP President Phil Tyler says he received a personal phone call from McMorris Rodgers.

"I was stunned, quite frankly," Tyler says. "She called me and said she was outraged and appalled by it. She wanted to do something for the community, to say this is not who we are in Spokane."

As a result, Tyler asked McMorris Rodgers to join a group of around 15 community leaders, including Mayor David Condon, Life Center pastor Joe Wittwer, Black Lens publisher Sandy Williams, and Spokane's police chief and sheriff for a "collaborative listening session." The goal, Tyler says, was about finding common ground, even amid political differences.

Tyler says he appreciates McMorris Rodgers keeping her promise to meet with him, and says the group will continue meeting to address poverty, racism and divisiveness within the community. He recognizes how tricky this can be, as minority groups like the NAACP have condemned the GOP leaders for their support of President Donald Trump's agenda.

"This is probably going to be one of the greatest challenges of my young leadership tenure," Tyler says. (DANIEL WALTERS)


Spokane Superior Court Judge Sam Cozza spent more than a year as the family law judge while one of his best friends, Art Hayashi, was a deputy prosecutor handling family law cases. During that time, Hayashi appeared in front of Cozza regularly. Not once, Hayashi says, did anyone challenge Cozza's rulings on those cases.

"I think that's a strong testament to the faith that the bar had in him," Hayashi says. "Even having his best friend in front of him didn't affect his decisions or how he would rule."

Cozza, who most recently served as the presiding judge in Superior Court, died Saturday, Jan. 14. The 61-year-old suffered a heart attack last year and never fully recovered.

Cozza is described by those in the legal community as a fair and balanced judge, who showed respect for every lawyer, victim and defendant who appeared in front of him.

"Sam was a very caring, thoughtful individual," says Jim Murphy, a retired Spokane Superior Court judge who spent time on the bench with Cozza. "He was impacted by the cases before him, expressing empathy for those he dealt with and sympathy for victims."

"He was truly a humble servant," adds his widow, Megan Cozza. "He was unfailingly kind and always made you feel important."

People would approach him while they were out in the community, she says, and say "Hello, your honor."

Cozza would respond: "Oh, just call me Sam." (MITCH RYALS)

About The Authors

Mitch Ryals

Mitch covers cops, crime and courts for the Inlander. He moved to Spokane in 2015 from his hometown of St. Louis, and is a graduate of the University of Missouri. He likes bikes, beer and baseball. And coffee. He dislikes lemon candy, close-mindedness and liars. And temperatures below 40 degrees.

Daniel Walters

A lifelong Spokane native, staff writer Daniel Walters is the Inlander's City Hall reporter. But he also reports on a wide swath of other topics, including business, education, real estate development, land use, and other stories throughout North Idaho and Spokane County.He's reported on deep flaws in the Washington...