Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Deja Trolley

While I was I going into the Pyramid in Memphis last Saturday to attend my daughter's high school graduation ceremony, what did I look up and behold? Why, it was none other than Judy Krueger's infamous Memphis trolley!


Tuesday, May 30, 2006

You Can Have It All

A story in Saturday's Moscow-Pullman Daily News reported that:

Former City Councilwoman JoAnn Mack said Moscow doesn't have to sacrifice its livability in favor of sprawl or development.

"Moscow can have both, but in trying to get one, we aren't going to get anything," she said. "If Moscow doesn't grow, you're going to see it die."

Keeping Moscow unique comes with a cost, she said, and people need to be able to strike a balance between growth and the character of the city.

Councilwoman Mack is exactly correct. You CAN have growth AND maintain quality of life. It's not an either/or proposition. People around here have to get out of that mindset.

As an example, over the weekend I visited Collierville, TN. Collierville was once a sleepy Southern whistlestop, but it is now a booming Memphis suburb of 42,000. Thanks in part to FedEx, the median household income is $93,000 a year.

I'm sure there are people in Collierville who bemoan its growth and change. But every effort is being made to maintain the quality of life.

Beautiful brick homes with large yards line the wide oak-bordered streets. Billboards and large signs are not allowed along main arteries. A greenbelt provides biking and walking trails.

The 150-year old historic town square has been preserved with boutique shops and restaurants surrounding Confederate Park (that name would never fly in the politically-correct Northwest). The square is the cultural heart of the town.

Less than a mile away is a Wal-Mart Supercenter. Beyond that is Target, Home Depot and a variety of strip malls. Recently, a beautiful 810,000 sq. ft. open-air shopping mall called Carriage Crossing opened. It features many high-end retailers.

Maybe it's because I didn't take a bus, but I saw no blight anywhere, only a highly livable community.

Internet Gambling

I am interested in hearing everyone's opinion on this. I want to know if I am in the mainstream on this or if I am on an island by myself.

The State of Washington passed SSB 6613 which making Internet Gambling a Class C Felony.

It is legal to go to Mr. Z's Casino and play Texas Hold'em. It is legal to play the lottery. It is legal to go to any of the other card rooms/casinos around the state and play Texas Hold'em, but it is now a Class C Felony to do it online.

I believe that the state has enacted an unenforceable law without violating someones privacy. I also think that lumping: assault on a child in the third degree; custodial sexual misconduct in the first degree; third degree rape; four DUIs in seven years; second degree assault; robbery (1 count) together with playing online Texas Hold'em.

Let me know, and I alone on this one?

"Retail ‘leakage’ has Pullman’s attention"

Mega-kudos to the Moscow-Pullman Daily News for picking growth as the theme for last Saturday's issue. I thought the various articles were relatively fair and balanced, and most of all the issues raised were LOCAL. That's all I have ever wanted in the debate over Wal-Mart and growth on the Palouse. Discussions of "slave labor" and "sweat shops," outsourcing of jobs and globalization, unionization, living wages, health insurance, etc, etc. belong at the state and national level. No local government official has (or should have) the power to affect those things. Each community has to make its decision based on how growth fits THERE, not somewhere in California or Vermont.

Michelle Dupler had a simply AWESOME story about retail sales leakage in Pullman. Michelle, who covers Pullman for the Daily News, totally has her finger on the pulse of our important issues.

Linda Landers was 19 when she moved to Pullman. Discussions about the Palouse Mall had just begun.

Landers thought the mall was a good idea. That idea quickly fizzled when city leaders caved to pressure from a few vocal opponents, and the mall went to Moscow.

Three decades later, residents of Pullman are hungry for more retail.

They shot themselves in the foot with the Palouse Mall,” Landers said.

Recent studies show Pullman residents spend between $92 million and $100 million in Moscow each year. A report commissioned by Moscow’s No Super Wal-Mart group found Pullman had retail “leakage” in every category but dining out, while Moscow had retail surpluses in all categories.

Some of that leakage will be recaptured if a proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter is built in Pullman, and a 600,000-square-foot shopping center is built along the Pullman-Moscow Highway.

Some Moscow and Latah County residents are worried growth on the Washington side of the state line will come at their expense. There are tax dollars and jobs at stake.

“If anything goes in on the Washington side, it will be detrimental to the Idaho side,” said Steve Fischer, a Deary resident who works in Moscow.

Fischer thinks there are enough stores in the region to support the population’s needs, and further retail growth should be in the nature of small, locally owned stores. He’s worried large stores will be a drain on infrastructure.

“I’m not anti-growth, but I think we should grow within the parameters of our existing services,” Fischer said.

Moscow has been a retail center for the Palouse for years, going back more than 25 years to when the Palouse Mall first was proposed.

Without the mall, Pullman was left a virtual retail desert. The handful of small, niche shops couldn’t meet all of residents’ needs, said April Coggins, co-owner of Pullman Honda.

“Before ShopKo came, you couldn’t buy a pair of women’s socks in this town,” Coggins said.

Even after ShopKo opened in the mid-1990s, many Pullman residents found themselves driving to Moscow to find items they wanted. Those residents now are welcoming the prospect of having more places to shop within Pullman and Whitman County.

I think we need the competition. We need to be competitive with Moscow,” Landers said.

It isn’t only Moscow that Pullman and Whitman County need to compete with, said Dave Waterstraat, a Whitman County resident and owner of Blue Water Taxi. He drives to Lewiston whenever he needs home repair or building supplies. Having a Lowe’s open in the proposed corridor shopping center, as has been announced by the developer, would save him a lot of miles.

It would be of great benefit to both communities to have a store closer than Lewiston,” Waterstraat said. “I think the positives of having a store that close outweigh the negatives.”

Among the negatives cited by some Moscow residents include a drain on the region’s diminishing aquifer and on police and fire services from Moscow. Those issues were raised by the city government in an appeal of Whitman County’s decision to approve the shopping center. The appeal was rendered moot when the Boise-based Hawkins Companies withdrew its initial application until it could compile more information about possible environmental impacts.

The developer submitted new plans Thursday.

Raymond Thomson and Mikela French, a pair of law students living in Moscow, are concerned not only about the development’s effect on infrastructure, but that it will draw shoppers away from downtown Moscow. They’re worried businesses will go dark, leaving some residents jobless or with no choice but to work in a large retail store for low wages and no benefits.

“If downtown merchants do well, they’ll be more likely to give good jobs with benefits,” French said. “The larger employers have a bad reputation, a bad history.” [He's joking, right? Downtown stores pay better and give better benefits than larger employers?]

Waterstraat said some people in Whitman County would be happy to have a job at all. He recently hired a new tax driver for his business. The young man had applied at fast food and retail businesses in Pullman but was told there were no jobs.

More retail will bring more jobs, Waterstraat said.

“It may use more resources, but that’s the nature of the beast,” he said.

Robert Greene lives in Pullman and owns BookPeople in Moscow. He suggested communities in Whitman County could be better served by an overhaul of Washington’s laws than bringing in large-scale retail.

“The Washington tax system needs to be examined. The business and occupation tax works against small businesses,” Greene said. “They have a good minimum wage, but that can work against small businesses too.” [While I agree with Greene's proposals to overhaul the Washington tax system, keep in mind he was one of the signers of a business petition to the Latah Economic Development Council against a Moscow Wal-Mart Supercenter. His agenda is clear.]

He said Pullman should focus its economic development efforts on projects that make Pullman more attractive to visitors, like the downtown Riverwalk, and on improvements at the Pullman-Moscow Regional Airport. He also believes more cooperation is needed between Pullman and Moscow to develop as a region, rather than as competitors. [Ah, liberals without borders again]

Pullman is thinking about the region when it works toward commercial expansion, said City Supervisor John Sherman. A wider distribution of retail improves the quality of life in communities throughout the Palouse. It also helps reduce some impacts on infrastructure in cities like Moscow and Pullman if people in outlying towns can shop locally.

“Imagine if everyone in the county had to come into Pullman to buy groceries — the impacts on streets,” Sherman said. “We don’t selfishly want all the retail in Pullman. That wouldn’t be very healthy.”
Isn't it funny that the only people in that article that had anything bad to say about economic development in Pullman either live or work in Moscow? And as fun as it would be to selfishly have all the retail in Pullman, I think ultimately it is more realistic to expect a balance between Pullman and Moscow. Both towns should be able to provide the essentials to their residents (thus keeping the bulk of tax dollars local), but each town could have specialty shops that would to appeal to out-of-town shoppers. Then we could have a truly symbiotic relationship, versus the parasitic one we have today. And it all starts with a Wal-Mart Supercenter.

