Tomorrow is the Primary Election Deadline

What Animates School Board Candidates? And What’s Happened to our Civil Commitment?

More School Board Director Clues

On Saturday (the day with only an online version of the “paper”) July 29th, the Spokesman carried an article by Ignacio Cowles entitled “Candidates for Deer Park School Board say they’re willing to go against state law”. In an election cycle in which a number of offices in Spokane County don’t have a single candidate (see below), the five member Deer Park School District 414 [2700 students] Board of Directors is remarkable for an “At Large” Director race that has drawn five candidates, the incumbent, Eric Keller, and four challengers. (There are two other Director seats, Areas 1 and 4, each with a current Director stepping down and each with two candidates who will appear on the ballot for the November general election, not in the primary. None of these nine total candidates reports to the Public Disclosure Commission having raised any campaign funds.)

Eric Keller, the incumbent, has served as a Director since his first election in 2007. He recalls only one prior challenger in four election cycles before this current one. What’s going on? Both the venue and the discussion topics for a recent candidate forum offer some clues. The forum was held at the Tri-County Christian Center, an Assembly of God Church in the southern part of the community of Deer Park. The forum was moderated by one of the church’s pastors, Tim White. (Recall that the Spokane County Republican Party is now led by another Assembly of God Pastor, Brian Noble.) During the two hour forum [the bold is mine]:

The topic of finances, a large part of the school board’s duties, was absent from discussion, and time ran out before any community questions could be answered. 

Remarkably, one might think, especially for a pastor, Pastor White appears to advocate ignoring Washington State law [the bold is mine]: 

As a final question, White presented the oath that school directors take when assuming office, which states, “When elected/appointed, directors shall take an oath or affirmation to support the Constitution of the United States and the state of Washington.”

You swore an oath to support the constitution and the state of Washington, you didn’t swear an oath to obey the law,” White said.

Notably, every candidate was in favor of refusing to implement mandatory state policies if they considered it to be unconstitutional, with current legislation relating to gender-affirming care heavily referenced.

Mr. Keller, the incumbent, “who has served in the Navy Reserve, suggested that refusing to implement a state law could be similar to refusing a military order. Is that order going to get somebody hurt? …There are ways to refuse those orders.” Among the five candidates, Keller’s statement seemed the least enthusiastic endorsement of Pastor White’s suggestion. Elsewhere in the forum Mr. Keller is quoted in the article saying, “…some new laws are not in tune with the opinions of many in the community, but in the end, we have to follow the law, folks.”

Much of the rest of the discussion focused on the latest Republican obsessions over sex: who uses what bathroom, opposition to state law regarding gender-affirming care, and rumblings about sex ed. Considering that budget issues were never touched upon it was almost laughable that, in offering a “solution” for the bathroom use issue, two candidates, 74 year old Richard Price and 31 year old Samantha Jordan, both seized on “single occupant bathrooms.” Apparently, the remodeling and construction costs of such a proposal never occurred to either of them. Such blatant budget blindness ought to be disqualifying. 

This is what school board director candidates have come to. If you vote in the Deer Park School District 414 consider this. If you know someone in the district, share this. One might hope that enough sober voters in the district turn in their ballots so that Mr. Keller is one of the two on the ballot in November. Having to choose between any two of the others in November would be really painful. Whether this happens will depend on turnout in the Primary—and you can bet that social media fora have been buzzing.

Neglected Positions

Meanwhile, on July 27th I received an email from info@spokanecounty.organnouncing a “Special 3 Day Filing Period” running from August 2, Wednesday, to August 4, Friday, this week. This Special Filing Period is for various positions noted below for which not a single person has signed up as a candidate. If only one person responds by signing up they would be a shoo-in at the November election. I was unable to learn how often historically there have been this many open positions for the Special Filing Period—regardless, this seems a sad commentary on the state of our civic engagement. Many of these boards and councils have only five positions. Some have three of those positions open. It is likely that many of these positions are governed by Bylaws that offer a mechanism with which to appoint someone to fill an empty seat, but still…

Open positions currently for which no Candidate has filed:

Town of Spangle [population around 300]– (Mayor)
Town of Waverly [population around 100]– (Council Position No. 5)
Orchard Prairie School District [the second smallest school district in WA State with less than 100 students] – (Director Position No. 3 and 5)  
Fire District No2 – (Commissioner Position No. 1, 2 and 3)
Fire District No10 – (Commissioner Position No. 2)
Irvin Water District – (Commissioner Position No. 2)
Val of The Horse Water District – (Commissioner Position No. 1)
Vel-View Water District – (Commissioner Position No. 1, 2 and 3)
Hangman Hills Water District – (Commissioner Position No. 1, 2 and 3)
Spangle Cemetery District – (Commissioner Position No. 2)
Waverly Cemetery District – (Commissioner Position No. 1, 2, and 3)

Take the time to do the research and turn in your ballot to a drop box by tomorrow at 8PM. 

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. You, too, can sign up for free email notifications from Spokane County at Scroll down to “Elections”.

What is “Center Square”?

Read at your own risk

First: VOTE. 

Local Primary Election ballots must be turned in before 8PM next Tuesday, August 1, to be counted. Click herehere, and here for recommendations and links.

