Local News

Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey steps down as CEO

<p><p>Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey has stepped down as CEO of the social media platform. He has been succeeded by Twitter’s current chief technology officer, Parag Agrawal.</p></p><p><p>Dorsey will remain on the board until his term expires in 2022. Agrawal joined Twitter in 2011 and has been CTO since 2017.</p></p><p><p>In a <a href="https://twitter.com/jack/status/1465347002426867720/photo/1" target="—blank">letter posted</a> on his Twitter account, Dorsey said he was “really sad…yet really happy” about leaving the company and that it was his decision.</p></p><p><p>On Sunday, Dorsey had <a href="https://twitter.com/jack/status/1464865985471471616" target="—blank">sent a cryptic tweet</a> reading only “I love Twitter.”</p></p><p><p>Twitter shares rose 5% to $49.47 in morning trading after the announcement.</p></p><p><p>Twitter was caught up in the heated political atmosphere leading up to the 2020 election, particularly when it banned former President Donald Trump following his incitement of the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.</p></p><p><p>Dorsey <a href="https://apnews.com/article/jack-dorsey-twitter-defend-trump-ban-843c3e5fb72c0cfb89c1fd1132a525d8" target="—blank">defended the move</a>, saying Trump’s tweets after the event resulted in a risk to public safety and created an “extraordinary and untenable circumstance” for the company. <a href="https://apnews.com/article/lawsuits-business-government-and-politics-c7e26858dcb553f92d98706d12ad510c" target="—blank">Trump sued the company</a>, along with Facebook and YouTube, in July for alleged censorship.</p></p><p><p>Critics argued that Twitter took too long to address hate speech, harassment and other harmful activity on its platform, particularly during the 2020 campaign.</p></p><p><p>“If he’s actually stepping away from Twitter this time, Dorsey leaves behind a mixed legacy,” said Paul Barrett, deputy director of the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights.</p></p><p><p>“A platform that’s useful and potent for quick communication but one that’s been exploited by a range of bad actors, including former President Donald Trump, who did his best on Twitter to undermine democracy — until Dorsey’s people finally had enough and shut him down.”</p></p><p><p>Dorsey has faced several distractions as CEO, starting with the fact that he’s also founder and CEO of the payments company Square.</p></p><p><p>Some big investors have openly questioned whether he could effectively lead both companies.</p></p><p><p>Last year, the company <a href="https://apnews.com/article/3d1da7618890172692c339fbda3d7d9b" target="—blank">came to an agreement</a> with two of those activist investors that kept Dorsey in the top job and gave a seat on the company board to Elliott Management Corp., which owned about 4% of Twitter’s stock, and another to Silver Lake.</p></p><p><p>While Twitter has high-profile users like politicians and celebrities and is a favorite of journalists, its user base lags far behind old rivals like Facebook and YouTube and newer ones like TikTok. It has just over 200 million daily active users, a common industry metric.</p></p><p><p>The early days of Twitter began with a <a href="https://apnews.com/article/cdeb05ebd6ab41849c67369fee5d229a" target="—blank">tweet</a> sent by Dorsey on March 21, 2006, that read “just setting up my twttr.”</p></p><p><p>Twitter went through a period of robust growth during its early years, but as its expansion slowed the San Francisco company began tweaking its format in a bid to make it easier and more engaging to use.</p></p><p><p>Dorsey became Twitter CEO in 2007, but was forced out the following year. He returned to the role in 2015.</p></p><p><p>In his goodbye letter, Dorsey said he has “worked hard to ensure this company can break away from its founding and founders” and that to focus too much on whether companies are led by their founders is “severely limiting.”</p></p><p><p>Twitter also announced on Monday a new board chairman, Bret Taylor, to replace its existing chair, Patrick Pichette. Pichette will remain on the board.</p></p><p><p>Taylor has been on Twitter’s board since 2016 and is the president and COO of business software company Salesforce.</p></p> ... Continue Reading

Wall Street steadies following omicron slide; stocks rise

<p><p>Wall Street was steadying itself Monday from last week’s slide caused by the newest coronavirus variant, as investors wait for more clues about just how much damage it may do to the economy.</p></p><p><p>The S&amp;P 500 was 1.4% higher in midday trading to recover a little more than half its drop from Friday, which was its worst since February.</p></p><p><p>Other areas of the market, including bond yields and crude oil, were also recovering chunks of Friday’s knee-jerk reaction to run toward safety and away from risky investments.</p></p><p><p>With vaccines in hand — and with the benefit of a weekend to mull whether Friday’s sharp market moves were overdone — analysts said the world may be in better position to weather this newest potential wave.</p></p><p><p>Plus, Friday’s tumble for markets may have been exacerbated by many professional traders taking the day off following Thanksgiving.</p></p><p><p>But while the market was steadying itself, it wasn’t returning to the full-on rally it had been on before the discovery of the variant now known as omicron.</p></p><p><p>The variant appears to spread more easily, and countries around the world have put up barriers to travel in hopes of stemming it.</p></p><p><p>Still to be seen is how effective vaccines currently available are for the variant, and how long it may take to develop new omicron-specific vaccines.</p></p><p><p>“There are still more questions than answers regarding the new variant,” said Ryan Detrick, chief market strategist for LPL Financial. “At the same time, we’ve been living with COVID-19 for almost 20 months now, and we’ve seen multiple variants.”</p></p><p><p>The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 244 points, or 0.7%, at 35,144, as of 12:15 p.m. Eastern time, after fading a bit from an earlier gain of 388 points.</p></p><p><p>Continuing caution in the market meant the smaller stocks in the Russell 2000 index were drifting between a small gain and loss, most recently up 0.2%.</p></p><p><p>The most powerful lift for stocks came from those that have been able to grow strongly almost regardless of the economy’s strength or pandemic’s pall.</p></p><p><p>Gains for five big tech-oriented stocks — Microsoft, Tesla, Apple, Amazon and Nvidia — alone accounted for more than 40% of the S&amp;P 500’s rise.</p></p><p><p>Moderna jumped 10.2% for the biggest gain in the S&amp;P 500, adding onto an even bigger gain from Friday, after it said it’s testing the effectiveness of its vaccine against omicron.</p></p><p><p>Its CEO said in a televised interview on ABC that it could take two to three months for a vaccine developed specifically for the variant to begin manufacturing.</p></p><p><p>Travel-related stocks started the day higher, but they fell back as more caution filtered into the market and as travel restrictions around the world remained in force.</p></p><p><p>American Airlines Group was 0.2% lower, while Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings gave up 0.4%.</p></p><p><p>Some winning stocks of the pandemic, which soared again on Friday with omicron worries, gave up some of their gains. Zoom Video Communications fell 2.8%</p></p><p><p>The yield on the 10-year Treasury climbed to 1.52% from 1.49% late Friday, recovering a slice of its steep slide from 1.64% that day. It tends to rise and fall with expectations for the economy’s strength and for inflation.</p></p><p><p>The VIX, an index that measures how worried investors are about upcoming drops for the S&amp;P 500, also eased but not by enough to return to where it was before omicron.</p></p><p><p>Besides waiting on more clues about how much economic damage omicron will ultimately do, the market has several big mileposts this week that could swing prices.</p></p><p><p>The headliner is likely Friday’s jobs report, where economists expect to see an acceleration in hiring by employers during November.</p></p><p><p>Omicron adds more risk to a global economy already contending with paralyzing uncertainty.</p></p><p><p>Travel bans, including recent decisions by Japan and Israel to bar foreign visitors, threaten to disrupt global business.</p></p><p><p>Global supply chains already gummed up by bottlenecks could be further ensnarled if outbreaks shut down factories, ports and freight yards.</p></p><p><p>Shipping problems would risk pushing prices higher, adding to inflation pressures.</p></p><p><p>In response, the world’s central banks could raise interest rates and imperil the recovery from last year’s brief but intense coronavirus recession.</p></p><p><p>“Omicron reinforces that the economy remains tethered to the pandemic,’’ Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, said on Twitter Monday. “With each new wave of the pandemic, the economy will suffer slower growth and higher inflation.’’</p></p><p><p>The U.S. economic recovery lost significant momentum when the highly contagious delta variant hit over the summer.</p></p><p><p>Economic growth slowed to an annual rate of 2.1% from July through September from 6.7% from April through June and 6.3% from January through March.</p></p><p><p>Still, more Americans are vaccinated now, and the economy has shown resiliency, regaining speed after the summer slowdown.</p></p><p><p>Zandi tweeted that “the most likely scenario is the economy will manage through each wave better than the one before it.’’</p></p><p><p>Of course, the only way to know which scenario will ultimately occur is to wait to see it through.</p></p><p><p>And that uncertainty in the meantime could lead to more up-and-down swings for the market.</p></p><p><p>“We’re just going to be in the dark for several weeks here,” LPL’s Detrick said.</p></p> ... 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Food, gas prices pinch families as inflation surges globally

