by Dan Richardson and Leah Sottile

Fourth Time's a Charm? -- SPOKANE -- The City Council is asking residents to approve a special $50 million bond to attack ruts, potholes and other road problems. The request, which needs approval from 60 percent of voters, comes on the March 12 ballot.

"This problem is not going to go away," said Councilman Al French at the Jan. 22 meeting.

The March vote to repair some of Spokane's broken roads will be the fourth attempt to raise special funds for roads since 1987, according to Roger Flint, public works director. Voters only approved the first bond, which was $15 million.

Public spending is like credit card debt: It's easy to rack up big bucks, and the longer one waits, the more painful it is to pay them off -- a fitting analogy to Spokane's problem with deteriorating roads.

The principal in this case is $180 million worth of outstanding road repairs, according to city administrators. The interest is $7 million in wear-and-tear every year. City residents are only paying $3.5 million in repairs -- meaning that each year, millions of dollars in road damages go unfixed, and the debt grows.

Spokane's getting eaten alive by the interest.

City Administrator Jack Lynch says that the bond request -- which was most recently raised by Councilman Steve Eugster -- would cost the owner of a property assessed at $100,000 about $72 a year, or $1.38 a week.

Not everyone is convinced this is a good idea, of course.

Former Mayor John Talbott told the council it should, instead, seek a change to the city charter to set aside a dedicated percentage of the budget for roadwork.

"I'm afraid what you're addressing is the symptom" of an under-funded transportation budget, Talbott said.

Spill Follow-Up -- Orofino, Idaho -- Despite the recent large fuel spill in a narrow mountain canyon alongside the Clearwater River, no wildlife have been found dead here, officials say. The question of long-term environmental damage remains unanswered, however.

"We excavated about 3,000 cubic yards of contamination," says Hudson Mann, mediation manager for Idaho's Department of Environmental Quality.

A tanker crashed along Highway 12 earlier this month, spilling 10,000 gallons of diesel -- most of it in the river -- but there were "no observed fish killed or injuries to any river wildlife," says Mann.

Idaho Fish and Game, the Nez Perce Tribe and the DEQ have clocked more than a hundred hours working on assessing the biological status of the site. A refined fuel, diesel tends to float on the water surface, allowing for easier cleanup, says Orofino Mayor John Schurbor.

Orofino is a small community downstream of the spill. The spill forced Orofino and three other communities, including Lewiston, to shut off their water supplies temporarily.

"Our immediate and primary concern was about what effects the spill had on the public water supply," says Jim Bellatty, regional administrator of DEQ.

DEQ will continue to check the spill site and collect water samples.

The Friends of Clearwater are concerned because the spill site was on a scenic river bordering a national forest. Gary Macfarlane, forest watch director of the group, suggests that tortuous Highway 12 may not be the best route for hauling hazardous material.

A Just War? -- SPOKANE -- That's one of the central questions a panel of thinkers, lawyers and reporters will address at a Feb. 11 Gonzaga University presentation.

Entitled "The War on Terror," the panel is designed as an interdisciplinary conversation about the big ideas at play, according to Pat McCormick, a religion professor who will be on the panel. Big ideas, he says, like the war's international implications, civil liberties and press coverage of the conflict.

These are all modern questions, but the one McCormick will ask is more than 2,000 years old: Is this a just war?

Western philosophers since at least Augustine have addressed that topic.

"Whenever you go to war, you know that people are going to die, and a lot of them are going to be bystanders," says McCormick.

Is America presently fighting a just war? So far, mostly yes, says McCormick, but less so as leaders speak of pursuing the conflict to places like Somalia and the Philippines. "To me it begins to look a lot more like the war on drugs: interminable and possibly un-winnable."

"The War on Terror" will be held at Gonzaga University's Hughes Auditorium on Monday, Feb. 11, at 7:30 pm. Call: 323-6715.

Krampus Fun for Everyone @ Hillyard Library

Sun., Dec. 11, 2-4 p.m.
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