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Spokane mayor not taking sides in WSU, UW battle over medical education

Oct. 22, 2014 12:51 p.m. - Updated: 2:20 p.m.

Spokane City Hall may be on the verge of having two separate and potentially competing legislative agendas for the first time in memory.

The priorities unveiled last week, which included backing for Washington State University's bid for its own medical school, represent only the City Council's agenda, said mayoral spokesman Brian Coddington.

Mayor David Condon hasn't taken sides in the battle between WSU and the University of Washington, which wants to expand a five-state physician training program in Spokane. Coddington said the mayor simply is backing state support for expanded medical education here regardless of which university takes the lead.

The distinction could put Spokane's lobbying corps in a bind when the 2015 session opens in January since the city may end up with two competing sets of priorities. Condon is expected to issue the official city legislative agenda later this year.

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Roundtable: Road projects have big payoff

Oct. 21, 2014 4:40 p.m. - Updated: 4:56 p.m.

OLYMPIA – Washington would get a major economic boost by finishing the North Spokane Corridor and some other major road projects worth $7 billion, a state business group said Tuesday. It faces significant costs and problems if the Legislature continues to deadlock over some type of tax-funded roads package. . . 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog. 

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Spokane mayor, city attorney seek ethics upgrade

Oct. 21, 2014 12:25 p.m.

This week, the city of Spokane is holding two public meetings about its proposed update to the city's ethics code. 

“This update formalizes our commitment to deliver outstanding service through greater transparency,” said Spokane Mayor David Condon in a statement. “The proposed updates establish a clearer process that protects the city, its citizens and the employees.”

The changes are being put forth by City Attorney Nancy Isserlis, who was involved in the origianl creation of the ethics board a decade ago.

According to the city, the new ethics code will refine private employment prohibitions after someone leaves a city job, better define gifts and gratuities people at the city can accept, provide a review and appeal process to the City Council and Superior Court, expand the power of the citizen ethics committee and increase possible penalties for violating the rules, among other things.

The ethics code will cover employees, elected officials and members of boards and commissions, whether paid or unpaid.

This week's public meetings will be held in the City Council Briefing Center in the lower level of City Hall. The first meeting on Wednesday is scheduled from noon to one p.m. Thursday’s meeting will be held from six to seven p.m.

Read more about the ethics code changes here.

Watch the mayor talk about it at this week's news conference below.

 

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Commissioner candidates trade well-worn barbs at Valley debate

Oct. 21, 2014 10:51 a.m. - Updated: noon

Al French and Mary Lou Johnson used the “Rally in the Valley” debate at Central Valley High School on Monday night to continue policy position and leadership style attacks that have defined the race since the two emerged victorious from the August primary.

Here's a look at some of those claims, and the facts that support or dispute them.

Claim 1: Johnson attacks French's public records request of Spokane city government as evidence of blustery style.

In April, French submitted a public records request to the Spokane City Council requesting documents and legal basis for discussions about the expansion of the urban growth boundary. You can read that document here.

Johnson drew the crowd's attention Monday night to a headline from Spokesman-Review columnist Shawn Vestal, who called French's records request “an attempt to annoy, chasten and insult those who disagree with him.”

“Good leaders lead by example … another thing good leaders don't do is lash out or alienate other elected officials,” Johnson said, before referencing the opinion column.

French defended his request Monday, saying he filed the request because city council members were deceiving citizens in comments at a public meeting.

“As an 8-year City Councilman for the city of Spokane, I knew the information that they were telling the public was factually inaccurate,” French said. “And the only way to prove that to the public was to do a public records request and have them back up their statements with facts. Which, to this day, they have yet to do.”

The Spokane City Council provided records later Tuesday, after publication of this blog, that the records request has been suspended at the request of French and county attorney, Jim Emacio. The records request was suspended in April 2014.

To read the rest of this item, or comment, go inside the blog.

