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The Others

In Urban Affairs on March 17, 2009 at 6:06 pm


Is it just us, or does the new Wells & Co. development in Hangman Valley bear a strong resemblance to the suburban-like village of houses inhabited by “The Others” on ABC’s Lost? Given that the starting price for these one-bedroom, one-bath dwellings is $119K, perhaps not. But the 10 single-family homes situated around a common green-space (or at least it will be once the landscaping goes in) are similar to cottage-style infill developments in Portland and other cities. Several of the 550-square-foot homes include porches, and there’s plenty of outdoor space for socializing with neighbors. Maybe some of that open green space will be set aside for a community garden?

When we dropped by the other day, some of the dwellings were still under construction. Peeking through one or two windows gave us a rough idea of the layout. The bathroom/laundry room/closet area is only accessible through the bedroom. The kitchen includes a small space for a table and a couple of chairs. Each home has at least four good-sized windows. And the porches are a nice touch, though not every home has one. Other details include:

10 single-family 1-bed, 1-bath cottages

2 2-bed, 2-bath town houses

Granite kitchen counters

Ceramic tile floors in bath and kitchen

Home price includes full washer and dryer

Off-street parking

Energy efficient vinyl windows

Low-maintenance vinyl siding

Landscaping/snow removal provided by owners’ association

High frequency sonic fence to keep out the smoke monster

Located five minutes from downtown, if that.


100% Sustainable by 2030 – Update

In Urban Affairs on March 17, 2009 at 5:01 pm


Spokane Mayor Mary Verner’s much-anticipated Sustainability Task Force report is hot off the presses and on its way to city council members this week. Sources familiar with the long-range strategic plan say the document contains broad policy recommendations, rather than step-by-step mandates for addressing how climate change and peak oil will affect city government operations, services and programs.

Led by Roger Woodworth, Avista’s vice president of sustainable energy solutions, the study was funded with a one-year, $75,000 state grant and incorporates input from a dozen local sustainability experts. With the task force recommendations complete, the city is expected to work with the public over the next few months to determine which recommendations to implement and how.

On Wednesday Woodworth said the report consists of about 20 pages from cover to glossary, summarizing the task force’s package of recommendations that include four core principles to consider moving forward, eight strategies on which to focus core tactics, and some 50 ideas spread across them.

Woodworth says the report offers the city an invitation to look at rules and regulations in updating its comprehensive planning, though it is framed to lead with incentives, rather than mandates. “The idea for the city is to model the behavior you’re hoping to achieve yourself,” he said. Those behaviors could include:

Set goals for continuous improvement across all categories (renewable energy, clean mobility, etc.).

Emphasize renewable energy

Support clean mobility by directing the comprehensive plan accommodate mass transit center and corridors, the electrification of transit and alternative fuels.

Enabling optimal land use – the city has a lot of land that it doesn’t put to any particular use, so this could mean pea-patch gardens or other larger applications.

Conserve water. Pumping water, treating water, pumping it some more – all of this consumes extraordinary amounts of energy that could be put to other use.

Maximize energy efficiency

Optimize operating practices – everything from supply-chain management to bundling different services, perhaps electronically, so city staff isn’t driving around to make things happen.

Prepare through planning – although the city can’t anticipate the future, if they are thinking about it in terms of climate change and peak oil, it can minimize risk and maximize opportunities for what the future might bring.

According to one source familiar with the document, the task force recommends the city obtain 100 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2030, increasing the percentage of renewable energy use each year until that goal is achieved. Although 50 percent of the city’s current energy use is drawn from hydro power, the study suggests other sources as well. These could include everything from buying green tags or renewable energy credits to purchasing wind power, photovoltaic energy and bio-fuels.

With the task force’s work nearing completion, it will be up to elected officials and the public to set implementation goals. City staff will conduct a financial, technical and legal review and develop implementation guidelines, and Mayor Verner and the city council will determine how to fund them. In the meantime, public input on the process is welcome, beginning with the presentation of the recommendations during the March 30 city council meeting. We’ll post a link to the report as soon it becomes available online in the next couple of days. For more information visit

Urban Farming in Hillyard

In Uncategorized, Urban Affairs on March 16, 2009 at 11:11 am


The city of Spokane Water Department is proposing a new initiative that will allow neighborhoods to use otherwise idle city property to cultivate community gardens. Community gardens transform empty lots into green, living spaces through a collaborative process in which residents contribute to the garden’s maintenance and reap its rewards.

Last year the department proposed two unused city lots at Crestline Street and Hoffman Avenue on Spokane’s north side for a neighborhood gardening effort. The site incorporates the North Spokane pumphouse, a landmark city building with a lawn and several trees. Adjacent to a Spokane fire department station and at the junction of the northeast Spokane neighborhoods of Bemiss, Hillyard and Whitman, the two lots have been otherwise unoccupied for years.

