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The auto row building saved by compromise

Nov. 19, 2014 2:15 p.m. - Updated: 2:20 p.m.

In today's paper, I wrote about the proposed demolition of two historic buildings on Spokane’s storied auto row, part of the conceptual master plan by the Larry H. Miller Group to build a large downtown campus for its auto dealerships.

The buildings to be razed are, without question, historic. The building on the southeast corner of Madison and West Third was built in 1937, and its neighbor at 1023 W. Third Ave, was constructed in 1913. Both meet the 50-year age eligibility requirement for the National Register of Historic Places. But as Megan Duvall, the city's historic preservation officer, said in today's story, the building's aren't really architecturally significant. In other words, they're kind of boring.

The decision to remove the buildings came after Duvall realized she could use a provision in the city’s demolition ordinance allowing for the razing of historic buildings as long as their destruction supported the rehabilitation of an adjacent historic structure.

It's that structure - the International Harvester Company Truck Showroom built in 1929 at 1030 W. Third Ave - that has historic significance as one of the few remaining and unique buildings left on the old automotive row. The row is technically called the West Downtown Transportation Corridor Historic District, and its period of significance stretched from 1890 to 1949. 

The photo at the top of the post shows the Harvester building the year it was completed. Besides how intact the building remains to this day, what's most interesting to my eyes is the huge rock outcropping to the building's east. How'd they get rid of that mountain? Was the rest of downtown marked with similar rocky protuberances, much like how the South Hill remains?

The images below show how the Miller Lexus showroom changed as a result of its dealings with the city and Duvall. Representatives from the company called the compromise to rehabilitate the Harvester building in exchange for demolishing the other two buildings “workable,” but said the process leading to the compromise was “frustrating” because it forced the company to change its designs for a new Lexus showroom.

Instead of obscuring the Harvester building under the metal veneer of a new Lexus showroom, the company now will include the original building in its designs for the showroom. The metal siding has been replaced with limestone and brick in the designs for the new addition.



WA budget forecast: Revenue up, expenses up more

Nov. 19, 2014 12:50 p.m. - Updated: 12:56 p.m.

OLYMPIA — Washington legislators will have a bit more money in the coming fiscal years than they expected when they adjourned in March, but not enough to cover the projected costs of current programs.

Increases in the number of school children, Medicaid recipients, along with a proposed raise for state employees, will help drive the cost of current state programs up by about $2.65 billion in 2015-17. And that's before increased spending for court-ordered improvements to public schools, which could be between $1 billion and $2 billion, and smaller class sizes mandated by a voter initiative.

Continued recovery from the recession, which includes lower unemployment plus stronger collections for sales taxes and real estate excise taxes will give the state about $2.9 billion more in revenue in that period than in 2013-15.

For more details, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

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House Dems re-elect Chopp speaker

Nov. 18, 2014 4:08 p.m. - Updated: 4:16 p.m.

OLYMPIA — House Democrats had their numbers shaved in this month's election but voted today to stick with most of last session's leadership.

Seattle Rep. Frank Chopp was re-elected speaker, a position he has held by himself since 2002, and shared as co-speaker in 1999, 2000 and 2001 when the House was tied between Democrats and Republicans.

Rep. Pat Sullivan of Covington was re-elected majority leader, Eric Pettigrew of Seattle  majority caucus chairman and Kevin Van De Wege of Sequim  majority whip. Kris Lytton of Anacortes was elected majority floor leader to replace Tami Green, who gave up her seat to run unsuccessfully for the state Senate this year. Lytton was formerly an assistant floor leader.


Today’s fun video: Stewart jabs Obama, GOP over immigration comments

Nov. 18, 2014 11:43 a.m. - Updated: 11:44 a.m.


If all the fighting over immigration reform has you scratching your head, Jon Stewart won't clear it up so much as show you some of the sillier elements of it.


The four most interesting things I learned in 2014 Spokane County elections

Nov. 17, 2014 6 a.m.

4. Voters at Fairchild Air Force Base support expanded background checks for gun sales – resoundingly.

Initiative 594 won the precinct at Fairchild 72 votes to 38. On the other hand, maybe they don't. Voters there also supported Initiative 591, though not by as much (59 votes to 51)

3. The days of calling the 6th Legislative District a swing district are gone.

When working on an election story recently, I was about to refer to the 6th as a swing district when my colleague, Jim Camden, reminded me that it only really swung for two elections. I might argue that the closeness of some other races besides the 2006 and 2008 cycles when Democrats won seats in the district made it a legitimate swing district longer than that, but his point is accurate; the 6th Legislative District, especially since redistricting, is Republican territory even when Democrats attract a well-known candidate and spend big.

