I try to concentrate on the politics and civics of eastern Washington. Today I make an exception as we gather more details of the Club Q massacre (hereand here) and new mass shootings become daily news. Tucker Carlson, thanks to Fox News and to internet distribution of his tripe, is present in many a living room in our home state. I encourage you to click “Read More” in the box below and read Doug Porter’s “Words and Deeds” on Tucker Carlson’s contribution to the pervasive violence from which we all suffer.
Huh? The result of the killing of five people in Colorado at a LGBTQ+ friendly establishment is a First Amendment question, you say? So it’s those who have been repeating lies and suggesting violence who are under attack. That’s right; you told your audience the bigots are…
I plan to take a holiday tomorrow. For this Thanksgiving Day I am indebted to Robert Hubbell and his Today’s Edition Newsletter on Substack (you should sign up!) for pointing out the opinion piece by Jennifer Rubin that I have copied below. It appeared in the Washington Post on November 30. Pause, read, reflect as we gather for Thanksgiving.
Locally, we are grateful for the apparent (but still not certified—that’s next Tuesday) electoral repudiation (if, in some cases, by only narrow margins) of a number local Republican Matt Shea-style extremists, including Bob McCaslin Jr. (candidate for County Auditor), Rob Chase (State Rep. LD4), Pastor Paul Brian Noble (candidate County Commissioner Dis. 4), and for the apparent victories of skilled and reasonable people including Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton, Chris Jordan and Amber Waldref (two new Spokane County Commissioners) and Marcus Riccelli and Timm Ormsby (State Reps. LD3). Moreover, we owe a debt of gratitude to all those who stepped up, ran, contributed to, and worked for the election of a host of other skilled and reasonable candidates in the recent election, people we hope will stay involved. For democracy to function properly it takes a village.
Keep to the high ground,
From the Washington Post, November 20. (Quoted material in italics; the bold is mine.)
It could have been so much worse. If you feel a spring in your step and a sense of relief, you are not alone. For those determined to protect democracy, the rule of law and a decent, kind America, there is so much to be grateful for as we head into the holiday season:
I’m grateful not to wake up every morning with a sense of impending doom that a cast of election deniers will control key roles in administrating elections in 2024.
I’m grateful many in the media helped identify election deniers for Americans and educated them about the danger of granting them power to discard the will of voters.
I’m grateful to voters, who for the third consecutive election, showed there is a majority — even if a frightfully narrow one — that rejects authoritarianism, crude appeals to racism and xenophobia, and downright nutty and mean candidates.
I’m grateful younger voters are developing a habit of voting in midterms.
I’m grateful to the thousands of election officials, workers and volunteers who pulled off another exceptionally efficient and peaceful exercise in democracy.
I’m grateful to the lawyers who litigated in defense of voting access and impartial election administration.
I’m grateful voters did not ignore their concerns for democracy and women’s rights just because inflation is high.
I’m grateful that nearly all broadcast networks refused to break from regular programming to cover Donald Trump’s presidential campaign announcement.
I’m grateful voters are becoming accustomed to early voting and voting by mail.
I’m grateful President Biden disregarded cynical pundits and reporters to focus on the threat from MAGA extremism.
I’m grateful millions of Americans, especially women, have reacted with one voice in opposition to the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision and cruel abortion bans.
I’m grateful former British prime minister Liz Truss’s disastrous supply-side agenda flopped, serving as a reminder that massive tax cuts for the rich are not the key to widespread prosperity and economic stability.
I’m grateful Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) campaigned against some of the worst election deniers (e.g., Republican candidate for Arizona governor Kari Lake) and in support of some moderate Democratic stars (e.g., Virginia Rep. Abigail Spanberger).
I’m grateful covid-19 is far less of a threat to people’s lives and that it is no longer a barrier to gathering with friends and family for Thanksgiving.
I’m grateful our sober commander in chief has not escalated tensions with Russia, vastly reducing the chances of a hot war between Russia and NATO.
I’m grateful for heroic Ukrainians who remind us of the price of freedom and the need to resist authoritarianism.