Main Article:

Prior to Trump’s election in 2016 (can that really be seven years ago?) I read and listened to news media while paying no attention to the names of writers and reporters, to the qualifications of the talking heads, or to the financial backing of the media I consumed. I was media naive. Furthermore, I tended to imagine that everyone else was consuming the same news that I was. 

Savvy political operatives have taken advantage of naïveté such as mine probably since the advent of human language, but such manipulation has ramped up with each media innovation: the printing press, radio, television, and now (really only since 2007) social media. 

The documentary, “The Brain Washing of My Dad (2015)”, available here on YouTube, offers a vivid example of the malleability of opinion depending no the media we consume. 

Majorie Taylor Greene’s July 16 speech at the Turning Point Action Conference in Florida disparaged Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal of the 1930s, Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society of the 1960s, and Biden’s Build Back Better (amid a barrage of totally off-the-wall accusations). Biden’s team, recognizing that a majority of Americans do not share MTG’s distaste for these programs, was quick to characterize her disparagement as “an endorsement” of Biden’s policies. Upon reflection, though, the fact that MTG spoke before a youthful audience that applauded rather than booed her speech is a testament to a relentless drumbeat of propaganda that can be dated back to Lewis Powell’s Memo, “Attack on the American Free Enterprise System” written in 1971. Soon after that writing Nixon appointed Powell to the Supreme Court where he was instrumental in advancing “speech rights” of corporations. (If you are not familiar with “The Powell Memo”, please read the subheading under Lewis Powell’s biographical entry in Wikipedia and/or the text of the memo itself.)

Arguably, the Powell Memo provided the blueprint upon which the entire modern-day conservative media landscape was founded (exhaustively detailed in Jane Mayer’s Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right). Powell’s Memo sparked the founding of what is now a huge interlocking network of “think tanks” with familiar names: The Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, the Manhattan Institute, the American Legislative Exchange Council, and, yes, the Washington Policy Center, the latter being one of many state-based spinoffs. As non-profits, these “think tanks” successfully obscure the identities of their wealthy donors. The money is used to hire and promote ideologically-aligned writers and political operatives. For more than five decades, these organizations have pumped out an endless stream of anti-tax, anti-regulation propaganda promoting the interests of big business that Powell sought to defend. For decades now the freely available writings and voices of these well-supported, ideologically-aligned “think tank” hires have appeared in print and on television as largely unquestioned “experts”. Scratch the surface of many of these “experts” and one finds an undergraduate degree in political science rather than in the field of proffered expertise. 

Last Wednesday I posted a link to an article from “Center Square” written by Timothy Schumann, published July 10, and entitled “After millions spent, Spokane County frustrated to see homeless numbers increase”. The article—as a news article—is garbage. The title sets up an expectation of an actual discussion of the fundamental reasons that “homeless numbers” are increasing. Schumann’s “research”? He quotes Mary Kuney, Al French, and Josh Kerns as representative of the “Spokane County Commissioners”. He writes as though he weren’t even aware of the existence of Spokane County Commissioners Amber Waldref and Chris Jordan. Schumann then offers the following erroneous tripe:

It was noted that Spokane is a “receiving entity,” offering many more services than any of the nearby counties, including those in Idaho.

Tacoma was referred to as a “sending entity,” and Seattle as the “receiving entity,” implying that disparity was the cause for the increasing numbers in Spokane County.

Schumann ignores (and apparently can’t be bothered to research) that the last known address of over 80% of the homeless surveyed in Camp Hope and in the point-in-time count under discussion at the Commissioner meeting was within Spokane County. 

So who is Timothy Schumann and what is Center Square? The answer reveals much. Searching the Center Square website, Mr. Schumann “reports on eastern Washington”, previously edited a “tech news site” and before that “worked in the [unnamed] non-profit and government sectors in Washington, DC.” Since Mr. Schumann pumps out no fewer than two and occasionally up to four short articles every day, perhaps he lacks the time to do any real research (for example, to find out that there are five, not three, Spokane County Commissioners) or, perhaps, his hired conservative biases serve as efficient blinders.

Center Square says it was launched in May 2019. It is a “project of the 501(c)(3) Franklin News Foundation, headquartered in Chicago”. Franklin News Foundation came into being in 2009. One of the founders was “Jason Stverak, a prior executive director of the North Dakota Republican Party.[10]According to Wikipedia, “The Franklin Center is an associate member of the State Policy Network, a consortium of conservative and libertarian think tanks which focus on state-level policy.[15]” 

In essence, Center Square is one of many tentacles of the non-profit conservative propaganda “think tank” ecosystem originally inspired by Lewis Powell. Writers and talking heads are hired and funded for their perceived devotion to “a free marketlimited government perspective on state and local politics.” 

Center Square’s “republishing guidelines” state:

We produce the highest quality of news coverage and investigative work for use at The Center Square, and share this work with all media organizations at no cost to them. The Center Square is published and edited by professional journalists. 

Wow! How selfless! To republish articles from Center Square all you have to do is abandon any devotion you still retain to the concept of unbiased well-researched reporting. The funding for the bias that Center Square provides comes from wealthy dark money donors anxious to convince you that government cannot (and should not) help and your tax money is routinely wasted.

