Marge Greene Comes to a Party Near You

What does it mean for our region?

When convicted felon and retired General Michael Flynn and his ReAwaken America Tour came to Post Falls in September peddling Christian Nationalism and election denial it posed a dilemma: highlight it or ignore it? After all, there were a number of local Republicans peddling the same sauce at the same time (Bob McCaslin, candidate for Spokane County Auditor, for example), but none of those peddlers announced they were attending Flynn’s show, nor, as far as I know, did any of them appear on stage with Flynn and company during their two day Post Falls departure from reality. 

That local/regional Republican political calculus must have turned the corner, however. Sensible people should take notice. The Kootenai County Republican Party recently announced they are bringing in, as their keynote speaker, an even more prominent insurrection promoter and election denier than Michael Flynn, not just for a monthly meeting, but for their February 11 Lincoln Day Dinner to be held at the Coeur d’Alene Resort. 

Northwest Georgia’s U.S. Rep. Greene’s recent comments delivered at the New York Young Republican Club about her role in the January 6th attack on the Capitol, as reported in the very conservative New York Post, are beyond the pale:

“I want to tell you something, if Steve Bannon and I had organized that, we would have won. Not to mention, we would’ve been armed.”

Hearing that, I cannot get out of my mind the image of a man carrying a Confederate Battle Flag in U.S. Capitol. Abraham Lincoln, were he to hear Greene’s words and look down on the Kootenai County Republicans at their Lincoln Day Dinner in February, would be astonished and dismayed at the turn of events. Members of the Party that he founded to oppose the spread of slavery hosting a firebrand speaker from Georgia—a woman who plainly states her support for a second insurrection—that she would have done a better job—would be gut-wrenching for the dinner’s namesake. 

Image matters. That the Kootenai County Republican Party is hosting a woman who claims her armed insurrection would have succeeded should be found revolting by anyone remaining among local Republicans who respects the rule of law and the principles over which the Civil War was fought and won. Lack of repudiation from remaining local Republicans not allied with the extremist leadership of the local party over this choice of speaker is a sign of rot. 

Where does this woman, Marge Greene, come from? What is her origin story? She wishes to portray her credentials as those of a successful business woman who worked her way up the ladder. The truth is closer to an entitled rich girl seeking her niche by exploring the world as a serial “True Believer” in right wing Christianity, the redemptive value of bodybuilding, and immersion in and espousal of QAnon’s whack-o cesspool of fringe conspiracy theories. A lengthy article in the January/February 2023 issue of The Atlantic titled “Why Is She Like This?”, subtitled “On the ground in the Georgia congresswoman’s alternate universe,” is well worth the time investment to click and read in its digital form. 

Sadly and alarmingly, in the end, Marge Greene is probably a fitting speaker for the current local/regional Republican Party leadership to choose for their signature annual celebration, the Lincoln Day Dinner. One can only hope that any remaining reasonable Republicans will find the leadership’s choice a step too far.

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. Imagine for a moment the furor that would ensue among local Republican mouthpieces if a local Democratic organization dared to invite Alexandria Ocasio Cortez to speak—and AOC is advocating working within government, NOT for violently overthrowing it. 

P.P.S. “The True Believer” by Eric Hoffer, often referred to as “the longshoreman philosopher”, published in 1952 and referenced above, is key to my understanding of the serial fanaticism of the type Marge Green represents. I read Hoffer’s work a half century ago, but I often return to its insights on fanatics and mass movements. Wikipedia offers a good summary.

Our Racist Covenant(s)

What they are, how they arose and what they tell us.

One of a number of valuable take-home messages from the highly recommended eight part podcast series Ultra by Rachel Maddow is this: pay attention when you hear, “That’s the past. We need to move on.” When you hear those words look for a bit of history someone or some group would rather you did not know. 

Ultra centers on the history of racism and Nazism in the United States in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s, people and events no one I know (including me) was taught in school, events with eerie parallels to the present. 

There was a significant “We need to move on” sentiment after WWII that buried this history—a history we should find instructive. Try to find time to listen the Ultra podcast series. 

We hear echoes of “We need to move on” in Christopher Rufo’s call to ban the teaching of “CRT”—“We need to move on” from considering how attitudes and beliefs around slavery have on-going effects on our society. 

We hear echoes of “We need to move on” in a particularly malignant form in the Holocaust denial that percolated among the Charlottesville marchers in 2017, the “good people” Trump refused to denounce. “Moving on” from the history of the Holocaust endeavors to make racially-based nationalism into a noble cause.

We hear the echoes among those harassing and taking over public school boards and pushing to ban books about race and discrimination on the excuse that “teaching that will make our white children feel bad.”

We hear echoes of “We need to move on” among Republicans who insist that both racism and discrimination ended in the legislation of the 1960s—and now the goal is “colorblindness”. 

Of course, we DO need to “move on”. We need to move on into a world in which we are better people for having learned about the gross injustices of the past, and, armed with that understanding, we need to strive to avoid repeating the senseless prejudices of our collective past.

In the Northwest we have a long history of racism that most of us weren’t taught. The “Oregon black exclusion laws” were enacted in the 1840s by the white migrants to the Oregon Territory. The Oregon Territory of the time included land now divided into Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and parts of Montana. In 1857 when Oregon voted to become a state, the writers of the state Constitution enshrined in Section 35 of its Bill of Rights an infamous black exclusion clause. At the time a large majority of the “settlers” voted forthe exclusion clause even as a similar large majority voted against allowing slavery. (see 1857 Law). This Section was officially repealed in 1926 a ballot initiative that passed with 62.5% of the vote. Thirty-seven and a half percent still voted to keep the exclusion on the books, even though it was technically unenforceable under the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment. Attitudes change very slowly. 