I’m grateful juries continue to convict and judges continue to sentence participants in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection.
I’m grateful the Justice Department is seriously pursuing investigations into Trump’s retention of highly classified documents and his participation in the coup attempt.
I’m grateful federal, district and circuit courts have generally upheld the rule of law, preventing election subversion and rejecting the former president’s ludicrous claims of executive privilege and immunity from Jan. 6-related lawsuits.
I’m grateful a phalanx of lawyers, former prosecutors and legal scholars have helped provide the public with lively and profoundly helpful education in constitutional law.
I’m grateful to all the candidates who challenged election deniers and MAGA extremists in primaries and general election races, whether they won or lost.
I’m grateful for the House Jan. 6 select committee and the witnesses who stepped forward to expose the coup plotters, educating voters about the threat from Trump and his followers.
I’m grateful the former Republicans behind the Lincoln Project and the Republican Accountability Project continue to show Democrats how to fight effectively against the MAGA right wing.
I’m grateful a crop of rising Democratic stars won their races, ranging from Reps.-elect Emilia Sykes (D-Ohio) and Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (D-Wa.) to Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro of Pennsylvania.
I’m grateful Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson is on the Supreme Court and that she has held tutorials on honest originalism and run circles around the arrogant right-wing justices who don’t bother to conceal their partisan hackery.
I’m grateful to the men and women in the armed services and national security agencies, without whom our democracy would not survive.
The details trickle in from yet another mass shooting. Five people dead and at least eighteen wounded Club Q in Colorado Springs, people out for an evening having a good time. The shooter was taken down by a quick acting military veteran who was at the show with his wife, daughter, and friends. His daughter’s boyfriend was among the five victims. So far we know very little about the shooter, the deranged man who must have imagined that wholesale killing of innocent people was a righteous act. Of one thing we can be sure: he didn’t spring from the womb with killing innocent people as a goal. He acquired this goal from the society in which he was immersed, a social milieu from which he gathered that the people he was about to kill were somehow wrong, evil, subhuman, a threat to him and to the society he may have sought to protect.
This coming Sunday November 26, 2022, at 10:30 AM at The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, 127 E. 12th Ave, Spokane, many will attend the celebration of life of Katie Thew, a 22 year old Spokanite who died recently, in part from the effects of some of the same social messaging as, it is fair to assume, conditioned the Colorado shooter. Katie’s obituary speaks volumes.
Katie Thew (they/them), age 22, of Spokane, WA, passed away on October 6, 2022, in Redlands, CA. Katie was born in Chicago, IL, to Drs. Pam Kohlmeier and Stephen Thew, and eventually moved to Spokane in 2005, where they lived most of their life.
Katie was an amazing human who identified as non-binary, queer, and disabled. As a young adult, Katie became a compassionate advocate for LGBTQ+ individuals who lived with disabilities like themselves. They helped to teach us how actions and words (often unintentionally) inflict pain on members of the transgender, queer, and disabled communities. As a student at the University of Redlands, Katie majored in The Psychology of Trans Disabled Healing through the Johnston Scholar program. They also led Defiant, which promoted the rights of disabled individuals on campus. Katie served as an intern for the Pride Center and was an advocate for LGBTQ+ rights. Katie’s college experience included studying abroad in Argentina. Katie graduated from St. George’s School (SGS) in Spokane and was active in the Outdoor Club, Community Service Club, Varsity Baseball, and Cross Country, and performed in many drama productions. At graduation in 2018, Katie earned SGS and International Baccalaureate diplomas, in addition to the Head of School Cup for their commitment to scholarship, athletics, leadership, service, and the arts.
Growing up, Katie was a fireball with boundless energy, fearlessness, and full of compassion. They had an abundance of creativity, a deep and thoughtful intellect, a great sense of humor, and a radiant smile. In the last couple of years, Katie’s fire began to smolder due to the worsening of their chronic, debilitating pain caused by hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. They also battled constant headaches and severe depression. Sadly, we witnessed how ill-equipped our healthcare system was to handle chronic pain, in addition to mental illness and the crisis that followed. While we are thankful Katie is now at peace without pain —this loss is hard. But Katie was deeply loved by their many friends and family. They were so fortunate to have shared true love and understanding with Casey, the love of their life.