"Company submits a new plan for proposed shopping center in corridor"

According to Saturday's Moscow-Pullman Daily News, the Hawkins Companies development is back and better than ever. It won't matter though. Moscow will still fight it tooth and nail. People in Whitman County will need to get behind this project like never before.

Hawkins Companies submitted a new plan and environmental checklist for its proposed shopping center just west of the Idaho state line.

Whitman County Planner Mark Bordsen received a new State Environmental Policy Act checklist Thursday that included consultant studies on the impact of the development on wetlands and traffic in the proposed construction site.

Hawkins Companies originally submitted an application to Whitman County in January to build a shopping complex along the Pullman-Moscow Highway just west of the state line. The proposed development, at 600,000-square-feet, is seven times as large as the Wheatland Mall in Pullman and about twice the size of the Palouse Mall in Moscow.

Bordsen said he will review Hawkins’ findings next week and decide what precautions Hawkins will have to take to build the shopping center.

“I have to go through the checklist now and look at everything with a fresh mind,” Bordsen said. “The slate is clean.”

Bordsen approved Hawkins Companies’ initial SEPA checklist with some conditions involving a traffic study and protection of wetlands.

The city of Moscow appealed Bordsen’s decision, claiming the Hawkins development would have an adverse effect on the environment, and the city’s police and fire departments would end up responding to emergencies at the center without reaping any of the tax revenue.

Based on the appeal, representatives for Hawkins asked Bordsen to withdraw its request for a conditional use permit in early May.

I hope Moscow’s concerns are addressed in this new report by the Hawkins group,” said Denis Tracy, Whitman County prosecutor. “They have included quite a bit more info than before, and I believe Moscow’s concerns will be properly addressed.”

Tracy said Whitman County takes its responsibilities as a neighbor to Latah County seriously. He said once Moscow sees the conditions Whitman County plans to present to Hawkins, the city will not need to file another appeal.

Moscow Mayor Nancy Chaney hasn’t seen the developer’s new SEPA checklist, but she hopes Whitman County will seriously study the effects of the shopping center.

“Our issue is not about political jurisdiction,” she said. “All are concerned, and the details reach beyond the borders.”

After Bordsen decides what Hawkins needs to do to begin construction, people will have 14 days to file an appeal with Whitman County.

Monday, May 29, 2006

"Time to stop being vicious, rude"

I got a big kick out of reading this letter in Friday's Moscow-Pullman Daily News, even though I was 2,000 miles at Graceland.

Wow! Another citizens committee: Sunnyside Neighborhood Association. How quaint to demand that land near or abutting theirs not be developed or sold because the association members don’t want to “lose” the character of their neighborhood.

I especially like the roar by the man who has recently moved to Pullman for retirement and is outraged that his “neighborhood’s character” will change. He hasn’t been here long enough to even know what his neighborhood’s character is.

If members of Sunnyside Neighborhood Association, College Hill Association, and the Pullman Alliance for Responsible Development had thought ahead, they would have realized that they should have bought all the land that they want to control so that they could have their private, personal and perfect neighborhoods.

To have more of these groups springing up makes it very clear why some people do not find Pullman a friendly, welcoming place. That is very sad, for there are lots of kind, helpful people who work very hard to make life as good as possible for all residents of Pullman.

As to the new complaint that an assisted living facility in the neighborhood would ruin someone’s retirement life, two points come immediately to mind.

First, if one is retired, how does one guarantee that he/she will never need the services of an assisted living facility?

Second, if someone needs assistance in daily life, that person is not going to be running about the neighborhood in a hospital gown mooning the neighbors or standing on a street corner drooling all over the sidewalk. Neither will such people have strobe lights, huge spot lights, or loud music on the lawn at 2 a.m. for a summer party.

Please, let’s stop being so vicious, self-centered, and rude. Let’s try to embrace change with common sense, compassion, and inclusion for all.

Burma Williams, Pullman
You tell 'em Burma!

Walkin' in Memphis

That's what I've been doing for the last four days. I apologize for the lack of activity on the blog, but I headed down south last Thursday to attend my oldest child's high school graduation (and yes, I do feel old).

I saw that there were some interesting stories in the Daily News, plus I have a few other interesting things to share.

More later.

Remember Them All Today

Today is Memorial Day. Here at Palousitics, we often discuss free enterprise, personal rights, and liberty.

We would enjoy none of those things, however, without the hundreds of thousands of American men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice on battlefields from Saratoga to Lundy's Lane, Chapultepec, Shiloh, El Caney, Belleau Wood, Guadalcanal, Anzio, Chosin Reservoir, Hue City, Khafji, Khost and Fallujah.

God bless them all.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

A Structure Fire in Pullman

It is unusual for Pullman to get a lot of structure fire in any given year. In fact around the country due to fire codes, sprinklers, etc, fires are pretty rare.

But eight minutes after midnight we got toned out for a structure fire at an apartment complex. I was less that enthused. I figured it would be the typical call like that.

This is how they go:
We get toned to a structure fire only to find out someone about 100 yards away saw a flame. That flame was from a BBQ grill being started and they did not know it. So we all go there only to go home a few minutes later. Today was not that day.

I was at the station with one other Reserve. We were watching some TV. We were on call until 0600. We went to the bay and got our turnouts put on. Turnouts are also called bunker gear. It is the firefighters clothing that is worn inside a fire.

I was driving so I did not have my coat on, only the pants, to allow for better movement while driving to the scene. It was not long after we were dispatched that I learned there was a shed on fire. The shed was attached to an apartment.

So we went code to the scene. As we were arriving the Lt on scene said to come straight into the Engine and pack up for a possible rescue. That means that we need to put our SCBA's (self-contained breathing apparatus) on. We were going to go into the building because someone could possibly be inside still.

The others had a head start on me because all they had to do was throw on their SCBA packs. I had to get my coat and pack on. We were in the parking lot above the building we were going to enter. I saw the other guys take a shortcut to the door.

The shortcut involved going through a planter and over a three-foot wall. I stepped into the planter and it was a much bigger drop that I expected. I thought I was only stepping down about six inches when in fact it was about a full foot. I lost my balance and fell over. I stood up and went to step up on the top of the wall to jump down. When I was making my step up for the top of the wall the bushes sank on me. This caused my step to not be high enough. My foot hit the side of the wall and my momentum carried me over the wall.

I landed on my right knee and my hands. I was sort of shocked about the fall. But I quickly did a self-assessment and thought I was okay. I got up and we entered three apartments checking for people. In one apartment a bedroom door was locked. I fully expected to find someone inside. We kicked down the door only to find an empty room.

After searching all the apartments there was a report that heavy smoke was entering one of the apartments. We were told to go back into the apartments and make sure all the windows were shut.

In the third apartment, the one that was connected to the shed that was on fire, we found thick, heavy smoke. It was so think you could barely see your hand in front of your face. We found the heat had busted the window and we could not secure it.

We were told to set up a positive pressure fan to get the smoke out of the building. By this time my knee was starting to hurt a little bit. So after I helped set up the fan I took myself off the crew. With being hurt I knew I would be a liability should things go bad.

I spent the rest of the fire running the staging and rehab area. I was in charge of all the people coming out of the fire and it was also my job to make sure they were ready to go back inside.
It looked like the fire was getting under control, but while searching for extension, they found the fire had made it inside the apartments. So thick smoke started to roll out the ventilation hole that was cut in the roof. They pulled an extra hose line from one of the fire engines to fight the fire. I was concerned because I did not have any crews ready in the staging area. I was worried because if something bad happened it would be harder for us to have someone ready to rescue people.

It was not a whole bunch longer that we started to get the fire in the apartment under control. Pretty soon things we slowing down. I had a couple crews in the staging area. A little while after that we started to break down the scene because the emergency was over.

My knee however was hurting and I was not able to kneel down nor put too much pressure on it.

Other than my injury on one else suffered any injuries. But I found out that everyone who tried to go down the way I went had similar problems with the bushes giving way. No one however was unlucky enough to actually fall down the three-foot drop off like I did.

Following the fire and the clean up we went back to the station to put all the vehicles back in service. We did not get home until nearly 0600.

UPDATE #1: May 28th, 2006
Pullman fire investigator Tony Nuttman said one of the occupants had attempted to barbeque Friday night and when the occupant thought the coals had not caught fire, put them in a cardboard box, and placed the box in a storage shed attached to the back of the apartment.

UPDATE #2: May 28th, 2006
I saw a doctor about my knee. After checking it out and doing his poking, pushing, and pulling he determined that there did not appear to be be any major damage. He said the injury is common for peoiple who fall onto their knee. He said some rest and I will be back to normal.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

"What will be Moscow and Pullman’s future?"

