A Message from the Executive Director, Rick Eichstaedt
“A compassionate city is an uncomfortable city! A city that is uncomfortable when anyone is homeless or hungry. Uncomfortable if every child isn’t loved and given rich opportunities to grow and thrive. Uncomfortable when as a community we don’t treat our neighbors as we would wish to be treated.”
–Karen Armstrong, Founder of the global movement, The Charter for Compassion
It is sometime disheartening to read our local news and hear about efforts of a few to move our STA Bus Plaza because they don’t like “those people” or that the City’s sit and lie ordinance is not enforced against people sitting and lying on the sidewalk waiting to buy the latest iPhone. Recently, our City spent $20,000 on a campaign to encourage people to give money to specified nonprofits instead of panhandlers. This $20,000 resulted in a mere $212 being raised! Too often, certain interests in our City take the approach that we should implement measures to simply hide poverty and homeless by making it difficult or even illegal to be downtown.
We at the Center for Justice do not believe that hiding the problems of poverty and homelessness is the solution to the problem. Solutions that work come from a place of compassion. These solutions, as Karen Armstrong says, means being uncomfortable and acknowledging the problem.
How do we do that in Spokane? First, we acknowledge that we cannot solve the problem alone or that our actions amount to a total solution.
Second, we act to provide both individual legal services and policy guidance to tackle the problem. One way is to give those who need it the most an opportunity to get back on their feet and get back to work – we do this by providing assistance to those who have lost their licenses to regain their driving privileges. In the last year, we helped nearly 300 people regain their licenses. We help people clear their criminal records of old convictions and help them deal with repayment of past court fines (LFOs). We also address housing issues and help people stay in their homes and help create opportunities for people to get into housing.
While serving the needs of individuals creates real and meaningful results, we understand that our system is broken and often creates roadblocks that keep those in poverty or those who are homeless from moving out of their situation. That is why we are working on changing both local and state policies. Our criminal justice system amounts to 70% of our County budget and often does little to make us feel safer or address the root cause of crime. Our Smart Justice program is working to create evidence-based programs that get people out of the crime by addressing their addictions or other roadblocks to getting back to work or school.
We are working hard to reform our Legal Financial Obligation (LFOs) system in Washington that often throws people in jail (at a cost of $120 a day to taxpayers) for failing to pay their court fines. We are working on statewide and local efforts to “ban the box,” which will stop people from being automatically disqualified from employment for a past arrest or conviction. We also are working to stop the efforts to move the STA Plaza and are reviewing the legality of our City’s sit and lie law.
We know it is not easy to solve issues of poverty and homelessness. We know that it is uncomfortable to advocate against “easy” solutions, but as uncomfortable as it is, it’s the right thing to do to create a just and compassionate community.
Developing future Riverkeepers
by Jerry White
After-school fly fishing & river education camps have finished up at the West Valley Outdoor Learning Center. These camps happened because of a successful partnership between Hutton Settlement, Inland Northwest Nature Connection, Spokane Riverkeeper , Spokane Valleyfest and Spokane Valley Parks and Recreation. Additionally, the Spokane River Forum helped us organize the service portion of the project. Over the course of a week, the students from Huttton settlement learned a bit about river ecology, macro-invertebrates, native trout and invasive species. They learned how to tie flies, they participated in the Upriver Scrub picking up garbage along the river, and finally caught some fine hatchery trout from the Mirabeau Parkway pond. These rainbow trout were left in the pond after the kids fishing day during Valleyfest. The camp kids helped ensure that these trout would not die during the winter, but be caught, cleaned and eaten for dinner by the kids of Hutton. Thanks to all for a great experience!
Help us continue our work in the community! Please consider purchasing a Spokane Riverkeeper T-shirt for $25. High quality, Alternative Apparel brand, available in 3 colors- Adult sizes only. For each purchase made, Ammonite Ink will donate $11.20 to Spokane Riverkeeper!
Monthly Community Outreach Programs at CFJ – Free of charge
- Justice Night- every 1st Tues at 5pm
- Justice Lunchbox- every 3rd Wed at Noon
by Randi Madison
The Center for Justice began offering legal advice to any person, free of charge in early 2012. Originally held at the downtown branch of the Spokane Public Library, the “Justice Clinics” eventually turned into “Justice Night” and were moved to the lobby of the Community Building at 35 W. Main. They are offered every first Tuesday of each Month from 5:00 – 6:00 pm.