<p><p>BUDAPEST, Hungary — From appliance stores in the United States to food markets in Hungary and gas stations in Poland, rising consumer prices fueled by <a href="https://apnews.com/article/coronavirus-pandemic-lifestyle-business-russia-health-70b97e36da53f62eba588b44f2b394bc" target="—blank">high energy costs</a> and <a href="https://apnews.com/article/business-global-trade-e9b91af9bce8e32a7df2d5b4f75a30ee" target="—blank">supply chain disruptions</a> are putting a pinch on households and businesses worldwide.</p></p><p><p>Rising inflation is leading to price increases for food, gas and other products and pushing many people to choose between digging deeper into their pockets or tightening their belts. In developing economies, it’s especially dire.</p></p><p><p>“We’ve noticed that we’re consuming less,” Gabor Pardi, a shopper at an open-air food market in Hungary’s capital, Budapest, said after buying a sack of fresh vegetables recently. “We try to shop for the cheapest and most economical things, even if they don’t look as good.”</p></p><p><p>Nearly two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, the economic impact of the crisis is still being felt even after countries raced out of debilitating lockdowns and consumer demand rebounded.</p></p><p><p>Now, <a href="https://apnews.com/article/coronavirus-pandemic-lifestyle-health-europe-restaurants-9627ef468fa8484796d33e8dc656e989" target="—blank">another surge of infections</a> and a <a href="https://apnews.com/article/coronavirus-pandemic-health-japan-fumio-kishida-82e53a7a17d1a4c30031065d389bda37" target="—blank">new coronavirus variant, omicron,</a> are leading countries to tighten their borders and impose other restrictions, threatening the global economic recovery.</p></p><p><p><a href="https://apnews.com/article/coronavirus-new-variant-omicron-explainer-116ef818ac4a8e7bc23bb28d6511ecad" target="—blank">Omicron</a> has raised new fears that factories, ports and freight yards could be forced to close temporarily, putting more strain on global commerce and sending prices even higher.</p></p><p><p>“A new round of infections could further aggravate supply chains, putting even more upward pressure on inflation,’’ said Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics.</p></p><p><p>The economic reverberations are hitting central and Eastern Europe especially hard, where countries have some of the highest inflation rates in the 27-nation European Union and people are struggling to buy food or fill their fuel tanks.</p></p><p><p>A butcher at the Budapest food market, Ildiko Vardos Serfozo, said she’s seen a drop in business as customers head to multinational grocery chains that can offer discounts by buying in large wholesale quantities.</p></p><p><p>“Buyers are price sensitive and therefore often leave us behind, even if our products are high quality. Money talks,” she said. “We notice that inflation is not good for us. … I’m just glad my kids don’t want to continue this family business, I don’t see much future in it.”</p></p><p><p>In nearby Poland, Barbara Grotowska, a 71-year-old pensioner, said outside a discount supermarket in the capital of Warsaw that she’s been hit hardest by her garbage collection fee nearly tripling to 88 zlotys ($21).</p></p><p><p>She also lamented that the cooking oil she uses has gone up by a third of its price, to 10 zlotys ($2.40).</p></p><p><p>“That’s a real difference,” she said.</p></p><p><p>The recent pickup in inflation has caught business leaders and economists around the world by surprise.</p></p><p><p>In spring 2020, the coronavirus crushed the global economy: governments ordered lockdowns, businesses closed or slashed hours and families stayed home.</p></p><p><p>Companies braced for the worst, canceling orders and putting off investments.</p></p><p><p>In an attempt to stave off economic catastrophe, wealthy countries — most notably the United States — introduced <a href="https://apnews.com/article/coronavirus-pandemic-joe-biden-health-business-richard-nixon-ae06d5cccf066239f9aa7f06491c7698" target="—blank">trillions of dollars worth of government aid</a>, an economic mobilization on a scale unseen since World War II.</p></p><p><p>Central banks also slashed interest rates in a bid to revive economic activity.</p></p><p><p>But those efforts to jump-start economies have had unintended consequences: As consumers felt more emboldened to spend the money they had received through government assistance or low-interest borrowing, and vaccine rollouts encouraged people to return to restaurants, bars and shops, the surge in demand tested the capacity of suppliers to keep pace.</p></p><p><p>Ports and freight yards were suddenly clogged with shipments, and prices began to rise as global supply chains seized up — especially as new outbreaks of COVID-19 sometimes shut down factories and ports in Asia.</p></p><p><p>The rise in prices has been dramatic. The International Monetary Fund predicts that world consumer prices will rise 4.3% this year, the biggest jump since 2011.</p></p><p><p>It is most pronounced in the developing economies of central and Eastern Europe, with the highest annual rates recorded in Lithuania (8.2%), Estonia (6.8%) and Hungary (6.6%).</p></p><p><p>In Poland, one of Europe’s fastest-growing economies, inflation came in at 6.4% in October, the highest rate in two decades.</p></p><p><p>Several shoppers at a vegetable stand in Warsaw said they are anxious about rising prices for staples like bread and are expecting the situation to get worse in the new year, when energy prices are set to rise.</p></p><p><p>Piotr Molak, a 44-year-old vegetable vendor, said he has not yet had to raise prices on the potatoes, apples or carrots he sells but the cherry tomatoes he imports from Spain and Italy, which he buys in euros, have gotten far more expensive as Poland’s currency, the zloty, has weakened.</p></p><p><p>“We will mostly feel this in the new year when electricity goes up,” Molak said. “We are really going to feel it when we have to spend more on our home than on pleasure.”</p></p><p><p>The weakening of currencies across central and Eastern Europe against the U.S. dollar and euro is pushing up the price of imports and fuel and exacerbating the pinch from supply backups and other factors.</p></p><p><p>Hungary’s currency, the forint, has lost around 16% of its value against the dollar in the last six months and slipped to a historic low against the euro last week.</p></p><p><p>That’s part of a strategy by Hungary’s central bank to keep the country competitive and attract foreign companies seeking cheap labor, said Zsolt Balassi, a portfolio manager at Hold Asset Management in Budapest.</p></p><p><p>But prices on imported goods have skyrocketed, and global oil prices set in U.S. dollars have pushed fuel costs to record levels.</p></p><p><p>“As the Hungarian forint, and actually all regional currencies, are more or less constantly weakening, this will constantly raise oil prices in our currencies,” Balassi said.</p></p><p><p>In response to record fuel prices, which peaked this month at 506 forints ($1.59) for gasoline and 512 forints ($1.61) for diesel per liter, Hungary’s government announced <a href="https://apnews.com/article/business-europe-hungary-hungarian-forint-prices-70866c834cc97db3da96e54cfe5bf8c7" target="—blank">a 480-forint ($1.50) cap at filling stations</a>.</p></p><p><p>While giving some relief, Hungary’s upcoming elections, in which the right-wing governing party faces the most serious challenge since it was elected in 2010, were likely a factor, Balassi said.</p></p><p><p>“This is obviously a political decision which has huge economic disadvantages, but probably it makes the households happy,” he said.</p></p><p><p>The political nature of some economic decisions is not limited to Hungary.</p></p><p><p>Poland’s government promised tax cuts on gasoline and electricity and subsidies to the hardest-hit households.</p></p><p><p>Poland’s central bank, also facing a weakening currency, has been accused by critics of allowing inflation to rise too high for too long to encourage economic growth and bolster support for the ruling party.</p></p><p><p>The bank surprised markets with the timing and size of two interest rate hikes in October and November in a bid to ease prices, while Hungary’s central bank has raised rates in smaller increments six times this year.</p></p><p><p>Still, if central banks move too aggressively too soon to control inflation, it could short-circuit the economic recovery, said Carmen Reinhart, chief economist at the World Bank.</p></p><p><p>She worries about higher food prices that primarily hurt the poor in developing countries, where a disproportionate share of family budgets goes toward keeping food on the table.</p></p><p><p>“Food prices are a barometer for social unrest,’’ Reinhart said, noting that the Arab Spring uprisings that began in 2010 were caused partly by higher food prices.</p></p><p><p>Anna Andrzejczak, 41, was still a child when Communism ended in Poland in 1989 and has only a vague memory of the hyperinflation and other economic “tumult” that came with the transition to a market economy.</p></p><p><p>But she feels the prices going up “every time I fill my tank,” with fuel costs having risen some 35% in the last year.</p></p><p><p>“We’ve had a period of stability in past years, so this inflation now is a big shock,” Andrzejczak said. “We don’t have the price increases that we had then, but I think this will cause big stress.”</p></p> ... 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Jumping off the deep end: Julie Tveit is among 90 new volunteers this year at the Christmas Bureau