Terrific Town Crier column in today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News from Wayne Olson:

I have been sippin’ my morning coffee, and have been watching the battle for the “no super Wal-Mart” over the last few weeks in the Daily News. I have to raise an eyebrow and chuckle at the folks in Moscow who would like to freeze Moscow in time, to keep Moscow from the large throes of change. Well, I hate to burst their bubble, but Moscow and Pullman are in the throes of radical change, and it is only going to accelerate. The question is: What will the Quad Cities (Moscow, Pullman, Lewiston and Clarkston) region and adjacent communities look like in the next few years?

Here is my best look at Moscow’s changes in the near and distant future. Let’s start with the symbols of agriculture in Moscow, the downtown granaries of the old Latah County Grain Growers and Idaho Seed. From what I understand, they are sold and will come down within 18 months. Though “under review” by the city of Moscow for historical reasons, the Grain Grower’s facilities will come down, as well it should – just like the 1912 building should have come down. My best estimate is that within seven to 10 years there will not be a granary standing within downtown Moscow.

So what do we get in exchange? Because of location and demographics, those areas will most probably be apartments. What do apartments have? More people and more people mean more cars. More cars mean more traffic.

Within three years we’ll have a completed four-lane highway to Pullman. Numerous businesses will be positioned there to pull from both Moscow and Pullman. The proposed Lowe’s shopping center is only a start of what is going to happen in the corridor in the next few years.

Taxes will go to the state of Washington and Whitman County. Moscow can play the environmental card all it wants to try and stop businesses from going there but, in time, that will be a losing proposition. So, Moscow loses.

Within the next few years there will be a four-lane highway to Lewiston. Consider it done, even if the last six miles next to Moscow are never completed. If Moscow continues to block businesses from this region, where are many folks going to go to shop and work in seven to 10 years? In Lewiston. What does that make Moscow? A glorified bedroom community equal to Genesee, Uniontown, Colton, Palouse, and Troy.

Have you looked around Moscow lately? There is a home building rampage everywhere. And there is another major player in the game. What do folks want for a home and lifestyle around here? Many folks want a few acres, a nice home, and a barn in the countryside; and it is quickly coming true.

Now, where are the residents of Moscow and Pullman going to shop? More than likely they will shop in Lewiston-Clarkston, which are more “business friendly” than Pullman, and especially Moscow. All you will have to do is hop the four-lane highway and you can spend your money where the stores are located. I have a student from Washington State University who works for me. He and his wife shop almost exclusively in Lewiston-Clarkston – Home Depot, Costco, D & B Farm & Home, Ziggy’s Building Center. While you are in the valley you have to stop for fuel and a meal or two. I have to admit, for any large investment, that’s where I at least shop prices. Where are Moscow’s dollars going to come from or go to? It depends on decisions, rules, and regulations being made today.

Changes will come to this region in the next few years, faster and with more impact than in the past 100 years. I sit and read of the new rules, regulations, and decisions coming out of the City Councils, and watch in wonder and amazement at which way Moscow and Pullman seem to be going, and what decisions will shape tomorrow.

We have all heard the term “Quad Cities” and adjacent communities. We need to start thinking in that dimension now, more than in any time before, because that is where we are going at lightning speed. Who knows, this paper will probably roll off the presses in Lewiston in a few years, and be called the “Quad Cities Daily Tribune.”

Keep Moscow or Pullman the same as the past? That isn’t ever going to happen, no matter which way you wish to grab your brush and paint the picture.
Again, that's why PARD needs to drop their appeal and let Pullman start growing so WE don't continue to be a glorified bedroom community.

No, They're Not All in Moscow

As a reminder that we have our fair share of "living wage," "Hillary Care" left-wingers in Pullman as well, a letter from today's Daily News:

City has anti-worker stance

The pending brouhaha over Pullman’s need for maintaining its costly aquatic center has become too acute to be ignored. Lost in all the discussions is the fact that originally four entities were to be responsible for ongoing costs but two bailed out, leaving the city and school district to split all maintenance and operations bills.

In a May 3 Daily News article, Council member Ann Heath prefers contracting out for a part-time, cheaper, position, while Council member Bill Paul makes an excellent case for a full-time city custodian, with benefits, rather than “custodial minimum wage labor.”

Living in an era of the chamber of commerce pushing for the old plantation model (as they always do) and supporting our greedy, globalized corporations, privatizing has become a mantra for the smug and self-satisfied who could care less that an honest day’s work is deserving of a living wage.

It never ceases to amaze me that bright and caring residents will continue to support the chamber of commerce’s platform and its anti-worker stance with their hard- earned money. Perhaps they’ve never heard Tom Donahue (National Chamber of Commerce president) spouting his venom at various business symposia.

If Pullman thinks benefits, such as health care, are too oppressive to hire regular city employees, may I suggest they begin lobbying Congress for our long overdue “single payer plan” to cover everyone in America, as they already do in more enlightened parts of the world.

Joan Honican, Pullman
What a riduculous rant. I'm not aware of any "anti-worker, plantation" mentality on the part of the Pullman Chamber of Commerce. How is the Chamber even involved with the Aquatics Center "brouhaha"?
And just what "greedy, globalized" corporations" os the Chamber supporting anyway? Inquiring minds want to know.

As far as Ann Heath goes, she is only trying to be a good steward of the taxpayers' money. The money is just not there to hire a full-time custodian.

In a story in today's Daily News, it was reported:
The council opted to hire someone to work 30 hours per week with the option to increase to 40 hours when it adopts a 2007 budget. The city staff proposed hiring someone full-time starting in August, but Heath was concerned that would stretch an already thin budget.

A full-time custodian will cost the city between $35,000 and $45,000 per year, including salary and benefits. That will mean cutting something else out of the budget, said Finance Director Troy Woo. No initial estimates were available for the cost of a three-quarter time employee.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Things Are Starting to Buzz

April reports:
I noticed last week and confirmed it today with one of Wal-Mart's very happy neighbors that Wal-Mart is starting work on the Pullman project. They aren't moving dirt yet but you can see the tracks of the trucks that are doing preliminary work.
If I had to guess, I would say CLC Associates is doing some final site work in preparation for the permitting process. Nothing is preventing them at this point from requesting a building permit from the city. Hopefully, they will do so soon and start the excavation work. We have waited too long already.

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Look For This Story in the Daily News and Tribune - NOT

Being a fairly local story, you think we would read something about this in the Daily News or the Tribune, but I'm not holding my breath. Nor am I expecting to see any letters to the editor from our local "environmentalists" praising Wal-Mart for the donation. Oh, but Mark Solomon and No Super WalMart drop an application to amend the Moscow comprehensive plan that was already overwhelmingly defeated by the Planning & Zoning Commission and it lands on Page One.

From a Wal-Mart press release dated yesterday:
Wal-Mart Supports Conservation of St. Joe Basin

Boise, Idaho (May 22, 2006) – The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. today announced a $500,000 Acres for America capstone grant to Trout Unlimited that will help protect more than 28,000 acres of working forestlands and important wildlife and fish habitat near the growing communities of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and Spokane, Washington.

"It's a partnership that works for the people and the economy of Idaho," said Senator Larry Craig, R-Idaho. "I commend Potlatch Corporation, the State of Idaho, The Trust for Public Land, Trout Unlimited, and all the other participants in this important effort, which will keep many thousands of timberland acres in production while ensuring continued access to some of our state's wonderful natural treasures. In addition, I am appreciative of the charitable investment that Wal-Mart has made through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation's Acres for America program."

The site, located in Shoshone County, lies within the St. Joe River and Coeur d’Alene/Spokane River basin in the panhandle of northern Idaho. It supports the only remaining spawning populations of threatened bull trout in the basin, and has been described as the best cutthroat trout fishery on the west side of the Rocky Mountains.

"In my work representing the people and resources of this special area, I have been gratified by the federal support we've gotten for this win-win approach," said U.S. Congressman Butch Otter. "And, wearing a very different hat, as co-chair of the private fundraising campaign for the St. Joe basin, I know firsthand just how important Wal-Mart's philanthropy means to keeping jobs in these woods, to sportsmen's access, and to the future of this spectacular landscape."

"This capstone grant protects nationally significant forest habitat on a scale that will sustain healthy fish and wildlife populations for at least the next 100 years," said Jeff Trandahl, Executive Director, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. “We are proud to join the federal, state and private funding partners who have come together to sustain the unique economic, recreational and wildlife values of the St. Joe Basin.” he added.

"The St. Joe River is one of the few world-class cutthroat trout fisheries remaining in the American West, and an extremely important river for threatened bull trout," said Charles Gauvin, President and CEO of Trout Unlimited. "We applaud Potlatch, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Wal-Mart for their commitment to conservation. Thanks to their efforts, much of the St. Joe will be protected from development, forever."

