by Cara Gardner and Pia K. Hansen

Azteca Bought -- SPOKANE -- The Public Facilities District announced late Monday that it has decided to purchase Azteca, which is located on the site of the convention center expansion, but the PFD will not help the restaurant relocate.

"We appreciated the public dialogue on this acquisition, and our action shows that the board listened and took the comments seriously," said Shaun Cross, PFD chairman.

Previously, the PFD had considered building a new facility for Azteca, downtown and across the street from Auntie's Bookstore.

Business and restaurant owners complained that this was not only bad downtown development, but also gave Azteca an unfair business advantage.

Azteca's owner, Jose Ramos, seemed happy with the decision.

"We are confident that we'll find a new location where we can continue to employ our loyal employees and serve great Mexican food."

The purchase price has not yet been disclosed.

All About Love -- SPOKANE -- A small group of people gathered in front of the Thomas S. Foley Federal Building on Monday to support gay marriage. Carrying signs, sporting rainbow colors and chanting phrases like, "gay, straight, black or white, we all deserve equal rights," the rally was positive and peaceful.

"President Bush is on the wrong side of history," said Brad Reed, chair of the Spokane Human Rights Commission. "The interest of civilization is not served by suppressing mature love."

Since Bush has come out supporting a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, citizens throughout the nation have been vocal about the Bush Administration's discrepancies in logic. Rusty Nelson, with the Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane (PJALS), said the ban on same-sex marriage comes from "a mixed-up administration that will support war but not support marriage."

Emily Van Kley, who stood with Allison Eby and listened to the speakers, was asked what she would say to President Bush if given the chance. "Using the realities of people's lives and limiting them for your own political gain is one of the worst things you can do," she said. Asked why it was so important to support gay marriage, Van Kley smiled at Eby. "We're getting married here in August."

Costly Car Crimes -- OLYMPIA, Wash. -- There are a lot of car thieves in Washington state. In the most recent statistics compiled by the FBI, Washington ranks fourth in the nation for the most auto thefts, with 667 vehicles stolen per 100,000 inhabitants. That's 64 percent higher than the national average. The estimated loss for that level of theft was around $270 million last year alone.

"The growth of our population and that we're an import/export state contributes to part of those statistics," says Chuck Akau, detective sergeant for the Tacoma Auto Theft Unit. "And we've got the border to Canada, too."

There were 327 reported auto thefts for the first two months of 2004 in Spokane County.

"A portion of [stolen vehicles] are exported illegally and a portion are being chopped [for resale] -- and some are just stolen with the parts for personal use," Akau says.

The Washington State Patrol (WSP) has three auto theft units (in Seattle, Tacoma and Spokane), along with about eight VIN inspection stations across the state, each designed to identify stolen vehicles. Last year, VIN units arrested 132 auto thieves and recovered nearly 550 cars.

Happy Birthday -- SPOKANE -- Avista Corp, that little outfit that keeps your lights on, your water hot and your stove cooking dinner every night, turned 115 years old on Monday, March 15.

"It sneaked up on us," says Debbie Simock, spokeswoman for Avista. On March 15, 1889, a group of Spokane pioneers in the Washington Territory incorporated the Washington Water Power Company, now known as Avista. Starting off with $1 million, the company has grown to annual revenues of more than $1.1 billion.

"Avista has a rich history of accomplishments; our most recent and most challenging time was the Western energy crisis in 2000 and '01," says Simock, adding that Avista is back on stable financial ground. As for the next 115 years, Simock says the company is working on spreading its success.

"One way we can continue to grow is through the prosperity of the region, and we're putting a lot of resources into economic development in order to bring prosperity back to our region."

Publication date: 03/17/04

Louis Comfort Tiffany: Treasures from the Driehaus Collection @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

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