Katie’s pain was magnified by many of the hurtful actions that are imposed by society on the LGBTQ+ community. Sadly, the Christian community can often be harmful and derogatory to this at-risk group of people. Rather than heartfelt outpourings of love and genuine acceptance, there are often judgmental actions and words, inflicting deep emotional trauma. Jesus taught the importance of unconditional love —and it is especially important to extend that to society’s most vulnerable individuals. The exceptionally high suicide rates among the transgender community highlights the vulnerability of this community. As an overall awesome, trans, queer disabled individual, Katie experienced judgment, suffered deep emotional trauma, endured chronic pain, and ultimately ended their own life. Katie left a spark with each of us and now we must grow that spark, seeking to advocate where Katie left off. No more hateful words or actions. No more inflicting pain on those who are hurting. Katie is leaving a legacy of genuine love and acceptance —it is up to us to grow that spark into a torch and pass it on.
Katie is survived by their partner, Casey Holt; parents, Dr. Pam Kohlmeier and Dr. Stephen Thew; siblings, Michael Thew, Jocelyn Thew, and David Thew; grandparents, Dodie Thew and Dr. Ron Kohlmeier; as well as many aunts, uncles, and cousins. We are truly thankful for Katie’s life and the legacy they passed on to each of us. Your family loves you Katie, and we are so proud of you.
A celebration of life for Katie will be held Saturday, November 26, 2022, at 10:30 AM at The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, 127 E. 12th Ave, Spokane, WA 99202, and there will be a reception following the service in the Great Hall at that same location. The family desires for those attending to wear colorful attire in symbolism and remembrance of the LGBTQ+ community and for an amazing life of advocacy that was lived by Katie. In lieu of flowers, contributions in Katie’s memory may be made to support LGBTQ+ youth in Spokane at Odyssey Youth Movement at http://odysseyyouth.org.
The Neptune Society of Spokane is the funeral home facilitating the arrangements for the Thew Family.
As our families gather to celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow, let us remind ourselves that we are, all of us, people worthy of true Christian kindness—instead of judgment and condemnation—especially judgement, condemnation, and fear for simply being different.
Keep to the high ground,
P.S. There is a concerted and, one might argue, ultimately deadly effort by Republicans, particularly some motivated by twisted Fundamentalist Christian doctrine, to block efforts to encourage gender inclusivity in the public schools. Locally, this twisted faction is drumming up followers to focus on the Central Valley School Board—opposing the gender inclusivity teaching that might one day spare families the pain of losing a loved ones like Katie and the victims of the Club Q shooting to socially-fueled hate. They will succeed in their opposition to gender inclusivity if the rest of us remain silent. It is time for us, Christians and secularists alike, to stand up for the values that Jesus preached. That story is reserved for another day.
Our Closet Climate Denier Paid to Downplay Renewables
Washington State will be sending one more Democrat to the U.S. House in January 2023 thanks to Marie Gluesenkamp Perez’s victory (in SW WA’s CD3) over election denier Joe Kent (who himself unseated the incumbent Republican Jaime Herrera Beutler). Eight of 10, up from seven of ten. Unfortunately, as a result of Republicans eking out a thin House majority, not only will Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA, CD5, eastern Washington) return to House but she also returns as the chairperson of House Energy and Commerce Committee—and it is hard to conceive of someone less qualified to lead an energy committee. Sadly, McMorris Rodgers, a person incapable of understanding the science of climate change, will be in a position to drag her feet on President Biden’s efforts to speed up adoption of renewable energy. Danny Westneat of the Seattle Times offers the detail in an article I’ve copied below.
We can count on Republican efforts to protect the fossil fuel industry and drag on the adoption of renewable energy as long as Republicans hold a majority of either chamber of the U.S. Congress, no matter how slim. McMorris Rodgers needs careful monitoring in the next two years and another massive effort to dislodge her in 2024.