Trout Unlimited joined The Trust for Public Land in its four-year campaign to conserve the forests of the St. Joe River basin. The river’s upper reaches flow from the St. Joe National Forest and are federally protected as a Wild and Scenic River. The lower river weaves through privately owned working forest and ranchland into Lake Coeur d'Alene and the Spokane River, which provides drinking water to 400,000 people. The area also provides vital habitat for many big game species such as deer, elk, moose, black bear, and mountain lions, and supports recovering populations of animals such as gray wolf, lynx, and bald eagles.

“The Trust for Public Land is proud to have played a part in saving these vital lands in the St. Joe River Basin,” said Roger Hoesterey, Vice President, The Trust for Public Land. “Thanks to the collaboration and support of so many, this landscape can be enjoyed for generations to come.”

The timberlands of the St. Joe Basin have been an economic anchor for generations of North Idahoans. The Potlatch Corporation is one of the largest private landowners in the state as well as one of Idaho’s largest employers. The protected forests will remain in timber production under Potlatch’s ownership. The forests are certified under the Forest Stewardship Council and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative standards and will continue to be managed to protect habitat and sensitive ecological features.

"Wal-Mart, through their Acres for America program, stepped up at a critical time to help make this 28,000 acre phase a reality. Along with their partners National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Trout Unlimited, they have helped secure a treasure for the people of Idaho," said Mark Benson, Director of Public Affairs, Potlatch Corporation.

The conservation easement also protects public access to the St. Joe, a popular destination for visitors from throughout the Northwest and beyond. Fishermen, hunters, hikers, cross-country skiers, and campers all know and love the area. Furthermore, these protected lands connect to 100,000 acres of public lands including the St. Joe National Forest and BLM lands near Coeur d’Alene, preserving spectacular views and securing habitat at a scale that will sustain healthy fish and wildlife populations for generations to come.

“At Wal-Mart, we know that being an efficient business and being a good steward of the environment are goals that can work together,” said Tory Nichols, Market Manager, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. “We understand the importance of protecting the environment and we’re proud to partner with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to help preserve valuable wildlife habitat here in Idaho and across the country.”

Founded in 2005, Acres for America is a partnership program between Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to conserve critical wildlife habitats for future generations. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. has committed $35 million over 10 years to permanently conserve at least one acre of priority wildlife habitat for every developed acre of Wal-Mart Stores’ current footprint, as well as the company’s future development throughout the 10 year commitment, making this one of the largest public-private partnerships ever and the first time a company has tied its footprint to land conservation.

Since 2005, the Acres for America program has funded projects in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan and Oregon. Together with this grant in Idaho, the eight projects funded represent a commitment of $10.8 million from Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. This commitment was leveraged with over $39 million in additional funding from project partners producing a conservation investment totaling $50 million. To date, the Acres for America program has permanently conserved 360,000 acres, helping connect conservation landscapes totaling more than 4.6 million acres.

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation will consider recommendations for projects that would generate the greatest impact to important fish, wildlife or plant resources. To apply, or for more information, log onto www.nfwf.org or www.walmartfacts.com.

About National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation is a nonprofit organization established by Congress in 1984 and dedicated to the conservation of fish, wildlife and plants, and the habitat on which they depend. The Foundation creates partnerships between the public and private sectors to strategically invest in conservation and the sustainable use of natural resources. The Foundation has awarded over 7,000 grants to more than 2,600 organizations in the United States and abroad and has leveraged – with its partners – more than $300 million in federal funds since its founding, for a total of more than $1 billion in funding for conservation. The Foundation is recognized by Charity Navigator with a 3-star rating for efficiency and effectiveness. Ninety-two cents of every dollar contributed to the Foundation is directed to on-the-ground efforts, with 5 cents supporting management and administration of the Foundation’s multi-million dollar grants program and 3 cents funding partnership development and fundraising. www.nfwf.org

About Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. operates Wal-Mart Stores, Supercenters, Neighborhood Markets and SAM'S CLUB locations in the United States. The company operates in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Japan, Mexico, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico, South Korea and the United Kingdom. The company's securities are listed on the New York and NYSE Arca stock exchanges under the symbol WMT. More information about Wal-Mart can be found by visiting www.walmartfacts.com. Online merchandise sales are available at www.walmart.com.

About Trout Unlimited
Trout Unlimited is the nation’s oldest and largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization. Today, TU boasts over 160,000 members nationwide. See their website: www.tu.org

About The Trust for Public Land
The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national, nonprofit, land conservation organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, community gardens, historic sites, rural lands, and other natural places, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Visit their website: www.tpl.org.

About Potlatch Corporation
Potlatch is a real estate investment trust (REIT) with 1.5 million acres of forestland in Arkansas, Idaho, Minnesota and Oregon. Through a taxable REIT subsidiary, the company also operates 13 manufacturing facilities that produce lumber and panel products and bleached pulp products, including paperboard and tissue products. Visit their website: www.potlatchcorp.com
HT: Dale Courtney

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Russell's run ends; Irish judge approves extradition


I Told You It Would Be a Hoot

Dale Courtney over at Right-Mind already did a great job covering the Socialist Housing Forum in Moscow on Saturday here and here, but there were a couple of particularly hilarious left-wing quotes from the Daily News story yesterday that I couldn't let pass by:
Swanson said leadership can come through private individuals who can put profit aside, not just through city government. S.M. Ghazanfar, professor emeritas of the economics department at the University of Idaho and member of the Moscow Human Rights Commission, said bringing people together for the forum was a good idea, but society is contributing to a bigger problem.

“Society has the idea that someone’s shelter is at the profit of someone else,” he said.
What a novel concept! Someone else profiting off of something you need! I actually thought that was the basis for economics.

If this principle should apply to the basic "right" of shelter, why should it not by extension apply to the basic "right" of food as well. Why don't farmers just give their crops away?

And who profits most from home building? The developer, who must purchase the land, materials, and labor, or the bank, that sits back and collects interest for 25 or 30 years? Maybe banks should just stop charging interest on mortgages. I'm sure that would just thrill the stockholders.
Brenda von Wandruszka, an associate with Moscow Realty, said people looking to buy a house in Moscow for under $100,000 may find that the houses fall short of their hopes and expectations.

She suggested building in ways that cut costs but don’t negatively affect traffic or the environment. “What it takes is to build in a different way,” she said. She suggested cluster development, with denser housing and a central community space.
I would hope that most people's expectations for a house are in line with their income.

As far as "cluster developments with dense housing and central community space" built at an economical price, that's already been done. You can find these monuments to central planning and socialism all over the former Soviet Union.

Monday, May 22, 2006

"PARD Attorney files legal brief"

From the May 18 issue of the Whitman County Gazette:
A 71-page legal brief on the appeal of Pullman Alliance for Responsible Development was filed last week in Superior Court. PARD is appealing the decision of a hearing examiner which ruled in favor of City of Pullman procedures in approving the 223,000 square foot Wal-Mart supercenter site on Bishop Boulevard in Pullman. It contends Wal-Mart failed to meet the burden of requirements for a site plan and state SEPA requirements. The petition is filed against CLC Associations (sic) of Spokane Valley, City of Pullman and S & W Land Co., the owners of the property on the proposed site.
71 pages????? That's hardly a "brief." The Hearing Examiner's decision was only 17 pages.

What a travesty. A handful of loud-mouthed elitists, backed by the money of a power-hungry union, are using the judicial process to try and force their views upon the majority of Pullman residents. And all this litigation is EXPENSIVE. The city has already spent around $17,000. I imagine PARD and Wal-Mart have spent about the same, if not more.

Now, we have this 71-page tome. I would convervatively estimate it took one hour to prepare each page. At a rate of around $300 an hour (I'll bet that's standard for a high-falutin' environmental law firm out of downtown Seattle), that's another $21,300 . By the time this is all said and done, all parties involved could have easily spent over $100,000 in legal expenses. Can you imagine how much better that money could have been spent in Pullman? How many computers in the classroom it could have bought. How many potholes could have been fixed? And for what? Nothing but a two-year delay of the inevitable. All that money may just as well have been put in a big pile and set on fire. This appeal has been an utter waste of financial and personal resources.

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"Wal-Mart site sale recorded"

Regular Palousitics readers knew about this a month ago, but the May 18 Whitman County Gazette finally got around to reporting Wal-Mart's purchase of the land on Bishop Blvd. The Daily News has yet to carry this important story.

Keep checking Palousitics. We'll get the stories on Wal-Mart to you faster than anyone else.
Sale of the proposed Wal-Mart site in Pullman was recorded in a transfer tax affidavit filed in the county treasurer's office. Wal-Mat Stores Inc., of Bentonville, Ark., purchased the site for $1,474,617 according to the the April 13 affidavit. Size of the site was 27.52 acres.

