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Today's Headlines: July 5, 2024

Traffic calming measures coming to Spokane streets

Changes intended to make Spokane streets safer for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers are coming, thanks to an ordinance and executive order signed by Mayor Lisa Brown.

The measures were prompted by rising traffic deaths in Spokane, particularly the recent hit-and-run that ended the life of author and foster parenting advocate Janet Mann.

“We hear from every neighborhood across the city that they are frustrated and wanting changes in our city streets now. That people don’t feel safe crossing the street, riding their bicycle, or even driving down the street,” City Councilman Zack Zappone said at the signing ceremony.

Zappone sponsored the safe streets ordinance, which was named in Mann’s honor. The city council gave it unanimous approval in late June.

The documents Brown signed this week create a committee to study and recommend street safety improvements. They also call for more traffic monitoring cameras, additional physical protections for bike lanes, and potential changes to crosswalks, such as slightly raising them to make drivers slow down.

At the signing event, Brown said Spokane police will also be paying more attention to dangerous driving, and that illuminated signs that display drivers’ speed will be installed in neighborhoods around the city.

No, it’s not “just summer” – extreme heat expected soon

A heat wave in the Inland Northwest begins this weekend, and forecasters say the heat will stick around for a few days.

The National Weather Service issued advisories and warnings for extreme heat in eastern Washington and north Idaho, beginning this weekend and ending late Tuesday evening.

Weather Service meteorologist Charlotte Dewey said temperatures will start creeping up today.

“We will see that moderate to major risk for this heat wave will be a prolonged, a longer duration. It's probably our biggest heat wave of this year so far,” Dewey said.

For the weekend and early next week, forecast high temperatures across much of the Inland Northwest will be 15 to 20 degrees above seasonal averages.

Dewey recommends that if you don’t need to go outside, don’t. But if you do go out, she says to remember to take lots of breaks, drink lots of water, and try to avoid being out in the sun for the hottest parts of the day.

Inland Power on wildfire prevention mode

Inland Power and Light has joined Avista in implementing new procedures to reduce fire danger this summer.

The utility didn’t respond to interview requests, but in a newsletter sent to its customers it explains the changes in what it calls its “fire safety mode” procedures.

Usually, when a tree branch or other object falls into a line and interrupts power, the line automatically recharges. The new plan mandates that a crew be dispatched to investigate before it restores electrical service. The idea is to reduce the chance of accidental fire, but it may lead to more frequent and longer power interruptions.

Inland recommends customers take steps to prepare, such as having a backup power source for medical devices or a private water well.

Customers are also encouraged to stockpile three days’ worth of emergency non-perishable food. The utility says in the event of prolonged outages, major appliances, TVs and computers should be unplugged to prevent damage when the power comes back on.

WA and ID revenues are below projections

This week marked the beginning of new fiscal years for Washington and Idaho. Tax revenues in both states are coming in below economists’ projections, which is prompting lawmakers to think about their budget options.

In contrast to the past two years, which featured record surpluses for Idaho, the end of federal pandemic relief money and lower income tax revenues probably mean slimmer margins for fiscal 2024.

Speaking to the Idaho Capital Sun, state Senator Scott Grow, co-chair of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, said he was disappointed by the lower revenues. He added the legislature may have to look at tightening the budget beyond this year.

In Washington, lower capital gains tax collections and consumer spending led to a half-billion-dollar gap between actual revenues and what economists had projected.

David Schumacher, budget director for the governor’s office, told the Washington State Standard that may mean the state will have to tap some of its budget reserves to fill gaps until next year’s legislative session.

Idaho lawmakers will start planning their budget in September. Washington’s process will kick off in December.

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Reporting was contributed by Brandon Hollingsworth, Owen Henderson, Steve Jackson, Jerry Cornfield and Clark Corbin.