By Danny Westneat, Nov. 19, 2022 at 6:00 am Updated Nov. 19, 2022 at 1:29 pm
Seattle Times columnist
The story of the election so far, in terms of who won the counting of the votes, is that it was a clean sweep around here for the Democrats.
But the reality for most of the Washington state congressional delegation is that they’ve been demoted. Due to the GOP winning back control of the U.S. House, the state’s eight House Democrats, fresh off victories, are about to be relegated to the backbencher status of being in the minority.
Mostly overlooked then has been the state’s real biggest winner (after U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, of course). That would be U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Republican who represents the far east side of the state.
She wasn’t overlooked by the nation’s big money interests, though.
Even with an easy campaign that attracted very little attention or opposition spending, McMorris Rodgers still is finishing the year as the No. 1 recipient of PAC contributions for any House candidate in the nation.
Corporations and other interest groups use PACs, or political action committees, to funnel money to favored politicians. McMorris Rodgers not only raked in more from PACs than any of the other 800 or so House candidates in all 50 states this year, but her nearly $3 million from corporate PACs also outpaced the runner-up, a Republican congressman from Illinois, by nearly 40%, according to the Committee for Responsible Politics, which tracks the money game at opensecrets.org.
Why would such a safe seat be a honey pot for corporate cash?
Money in politics often flows toward conflict, such as tight, noisy, important campaigns. But money also flows quietly in anticipation of power.
With Republicans taking the House, McMorris Rodgers is set to take command of the Energy and Commerce Committee. This is no small deal — especially for Big Oil, which wants to drill more on federal land, or for climate change activists and environmentalists, who are trying to stop them.
The committee is known as one of Congress’ “money committees,” because it oversees such a range of industries, from big energy to drugs to health insurance. A watchdog group once pored over campaign finance records and concluded that just being on this committee means a $340,000 bump in fundraising, including an average of $200,000 more in PAC contributions from companies looking to butter up its members.
McMorris Rodgers’ $3 million in PAC contributions (she raised $6 million overall) comes from every industry imaginable, including telecom, drugmakers, bankers, airlines, insurance and Big Tech such as Microsoft and Amazon.
One of her largest categories is oil and gas, with donations from Koch Industries, Marathon Petroleum, Chevron, Southwest Gas, Occidental Petroleum and so on. McMorris Rodgers scored $270,000 in oil and gas contributions — more than the rest of Washington state’s 12-member congressional delegation combined, federal finance reports show.
She has been open about using her new position to push for drill, baby, drill. She calls it “flip the switch.”
“We need to Flip the Switch on American energy now to bring down costs,” she said in a recent Energy and Commerce news release, meaning ramping up “coal, oil, natural gas, hydropower, and nuclear power.”
Notice that coal and oil get first billing, while solar and wind are not mentioned at all. McMorris Rodgers has been one of Congress’ top skeptics of a green energy transition, as well as a booster for coal mining, restarting the Keystone oil pipeline, drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and selling more oil-drilling leases on federal lands and offshore waters.
All of this forecasts a showdown over green energy and climate change. McMorris Rodgers has signaled she plans to launch investigations of the climate change grants and programs approved by Democrats last summer, which she dubbed “Solyndra on steroids” (after the solar company that went bankrupt during the Obama administration).
“It’s critical that we are not wasting hundreds of billions of dollars on a political agenda that is forcing a green energy transition that jeopardizes our reliability and increases costs,” she said last week.
Conservative groups are pushing Republicans to simply abolish Congress’ Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. (Because if it’s not there holding meetings, then it’s no longer a crisis?)
Much of what we learn about the workings of local government we get by reading “the daily newspaper” or watching local television. For Spokanites the only full daily paper is the Spokesman Review. What news one receives through these media is necessarily second hand. The topics deemed worthy of coverage acquire a slant, intended or not, that is determined by the reporters and the management of the medium.