With the pumphouse on site, water would be available to the garden for no additional costs. The department already provides irrigation to keep trees and grass alive, plus labor and equipment to tend the property. Partnering with neighborhood residents to cultivate the land would benefit area families while reducing the city’s maintenance costs. “It’s a very positive idea for the poorest urban neighborhoods in Eastern Washington,” says J.R. Sloan of the Greater Hillyard Business Association. “Neighbors literally reap the benefits.”

Dubbed the Pumphouse Community Garden, the project will join several community gardening efforts in Spokane, including the highly successful Northeast Community Center’s north side garden project. The Pumphouse Garden, a collaborative effort between the Hillyard, Whitman and Bemiss neighborhood councils, will be managed by a permanent planning committee proposed by local gardening expert Pat Munts. The committee will develop guidelines for tending plots and maintaining order and site cleanliness using standards from other similar projects as a guide.

Interested gardeners can participate by applying for a plot, attending committee meetings and contributing to the effort. Local people with gardening expertise will be especially valuable to the project, and donations of tools, weather-resistant building materials (like salvaged redwood or cedar deck timbers), usable compost, and volunteer rototiller work are welcome.

The Pumphouse Community Garden Committee will meet April 2 at 6 p.m. at the Northeast Community Center, 4001 N. Cook St. The group hopes to form a planning committee, identify resources and find finding, determine rules,  prepare and develop the site, and more. Contact Donna Fagan at 509.475.2180 or; or Pat Munts at  509.998.9769 or for more information.

What We Did Last Night

In Urban Affairs on February 28, 2009 at 2:17 pm

photo by Rajah Bose

Every now and then it’s bound to happen, especially in a city as artistically rich as Spokane. You’ll show up at some unassuming venue for a random night of the ol’ music and cocktails and end up at a show that totally blows your mind. Last night at The BLVD was one such evening, a night of uncontrollable, head-nodding goodness. The Helio Sequence (a two-man group from Portland) made a much-celebrated stop here in Spokane, delivering what might be one of the more powerful performances in the history of music … ok, that’s an overstatement, but the show was of a caliber that rarely shows up in a 200 person-capacity venue like The BLVD. Drummer Benjamin Weikel had more stage presence and personality than a slew of 80’s hair-band vocalists, while singer/guitarist Brandon Summers managed to capture the heart of every man, woman and child within a four-block radius with his melodic vocals and omni-agreeable guitar. Any Spokanite who claims to be a fan of indie rock and who missed the show last night should bow their heads in great shame. Tip-of-the-hat to local favorites Yarn Owl, Pegasus Dream, and Please Draw In Me, who all put together very noteworthy performances prior to The Helio Sequence hitting the stage. Well-played all around. Video and MP3 of last night’s performance are available for your listening/viewing pleasure at

BPA is Bad for You

In Urban Affairs on February 25, 2009 at 2:33 pm


Legislation to eliminate the hormone-disrupting chemical bisphenol A (BPA) from baby bottles, sippy cups, and other children’s food containers passed a key appropriations committee in Olympia today on a vote of 10-4. If the legislation becomes law, Washington State would become first in the nation to place restrictions on BPA in children’s products.

BPA was originally introduced as an estrogen-mimic, though its use now is primarily reserved for production of polycarbonate plastics. Polycarbonate plastics are used in water bottles, food storage containers, and even the lining of some tin cans.

The Safe Baby Bottle Act of 2009 (HB 1180), sponsored by Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson, D-36, aims to reduce children’s exposure to BPA by eliminating it from products they eat and drink out of every day.

BPA is a synthetic sex hormone that research links to health effects, including cancer, miscarriage, obesity, reproductive problems, and hyperactivity. In addition, recent scientific studies show infants are more susceptible to BPA because it stays longer in their bodies than adults. Research also shows exposure to BPA puts girls at an increased risk of breast cancer. BPA is used in polycarbonate plastic baby bottles, sippy cups, and other containers.

More than 30 health, environmental, consumer, and children’s advocates have endorsed the bill, including the Washington Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility, the Washington State Nurses Association, Washington Conservation Voters, Children’s Alliance, People For Puget Sound, and WashPIRG.

Bills to regulate use of BPA have been introduced in Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Minnesota, Oregon, Texas, and Vermont. Canada is already moving forward with regulations to ban BPA in baby bottles later this year.

The bill now awaits a vote in the full House.

For an alarmingly detailed, day-by-day look at how BPA and other chemicals affect the fetus in utero, check out this new, interactive Web site.