The Oregon Territory saw early immigration from states like Missouri, states that had similar black exclusion laws on their books. After the Civil War the lands of the former Oregon Territory, including what is now Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and part of Montana, was a magnet for white migrating from the war ravaged South. The Territories were a refuge where any latent fear of rebellion or lawlessness by black people wouldn’t be an issue—thanks to the exclusion laws. It doesn’t take a detective or an historian to understand how the Aryan Nations, Matt Shea’s Liberty State, and the American Redoubt movement all find fertile ground today in regional attitudes that have smoldered, passed down thanks to the same attitudes that produced the exclusion laws. 

All these thoughts were spurred on by a superb article written by Shawn Vestal that appeared on the front page of the Sunday, December 11, Spokesman Review. In the paper paper the article had the eye-catching title “Project Covenant”. The racist, exclusionary covenants disclosed in the article are the direct descendants of the same attitudes and prejudices that justified the writing of the Oregon Territory’s black exclusion laws. Note well that the project to bring these covenant’s to light arose from sleuthing work of a professor at one of those “liberal”, “woke” universities, Eastern Washington University, the kind of place that many on the right seem eager to demonize. Even more telling is that the work of unearthing this history is supported by funding authorized by the Washington State legislature. Don’t hold you breath for similar funding to arise in the Idaho State legislature (or any majority Republican legislature)—despite the likelihood that moderate Republicans might see value in it. 

We should not feel threatened, demeaned, or “made to feel bad about” ourselves or the attitudes of our forebears by this research. What we SHOULD do is acknowledge and understand that this is our history and use that to avoid making the same mistakes. 

Here is Vestal, pasted from the digital version of the news“paper”: 

Covenant project unearths the threads of historical housing discrimination in Washington

Sun., Dec. 11, 2022

By Shawn Vestal

They are, literally, all over the map.

They are woven into the property records of homes developed in the mid-20th century in some of Spokane’s tonier neighborhoods – Comstock, High Drive, Audubon, Manito.

“No person of any race other than the White or Caucasian shall use or occupy any building or any lot except that this covenant shall not prevent occupancy of a domestic servant domiciled with any owner or tenant.”

They are attached to the deeds of homes in Millwood and Opportunity.

“No part of said property shall ever be used or occupied by any person of the Ethiopian, Malay, or any Asiatic race.”

They were included in property transactions by some of the most prominent citizens in Spokane as the city grew in the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s, including the owner of this newspaper, prominent developer and political figure Wayne Guthrie, and Whitworth College. On the West Side, they were included frequently in subdivision developments by aviation pioneer Bill Boeing, among others.

Almost the whole town of Airway Heights, from its founding in the middle of the previous century, was developed with racially restrictive covenants, even as the neighboring Fairchild Air Force Base was one of the most diverse places in the county.

They were even included in cemetery plots.

“The above described property shall be used for the burial of human dead of the Caucasian race only.”

It is not news that there were racial covenants built into the foundations of Spokane’s neighborhood developments during the middle decades of the past century. But a new state-funded research project is in the process of identifying every such covenant in Eastern Washington – and the tally is significant.

After scouring digital records, visiting courthouses and digging through the state archives, a team of Eastern Washington University researchers has identified 75 subdivisions or additions in Spokane County where racially restrictive covenants remain on the books. Those covenants are attached to the deeds of an estimated 4,750 individual properties.

They were filed regularly from the 1930s into the late 1950s – persisting even after the Supreme Court ruled them unconstitutional and unenforceable in 1948.

As the use of the covenants has come increasingly to light in recent years, it has challenged assumptions that state-sanctioned segregation was a reality only in the Jim Crow South – and that discrimination in the Inland Northwest, while very real, was primarily a question of informal, socially enforced racism. The official nature of the covenants, their widespread use by power brokers and public officials, and the awful and specific language involved puts the lie to those assumptions.

“It’s made me exceptionally angry, so I have to kind of keep that to myself while I’m writing about it,” said Jules Amante, an EWU student who is writing a project growing out of the research about the continuing shadow of real estate-based segregation in Spokane’s East Central neighborhood. “It’s just been a struggle for me.”

It’s not just undergraduates who can be shocked by this history. The man who initially opened the door to this subject in this state, University of Washington professor James Gregory, said that his work unearthing these racist documents for nearly two decades has been a series of discouraging and unforeseen revelations.

“There have been continual surprises,” he said.

‘It is our history’

Amante is one of the students in professor Larry Cebula’s digital history class at EWU. She and Cebula’s other students are working on projects growing directly out of the research that he, research coordinator Logan Camporeale and project director Tara Kelly have been doing to locate the covenants.

They have been tasked by the state with locating every covenant in the 20 counties of Eastern Washington and notifying property owners of their existence. Gregory is leading a team doing the same on the West Side.

The researchers will be asking the Legislature to extend its funding for the work in the upcoming session, with the goal of producing a database that documents every record of a racist covenant in Eastern Washington.

“This is the most meaningful work of my career,” Cebula said. “We’re helping to right a historical wrong, and I’m especially glad that Eastern has a role in uplifting and improving our region.”

The seeds of the project in our region started several years ago, when Camporeale – then a master’s student in Cebula’s program – was working in the state archives. One of his co-workers received a call from someone wanting to know if the covenants on their property put any limits on fencing.