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GOP incumbents want Ebola travel restrictions, challengers say no

Oct. 20, 2014 4:25 p.m. - Updated: 4:58 p.m.

Republican House members from the Inland Northwest say the United States should consider travel restrictions for West African countries to guard against the spread of Ebola, but their Democratic challengers say that’s the wrong course of action. . . 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, click here to continue inside the blog.

 

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Board clears Sen. Roach on foreign travel

Oct. 20, 2014 2:54 p.m. - Updated: 3:29 p.m.

OLYMPIA — A complaint against an Auburn legislator for taking an improper trip to Turkey and Azerbaijan last year was dismissed by the Legislative Ethics Board.

Some of the allegations were outside its authority, the board said, and the trip involved enough official and educational meetings that it wasn't an improper gift.

Republican Sen. Pam Roach was criticized by Reps. Chris Hurst and Cathy Dahlquist for joining legislators from other states on a trip to the two countries last spring while the Legislature was struggling through special sessions with its budget. They said she “abandonned her duties” to take the trip, which they contended was sponsored by groups with political views opposed to the United States, which “may have endangered citizens of her legislative district, Washington State and the United States by giving aid and comfort to the enemies of the United States.

But the Legislative Ethics Act does not say that travel during the session is an abandonment of legislative duties, nor does it allow for claims that accepting travel should be “conditioned on the political beliefs of the donor,” the board said.  

The law does set rules for accepting “reasonable expenses” for travel as a gift from another entity, the board said. But Roach's travel seemed to be made in her official capacity, it added, with discussions of energy policy and security, meetings with elected officials, and meetings on Turkish politics and the political system.

The Ethics Board had previously dismissed several complaints that Roach and her allies had filed against Hurst and Dahlquist, which included allegations they had made derogatory remarks against the sponsors of her trip.

Roach is running for re-election against Dahlquist, a fellow Republican, who is being supported by Hurst, a Democrat.

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Johnson denies disclosure allegations

Oct. 20, 2014 1:13 p.m. - Updated: 1:44 p.m.

Mary Lou Johnson said she's complying with state laws regarding campaign finance disclosure after a complaint was filed targeting a recent television ad and mailings.

Michael Cathcart, government affairs director at the Spokane Home Builders Association, sent a copy of his complaint to the Spokesman-Review last week. The Association has donated $900 to and endorsed Al French, the incumbent Republican and former real estate broker.

The complaint, which Johnson said she had not seen Monday, alleges the Democrat violated the rules of the Washington Public Disclosure Commission by not including a spoken statement of her party affiliation in a recent television ad. A guide to political advertising sent out by the disclosure commission in July states candidates should “clearly speak the sponsor’s name and any party preference” in broadcast advertisements. A similar complaint was lodged by backers of incumbent state Sen. Michael Baumgartner against his opponent, Rich Cowan, last week, prompting both Johnson and Cowan to say they'd be adding audio to address the issue in their ads.

Cathcart also alleges Johnson has failed to report the expenses of filming that ad, the amount she's paid to have it aired and the expenses tied to a mailer that began arriving in the county last week. The most recent due date for expense reports was Tuesday, when candidates were required to disclose all expenses and contributions since Oct. 13.

Johnson said the campaign ad was an in-kind contribution, for which she received a receipt Oct. 14. She wrote a check for the mailer postage costs the next day, then the costs of printing the mailers on Thursday, she said.

“We've been really, really careful,” Johnson said.

Cathcart said via email he had not spoken with French about the complaint, but had informed his campaign manager.

French has reported TV and radio ad buys totaling more than $23,000, running from now through Election Day. He's also spent more than $2,600 on print advertisements, including in the Spokesman-Review, according to public disclosure reports.

The next reporting date is Oct. 28, just seven days before the general election. French defeated Johnson by fewer than 300 votes in a three-way primary that included just the third district of the county. All Spokane County voters will receive a ballot for the general election, which French believes will boost his support.