Center Square and its parent, the Franklin News Foundation, pretend to be a local news service for eastern Washington while fielding a single “reporter”, Mr. Schumann, to produce (from an unknown perch) conservative party line click bait funded by obscure donors with a financial interest in convincing you to lower their taxes and deregulate all the supposed marvels of the “free” market. 

The intent of this post is simple: read and listen carefully. Pay attention to the likely bias, motivation, and funding of the sources you choose. Concentrate on trusted, traceable local sources for local stories including (subscription requested), the Inlander (free, supported , and the Spokesman Review (paywall). There is no writer or commentator who is totally without bias, but bias and shoddy reporting like that of Center Square is inexcusable. 

Keep to the high ground,


Homelessness, News, and Elections

“They don’t want to solve homelessness,” he said, “They just don’t want to see it.”

In the wake of the closure of Camp Hope on June 9, conservative leaning media published articles pointing out that visible homelessness on the streets of downtown Spokane had increased, hinting that Camp Hope was somehow at fault and that the money spent on the entire issue had been wasted. The Center Square article referenced below, “After millions spent, Spokane County frustrated to see homeless numbers increase” went further. It propped up the counterfactual myth of Spokane as a “receiving entity”—a place attracting crowds of mobile homeless people on account of supposedly lavish services, a lie puffed out in quotes from Spokane County Commissioners, Republicans Al French and Josh Kerns. 

Municipal elections are already under way (August 1 Primary ballots due, November 7 for the General election). With at least two arguably “law and order” ballot measures teed up for the November ballot (more on those in later posts) a cynic might be excused for wondering if City of Spokane’s Mayor Nadine Woodward’s administration and the monied interests that back her have any interest in actually addressing the roots of homelessness. After all, demonizing the homeless worked for her in 2019 (by a small electoral margin)—and her biggest supporter, local real estate magnate Larry Stone, bagged a lucrative lease for his quickly purchased warehouse, a lease paid by the taxpayers. Why couldn’t demonizing the homeless work again? 

Below I’ve copied the response of Maurice Smith to these articles. Maurice worked closely with Julie Garcia and her organization, Jewels Helping Hands, at Camp Hope throughout its duration. He has been deeply involved with documenting the humanity and plight of the homeless for years before Camp Hope (see links below). He deserves a bigger soapbox, certainly a bigger soapbox than conservative reporters quoting the like of Al French and Josh Kerns on this issue.

Keep to the high ground,


Good Wednesday Afternoon Coalition Partners,  

Lingering – even growing – homelessness following the closure of Camp Hope is creating no shortage of questions and even accusations (“It’s all that Camp’s fault”). Two recent articles seem to encompass some of these questions and deserve some responses as we seek to frame homelessness moving forward, while considering the possibility of a regional approach to addressing homelessness. So, here are a few of my thoughts on all three issues.

“If You Spend It, They Will Come”
The first article began like this: “(The Center Square) – Spokane County commissioners asked the hard questions and came up with few answers about the efficacy of millions of dollars spent on homelessness only to see more people on the street” (See “After Millions Spent, Spokane County Frustrated to See Homeless Numbers Increase”). The article centers on discussions by Spokane County Commissioners regarding rising homelessness, and highlights two issues. First, after spending large sums of money on homeless services, why are we not moving the needle? Why is homelessness increasing? Second, is Spokane a “receiving” City where people experiencing homelessness receive so much help that we’re attracting people experiencing homelessness from other communities? Here are my responses.

First, the reason homelessness is increasing despite the amount of money being spent is two fold. On the one hand, homelessness is a much larger issue than local officials and policymakers have been willing to embrace, and it’s growing despite the money currently being spent. On the other hand, most of what we’re spending is ineffective and is being wasted. EXAMPLE: The TRAC shelter is costing the City of Spokane roughly $14 million per year, or $40,000 per guest per year. For that amount of money, the 350 guests could have been placed into very decent apartments while receiving a living stipend for an entire year. Or, the 467 badged residents of Camp Hope could have received $30,000 in assistance, again, enough for a decent apartment and a smaller stipend . . . for a YEAR! Instead, we have a shelter we can’t afford in a warehouse with no facilities, and 350 people who aren’t being offered a meaningful exit ramp out of homelessness. Wasted.

Second, no, homeless people are not flocking to Spokane as a “receiving” City. Of the 467 badged residents of Camp Hope, 83% said they came from “greater Spokane” (within 20 miles of the City), while 70.7% said they came from the City of Spokane. These numbers were fairly consistent with the 2022 Point-In-Time Count which found that 74% of those interviewed said they came from Spokane County. 79% of those from Spokane County said they came from the City of Spokane. The vast majority of our homelessness is home-grown, NOT bussed in or attracted from other cities by the amazing benefits they’ll receive in Spokane.