<p><p>Retired pediatric nurse practitioner Julie Tveit had been looking for additional volunteer opportunities since her retirement in July when she spotted a story in The Spokesman-Review last month <a href="https://www.spokesman.com/stories/2021/oct/29/christmas-bureau-seeks-more-volunteers-to-help-dis" target="_blank">about the need for volunteers at the Christmas Bureau</a>. She immediately put in her application and signed up for as many shifts as she could get.</p></p><p><p>The Christmas Bureau is a collaboration between Catholic Charities, the Volunteers of America and The Spokesman-Review that provides food vouchers to families in need at Christmas along with a toy and book for each child. That appealed to Tveit. “I’m very much a child person,” she said.</p></p><p><p>Tveit said she’s often seen the stories in the newspaper asking for donations to fund the annual effort and has donated a few times. She was also inspired to volunteer by her parents, Dan and Peggy Jeremiah, who were Christmas Bureau volunteers themselves more than a decade ago.</p></p><p><p>“They had some stories about people,” she said. “It seemed like a fun thing to do.”</p></p><p><p>Tveit is one of about 90 new volunteers to sign up this year, more than double the 40 or so new volunteers who sign up in a typical year. That’s in part because changes in how the Bureau operates requires more volunteers to make everything run smoothly.</p></p><p><p>But Tveit didn’t just sign up for a shift or two. She asked to be put on the schedule for every day of the 11 days the Bureau is open.</p></p><p><p>“I think if I’m going to volunteer, I should jump off the deep end,” she said. “I’m looking forward to getting up, getting dressed and going somewhere. I really miss that about going to work.”</p></p><p><p>Most recently, Tveit worked at the Providence Medical Park in Spokane Valley. She worked for Providence for 24 years, and in the 10 years before that she worked as a pediatric nurse at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center. She said she enjoys working with children and is looking forward to her shifts as a toy expert at the Bureau.</p></p><p><p>“I know children and I know developmental levels, so I’m excited about that,” she said.</p></p><p><p>She’s also scheduled for a few shifts doing intake work, checking people in and processing applications. It’s the same job her mother did when she volunteered at the Bureau.</p></p><p><p>Tveit said her mother has been giving her tips, including not bringing her purse and leaving her book at home because she won’t have time to crack open a page.</p></p><p><p>Tveit said she’s not worried about volunteering during a pandemic. All volunteers and recipients are required to wear a mask and be vaccinated. Tveit said she’s used to wearing a mask all day and got her vaccine long ago.</p></p><p><p>“I’m not worried at all,” she said. “I think getting out and volunteering is more important than a pandemic.”</p></p> ... Continue Reading

Spokane mayor proposes task force on mental health: 'We really need to focus on the collective mental health of our community'

<p><p>Mayor Nadine Woodward plans to lead the formation of a regional task force on mental health in 2022.</p></p><p><p>The task force would aim to identify gaps and weaknesses in mental health care and build a regional consensus on what Spokane needs – and approach state leaders for funding to help fill those voids.</p></p><p><p>“We really need to focus on the collective mental health of our community, especially during the pandemic,” Woodward told The Spokesman-Review.</p></p><p><p>Woodward imagines that this task force would include elected leaders from across Spokane County, but also those with experience working in behavioral and mental health.</p></p><p><p>“It’s important to involve the professionals and the electeds,” Woodward said.</p></p><p><p>Demand for mental health services has spiked during the pandemic, and locally it has laid bare the gaps and existing components in need of further support.</p></p><p><p>The challenges brought on by the pandemic are expected to persist, according to the state Department of Health. In its <a href="https://www.doh.wa.gov/Portals/1/Documents/1600/coronavirus/821-103-BHForecastSummary-20211018.pdf" target="_blank">most recent forecast of behavioral health impacts related to the pandemic</a> last month, the Department of Health described a confluence of factors that could strain people’s mental health heading into the winter, including the uncertainty around new COVID-19 variants and returning to work in person.</p></p><p><p>The concept for a mental health task force was included in Woodward’s 2022 city budget proposal, although there is not a specific line detailing its cost, and its exact structure has yet to be determined. The budget still requires the approval of the Spokane City Council, which is expected to vote on it in December.</p></p><p><p>The new regional task force wouldn’t be the first time local health care leaders have come together to address behavioral and mental health needs.</p></p><p><p>Behavioral health was a component of the region’s multifaceted initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic, with a task force on the topic formed and led out of the county’s Emergency Coordination Center.</p></p><p><p>But that task force’s focus was primarily on the COVID-19 pandemic and its immediate impacts on access to mental and behavioral health treatment.</p></p><p><p>For example, as many providers switched to telehealth or reduced in-person hours during the early stages of the pandemic, digital access became critical. The task force worked to <a href="https://www.spokesman.com/stories/2021/jan/14/stcu-to-donate-63000-worth-of-smart-phones-for-edu" target="_blank">secure a $63,000 donation from Spokane Teachers Credit Union to provide smartphones</a> and a year of free service to clients of organizations including Frontier Behavioral Health, CHAS Health, Excelsior and Inland Northwest Behavioral Health.</p></p><p><p>The new regional task force envisioned by Woodward could be broader in its scope but build upon the work and relationships forged between providers and local leaders through the COVID-19 task force.</p></p><p><p>“I feel like it galvanized everyone because it put together a regular process of not just what people were seeing their patients were going through – whether it was substance abuse, domestic violence or mental health issues – it was an ongoing, regular dialogue,” said Dan Barth, the task force’s leader and director of business at Inland Northwest Behavioral Health.</p></p><p><p>Woodward expects the opportunities for improvements to the behavioral health care system to be numerous.</p></p><p><p>Woodward recalls learning – and being surprised by – the fact there is no licensed facility to provide overnight, inpatient treatment for a young child experiencing a severe mental health crisis in Spokane.</p></p><p><p>Inland Northwest Behavioral Health <a href="https://www.spokesman.com/stories/2020/feb/05/the-need-is-critical-inpatient-psychiatric-unit-fo" target="_blank">opened a similar unit for teens experiencing mental health emergencies last year</a>, but it only takes patients as young as 13. The nearest option for younger kids is across the Idaho border at Kootenai Health’s Youth Acute Unit, but Inland Northwest Behavioral Health is looking to expand its services to include younger patients.</p></p><p><p>“Any time our leaders, especially our local leaders, look to create more resources for our community for the mentally ill, it’s very important, and we would support that 100% and see how we would come to the table and help,” said Rlynn Wickel, CEO of Inland Northwest Behavioral Health, a private psychiatric hospital in Spokane operated by United Health Services.</p></p><p><p>Wickel said COVID-19 impacted the mental health of the community because it damaged people financially and limited access to health care, including behavioral health treatment. The effects are particularly apparent in kids, many of whom were isolated at home as schools went online, according to Wickel.</p></p><p><p>Meanwhile, some resources have been harder to come by. Inland Northwest Behavioral Health is hoping to increase its beds, but its efforts have been hampered in part by <a href="https://www.spokesman.com/stories/2021/aug/16/survey-finds-nurses-are-stressed-some-seeking-jobs" target="_blank">the nursing shortage felt statewide</a>.</p></p><p><p>“We’re all competing to try to utilize those resources, and when there’s not enough it limits the access for inpatient health care, and mental health is right there in the middle of it,” Wickel said.</p></p><p><p>There’s also a need for more mid-level treatment options, Wickel said, and the hospital is responding by expanding its intensive outpatient programs.</p></p><p><p>Both the staffing challenges and need for more treatment options predate the pandemic. For youth mental health treatment, the demand for services far surpasses the number of clinicians and resources available to kids and teens in the state.</p></p><p><p>Locally, many outpatient treatment programs have had long waitlists throughout the pandemic, meaning <a href="https://www.spokesman.com/stories/2021/nov/14/it-really-does-get-better-one-teens-journey-shows" target="_blank">a patient might not have a step-down program to discharge to if they have been hospitalized</a>.</p></p><p><p>Leaders and advocates in behavioral health organizations welcomed Woodward’s calls for collaboration.</p></p><p><p>Chauntelle Lieske stepped into the role of executive director at the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Spokane this summer. The organization’s volunteers, who have had experience with mental health issues directly or through family members, describe a “disjointed system,” Lieske said.</p></p><p><p>“This is such a huge system and touches so many different areas, that it seems like a task force would be a good idea to get people at the table,” Lieske said.</p></p><p><p>The Spokane Regional Health District doesn’t directly offer mental health programs, but it does serve people who need behavioral health care, according to spokesperson Kelli Hawkins.</p></p><p><p>“We welcome any effort to help our community address mental health issues, which as we know in turn improves the overall health of our community,” Hawkins said. “Our goal is to promote healthy lifestyles, as well as detect and prevent and respond to diseases.”</p></p><p><p><em>Spokesman-Review reporter Arielle Dreher contributed to this story.</em></p></p> ... Continue Reading