They looked up her covenants and were shocked.

“There weren’t any rules about fencing, but there were rules about the color of folks who could live in her neighborhood,” Camporeale said.

Camporeale began rooting through archives and auditor’s records, compiling a list of plats or subdivisions in which the covenants were still filed with property records at the auditor’s office. By the time of a Spokesman-Review story on his efforts in 2016, Camporeale had found more than 30 such covenants, attached to properties developed in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s and still included in any real estate transaction conducted today.

People of color – as well as anyone who finds such covenants repugnant – will still encounter them when buying a home or lot.

By 2016, Camporeale had begun talking to policy makers about the possibility of having the covenants removed.

“My goal is to see these things go away,” he said at the time. “I want them to not be on the books. … At the very least, I want people to be aware.”

For Camporeale, it remains appalling to consider how ingrained and officialized this practice was. Even if some people had reservations, the covenants were “still signed by these power brokers we found who felt like, ‘This is OK and we’re going to just put our names on these documents.’

“That still gets me.”

But making these records go away – or at least finding a way to allow property owners to remove the repugnant language from their property records – has turned out to be complicated . It has pitted two competing principles against each other: Trying to right a historical wrong versus the need to preserve historical records.

Since Camporeale first began bringing this issue to light, court cases and legislation have attempted to address it. A Spokane homeowner sued to have Spokane County remove the covenant from his home’s records – a case that reached the state Supreme Court. Meanwhile, the Legislature has passed laws that attempt to give homeowners a remedy without erasing the historical documents.

County auditors are developing procedures for carrying that out. The newest legislation allows property owners to add a disclaimer to their property record, noting the existence of the covenant and disavowing it.

It also allows a more drastic measure. Property owners can ask a judge to have the original record removed and replaced with a copy that has the offending covenant blacked out. In this alternative, the original record would be archived elsewhere, not destroyed.

Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton has been closely involved in the process all along – arguing against efforts to remove or destroy the records, and working closely with legislators to make sure new laws address that need. For Dalton, it’s a simple matter of the historical record; the chain of title on a property is a permanent record that should be protected.

“Permanent means forever,” she said. “We’re talking centuries and millennia.”

The state Supreme Court, in its ruling, was unequivocal in asserting the legal necessity of preserving the historical record.

“We must ensure that future generations have access to these documents because, although the covenants are morally repugnant, they are part of a documented history of disenfranchisement of a people,” Justice G. Helen Whitener wrote in the unanimous opinion in April. “It is our history.”

State-sponsored discrimination

Covenants restricting property usage are common in real estate transactions, including rules limiting livestock, setting home sizes and setback distances, prohibiting “noxious” activities, and more.

The use of such covenants as a tool of segregation emerged in the early 20th century, as other forms of segregation were being ruled illegal and new, more insidious methods of racial discrimination in housing were slithering into the mix. In 1917, the Supreme Court ruled that the government could not legally discriminate on racial grounds, but didn’t prohibit the use of racially restrictive covenants or contracts.

In the early decades of the 20th century, segregation in Spokane’s restaurants, hotels, social clubs and other settings was a simple fact of life. The first racist covenants were filed in Spokane County in the 1920s – first for a cemetery, and then for the East Audubon Park addition. They became more common in the decades to come, continuing even as they were declared invalid and unenforceable.

In large part, this was due to the federal government and its mortgage-guarantee policies, which place a high value on stability and preserving home values in neighborhoods. In the 1930s, the Federal Housing Authority explicitly encouraged discrimination in its mortgage-insurance guidelines: “If a neighborhood is to retain stability, it is necessary that properties shall continue to be occupied by the same social and racial classes.”

These guidelines created the foundation for racist covenants and red-lining – the practice of downgrading neighborhoods where Black people lived and thereby making it difficult or impossible to get federally backed home loans. The practice directed public and private money toward white neighborhoods and away from Black neighborhoods, fostering the deep inequalities in wealth and home ownership.

In 1948, the high court ruled that such covenants violate the Constitution’s equal protection clause. But they continued to be filed with subdivisions and developments, in Spokane and elsewhere, for years. In combination with information and social forms of racism, they worked to create a segregated city.

Much of this history lay hidden underground until recent years. Gregory’s Segregated Seattle project, which went online in 2005, brought the issue to statewide attention for the first time. That work and the subsequent research challenges many of the assumptions people have had about segregation in America. Many people have tended to believe that official government-sponsored segregation was limited to the Jim Crow South, and that the forms of racial discrimination in the Northwest were primarily informal.

But the covenants prove that state-sanctioned racism was woven deeply into the history of this city and this state – and that this racism helped to shape our communities and foster the deep inequalities of wealth along racial lines.

“The forces of segregation were authorized by the state government, the city governments and county governments,” Gregory said. “They were protected by the government – official forms, government-sponsored forms of racial discrimination.”

In combination with red-lining, these covenants helped to deny people of color equal rights to buy homes – one of the chief ways that families acquire wealth and pass it along to the next generation. You see the shadow of effects of this today on the lower rates of home ownership among Black residents in Washington state, Gregory said.

“At whatever income level, African Americans own less property and their property is worth less – and that’s the generational wealth effect,” he said.

A common practice

In addition to passing legislation governing the handling of the covenants, the Legislature has funded the work of EWU and UW to identify all the racial covenants in the state and notify homeowners who have them.

EWU was tasked with finding the records in all 20 Eastern Washington counties. UW received the same to canvas the West Side.

