Columbian Newspaper

Avoid these common real estate scams
Author: Hunter Boyce, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

From buying to renting to selling, real estate scams can target landlords and local residents in many situations. It’s a criminal practice that can seriously damage your wallet, credit and peace of mind.

  • Wire scams

According to, one of the common real estate fake-outs is the wire scam.

“This is basically a scam where someone pretends to be your real estate agent by hacking into or copying their contact information and calling you to deposit good-faith money or an earnest deposit into a fake bank account,” Ron Wysocarski, a real estate broker based in Port Orange, FL, told

Before fulfilling any money transfer requests, Wysocarski said it is important to meet your real estate agent face to face to ensure everything is on the up and up.

  • Foreclosure relief scams

For those on the brink of losing their homes, not all financial relief opportunities are legitimate.

In foreclosure relief scams, scammers target individuals on the brink of losing their homes, Rocket Mortgage reported. A fake company will reach out to the victim with promises that it can stop the foreclosure or modify a loan in exchange for payment. It’s a scam.

To avoid the scam, Rocket Mortgage said that you should never pay for a service before it has been completed. The company also suggested researching the individual or company that is promising to help you.

  • Fake listing scams

Another popular scheme is the fake listing scam, according to Bank Rate. Scammers will post fake property listings on Craigslist, social media or any other platform that interested buyers may wander onto. While the photos they use may be from real listings, their offers are anything but.

The scammers will usually ask for an upfront payment to allow you to visit the listed property. Be suspicious of anyone that asks for upfront deposits to see a property.

“Avoid doing transactions via email or on the phone,” Nicole Durosko of Warburg Realty told Bank Rate. “It’s best to be face-to-face to confirm the property ownership, sign any required documentation and make a payment.”

  • ‘We buy homes!’ scams

Somewhere along the road in your travels, you have likely seen a flier that advertises a business or individual willing to buy your house. More often than not, according to Finance Buzz, it’s a scam.

The scam usually promises homeowners quick cash for their houses. To convince you to sign over your deed to them early, they will promise a fast payout. However, the scammers will have control over your property once the deed has been signed over — still leaving you on the hook for the monthly mortgage payments.

Finance Buzz reported that it’s important to pay attention to the details to avoid these scams. It is unlikely that a legitimate business is advertising their services on a cheaply printed flier placed on the side of a road or ask you to sign partially blank or complicated documents.

Ex-Capitol Police chief nets deal for Jan. 6 book
Author: Associated Press

NEW YORK — The chief of the U.S. Capitol Police during the Jan. 6 siege has a book deal. Steven A. Sund’s “Courage Under Fire: Under Siege and Outnumbered 58 to 1 on January 6” will come out Jan. 3, just shy of the two-year anniversary of the riot by supporters of President Donald Trump.

“It’s time to break my silence and reveal everything that I know happened,” Sund said in a statement released by Blackstone Publishing.

Sund resigned under pressure soon after Jan. 6 and testified the following month that he hadn’t seen an FBI field report warning of potential violence. He said the overrunning of the U.S. Capitol was the result of widespread failures.

According to Blackstone, Sund will provide “a detailed and harrowing minute-by-minute account of the attack.”

Host Arnett, ‘Lego Masters’ return for season three
Author: Rodney Ho, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

ATLANTA — The challenges on Fox’s “Lego Masters” often take 10 to 12 hours. The editors pare them down to mere minutes for each episode.

Will Arnett, as the gleefully wisecracking host, spends much of that time goofing around with the teams, most of which will end up on the cutting room floor.

During one of the final challenges, with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution present at ATL Film Studios in Hiram in April, Arnett asked the teams: “I don’t want to make this all about me because you’re the builders but how have I done as a host?”

“So good!” a contestant said.

“Do you like me?” Arnett asked all the teams.

A couple of people murmured, “Yes.”

Arnett looked faux offended: “That was not convincing!”

Indeed, actor Arnett of “Arrested Development” fame is the glue that keeps the show percolating. (Lego themselves, of course, require no glue.)

“I’m the in-house cheerleader,” he said during a brief break in the day’s shoot. “It’s ten hours of improvising a day.”

Arnett said now that the show has entered its third season, the quality of the teams have only gotten better.

“A lot of big-time builders watched us doing this show and realize it has value in the Lego world,” Arnett said. “Now the big Lego builders from around the country and world want to be part of this. It’s a great endorsement.” (Last year’s winners Mark and Steven Erikson are brothers from Newnan and pocketed $100,000.)