“Remember, You Wanted This”
The second recent article that caught my attention, “Open Drug Use, Naked People, Stabbings: Closure of Camp Hope Rocks Downtown Businesses”, came via KHQ (FOX28). The article centered on the increased number of homeless downtown as a result of Camp Hope closing. Reading it, I couldn’t help but . . . smile. No, I don’t think it’s funny or humorous. Rather, it’s the smile of “I told you so.” In my interactions with the City over the months of Camp Hope, I repeatedly warned that if they forced the closure of Camp Hope, the residents would have nowhere to go but downtown. But they insisted that the Camp be closed IMMEDIATELY. To expedite that imagined process, back in September, City and County officials threatened to close the Camp by mid-October. As a result of those threatened closures, over 200 residents left the camp (the unsheltered homeless take law enforcement threats seriously and generally don’t wait around to see what happens next). Again, in December, when law enforcement INSISTED on visiting the Camp and handing out flyers declaring “This Camp Is Closing,” another 200 people left the camp in the two weeks following those visits. So, some 400 people left the camp (I document this in detail in my forthcoming book, “A Place To Exist: The True and Untold Story of Camp Hope and Homelessness In Spokane”). Guess where they went. Yep, downtown. They didn’t head downtown the day after the Camp closed on June 9. They had left long before that, due to the City’s (and County’s) threats to “close that nuisance camp.”

So, downtown businesses are now experiencing the consequences of the City (and County) Administration’s policies and actions . . . and blaming it all on Camp Hope. From the perspective of City leaders, the Camp was “the problem” when it existed, and it apparently is “the problem” now because it doesn’t exist. It’s past time for City and County officials to take responsibility for the consequences of their actions, and quit blaming it on others. But I wouldn’t hold my breath.

A friend of mine, who has been involved in homeless leadership in Spokane, once told me, “They don’t want to solve homelessness,” he said, “They just don’t want to see it.” Harsh, but true. Camp Hope could have had a much larger impact than the 216 unsheltered homeless we were able to place into housing if the City (and County) had simply left us alone to do our job, or had actually leaned in to help. But they chose to be obstructionist, rather than constructionist. They chose to blast, rather than to build. And the consequences of their choices and threats are now on the streets of downtown Spokane. And they’re still blaming Camp Hope, its organizers (of which I was one), and its residents . . . when they should be looking in the mirror. The “man in the mirror” (or the woman) is the problem.

There’s a great scene in the first “Jack Reacher” movie with Tom Cruise where he is about to take on 3 antagonists in an alley fight behind a bar. Just before the first punch is thrown, Reacher looks the leading antagonist in the eye and says, “Remember, you wanted this” (I’ll leave it to you to imagine how it ended). All I can say to City and County officials who pined for the closure of Camp Hope is to quote Jack Reacher, “Remember, you wanted this.”

Regional Reflections
Finally, I spent time this week talking with Gavin Cooley about the proposed regional homeless authority that is now being discussed by local elected officials. I believe Spokane is at a tipping point when it comes to homelessness and homeless policy and services, and I believe a regional coordinated policy under a separate umbrella entity is the best pathway forward. We talked about the discussed goal of cutting regional homelessness by 40% in two years. I countered by suggesting that the goal be re-focused on eliminating unsheltered homelessness in two years (not reducing, but eliminating), getting the 955 unsheltered homeless off of City streets, out of City parks, and into appropriate housing and services. And eliminating unsheltered homelessness in two years would effectively reduce overall homelessness by 40%. That would be my recommendation for a specific targeted goal. 
We also talked about the vision of a “navigation campus” (as opposed to a warehouse) like “the Beacon” in Houston, a campus spanning 2 or 3 acres, where those experiencing homelessness could do laundry, take a shower, get a real meal (prepared on-site in an actual kitchen), get a bed if they need one, and be assigned to a Peer Navigator who can help them work on their exit ramp out of homelessness.

These are very achievable goals, but not if we nit-pick it to death, or put the same people in charge of the new entity who got us into this mess in the first place. It’s time to “do different,” unless we want to be having these same conversations at a higher frustration level a year from now. That’s the problem with tipping points – if they don’t tip forward, the alternative all too often is backward. And I don’t want to go backward. Do you?

Yours for the Shalom of Our Community,

Maurice Smith

Executive Producer

My RoadLeads Home – A Documentary Series On Homelessness

The Night of the Unsheltered Homeless

The Least of These

The Hidden Homeless (SpIFF Version)

Documentary YouTube Channel


“We can’t change what we don’t love;

We can’t love what we don’t know;

And we can’t know 

what we’re unwilling to invest

with our time, our efforts, and

our resources.”

“The Heat Will Kill You First”

Lessons in Climate Science, Biology, and Religious Conviction

It is time to call it what it is: Global Heating. Warming fails to capture what’s happening. 

Although we in the inland Pacific Northwest have, so far this summer, been spared most of the pall of wildfire smoke that has blanketed the region in the summers of recent years, the sense that we have recently reached some sort of climate tipping point in the world is hard to miss. A “heat dome” sits over the Southwest as day and nighttime temperatures in Phoenix break records. Towns in Pennsylvania flood as six inches of rain falls in a single hour. Downtown Montpelier and many smaller towns in Vermont experience the third “hundred year” flood in thirty years as water rises four feet up the walls of downtown businesses. Ocean temperatures off Florida are breaking records as coral reefs are threatened. It’s not just here in the U.S. In Canada wildfires rage over vast acreages of dried-out forest in places we habitually think of as damp and cool. Smoke from these Canadian fires fills the air on our eastern seaboard. Further away and less noticed by most of us, areas on three continents suffer under oppressive heat and smoke. Wildfires rage in Greece. Iran is running out of water as it swelters in dry heat. Temperatures rose to 95 degrees Fahrenheit in Beijing in northern China—an unheard-of heat wave. 

