Local News

Spokane Public Schools sends letter to families in wake of Texas shooting

<p><p>In the wake of the school shootings in Texas, officials at Spokane Public Schools have offered the services of staff “to engage with students if they have questions or need to process this tragedy.”</p></p><p><p>In an email sent to families Wednesday morning, Superintendent Adam Swinyard wrote that the deaths of 19 children and two adults “may… ... Continue Reading

Shots fired in Emerson-Garfield Neighborhood Tuesday; second shooting in area in two months

<p><p>Spokane police responded to a report of shots fired Tuesday night in or near the same Emerson-Garfield Neighborhood location as a shooting in late March that left a child injured.</p></p><p><p>No one was injured, Spokane Police Department Cpl. Nick Briggs said.</p></p><p><p>He said a firearm was recovered and no arrests were made, but detectives are working on… ... Continue Reading

Man suspected of throwing hammer at 8-year-old son of Good Samaritan who tried to help him

<p><p>A 39-year-old man is accused of throwing a hammer that struck an 8-year-old in the forehead when the child’s father stopped to try to help the man Monday near Spokane Valley.</p></p><p><p>Spokane County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded around 3:30 p.m. to the area of South Cree Drive and East Apache Pass Road for the report of… ... Continue Reading

Firearm and body armor restrictions, mental health screenings, urged by lawmakers in reaction to latest shooting tragedy