Cebula and Camporeale hired Kelly, who has a background in anthropology and experience running research projects. They began by scouring the digital records of plat maps – the records filed when new subdivisions and developments are registered with counties. Many of the maps have the racist covenants printed right on them.

In Spokane, the covenants were used in developments by some of the city’s leading families. William Cowles Jr. and a partner signed off on five such covenants for neighborhood developments such as the Comstock additions.

The Cowles family owns The Spokesman-Review. When news of the covenants came to light in 2016, Betsy Cowles, chairman of the newspaper’s parent organization, the Cowles Co., issued a statement: “It isn’t clear to me exactly what role William Cowles Jr. had in the overall development at that time. What is very clear is that such racial segregation is offensive and in no way represents our company or family values. Today, we are proud of the work we have done and will continue to do in our companies and community to celebrate diversity and honor differences.”

Another prominent Spokane figure who included racially restrictive covenants in property developments was Guthrie, who built thousands of post-war homes in Spokane County. Guthrie also served on the City Council and ran twice for mayor – losing in his final run in 1981 to Jim Chase, the city’s first Black mayor.

In 1942, Whitworth College platted a subdivision for married student and veterans housing that included a racist covenant – the one with the exception for domestic servants. When the EWU research team let the school, now Whitworth University, know about this recently, university President Scott McQuilkin issued a thorough-going statement to the campus community repudiating the covenants, detailing the harm the practice inflicted, committing to including the information in the university’s history, and pledging to form a campus group to consider further ways to address the information.

“The discovery of Whitworth’s participation in a racial covenant reveals a moral failure, an action that contributed to injustice, racist systems, and untold consequences for people of color who were not granted the same opportunities as white people,” the statement issued Oct. 6 read.

“We have a duty, as people seeking to participate in God’s redemptive work, to study our history, to acknowledge and own our failures, and to form a better house for our current residents and those who follow. Whitworth University is committed to doing all of that.”

‘Creating history’

The EWU team’s work began with examining the digital plat maps associated with developments in Spokane County and other regional counties.

The team then moved on to the books of physical property records kept in county courthouses around the region. This entailed navigating the differences and peculiarities among different record-keeping systems.

They were unanimous in praising auditors around the region for helping them find what they were looking for.

“Everyone’s been great,” Cebula said. “Everybody agrees this was a great historical injustice and they want to help fix it.”

The rural use of the covenants was sporadic, in part because the middle of the 20th century was not a big growth period in small towns.

The team found just one in Adams County, for example – in a cemetery.

Camporeale estimates the research work is about three-quarters complete.

Gregory, the UW professor, is facing a bigger research challenge in the more populous West Side counties.

He said his five-person team has finished the work in Pierce, Thurston, Snohomish and Whatcom counties, and is facing daunting ongoing work in King County, where the records they need are mostly not digitized.

They’ve found about 40,000 individual properties with restrictive covenants.

“There’s no way we’re going to finish or even come close to finishing in King County when the funding runs out next summer,” he said. “And there are a whole lot of other counties on the West Side we haven’t even begun.”

Cebula is bringing the research into the other corners of his teaching. The undergraduates in his digital history class are each writing about some element of the research for a project that will be posted at the Spokane Historical web site.

One student is writing about the involvement of Cowles, another is looking in detail at where Spokane’s Black population has lived in town and how that has evolved, and another is writing about Airway Heights.

Rachael Low is writing a piece about a debate in 1968 between Carl Maxey and James Black, then the head of the state real estate agents association. They were debating a state law that would have held agents legally responsible for discriminating against buyers – the real estate association was opposed to the law.

Low and the other students said they were surprised to discover this element of the region’s history.

“There are people who are alive today who were affected,” she said. “It’s something we as a city need to remember and learn from.”

In the end, there will be more public awareness and much more easily accessible public information about where the covenants were used than ever before. With the new laws offering homeowners a remedy for dealing with the covenants in their own files, the researchers say concerns that they are trying to erase the history of this practice are wrong.

“We’re not erasing history,” Cebula said. “We’re making history.”

Keep to the high ground,


Homelessness–Constructive Community Efforts

NOT “The Ozzie and Nadine Show”

A couple of dozen City of Spokane and Spokane County law enforcement officers, under the leadership of outgoing Sheriff of Spokane County Ozzie Knezovich, are expending taxpayers’ money as they pass out out-of-date literature and threaten the people of Camp Hope with a date indefinite that they plan to clear the camp. Meanwhile, a growing number of citizens are paying attention to the issue and actually working on the human needs of the homeless community—affordable housing. 

Tomorrow, Tuesday, December 13, at 5:30-7 pm at the Hive at 2904 E Sprague Ave (and on Zoom) the non-partisan League of Women Voters of Spokane Area will hold its December Meeting. The meeting (full advertisement below) will be led by the LWV’s Affordable Housing and Homeless Solutions Committee and will feature speakers from local groups deeply involved in ameliorating local homelessness. 

I encourage you to attend in person or by Zoom. It seems evident that Mayor Woodward’s and Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich’s pre-occupation with clearing Camp Hope is a misdirection, a poor example of leadership. They are concentrated on dismantling a camp that is an enduring symbol of the policy failure of the Mayor’s office. The issue of homelessness is not amenable solely to the one-size-fits-all approach exemplified by the Trent warehouse (TRAC). It is going to take a village… 

Please attend LWV of Spokane meeting either in person or on Zoom. Get better acquainted with some better solutions arising from community leadership. 