For tips on finding BPA-free products, click here.

Soldiering On

In Urban Affairs on February 25, 2009 at 10:55 am


This March, as the sixth anniversary of the Iraq invasion nears, we look at the toll the war is taking on one Spokane family. William Jacobs is a 24-year-old Army sergeant who began a nine-month deployment to Iraq last fall. Back home in Spokane, his wife Kaylee and newborn son Cayden—whom Jacobs has never seen—are patiently awaiting his return. Jacobs missed his son’s birth in October, the day he landed in Kuwait to begin training. He and about 300 other soldiers from the Washington National Guard, H Company, 1st Battalion, 161st Infantry Regiment based in Spokane, are providing convoy protection from Joint Base Balad in the Salah ad Din province. In the March 2009 issue of Spokane Metro Magazine, photojournalist Jed Conklin, who embedded with the 161st last fall, offers readers a window into Jacobs’ deployment and how his wife and newborn son are coping in his absence.

We’re posting only one of the images from Conklin’s photo essay online; to read Jacobs’ story and see more of Conklin’s stunning photography of the sergeant and his family, pick up a copy of Metro, or better yet—subscribe.

More portraits of Spokane soldiers will be on display at the MAC March 6 through April 23. Conklin will be available during an opening reception March 6 from 5-7 p.m. The MAC, 2316 W. First Ave.

Hubba Bubba

In Urban Affairs on February 22, 2009 at 3:57 pm


On Saturday Spokane’s “Bubbillusionist,” Jarom Watts, broke the Guinness World Record for blowing the longest chain of soap bubbles before a live audience at The Lincoln Center in downtown Spokane. Watts’ bubble chain was comprised of 15 soap bubbles, beating the previous world record of six, according to Spokane Metro Publisher Collin Klamper, who was on hand to witness the record-breaking attempt. Klamper says results are pending, but it looks like Watts also broke the world record for blowing the largest soap bubble by volume. A team of Eastern Washington University mathematicians who witnessed the event is currently calculating the size of the elephantine bubble; fingers crossed—they should have an answer in the next couple of weeks.

Toxic Toyland

In Urban Affairs on February 22, 2009 at 3:13 pm


At Metro, we like to think of ourselves as a family-friendly company. Several members of our small staff have kids, and we keep a desk drawer full of toys at the office for the occasional child visitor. Or rather, we did keep a drawer full of toys—now we’re rethinking our progressive office policy after a random sample of toys brought from home (including a number of the barnyard animals pictured above) tested positive for toxic levels of lead and cadmium during a free screening last week at St. Luke’s Extended Care center. Sponsored by the Autism Society of Spokane, the test was administered by a visiting member of the Washington Toxics Coalition wielding a $30,000 phaser-like device which he pointed at a variety of toys brought in by several concerned parents. In fact, the only Metro-supplied items that didn’t test positive for dangerously high levels of toxic chemicals included a Disney “Cinderella” camera and a handmade nylon sun hat purchased last winter from a beach vendor in Cabo.

Childhood exposure to lead and cadmium has been linked to a variety of adverse health effects, including developmental delays and certain forms of cancer. Last year Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 in response to a wave of lead-tainted toy recalls involving products coming primarily from China. The law, which went into effect earlier this month, is aimed at ridding children’s products of lead and some forms of phthalates, which are found in PVC plastic. While many view the law as a step in the right direction, absent industry-wide testing, toy retailers are left wondering how to determine which products are safe. They also face stiff fines for selling toys that don’t meet the new standards. Enforcement of the law will likely fall on states’ attorneys-general and independent testing from the same consumer protection watchdogs who identified widespread problems with lead in the first place. In the meantime, parents can’t be sure that children’s products on the shelves comply with the new safety standards, though they can probably expect a flurry of new recalls in the near future as independent and state-level tests turn up products that violate the ban.

Even before the law was passed last year, The Lands Council has been working to protect the health of Spokane families affected by lead exposure through a two-year EPA grant. After identifying local neighborhoods thought to be high-risk for childhood lead poisoning, they started knocking on doors, passing out information about childhood lead poisoning to families, helping them access free home lead testing programs through SNAP and the City of Spokane, and advertising upcoming blood lead testing events. To date, the effort has screened 475 kids and found 28 with elevated blood lead levels and two with blood lead poisoning.

The next free lead screening is March 18 from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Northeast Community Center, 4001 N. Cook. The test takes about 10 minutes per child. Kids walk away with a lollipop, a sticker and a cool band-aid, and parents receive written results of their child’s blood lead level, along with a home lead test kit.

