Regional News

The latest stories from Spokane Public Radio and the Northwest News Network.

Ways to Connect

Courtesy of Mary Lou Johnson

Two people are challenging County Commissioner Al French this year. Bonnie Mager was in our studio last month, and this month we meet Mary Lou Johnson. French is a current commissioner, and Mager was commissioner until French beat her in 2010. Johnson brings a solid background in criminal justice, and knowledge of county programs. She worked as an attorney in Spokane then for a federal district court judge for 17 years.

Idaho, Oregon Lawmakers Unite for Wildfire Money

Jun 12, 2014

Federal lawmakers from two fire-prone states - Idaho and Oregon - are urging both houses of Congress to make funding for wildfires a bit less harum-scarum and disruptive than it is now, and to do it before the wildfire season erupts.

Washington State election directors are attending a conference in Spokane this week. Among the topics, possible replacement of current computer systems that track voter registration in the state’s 39 counties.

Phone-Apps Provide Rides in Spokane, to Cabs Chagrin

Jun 10, 2014
Paige Browning / Spokane Public Radio

  Two national ride-share companies opened in Spokane in March, and the nationwide debate that follows them is just gassing up in Spokane. The companies Lyft and Uber are technically phone-apps, in which people request a ride and are picked by a driver using their own vehicle.

Douglas firs are everywhere in Washington and Oregon. They are the keystone for the timber industry in the Pacific Northwest. And now, climatologists see a new role for the ubiquitous conifers - as early warning canaries in the coal mine of climate change.

Homeless Population on Rise in Spokane

Jun 9, 2014

The population of homeless people in Spokane grew by 12-percent over the past year. New numbers from the annual point in time homeless count show Spokane is home to about 1,100 homeless people.
Mayor David Condon says while the number increased overall, certain populations of homeless decreased.

Fallout from the Veterans Affairs Department healthcare scheduling scandal is rumbling through the Spokane VA hospital and eight other facilities in Washington and Oregon. As a result of a system-wide audit of VA practices in scheduling patients, the Veterans Health Administration has flagged nine health facilities in Washington and Oregon - including Spokane - for further investigation.

Moses Lake Tax Evader Can't Evade Prison Time

Jun 9, 2014

A Moses Lake insurance agent and financial advisor has lost his fight to overturn his conviction for tax evasion. 51-year old J. Scott Vrieling was convicted in 2012 by a Spokane federal court jury for failing to file federal income taxes for 2004 through 2007.

When he was sentenced to two years in prison last year, the judge also told Vrieling to ante up more than 939-thousand dollars in unpaid taxes, a fine of 100-thousand dollars, more than 14-thousand dollars for the cost of his prosecution and an unspecified penalty assessment of 100 dollars.

The US Environmental Protection Agency has announced specific targets that states will need to meet in reducing carbon emissions by the year 2030. For Washington State, it’s an ambitious goal of a 72 percent reduction.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced specific targets that states will need to meet in reducing carbon emissions by the year 2030. For Washington State, it’s an ambitious goal of a 72 percent reduction. The overall nationwide goal set by EPA is a reduction in carbon emissions by 30 percent by the year 2030.

  Portland Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer thinks it's silly to make doctors lie about talking with patients about end-of-life issues if they want to get paid for their time. As he did in 2009, Blumenauer is sponsoring a bill to reimburse doctors for advance care planning.

  Film producer Rich Cowan has entered the race for Washington state Senate. As part of our series on candidates in the November election, we meet Cowan, a Democrat focused on stimulating the job market. He’s running against Republican incumbent Michael Baumgartner.

US Lawmakers Examine Earthquake Warning System

Jun 2, 2014

A U.S. House committee run by retiring Washington Congressman Doc Hastings wants to know if there's a reliable way to warn of impending earthquakes. A Natural Resources Committee oversight hearing next week is titled - "Whole Lotta Shaking: An Examination of America's Earthquake Early Warning System Development and Implementation."

The State of Idaho, two Native American tribes and two federal agencies are teaming up next week to train a new cadre of wild land firefighters. With the advent of the summer wildfire season, the agencies responsible for fighting the fires must bulk up their employee rolls. Next week, somewhere between 80 and a hundred aspiring fire fighters will gather at Camp Lutherhaven on the west side of Lake Coeur d'Alene for a five-day basic training course.

Volume 2014: Bigger Bands, More Variety, Spokane Scene

May 29, 2014
Paige Browning / Spokane Public Radio

The music festival in Spokane this weekend has sold out for the past two years. This year, a band on a big-time label will play. And, the Seattle Weekly dedicated an entire article to the event. Volume has become a must for music fans in Spokane and beyond.

More elected officials are speaking up this week about the release of Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl from Taliban captivity. Today (Tuesday) we spoke with Congress member Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who represents Eastern Washington, about her take on the government exchange.

(Grashio Family) /

It’s a story of Word War two that few remember, The only mass escape of American prisoners of War from a Japanese prisoner of war camp. One of those men was Spokane native.

Author John Lukacs has worked for almost 20 years on uncovering the story of the prisoner of war escape. He originally published a book, called Escape from Davao, which has now been made into a film entitled "4-4-43".

Last week, we introduced you to a private attorney who is running for Spokane county prosecutor. This week, we take a look at his opponent, the current Deputy Prosecutor for the county.
Larry Haskell has worked in the county prosecutors office since 1998, minus a three year stint in the Air Force following 9-11. He also spent a year working in the US attorney’s office in Spokane, working as an assistant US attorney.

When the Columbia River treaty was signed back in 1964, Native American tribes were not consulted. Now, several tribal officials are asking that that they be included in negotiations to renew the treaty.

In a congressional food fight, champions of the humble white potato scored one for spuds. Idaho and Washington senators rarely agree on anything. But in deciding that white potatoes ought to be included in the special Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children - commonly called WIC - Idaho conservatives Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, and Washington liberals Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell all joined hands.

For the first time in five years, hopeful police officers will be able to complete their full training in eastern Washington. Police leaders announced last week that the Basic Law Enforcement Training Academy is to be reestablished in Spokane.

State Parks Fill Up; Coffers Don't

May 25, 2014

Now that the traditional Memorial Day rush to recreate in state-owned parks is over, the people who run, patrol and maintain those parks can catch a breather. But money woes persist. In the three-state Oregon, Idaho and Washington region, the Oregon park system is in the financial catbird seat.

New Coastal Bulk Terminals Bring New Spill Risks

May 25, 2014

Elected and civic leaders in Washington State are increasingly concerned about huge increases in the quantity of oil and coal being hauled across the state. A new study by the Puget Sound Partnership suggests they may have good reason to fret.

El Nino Awakening After Long Hiatus

May 23, 2014

Members of an obscure state agency - the Water Supply Availability Committee - thought their work was done last week after hearing about a late winter onslaught of snow, meaning normal snowpacks and good spring runoff. 

But wait a minute there. They reckoned without a revived El Nino.

If you're not a fan of Washington State's annual 30-dollar Discover Pass to get into state parks, there's a way to beat the fee. The Department of Natural Resources is willing to swap sweat equity for cash.

Clover Sprouts Causing Illness in Northwest

May 21, 2014
Paige Browning / Spokane Public Radio

Health officials have advised people not to eat clover sprouts until further notice because of a possible link to E. coli. 10 people have become ill from E. coli in Washington and Idaho since May 1st, and half of them were hospitalized. 

A well-organized and financed drive to create a national monument in Idaho's scenic Boulder-White Clouds backcountry is generating some push-back from a grassroots g roup. Patrick and Jenny Seefried live in MacKay Idaho on the eastern boundary of the proposed 570,000 acre national monument. They're opposed to any new protections for the rugged area.

Oregon Member of Congress Wants to Trash Reports

May 20, 2014

In the name of oversight, Congress demands thousands of reports each year from hundreds of federal agencies. But at least one Oregon member of Congress thinks it's silly to waste money on reports that are often never read, much less acted upon.

Coal-fired Power Plants in Governor's Crosshairs

May 19, 2014

Another round is beginning in the fight over clean-energy versus cheap-energy in the northwest. Washington Governor Jay Inslee is arm-twisting utilities - including Avista - to wean themselves off coal-generated power over the next several years.

The local race for Spokane county prosecutor includes a man who has worked as a lawyer for the past 24 years, and says it’s  time serious reforms of the system takes place. Breann Beggs says it’s time the status quo in the county justice system be shaken up.