Justice Night typically serves between 10-20 people with free advice from volunteer lawyers, such as Mari Luna who is featured in this newsletter’s Volunteer Spotlight. The topics range anywhere from the expungement of criminal records or getting your driver’s license back, to consumer law, disability and race discrimination, family law, landlord-tenant issues and more. Those who attend can expect to have a one-on-one conversation with a local attorney and obtain free information about their civil issue. We cannot help address criminal issues at this time.
The Center’s newest community outreach program happens at lunchtime. It is a casual, brown-bag discussion series called Justice Lunchbox. We started this program in an effort to provide a framework where the public can have open dialogue on a wide variety of justice issues. So far we have facilitated an opportunity for 25 people who attended our first event to speak informally with recently nominated members of the Spokane Police Ombudsman Commission, Pastor Deb Conklin and Rachel Dolezal, about police brutality, accountability and their visions for their role on the Commission. Each shared their personal connections to this issue and helped the attendees better understand how the Commission was poised to function. They clarified that the Commission will not refer cases, but will request that the Office of Police Ombudsman (OPO) examine or re-examine specific non-disciplinary policy or procedure issues and confirm or reject OPO requests for additional investigation by Internal Affairs. A full description of the Commission and its duties is outlined online in Section 04.32.150 of the Spokane Municipal Code.
On October 15th, Center for Justice board member Nick Pontarolo led a more intimate discussion with 11 attendees, on the current political environment in Afghanistan. Returning from a month-long experience in Afghanistan as a tourist in March of 2014, he gained a tremendous love and appreciation for the people and deep interest in the politics of the country and continues to follow it closely through connections with friends currently living there and through following news from sites such as the United States Institute of Peace. Providing an unassuming layman’s approach to the topic, he covered the recently signed bi-lateral agreement between the US and Afghanistan, the formation of the Unity Government and the first ever democratic election that took place this year, and touched on the importance of why we, as Americans should care about and follow what is going on in Afghanistan.
- Our next Justice Lunchbox will be on Wednesday, November 19 and will feature Riverkeeper Jerry White and Riverkeeper Technical Lead Jule Schultz as they talk shop and reveal the latest calls to action to help protect our Spokane River from major polluters.
- In December, CFJ Emeritus Board Memeber, Denise Atwood of Ganesh-Himal Trading will lead a discussion. “Looking back – looking forward: 30 years of Free Trade in Nepal” will be held on December 17 at noon.
CFJ’s Health and Justice Initiative
by Randi Madison
Center for Justice Staff Attorney Barry Pfundt has been active in making the link between the legal aid and healthcare. This has included contributing to the Health Housing Homeless Integration Pilot Program (H3) which is a project aimed to reduce hospital re-admissions and improve health outcomes for medically vulnerable homeless individuals through provision of housing, community health worker support, and wraparound client services, as well as efforts to establish a Medical-Legal Partnership in Spokane and the Spokane Hot-Spotters Community Action Group.
Barry emphatically supports working collaboratively with the Spokane community to accomplish the triple aim of reducing the cost of health care, improving the patient experience and boosting the overall health of the Spokane population. He speaks passionately about how healthy living conditions, access to food and shelter and access to medical care are fundamental needs of individuals. These fundamental needs must be met before anyone is able to implement preventative health care. Someone who is faced with homelessness, the threat of eviction, unsafe living conditions, poverty and hunger are not able to sufficiently address health related issues. The medical-legal partnership will focus on many of the root causes affecting use of the medical system.
Working with healthcare providers, attorneys can aid in reducing the burden on taxpayers, social workers, the educational system, and the penal system as well.
“Many times” Pfundt says, “the healthcare, educational, civil legal, criminal justice, social support, and other systems act as silos, standing alone, and alone they are failing significantly in addressing the larger issues at hand. However, at the Center we have the firm belief that if each of these silos work together to provide a cooperative web of support, there will be the capacity to make a very significant impact toward the quality of life for everyone in our community.”
Pfundt says that we can expect to see a press release regarding the Health and Justice Initiative in the near future.