<p><p>WASHINGTON – Opponents of restricting firearms often argue that “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” a line famously uttered by the chief executive of the National Rifle Association after a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school a decade ago.</p></p><p><p>In mass shootings at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday and a Buffalo, New York, supermarket just 10 days earlier, however, police and a security guard couldn’t stop the shooters who both wore body armor and carried semiautomatic, assault-style rifles that allowed them to keep killing even after they met armed resistance, according to police.</p></p><p><p>The 18-year-old man who allegedly killed 10 Black people in a white supremacist rampage in Buffalo on May 14 wrote in an online manifesto that he would need body armor to carry out the massacre. According to the city’s police commissioner, at least one shot fired by the store’s security guard <a href="https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-news/buffalo-shooting-body-armor-law-massacre-1354190" target="_blank">struck the shooter</a> but “had no effect” before he shot and killed the guard, a retired police officer.</p></p><p><p>After initially saying the shooter in Uvalde, also 18, was wearing body armor when he killed 19 children and two adults, Texas authorities told lawmakers Wednesday he was wearing a tactical vest but it did not have hardened armor plates inside, <a href="https://apnews.com/article/uvalde-texas-school-shooting-44a7cfb990feaa6ffe482483df6e4683" target="_blank">the Associated Press</a> reported. The Texas shooter was shot dead by a Border Patrol team, according to state law enforcement officials.</p></p><p><p>Despite bipartisan expressions of outrage and grief in Congress over the shootings, federal gun safety legislation appears doomed in the face of opposition from Republicans who argue the Constitution guarantees largely unrestricted access to firearms, including semiautomatic rifles designed for killing people in war. Regulating the sale of the kind of tactical gear worn by the two 18-year-old men may face better odds, but on Wednesday, senators said they were not actively pursuing such legislation.</p></p><p><p>“I’m not going to talk about specific gun control measures until we get into that discussion,” Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, said at the Capitol.</p></p><p><p>When asked if he was open to federal regulations on body armor, Crapo said, “I’ll tell you what I’m open to, and I’ve been open to this all the time, and that is addressing the causes of the violence. I think mental health is the biggest cause.”</p></p><p><p>Crapo is working with Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., on <a href="https://www.finance.senate.gov/chairmans-news/wyden-crapo-welcome-input-on-addressing-the-mental-health-care-crisis" target="_blank">legislation</a> to shore up the nation’s mental health care system, an issue with bipartisan support.</p></p><p><p>But Democrats like Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., object to the idea that psychological problems alone explain the prevalence of mass shootings in the United States.</p></p><p><p>“I want to make this plain: The majority of people with mental illness do not commit violence against others,” Murray said Wednesday on the Senate floor. “Treating gun violence as a mental health issue, rather than a gun issue, will never get us to the root cause of these horrific shootings.</p></p><p><p>“If we want to get at the heart of really stopping gun violence, I beg my colleagues to pull their heads out of the sand and finally start talking about what can really address this crisis of gun violence: common-sense gun safety legislation.”</p></p><p><p>After Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer moved Tuesday to clear the way for a vote on legislation to require stricter background checks for gun purchases, on Wednesday the New York Democrat pulled back and said he would try to find a compromise that could draw the support of at least 10 Republicans needed to avoid a filibuster. Most GOP senators, however, avoided talking about any gun safety measures.</p></p><p><p>“Today is not a good day,” Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, said when asked about a legislative response to the shooting. “I don’t want to do any interviews on guns or body armor or anything else today.”</p></p><p><p>Some more moderate Senate Republicans indicated they are open to modest gun safety measures, including enhanced background checks and “red flag” laws that let police temporarily take guns away from people determined to be a threat to themselves or others.</p></p><p><p>“Right now, what we’re looking at are background check updates and red flag laws, but haven’t seen anything on body armor,” said Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah. “I’m open to lots of things, so I’ll take a look at it.”</p></p><p><p>Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said she hadn’t considered the body armor issue and was focused on red flag laws and cracking down on “straw purchasers” who help illegal gun buyers avoid background checks.</p></p><p><p>Schumer, then the Senate minority leader, introduced a bill in 2019 that would have required civilians to get permission from the FBI before buying “advanced” body armor or tactical law enforcement gear. That legislation never got to the Senate floor, and several Democratic senators said Wednesday they were not aware of it.</p></p><p><p>Sen. Dick Durbin, the Illinois Democrat who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he wasn’t familiar with proposed body armor regulations but thought the idea was worth exploring.</p></p><p><p>After Durbin spoke, Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington added, “If he doesn’t know, it sounds like it didn’t get a lot of airing as an issue, thus far anyway.”</p></p><p><p>Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., said he was “interested in taking a look at anything that could be helpful,” including body armor regulations. Montana’s other senator, Republican Steve Daines, dismissed that idea, saying, “That’s not going to solve the problem.”</p></p><p><p>Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat who has been a leading gun safety advocate since the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting in his home state, said he hadn’t considered restricting body armor purchases and cautioned against crafting legislation based on any single attack.</p></p><p><p>“I don’t think we should fall into the trap of writing laws that only address the last mass shooting,” Murphy said. “We need to look at the breadth of threats that are presented in the country, not just the thing that’s in the news today.”</p></p><p><p>Northwest Republicans in the House, which has been out of session since before the Texas massacre, also emphasized the role of mental health in mass shootings. Kyle VonEnde, a spokesman for Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, said the Spokane lawmaker is “open to having bipartisan conversations with her colleagues about the body armor used in recent tragedies,” calling it “a new and troubling trend that warrants keeping all options on the table.”</p></p><p><p>“Cathy believes we have a mental health crisis in America and is concerned about the increasing amount of violence in our schools,” VonEnde said in an email, adding that McMorris Rodgers has supported banning “bump stocks,” an accessory that lets semiautomatic weapons fire at a higher rate, as well as legislation to improve background checks and school security.</p></p><p><p>Rep. Russ Fulcher, a Republican whose district includes North Idaho, called the Texas shooting “a shocking tragedy” and cited his support for improving mental health services in schools.</p></p><p><p>“After such events, our natural response is to look for policy solutions,” Fulcher said in a statement. “While there are legislative concepts worthy of discussion, I do not believe adding restrictions to the constitutionally protected rights of law-abiding citizens is the appropriate answer.”</p></p><p><p>Rep. Dan Newhouse, a Republican who represents Central Washington, called the shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde “nothing short of horrific” and condemned “the racist, abhorrent actions” of the Buffalo shooter, while saying he favors states regulating guns and body armor instead of the federal government.</p></p><p><p>“We do not have the full story and an investigation into the Uvalde shooting is still ongoing, yet many have already politicized these events in their push for federal gun legislation,” he said in a statement. “I strongly support our constitutional right to keep and bear arms, and I will continue to defend that right on behalf of central Washington.”</p></p><p><p>Senators are scheduled to leave Washington on Thursday for a weeklong recess after Memorial Day, with potential votes on gun safety measures expected in early June.</p></p> ... Continue Reading

Weathercatch: Finally, the crazy-cold spring weather is on pause

<p><p>To say the Inland Northwest deserves the warm, dry and tranquil weather that arrived the middle of this week is an understatement.</p></p><p><p>With the start of meteorological summer less than a week away, it’s been one of the coldest springs recorded in many parts of the region. While Spokane experienced its seventh-coldest April, other locations, including… ... Continue Reading

Inslee contracts COVID-19 as Washington health officials again encourage masking indoors

<p><p>OLYMPIA – Gov. Jay Inslee has tested positive for COVID-19, the governor’s office said  Wednesday.</p></p><p><p>“I am experiencing very mild symptoms and am most glad I’m vaccinated and boosted,” Inslee said in a news release. “I hope others consider getting their booster because it’s very effective in preventing serious illness.”</p></p><p><p>Inslee is fully vaccinated and received two… ... Continue Reading

Twitter shareholders meet amid Elon Musk's takeover drama

<p><p>Twitter’s regularly scheduled shareholder meeting Wednesday didn’t include a vote on Tesla billionaire Elon Musk’s $44 billion bid for the social platform. But the prospects of the buyout and the drama that’s surrounded it seemed to be on participants’ minds anyway.</p></p><p><p>CEO Parag Agrawal said at the outset that executives won’t be answering any questions surrounding… ... Continue Reading

EXPLAINER: How cities in the West have water amid drought

<p><p>As drought and climate change tighten their grip on the American West, the sight of fountains, swimming pools, gardens and golf courses in cities like Phoenix, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Boise, and Albuquerque can be jarring at first glance.</p></p><p><p>Western water experts, however, say they aren’t necessarily cause for concern. Over the past… ... Continue Reading

California man sentenced for kidnapping Idaho girl

<p><p>Associated Press</p></p><p><p>BOISE – A California man convicted of kidnapping an 11-year-old Idaho girl could be released from prison after five to seven months if he successfully completes a treatment program.</p></p><p><p>Third District Judge Randall Grove on Tuesday sentenced Brian Sangjoon Lee to up to 10 years in prison but retained jurisdiction and said Sangjoon could be… ... Continue Reading

Texas gunman warned online he was going to shoot up school

<p><p>UVALDE, Texas — The gunman who massacred 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school in Texas had warned on social media minutes before the attack that he had shot his grandmother and going to shoot up a school, the governor said Wednesday.</p></p><p><p>Salvador Ramos, 18, used an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle in the bloodbath Tuesday… ... Continue Reading