For those who pay attention to science, the principles of global heating as a result of burning fossil fuels since the beginning of the industrial revolution have been known since the mid 1800s thanks to the work of Irish physicist John Tyndall and American scientist and feminist Eunice Newton Foote. More than a century later, in 1988, climate scientist James Hansen presented abundant evidence to the U.S. Congress that the temperature signals of global heating were already ominously measurable. At the time, Hansen naively imagined that Congress, having heard the alarm, would act to mitigate the threat. He badly underestimated the power of inertia and doubt underwritten by the fossil fuel industry. 

Jeff Goodell’s, The Heat Will Kill You First: Life and Death on a Scorched Planet (2023) was recently discussed on Fresh Air. Goodell emphasizes that although the science of global heating is well understood, specific extreme weather events fueled by global heating, events becoming ever more frequent, are often grimly unpredictable. 

As a species we are not adapted to withstand temperature extremes like those we are now hearing about from all over the globe. Death from heat is real. Accounts of delirium and death of young people with core body temperatures as high as 110 degrees Fahrenheit after working in the Texas sun at 104 degrees ambient temperature attest to our fragility as humans. All the currently existing life on our planet has evolved to survive and thrive within what is a rather narrow range of temperature in the grand scheme of the universe and earth history. Successful biological adaption of a species to changes in climate and temperature takes thousands of years and many generations, not just the couple of hundred year time frame of global heating caused by human activity. We, as humans, smugly think of ourselves as “adaptable” to extremes ranging from the antarctic winter to summer in the Kalahari Desert—but some of the extremes of heat we are now experiencing are simply not survivable by the vast majority of humanity on this planet—and, eventually, there will be nowhere to hide. As the entire planet heats on average everywhere a couple of degrees (in Centigrade or in Fahrenheit) there will be nowhere to go to escape increasingly frequent uninhabitable extremes. (Air conditioners, Goodell points out, don’t reduce the net heat plaguing the planet, they just move the heat from one place to another—and often consume energy from the burning of more fossil fuels in the process.)

We—and certainly I—have been tempted to think of the predominantly Republican U.S. Congressional global heating inaction and denial is rooted purely in dependence on fossil fuel industry money and influence. According to this theory, Republican congresspeople actually understand the science of global heating, but evilly resist action because they have been bought off. The more worrisome truth is that many Republican U.S. Representatives and Senators, most especially “our” U.S. Representative from eastern Washington State, Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-CD5), are now and ever will be doctrinally incapable of understanding the science—or the threat of global heating—even as they hide their denial behind useful buzzwords. 

In particular, “our” Rep. McMorris Rodgers has famously proclaimed that she believes in the “literal truth” of the words in the Bible, including that the world as we know it was literally created by God in seven days. Unless she can engage in a spectacular example of cognitive dissonance (and there is zero evidence that she can or does), her fervent belief in the literal truth of the Bible precludes comprehension of humans’ dependence on the environment and humanity’s position as a part of nature itself. Furthermore, her belief blocks any understanding of species adaption to climate and the geological timeframe required for such evolutionary adaption to occur. By way of obfuscation, she has schooled herself to occasionally utter words like “renewable” and “sustainable”, words that serve as a smokescreen to offer solace to those of her constituents who might be concerned about the observed changes in climate. That said, she will never, ever cast a vote in favor of a bill that might involve the government in ameliorating global heating. (Of course, she will rise in high dudgeon to point at her defense of the Snake River dams as if this were a full proof of a commitment to confront the threat of global heating.) For McMorris Rodgers and the vast majority, if not all, of her Republican colleagues in Congress, the unregulated “free market” and the ever-greater mining and burning of fossil fuels are essential to the “progress” of humankind. “Full speed ahead—and never mind those pesky environmentalists! If the world overheats (and I’m pretty sure it won’t because God will save us) the righteous among us still have heaven to look forward to.”

Sadly, even if everyone in the U.S. Congress were scientifically in tune with the threat of global heating, taking action to avoid climate disaster will be challenging—and positive results will only emerge over decades. The sooner the federal government commits to the task the more likely we can avoid the worst consequences. No commitment will come about while modern-day Republicans retain a majority in either house of Congress. 

The first order of business is to expose the deficiencies in scientific understanding of current Representatives and Senators like McMorris Rodgers; then vote them out of office. Trying to change their minds is pointless. 

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. Espousing Christian faith is NOT synonymous with believing in the literal truth of the Bible and denial of science. 

It is important to recognize adherence to the idea of a 6000 year old earth and the literal truth of Creation in seven days is not a majority view in America, probably not even among self-described Christians. Much of Christianity, including United Methodism, the tradition in which I was brought up, considers the biblical creation story to be allegorical: “We find that science’s descriptions of cosmological, geological, and biological evolution are not in conflict with theology.”  It is worth noting there have been recent (and un-successful) efforts to change Methodist doctrine to an anti-science view. Christianity is not monolithic, and McMorris Rodgers’ views represent only some of those who call themselves Christian. The details of a legislator’s particular Christian faith are critical. We are fortunate to clearly understand McMorris Rodgers’ particular Fundamentalist, anti-science belief system. Keep it in mind as we contemplate the consequences to the planet of keeping such people in Congress. 