Selling the property located on Bishop Boulevard were Julie Shoemaker, Norman Wilson, Joan Wilson and Daymon Smith.

The proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter project is now before the court on a challenge of the city of Pullman's approval of the project by Palouse (sic) Alliance for Responsible Development.
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Saturday, May 20, 2006

"GMA is welcome addition to political mix"

Steve McClure, on behalf of the editorial board, weighed in on the GMA in today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News .

I hope the GMA enjoys the publicity, because if the trend continues with our local media, it will be next to impossible to ever get such coverage again, unless its in reaction to something that some left-wing or anti-growth group does or says. Meanwhile, all a member of one of those groups has to do is break wind and it makes the front page.

The more the merrier. That’s an initial reaction after the Greater Moscow Alliance made its presence known this week. The group of local business leaders, educators and civic leaders announced its formation Friday. The organization’s agenda includes issues most people in Moscow are familiar with: growth, water, city politics.

Former Moscow City Councilman Steve Busch, the chairman of the Greater Moscow Alliance, said the group already has 115 members and is just beginning its membership drive. They plan to be active in the debate and represent a perspective that incorporates private property rights, free enterprise and responsible growth.

Members of the board say they plan to educate residents on city issues and be active in the next round of City Council elections.

The level of civic participation has increased in recent years, in both Moscow and Pullman, with groups such as the Moscow Civic Association, Pullman Alliance for Responsible Development and Business and Residents for Economic Opportunity joining the fray. Issues such as growth and development have taken center stage, and attendance at various hearings and presentations, from council meetings to NewCities workshops, has increased — with no shortage of opinions.

That’s how the process is supposed to work. It’s good to see local folks organize in a way that guarantees community involvement and healthy debate. Communities become stronger when people are active and the diverse opinions of the populace are shared.

Complacency doesn’t get a city anywhere and only serves to disconnect people from the process.

We see the injection of another organization into city politics as a means to heighten awareness of important issues and improve the participatory process.

There’s a good chance it might ruffle a few feathers as well, as new voices step to the podium and bring perspectives that should be heard by the various decision makers. Good.

We’ll be stronger in the long run.

"Moscow residents create new pro-growth group"

More on the GMA from today's Lewiston Tribune. Notice how our local media can never run a story about a pro-growth without mentioning or asking if they were formed to oppose some anti-growth group.

Also, you can see how important last fall's Pullman City Council election truly was by keeping pro-growth members in office. Moscow residents are now having to play catch-up because they fell asleep and let the left-wing no-growthers take over.
A new citizen's group called the Greater Moscow Alliance has been formed to promote the town as a better place to live, work and do business.

Steve Busch, the group's chairman, said Friday the alliance has 116 members and will be a voice for free enterprise, healthy growth and private property rights.

Asked if the group is an antidote to the Moscow Civic Association (MCA), Busch said, "I don't think we'd admit that, but from what I can see they're well organized and have sincere beliefs about what they want to do."

The problem, Busch said, is the beliefs that are central to the new alliance seem to have been drowned out. He said alliance members feel their ideas about Moscow's future needed new representation.

The MCA was formed, according to its founders, to foster dialogue about Moscow's future, work toward smart growth, and ensure that the community's small-town character remains intact.

But Busch said many people think MCA's stated goals are little more than no-growth rhetoric.

"I don't know that we'd back away from being called pro-growth," Busch said of the new alliance.

Busch, general manager of Busch Distributors Inc., said he also thinks there's enough "overlap" of ideas between the two groups that some common ground can be found. For example, he lives next door to Bruce Livingston, president of the MCA, and wants to remain good neighbors. "I'm looking for discussion in the middle."

But Busch said the MCA has already taken an active role on several fronts, such as endorsing certain candidates for city council and opposing construction of a Wal-Mart Supercenter in town, that are contrary to members of the new alliance.

"I think there are a lot of people who think like we do," Busch said. "You can't close the gate just because you got here first."

He said the city council's recent rejection of a rezone application that would have opened the door to a Wal-Mart Supercenter can be traced back to MCA's endorsement of candidates who lean to the political left.

"We are free-market oriented," Busch said of the new alliance. "We can't stand back and let government fix all our problems." A former member of the Moscow City Council, Busch said the current council is moving toward too much micro-management based on complaints from the most vocal.

"Decisions are made by the people who show up," said Busch. And the alliance plans to have people at both city and county government meetings. He said the alliance also plans to endorse candidates and work for their election within the legal bounds of being a non-profit organization.

The Greater Moscow Alliance has been organizing for the past five months and has a 12-member board of directors. Committees are now being developed and a membership list will eventually be made public, Busch said.

Moscow is blessed, Busch said, with a vocal citizenry. But voices on both sides of issues must be heard, he said. "We're hoping for civil discourse. There's been some shrill comments made, perhaps on both sides, and that doesn't get anyone anyplace."

Friday, May 19, 2006

"Pullman voters have chance to narrow bond focus"

Michelle Dupler did an EXCELLENT job in today's Daily News bringing our more projects to improve the quality of life in that can be accomplished with increased revenue. Personally, I vote for the lower property taxes, which would be possible if we had the sales tax revenue from a Supercenter. THIS is why I am fighting for Wal-Mart.

The city of Pullman wants residents to start thinking now about a bond issue they’ll vote on in November.

The bond issue is slated to replace an expiring $1.98 million bond passed by voters in 1998 that paid for paths, sidewalks and greenways in town. The new bond will pay for similar projects while keeping property rates steady, city Finance Director Troy Woo said.

“I think it’s a good opportunity for the residents to take care of some capital projects without raising taxes,” Woo said.

Homeowners pay about 32 cents per $1,000 of assessed value for the 1998 bond, or about $48 per year for a $150,000 home.

The council is looking at two options for a replacement bond, Woo said. One option would keep the 32-cent tax levy, which would allow the city to borrow $2.1 million at present-day interest rates.

The second option would be to keep the same debt amount as the 1998 bond issue and let property taxes drop by two cents per $1,000. This option would save the owner of a $150,000 home about $3 per year.

The city has made an effort to keep property taxes as low as possible, said City Supervisor John Sherman. The 1998 bond issue is the only one from the city that homeowners are paying for, he said. The city instead has opted to pay for projects like the Neill Public Library and Pullman Fire Station out of existing budgets whenever it could.

That has become more challenging in recent years since a spate of initiatives limited the amount of money the city received from the state.

The council has had to put off many capital projects as it juggled finances in the wake of the initiatives, Sherman said.

“That’s where our investment in the community has really lagged,” Sherman said.

The city defines capital projects as things like building or equipment that cost more than $5,000, Sherman said. That could include buying and improving park land, sidewalks, parking lots, recreation facilities and transportation infrastructure.

Some projects considered for the new bond issue are street repairs on all four of Pullman’s hills, an arts pavilion with restrooms at Sunnyside Park, improvements to Reaney Pool and a spray pool for young children, a picnic shelter and restrooms at Kruegel Park, a new path on Johnson Road that would connect to Bishop Boulevard and various sidewalk repairs around town.

The City Council has the final decision OF which option to pick and which projects to fund, Sherman said. But they want residents to have some say about what they’ll pay for with their tax dollars.

“It’s a small property tax issue in terms of the size, but at the same time we want to make sure anything we put before voters is something they want,” Sherman said. “They want to hear from their constituents and I think that’s a very wise thing for the council to do instead of coming up with a list on their own.”

There is no deadline to call or write City Hall about the bond issue, but the council hopes people will submit their suggestions before a scheduled public meeting June 6. The council must submit the ballot issue to the county auditor’s office by Sept. 22, Sherman said.

* Comments on the bond issue can be e-mailed to the city at admin@pullman-wa.gov with “Bond Issue” in the subject line, or mailed to Mayor Glenn Johnson, 325 SE Paradise St., Pullman, WA, 99163.


Possible projects for a $2 million bond issue include:

Street Repairs

Southwest Center Street and Southwest Crestview Street — $307,000

Southeast Crestview Street ­— $322,000

Northwest Turner Drive and Northwest Terre View Drive — $309,000

Northeast Maiden Lane, Northeast Terre View Drive and Northeast Merman Drive — $301,000


Pullman Arts Pavilion (band shell) in Sunnyside Park — $350,000

Improvements to Reaney Pool and spray pool for tots — $250,000

Kruegel Park picnic shelter and restrooms — $200,000

Lighting at City Playfields — $200,000

Athletic field improvements — $110,000


Paved path on east side of North Grand Avenue — $80,000

Johnson Road path — $575,000

College Hill path — $159,000

Various sidewalk repairs — $250,000

This Ought to Be Amusing

The Affordable Housing Forum and Resource Fair on Saturday, sponsored by the Moscow Human Rights Commission and the Fair Housing Commission, promises to be a hoot, judging from letter to the editor in today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News from the chairman of the Human Rights Commission:

As the planners began to develop the forum, many spinout themes became apparent. Things like a living wage, disparity of wealth and poverty, and the power voices in our community who are heard when it comes to questions of land use planning, zoning, and development, and the corresponding weaker voices, who are not heard because of their apparent lack of economic clout or inability to generate profits and votes. It was a challenge to keep a human rights focus.