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Sunday Spin: Where does McMorris Rodgers live?

Oct. 18, 2014 6:05 p.m.

At least once a week, and more frequently during election season, the newspaper gets a call, a letter, an e-mail or an online comment alleging a scandal about Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

Sometimes it comes in a conspiratorial query just above a whisper. Other times it’s stated as a verified fact, written in all-caps with multiple exclamation points. It might come from someone fairly inexperienced in politics who heard it from a friend who heard it from someone else – generally unnamed but usually “in the know.” Occasionally it comes from someone in the campaign wars long enough to be a bit more skeptical but doesn’t seem to care. . .

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

 

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Spokane retail pot sales top $1.9 million

Oct. 17, 2014 4:06 p.m. - Updated: 4:06 p.m.

Legal marijuana operations in Spokane County are reporting more money from sales than any of the state’s other 38 counties — almost $3.6 million worth of sales from licensed growers, processors and recreational marijuana stores since sales began this summer.

Clark County’s two recreational marijuana stores are outselling the five spread around Spokane County. Vancouver’s two stores reported $2.7 million in sales since opening in July, which is more than the $1.9 million total for the stores in and around Spokane, Spokane Valley and Millwood. Both counties are ahead of King County, which has three stores open in Seattle and one in Bellevue that combined for a total of $1.4 million in sales.

Spokane County’s 12 marijuana processors and seven growers both lead the state in terms of numbers and total sales. Combined with the five legal pot shops, Spokane County has recorded a shade less than $3.6 million in sales for legal marijuana at all levels that the state monitors.

In all, the state’s licensed recreational marijuana stores have reported a total of nearly $14 million in sales after sporadic openings across Washington in response to a vote-approved initiative that legalized marijuana for recreational use by adults in private settings.

Spokane Green Leaf on Country Homes Boulevard has sold more than $1 million worth of legal marijuana products since it opened in July, making it the state’s fifth most-active retail pot shop. New Vansterdam, reporting $1.6 million in sales, is in Vancouver, followed by Herbal Nation in Bothell and Cannabis City in Seattle and another Vancouver store, Main Street Marijuana.

Voters approved recreational marijuana use by adults in 2012. The state began issuing licenses for marijuana growers, processors and sellers in the spring, and the first stores opened in early July. Most stores had to close off and on in the beginning because of the shortage of supplies.

The Liquor Control Board, which issues the licenses for all recreational operations, recently began putting individual marijuana businesses sales and tax receipts on its website.

A computer analysis of those lists also shows that the second largest processor of marijuana is in Spokane Valley. Farmer J’s on Woodruff Road reported some $936,000 in sales of processed marijuana since July. The agency lists 12 different processors in Spokane County, with sales totaling more than $1.5 million out of nearly $7.5 million for processors statewide.

Some processors package marijuana for individual sale while others mix it with other substances to create edible marijuana products. Spokane County also has the top two growers based on sales, Green Surfer in Mead and Green Matter in Edwall.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this post had some incorrect figures because of incomplete capture of data from the Liquor Board's reporting system.

For a full list of sales totals for the state's legal marijuana stores, processors and growers, click here to go inside the blog.

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Candidates for county commission, state Senate engage in televised debate

Oct. 17, 2014 3 p.m.

Earlier this week, local public broadcasting affiliate KSPS hosted televised debates between Spokane County Commissioner Al French, a Republican, and his challenger, Democrat Mary Lou Johnson, as well as one between Republican state Sen. Michael Baumgartner and his Democratic opponent, Rich Cowan.

Topics ranged from the future of the jail and bus plaza, to marijuana tax receipts and the North Spokane Corridor. Also, I, your faithful correspondent Nick Deshais, sat on the reporter panel, along with Robyn Nance, who anchors KXLY's Good Morning Northwest, and Dan Kleckner, who anchors KHQ and SWX. The moderator was Kristi Gorenson, of Newsradio 920 KXLY.

See the videos after the jump.

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