For more information about toxic chemicals in children’s toys and other products, visit

Ladies Who Lunch

In Urban Affairs on January 25, 2009 at 1:11 pm
By UK Illustrator Fiona Wylie

By UK Illustrator Fiona Wylie

In an effort to fill the dearth of social organizations for young women in Spokane, local activist Mariah McKay recently launched the first-ever Spokane Shrinking Violet Society. While Spokane is home to a handful of women’s professional groups, including the Northwest chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners, McKay observes these organizations tend to support more mature, established professionals. With SVS, McKay hopes to extend the support and empowerment such organizations offer career women to the growing number of 20- and 30-something young ladies who call Spokane home (McKay says young men who support gender equality are encouraged to participate as well). To this end, McKay and an impressive number of young women filled the dining room Jan. 24 at One World Spokane, a local non-profit organic community kitchen in the up-and-coming East Sprague district. In addition to McKay, local hipster celebrities on-hand for the inaugural meeting included rising singer-songwriting sensation Kaylee Cole and Luke Baumgarten of Inlander fame. The group is planning an informal coordination meeting to plan a series of small group gatherings and discuss ideas, logistics etc. Jan. 29, 6 p.m. at Zola, 22 W. Main Ave. For more information contact McKay at 509.939.0015 or email

Spokane Metro’s Launch Party at The Fox

In Urban Affairs on June 1, 2008 at 4:47 pm

Spokane Metro Magazine Editor Cheryl-Anne Millsap poses with Dennis and Jane Hession at Spokane Metro’s May 21, 2008, launch party at the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox in downtown Spokane.

Guests from around the city filled the Fox’s lobby and mezzanine during the four-hour event.

Catering was provided by the Glover Mansion

…as was the full bar – here’s Leadership Spokane’s Linda Finney awaiting a glass of chilled vino.

Red Lion’s Paul Thornton and Eric Johnson yuck it up over cocktails.

Caleb Whitney, Margie Basaraba and Daniel Causey with GSI’s Rich Hadley.

US Bank’s Tom Thoen enjoying one of the Glover’s own creations – the Spokane Metro Martini – with Spokane Metro Art Director Jen Rochette and her fiance, Bruce Moore.

Jerry Hadsell, Myrna Brandmiller and Linda Urquhart enjoy the evening.

Purple Turtle’s Sara and Brad Greene chat with Cody and Melissa George.

Lawton Printing’s Brian Jones enjoys a cocktail with Dawn Picken of GSI.

Melissa George noshing with Ed and Ginger Clark.

Cheryl-Anne Millsap addressing party guests.

Dave Blodgett with Smith Barney’s Marnie Schroer (our first subscriber!) and her partner, Taylor Harrison.

Lorinda Knight and Bonita Bell.

Brian Jones shares a laugh with Desautel Hege’s Sarah Schwering and husband Tim.

Spokane Entrepreneurial Center’s Steve Salvatori and GSI’s Joni Woodwell.

RiverBank’s Aaron Fielder and his girlfriend Casey Barratt of Desautel Hege.

Spokane attorneys David Powers and Judith Kampf with Linda Finney.

Copeland Architecture’s Jeff Fountain with Dean Davis.

Katherine Morgan of Spokane Home Builders with the Sacred Heart Foundation’s Brenda Hunter.

Molly Wright, Stephen Prince of Merchant e-Solutions and his wife Susan (our first two-year subscribers!).

The Spokane Club’s Jeff Thomas and KSPS-TV’s Trink O’Connor have a conversation during the party.

Jen Rochette with Trish Thoen of Cues.

Cheryl-Anne Millsap with Signals Magazine Editor Robin Fontaine, Kevin Williams and Imelda Williams.

Jeff Thomas and Robin Fontaine with Spokane Metro Publisher Collin Klamper.

Freelance photographer Young Kwak did his best to capture everyone in attendance, though inevitably some were left out, including representatives from the following businesses and organizations: The Spokane Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Spokane City Council, the Spokane Symphony, the MAC, the Spokesman-Review, North Idaho College, Spokane Public Schools, the BBB for Eastern Washington, North Idaho and Montana, the Spokane BBB, Mountain West Bank, Northwest Association for Biomedical Research, Landmark Search Group, Coffman Engineers, Communication Management Partners, BHW1, Thinking Cap Communications, Quisenberry Marketing & Design, Tin Roof and Concept Home, Spaces That Work, the Tinman Gallery, EJones Design, Parkside Physical Therapy, Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery, Inland Northwest Candlelighters, Express Personnel, Stintzi Insurance, Interfaith Hospitality Network, Opus 111 Group, Andrea Bates, Kristen Coriell, Printed Systems Inc., and many more. Thanks to all for making our launch party such a huge success!