Keep to the high ground,


December General Meeting With Our AHHS

Jennifer Calvert, Affordable Housing and Homeless Solutions Committee

The Affordable Housing and Homeless Solutions committee is excited to be presenting the program for the December LWV of Spokane Area general meeting. Our very busy committee members have been reaching out to leaders of organizations who provide services for the unhoused citizens in our community as we continue to research problems and solutions to the housing crisis in the Spokane area.

Meagan Vincello and Zeke Smith of the Empire Health foundation, and Sarah Ben Olson and Jonas Hawk from the New Hope Resource Center will speak at the meeting.

We will discuss transitional housing and look at Spokane Valley’s homeless plan and accomplishments with its outreach team.

A committee member who has held various roles while working at Catholic Charities of Eastern Washington will share her thoughts and perspective on the positives and the downsides of “housing first” programs based on her own first-hand experience.

We invite you to join us in person on Tuesday, December 13, at 5:30 pm at The Hive, located at 2904 E. Sprague Ave. You also have the option to join the meeting via zoom.

We encourage you to bring gloves, hats, socks, scarves, coats and other warm winter gear to share with those less fortunate, and we will be happy to share them where they are most needed.

Tuesday, December 13th, 5:30- 7:00 pm

Location: The Hive (A Spokane Public Library)

Event Room A

2904 E Sprague Ave

Spokane, WA 99202 OR

LWV Spokane is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Meeting ID: 850 2910 9052
Passcode: 264004
One tap mobile
+12532050468,,85029109052#,,,,*264004# US
+12532158782,,85029109052#,,,,*264004# US (Tacoma)

Woodward Wants to Move Funds from Affordable Housing to Support Her Warehouse

Tell Her No

You can’t make this stuff up, but it is far too easy to miss it.

The problem of affordable housing and homelessness has been growing year after year. In 2020 a long term effort to provide a revenue stream to support affordable housing culminated in the passage of HB1590 by the Washington State legislature and signature by the governor. HB1590 authorizes Washington counties (or cities, if the county does not) to impose an additional local 1/10 of 1% sales tax for the following use:

A minimum of 60 percent of revenues collected must be used for constructing affordable housing and facilities providing housing-related services, constructing mental and behavioral health-related facilities, or funding the operations and maintenance costs of newly constructed affordable housing, facilities providing housing-related services, or evaluation and treatment centers.

In November 2020 the Spokane City Council voted, under this enabling state legislation, to impose an 1/10 of 1% sales tax in Spokane. In 2023 that tax is projected to raise seven million dollars for the specific services detailed above. (It is expected to cost the the average City of Spokane citizen between about $25 per year. At passage several council members noted and lamented that this is a regressive tax, but it should be noted that, in our State, options for raising money with a non-regressive tax are severely limited.)

No one thought this would “solve” the ongoing problem of housing affordability, but it looked as though the seven million would fund 100 additional units of affordable housing per year

The Housing Sales Tax first appeared in the Mayor’s 2022 budget (adopted December 13, 2021). In that budget revenues from the Housing Sales Tax were pegged at $6.8M. No expenses were projected. So far, so good. 

But now the devil is in the details.

This coming Monday, December 12, the City of Spokane City Council is expected to vote on Mayor Woodward’s proposed 2023 budget. In it, on page 18, the No. 1 point under “Homeless Services” is (the italics are mine):

1. Support the Continued Operations of the Cannon Flex Shelter, TRAC & other Homelessness Resources ($7.0 million, Affordable Housing) 

In order to retain beds in an environment where demand is increasing yet funding is decreasing, the Mayor is proposing the use of affordablehousing sales tax dollars. Homelessness programming would continue to be supplemented with federal and state funding with a planned tapering down of local funding over the next three to five years.

At the best this is puzzling language, but it certainly reads to suggest that Mayor Woodward plans to sink most of the $7.0 million additional sales tax NOT into the affordable housing for which it was authorized by HB1590. Instead, she plans to use it mostly to support her warehouse Trent Shelter (“TRAC”). It doesn’t take a lawyer to to suspect that Woodward’s budget proposal for use of the Housing Sales Tax dollars violates the intent of the enabling state legislation. Only at a great stretch can the beds and pallets in the Trent warehouse of the homeless (TRAC) be seen to be or to support affordable housing. Equally maddening is that from one side of her mouth Woodward laments that “funding is decreasing” (funding from what source is decreasing?) while from the other side she tries to score political points with her doomed veto of a negligible one percent rise in the City’s property tax levy—a tax that will help correct the lamented decrease. 

The rest of Woodward’s 2023 Budget offers no help. On page 311 claims to provide “Housing Sales Tax Budget Detail”, but after projecting $106K for administrative costs, the remaining $6894K is listed as unspecified “Services”. 

Mayor Woodward’s attitude toward the issue of homelessness, the issue she campaigned to fix, is coming into focus. Early on she proved her lack of empathy with the comment that the homeless need to be “less comfortable”. Her goal is to displace the homeless sheltering downtown. Thanks to the Martin v. Boise decision Woodward and her administration aren’t allowed to simply demonize and persecute the downtown homeless (make them “less comfortable”) with repetitive sweeps and confiscations of their worldly belongings. Martin v. Boise first required the administration to provide shelter beds. The Trent warehouse shelter (TRAC) was the convenient answer. Not only was the warehouse located far enough away from downtown, but it could be leased from Larry Stone, the man who funded the youtube video Curing Spokane, a thinly veiled contribution to Woodward’s campaign for mayor. Despite the rhetoric by the administration and the sincere efforts of those who attempt to make it work, for Woodward, the Trent warehouse is about claiming sufficient numbers of shelter beds. Meanwhile, she works to close out beds downtown, quietly removing funding for the Hope House women’s shelter (downtown on 3rd Avenue), stimulating Catholic Charities to relocate, and ousting smaller operations like God’s Love International from 930 W Second Ave during a Covid outbreak (on the pretext of code violations). All are stepwise efforts at downtown clearance. Force all the homeless into a one-size-fits-all cavernous warehouse (TRAC, aka “the Trent Shelter) on the industrial outskirts of the city—out-of-sight, out-of-mind. Helping the homeless obtain permanent shelter was never the primary concern.

