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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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3rd debate for 5th Cong Dist scheduled

Oct. 16, 2014 11:02 p.m. - Updated: Oct. 18, 11:38 a.m.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Democratic challenger Joe Pakootas have added a third debate to their campaign schedules, agreeing to a second match-up in Spokane.

The debate, sponsored by three area business groups, will be at 4 p.m. Oct. 30 at the Lincoln Center. While it's open to the public, the groups are charging $10 per person to attend. Click here to register for the debate.

Pakootas had initially balked at the cost and timing of the debate, saying he thought it should be free and take place later in the day, after more people got off work. The price of the tickets dropped but the timing stayed the same. 

“That's part of compromise,” he said Thursday. “It's important to the citizens in Spokane to have more debates.”

Pakootas and McMorris Rodgers debated earlier this month in Walla Walla, (Youtube video below) and are scheduled for an hour-long debate that will air on Oct. 23 on KSPS-TV Channel 7.

Sponsoring the Oct. 30 debate are Greater Spokane Incorporated, the Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce and the West Plains Chamber of Commerce. 

 

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Spokane backs WSU medical school plan over UW proposal

Oct. 16, 2014 1:19 p.m. - Updated: 1:55 p.m.

Spokane City Hall is backing crimson over purple.

The city announced this week it will help Washington State University lobby the Legislature for money to begin establishing its own medical school on Spokane’s Riverpoint campus. The WSU request for $2.5 million in startup funding over the next two years is among the city’s top three legislative priorities for the upcoming 2015 session.

Although the city also is supporting the University of Washington’s pledge to expand its medical education program in Spokane, it’s not among the top priorities.

The state’s two leading universities, after partnering for years on a shared medical education program with a branch in Spokane, are parting ways and will battle it out in the Legislature next year for money to pursue their own vision of how best to train doctors.

WSU wants its own Spokane-based medical school that relies on forging community partnerships with hospitals around the state to train physicians who’d be encouraged to practice in under-served regions of the state. The UW, which has one of the best medical schools in the country for primary care training, proposes aggressively expanding its Spokane satellite branch, which currently operates in facilities that WSU wants to use for its medical school.

Spokane has long sought expanded medical education opportunities at the Riverpoint campus as part of an overall push to strengthen the local economy and help ease physician shortages in rural communities.

But until now, city and other community leaders had largely avoided taking sides.

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Condon criticized outsized city salaries on campaign trail in 2011

Oct. 16, 2014 1:08 p.m. - Updated: 1:08 p.m.

As we wrote in today’s paper, Spokane Mayor David Condon won’t take the $7,000 pay increase he proposed in his 2015 budget, which would have brought his pay to nearly $180,000.

Part of the reason he made such an abrupt about-face had to do with the blowback he got from the public and other city elected officials, who criticized the raises for the mayor and the cabinet as “utterly ridiculous.”

On the campaign trail three years ago, Condon criticized pay for city officials to a group of supporters at a campaign kickoff breakfast.

“The employees and the cost of staff is spiraling out of control,” he said. “Literally, last week I got an email confirming that they're expecting somewhere between $5 million and $8 million in pay increases next year. I don't know about you, but it's time that - many of you probably aren't planning on a raise next year - that we look at this and make sure that we're getting our money's worth.”

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State could quadruple land planted to legal pot

Oct. 15, 2014 3:03 p.m. - Updated: 3:03 p.m.

OLYMPIA – Washington may soon quadruple the amount of land where legal marijuana can be grown.

The state Liquor Control Board is considering a series of changes to its recreational marijuana rules, and one of them would increase the allowable land for the legal pot to rise to 8.5 million square feet, up from the 2 million square-foot limit established last year when the system was set up.

That doesn’t mean recreational marijuana will overtake the state’s other cash crops like wheat, peas, lentils or apples any time soon; 8.5 million square feet is only about 195 acres. . .

 

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Ballots going in the mail starting today

Oct. 15, 2014 1:29 p.m.

Ballots are being mailed out to Washington voters starting today and Spokane County, which is sending out about 275,000 ballots, will mail them out over a two-day stretch through Thursday.

Most voters should have their ballots by the weekend, but the elections officials said that any registered voter who hasn't received a ballot by a week from Friday — that is, Oct. 24 — should call their local elections office. In Spokane County, that number is 509-477-2320. For contact information for other counties, click here.

Washington conducts its elections completely by mail, and while most voters have probably become accustomed to the ins and outs of the process, we'll repeat them for the newcomers:

Ballots must be marked, placed inside the security envelope, which is placed inside the mailing envelope, which must be signed and sealed. Registered voters can't combine ballots into a single envelope, they have to be returned separately.

Ballots can be mailed in or deposited in a drop box the county sets up in chosen locations. Spokane County has drop boxes at most libraries, and a few other spots. A list is inside the blog. For other counties locations, click here and select your county from the map.

A mailed ballot requires postage. A ballot placed in a drop box does not.

Ballots must be mailed so they are postmarked by Nov. 4, or dropped off before 8 p.m. that day. If you mail a ballot on Nov.4, it's usually a good idea to take it to the post office rather than leaving it for pickup in your own mailbox to make sure it is postmarked in time.

Voters who damage or lose their ballot can get a replacement by contacting the county Elections Office, or by going to a Voter Service Center on Election Day.

For a list of Spokane County drop boxes, check inside the blog.

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Spokane councilman plans public forum to discuss mayor, administration raises

Oct. 15, 2014 1:22 p.m. - Updated: 1:34 p.m.

Spokane City Councilman Mike Fagan said today he will host a public forum to talk about the proposed pay increases for Mayor David Condon and members of his administrative cabinet.

The mayor is poised to receive a $7,000 raise, bringing his annual pay to nearly $180,000. The increase is part of the mayor’s proposed 2015 city budget released last week. A majority of his cabinet members could also receive raises, including the police chief, fire chief, the head of the city's Community and Neighborhood Services department and more. 

The forum is scheduled to be held Nov. 14 at 10 a.m. at Spokane City Hall. Everyone is invited to come and speak their mind.

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In this corner …

Oct. 15, 2014 12:18 p.m. - Updated: 2:53 p.m.

The gloves are off in the 6th legislative district Senate race.

After trading jabs for the past few months, Republican incumbent Michael Baumgartner and Democratic challenger Rich Cowan now are pummeling each other in a series of back-and-forth sound bites and other insults triggered by a new attack ad.

The salvo opened late last week with a misleading Cowan TV spot accusing Baumgartner of being a stooge for out-of-state corporations enjoying state tax breaks that siphon money away from Washington's school children.

Baumgartner quickly called foul on the claims, filed a complaint with the PDC over an apparent technical omission in the TV ad, and accused Cowan of being a hypocrite for owning a company registered out of state that benefits from millions in state tax breaks for the film industry.

“It's inaccurate, illegal and hypocritical,” Baumgartner said, explaining that Cowan's ads fail to include a spoken reference to his partisan affiliation: “He's trying to hide that he's a Democrat.”

The Cowan campaign fired back that Baumgartner talks a lot about supporting private business and bringing jobs to Spokane but doesn't appear to have ever owned his own business nor personally ever created a new job here — choosing instead to attack an established Spokane company that's actively bringing higher-wage jobs to the region.

“Mr. Baumgartner is trying to slander a beloved local business that has paid millions of dollars in Washington state taxes to deflect attention from the fact that he has failed to create jobs,” Cowan campaign manager Alex Clardy said.

Baumgartner, who holds a substantial fundraising advantage, has yet to unleash any TV attack ads, though he's got a shelf full of mostly image-building issue spots touting his Olympia accomplishments, including greater government efficiency and sustainable budgets.

Like the tax breaks spot, Cowan's repertoire of ads tend to be more adversarial and focused on potential wedge issues, which tends to be a standard strategy for campaigns looking to try closing double-digit gaps.

With ballots set to begin arriving in voter mailboxes later this week, the slugfest is likely to continue.

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