by Joel Smith and Cara Gardner

Peace Train on Track? -- SANDPOINT -- Peaceniks in Sandpoint are crossing their fingers that a march they've scheduled for this Sunday, March 20, will go on as planned. The Peace March, set for 2 pm in the Sandpoint town square, kicks off a full day of festivities marking the second anniversary of the war in Iraq.

The organizers of the event, the month-old Sandpoint Coalition for International Awareness and Solidarity, ran into some legal trouble three weeks ago when city officials told them that, according to the city code on public assemblies, the march would require not only 21 days notice and a permit, but also $1 million in liability insurance. The SCIAS squared away details with the city clerk and the chief of police, but the cheapest insurance policy they could find came out to $903. The group's spokesman, Evan Martin, planned to appear at an administrative meeting of the city council asking them to exercise an ordinance waiving the insurance requirement for good-cause groups who can't scratch up enough money.

Besides, Martin says, a clause in the same city code calling for $1 million liability insurance also states that nothing in the code could infringe upon the constitutional rights of public assembly and speech. Discouraged by the chief of police from claiming the exemption (because no one had ever claimed such an exemption before), Martin says he expected a fight from the city council.

"To my utter surprise," he says, "The chairman of the committee said, 'Well, yes, this is an issue we need to deal with.'" Turns out the code governing public assembly was passed only a few years ago to discourage white supremacist grandstanding and with this, its first challenge, says Martin, "it's coming back to bite [the city] in the ass."

Martin says Sandpoint City Attorney Will Herrington advised him to withdraw the group's petition and march anyway. Just to clarify, Martin said, "You're asking me to disregard the city code?" To which he says Herrington responded, "That would be my advice, yes."

Asked about the reason behind his advice, Herrington says that similar "provisions in other city codes have been declared unconstitutional. We can make him get a permit but we can't make him ... get insurance. That has a chilling effect on constitutional rights."

Herrington says that the peace march is a more clear-cut case because they plan to march on sidewalks, not streets, but he adds that the city will look at revising its code in light of fallout over the march.

Some involved in the event remain nervous that, despite the city's verbal okay, something is going to go wrong. But Martin seems optimistic. "I think it should all go over without a hitch," he says.

The Peace March begins at Sandpoint Town Square. It will be followed by a screening of The Fog of War at the Panida Theater at 4 pm and a community forum on war and peace at Sandpoint Community Hall at 6:30 pm. The forum will feature a potluck-style meal, discussions with Iraqi war veteran Gene Fisher and others, and the handiwork of Sandpoint-area artists and musicians. Proceeds go to benefit Panhandle Community Radio. -- Joel Smith

Trent/Falls -- SPOKANE -- Bad news for those locals who are still calling Spokane Falls Boulevard by its old pre-Expo name. City officials have announced that, in an effort to improve the image of the upcoming University District, they're extending the Spokane Falls name to the stretch of Trent Avenue between Division and Hamilton Street. Signs are going up today, March 17. -- Joel Smith

Domestic Partnership -- SPOKANE -- Equal rights for gay couples isn't just an issue at the state and federal levels. Local organizations are putting pressure on the Spokane City Council to recognize same-sex couples. The Inland Northwest Business Alliance (INBA), a pro-fessional business organization representing the perspectives of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and questioning people, is lobbying the Spokane City Council to adopt an ordinance for domestic partners benefits. The ordinance will be introduced on Monday, March 21, at the regular City Council meeting at 6 pm, though public comment won't be heard until the council's meeting on March 28. -- Cara Gardner

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Publication date: 03/17/05

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