As opposition grows, Washington's long-term care tax to see fixes in Legislature this session

<p><p>Support for Washington state’s long-term care benefit program is divisive, but 51% of Washington residents support the program, <a href="https://www.aarp.org/content/dam/aarp/research/surveys_statistics/ltc/2021/2021-wa-cares-fund-long-term-care-washington.doi.10.26419-2Fres.00498.001.pdf" target="_blank">according to an AARP poll published this fall</a>.</p></p><p><p>A third of residents oppose the benefit program altogether, while 15% are not sure about it.</p></p><p><p><a href="https://aspe.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/migrated_legacy_files//188046/LifetimeRisk.pdf" target="_blank">A 2019 U.S. Health and Human Services research brief</a> found that nearly 70% of people 65 years and older will require long-term services and supports, but few people prepare for this reality.</p></p><p><p>In Washington state, 74% of people are somewhat or not at all confident they could afford long-term care services if they needed them, according to the AARP survey.</p></p><p><p>The Legislature created the <a href="https://wacaresfund.wa.gov" target="_blank">Washington Cares Fund</a> in an attempt to help, but as opposition grows to the tax, the Legislature will likely be adopting fixes this upcoming session.</p></p><p><p>In 2019, the Legislature passed a bill creating the program, which aims to help residents offset the cost of long-term care. It’s the first of its kind in the country.</p></p><p><p>The program requires workers to pay 0.58% of their wages into the fund beginning Jan. 1. Those who qualify can access the benefit – up to $36,500 – beginning in 2025.</p></p><p><p>Workers <a href="https://wacaresfund.wa.gov/apply-for-an-exemption" target="_blank">can opt out of the program</a>, but they must prove they have purchased a private long-term care insurance plan. They must do so by Wednesday or they will begin paying the tax in January. Those who choose to opt out currently do not have the choice to opt back in.</p></p><p><p>As of Monday, the Employment Security Department had received 394,556 exemptions. Spokesperson Nick Demerice wrote in an email that the pace of exemptions coming in has slowed “considerably.” ESD is working through exemption applications now and plans to work after Wednesday to complete them by Jan. 1, when the tax goes into effect.</p></p><p><p>To access the benefit, a resident needs to have worked in Washington at least 10 years at any point in their life without a break of five or more years. Those who have worked and contributed to the fund for at least three of the past six years while working at least 500 hours per year can also access it.</p></p><p><p>To qualify, a resident must need assistance with at least three activities of daily living, such as medication management, personal hygiene, eating, bathing or dressing.</p></p><p><p>The benefit can be used on a number of services and supports, such as professional care in-home or at a facility, home safety evaluations, equipment, training for caretakers, meals or transportation.</p></p><p><p>These benefits cannot be paid for with Medicare or private health insurance (which differs from long-term care insurance). That means a person who does not have long-term care insurance has to spend down their own funds to live in a nursing home, for example, until they reach a certain income level that allows them to receive Medicaid, which will pay for those services.</p></p><p><p>In the AARP survey, 78% of respondents did not know this, however, indicating incorrectly that they believed Medicare, Medicare supplements or private health insurance would pay for home visits from a home caregiver to help with bathing, dressing or medications.</p></p><p><h3>Providing a flexible option to age in place</h3></p><p><p>The reason Washington state’s long-term care system can support a benefit program like this is in part due to <a href="https://www.spokesman.com/stories/2021/feb/06/the-long-term-care-offered-out-of-plain-sight-how" target="_blank">work that’s been happening in the past two decades</a> to focus long-term care where residents want it: in the home.</p></p><p><p>“We knew people wanted to age in place and they wanted to age with a minimal amount of supports,” Cathy MacCaul, advocacy director at the AARP Washington, said. “And the other thing we knew is it was far more cost-effective to pay for in-home support versus institutional support with Medicaid.”</p></p><p><p>Currently, long-term care makes up about 6.3% of the state budget, Bea Rector, director of home and community services for the state Department of Social and Health Services, told a Senate committee last week. That’s about $6.4 billion in the last two-year budget cycle.</p></p><p><p>This program could help offset that cost, supporters say.</p></p><p><p>While opponents of the program don’t want another tax, MacCaul pointed out that the payroll deductions do not just go to the state’s general fund. Instead, the deduction goes into the specific trust that will generate funds for eligible residents to use when they need it.</p></p><p><p>The alternative also costs taxpayers money as well, MacCaul said.</p></p><p><p>“If you’re not wanting to pay into the WA Cares fund, you’ll pay for it in your taxes because you’ll pay for it through the increasing demand on Medicaid,” MacCaul said.</p></p><p><p>The WA Cares Fund can be used once a person qualifies by worked years and residency, regardless of their age. So if a young, working person gets in an accident and needs at-home care or recovery time in a facility, they could tap into the fund .</p></p><p><p>An estimated 18,000 to 30,000 people will be able to access this benefit starting in 2025, and under the current law, a person can use the fund to pay a family member caregiver, a component AARP fought hard for.</p></p><p><p>“We did that because a lot of people, especially women, leave the workforce at their prime earning point to care for a loved one,” MacCaul said.</p></p><p><p>Spouses can also use the fund to pay their partner, should they become the primary caregiver.</p></p><p><p>Ultimately, supporters of the new program think that more education about how long-term care works, who will end up needing it (70% of people over the age of 65) and how Medicare and private health insurance won’t cover those types of supports are all vital to continue in the coming months. AARP’s survey results showed this, as support for the program grew with more knowledge about it.</p></p><p><p>“We found that interesting because it also emphasizes our role of getting more information out about long-term care and information out about the WA Cares fund,” MacCaul said.</p></p><p><h3>A lawsuit and sustainability questions</h3></p><p><p>Opponents of the tax filed a lawsuit in federal court earlier this month against Gov. Jay Inslee and heads of the Employment Security Department and the Department of Social and Health Services, claiming the fund violates federal law.</p></p><p><p>The lawsuit alleges the WA Cares Fund violates the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act, which the lawsuit says forbids any state from passing a law requiring employees to participate in a plan that provides sickness or medical benefits. The lawsuit also alleges the fund violates the equal protection and the privileges and immunities clauses of the Constitution because people who work in Washington but don’t reside there must pay the tax but cannot access its benefits.</p></p><p><p>The plaintiffs in the case are three businesses and six individuals who did not purchase private long-term care insurance and will have to pay the tax come January.</p></p><p><p>Opponents also have concerns about the sustainability of the tax.</p></p><p><p>As of now, the program is fully funded through 2075, assuming the 0.58% tax rate and investment opportunities stay the same. After that, only a percentage of the benefit will be paid out.</p></p><p><p>Part of that is due to the investment ability of the fund. The state constitution allows the fund to only be invested in fixed-income investments, which are often more conservative.</p></p><p><p>A constitutional amendment that would have allowed the state to invest the trust fund into private stock failed in the 2020 general election. Lawmakers have already said they will likely try to push for another constitutional amendment in upcoming years to address these concerns.</p></p><p><p>Opponents are in the process of gathering signatures on an initiative to the Legislature that would overturn the parts of the law that determine eligibility and exemptions to the law. It would keep the program but allow people to opt into it, if they wish.</p></p><p><p>The initiative would need to get at least 324,516 registered voters by 5 p.m. Dec. 30 to be submitted to the 2022 Legislature. If enough signatures are gathered, the Legislature would either adopt the initiative as proposed, refuse to adopt it, which would send it to the ballot next November, or approve an alternative to the proposed initiative.</p></p><p><p>Lawmakers have already indicated they plan to address issues with the long-term care program this session.</p></p><p><h3>Plans for law changes this session</h3></p><p><p>Robyn Cole, who lives in Kootenai County, said her husband who works in Spokane will have to pay the tax but will not be able to receive benefits from it.</p></p><p><p>When she found out about the tax in September, she and her husband rushed to find a private plan so they could opt out. Insurers, however, told them they did not have enough time before the deadline to write a plan.</p></p><p><p>“I’m just puzzled as to how some of these stipulations were created,” Cole said. “Asking people to pay into a fund that they would never benefit from doesn’t compute in my head.”</p></p><p><p>As of now, Cole said they don’t have a private plan. She said they are responsible and have been setting aside funds for when they need long-term care down the road.</p></p><p><p>For now, Cole said they are hoping the Legislature provides fixes in the spring so they don’t end up having to pay for it.</p></p><p><p>Lawmakers have indicated fixing the plan is a priority. Their work will likely be informed by the Long-Term Care Services and Supports Trust Commission, which was formed to make recommendations regarding the fund.</p></p><p><p>“This is a top priority issue for us and something the House and Senate Democrats have been talking about,” Rep. Nicole Macri, D-Seattle, said at a press conference last week.</p></p><p><p>Macri said she expects this issue to be addressed early on in the legislative session, which begins Jan. 10.</p></p><p><p>One big concern from opponents is what border-state residents can do to opt out. Currently, residents of Idaho, Oregon and Canada who work in Washington must pay into the program but cannot receive benefits from it.</p></p><p><p>The commission estimates about there are about 150,000 people who are included in this category.</p></p><p><p>One suggestion from the commission is to automatically exclude individuals who don’t live in Washington from paying into the program. If they moved to Washington in the future, they would be included.</p></p><p><p>People who pay into the program cannot take the benefit with them if they eventually need long-term care in another state. The commission found there was no “feasible” option to recommend to the Legislature to address this issue.</p></p><p><p>According to discussions at a Nov. 10 meeting, the cost to provide fully portable benefits is high. If other states begin exploring similar programs, the commission said it can look into creating a multistate benefit for those who pay in.</p></p><p><p>The commission also recommends allowing temporary workers with nonimmigrant visas, military spouses and veterans who are 70% to 100% service-connected disabled to be allowed to opt out of the program without purchasing a private long-term care insurance plan.</p></p> ... Continue Reading

