by Cara Gardner and Joel Smith

Washington Hearts Women -- WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Well, there's good news and bad news for women in the Inland Northwest: Washington is one of the best states in the nation for women to live, ranking fourth behind Vermont, Connecticut and Minnesota; Oregon is fifth. Here's the cringer: Idaho is one of the worst states for women to reside in, ranking low in a variety of categories, from political participation to poverty.

This information comes from the Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR), an organization that conducts research and publishes reports on issues regarding equality. Last month, it released its annual "Status of Women in the States" report.

"When you look at the statistics, you can see that in no state in this country are women equal to men," says April Shaw, senior policy analyst with the IWPR. "Though we have made a lot of progress, we have a long way to go."

The institute ranked each state based on detailed criteria, including number of women in public office, percentage of women registered to vote, number of institutional resources available to women, reproductive rights, poverty index for women and average wages for women. Shaw says even the states that had high rankings, like Washington, fell short of being equal.

"We compared states with each other and also with what we'd ideally like to see," Shaw explains. "For instance, in terms of the state of Washington, it's the first in the nation in women's political participation, but still gets a B, not an A, because even though it does well in the number of women elected, it's still far from the 50 percent of seats women deserve to hold."

Idaho was given a D for women in political participation, ranking 39th in the nation. Though much of the report highlighted the major differences in policy between Washington and Idaho, one category neither state did well in was poverty. Washington ranked 23rd for the number of women it has above poverty level, and Idaho came it at 28th.

"I think certainly women are a critical part of our workforce and families and so when women are earning less ... that affects everyone," Shaw says. "If women earned more, families would have more resources at their disposal. It's a problem that affects everyone." -- Cara Gardner

Let Them Have Books -- SPOKANE VALLEY -- After months of niggling over fee structures, the city of Spokane Valley and the Spokane County Library District announced Monday that they had at long last come to an agreement on library services for the city. That means Valley citizens will continue to have access to the Spokane Valley library branch, as well as the other nine branches in the county system and all Spokane city libraries.

It was a little touch-and-go for a while there. The city and the district had been arguing not over the price tag for services, but for the way in which those costs would be measured. Eventually, the city agreed to the district's stubborn reliance on a bill added up using property valuation, rather than on usage.

"In the end, it was all about the community of Spokane Valley and the need to provide them, along with the entire district, with the best possible library services," says District Board Chair Frank Payne. Of course, his party got its way.

Unlike the 2004 library contract, which the district says it offered provisionally to allow the city to sort out how it wanted to use its library services, this contract provides five years of library service. It goes into effect Jan. 1. --Joel Smith

'Tis the Season -- SPOKANE -- If you're a business looking to feed the naked, clothe the hungry or maybe just claim a little holiday tax exemption, it's not too late. Give a jingle to Focus Spokane, a nonprofit foundation that just a few weeks ago began its work matching businesses with charities in the Spokane area.

"The foundation was launched in direct response to the frustration that both charities and businesses sometimes experience," says Teri Mathis, the group's executive director. "Businesses are approached by many good causes, and they can't help everyone. Charities in this community need strong support from the for-profit sector as well as from individuals."

Come on, Scrooge -- give it up. It's how Little Timmy would want it. -- Joel Smith

Since Our Story -- Last week in this space, we reported on a student-driven "rock 'n' roll" benefit concert at Lewis and Clark High School on Thursday, Dec. 16, but ticket details were not available at press time. If you plan on going tonight, tickets are available for $2 at the door. Donations, as always, are more than welcome.

Publication date: 12/16/04

Colville Corn Maze & Pumpkin Patch @ Colville Corn Maze & Pumpkin Patch

Through Oct. 31, 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
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