P.P.S. A high alignment rating with, however, conveniently declares to prospective voters that a candidate subscribes to anti-science Biblical Fundamentalism: “The Holy Bible is the supernatural, full, and inspired Word of God; it is inerrant, supreme, and final.” If you expect action to address global heating steer away from these people.

VOTE! More on the Primary Election Choices

And Notes on the evolution of WeBelieveWeVote

If you haven’t turned in your ballot yet for the August 1 Primary Election, here are a few more thoughts. 

First, the links below go to two earlier posts on primary election guides and choices in case you missed them:

The Ballots “Dropped”JERRY LECLAIRE·JUL 14Read full story
School BoardsSchool BoardsJERRY LECLAIRE·JUL 17Read full story


Some of my readers asked for positive rather than negative recommendations for school board directors. A good friend and defender of public school systems offered this, with which I agree:

“We have a LOT of Moms 4 Liberty Types running for school board locally. It’s critical they not gain more power if we are to protect public education and students.  

If you’re interested, here’s who I like for the primary:

Spokane County:









Benton County:

Richland School District 400 No. 3 Chelsie Beck

Richland School District 400 No. 4 Katrina Waters

Richland School District 400 No. 5 Jill Oldson

Notes on “We Believe We Vote”

I continue to recommend (WBWV) as a NEGATIVE voting guide. The organization has evolved. Founded by Penny Lancaster in 2009 and registered to an address on the southern slopes of Mt. Spokane, “We Believe We Vote” filed with the Public Disclosure Commission as a Political Committee from 2013 to 2023. However, the last year WBWV reported raising any money was in 2021. That year, 2021, the filing claimed money raised of $135,944.08, a considerable sum, but expenditures of only $23,904.99. Donations to a Political Committee do not offer an income tax deduction to the donor. Worse (from the Committee’s standpoint), donors’ names and amounts donated must be reported to the Public Disclosure Commission—and they are available to see on the PDC’s website. 

This year, 2023, and perhaps last year also, WBWV has decided it’s a “508(c)(1)(a) ministry”, a way to make donations tax deductible to the donor and to shield donor names. Organizations that fall under the 508(c)(1)(a) exception to 501(c)(3) are “churches, their integrated auxiliaries, and conventions or associations of churches”. That WBWV claims that it need not go through the paperwork to apply for 501(c)(3) nonprofit status based on the 508(c)(1)(a) seems a dubious idea. At least one website that offers advice to churches agrees. That said, the relatively new executive director of WBWV, Dale Whittaker, “holds a B.A. in Accounting from the Forbes School of Business & Technology at Ashford University [a for profit, online institution recently purchased by the University of Arizona and renamed], is an Enrolled Agent with the IRS, and currently runs a small tax practice.” His education and employment may or may not insure that using a 508(c)(1)(a) designation is defensible. The IRS’ definition of a church contains many elements WBWV does not possess. Mr. Whittaker responds to inquiry about a Form 990 filing with “We are not required to file form 990. We are not a 501(c)(3).” That statement alone, from what I can read, suggests that WBWV cannot legally claim that donations it receives are income tax deductible for the donors. I hope someone better versed in tax law than I will take this up.

Cruising through WBWV’s “Core Beliefs and Position Statements” reveals a Fundamentalist bedrock, “The Holy Bible is the supernatural, full, and inspired Word of God; it is inerrant, supreme, and final”; Dominionism, “The environment is provided for our use to produce food and provide resources for an abundant life”; “States Rights”; and Christian Nationalism. The attitude toward the poor and needy is straightforward: “Providing a safety net for the poor and needy is the responsibility of individuals, churches and local communities. It is not the primary responsibility of civil government to provide welfare assistance to the poor. The role of civil government is to protect citizens from foreign and domestic threats.” This is exactly the view expressed by the chairman of the SpokaneGOP, “Pastor” Brian Noble of the Assembly of God Church in Spokane Valley.

Candidates rated as “aligned” or “somewhat aligned” by WeBelieveWeVote, based on the above criteria (and others on the website) can be seen as generally supportive of a punitive approach to the “poor and needy” rather than supporting social programs; incapable of understanding the threat posed by global heating; and very receptive to imposing legal limits on a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body. I did not count them up but it appears to me that fewer candidates this year are willing to actually take the “Survey”. Those who refuse are labelled as “DNR” (which, for a physician means “do not resuscitate” rather than the “did not response” the website wishes to convey). Being labelled “DNR”, however, does not guarantee disagreement with WBWV’s “Core Beliefs and Position”. For that reason I find WBWV only valuable as a NEGATIVE indicator. Candidates will admit their core beliefs to WBWV that would likely not wish to be quoted on in a broader context.

Vote! (I dropped mine in one of the drop boxes yesterday. It only required four choices, even less research than I expected.) 