In addition, like many local newspapers, the Spokesman lives behind a paywall. If you don’t spend (or cannot afford) the money to subscribe, you are only allowed so many articles per month. (It is worth noting that the Inlander,the other local newspaper, is free to the reader both online and in its weekly paper form. It is a valuable resource that is worth reading, but the Inlander has its own filter—and it does not attempt to provide comprehensive coverage.)
RANGE Media, a recent addition to local news coverage, is a valuable local news resource that can be accessed free online, with new articles distributed by email. Consider signing up as a paid subscriber. Of course, it, too has a slant.
So what’s a citizen to do? The City of Spokane’s website, my.spokanecity.org, is a great resource, but digging out specific information about the workings of government can be very challenging. (The Spokane County website’s [spokanecounty.org] coverage of County government workings, by contrast, is far worse than the City’s, something we can hope might improve with the election of Amber Waldref and Chris Jordan as County Commissioners.)
The Official Gazette of the City of Spokane, Washington
A friend of mine and long time city employee recently introduced me to a resource I wish I had been aware of years ago, The Official Gazette of the City of Spokane, Washington. The Gazette is a free online weekly compendium of the workings of City government that is not subject to the filters of reporters and opinion writers. You can sign up to receive the electronic version of the Gazette by sending an email to City Clerk Terri Pfister at email@example.com asking to be added to the email distribution. The Official Gazette has been around since the 1960s. It seems like it is gradually (and reluctantly) emerging into the modern world, as illustrated by some marvelous anachronisms. For instance, the front page informs the reader of the annual subscription cost ($4.75) for the print version to be sent to recipients with addresses in Spokane County, even though the Gazette no longer appears in a print version.
The Gazette is not easy reading, but it provides a valuable front row seat to the workings of City Government. Last week’s November 16 Gazette is nineteen pages of detailed City Council meeting minutes (in this case those of the Monday, October 24th City Council meeting), six pages of Hearing Notices (starting on page 1217), eight pages of City Council passed legislation (“ordinances”) awaiting the Mayor’s signature (or veto), five pages of “Job Opportunities”, and “Notices for Bids”. This is dry reading, but looking it over gives the reader a good idea what the City Council Members we elect actually spend their time doing—beyond what’s offered in the papers and online media.
The Gazette is free for the asking in its electronic version. The cost of gathering its contents is paid for by your tax dollars. Make use of it.
[Reading Tip: If your browser works like mine (assuming your reading on a computer, not a smart phone) hitting CMD(command)-F opens a search window in a pdf document. Using that one can quickly navigate to a page number or any key word. No one will read every word of the Gazette. CMD-F is means of skimming. Use it.]
Little noticed in the hubbub of the recent election was an article in the Northwest Section of the Spokesman on Wednesday, November 9th, entitled, “Hope House women’s shelter to shutter in January”. Hope House, situated at the corner of West 3rd Ave and Adams Street in downtown Spokane, is run by Volunteers of America of Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho. VOA is a national organization with local chapters (which can make navigating between their national and local websites somewhat confusing). VOA of E. WA and N. Idaho has run a shelter for homeless women named Hope House since 2000. Until last year Hope House offered 32 beds. Then, responding to growing need (See video):
In 2020, the nonprofit used federal and private dollars to build Hope House 2.0 and expanded the number of shelter beds from 32 to 100. The new facility opened in spring of 2021.
Now, just beyond the end of 2022, the 100 bed Hope House women’s shelter will have to close—for lack of operating funds. Hope House keep runs with a combination of private donations and money from the City of Spokane—and the latter money is falling short. It seems that Mayor Woodward, having been elected on a platform of solving homelessness, pumped 4.3M into “Expanded Emergency Shelter” (see page 25 of the 2022 Adopted Budget), presumably the “Trent Resource and Assistance Center (TRAC)” at Trent and Mission, and the budget now lacks funds to continue providing support to Hope House. (The Trent facility, an out-of-the-way warehouse, is leased from Larry Stone, a local developer partly responsible for getting Ms. Woodward elected—See “Curing Spokane”.)