No doubt, my difficulty is the “fix” we have in our society that someone’s shelter must be for the profit of another. I think it is shameful that hard working men and women just can’t pull ahead enough to have a home, or even to rent a sufficient dwelling for themselves and their children. The challenge is to address economic disparity and put folks in touch with resources that can help them own a home or improve their dwelling.


The fair will expose programs that can assist. While certainly helpful, they are, in my view, pitifully inadequate, and none address the fact that housing is not a luxury; it is a basic human right. No one should have to worry about whether or not they can have a home.

"Moscow group plans to bring different perspective to issues"

People in Moscow are fighting back against the moonbats. From today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
A group of local residents has formed to support free enterprise, healthy growth and private property rights in Moscow.

Members of the Greater Moscow Alliance say these viewpoints have been underrepresented in the past, but they are hoping to change that.

Chairman Steve Busch and Vice Chairman Jim Anderson said Thursday the group hopes to address issues such as land use, changes to the city’s comprehensive plan, water use and the unionizing of the police department.

Anderson used the NewCities initiative as an example of the differing viewpoints within the community. NewCities, an organization hired by the city for $20,000, has been collecting ideas since the fall to promote the economic and social vitality of the city.

The ideas originally presented by representatives of NewCities weren’t necessarily indicative of the opinions of the majority of the community, Anderson said.

At its first few meetings, representatives from the Kentucky-based group collected input from 40 to 50 people. When a draft proposal was presented to the community, about 150 showed up at a March meeting with much different opinions.

Part of NewCities’ plan focused on elements of Smart Growth, relying less on cars and focusing development in the core of Moscow.

But the principles of Smart Growth, which focus on building connections between development and quality of life, have been taken to the extreme, said Busch and Anderson, both of whom have served on the Moscow City Council.

“Smart Growth is a code word for no growth,” Busch said.

The same is true of the water issue, Anderson said. Water is a precious resource, but some people are using it as an excuse not to do anything.

The Greater Moscow Alliance has been working under the radar the past few months as the group developed its structure, organizers said Thursday. At 100 members, with a 12-member board of directors, the group continues to grow.

The group formed in January with interest starting to blossom after the last city election in November.

“People say ‘it’s about time,’” Busch said. “They are glad we’re in existence.”

Right now the group is forming committees, concentrating on government affairs, communications, education and the environment. Busch said the group plans to host candidate forums, get involved in the county election after the primaries and mobilize people and candidates for the next city election.

Although the group can’t do anything about the current City Council at the moment, they plan to send people to public meetings and hearings so their views will be known.

Anderson said that although the group can’t change Moscow’s leadership until the next city election, it still can give its perspectives on hot button issues to try to make a difference.

In a group of more than 100, not everybody is going to have the same opinion on every subject, so the board members are trying to determine the best way to take official positions.

The board probably will collect input at its general membership meeting, held the third Wednesday of every month, and take that information back to their board meetings.

“Moscow is blessed with a vocal community,” Busch said. “We want to make Moscow a better place to live, work and do business.”

On the Web: www.greatermoscow.org.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

1 + 1 = 3

Take this KLEW TV interview:
[Moscow Mayor] Chaney said her city is grappling with growing pains, both commercially and in residential areas.

"I do have some concerns about our growth, sort of up the rolling hills of the Palouse. We are needing to look at some hillside construction issues and the sediment and erosion control concerns. So I see these sloughing slopes where we've built residential units up on top of the cut and fill of the Palouse, and it is not pleasing to my eye."
Add this from a Wednesday Lewiston Tribune story:
But county residents like Mark Solomon, who lives on the summit of Moscow Mountain, said the commissioners were on the right track and he supported the [Latah County] outdoor lighting provision. "There is an effect on the night sky," Solomon said of what he called doubling of the number of rural lights in the county.
And what do you get? A story like this in today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:

Cassidy Robbins had trouble finding an affordable place to rent when she first moved to Moscow.

The cost of housing was higher than it had been in Pocatello, Idaho, where she went to college. But she was able to find a tiny subsidized apartment with her husband and two children.


The need for affordable housing will be explored at the Affordable Housing Forum and Resource Fair Saturday in Moscow. The forum is a joint effort between the Moscow Fair and Affordable Housing Commission and the Moscow Human Rights Commission.


(Capitalist Answer:) Johnson, a property manager at Palouse Properties, said he gets comments from people frustrated that they can’t find an affordable house that they like.

“It’s a result of low interest rates and an increase in competition for available housing,” he said. “Demand goes up faster than supply.”

(Socialist Answer:) [AmericanWest Bank and retracted petition signer BJ] Swanson said most jobs in the community don’t provide a living wage.

“There is a great disparity in salaries,” she said.

When the average salary is $26,000 a year and the average home price is $204,000, most people can’t afford to buy their own homes, she said.
Elitist aesthetics that make development difficult and expensive or the fact that the average salary is $26,000 in a town where half of the population is college students? You tell me why homes in Moscow and Latah County are unaffordable.

UPDATE: A quick Google of "great disparity in salaries" found a match in a paper called "THE WORKING CLASS IN REVISIONIST COUNTRIES MUST TAKE THE FIELD AND RE-ESTABLISH THE DICTATORSHIP OF THE PROLETARIAT" published in 1972 by the The Party of Labor of Albania in Battle with Modern Revisionism. Workers and oppressed bank vice-presidents of the world unite!!!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Open Mouth, Insert Foot

You may recall that, a week-and-a-half ago, I blogged about what Citizen Hosick stated in a letter to the Whitman County commission concerning the new SEL corporate headquarters building:
"I think their newest huge building is an absolutely awful example of hilltop development, and a prime example of what any city/county development code in this area ought to prohibit."
From the May 18 edition of the Whitman County Gazette:

"Ugly" SEL Project: Hosick requests May 1 letter to be withdrawn

Pullman resident Cynthia Hosick, who called Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories' newest building construction "an absolutely awful example of ugly hilltop development" in a recent letter to the county commission, revised her letter after an apology to SEL.

Hosick described herself as a member of the League of Women Voters and Pullman Alliance for Responsible Development, but wrote as an individual. In a letter to the county commission, read at Monday's commission meeting, Hosick wrote, she "overspoke" in her previous letter and requested its withdrawal.

Hosick's first letter was read into the minutes of the commission's May 1 meeting.

Her revised letter spells out support for the proposed changes to the rural residential ordinance, including hilltop development in the agricultural zone, but excludes the original comments on SEL's new development at the Pullman Industrial Park.

"We can't unring the bell," Commmissioner Jerry Finch said.

Hosick also wrote she apologized to Ed Schweitzer of SEL, that he accepted her apology, but stated a withdrawal of her comments ot the county commission was unnecessary.
I'm not sure how you "overspeak" in a letter that theoretically you take time to proofread before you mail it in, but whatever. It's out there. No apology or withdrawal will hide Hosick and PARD's left-wing, no-growth agenda.

Who Hosick and her PARDners really owe an apology to are the citizens of Pullman for costing us nearly half-a-million dollars and wasting nearly two years of the city government's time. Give up your union-funded appeal now!!!

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"Schweitzer donates $1 million to science center"

More on the Schweitzer donation from today's Daily News:

The Palouse Discovery Science Center will find a permanent home in the Port of Whitman County’s Pullman Industrial Park.

Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories has donated $1 million to the center, which will use the money to buy the 11,000-square-foot building occupied by Decagon Devices. The Pullman-based technology firm has plans in 2007 to expand into a 33,000-square-foot building it is buying from SEL.

Pullman Mayor Glenn Johnson praised SEL President and founder Ed Schweitzer’s generosity as “another great example of SEL’s positive influence in the community as a corporate citizen.”

Johnson noted Schweitzer also contributed to the construction of the Pullman Regional Hospital, which opened in December 2004, and gave all of the money needed to build the Pullman Aquatic Center.

“He has contributed to the economic development of this city by bringing jobs and turns around and gives back to the community,” Johnson said.

When the science center moves into the new building in 2007, it will be the first time it has a home of its own. The science center opened its doors in November 2003 in space owned by SEL in the Pullman Industrial Park on the north edge of Pullman. SEL leased the space to the science center for free for five years. That lease is up at the end of 2007, said SEL spokeswoman Susan Fagan.

Schweitzer decided to help the science center find a permanent home because he believes in the work it does, Fagan said.

