Back to Bargaining
In a pushback against Mayor David Condon and the Spokane Police Guild, the City Council suspended rules Monday and voted unanimously to reject a tentative contract agreement reached by the city and guild, arguing it didn't sufficiently empower the ombudsman. The vote sends the city back to closed-door negotiations with the guild.
The administration and council (joined by citizen groups like the Center for Justice) disagree about how to empower the ombudsman to comply with a voter-approved charter change calling for a "totally independent" ombudsman. The agreement would have maintained the current system allowing the ombudsman to ask questions during internal affairs investigations and would have given a citizen commission (instead of the mayor) the final say on investigations with which the ombudsman was unsatisfied. The mayor has called the commission an important step toward independent oversight; others have demanded that the ombudsman be able to open his own investigations, which wouldn't affect officer discipline.
"The question becomes: What do you want the outcome to be?" asks the mayor's spokesman Brian Coddington. "Do you want to be able to impact discipline? It seems like that's what the community wants to be able to do."
Council members say voters wanted an ombudsman who can open separate investigations to be truly independent from the department. Council members had drafted an ordinance allowing for those investigations, which they planned to pass alongside the TA. But the guild's attorney argued such authorities must be bargained for and refused to promise the guild wouldn't object.
"It came down like the Tenth Commandment in granite: 'We won't be signing off on this,'" says Councilman Steve Salvatori. "That left nothing else to talk about." — HEIDI GROOVER
While U.S. Air Force officials in May voiced a preference for a Kansas airbase to house its new fleet of KC-46A refueling tankers, Fairchild Air Force Base remains one of the top alternatives and a recently released draft Environmental Impact Statement outlines the scale of the project.
With a 70-page summary, the more than 1,000-page draft statement examines all four bases under consideration for new tanker operations. A public hearing on the proposed project and EIS is scheduled for 5:30 pm Wednesday, Nov. 20 at the Lincoln Center in Spokane.
If new tanker operations moved to Fairchild, the draft statement indicates the base's 30 KC-135s would be replaced with 36 KC-46As, resulting in a 62 percent increase in flight activity. The base's population would also increase by nearly 1,100 people, including 417 full-time military personnel and their dependents.
The draft statement estimates the project would result in about $292 million in construction spending to build new facilities, creating approximately 3,020 jobs. The report found no significant impacts to the local environment, safety risks, air quality or infrastructure.
The entire summary and draft Environmental Impact Statement can be found online at: www.KC-46A-beddown.com. — JACOB JONES
No Concessions (Yet)
A week after the general election, the campaign to label genetically engineered food in Washington state has yet to officially concede as supporters wait for more mail-in ballots. Initiative 522, a statewide ballot measure that would mandate labeling of genetically modified food, has made some headway since Nov. 5, but by Tuesday afternoon, it was still failing, 48 to 52 percent, by a margin of more than 65,000 votes.
Meanwhile, state Sen. John Smith, R-Colville, also hasn't officially conceded his legislative seat. In the 7th District Senate race, Ferry County commissioner Brian Dansel is maintaining his lead over the incumbent with 53 percent of the vote. Kelly Lotze, Smith's campaign manager, says the Smith campaign is waiting on returns from Spokane and Stevens counties.
— DEANNA PAN