This seems an example of robbing Peter to pay Paul. Ms. Woodward’s much ballyhooed Trent Resource and Assistance Center (TRAC) may eventually gear up to 250 low barrier beds after a rocky management turnover from the Guardians to the Salvation Army. The Woodward administration apparently doesn’t allocate enough money in the billion dollar proposed 2023 budget(346 pages) to keep the existing broader shelter system running while still funding TRAC. Gain (at a stretch) 250 underutilized beds at TRAC—and lose 100 well-utilized beds at Hope House. One step forward, one step back.
Meanwhile, the Woodward administration has failed to access more than 8.5M in available grant money (See RANGE Media’s “Passing on the bucks”). The same article details the Woodward administration’s inability to hang onto two successive Directors of the department of Neighborhood, Housing and Human Services (NHHS), the city agency responsible for coordinating the efforts to combat homelessness. (Confusingly, the Community Housing and Human Services (CHHS) department is a division of NHHS.)
According to Brian Coddington, spokesperson for Mayor Woodward’s office, the City of Spokane will have provided $1M for the operational costs of Hope House during fiscal year 2022, although you’d be hard pressed to figure that out by reading or word-searching the 126 page adopted 2022 City of Spokane budget. (For perspective, the total City of Spokane 2022 Budget is $1B, $217M of which is “General Fund”.)
A major goal of Ms. Woodward and those who support her has been to provide enough shelter space (used or not) to satisfy Martin v. Boise, enough available beds to free up the city to “clear” homeless people from Camp Hope and the city in general. So far Woodward has spent a large amount of money on a high-profile, one-size-fits-all solution (TRAC) and in the process, it seems, she has managed to undermine other parts of the existing system.
The Hope House closure of a 100 in-demand beds downtown reserved for homeless women, people understandably daunted by an out-of-the-way congregate shelter with an untested risk profile, is tragic—but what sort of administrator did we expect when we elected a TV news announcer to be mayor? Keep this in mind as we move into 2023, a municipal election year.
Keep to the high ground,
P.S. Mayor Woodward, Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, and City of Spokane Police Chief Craig Meidl—all vocal proponents of forced closure of Camp Hope—must be pleased that the upcoming closure of VOA’s Hope House was mostly lost last week in the flurry of election news. The Hope House closure further undermines their false claims of adequate existing shelter space. One might hope that Knezovich’s and Meidl’s grandstanding on their crime narrative around Camp Hope will taper off now that the elections have passed and, thus, talking up crime serves less electoral purpose.
P.P.S. You should subscribe and donate to RANGE Media. Every Friday RANGE sends out an email detailing the local meetings and issues of import in local government for the following week. Last Friday, November 11, Luke Baumgarten titled the email, “A New Hope for Hope House and other shelters”. It sheds light on a meeting of the Spokane City Urban Experience Committee to be held today, Monday, November 14, at 1:15PM where part of the agenda is discussion of a proposed City Council “Resolution Committing to Prioritize Funds for Current Shelter Providers” offered by City Council President Breean Beggs. The Resolution would head off Woodward’s budgetary debacle defunding homeless shelters. There is no public comment period at this committee meeting, but one could send a email note of support to their Council Members.
Who knew there was a “Spokane City Urban Experience Committee” that had any say in what happens at City Council meeting? This committee and ten others—that are not easy to locate on the my.spokanecity.org website—are part of the function of local government of which most of us (including me) were/are unaware. This is not the civics taught in high school—and if it were, since many of us went to high school in other states, what we learned might well not be applicable to the town in which we now live. It’s time for us to sit up and pay attention.
Are We Rejoicing or Picking up the Pieces and Carrying On?
I’m trying not to waste energy on dissecting the current results of yesterday’s midterm elections. I didn’t stay up late enough to hear who conceded and who did not. Some (many?) races may remain too close to call until more of the votes are counted. Maybe by this Friday. Maybe even longer. Unless there is a major push to “cure” submitted local ballots, ballots judged to require further verification by voters who have not yet responded to inquiry, there is nothing more I can do. So I’m taking the day off and trying not to pay much attention. Back on Friday.