“It’s extremely valuable and adds to the quality of life in Pullman and the entire area to have a science center that provides science programs for kids,” Fagan said.

About 20,000 people visit the Palouse Discovery Science Center each year to take in exhibits such as the one featuring a mammoth excavation, or programs like the forensic crime lab for children or summer camp teaching children about robotics. It is the only science center in the region.

Decagon Devices’ decision to buy a new building in the industrial park presented a timely opportunity for the science center to move into a new home.

“Things just lined up perfectly,” Fagan said.

Decagon Devices will about triple its size when it relocates, said Kirby Dailey, the company’s general manager. The building is larger than Decagon needs right away but offers room for growth.

The company is growing steadily and expects to add 25 employees over the next three to four years, Dailey said.

Decagon Devices employs about 50 people mostly designing and manufacturing moisture sensors for use in food production and agriculture. One of its devices will travel to Mars in 2007 as part of the NASA’s Phoenix mission.

SEL also is expanding, with plans to add about 200 jobs this year. Another 300 jobs are expected in about 18 months when the company builds a 100,000-square-foot manufacturing facility. Schweitzer said in April the facility likely will be built in Pullman.

SEL’s expansion isn’t limited to its workforce. The company is constructing a five-story, 90,000-square-foot building that will serve as its new corporate office when finished in October and a conference and event center on 92 acres of SEL-owned land near the industrial park.

"Schweitzer Engineering makes donation to Palouse science center"

From today's Lewiston Tribune, more on that "awful" Schweitzer Engineering Labs:
The Palouse Discovery Science Center and Decagon Devices are getting new homes in a round of musical chairs coordinated by the founder and president of Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories.

Ed Schweitzer pledged $1 million that will entirely cover the costs of the Discovery Center purchasing and renovating an 11,000-square-foot building at 950 N.E. Nelson Court that houses Decagon Devices.

The company makes instruments that measure water activity levels for food production and soil water content for irrigation.

Decagon Devices will purchase and move to the 33,000-square-foot building where the Discovery Center is now along with the human resource offices of SEL.

Decagon Devices has been growing at 15 percent to 20 percent annually for three to four years, said Tamsin Campbell, president of the company. "We need more space now and we would have had to build.''

The Discovery Center has a free five-year lease from Schweitzer for 11,000 square feet at 2371 N.E. Hopkins Court that ends this year. The value of that donation was $750,000.

Once a headquarters is completed for SEL in October, the human resources offices will move to the new building.

All of the buildings are in the Pullman Industrial Park.

The gift is the largest in the Discovery Center's history.

More than 20,000 people visit the Discovery Center each year, including school children from as far away as Grangeville.

One of the most popular exhibits has real bones from a prehistoric mammoth. Another exhibit allows visitors to blend colored lights and observe the lights traveling through glass and plastic prisms.

The Discovery Center is important to Schweitzer because it brings "hands-on science and learning experiences to the children and future engineers of the Palouse,'' according to a prepared statement.

The center started as a group of traveling displays in 1999 and landed in its first permanent home in 2002 through a Schweitzer donation.

Schweitzer is one of the most successful business owners in the region. SEL employs about 1,200 including 800 in Pullman.

It plans to hire more than 200 employees this year and another 300 in 18 months when it doubles its manufacturing capacity with an expansion.

SEL makes relays for electrical transmission. Relays protect high voltage transmission lines, distribution lines, transformers, generators, motors and circuits by detecting problems and, if necessary, stopping the flow of current. They are about the size of a videocassette recorder.

A recently introduced product scrambles electrical grid information to protect against terrorist attacks at places such as sewer and water treatment plants.
See, growth and development lead to nice things for everyone in the community, not "blight." What do the detractors offer other than more hot air and discontent?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

"Council nixes east side rezone"

And from today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
Wal-Mart may need to find a different location if it wants to build a super center in Moscow.

Wal-Mart’s plans for a super center on a 77-acre parcel of land were thwarted Monday night after the Moscow City Council quickly voted against a rezone application. In a 3-2 vote, the City Council rejected a requests to rezone the land currently zoned agriculture forestry to motor business. The land, owned by the Gene Thompson family, is in east Moscow between the Troy Highway and East Palouse River Drive, east of South Mountain View Road.

Council members were divided after hearing more than four hours of public testimony during a council meeting two weeks ago. The acreage was annexed into the city last summer, and the city’s comprehensive plan was altered to allow for extensive commercial. But the comprehensive plan designation merely acts as a guide for development and is not legally binding, said Joel Plaskon, Moscow community development director.

He said that while motor business may be the most appropriate zone for extensive commercial, the property legally could be zoned for less intense commercial.

Councilwoman Linda Pall, who had recused herself from voting on the rezone, was absent from the meeting due to a stay in the hospital.

Councilmen Aaron Ament, John Dickinson and Bob Stout voted against the rezone. They said the parcel of land was too big.

“Seventy-seven acres is too much,” Stout said. “I don’t know how much is the right amount, but I don’t think the city is ready for it.”

But councilmen John Weber and Bill Lambert said the town needs extra motor business land. “It’s very justifiable in our community. We haven’t had land zoned motor business in over a decade, and this is a parcel of land that will take a number of years to develop,” Lambert said. “We need available land for an array of businesses.”

Plaskon said there are between 12-15 acres of motor business within the city of Moscow in addition to 40-60 acres behind the Palouse Mall that were annexed into the city last year.

Lambert said he also was concerned about the proposed development on the Pullman-Moscow Highway next to the state line.

“Let’s not lose the tax base across the border,” he said.

The Planning and Zoning Commission recommended denial of the rezone March 8, citing scale and a desire to move toward mixed-use zoning.

“Planning and Zoning’s denial was referred to as ‘pleasant’,” Dickinson said. “Take this in its pleasantness and come back with something we can enjoy.”

Ament said he favored development on the west side of town opposed to the east.

“Space available on the west side would be an effective deterrent to development across the border,” Ament said.

Weber said Moscow has the regulations in place to control what kind of development goes on the parcel of land with a large scale retail ordinance passed in February.

Mark Solomon, a member of the local No Super Wal-Mart group, said he was pleased with the council’s decision.

The “council heard the people of the city of Moscow. They made their decision for all the right reasons,” he said.

Shelley Bennett, co-owner of Eastside Marketplace and a Realtor representing the Thompson family, said the council’s decision wasn’t unexpected.

Karianne Fallow, senior manager of public affairs for Wal-Mart, said she was disappointed.

“The City Council members don’t have the foresight to develop in conjunction with the comprehensive plan,” she said. “I look forward to continuing a dialogue in the Palouse. A number of customer surveys show us time and again it’s what people want.”

Fallow said appealing the council’s decision would be up to the Gene Thompson family. Ted Thompson, a family spokesperson, did not comment on whether an appeal would be filed.

The appeal would go to district court, said City Attorney Randy Fife.

An appeal must be filed within 28 days of the final decision by the City Council.

“The council’s decision is reasonably difficult to overturn,” Fife said.


* What happened

The Moscow City Council denied the rezone from 
agriculture/forestry to motor business of a 77-acre parcel of land in east Moscow.

* What it means

Plans to develop the property cannot move forward.

* What’s next

The Thompson family has the option of appealing the City Council’s decision in District Court.
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"Moscow city councilors reject rezone request"

From today's Lewiston Tribune:
Opponents of a proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter here won an initial skirmish Monday night after members of the Moscow City Council rejected a request to rezone 77 acres where the store might be built.

But the battle is likely to continue.

The 3-2 vote can be appealed. And the Gene Thompson family, which owns the ground in the southeast corner of town, can make a new request.

"Sounds like we've got a pretty good idea that some is acceptable," said family spokesman Ted Thompson, alluding to council indications that a request to rezone a lesser amount of property might be acceptable.

"Take this in its pleasantness and come back with something we can enjoy," Councilor John Dickinson said after the vote was taken. In addition to Dickinson, Councilors Aaron Ament and Bob Stout voted against the rezone. Councilors Bill Lambert and John Weber favored the rezone. Councilor Linda Pall, who was ill and in the hospital, had already recused herself from voting because of a possible conflict of interest.

The Thompsons wanted the entire 77 acres rezoned from agriculture-forestry to motor business, a designation that could have opened the door to a number of big box retail stores on the site.

John C. McCullough, the Seattle attorney who represents Wal-Mart, said after the vote that between 30 and 35 acres is generally needed to build a supercenter, depending on configuration. He said he'd talk with Wal-Mart officials and the Thompson family before any new direction might be pursued.

Ament, who made the motion to reject the request, said he opposed the rezone for a number of reasons, but mainly because the acreage is not in the right place to encourage new retail development. He said the west side of town, where Wal-Mart already has a store, is more appropriate.

Stout agreed. "I'm sure about two things tonight," Stout said. He said he was certain that 77 acres of new motor business property was "too much," and that he didn't know just how much land was appropriate.

"This issue is not about private property rights," Stout said. "It's not about the Thompson family or the No Super Wal-Mart group."

When Dickinson joined the discussion by mentioning Wal-Mart, Mayor Nancy Chaney interrupted and said, "Just to remind you though, we're not talking about ..., we're talking about a rezone now." From the beginning of the debate earlier this year, Chaney has refused to let the rezone issue become a debate about Wal-Mart and the store's name has been prohibited.

Weber said he favored rezoning the entire 77 acres because the action would establish a much-needed site where retail development could expand. He said the city has enough ordinances, like it's new big box store ordinance that puts conditions on size, to shape retail development.

Lambert sided with Weber. "This is a parcel of land that's going to take a number of years to develop," he said. "We have measures in place that can control how development occurs."

The council's action came after the city's planning and zoning commission recommended rejection of the rezone. City staff, however, recommended rezoning "a significant portion," according to a report.

The land was annexed by the previous council and designated for extensive commercial development. Word of Wal-Mart setting its sights on the property started last year after a preliminary development proposal submitted to the city showed a Wal-Mart Supercenter and two other big box stores, along with other retail outlets, on the site.

The council's vote came after more than four hours of testimony two weeks ago at a public hearing. Because the action can be appealed, City attorney Randy Fife advised councilors to refrain from talking to anyone about the vote until the appeal period ends.
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BREAKING NEWS: Pullman Wins! Moscow Loses!

As predicted, the Moscow City Council voted last night 3-2 to deny the rezone of the 77 acre Thompson annexation.

That effectively puts an end to a planned Wal-Mart Supercenter in Moscow. Look for Wal-Mart now to either move to the Hawkins Companies development in the Pullman-Moscow corridor or wait until the No Growthers get kicked out of the council and try again.

In any case, as No Super WalMart's own study pointed out, a Pullman Supercenter will have a huge retail impact on Moscow. Pullman wins as Moscow stumbles!

More later.

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Monday, May 15, 2006

"Smart Growth" and the Law of Unintended Consequences

The "Eye on Olympia" blog reports that the Washington State Association of Realtors, using data from the WSU Center for Real Estate Research, said today that affordable housing in Washington is at a 15 year low. The statewide median home price during the first quarter of 2006 was 17.1% above the price a year ago.

The first-time buyer Housing Affordability Index, where a score of 100 means a middle-income family can afford an average-priced home, has now shrunk to 54.3. A typical first-time home buyer could afford the typical starter home in only three counties during the third quarter of 2005, indicating affordability problems exist in all parts of Washington.

According to today's WCRER news release:
Terry Sullivan, 2006 President of Washington REALTORS® from Spokane County said, “Washington’s population centers continue to face markets with limited inventory available for sale and restricted opportunities for builders to profitably produce affordable homes for middle income households. These problems will make it difficult for Washington to compete for the new businesses necessary for our state to continue to prosper.”
In Whitman County, median home prices were up 13.2%. The first-time home buyer affordability index at 51.1. That's FIFTH WORSE out of Washington's 39 counties. Not only can young couples with children not afford to shop in Pullman, they can't afford to live here either. Once all the grumpy old NIMBYers die off, there won't be anyone left. Perhaps that's what all the greenies want after all.

The reason behind all the madness: Washington's Growth Management Act, intended to deter suburban sprawl in favor of high-density housing, has reduced the supply of housing while demand has increased resulting in sky-high prices. The WSAR plans to ask the legislature next year for some fixes.

A 2002 paper by the Evergreen Freedom Foundation looked at some possible fixes to the Growth Management Act, including:
Citizens who simply dislike the decisions reached by their elected representatives should take their concerns to the ballot box, rather than force compliance with their personal views on growth management through expensive litigation or the threat of invalidity. (Incidentally, a number of citizen groups are backed by larger environmental interests.) GMA land use decision making should be a local legislative process.

Forcing compliance with personal views through expensive litigation sure sounds familiar

A number of the broad planning goals of the GMA potentially conflict. For example, GMA’s affordable housing and economic development goals can be incompatible with preserving open space or preventing sprawl. This should come as no surprise, due to GMA’s original design as a broad planning framework, and its application both to counties struggling with the symptoms of rapid growth and to counties experiencing too little growth.

As the circumstances in Lewis, Mason, and Jefferson Counties illustrate, the Hearings Boards seem to take preservation of open space and prevention of sprawl far more seriously than economic development. This is completely inconsistent with the concepts of “bottomup” planning process and public participation. GMA’s goals are listed without any assignment of priority, leaving local governments with the responsibility of weighing and balancing their land use priorities. (Try explaining to the unemployed citizens of a rural county, with the vast majority of its land already preserved as open space, why strict rules against rural development are more important than finding jobs. Urban areas recruit businesses to create jobs, so why should rural areas be any different?)

Just say no to "smart growth" and all other liberal meddling with the free market.


From Investopedia:

Return On Investment - ROI

A performance measure used to evaluate the efficiency of an investment or to compare the efficiency of a number of different investments. To calculate ROI, the benefit (return) of an investment is divided by the cost of the investment; the result is expressed as a percentage or a ratio.

Return on investment is a very popular metric because of its versatility and simplicity. That is, if an investment does not have a positive ROI, or if there are other opportunities with a higher ROI, then the investment should be not be undertaken.
According to last Thursday's issue of the Whitman County Gazette, some folks around here don't seem to understand the concept of ROI.

For example, a letter to the editor stated:
I see the County Commissioners are reducing development funds to other places in the County so they can pour more money into their pet project, the Moscow-Pullman corridor. In other words, business as usual.

For decades now I've heard commissioner after commissioner insist that promoting growth within the eight miles between Moscow and Pullman is the key to Whitman County's future; and enormous amounts of time, money, and effort have been spent trying to make it so.

Even so, last time I looked, I didn't see too much activity going on there. What I do see, everywhere else in the county, are lots of empty storefronts and closed businesses. And I can't help but wonder, had Commissioners past and current put even a fraction as much effort into development everywhere in the County as they have into the corridor, if that might be different. Perhaps what we need really are COUNTY Commissioners, not CORRIDOR Commissioners.
Gazette publisher Gordon Forgey editorialized:

Yet no matter how important the corridor development can be for the county at large, it will never be the heart of the county. That distinction belongs to the small towns and cities in the county.

Development and economic growth in one place cannot substitute for economic growth in all places.

All effort should be made to see that corridor development is encouraged. At the same time, the separate needs of small rural communities need to be addressed and supported. They cannot be forsaken for more dramatic stuff anymore than they should limit growth elsewhere.

Just as corridor development needs balance to protect and improve the area, the allocation of limited economic development resources also needs balance.
I'm sorry, but I don't buy that. When you have a limited amount of money to invest, you put it where you will get the maximum "bang for the buck." You don't spread it around for the sake of "balance." Corridor development is no longer a pipe dream. It's coming. The plans are in the works, and it's going to take a lot of investment in infrastructure, such as water, sewage, police and fire. Work on SR 270 has already begun. I'm sorry, but drilling a well for the Tekoa golf course is not going to have as big of an ROI as a 700,000 sq. ft. shopping center that will bring in TENS OF MILLIONS of dollars in sales and property tax revenues over the years to come. Then there will be plenty of money available for medical clinics and other projects.

Yes, the corridor may not be the geographical center of Whitman County, but it lies in the middle of two growing cities with a combined population of nearly 50,000. Economic development has to be done where the people are. Let's face it, most of the small towns in Whitman County are never going to grow. The agricultural economy that created them is now long gone. We have to be realistic.

It's becoming clearer to me all the time now what has held Whitman County and Pullman back all these years. It's these kinds of petty regional jealousies, big town versus little town, and unrealistic hopes. It's also crass selfishness, as demonstrated by the people in Pullman who don't want strange old people blocking their view of the moose grazing.

Something's got to give around here soon.

Working Families for Wal-Mart Has a Pullman Story!

Working Families for Wal-Mart has been asking people to share their stories. A couple from Pullman shared their story today!:
My husband recently decided to go back to school to finish his degree. This has definitely had an impact on our finances. We have two small boys and it has been really hard to make ends meet. There is no Wal-Mart in our small university town of Pullman, WA, so we travel to Moscow, I'd to shop at Wal-Mart. It's the only way we can afford the things we need. I would love for a super Wal-Mart to come to Pullman. It would be wonderful to be able to shop for groceries at the low prices Wal-Mart offers. I also see the many benifits a Wal-Mart would bring to our town.

Reid & Jennifer H., Pullman WA
May 15, 2006
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