Camp Hope is the newsworthy, visible reminder that the homelessness issue is far from resolved by simply warehousing people. As a visible reminder of the inadequacy of the Woodward plan, Camp Hope must be closed before it has too much success at getting people housed, hence the harassment by Sheriff Knezovich’s helicopter overflights and the recent provocative invasion of Camp Hope by tens of law enforcement officers to “provide information”. 

This entry in the Mayor’s 2023 Proposed Budget, the apparent diversion of money to Woodward’s warehouse from its legally authorized purpose of funding affordable housing, fits the pattern of her intent.

Contact your City of Spokane City Council members either as a group ( or individually over the weekend and let them know what you think of Woodward’s budget diversion. Exactly what “Services” does Woodward plan to purchase with the $6894K of our sales tax receipts designated for affordable housing? 

Keep to the high ground,


A Local Battleground over Gender-Inclusivity Education in Public Schools

A chance for civic engagement Thursday evening, December 8, 6-7PM

Among the latest Republican culture war strategies, thanks to Christopher Rufo and Steve Bannon, is to assail school boards over supposed threats to children posed by gender-inclusivity. Many of those motivated to attend school board meetings and protest against gender-inclusivity seem most concerned that making children aware of gender non-conformity and teaching acceptance of those differences among people might lure their completely binary children to try out a gender non-conforming “lifestyle”. Often the concern is rooted in religious conviction that gender is strictly determined by sex assigned at birth and that any deviation from that assignment is sinful, a choice or a sign of mental illness, and ought not to be legal, much less tolerated and taught in schools. 

In contrast, those in favor of teaching gender inclusivity on an age appropriate basis generally consider gender non-conformity to be pre-determined, innate. Gender non-conformity is something to be acknowledged, accepted, and accommodated as a part of the range of normal humanity, rather than suppressed and criticized as a “lifestyle choice.” Families with members who have suffered the stress of rejection and opprobrium on account of gender non-conformity know the consequences first hand. (See Violence Large and Small–and the Social Milieu That Nurtures It.)

An inherent fault of our democracy is that an energized vocal minority, the “squeaky wheel”, can have an outsize effect. The folks who argue that children should not be taught gender-inclusivity, that past prejudices are just fine and need no revision are such a vocal minority. 

If you can spare an hour this evening, Thursday evening between 6 and 7, whether or not you are geographically part of the Central Valley School District, consider attending the gathering advertised below. You will not be alone in your opinions. Petra Hoy, a dedicated Central Valley activist will be there with other policy defenders.

This is one facet of a nationally stoked controversy that pops up again and again in the context of the public schools. It behooves us to support the schools in moving forward instead of being dragged back into the prejudices and misconceptions of the past. To paraphrase a famous quote, “All that is required for reactionary, hurtful views to prevail is for good people to do nothing.”

If you want to see samples from the CVSD School Board meeting on November 14 that set the stage for this “Let’s Talk About It” meeting tonight, check out this Zoom video. It is very long. Public testimony on gender inclusivity starts at about 48:00. Be sure to watch Dr. Pam Kohlmeier’s testimony beginning at 1:02:05 and one particularly egregious bit of testimony at 1:32:28.

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. For more background, here is the Guest Opinion of Dr. Kohlmeier that appeared in the Spokesman November 27. 

Gender inclusivity at school could help save lives

Pam Kohlmeier, MD, JD, FACEP

By Pam Kohlmeier, MD, JD, FACEP

I presented most of the following message to the Central Valley School Board meeting earlier this month. My words seek to remind each of us of the why behind gender inclusive policies and procedures in our schools. My comments are deeply personal. They involve one of my adult children, Katie Thew, who identified as transgender and nonbinary and who recently died by suicide.

According to the Trevor Project, in the past year more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth seriously considered attempting suicide. What’s more is that 42% of nonbinary individuals and over half of transgender males actually attempt suicide in their lifetimes. These are frightening statistics.

While Katie had other contributing factors, being transgender and nonbinary raised Katie’s risk of suicide astronomically. Like many transgender youths, Katie outwardly appeared to be thriving throughout the course of their primary and secondary education but in reality, was experiencing trauma in school. Months before Katie died, Katie described three deeply rooted scars that were caused by events in school between fourth and 12th grades in Spokane County. I share these scars to raise awareness, and in no way to shame or blame. Katie’s scars were forming unbeknownst to their parents while attending a great school with loving friends and teachers. But even in a seemingly nurturing environment, harm was done.

Scar 1: Bathroom experiences were deeply traumatic. Beginning in about fifth grade, Katie would limit their fluid intake to try to prevent using a school restroom during the day. Yes, the entire school day. Why? Going into a girl’s bathroom was expected, but Katie did not feel like a girl – ever. Katie was born female but felt like a boy and frankly looked like a boy, with a sporty haircut and boys clothing, so much so that Katie was once redirected by an adult away from a girls bathroom at school based on that boyish appearance. This, too, was traumatic. As a result, Katie didn’t feel comfortable using any bathroom at school for years.

