by Cara Gardner and Pia K. Hansen

Oscars of Human Rights -- SPOKANE -- Movie Stars, pop singers and athletes are celebrated and awarded during televised ceremonies throughout the year, but rarely do we congratulate the people and organizations working hard to preserve human rights. Most of us know of those in our community who are devoted to peace, diversity and equality; now is the time to nominate them for the third annual Mayor's Award for Human Rights. Together with the Spokane Task Force on Race Relations, a nonprofit organization dedicated to action for racial equity, the mayor will honor the individuals and organizations working to make Spokane a better place.

Lemus explains that all the nominations for the Mayor's Human Rights Award will be reviewed by a committee of about five people, from different segments of the community.

"They'll make the recommen-dations to the mayor, who decides the winners," Lemus says. The award has five categories: nonprofit organization, for-profit organization (business), youth organization and two individuals. The committee will look for efforts that have had a positive impact or raised public awareness on civil and human rights in Spokane.

Lemus says Mayor Jim West will announce the winners at a banquet in April.

All nominations are due by March 1. Nomination forms are at or call 625-6263.

Expanding the Search -- OLYMPIA -- You can do just about anything online: pay bills, shop, look up old friends and even perform background checks on people. Now, by checking, you can browse the Washington State Patrol's (WSP) newly launched Most Wanted Web site. The site lists those with felony warrants out for their arrest. The WSP hopes the public can help track the criminals down. Currently, there are 25 suspects at large, and the WSP says it's focusing on tracking down those wanted in connection to vehicular homicides, hit-and-runs and vehicular assaults.

"Right now, we're starting with our felony collision program," says Capt. Brian Ursino of the criminal investigation division of the WSP. "That's all we've got up there at this point."

During 2003, the WSP investigated 178 felony collisions statewide. Of those, 21 were felony hit and runs, 112 were vehicular assaults - in which one or more persons were injured by someone else driving recklessly or while drunk-- and 45 were vehicular homicides.

The Washington State Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WSASPC), working with the state's county sheriffs departments, also has a Web site that contains updated information on registered sex offenders. Citizens can access the information by going to the Spokane County Sheriff's Department Web site at: Idaho residents can also access information about registered sex offenders by accessing and following the links for their area.

And the Race Is On -- SPOKANE -- County Commissioner Kate McCaslin has barely announced that she's calling it quits at the end of this term and already candidates have begun to line up.

Liberty Lake Mayor Steve Peterson announced his candidacy at the end of January, and now Bill Burke is entering the race. The last time Burke ran was in 2000, when he lost to McCaslin even though he pulled 44 percent of the vote.

"We only spent one-third of what the other candidate did," says Burke. "We also carried the city of Spokane." Burke lives in Veradale and is known to most people as the organizer of the music and food festival Pig Out in the Park.

"Last time I ran, I had to prove to people that I was serious about it, that I wasn't just that one guy who puts on bands," he says. "I have a great deal of experience with revitalization -- for instance, working for the National Main Street Center programs. I have done 50-60 of those, in 25-26 different states, and I have been really lucky with those."

Peterson says his campaign will focus on job creation, economic growth and greater government efficiency.

"My goal is to bring a spirit of cooperation and collaboration between the county and its cities," Peterson said when he announced his candidacy.

Job creation is big with Burke as well. "We are just not aggressive enough," says Burke. "We have the money here -- the problem is we don't have an economic development plan we all share."

Publication date: 02/12/04

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