- To learn more about Medical-Legal Partnerships, visit the National Center for Medical Legal Partnership website.
- Watch a 6 minute video on the Spokane Hot Spotters Community Action Group . The group invites the community of healthcare and social service providers dedicated to the health and well-being of the people of Spokane to consider how you and your organization can be a part of this growing network. This is an opportunity to contribute your talents and resources to this community-wide effort to change Spokane’s health care infrastructure for the better. For more information on Hot Spotters please contact the Spokane County Medical Society Foundation at 104 S. Freya St., Suite 114 or call 509-532-8877
Oil and Mercury and Waste, Oh My!
by Jerry White
A call for Action! Governor Inslee’s Marine and Rail Oil Transportation Study – will be out for public comment at the end of this month. This is a critical time for you, the public to comment on this plan! As rail is a growing mode of transportation for moving petroleum products, our communities are at high risk for spills into the Spokane River and explosive accidents in our urban core. Your input at the public hearing is needed in changing the prevention, preparedness and response landscape.
- When: October 28
- Where: Riverfront Park and Double Tree Hotel in Spokane
- Time: Rally at Riverfront park 5:00 pm and Oil Transportation hearing at Doubletree from 6-10:00 pm
- RSVP: http://bit.ly/1rDxV0j
One week prior to the above activity, there will be an oil hearing workshop at community building at 6:30 on oct 21. Please join us!
Fish Consumption and Water Quality Governor Inslee has also just come out with draft “human health criteria” or fish consumption rates. These rules in many ways determine how much pollution dischargers can dump into our rivers. Unfortunately, the Governor’s rules go easy on polluters and do not go far enough to protect the public and our Spokane River. While the rules increase the assumed amount of fish in people’s diets, a good thing, they also allow the public to bear more of the risk of developing cancer from chemicals in our waterways and in our fish. This is unacceptable.
Currently, the Spokane River has multiple fish advisories that reflect a very polluted river. Sadly, this affects the poorest of our citizens who fish for their meals and those in tribal communities who have a long tradition of catching and eating fish. Washington currently assumes a daily fish intake of 6.5 grams, about a pinky finger-sized portion, which many people find completely unrealistic, especially when considering the traditionally fish-heavy diets of Northwest tribes. The new proposed rules would increase the assumed intake to 175 grams, one of the highest in the nation and viewed as much more representative of actual diets. But it accommodates the higher rates by increasing cancer risk rates from one in 1 million up to one in 100,000.
the Department of Ecology is not currently taking public input at this time regarding this issue. You can follow their public involvement on their website. For more information, read this article Ecology dept. drafts new fish consumption rules amid strong opposition by Jacob Jones at the Inlander.
Hangman (Latah) Creek is on Washington State’s list of impaired water bodies (the 303[d] list) for fecal coliform, pH, temperature, dissolved oxygen, and turbidity. We are actively monitoring the point and non-point sources for toxic contaminates and conducting water quality testing to document the problems in this important tributary of the Spokane River.
Accolades! Bravo! Wahoo!
CFJ interview with Attorney, Mari Luna
Mari Luna regularly volunteers her time and free legal advice at the Center for Justice’s monthly Justice Night. Her parents always said things like, “Your skills are God’s gift to you; what you do with those skills, are your gifts back to God.” She really thinks, though, that every time she decides to volunteer or do something to help other people because that’s the “right thing” to do, that she ends up receiving much more than she ever gives.
Like so many young people who grew up in the 70’s her heroes were icons who came to prominence in the 60’s: President Kennedy, Martin Luther King and, although perhaps not as popular, Ralph Nadar. Mari shares that JFK’s challenge to give back and determine what we could do for our country to make it a better place was inspirational, and that MLK’s non-violent approach to achieving civil rights for all American citizens truly changed our country for the better. Ralph Nadar’s crusade for safer cars, food, and water, freedom of information, and consumer protection was ground breaking.
“I truly wanted to somehow be a part of these positive individuals’ vision for a better future. My high school prophecy predicted I would become an attorney and work for Nadar’s Raiders in Washington DC., Monday through Friday, while I helped organized civil rights’ marches for equality and nondiscrimination on the weekends. Although I didn’t quite make it to DC, my dreams of seeking and doing justice remain.”