Getting There: Spokane Valley will weigh new taxes to fund road work

<p><p>Spokane Valley had a road funding problem in 2008. </p></p><p><p>City streets were falling apart faster than Spokane Valley was repairing them. If the city wanted high-quality roads in the future, it’d have to start investing millions of dollars more.</p></p><p><p>So the City Council acted, passing a 6% utility tax that residents paid on their phone bills.</p></p><p><p>“This may be a stopgap, Band-Aid fix, if you would, but it does serve the purpose,” City Councilman Gary Schimmels said in 2008. “It gets us down the road here for maybe three to five years.”</p></p><p><p>Cut to 13 years down the road, and in 2021 Spokane Valley still doesn’t have a consistent, long-term road preservation funding source. The city hasn’t come up with anything better than Band-Aids.</p></p><p><p>Spokane Valley is now spending about $8 million a year preserving and maintaining its 450 miles of road. Busier arterial streets, such as Sprague Avenue, have received the bulk of investment at the expense of neighborhood streets, which make up two-thirds of the city’s network.</p></p><p><p>City roads are in good shape today, according to the pavement condition index, <a href="https://www.spokanevalley.org/content/6836/6896/8303/21677.aspx" target="_blank">a 100-point scale measure of a road’s health used by engineers</a>. That puts Spokane Valley in an enviable position compared to many municipalities.</p></p><p><p>But the $8 million figure, which comes from a hodgepodge of grants, general funds and specific taxes – including the dwindling telephone tax, which now brings in $900,000 a year – simply isn’t enough. Spokane Valley staff say the city has to increase spending to $16 million a year to keep its roads in good condition. For context, the city’s 2022 budget is $108 million.</p></p><p><p>Doubling road spending might sound extreme, but experts say it’s the fiscally responsible move. Fixing and preserving roads is a lot cheaper than waiting for them to fall apart and completely rebuilding them.</p></p><p><p>After years without much tangible action, the City Council took a major step this spring toward addressing its road funding shortfall.</p></p><p><p>The city formed a 22-member pavement dream team made up of business leaders, transportation experts, community representatives and others. The Streets Sustainability Committee’s job was to answer some of Spokane Valley’s most fundamental road preservation questions.</p></p><p><p>After more than eight months of work, <a href="https://www.spokanevalley.org/streetscommittee" target="_blank">the committee’s 258-page report is in</a>. Armed with the information, the City Council could start considering a new road tax, or taxes, as soon as January.</p></p><p><p>“We certainly need to jump into this,” City Councilman Rod Higgins said in a Nov. 9 council meeting.</p></p><p><h3>Getting the show on the road</h3></p><p><p>The Streets Sustainability Committee had three specific goals: learn what people think about the Valley’s roads, figure out what quality of roads people want and analyze the city’s long-term pavement preservation and maintenance funding options.</p></p><p><p>To answer those first two questions, the committee launched a streets survey. They got more than 1,000 responses, a Spokane Valley survey record.</p></p><p><p>Based on the results, people think Spokane Valley’s roads are in good shape and that keeping them that way should be one of the city’s main priorities.</p></p><p><p>The city should spend more on roads without slashing spending elsewhere, survey respondents said. A majority of respondents (60%) even said they’re willing to be taxed more, in certain ways, to generate the needed dollars.</p></p><p><p>“It seemed like people wanted to make investments or additional investments to maintain the streets,” Spokane Valley Mayor Ben Wick said. “I was pleasantly surprised by that, because we’ve been a conservative community that has not wanted to invest more money.”</p></p><p><p>The committee members themselves considered six different taxing options.</p></p><p><p>Some of the options don’t have the potential to produce $8 million. For instance, the city has three different ways it could increase property taxes, but all three combined wouldn’t raise much more than $1 million.</p></p><p><p>That leaves three taxing options with the potential to generate more meaningful revenues.</p></p><p><p>Spokane Valley could impose a utility tax, likely on electricity usage, with or without voter approval. How much money a utility tax would generate depends entirely on how the city would craft it, but it could raise up to $8.1 million a year.</p></p><p><p>Committee members liked the utility tax concept third best of the six options. While it has the potential to cover the city’s road funding gap in one fell swoop, it comes with a host of downsides.</p></p><p><p>Many say a utility tax would disproportionately impact low-income residents and seniors on fixed incomes. A utility tax could also face strong opposition from businesses.</p></p><p><p>Higgins said some businesses are in the Valley because of the cheap electricity.</p></p><p><p>“You certainly don’t want to drive them out,” he said.</p></p><p><p>Wick said he’s not a fan of the utility tax for three reasons.</p></p><p><p>First, he said he prefers the taxing options that require direct voter approval.</p></p><p><p>Second, he said utility tax revenues wouldn’t legally be restricted to transportation projects, and a future City Council could use the money for other purposes.</p></p><p><p>And third, the connection between electricity use and roads is indirect. A new tax for road preservation and maintenance “should have a nexus with transportation,” Wick said.</p></p><p><p>The two tax ideas the committee members liked best both rely on the creation of a transportation benefit district. Transportation benefit district funds must be used for transportation purposes.</p></p><p><p>Spokane Valley could create a vehicle license fee, just like Spokane’s. If the city imposed the fee, anyone who registered their car in Spokane Valley would have to pay an additional $20 a year.