And the show itself generates more adult Lego fans, he said, the types who spend $179 on a Rolling Stones tongue logo, $250 on a Marvel Sanctum Sanctorum or $315 for a facsimile of the “Home Alone” house.

“The adult Lego community is massive and thriving and growing by the day,” Arnett said. “And people build as families now. So our audience cuts across all demographics.”

Arnett himself was first attached to the Lego world after he voiced Batman in the hugely successful “The Lego Movie” from 2014 and its multiple sequels. “I couldn’t have conceived back in 2014 what an impact it would have on my life,” he said.

Indeed, he said he absolutely adores hosting “Lego Masters.” He said challenges this year include one involving live dogs as models, a show built around bull riding and an entire episode focused on treehouses. Jeff Gordon shows up for a race-car challenge and Chris Pratt arrives to promote “Jurassic World Dominion” for a dinosaur-themed build.

“They have to show some technical skills, sometimes with power and light,” Arnett said. “There’s a water challenge. We provide them water pumps and they have to incorporate them into the build.”

Arnett said he loves mocking the constructs of a reality competition show and the hyperbole attached to it. He opens season three, for instance, by stepping on set and saying, “You like what I’ve done with the place?” Then he paused. “It’s the same. Literally exactly the same.”

Jamie Berard and Amy Corbett, who are actual Denmark-based Lego designers, are back again as judges.

“We get inspired by what the teams create,” Berard said. To him, Lego has survived 90 years because the bricks serve multiple purposes, even for people well into adulthood. “You can use them as a way to relax and an outlet to unwind,” he said. “You also have the other spectrum where it gives people a chance to express their ideas. This is an art form.”

While adult Lego building has been very male heavy, Corbett said the show has helped attract more women into the field. Of the 12 teams this season, two are all female and five are male-female combos.

“I do love Lego,” Corbett said. “We have to support each other and encourage each other.”

Clark County History: Clark or Clarke?
Author: Martin Middlewood for The Columbian

Why Clark County once tagged an “e” on Clark and now doesn’t is curious, more so because the errant letter stubbornly clung like a cocklebur to a wool shirt for 70 years. Likewise, the county and city names were similarly unsettled after Congress in 1853 split the Oregon Country into two territories — Oregon and Washington.

Clark County’s namesake William Clark headed the Corps of Discovery mapping great swaths of the Louisiana Purchase. His signed documents tell the story. He never wrote his surname with a final “e.”

The Oregon Territory sent its first representative, Samuel Thurston, to U.S. Congress in 1848. The anti-British Thurston wrote the Donation Land Claim Act and worded it to assign the Hudson’s Bay Company land claim to the Oregon Territory. To the dismay of the British, the act passed in 1850. It awarded 640 acres to any married couple who’d occupy it for four years. Every family settling in Oregon land weakened the British claim.

Until 1849, much of the Washington Territory was one county, Vancouver County. It extended from the Columbia River to the Canadian border and from the Pacific into today’s Idaho and Montana. In 1849, the Oregon Territorial Legislature changed that, declaring “the name of the county of Vancouver be and hereby is changed to Clark.” From then, the Oregon Legislature seems to have consistently shunned that final “e.”

When Congress split Washington Territory from Oregon in 1853, it came dangerously close to being dubbed the Territory of Columbia. Fortunately, a Kentuckian representative, Richard Stanton, explained its potential confusion with the District of Columbia.

So how did the errant letter sneak onto the county’s name? Historian Edmond Meany, in his book “Origin of Washington Geographic Names,” claimed it an error. So, it’s likely a long-dead proofreader failed to strike the “e” because he thought it correct, was unaware of the Oregon Legislature’s and Clark’s spelling, or simply imagined the silent vowel added flourish to Clark’s surname.

Regardless, Washington’s new territorial Legislature was at least consistent, and so the “e” crept into legal documents. In its first session in 1854, the Legislature spelled the county’s name as Clarke. Even the county commissioners’ seal designed that year carried the flaw. From there, the weed of error spread through early newspapers, including The Columbian. So, it’s no wonder the same weed flourished locally, sticking like a burr.

The looming 1925 Fort Vancouver Centennial sparked the Washington Historical Society’s interest in the spelling. In 1923, Meany had predicted the misspelling was “too deeply imbedded in law, literature and custom to be completely corrected.” Yet Charles Hall, a state representative from Clark County, introduced a 1925 bill to drop the extra letter. It passed, lopping that final “e” from the county’s name for good.

Martin Middlewood is editor of the Clark County Historical Society Annual. Reach him at

How North Bend, Wash., became a true Northwest mountain town
Author: Gregory Scruggs, The Seattle Times

NORTH BEND — In March 1993, ski shop owner Martin Volken pulled over in North Bend on his way home to Seattle after a day at Snoqualmie Pass. It was a rare cold, sunny day with a white carpet running halfway down Mount Si, normally too low in elevation to hold snow.

The snowcapped mountain framing a pair of rivers with a village nestled in between reminded him of his childhood in the Swiss canton of Valais. That pit stop sparked an idea. In 1994, the aspiring mountain guide moved his young family to North Bend as an early visionary that the ailing logging town and Interstate 90 truck stop had a future as a true mountain town, a community where outdoor recreation in the mountains is a central part of the culture and economy.

“I was still a small town Swiss mountain boy,” Volken said over a cortado at Arête Coffee Bar on a bustling morning in August.

Today, Volken owns Pro Ski and Mountain Service, a flourishing outdoor gear store and guide bureau. The coffee bar, named for a term that describes a sharp mountain ridge, sits inside the shop. Both the Northwest Avalanche Center and Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance recently relocated to offices upstairs, bringing several outdoor nonprofit jobs to town.

Volken and two business partners bought the two-story building, formerly North Bend City Hall and Fire Station, in 2019. To purchase the property, they started a venture whose name speaks to the spirit that Volken has helped cultivate in North Bend, inspired by his Swiss upbringing: Mountain Culture, LLC.

That culture was on display Sept. 25 during the Mount Si Hill Climb — the current iteration of an up-and-down race that Volken started in 2013, inspired by similar races in the Alps — which starts and ends at Pro Ski, with post-race beer from North Bend’s Volition Brewing.

As the racers climbed Mount Si, they used a trail dedicated in 1931. For lifelong residents of North Bend — a frontier outpost once named Mountain View — the town has long been intertwined with the outdoors. North Bend has grown considerably since a building moratorium expired in 2009. New residents and businesses involved in the outdoor industry are a considerable part of that growth, but so are other new arrivals in this community within relatively easy commuting distance of the Seattle metro area.

Mount Si isn’t the tallest or toughest peak in the Cascades, but for North Bend residents, the mountain still offers over 3,000 vertical feet of training out their back door. For Volken, that access makes North Bend an ideal Pacific Northwest mountain town. There are opportunities to rock climb and mountain bike from town, with skiing just 25 miles away.

North Bend may not hold a candle to Moab, Utah, or Bishop, Calif., but Volken and over a half-dozen outdoors-related businesses and organizations who followed in his footsteps to the town, especially over the last six years, have found the raw material for a bona fide mountain lifestyle in proximity to big-city amenities like plentiful jobs and an international airport.

“It’s all about access for an outdoor lover,” Volken said. “It doesn’t have to be world class — it just needs to be good.”

Mountain town backbone

On an August morning, a dozen people work an assembly line as a half-dozen shop dogs roam inside snowboard binding manufacturer Karakoram. By the loading dock, boxes await shipment to France and Japan.

It would have been easier for Karakoram’s co-founders, twin brothers Bryce and Tyler Kloster, to set up shop in Auburn or Kent, where industrial land is plentiful, after the business outgrew their Snoqualmie Ridge condo. But they insisted on staying near the prime testing grounds of Snoqualmie Pass. The area around North Bend is also where the brothers — and judging by the bike rack, many of their employees, for whom Karakoram is an offseason job from the ski resort — spend their summer free time riding mountain bikes.

“It’s where we want to be even outside of work,” Bryce said.

Mountain views alone don’t make a mountain town. North Bend’s growing roster of outdoor businesses and organizations provide the economic and cultural backbone. Across the street from Karakoram, mountain bike coaching service The Line occupies an old auto-repair shop. A half-mile down the road, Seattle Mountain Rescue is working feverishly on the Mountain Rescue Center, a centralized search-and-rescue hub and outdoor safety training center a stone’s throw from the Little Si Trailhead.

Some outdoor entrepreneurs are doubling down in North Bend. Former teacher Luke Talbott left the classroom in 2007 to start Compass Outdoor Adventures, which hired ski and climbing bums as instructors for kids activities like introductory rock climbing, biking the Snoqualmie Tunnel and jumping off boulders into Rattlesnake Lake.

This past summer saw 200 campers, with another 200 on the wait list. In 2015, the company added corporate team building events to its slate — a hike up Little Si with a gaggle of Googlers was its first booking — a line of business that doubled in revenue from 2019 to 2022.

Now Talbott and business partner Karin Ayling are throwing open the doors of South Fork, an all-day restaurant and bar catering to the mountain, river and lake crowd.

“What if we could build a place to stop on all your adventures?” Talbott said of the establishment’s concept over a curry bowl lunch last month before paddleboarding home on the South Fork Snoqualmie River. The restaurant is slated to open Oct. 6.

“North Bend is the last town between here and Cle Elum,” Talbott said. “There’s wilderness at the next exit.”

A town on the edge of the wilderness drew in Scott Rinckenberger, who grew up in King County and skied for K2 as a sponsored athlete. He’s now 20 years into a career as a mountain photographer. Rinckenberger’s studio sits on the second floor of a building on North Bend’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-it main street.

“Look out the window and you’ll get a pretty good indication why I’m here,” he said.

Rinckenberger spent plenty of time in internationally renowned mountain towns like Tahoe, Jackson Hole and Whistler during his ski model career in the late 1990s and early 2000s. While those towns have large destination mountain resorts with high-end hotels, Olympic pedigree and mass tourism, he prefers what North Bend and the Cascades offer, and set up his studio here nearly seven years ago.

“I like being in wilder, less densely populated mountains,” he said.

Building an outdoor brand

When Volken was trying to persuade his Seattleite wife to move to North Bend in the early 1990s, there were no gear or bike shops, mountain photographers, adventure-themed watering holes or outdoor industry businesses. Not that Volken was the first to see North Bend’s potential as an outdoor gateway.

“It was a town that used to be a logging town,” he said. “The public perception was that it was a backwater.”

Some “Twin Peaks” fans rolled through on weekends to take photos at Twede’s Cafe. Long-haul truckers pulled off I-90 while driving through the Cascades. The town flirted with faux-Bavarian à la Leavenworth — an old motel sign still bears vaguely Germanic script — but never committed. At best, it was known for the outlet mall that opened in 1990 in an early effort to reinvent the town.

Settlers began farming in the Snoqualmie Valley — the traditional home of the Snoqualmie Indian Tribe — in the 1800s. North Bend was founded in 1889 in anticipation of a railroad from Seattle, which baked in some day-tripper tourism from an early date. Logging took off in the early 1900s, but eventually sputtered. The last Weyerhaeuser mill closed in 2003. The first cross-state highway opened in 1913 and eventually became I-90. Until 1978, North Bend had the dubious distinction of being the last traffic light on I-90 in Washington, with the horrendous traffic backups to prove it.

“Why do you want to move all the way out there?” Volken said, describing the reactions he got at the time. Even though North Bend is only 30 miles from Seattle — closer than Tacoma, a hair farther than Everett — the urban-rural contrast made the trip seem longer to the couple’s Seattle social circle. “The different mentalities artificially increased the perceived distance,” he said.

The weather was also an obstacle. Without the benefit of the Olympic rain shadow, North Bend receives twice the rain of Seattle. Inland from the cooling saltwater, North Bend also runs hotter in the summer — though the abundance of swimming holes helps.

Volken commuted to his Aurora Avenue shop, ProSki, for five years before realizing he could be a catalyst in North Bend. He opened Pro Ski North Bend in 1999 and added a guide service, the same year he wrote a seminal guide book on backcountry skiing in Snoqualmie Pass. (He sold the Seattle location, which retains the ProSki moniker, in 2005.)

But that same year froze North Bend in amber for a decade. The City Council imposed a building moratorium due to insufficient water rights. In 2007, North Bend struck a deal with Seattle Public Utilities and let the moratorium expire two years later, unleashing pent-up demand for exurban development in growing King County and allowing North Bend to fulfill its obligations under the Growth Management Act. At the time, Volken recalls, a mountain view was a selling point, but more for aesthetics than for ogling climbing routes from the porch.

In 2012, city planner Gina Estep invited Volken to join North Bend’s economic development commission along with other residents in the outdoor industry like Guy Lawrence, general manager of The Summit at Snoqualmie. The commission volunteered its time to conduct a brand audit and asset inventory. Volken finally had a vehicle to push the idea that the mountains, rivers and lakes were integral to North Bend’s future.