Keep to the high ground,

“Public-Private Partnership”

A Local Developer’s ROI (Return on Investment)

In the 2019 election City of Spokane Mayoral candidate Nadine Woodward ran on the proposition that she would tackle the increasing presence of homeless people in downtown Spokane. In August of 2019 in a Facebook post she wrote, “Spokane developer Larry Stone has gone to great lengths and personal cost to document the serious problems facing our city.” Stone’s seventeen minute YouTube documentary video entitled “Curing Spokane” dramatized the issue and offered simplistic, law-and-order-based actions to save our downtown. The cost of producing “Curing Spokane” was not a campaign contribution, at least not technically, but it was almost certainly a significant help in Woodward eking out a narrow win in the November 2019 General Election

Two years later, in early 2022, Mayor Woodward and her administration were desperate to make homelessness less visible downtown. Camp Hope, established in December 2021, aggregated the homeless and represented a glaring reminder of the administration’s failure to provide basic shelter to its citizens in accordance with Martin v. Boise (2018). Mindful of appearances, the Woodward administration sought a location away from downtown in which to shelter the homeless more or less out of sight.

Several spokespeople for the administration have claimed that “100 other properties” were “evaluated”before selecting what became the TRAC Shelter (aka the “Trent Shelter”). “100 properties” always sounded a bit too glib. Of what did these “evaluations” consist? In any case the “100 properties” quote seems to serve as a measure of the Woodward administration’s desperation to buy or lease a property for the purpose of a shelter. Out of this supposedly diligent search, Woodward and company settled on a building then owned by “CDA Loon, LLC”, the building that would become the TRAC Shelter. Representatives of City government, including Woodward’s two conservative allies on the City Council, Bingle and Cathcart, toured the property on March 18, 2022. It was a “public-private partnership” that secured the Woodward administrations lease on the building—and, along the way, gave Woodward’s ally, developer Larry Stone, a lucrative, taxpayer-funded lease based mostly, it appears, on Mr. Stone’s financial capacity to buy the building.

Carl Sagerstrom of, in a superb investigative article entitled “Big political donor bought the Trent shelter location for the city”, takes up the story. (I urge you to click and read the whole article—and to subscribe to RANGEmedia.):

When the city chose the property, Stone did not own it.

The building was owned by CDA Loon, LLC, an affiliate of Berg Manufacturing, which previously operated in the warehouse and had an active lease advertisement for the building. “The City approached the building owner through its [real estate] broker about a potential lease, but was not able to reach an agreement,” City Communications and Marketing Director Brian Coddington told RANGE via email. “The proposed use of the building was a sticking point as was the owner’s desire to sell the building.”

Larry Stone swooped in just six days after the Woodward administration’s March 18th tour. On March 24, Stone bought the Trent building for a sale price of 3.5 million dollars. Stone’s organization sent a draft lease agreement to the City the following day. Thus was born the “public-private partnership” between the City of Spokane, i.e. the Woodward administration, and Spokane developer Larry Stone. 

The property that became the TRAC Shelter was purchased, according to publicly available county property records, by “CDA Loon, LLC” in April of 2018 for 1.8M. Note (see Coddington quote above) “the owner’s desire to sell the building” in 2022. Obviously, in 2022, 3.5M was an acceptable sale price to “CDA Loon, LLC”, since that is the price at which Larry Stone snapped it up in March 2022. (The purchase price of 3.5M was almost exactly the county’s “assessed value” of the property.) 

The Stone’s five year lease of the TRAC Shelter building to the City contains an option for the City to buy the property, an option that is completely worthless. The option specifies a mechanism for Stone and the City to obtain an appraisal but no requirement to sell at any particular price. When the City Council entertained purchasing the property (as a way to save money in the long run), Stone had the City over a barrel. The appraisal came in at 4.1M, but Stone was quoted as saying he wanted “north of 8M”. Stone, a developer who didn’t acquire the 3.5M to buy the TRAC Shelter building by missing opportunities to profit, knows a good deal when he sees one. 

Larry Stone knows which side his bread is buttered on—and he wants to be sure that bread stays butter-side-up. Earlier this year he made donations to the current election campaigns of Mayor Nadine Woodward to continue as Mayor; candidate for City Council President Kim Plese; City Council Member (District 1, NE Spokane) Michael Cathcart; and candidate for City Council Member (District 2, South Hill) Katey Treloar (the one with the ubiquitous blue signs prominently declaring “non-partisan”). All four campaigns, wisely sensitive to the “appearance of corruption”, returned Mr. Stone’s money. (The transactions remain visible on the Public Disclosure Commission’s website.) 

But the story doesn’t end there. (See P.S. for more detail.) Thwarted by the earlier return of his contributions to his favored individual candidates’ campaigns, on June 9, 2023 and again on July 13, “Stone Lawrence B” contributed $15,000 to the “Spokane Good Governance Alliance”, a total of $30K, roughly 20% of the total receipts of the “Alliance” in 2023—and more than any other contributor (at the time of this writing). The Public Disclosure Commission reports that Mayor Nadine Woodward’s campaign has already received over $35,000 worth of “independent” support from the “Alliance”. Plese, Cathcart, and Treloar have received lesser amounts of “independent” support from the same entity. 

Mr. Stone is a smart businessman who knows that it pays to have allies in City Government—and he has the wealth to wield electoral influence. On account of weak restrictions (thanks to conservative undermining of campaign finance law in the Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. FEC) Mr. Stone can exercise all his “free speech” rights his money can buy in backing the candidates he expects will support his financial interests. 

None of this is currently illegal, strictly speaking. It just smells really bad. Pay attention as you fill out your ballot.

