Munson's Shadow

Spokane Valley’s former mayor wont go quietly into that good night. Also, Dems party

Some politicians, after being defeated, fade to the background, allowing their successors to govern with nary a word of criticism.

Not Rich Munson, ex-mayor of Spokane Valley. He’s not only regularly sitting in on City Council meetings, he’s also regularly commenting on Spokane Valley affairs for the Spokesman-Review’s “Washington Voices” column. Some of it is a bit, uh, harsh.

“Let’s put aside the obvious criticism that campaign promises are made to win elections, but governing is the place where grown-ups must deal with the realities of the law,” he writes. He then accuses the new City Council of not having a solid plan and implies that Councilman Dean Grafos does not represent the “real” interests of the city.

Grafos fired off a here’s-what-our-plan-doesn’t-include rebuttal, rattling off a long list of attacks on Munson’s legacy and budgetary priorities before offering a few ideas for the city future.

“Your newspaper campaign of personal attacks looks petty and reflects poorly on you,” Grafos writes. “This Easter season is a time of renewal and hope.”

Grafos says he welcomes Munson’s ongoing involvement, but decries the attacks on him personally.

“Oh, I’m still going to be involved, you bet. I live here. It’s my city,” Munson says. “I am not going to allow them to have carte blanche in making changes that are not vetted in front of the public.” (DANIEL WALTERS)

Donkey Hoedown

If you think Republicans know how to party (“The GOP Offensive,” 3/25/10), wait till you see the Democrats throw down. On Friday, the Spokane Democrats are holding their Legacy Dinner 2010, a fundraising event with special guest U.S. Senator Patty Murray. Tickets are $60 a pop, but they include dinner, drinks and plenty of progressives. And on Saturday, the party is holding its bi-annual county convention — expect plenty of speechifying, glad-handing and platform-tinkering. Everyone is invited to attend both events, but if you’re not willing to declare yourself a Democrat, you may not want to show up. Festivities start at 9 am at the Carpenter’s Hall, 127 E. Augusta Ave.

In related news, Spokane Mayor Mary Verner is launching her 2011 re-election bid on April 22, which also happens to be Earth Day. Coincidence? Probably not, but let the campaigning begin! (NICHOLAS DESHAIS)

Foul Water

Spokane Riverkeeper Rick Eichstaedt has been busy this week. Not only is he intervening on the behalf of redband trout on the Spokane River (see p. 13), he also fired a shot across the bow of the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) this week. In a legal notice, he alleged that construction of the North Spokane Corridor freeway has introduced polluted water into Deadman Creek and the Little Spokane (tributaries that feed the Spokane River) and that the department failed to adequately prevent the contamination.

Eichstaedt says the issue came to Center for Justice’s attention when residents along those streams reported that the water turned an abnormal color every time it rained. “We did a site investigation,” Eichstaedt says. “Our experts indicated that there were some real problems.”

The investigation revealed high levels of dirt in the water due to runoff from the sites. “It doesn’t take very much rain to move this dirt,” he says. “For fish, it’s kind of the same as too much smoke in a room. They can suffocate.”

Eichstaedt says that under the Clean Water Act, WSDOT must be given 60 days to clean up its act before a lawsuit is filed.

Mike Frucci, assistant administrator for project development for the Department of Transportation’s eastern region, says the department was surprised to receive Eichstaedt’s notice but was quick to respond to him.

He says the department is aware of four instances when discharges from the project exceeded the legal threshold, and each time the problem was addressed. “We believe the project has followed the permit,” he says.

Eichstaedt says WSDOT’s own data indicates that discharge has exceeded the legal threshold around a dozen times and that problems have been observed since December, when the department said all runoff issues had been dealt with. “It’s my hope that they’ve done some better things,” he says “but based on our observations, there are still some things that need to be done.”

Frucci is eager to meet with Eichstaedt and resolve the issue. And Eichstaedt says that if WSDOT implements a plan to stay in compliance with the Clean Water Act, it could set a precedent for future projects and could ultimately help clean up the Spokane River. “In order to restore quality to the Spokane River we need to look at all the sources, including construction sites,” he says. (NATALIE JOHNSON)

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About The Authors

Nicholas Deshais

Nicholas Deshais is a former news editor and staff writer for The Inlander. He has reported on city, county and state politics, as well as medical marijuana, transportation and development. In May 2012, he was named as a finalist for the prestigious Livingston Award for an Inlander story about (now former) Assistant...

Natalie Johnson

Natalie Johnson is an intern at The Inlander.

Daniel Walters

A lifelong Spokane native, staff writer Daniel Walters is the Inlander's City Hall reporter. But he also reports on a wide swath of other topics, including business, education, real estate development, land use, and other stories throughout North Idaho and Spokane County.He's reported on deep flaws in the Washington...