Scar 2: Katie endured trauma related to dress codes. Dress codes involving special events, where students were expected to look nice, were especially distressing. Comments that girls should wear X and boys should wear Y caused trauma. It offered no validation of what would be appropriate or beautiful for a gender nonconforming student. This code seemingly forced the nonbinary students to pick one identity or the other. At Katie’s promotional ceremony into middle school, Katie’s biological sex dictated that a dress was expected. I was able to negotiate for a unique in-between option, but this, too, caused trauma: because it had to be lobbied for, because once again they were different from their peers.

Scar 3: Katie endured trauma related to pronoun usage. Katie experimented once with a new pronoun at school. Of note, the incident involved a teacher who was one of Katie’s favorites. Regardless, the teacher at that time was unfortunately ill-informed about gender nonconforming pronoun usage. Katie asked one of their classmates, and dear friend, to refer to Katie by a gender nonconforming pronoun. The friend complied. But, as a result, the friend was sent to the principal’s office. While it is likely Katie’s teacher thought her actions were helping to protect Katie, she wasn’t. Instead, the teacher was merely demonstrating a lack of education on gender nonconforming pronoun usage. Katie’s experience demonstrates that even the best educators need more education on gender inclusive pronoun usage. Here, Katie was vulnerable, felt badly following the incident, and quickly reverted to using the pronoun “she” again – even though it did not fit their identity.

Again, the above incidents could have occurred in any school with any teacher in our community. The scars created at school impacted my child, but they could involve your child, or a friend of your child who may be struggling to survive. I urge school board officials, in all districts, to prioritize saving lives. While gender-inclusive policies may at times seem burdensome, such burdens pale in comparison to the burden of losing a child.

Pam Kohlmeier is dually licensed as a physician and an attorney and has resided in Spokane since 2005. Kohlmeier served as an emergency physician and lecturer for a Master of Public Health program prior to becoming an attorney.

What Will It Take?

Does He Actually Have to Shoot Someone on Fifth Avenue?

Electing a representative to any prominent position in government requires projection, the ability to imagine, at least deep down somewhere, that the person for whom you cast your ballot shares your values, that they will study the issues (just like you would—if you only had the time and interest), and that they will vote in government the way you would vote. 

It follows that being a successful politician requires that one studiously avoids taking any stand that might alienate any block of voters upon whom you depend to win the next election. There are two corollaries:

  1. Every politician will quietly rejoice when the media (and their voters) don’t ask the hard questions at all. This is the issue addressed in this email.
  2. The best of circumstances arises once you’ve figured out a messaging means, like McMorris Rodgers’ targeted emails, of fostering your extremist voters ability to project while independents and less extreme voters can discount or totally ignore the message you feed your extremist wing. 

Last Friday, the leader of the Republican Party, the presumed frontrunner for the Republican nomination for President in 2024, and, so far, the only declared candidate, Donald Trump, declared on his “Truth Social” social media site that such “Massive Fraud” had occurred in the 2020 election that it justified “termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution”. Here’s the full message, lest anyone wonder if the quote were taken out of context:

Absorb that: former President called to “terminate…the Constitution”. The context was his effort to play up a nothing-burger about the 2020 election pushed by Elon Musk on his newly-purchased Twitter platform. (The best write-up of that context [and why it’s a nothing-burger] that I’ve seen is Robert Hubbell’s “What the heck just happened?)

Those of us who read Hubbell’s Today’s Edition Newsletter or Joyce Vance’s Civil Discourse or Heather Cox Richardson’s Letters from an American (or all three) were apprised of Trump’s plea to put aside the rules and regulations of the U.S. Constitution, make him President once again, and the details of the Twitter context that elicited his outburst. Were independents and political moderates made aware of Trump’s outrageous sedition by the standard media? 

The headline of the Spokesman article covering Trump’s statement? “White House rebukes Trump’s suggestion to suspend Constitution over 2020 election” was buried on page A13 in the lower right hand column in the Sunday, December 4th, Spokesman—an article purchased from the Washington Post. The headline was NOT “Trump calls to suspend the U.S. Constitution”. Instead, the headline hints at a minor tiff between the White House and the former President.

This takes us back to politicians and projection. If the average citizen isn’t even aware of Trump’s sedition (See P.S.) one cannot expect the average Republican politician to step up and call it out. After all, if, like “our” McMorris Rodgers (U.S. Representative from CD5, eastern Washington), a significant portion of your voting base thinks Trump is a virtual deity, you will wish for Trump’s words to be buried, and, if confronted, you will do anything you can to weasel out of issuing a direct repudiation. Surely you will not volunteer a statement unless you are hard-pressed. 

Every time McMorris Rodgers’ name appears in electrons in the media I receive a “Google Alert” email. I waded through all nineteen “Alerts” dated after Trump’s sedition. Did she comment? Crickets. Statement on her website? Nothing. If she, and other Republicans, are not pressed hard for answers they will ignore the sedition of their presumptive leader and move on as if nothing had happened. 

There are several things you can do: 1) Add you name with mine to this petition on 2) Call McMorris Rodgers’ local Post Street office at 509-353-2374 and ask for her comment 3) Or take this advice from Joyce Vance:

Let’s keep the heat on them this week and for as long as it takes. You can call (202) 224-3121 and ask to speak with your senators and representatives. Don’t forget email, postcards, letters and calls to district offices too, in addition to social media and requests for in-person meetings. They’ll be keeping track of the calls and other incoming messages this week. Sometimes they need to be reminded that they work for us, and that no matter how difficult they make it, we’re committed to voting in our elections to keep it that way.