</p></p><p><p>At $20 a vehicle, the license fees would raise about $1.4 million. City Council could up the fee to $40 annually after two years and $50 after four years. At $50, the fees would net $3.6 million. With voter approval, the city could charge a license fee up to $100.</p></p><p><p>Vehicle license fees were the preferred option among the 22 committee members, but a 0.2% sales and use tax was a close second.</p></p><p><p>Voters would have to approve the sales tax as a ballot measure. If they passed it, sales and use taxes within Spokane Valley – the transportation benefit district – would increase from 8.9% to 9.1%. Sales tax revenues vary depending on how the economy’s faring, but the tax could be worth between $3.3 and $5.9 million a year.</p></p><p><p>Lance Beck, a committee member and CEO of the Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce, said he thinks the sales and use tax option is the best by far because the tax burden wouldn’t fall entirely on the shoulders of residents.</p></p><p><p>“To me, it’s such a clear-cut answer,” he said. “Your level of pain is based on your level of ability to purchase.”</p></p><p><h3>Messaging matters</h3></p><p><p>Diana Wilhite, one of the at-large community members on the Streets Sustainability Committee, emphasized that it’s critical how Spokane Valley pitches any new tax proposal.</p></p><p><p>“You don’t want to spring something like that on the voting public. You want to give them as much information as you can and explain why you need it,” Wilhite said. “We better give them a very, very, very good reason for why they need to do it.”</p></p><p><p>Wick shared the same sentiment. He said he likes Cheney’s approach, where the city specifically tells voters which streets it’s going to fix before asking for a new tax.</p></p><p><p>“I like having that kind of transparency,” he said. “You have to show them what’s in it for them.”</p></p><p><p>In addition to generating more money for roads, the city’s also going to have to complete a greater variety of preservation projects to make sure it gets more mileage out of its dollars.</p></p><p><p>There are several different ways to preserve a street. Some cities use chip seals, fog seals and slurry seals for instance, each of which involves slathering a covering layer atop an existing road.</p></p><p><p>Spokane Valley hasn’t been using any of those preservation methods. Instead, the city has been focusing its efforts on grind-and-inlays, which entail grinding off a few inches of road and inlaying a new layer of asphalt on top.</p></p><p><p>Grind-and-inlays don’t have the bumpiness or car damage issues sometimes associated with chip seals, but they’re also far more expensive. They can’t be the city’s only option for extending the life of a road.</p></p><p><p>“Long-term, it’s not sustainable to grind-and-inlay, or rebuild, all your streets,” Spokane Valley Pavement Management Program Coordinator Adam Jackson said in the Nov. 9 meeting. “You can’t afford to do it.”</p></p><p><p>Higgins said the city will probably use more than one tax. He also said the program will have to be ramped up gradually.</p></p><p><p>“It won’t be something really swift,” he said. “When we do it, we’re going to have to try something out and see if it fits.”</p></p><p><p>Based on the survey results, Higgins said he’d expect residents will be in favor of a tax so long as it has a clear purpose.</p></p><p><p>“The Valley isn’t necessarily resistant to taxes,” he said. “They’re resistant to frivolous spending. If you can prove your point, they’re generally there with you.”</p></p><p><h3>Work to watch for</h3></p><p><p>Late-night drivers downtown will need to watch out for Avista Corp. utility work on Riverside Avenue between Bernard and Browne streets, running from 8 p.m. Wednesday to 2 a.m. Thursday.</p></p><p><p>The northbound curb lane of Nevada Street between Bismark and Decatur avenues in northeast Spokane will be closed and merged from Tuesday through Dec. 7 for Qwest work.</p></p><p><p>Single-lane reductions on Euclid Avenue for North Spokane Corridor work have been lifted. The road is fully open.</p></p> ... Continue Reading

100 years ago in Spokane: Ferdinand Foch, WWI commander of Allies, feted in Spokane

<p><p>A 17-gun salute welcomed Marshal Ferdinand Foch, supreme Allied commander in the recent world war, to Spokane.</p></p><p><p>The cannons roared out from Fort Wright, and thousands of people lined the downtown streets to greet the French general.</p></p><p><p>“The presence of the marshal seemed to hallow the very pavement on which his car was driven,” said the Spokane Daily Chronicle.</p></p><p><p>Foch had become a hero of almost mythic proportions after he led the French, British and U.S. forces to victory over Germany. Spokane was clearly overcome with pride and emotion to have him in the city, even for only a day.</p></p><p><p>Foch addressed the city in a brief speech during a mass meeting at the Spokane Armory.</p></p><p><p>“I am here with my comrades, the members of the American Legion with whom I fought and with whom, three years ago, I was marching in victory toward the Rhine,” he said in French. “And when I find my comrades here in Spokane, so far from the eastern shores of the United States, and so far from France, so far from the Rhine, I begin to understand the wonderful spirit that took these men of the legion so far from their homes to help me.”</p></p><p><p>One bittersweet moment occurred at St. Maries, Idaho, just before Foch embarked on the train for Spokane.</p></p><p><p>Three French war brides approached Foch and one of them said. “Oh, Monsieur le Marechal, we love America but we are homesick for France.”</p></p><p><p>Another said, “We love our native country. We want to return to France. Do take us back; do please take us back.”</p></p><p><p>Foch seemed confused. At first, he did not know how to reply.</p></p><p><p>Then he grasped the hand of one of the women and said, “But you are here in America. This is your home. You must never forget France, but you must love your new home and honor your husbands.”</p></p><p><p>A correspondent said the women “seemed comforted.”</p></p> ... Continue Reading