One of Mari’s first experiences as a new attorney was working as a volunteer at the Legal Action Center in Seattle. She recalls how a young couple came in with a landlord-tenant issue; their landlord had failed to return their $300 deposit after they vacated their rental home. “We began by starting to draft a demand letter, but then I decided to just call the landlord. I identified myself to the secretary as an attorney representing the couple. The landlord took my call. I was so new and really didn’t know a lot about landlord-tenant law, but I quoted the RCW and stated I was sure he knew he was required to either inform the couple why they were not receiving the return of their deposit or issue them a check for the full amount of the deposit within 14 days of the end of the lease.
He started trying to explain, but then stopped. After a pause, he told me if I sent them over he would have a check waiting for them. The clients seemed pleased but a little doubtful as to whether or not the landlord would actually give them the money. They returned near the end of the day with smiles, a thank-you, and a book they said they had “thrifted” for me because money was tight, and they hoped I didn’t mind that it was used. I was overwhelmed by their gratitude and in awe of the power of knowing the right RCW to quote at the right time. The law was an amazing force! And, as my Star Wars obsessed son always says, “You must use the force for good.” The book still sits on one of the shelves in my office. I truly treasure it. I quickly realized working with clients who might not otherwise be able to receive legal assistance was truly as much a personal benefit for me as it was a service for others.”
I am sincerely motivated and inspired by the staff and other volunteers at the Center for Justice as well as the clients. I’ve worked with Virla, Julie, and Barry most often. They are positive, upbeat, and caring. They work tirelessly for the clients and are always generous with their time and talents. They answer my questions, and Virla even tries to keep me on schedule–I think I talk too much most of the time. Every night I’ve worked at Justice Night, I have been rewarded by clients’ words of thanks and expressions of gratitude.
Mari is in the process of starting a private practice with a wonderfully bright young graduate from GU Law School, Stephanie Zimmerman, and is looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead.
Every year at Dirty Martinis for Clean Water we recognized a River Hero. Last year, we recognized Steve Faust for his leadership in organizing the Spokane River Clean-up. In 2012, the first year of our award, we recognized the late Russ Nobbs, a long-time Spokane environmentalist, for his dedication to recycling. This year, we’re thrilled to carry on the tradition and announce that the 2013 Mike Chappell Spokane River Hero Award recipient is Twa-le Abrahamson-Swan!
By way of background, in 2011 the Spokane community lost a real hero when Mike Chappell, then director of Gonzaga’s Environmental Law Clinic and one of the driving forces behind starting Spokane Riverkeeper suddenly passed away. That year, we held Dirty Martinis for Clean Water a mere few weeks after Mike’s passing and while on stage we announced that starting next year we would do something to recognize Mike’s legacy of work on Spokane River issues. While there are no strict criteria for receiving the award, there are two obvious criteria – (1) does the recipient love the river and (2) does the recipient make a difference to our environment that is felt across the community?
Twa-le currently serves as the Air Quality Coordinator for the Spokane Tribe. Recently nominated to the National Tribal Air Association to represent interests of Tribes in Washington, Oregon and Idaho, Twa-le continues to learn about the Tribes concerns throughout the region with respects to environmental, cultural, health and other impacts and advocates for Tribes at the regional and national levels. Many of us in Spokane have gotten to know Twa-le because of her leadership of the issues of coal transport by rail through our community and her clear call for accountability to our community’s safety and environment.
During a September 25 visit by leaders from the Lummi Nation as part of their Totem Pole Journey, Twa-le gave a clear message that members of her Tribe and those across the Northwest value our environment more than cheap coal –“We have the power to say ‘no’ to that and ‘yes’ to future generations, salmon and our children.” Thank you Twa-le for your unending passion and dedication to protecting our environment, including our beautiful life-blood, the Spokane River!
Highlights from Dirty Martinis for Clean Water
Thank you to all of our amazing sponsors, volunteers, and guests that supported Spokane Riverkeeper’s 8th annual Dirty Martinis for Clean Water! On Friday September 12th nearly 200 people joined us at Riverside Place overlooking Spokane Falls to enjoy delicious Dry Fly Distilling martinis, beer from River City Brewing, local wine, and tasty appetizers from London’s Ultimate Catering.
As always, a huge thank you to our phenomenal business sponsors: Avista, