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Cheney Free Press
Cheney , Washington
November 26, 2015     Cheney Free Press
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November 26, 2015

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CHENEY FREE PRESS Thursday, November 26, 2015 ni According to a recent study tasks. Sometimes these requests are simply fishing expeditions by private citizens with a beef looking for faults or attorneys handling class action suits look- by the Center for Public Integrity, ing for as many potential money Washington state is the 12th best in the nation for openness, which isn't saying much apparently as it received a D-plus and the rank- ing reflected a decline when it comes to governmental openness and integrity. In Spokesman-Review writer Jim Camden's story on the study, Washington Secretary of State spokesman Dave.Ammons noted the state typically gets high marks in other studies for its public records disclosure laws and governmental transparency. "But it's something you never stop working on," Ammons added. That's something news media outlets and government officials likely agree on - our public disclosure laws need work. How and where that work needs to oc- cur will differ. One of the biggest concerns for Washington's public officials is dealing with large public re- cords requests that tie up limited resources for extended periods of time, preventing employees from concentrating on other "pots as possible. Other times, these records requests come from individuals engaged in research with poten- tial commercial value. The city of Cheney is currently filling such a request by two professors from separate universities engaged in a joint research project. The professors, who h/ ve submitted their request to other Washington cities, have asked for all police reports resulting in felony arrests, warrant or in- view, from 2012 -- 2014, including additional data such as if charges were filed. The request was filed Oct. 2, and according to Cheney Finance Department officials, they have just recently provided all the information for 2012. They're still working on 2013 and 2014. Association of Washington Cities governmental relations advocate Candace Bock said other dries have received requests so large, that they cannot meet the entire request immediately, and must release the information over time as filled. Accordingly, the AWC has listed "strengthening" the Public Records Act, particu- larly when it comes to requests that "do not provide a public ben- efit proportionate to the taxpayer dollars needed" by allowing cities to recoup more of their costs through charging "reasonable" fees along with resolving conflicts outside the courtroom. We agree cities and counties need some help in dealing with these forms of requests. But only to the point that the help does not add more exemptions to existing Sunshine laws. Passed in 1972 with over 72 percent of the vote, Initiative 276 set up what was at the time the nation's premier open records and public disclosure laws. Since then, hundreds of exemptions have been added to those laws, making public disclosure dif- ficult at times, not only for me- dia organizations such as ours but particularly for the average citizen. Our relationship with local public agencies regarding record requests has mostly been good. But there have been times that have given us pause. Every' so often, a public of- ficial balks at providing copies of information already publicly pre- sented because they are not sure that information should be given to the media specifically. There have been times we have had to ask for public information that really should have been made available at a public meeting. On one occasion, a request was filled slowly, and with many questions asked and eventu- ally lacked some requested information, the agency citing exemptions that, when examined against other information sub- mitted, were backed by flimsy reasoning. We agree work needs to be done on this state's public re- cords and disclosure laws. But that work should be eliminat- ing the numerous exemptions that have clouded the intent of the original law. And while we understand concerns about the cost of filling public records, and agree there should be some relief, we think public officials might want to take an inward look at why they're experiencing that burden. Or as Ammons put it in a Nov. 17 interview, "The ones who have exemptions are the ones who are now screaming bloody murder." Write to the Point Nothing like a windstorm to make you reflect on things you take for granted By AL STOVER ............ learn that there were two Staff Reporter fatalities as a result of the It was like something Windstorm. out of one of those Holly- wood disas- ter movies. Last Tues- day, Nov. 17, a vicious windstorm hit Washing- ton, taking AI b" ov out power in various parts of the state, including Spokane County. Earlier in the day, nu- merous reports of trees fallingacross roads, high, ways and parking lots filled the radio. We'd later At the Cheney Free Press office, we were grinding away at the Nov. 19 issue of the newspaper when the power went out at the office. After waiting 20-30 minutes, we decided to go home and get a good night's rest with the intent of coming in early Wednesday morning to fin- ish the issue. It was pitch black out- side, save the flashing red lights of emergency crews, police officers and firefight- ers responding to emergen- cies along the highway. FREE PRESS Vol. l19-No. 32 Press Production Manager Randy Warwick Editor John McCallum Pressman Reporters Mark Cordes Paul Delaney AI Stover Sales Steve Barge Graphics DeeAnn Gibb Brittani Montecucco John Myers Front Office Dawn Chernak Rachel Stuart Bookkeeper/ Office Manager Debi Labish Publisher Harlan Shellabarger The Editorial Board is composed of Paul Delaney, AI Stover, Brittani Montecucco, John McCallum and Harlan Shellabarger The Cheney Free Press is published every Thursday by the Free Press Publish- ing Company, William Ifft, president. Periodical post- age paid at Cheney, Wash. 99004. Published at 1616 W. First Street, Cheney, Wash. 99004. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to: Cheney Free Press, P.O. Box 218, Cheney, Wash. 99004-0218. ID PUBLICATION # 102240 The Free Press re- quests that contributors observe the following dead- lines, which will be strictly enforced: OBITUARIES, MEETINGS OF GOVERNMENT AGENCIES - Tuesday, 10 a.m.* CHURCH, CLUB MEETINGS, ALL SOCIAL NEWS -- Monday, noon* DISPLAY ADVERTISING -- Monday, 4 p.m.* LEGAL NOTICES -- Monday, 5 p.m.* CLASSIFIED ADVERTISING --Tuesday, 11 a.m.* *Except holidays M PRE@S ~UaLl=.lnO I.C Rates: Addresses in Spokane County, $24 per year; $36 per year outside Spokane County; senior citizens in Spokane County, $22 per year. For other rates, call 235-6184. HOW TO CONTACT US Phone: 235-6184 Fax: 235-2887 emaih cfp @ Instead of Dennis Patchin, Rick Lukens and Keith Osso on EPSN radio, I listened to static on the drive home. I spent part of the night in my car, using the heater to stay warm and reading to entertain myself. When I woke up at around 3:30 a.m. the power was back on. Others - over an esti- mated 158,000 - weren't so fortunate. Folks were comparing the windstorm to the ice storm that hit Eastern Washington in 1996. Like the windstorm, the ice storm caused much damage and inconvenience for people. By Wednesday, over 100,000 customers in Spo- kane County still had no power. Crews and techni- cians were working around the clock in hopes of restor- ing power. Crews from out of state -- some as far as Texas -- came to help out. It takes a special person to sit on top of telephone poles in 20-30 degree weather. According to a news re- lease on Sunday, Avista said the windstorm was the worst disaster the power company encountered in its 126 year history and estimated that it would be midweek before power was restored to the majority of their customers. There are also volunteer crews help- ing clean up the debris and offering to help fix people's homes. It's situations like this that makes us realize how lightly we sometimes take electricity, heat, the In- "ternet and hot water for granted. Sure,I did fine without these amenities and ser- vices for a few hours, but I was immediately thank- ful to have them back. I couldn't imagine what it would be like to lose them for more than a day or a week. What's worse is there are some people in the world who have none of these things. I also realized how un- prepared I was when I didn't have power. A power See Power page 5 To those who turned the power on, we salute you Thank you, thank you, and thank you! To the line crews and whoever else helped the power come back on for all of us in Cheney. You may generally seem invisible and not much attention is paid to your daily work- load. 'However, your actions on our behalf every day, not just this week, are appreci- ated so very much. Please consider this a big hug from every one of us with lights, power and heat. We know a lot of people are not so fortunate. Kathy Fleming Cheney John McCallum A1 Stover Editor Staff Reporter Main contact for all editonal content. Coy- Covers all Education (Cheney, Medical ers Cheney, Medical Lake and Airway Lake and Eastern Washington Univer- Heights news as well as selected Cheney sity) as well as selected Cheney High High School sports. School Sports. jmac @ cheneyfreepress, com al @cbenejdreepmss, corn Paul Delaney Staff Reporter Covers all Business, Medical Lake High School and Eastem Washing- ton University sports. Contact for miscellaneous sports. pdelane y @ chene yfmepress.c~n