First night of Hanukkah honored at Riverfront Park in menorah-lighting ceremony

<p><p>A parade of cars greeted dozens of people at Riverfront Park on Sunday evening, the vehicles donned with sparkling menorahs as they arrived to celebrate the first night of Hanukkah in Chabad of Spokane’s giant menorah-lighting ceremony.</p></p><p><p>Chabad of Spokane’s Rabbi Yisroel Hahn said the giant menorah represented light in the midst of darkness.</p></p><p><p>The holiday celebrates the moment more than 2,000 years ago when Jewish rebel warriors retook the Temple in Jerusalem from the Greek army. Inside the dark temple, the Jews only had enough oil to light the menorah candle for one night but saw it burn for eight days.</p></p><p><p>“The menorah is a reflection of us … It has a body and a flame,” Hahn said. “We all have a body and then a soul that is alight inside of us.”</p></p><p><!--[photoset id=11604]--></p><p><p>Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich held the lit torch as ceremony attendees approached with menorah candles provided by the Chabad of Spokane.</p></p><p><p>“Over the last 18 months, America has been in the need of light,” Knezovich said to the crowd. “Happy Hanukkah, and let’s bring on the light.”</p></p><p><p>U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers also attended, adding that she felt the menorah showed how much each individual can make an impact on another.</p></p><p><p>“The light in each of us makes us special,” McMorris Rodgers said.</p></p><p><p>Robin Covello, a member of Temple Beth Shalom in Spokane, attended with her husband and visiting teenage daughter. She said they decided to come to get to know more people in Spokane’s Jewish community. Beth Shalom translates to the “house of peace,” Covello said.</p></p><p><p>“We just wanted to support the Jewish community in Spokane, which has been so warm and welcoming,” Covello said. “It has been so easy to make friends here.”</p></p><p><p>Covello’s husband, Russ Erickson, agreed, saying they moved in the past year from the Bay Area in California to Spokane as part of new job and lifestyle opportunities. So far, he said, they have not been disappointed.</p></p><p><p>“We wanted to participate as much as we can, and it has been a welcome change for us,” Erickson said.</p></p> ... Continue Reading

Spokane shatters yet another temperature record as Sunday reaches 56 degrees

<p><p>Spokane’s abnormally warm year continued Sunday when the airport reported temperatures of 56 degrees, setting an unofficial new record high for Nov. 28 that has not been touched since 1883. </p></p><p><p>The average high temperature for Nov. 28 is in the upper 30s, said Joey Clevenger, meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s Spokane office.</p></p><p><p>At 1:53 p.m. Sunday the Spokane International Airport got to 56 degrees, Clevenger said, though those temperatures are not offi<a href="https://www.spokesman.com/stories/2021/sep/25/could-a-la-nina-bring-a-snowy-winter-to-spokane" target="_blank">cial until midnight.</a>The last time it was that warm on record was Nov. 28, 1883, Clevenger said.</p></p><p><p>November <a href="https://www.spokesman.com/stories/2021/jul/23/spokane-under-exceptional-drought-for-first-time-e" target="_blank">has seen more precipitation than an</a> average year, though; usually Spokane during this month sees 2.06 inches of precipitation, but as of Sunday the region had reported 2.6 inches.</p></p><p><p>Clevenger said <a href="https://www.spokesman.com/stories/2021/sep/25/could-a-la-nina-bring-a-snowy-winter-to-spokane" target="_blank">the weather event La Niña</a>, defined in the Northwest by cooler than average sea surface temperatures, has brought more moisture into the area.</p></p><p><p>“But we’re still playing catch-up,” Clevenger said, referring to the state’s <a href="https://www.spokesman.com/stories/2021/jul/23/spokane-under-exceptional-drought-for-first-time-e" target="_blank">exceptional drought over the summer</a>. “Right now we’re still close to 5 inches below normal our typical year.”</p></p><p><p>The record-shattering temperature caused closure of Schweitzer Mountain Resort beginning Monday through Friday this week, the ski facility <a href="https://www.facebook.com/Ski.Schweitzer/posts/10160003044887280" target="_blank">said on its Facebook page Sunday</a>.</p></p><p><p>“Without freezing temperatures, it is impossible to make new snow, move snow around and recover. Looks like the temps will start cooling down Friday, so hopefully we can fire up the snowguns (sic) again at that point and continue with snowmaking. Keep up those snow dances!” Schweitzer wrote in its post.</p></p><p><p>Riverfront Park’s Numerica Ice Ribbon also closed for Sunday “due to weather conditions,” <a href="https://twitter.com/SpoRiverfrontPk/status/1465102276062629889" target="_blank">according to the park’s Twitter</a>.</p></p><p><p>Fianna Dickson, communications manager for the Parks Department, said Sunday the combination of warmer temperatures and wind caused some of the ice to thaw. The department will re-evaluate opening Monday morning.</p></p><p><p>September through October of this year saw more average temperatures for Spokane, Clevenger said. And until Sunday, November’s temperatures were also closer to normal.</p></p><p><p>The record low for Nov. 28 was minus-13, which was set in 1896, Clevenger said. As of 4 p.m., the low temperature recorded Sunday was 49 degrees.</p></p> ... Continue Reading

Get ready for Peter Rivera: Former Rare Earth leader has a rare performance at Bing Crosby Theater on Saturday

<p><p>Performing Saturday at the Bing Crosby Theater is a big deal for Peter Rivera. The former leader of the underrated R&amp;B band Rare Earth has envisioned an “evening with” type of performance for the last half decade.</p></p><p><p>“This is definitely a bucket list kind of thing for me,” Rivera said from his north Spokane home. “I’ve bopped around town the last few years thinking about where I could perform this kind of show, and the Bing is the place. The Bing is Spokane, and I feel like I am Spokane after living here for years.”</p></p><p><p>Rivera, 77, is a charismatic vocalist-drummer and could live anywhere. The inveterate tunesmith, who called Los Angeles home for much of his career, has children who reside in Atlanta, Texas and North Dakota. However, Rivera has been hanging out in his north Spokane home for a dozen years.</p></p><p><p>“People have asked me so many times, ‘Why are you here in Spokane?’ It’s easy to answer. I love living in Spokane since it’s big enough not to be a small town, and it’s small enough not to be a big city.”</p></p><p><p>It sounds like there is a tune in there, and perhaps Rivera can write a signature song of Spokane a la Randy Newman’s “I Love L.A.” or Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York.”</p></p><p><p>“I’m writing all of the time,” Rivera said. “It’s my passion.”</p></p><p><p>Rivera has been crafting songs for 60 years, starting with Rare Earth, which signed with Motown in 1969.</p></p><p><p>“We were thrilled to sign a contract with Motown,” Rivera said. “We thought about the artists signed to the label, Marvin Gaye, Gladys Knight and the Temptations, and it was like, wow. The Motown artists were so amazing to us.”</p></p><p><p>However, Rivera reveals the Motown administration was reluctant to embrace Rare Earth.</p></p><p><p>“Motown was a primarily Black record company, and the people behind the scenes weren’t so welcoming,” Rivera said. “However, the recording artists there loved us. It was so much fun recording next to Marvin Gaye and seeing him in the hallway. (Temptations vocalist) David Ruffin was one of my close friends. He loved that we recorded Temptations songs.”</p></p><p><p>Rare Earth’s version of the Temptations “Get Ready” hit No. 4 on the Billboard charts. Rare Earth’s version of the Temptations’ (“I Know) I’m Losing You” also hit the top 10. “Born to Wander” reached the top 20.</p></p><p><p>“It was an amazing time for us,” Rivera said. “We had success, and we were at a place, Motown, where you had all of this amazing talent like Michael Jackson, who I remember watching him at a photo shoot. It couldn’t have gone much better.”</p></p><p><p>The hits continued with “I Just Want to Celebrate” and “Hey, Big Brother,” but Rivera left the band in 1974, only to reunite in 1976. But he left Rare Earth for good in 1983.</p></p><p><p>“Sometimes you just have to move on,” Rivera said. “I had more to accomplish.”</p></p><p><p>Rivera has enjoyed a solo career and continues to record. His latest album, “Encore,” will be featured at the Bing.</p></p><p><p>“I’m excited to play the songs from ‘Encore’ and the hits, as well,” Rivera said. “I’m really looking forward to this special show since all of the songs I’ll play at the Bing will have horn sections. There will be 11 or 12 people onstage. Aside from the horn section, I’ll have two keyboardists and three vocalists.</p></p><p><p>“I’m excited about presenting such a show in front of my friends who live in Spokane. I’ll be performing in front of people I see at the gas station, at the park, at the Costco. This is my city.”</p></p><p><p>The community’s collective kindness touched Rivera when his wife of 43 years, Dabar, died in 2013. “I can’t thank people enough for all that they did,” Rivera said.</p></p><p><p>While dealing with his grief, Rivera continued writing. “It’s what I do,” Rivera said. “I can’t stop.”</p></p><p><p>Rivera has another album’s worth of material that will not be previewed at the Bing.</p></p><p><p>“I’m inspired by what’s happening today,” Rivera said minutes after the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict was announced. “The world is very different than it was, say, 30 years ago.</p></p><p><p>One of his latest compositions, “Trust,” was inspired by current events. “I’m not going to let you take away my freedom / I’m not going to let you tell me how to choose / I’m looking hard for something to believe in / cause all I know there is too much to lose.”</p></p><p><p>And then there is the personal, which is impacting Rivera as he deals with his mortality with “Stay Ahead of the Reaper.”</p></p><p><p>“How do I keep going / I have to stay ahead of the reaper / They say we can’t live forever / At least I’m gonna try / Not ready for the reaper to be here / I don’t think it’s my time to die.”</p></p><p><p>Rivera remains inspired in the twilight of his career. “I still have so much to accomplish,” he said. “At least I’ll have checked one thing off of my box, which is playing the Bing.”</p></p> ... Continue Reading

