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McMorris Rodgers, Cantwell agree to Spokane town halls; plus, Mt. Spokane ski expansion gets the green light

click to enlarge Sen. Patty Murray is the lone holdout on hosting a town hall in Spokane among the area's D.C. representatives.
  • Sen. Patty Murray is the lone holdout on hosting a town hall in Spokane among the area's D.C. representatives.

TALK OF THE TOWN HALL

Spokane's TOWN HALL DROUGHT is over. For months, none of Spokane's national legislators — Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers — had been willing to hold town hall meetings in Spokane. McMorris Rodgers, in particular, had been targeted by local activists who held their own town halls and dared her to show up.

Now, in a span of a week, both McMorris Rodgers and Cantwell are scheduled to hold town halls in Spokane. McMorris Rodgers' traditional August town hall will be held at 5 pm in Gonzaga University's Cataldo Hall on Thursday. The tickets to the free event, available briefly on Tuesday, were gone in less than hour, but it will be televised on KSPS.

This year, McMorris Rodgers requires proof of residence at the door — like a driver's license or a utility bill — before being allowed to attend the town hall.

"The Congresswoman represents the people of Washington's 5th Congressional District, and this is a chance for them to hear from their Representative and have their voices heard on the important issues facing Eastern Washington. People not from the 5th Congressional District will not be able to receive tickets to the event," Jared Powell, spokesman for McMorris Rodgers, says in a statement. "However everyone is welcome to tune into KSPS-TV or watch the live stream online."

Cantwell's town hall will take place the following Tuesday, Aug. 15, at 6 pm, also in Cataldo Hall.

That leaves Sen. Patty Murray as the last of Spokane's national legislators to decline to hold a town hall this year.

According to LegiStorm's Town Hall tracker, Murray hasn't held an in-person town hall meeting since April of 2014. In an interview with the Inlander last week, Murray declined to agree to hold a town hall, arguing that there were more effective ways to hear from her constituents. (DANIEL WALTERS)


MT. SPOKANE GETS GO-AHEAD

Work is moving forward on an EXPANSION of the Mt. Spokane Ski & Snowboard Park after the Washington State Supreme Court declined to review a case challenging the development.

In March, the Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that it was OK for Washington state to designate a portion of Mount Spokane for recreation, which will allow for a new ski lift and runs.

The decision to classify that land for recreation was challenged by the Lands Council and other environmental groups, with support from the Spokane Tribe. They argued that the natural resources and wildlife in that area should be protected, and that the area is historically significant to the tribe, which used it for hunting, gathering and spiritual purposes.

With the Supreme Court opting not to review the Court of Appeals decision, the ski area is clear to go ahead with the expansion, which has been studied for more than 20 years.

"We're going to lose that wild part of Mount Spokane," says Mike Petersen, executive director for the Lands Council.

Those who have pushed for the new runs say they'll allow for more people to access the mountain, and in a smaller footprint than the original plans to expand into 800 acres on the back side of the mountain.

"Thousands of people were involved in this process on all sides. ... People are passionate about state parks here in Spokane," says Brad McQuarrie, Mt. Spokane general manager. "This is a huge improvement."

Crews are already clearing trees for the 79 acres of ski runs that sit inside a 279-acre "recreation" zone on the western side of the mountain. By the upcoming ski season, people should be able to use the runs, and take Chair 4 back to the top of the mountain, McQuarrie says.

By the 2018-19 season, the plan is to have a chairlift called the Red Chair installed for the new runs. The ski park purchased the chair from Montana's Bridger Bowl Ski Area in 2013.

The ski area is inside Mount Spokane State Park; the runs are managed by Mt. Spokane 2000, a nonprofit concessionaire contracted by Washington State Parks. (SAMANTHA WOHLFEIL)


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