“We can decide what businesses we’re going to recruit and how it will affect zoning,” he said. “With consistent, disciplined execution of an agreed-upon outdoor brand, it will start to take on a life of its own and attract residents.”

In 2015, North Bend revealed its new brand statement, which currently reads: “We are a highly livable small town that is the premier outdoor recreation destination in the Puget Sound region. Easy to reach — hard to leave.”

But Volken realized a brand was worthless without political follow-through. The next year, both he and Trevor Kostanich, a fellow mountain guide and committee member, won election to City Council. The alpinist caucus, as it were, oversaw legislation that requires the council to analyze whether proposed developments will help or hinder the town’s outdoor brand. That question was put to the test as the council weighed a proposed housing development on 32 acres before eventually approving a joint purchase to conserve the land and instead build a mountain bike park.

Volken admits those decisions were a tough sell on the council, as elected officials less invested in the outdoor brand pointed to the loss of some $5 million in impact fees, while the value of a mountain bike park is hard to quantify.

Looking back on the decision, Ken Hearing, mayor from 2004 to 2020, does not believe the debate came down to housing versus recreation.

“It was more philosophical: Do we need to retain more open space?” he said. “Everyone finally agreed it was a good thing.”

Hearing, 71, was born and raised in North Bend. He considers himself an outdoorsman — he hunts and fishes — but worked in a different industry, running burger joint Scott’s Dairy Freeze for over 20 years. While he lauded the economic development commission’s work preparing the brand statement and attests that it has widespread support, he regrets that they did not include any lifelong residents like himself.

“You have to include a bigger variety of people from different walks of life and longevity [in town] in order to get a buy-in from just about everybody,” he said.

Growing pains

To some, the surging outdoor recreation around North Bend is too much.

For North Bend’s original inhabitants the Snoqualmie Indian Tribe, who know the mountain as q??lbc?, a competitive mentality disrespects this sacred site.

“Too often q??lbc? is looked upon as a challenge, instead of embracing how unique and special it truly is, how our interaction with place is part of a larger interconnected and dynamic relationship,” the tribe writes on the website of Snoqualmie Ancestral Lands Movement.

North Bend likewise is under pressure to house its newcomers. The residential flywheel is spinning, just as Volken envisioned, though perhaps too fast when it comes to escalating home prices.

In May, Dan Henning and Michelle Howden closed on a 1,600-square-foot house in North Bend. The couple is thrilled to live where they can bike to rock climbing or hit mountain biking trails without having to drive. “It lowers the threshold to getting out there,” said Henning, 40, an emergency physician. Howden is a former EMT and technical rescuer for wildland firefighters now studying to become a physician assistant.

But when it comes to real estate, “This is not a step down from Seattle,” Henning said. They bought for a cool $1.06 million after selling Henning’s Wallingford home for $1.03 million.

The median sale price in North Bend has roughly doubled since April 2020. While new residential construction is almost as constant a sight as Mount Si, local real estate agent Jason Gibbons said the market remains out of reach for many and that “the housing is not suitable for the solo first-time homebuyer.”

The outdoorsy crowd is a “notable demographic” among North Bend homebuyers, but they’re not the majority, Gibbons said, noting that they also compete with folks drawn by larger homes, bigger lots or more conservative politics.

“They just find they can commute to Redmond and they have the money to buy the house. In a lot of cases, they came from outside Puget Sound,” Hearing said. “They came here for the same reason my grandfather came here in 1924: quality of life.”

That sudden lurch into unaffordability pains many.

“Cost of living weighs on us a lot,” Tyler said. “What can we do as a company for our employees to have the ability to live here and buy a home? … With tech money, it’s hard to compete.” Karakoram pays $17-$22 per hour on the production line, but some employees commute from as far as Seattle and Cle Elum, Kittitas County.

“This issue is not limited to North Bend or the Snoqualmie Valley. Today’s housing market is affected by many elements that are out of the city’s control,” wrote Mayor Rob McFarland via email. “While we are pleased to see an array of new, diverse housing options being built right now in North Bend, we acknowledge that affordable housing is a real, immediate challenge.”

“We don’t have enough living-wage jobs,” Volken said.

“I like mountain culture, and you can’t have the culture without the people,” he said.

Despite the challenges, Volken takes the long view. “It’s a better town now than it was 30 years ago,” he said.

Estrich: Election law next frontier of battle
Author: Susan Estrich

This might be the first time the Conference of Chief Justices, the group representing the top courts in all 50 states, has weighed in to an ideologically charged Supreme Court case. And with good reason. The issue is whether state courts and state constitutions limit the role of state legislatures in election law cases.

If North Carolina Republicans have their way, state legislatures would wield extraordinary power unchecked by the state courts or state constitution.

The case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court involves the redistricting map drawn up by the North Carolina Legislature, which the Supreme Court of North Carolina found to be unconstitutional as a matter of state law. The map drawn by North Carolina Republicans was found to be the sort of partisan gerrymandering that violates the state constitution.

On appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, North Carolina Republicans are arguing that the state court lacked the power to review the map. It is, the Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court told reporters, “the biggest federalism issue in a long time.”

It is becoming clear that election law is the next frontier in an ideological battle that began with the Trump campaign but certainly will not end there.

The need to protect the electoral process from the ugliness of partisan politics has never been greater. That the state courts have an extraordinarily important role to play in ensuring the integrity of elections should go without saying. State courts interpreting state constitutions have a vital role to play in enforcing the rule of law.

As then-Justice William Brennan recognized half a century ago, the state courts become the first resort in protecting the most fundamental rights, including the right to vote, and to have one’s vote count equally. That is what was at stake in North Carolina, and it will not be the only place these issues play out.

Four members of the Supreme Court have indicated sympathy with the independent state legislature theory, which is why the chief justices’ decision to file a brief in the case is so important. The need to protect the integrity of the electoral process against those who would subvert it for partisan gain has never been greater.

Hopefully, the so-called conservatives on the Supreme Court will see it that way. But I’m not counting on it.

The question of whether state courts should enforce state constitutional protections of voting rights should be easy to answer with a resounding yes. That it is an open question is clearly what troubled the conference of chief justices, and rightly so.

Donnelly: County jail decision is irresponsible
Author: Ann Donnelly

On Sept. 20, the Clark County Council and county manager, with minimal notice to the public or stakeholders, abruptly removed management of its troubled jail from the sheriff’s office. Less than a week later, county staff, without a competitive and transparent hiring process, installed former sheriff candidate David Shook as manager of a new Jail Services department.

Chief Corrections Deputy Phil Sample was not informed of the decision to replace him with Shook until the last minute, after many other jail staff had been notified. He calls this treatment “humiliating.”

The chain of events, lacking respect for the public, demonstrates irresponsibility on the part of County Manager Kathleen Otto and of all the council members. It does not inspire public confidence in the new jail team.

Likely influencing the timing of these decisions, lively election contests to be decided in weeks are drawing supporters for council and sheriff. Those offices involve the very public servants most directly involved in public safety and the jail. The supporters pounding in the yard signs want their candidates to be in the decision process, not just in the subsequent transition.

Home-style wisdom would tell the county that the fact that one can do something does not mean one should do it. This is one of those times.

The county has the legal authority to manage and staff its jail. The radical steps they took, including a new advisory committee, may ultimately be the best decision. Similarly, Dave Shook may emerge as the ideal hire. We don’t know. The timing is suspect, with a new sheriff and council soon to be sworn in.

At the Sept. 20 council meeting, the new department was approved through a brief resolution presented cursorily as a consent agenda item. The supporting staff report claimed improbably that there were “no council policy implications” and “no administrative policy implications.” Addressing “community outreach,” it promised that “if approved additional information will be forthcoming in the jail transition plan.” That is, after the fact.

In a Sept. 15 OPB news report (“Clark County sheriff says county angling to run jail,”), Sheriff Chuck Atkins admitted he was “all for it” but not sure why the action was being taken.

On Sept. 20, in public comments, sheriff candidate John Horch called for delaying the decision, observing that stakeholders had not been consulted, nor had budget impacts been assessed. Opponent Rey Reynolds acknowledged the long-standing problems at the jail but stated he was “completely against” the move until the “voice of the people” could be heard. Other public commenters overwhelmingly agreed.

Otto and Deputy Manager Amber Emery, who will supervise the new department, responded that a separate jail department had been discussed “on and off for years.” They promised they would “start bringing people together,” in an effort to “get it right.” They promised the new sheriff would be “at the table.” Sources tell me they already knew they were going to appoint Shook.

Prior to the vote to approve the new department, council members were uncharacteristically unanimous in accepting that the changes would improve transparency and accountability. Council members asked softball questions, such as “am I correct in thinking this will bring a new level of accountability?” (Answer: yes).

It was a puzzling and ultimately shameful demonstration of group think.

Back on the campaign trail, council candidates for Districts 1, 2, and 5 have been virtually unanimous in opposing or questioning the council’s pre-election fait accompli. Michelle Belkot (District 2) expressed “shock and dismay” and wrote that “this decision was made without workshops, open hearings, or consulting stakeholders.” She criticized the finality of these decisions, saying they preempted future council action.

At a Sept. 26 forum, Glen Yung (District 1) observed that with the Shook appointment, no “normal, typical process was followed.” Opponent Hector Hinojosa stated that many county employees were “left out … disrespected,” and that the manner in which the decision was made generated “distrust.” Hinojosa called for an investigation into how the decision came about.

In January, the council, with three new members, must do what it can to diminish the untimely distrust between law enforcement and the county, and to hold irresponsible county employees accountable.

Progress toward restoring public safety is at stake.

McManus: Biden has time to correct gaffe
Author: Dylan McManus

‘The pandemic is over,” President Joe Biden declared last month as he toured the Detroit Auto Show. “We still have a problem with COVID. We’re still doing a lot of work on it. But the pandemic is over.”

“No one’s wearing masks,” he added, gesturing toward the convention center crowd. “Everybody seems to be in pretty good shape.”

But the COVID epidemic isn’t over. It has arguably lost its status as a disease that was utterly beyond control. But it’s still causing more than 400 deaths a day, roughly three times as many as a bad season of influenza. New variants are still emerging; a wave of infections this winter could turn Biden’s optimistic claim to ashes; and long COVID, a debilitating chronic condition, affects an estimated 16 million Americans.

“We are not where we need to be if we are going to, quote, ‘live with the virus,’ ” Dr. Anthony Fauci, Biden’s chief medical adviser, said a day after the president’s statement was broadcast on CBS’ “60 Minutes.” The number of COVID deaths, Fauci said, is still “unacceptably high.”

Biden has a long history of gaffes, statements that misfire or land badly. Most are inconsequential. This wasn’t. The president’s statement was bad on two levels — public health and politics.

First, public health. For months, Biden and his aides have struggled to persuade Americans to get vaccinated against COVID — and to get boosters, especially if they are 60 or older. The results have been disappointing: Less than half the eligible population has accepted even a single booster.

Public health officials are swapping reports of people who heard Biden’s statement and decided to forgo another vaccination.

Almost as bad was the political impact. Republicans in Congress crowed that if Biden believes the pandemic has waned, there’s no reason for more COVID spending.

Biden and his aides have asked Congress for $22.5 billion to pay for vaccines, testing and therapeutic drugs. The request was already stalled in the Senate; the president’s statement made its prospects even dimmer.

Why would he say something that landed him in that much trouble?

Biden loves to be the bearer of good news, especially with an election approaching. He’d undoubtedly like voters to remember that it was under his watch that the pandemic ended — or at least diminished enough that they could throw their irksome masks away.

To be fair, though, Biden has often veered into cockeyed optimism whether an election was near or not.

Optimism can be a good trait in a president. Franklin D. Roosevelt reassured Americans that they could prevail over the Depression and World War II. Ronald Reagan made optimism a hallmark of his vote-winning conservatism.

In Biden’s case, though, overpromising has often backfired. I once asked Biden, when he was vice president, how to recover from a gaffe. (I figured he knew how by then.) “Own it,” he said emphatically. “Own it.”

That’s what the president ought to do now to repair the damage. He was right to celebrate the good news: Thanks to vaccines and therapeutic drugs, COVID isn’t as dangerous as it was two years ago. But without more vaccinations and more research, the disease will still cause tens of thousands of needless deaths.

Biden needs to correct his message, and he shouldn’t wait for the election to do it.

Westneat: What century is it in Idaho?
Author: Danny Westneat

What century are we living in?

The news out of our neighbor Idaho has had me wondering this for some time, what with all the medical triaging, book banning and “Handmaid’s Tale”-style running for the borders of Washington and Oregon that has been going on over there lately.

But now Idaho has wormholed itself all the way back to the stagecoach era of the 1860s.

Those sure were the days — if you were a man, anyway.

You may have seen the news that the University of Idaho, located in Moscow on the Washington border, recently announced that its staff could no longer provide birth control to students — or even talk with their young charges about this rather vital subject in most circumstances.

Why? Because of an Idaho law, first written in the territorial days in 1867, that covers both abortion and contraception and is now apparently back in action due to the U.S. Supreme Court striking down Roe v. Wade over the summer.