Unionized Starbucks stores face hard work of bargaining

<p><p>It’s become a common sight – jubilant Starbucks workers celebrating after successful votes to unionize at dozens of U.S. stores.</p></p><p><p>But when the celebrations die down, a daunting hurdle remains: To win the changes they seek – like better pay and more reliable schedules – unionized stores must sit down with Starbucks and negotiate a contract.</p></p><p><p>It’s a painstaking process that can take years.</p></p><p><p>“The meat is at the bargaining table,” said AJ Jones, Starbucks’ senior vice president of global communications and a former consultant to companies during labor negotiations.</p></p><p><p>At least 85 of Starbucks’ 9,000 company-run U.S. stores – representing 7,444 workers – have voted to unionize since December, according to the National Labor Relations Board, and at least 10 stores have rejected the union. Many more elections are coming; at least 268 stores across the U.S. have petitioned the NLRB to hold union elections.</p></p><p><p>The labor board says it has officially certified 64 of those 85 elections, which means Starbucks must begin bargaining with the union at those stores.</p></p><p><p>So far, just three – two in Buffalo, New York, and one in Mesa, Arizona – have begun the process; many others are talking to Starbucks about dates to begin negotiating, according to Workers United, which represents the unionized stores.</p></p><p><p>All this is happening amid tensions between Workers United and the Seattle coffee giant, which opposes unionization.</p></p><p><p>Already, the NLRB has filed 56 complaints against Starbucks for various labor law violations, including firing workers for union activity.</p></p><p><p>Starbucks has filed two complaints against the union, saying labor organizers harassed and intimidated workers at some stores.</p></p><p><p>Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, a longtime union foe, said during a corporate earnings call in May that the company respects the rights of Starbucks’ employees and will bargain where it’s required to.</p></p><p><p>But he also insisted that employees don’t need a union to get the best-in-class wages and benefits Starbucks provides.</p></p><p><p>“Sharing success through wins and benefits with our partners is among our core values, and has been for 50 years,” Schultz said.</p></p><p><p>Schultz then announced $200 million in new investments for non-union stores, including raises for veteran employees and more training time for new baristas.</p></p><p><p>The company even promised one of the union’s priorities – credit card tipping – before the end of this year.</p></p><p><p>Schultz said federal labor law prohibits the company from automatically sharing those investments with unionized stores.</p></p><p><p>But labor experts say that’s a classic anti-union tactic, and Starbucks could easily offer the new benefits as part of the bargaining process.</p></p><p><p>Joe Thompson, a Starbucks worker who recently helped organize successful union elections at two stores in Santa Cruz, California, said the announcement confused and upset workers – and, for many, underscored the need for a union.</p></p><p><p>“They’re literally threatening to improve the material conditions at non-union stores,” Thompson said. “But they can take those benefits away at any point. If we have our contract, they can’t take those things away.”</p></p><p><p>Even when workers do successfully organize, there’s no guarantee it will stick, as evidenced in 1987 when Starbucks employees voted to decertify the union that represented a handful of Seattle stores just two years after voting it in.</p></p><p><p>But this time, Starbucks labor organizers say they’re determined to see the process through.</p></p><p><p>Jaz Brisack, a Starbucks employee and labor organizer who is at the bargaining table in Buffalo, said more stores around the country would like to begin negotiating, but the company has been slow to start.</p></p><p><p>Starbucks said the delays aren’t intentional, and the company is simply following the process.</p></p><p><p>Spokesman Reggie Borges said the union’s insistence on store-by-store union elections – instead of regional ones, as Starbucks requested – is one reason bargaining is limping along.<span class="print_trim">Labor experts say it’s common for employers to drag out the bargaining process in an effort to take the wind out of union campaigns.</span></p></p><p><p><span class="print_trim">In a 2009 study, Kate Bronfenbrenner, the director of labor education research at Cornell’s ILR School, found that fewer than half of unions obtained their first contract within a year of winning an election.</span></p></p><p><p><span class="print_trim">Bronfenbrenner is in the process of updating those numbers, but says it appears little has changed.</span></p></p><p><p><span class="print_trim">“There’s nothing the board can do to force bargaining,” she said.</span></p></p><p><p><span class="print_trim">Brisack said bargaining sessions, which began in January, are held via Zoom every two or three weeks, with Starbucks employees and a representative from the Workers United on one side and Starbucks staff – including district managers and regional leaders – and attorneys on the other.</span></p></p><p><p><span class="print_trim">Brisack said bargainers surveyed workers and are developing contract language based on their priorities.</span></p></p><p><p><span class="print_trim">Among their proposals: “just cause” language that makes it harder to fire workers, annual cost of living pay increases, compensation for employees who do extra work when stores are understaffed and the ability to let customers add tips to credit card purchases.</span></p></p><p><p><span class="print_trim">If an agreement is reached, it will likely become a template for other stores, but with tweaks to reflect local needs. Drive-thru stores need different language, for example.</span></p></p><p><p><span class="print_trim">U.S. labor law doesn’t set a deadline for agreeing to a contract.</span></p></p><p><p><span class="print_trim">In fact, it doesn’t even require that an agreement be reached. It only requires both parties to bargain in good faith.</span></p></p><p><p><span class="print_trim">“The overall approach with the law is to encourage the parties to reach an agreement that they both can live with,” said Risa Lieberwitz, a professor of labor and employment law at Cornell University and the academic director of the university’s Worker Institute.</span></p></p><p><p><span class="print_trim">If the two sides reach an impasse, they could call in a mediator or file charges of “bad faith” bargaining with the NLRB. But that process is time-consuming, and the legal penalties for “bad faith” bargaining are weak, Lieberwitz said.</span></p></p><p><p><span class="print_trim">The NLRB may order the offender to change its tactics, for example, or require leaders to publicly admit they broke the law. There are no financial penalties.</span></p></p><p><p><span class="print_trim">The union does have the power to strike, which could pressure Starbucks into reaching an agreement, Lieberwitz said. But Starbucks might also successfully convince workers that the company functions best without a union.</span></p></p><p><p><span class="print_trim">That’s what happened at a Starbucks in Springfield, Virginia, where workers rejected unionization in a 10-8 vote in April. Labor organizer and barista Tim Swicord said his store is well run, and workers didn’t want to risk changing that.</span></p></p><p><p><span class="print_trim">Swicord said he’s taking some time to listen to his colleagues and won’t try to hold another election anytime soon. But he still supports the union,.</span></p></p><p><p><span class="print_trim">“It’s a long road, but we are a piece of the puzzle,” Swicord said. “We’ll fit in somehow.”</span></p></p> ... Continue Reading

Nordstrom and Rack recovering as sales surge and shoppers return

<p><p>The return of in-person events and on-site work led to a sales boom for Nordstrom as it recovers from a pandemic rut, the retail giant said during an earnings call with investors Tuesday.</p></p><p><p>Nordstrom’s sales grew 19% in the first quarter of the year, compared to the same time in 2021. Nordstrom Rack, the Seattle-based company’s… ... Continue Reading