2. Spokane loves its parks and loves its smooth streets even more.

Recent controversies about salaries of Mayor David Condon and other administrators at City Hall made many city leaders worried that voters would turn against the street levy and, especially, the park bond.

But whatever griping you might hear about City Hall, city leaders apparently have earned the trust of voters when it comes to streets and parks. Considering that voters under Mayor John Powers rejected a street tax at a time when streets clearly were in much worse condition, passing the street levy with nearly 78 percent support is a major turnaround. I’m guessing that the voters’ mood reflects that the city kept its promises after voters approved a street tax in 2004 under Mayor Jim West.

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Sunday Spin3: More on the gun initiatives

Nov. 16, 2014 11:58 a.m.

In politics, as in military campaigns, victory has many fathers. That may explain the self-congratulatory press release from supporters of I-594. . . 

To continue reading this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

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Sunday Spin2: Did the Ayes have too much of it?

Nov. 16, 2014 6 a.m.

Spokane County voters said yes to both gun initiatives, causing some observers on the West Side of the state to scratch their heads on election night. One could reasonably vote no on I-591 and I-594, they opined, but voting yes twice seemed illogical on measures largely in conflict.

Spokane is not alone in passing both measures. Asotin, Clallam, Clark, Pierce and Skagit counties also have said yes to both. In all cases, at least one initiative is ahead by relatively thin margins.

In Spokane, I-591 leads by about 1,800 votes, and I-594 about 8,000 as of Friday’s count. But the precincts where one passed are generally precincts where the other failed. There are a handful of precincts in the northeast city of Spokane’s and the central Spokane Valley where both passed. But some of those tended to be precincts with higher numbers of “undervotes” where at least one measure was left blank.

Some voters may have strong feelings in favor of one, but couldn’t decide on the other. Indecision isn’t the same as being contradictory.

To compare the undervotes with the Spokane County votes on I-591 and I-594, check the PDF documents below.


Sunday Spin: Big majorities are temporary

Nov. 15, 2014 6:15 p.m.

OLYMPIA – The most ephemeral thing in politics might be big majorities. This should be particularly obvious to Democrats as they look to next year’s Legislature.

Six years ago, Democrats approached the session with 31 of 49 seats in the Senate and 62 of 98 seats in the House. Those were nearly veto-proof majorities if they’d found the need to override any vetoes from Gov. Chris Gregoire, but considering she was a fellow Democrat, that point was mostly moot.

Slowly the Republicans chipped away at those margins, a few seats at a time. . . 

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Do you like STA? Hate mass transit? Take this survey

Nov. 13, 2014 1:34 p.m. - Updated: 1:52 p.m.

The Spokane Transit Authority is passing around an online survey today looking for feedback on its Moving Forward campaign and a potential tax increase to expand its service.

In an email, the transit organizations had this to say:

Dear community member,

STA Moving Forward is Spokane Transit’s DRAFT 10-year implementation plan that proposes to sustain existing service levels and provide more and better transit for the growing region. As a part of the public outreach period from September through November, STA has provided an online survey to get feedback on the proposed package of transit projects as well as a potential funding mechanism in the form of a voter approved 0.3% increase in local sales tax rate (a 0.3% increase in local sales tax equals 15 cents on a $50 purchase; fuel and most food products are sales tax exempt).

Follow this link to take the survey, which only takes a few minutes.


McMorris Rodgers re-elected to GOP post

Nov. 13, 2014 11:34 a.m. - Updated: 3:23 p.m.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers was re-elected the House Republican Conference chairwoman today by GOP members who returned all their top leaders for the upcoming Congress.

House Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Majority Whip Steve Scalise were also re-elected. The conference chairmanship is considered the Number Four position in leadership.

McMorris Rodgers won re-election last week to a sixth term with about 60 percent of the vote. Her Democratic opponent Joe Pakootas unsuccessfully challenged her leadership position as a sign that she was more in touch with Washington, D.C., than the voters of her Eastern Washington district. McMorris Rodgers countered that it gave her “a place at the table” to raise local and regional issues when legislation was being discussed.

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