'Buy it when you see it': Local retailers encouraging patrons to shop early amid supply chain shortage

<p><p>When Auntie’s Bookstore owner John Waite noticed a nationwide shortage of goods, he took swift action to ensure the store had sufficient inventory for the holidays.</p></p><p><p>“We started early. We ordered a huge, broad range of things,” Waite said. “If something was fairly popular on a consistent level month-to-month, we ordered a lot of extras.”</p></p><p><p>Although Waite ordered extra inventory, it only goes so far during one of the busiest shopping seasons of the year.</p></p><p><p>Waite and other Spokane-area retailers are encouraging patrons to shop for Christmas gifts early as supply chain shortages – blamed in part on the pandemic – coincide with what the National Retail Federation predicts to be a record-breaking holiday shopping season.</p></p><p><p>More than 158 million consumers nationwide are anticipated to shop between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday – an increase of 2 million people compared with 2020, according to the retail federation.</p></p><p><p>“In the last three months, we’ve been talking to our customers using social media and telling people to shop early because we think things are going to be hard to get this year,” said Waite, who also owns Merlyn’s Comics and Games in downtown Spokane.</p></p><p><p>Novelty store Boo Radley’s, 232 N. Howard St., has been ordering products year-round in preparation for the holiday shopping season, General Manager Jen Menzer said.</p></p><p><p>“We tried to get orders in from our most popular vendors and tried to get big orders in a little earlier than we normally would,” Menzer said.</p></p><p><p>Boo Radley’s encountered a few supply chain-related challenges, including packaging shortages from suppliers and delivery delays for some orders placed in the summer, Menzer said.</p></p><p><p>Despite those challenges, Boo Radley’s is stocked with inventory and people are shopping for holiday gifts, mostly picking up socks, candles, puzzles and games, Menzer said.</p></p><p><p>“We’re ready. I think it will be a great season for everyone,” she said. “My advice to people is: shop early. Start now and buy it when you see it because it’s probably not going to be there if you wait. It’s going to be crazy the next couple of weekends with all the activities downtown.”</p></p><p><p>The General Store, 2424 N. Division St., began stocking its children’s toy department this summer with expectations of an uptick in holiday sales, said co-owner Miles Barany.</p></p><p><p>“We put together a toy wonderland in the toy department earlier this year. My brother was the brainchild behind it,” Barany said. “He was receiving so much flack because he was ordering toys over the summer, but we are pretty well-positioned to be able to supply the local community with toys.”</p></p><p><p>Barany is anticipating Carhartt gear and other winter items to be in high demand through the holiday season.</p></p><p><p>“We are worried we are going to run out of winter stuff that’s in super-high demand in the middle of December,” Barany said. “As soon as the snow falls, historically, we get swarmed. We sell a whole lot of winter goods and boots.”</p></p><p><p>Barany said he hopes to capture more shoppers during the holiday season seeking outdoor products.</p></p><p><p>“A lot of people want to get out. They want to go to places and want to look at more than just online,” Barany said. “And they have been coming into the General Store.”</p></p><p><p>Consumers face a competitive market for new gaming consoles – such as the Xbox Series X and the Playstation 5 – amid a semiconductor chip shortage and scalpers using bots to snap up the machines online, said Matt McKerall, owner of independent video game retailer Game World, which has two Spokane-area stores and a location in Barstow, California.</p></p><p><p>“Consoles are available out there, but just at heavily inflated prices,” McKerall said, adding some customers mentioned paying $800 on average for a Playstation 5, which has a recommended retail price of $399.</p></p><p><p>McKerall began stocking up on inventory last year because of anticipated inflation, supply chain issues and shipping delays.</p></p><p><p>“I had delays of over two months for some orders, so planning ahead really helped to be prepared for the holidays,” he said.</p></p><p><p>Game World is seeing an increase in consumers buying video games and older Nintendo, Atari and Playstation 4 consoles as they are choosing to spend more time at home.</p></p><p><p>“Multiplayer games have been more popular with families playing games together more now than I’ve seen in years,” he said. “I also get a sense that many people are buying out of nostalgia, taking them back to happy times in their lives.”</p></p><p><p>“Since we have thousands of titles in stock, it’s really not a tough sell for people to find something they will enjoy,” McKerall added. “We also noticed more people buying more board games from us as they are willing to try alternatives for gaming with friends and family.”</p></p><p><p>At the beginning of the pandemic, shoppers were forced to adapt to online shopping as statewide stay-home orders limited in-person shopping.</p></p><p><p>Now, another shift is occurring because of supply chain issues, labor shortages and shipping delays, according to a holiday retail report by WSU’s Carson College of Business and consumer research firm Edelman Data &amp; Intelligence.</p></p><p><p>The report found more than 67% of Pacific Northwest shoppers are enthusiastic about the holiday season, compared with 52% in 2020, signaling they are more likely to travel or spend more on gifts this year.</p></p><p><p>More than 60% of Spokane and Coeur d’Alene residents surveyed in the WSU report indicated they are likely to purchase gifts from local businesses.</p></p><p><p>While some patrons will continue online shopping this year, others are looking to shop in-store because of current supply chain issues, according to the report.</p></p><p><p>More than 61% of Pacific Northwest shoppers indicated they are likely to shop in-store and 44% said in-store shopping is easier because of supply chain issues and shipping delays.</p></p><p><p>“Part of the reason is that shoppers can go in-store and take home the products. They can see what’s available and they know they will have it and do not have to worry about the shipping delays,” said Joan Giese, a clinical associate professor of marketing and international business at WSU. “Part of the reason, too, is they’ve just missed shopping in-store. Our results indicated that people are excited to go back to some sense of normalcy and even wishing that they could go back to the way shopping was before COVID.”</p></p> ... Continue Reading