The antique law says, among other things, that anyone who is not a licensed physician who “publishes any notice or advertisement of any medicine or means … or offers his services … for the prevention of conception,” is guilty of a felony.

“The scope of what is meant by ‘prevention of conception’ … is unclear and untested in the courts,” the University of Idaho’s general counsel wrote in a seven-page memo to all employees last week. “Since violation is considered a felony, we are advising a conservative approach here, that the university not provide standard birth control itself.”

The memo warned that university staff could be fined and fired.

The old law, which legislators updated in 1972, also includes provisions about abortion. So it was effectively considered moot when Roe was decided in 1973. But now that Roe is gone and abortion is illegal once again in Idaho, the law’s been exhumed from the Wild West graveyard.

The university is particularly skittish because Idaho also passed a law in 2021 dictating that no public funds could be used to refer people to abortion providers, or even counsel them on the issue. Because the contraception language quoted above is intermixed with an abortion code, the university has decided that its own staffers also can’t talk about birth control.

Obviously this is all ridiculous. It’s 2022 — isn’t it?

“The University of Idaho’s announcement is the canary in the coal mine — an early sign of the larger, coordinated effort to attack birth control access,” said Rebecca Gibron, CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Northwest.

At least one Supreme Court justice, Clarence Thomas, vowed to go after the right to contraception next. So this isn’t an idle concern.

I keep focusing on Idaho because anytime it does something retrograde, its patients flee to Washington for care. It happened during COVID and it’s happening now with abortion. But Idaho’s not the only state going all medieval. Last week, a law dated to the 1860s that banned all abortions was revived by a judge in Arizona.

Some people warned that canceling a constitutional right in sweeping fashion would cause mayhem. The three justices in the dissent described how there would likely be upheaval around the country about what to do in cases of rape, incest, ectopic pregnancies, morning-after pills, IUDs, in vitro fertilization, and so on. Legally speaking, the nation — mostly its women, but also its health professionals — would be suddenly yanked decades backward in time.

That was only three months ago. All of it has come to pass, already.

I’ve never been a fan of term limits, because I’ve always been a believer in the power of democracy to hit the reset button. To lurch, in fits and starts, in the general direction of progress. To clear out periodically what’s accreted in our politics: the old laws, old justices, old politicians, old men.

But when you find yourself repeatedly wondering “what century are we living in,” maybe it’s time to reconsider.

Scott Bakula welcome on new ‘Quantum Leap’ anytime
Author: Kate Feldman, New York Daily News

Sam Beckett can leap back to NBC any day.

While the new version of “Quantum Leap,” which premiered Monday, takes place 30 years after the original series, executive producer Martin Gero says Scott Bakula has a place in his world.

“We would love to have Scott on the show,” Gero told the Daily News. “It’s really up to him. The door is always open. Whenever he wants, as small or as big a part as he wants.”

Bakula, though, seemingly shut down any idea that he’s going to pop up anytime soon.

“In January, the pilot was sold and a script was sent to me because the character of Sam Beckett was in it, which makes sense, right? As so many of you have been asking me the last several months, ‘How could you do QL without Sam?’(or Al, for that matter) Well, I guess we’re about to find out,” he wrote on Instagram last week. “That’s the story. As the show has always been near and dear to my heart, it was a very difficult decision to pass on the project, a decision that has upset and confused so many fans of the original series. However, the idea of anyone ‘leaping’ around in time and walking a mile in someone else’s shoes, remains a very appealing concept and so worthy of exploration, especially given the current state of mankind. In that spirit, I am crossing my fingers that this new cast and crew are lucky enough to tap into the magic that propelled the original ‘Quantum Leap’ into the hearts and minds of generations past and present. I wish them good luck and happy leaping!”

The original show, which aired for five seasons from 1989 to 1993, starred Bakula as scientist Sam Beckett, a physicist who finds himself leaping through space and time and landing in other people’s bodies to correct historical mistakes.

Gero’s new version picks up decades later with Dr. Ben Song (Raymond Lee), a quantum physicist who seems to make first unauthorized jump of his own volition with the help of former Army intelligence officer Addison Augustine (Caitlin Bassett), who appears to him as a hologram.

Ben’s team back in the lab, made up of security analyst Jenn Chou (Nanrisa Lee), artificial intelligence scientist Ian Wright (Mason Alexander Park) and boss Herbert “Magic” Williams (Ernie Hudson), try to bring him home.