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. From wikipedia (the italics are mine): Sedition is overt conduct, such as speech and organization, that tends toward rebellion against the established order. Sedition often includes subversion of a constitution and incitement of discontent toward, or insurrection against, established authority. Sedition may include any commotion, though not aimed at direct and open violence against the laws.

Seven Dollars

Monster Tax Savings for the Median County Homeowner!

Colin Tiernan reported on December 1 in the Spokesman that “Spokane County commissioners vote against raising property taxes”. [At the Spokesman (and probably most other newspapers) the editor decides on headlines, not the reporter who writes the story.]

As a county resident I might assume from that headline that I was just saved hundreds of dollars by the fiscally responsible action of the Spokane County Commissioners—who, at great effort—managed not to raise property taxes in these inflationary times. Careful reading of Mr. Tiernan’s article suggests a different, and more truthful, headline that you will never see: “Spokane County commissioners voted not to raise the median Spokane County property owner’s 2023 tax bill by—wait for it—seven dollars”. One might argue that foregoing a seven dollar rise in the 2023 property tax bill for the average Spokane County property owner isn’t even worthy of news coverage, much less a headline hinting that Spokane County Commissioners Al French, Josh Kerns, and Mary Kuney (all Republicans) had just saved county taxpayers a devastating rise in their property tax bill. 

The calculations and legal constraints imposed on local Washington State governments as they puzzle out how to balance their budgets are bewilderingly complex—rife with opportunity for misrepresentation and misunderstanding. A visit to the local social media site Nextdoor offers a window into the confusion around coverage of the recent tiff between the City of Spokane City Council and Mayor Woodward over whether to take legally allowed one percent increase in the City’s property tax levy. Here’s an example from a Mr. Dow of Altamont Heights:

Who else has done the math? Ready for dollars per day increase in property tax? Yup 1% property tax increase. Rent will go up again! Possibly by hundreds. And for what? I’m sure the Spokane city council could cut out some useless items, and find the funds. Nope, they pass it on to us.

He “did the math” alright, and, in so doing, got it totally wrong, not that, given the news coverage and the complexity of the topic, that he should be much faulted for his misunderstanding. Scarier were the dozens of comments that followed on Mr. Dow’s post as others piled on. The overall tone of the comments was at least “Vote them out!” with some comments verging on “Bring out your pitchforks, string them up!”

The headline of the news article in the Spokesman by Emry Dinman that Mr. Dow is playing off of is as bad as Mr. Dow’s math, “Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward vetoes City Council-approved 1% property tax hike”. Isn’t a “1% property tax hike” pretty clear? You might be excused for simply multiplying your last year’s tax bill by 1% (0.01). Let’s say that last year’s bill was close to an average $4000. The terrifying “City Council-approved 1% property tax hike” is then $40. First, note $40 is not “hundreds” as Mr. Dow inflammatorily suggests, but that isn’t even the right calculation. 

The “hike” of the headline is a one percent rise in the City of Spokane’s total levy amount, the amount of money in dollars that the City can collect in property taxes the following year spread out among all the property within the City limits. For Spokesman subscribers who actually read the article, its author, Emry Dinman, even writes “a cost of a few dollars to most property owners”, NOT the “hundreds” of Mr. Dow’s post. But the damage is done. Thanks to these headlines and the spreading misinformation/miscalculation on Nextdoor some number of folks will bolster their internal anti-tax, anti-government, anti-one-particular political party narrative.

The trouble with all this is with the required messaging. Frequent few-word, subtle misinformation like “1% property tax hike” (intentional or not) leaves a lasting impression in the minds of people who lack the time, resources, and inclination to puzzle out the full story. Any time the counter to a simplistic (and wrong) statement requires paragraphs to explain, the person offering the counter argument starts at a distinct disadvantage. Trying to understand and then explain the complexity of property tax determinations in the State of Washington is mind-bendingly daunting. 

That said, here are a few relevant concepts to keep in mind:

  1. Any increase in property taxes in Washington State that will appear on your tax bill is constrained by multiple legal limits on the taxing authority of the (many) taxing districts in which your property is located. Big changes in the average property tax bill cannot happen without voter approval.
  2. The assessed value of your property is relevant to your next year’s tax bill only in proportion to the assessed value of all the property contained in a particular tax district’s boundaries. Imagine a tax district in which the assessed value of every property doubled from one year to the next year. For simplicity, let’s also assume that the allowed 1% levy rise was NOT voted in. In this case of a doubling of the assessed value of each and every property, the levy rate (expressed as dollars per thousand of assessed value) would be cut in half—and the taxing district would collect the same total dollar value in property tax as it did the year before. However, in the unlikely event that the assessed value of your property doubled while the value of all the rest of the property in your taxing district stayed the same, your particular property’s tax bill would double while everyone else’s remained the same. (There are caveats to all of this, but none of them would materially affect the conclusions.)
  3. Also, keep in mind that in Washington State the total tax bill paid on a property is made up of levy rates determined by multiple overlapping tax districts, each multiplied by the assessed value, not just, for example, the levy rate imposed by the City of Spokane. To explore this, look at your detailed property tax bill (or access the details of your property by entering your address at and clicking “View more parcel information” on the page you see.

This is the sort of material that ought to be taught in a combined “practical math plus civics” course in high school—and offered to all citizens.

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. For more (and perhaps clearer) examples of how levy rates and assessed values inter-relate see Calculating the Property Tax Levy