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. A “Political Committee” registered in the State of Washington with the Public Disclosure Commission can receive and spend any amount of money to influence voters for or against any candidate—as long as the expenditures are made “independent” of the candidate’s campaign—thanks to Citizens United v. FEC

Money finds a way. 

Spending money through a Political Committee offers contributors, be they individuals or businesses, a degree of anonymity as they wield electoral influence. Larry Stone contributed $15,000 to the ironically named “Spokane Good Government Alliance” on June 9, 2023. The “Spokane Good Governance Alliance” this year has a war chest of over $150K that comes from list of just ten contributors at this time, all tied to businesses with a pecuniary interest in the outcome of local elections. Mr. Stone’s $30,000 dwarfs the legally capped contributions that were returned by the individual candidates to whom he tried to contribute. So far the “Spokane Good Governance Alliance” money has gone mostly to advertising and political strategy companies in Arizona and Washington, D.C., entities that will flood the airwaves and the internet with advertising to influence your vote in this year’s local elections.

School Boards

The Bannon Local Takeover Strategy at Work in the Current Elections

Notice: The Primary Voter Guide 2023 is now available. WBWV’s “alignment rating” is a strong indicator of adherence to the latest themes of the Republican culture wars, not an indicator of the Christian values with which I was raised. A high “alignment rating” is a red flag. Use WBWV as a guide to Republican extremism.

School Boards:

School boards are the new culture war battlefields. The strife is showing up on the local ballots you just received for the August 1 Primary Election. Until recently, it was rare in Spokane County for a seat as a school board director to attract more than two candidates. As a result, primary election ballots in Spokane County rarely featured more than one school board director contest. In striking contrast, the Spokane County Voters’ Pamphlet for the upcoming primary election contains fourteen pages of candidates school board director positions on six different school boards. That’s nearly a third of the publication. We who support public education ignore this at our peril.

Public school board “director” (member) positions are unpaid, time-consuming, unglamorous positions helping to manage the big picture of budgets and administration of public schools. Historically, school board director positions attract civic-minded individuals with a strong interest in supporting the mission of public education, not culture warriors intent on imposing an extremist ideology. 

The right wing effort to take control of school boards is fueled by a confluence of motivations often ginned up by fear-mongering propaganda. The takeover movement received a significant boost during the pandemic by feeding on manufactured anger over vaccines and masks. Those motivators have now morphed into some combination of opposing “comprehensive sex education”, “Critical Race Theory”, DEI (Diversity Equity Inclusion), SEL (Social Emotional Learning), and opposing any support for LGBTQ+ youth. Support for book bans may be subtle or overt. Softer ideological signaling is couched as support for “parental rights”, and “school choice”. 

With the waning of the red flag issues of masks and vaccine mandates it has become more challenging to sort out the school board director candidates motivated by hot-button, ginned-up issues from those with a genuine interest in fostering public education. Nipping off these ideologues in the current primary election ought to be easier than dealing with them in the November General Election—but the sheer number of candidates in some of these races makes that daunting. To that end, one group has searched through campaign materials and provided a rating system to identify “problematic candidates” for director positions. Limiting the list to Spokane County and only those who appear in the primary election (for now), the major red flags pop up in the Medical Lake School District. Indeed, the Spokane County Voters’ Pamphlet lists seventeen primary candidates for a mere four seats. Seven (listed below) of these seventeen primary candidates are considered “problematic” based on publicly available materials. 

Here’s a map of the Medical Lake School District:

Consider contacting people you know in the Medical Lake School District with the suggestion NOT TO VOTE for these candidates in the primary. There are better candidates available in all but the Director District No. 1 race. In that race I would favor Spillman over Johnson based on this Spokesman article

“Problematic Candidates”

In the Cheney School District No. 5 position Ivan Khala is similarly identified as “problematic” on more subtle grounds. Mr. Khala is the single interviewee for this position on a podcast listed on “Right Spokane Perspective” (June 20), a Facebook group that backs folks like Mike Fagan and Rod Higgins. 

When the November General Election comes these listings of problematic candidates for school board director positions will expand—and I will try to address them.

When a school board majority is taken over by ideologues, the consequences can be grim, costly, and time-consuming. Voters in the Richland School District (Tri-cities) have gone to the trouble mounting a recall of three school board directors, including Semi Bird, now a far right Republican candidate for Washington governor in 2024. The recall appears on this August 1 Primary ballot. Recall proponents had to first run the gauntlet all the way to the Washington State Supreme Court, where their recall charges were deemed factually and legally sufficient. Then they gathered 18,000 signatures to place the recall on the ballot—a major, all-hands-on-deck effort. 

In neighboring Idaho a special recall election will be held on August 29th in the West Bonner County School District (including Priest River, Priest Lake, and Blanchard) after a 3-2 board majority of far right ideologues gained control in a sleepy election. They promptly appointed Branden Durst, a proponent of dismantling public schools, “an unqualified serial political entrepreneur and self-described ‘Christian populist’ who had previously been subject to a domestic violence protection order”, as the district’s superintendent. Read more about Mr. Durst here

Pay attention to school board elections this year—or risk the kind of strife and threat to your community’s educational opportunities that are demonstrated by these recalls.

Keep to the high ground,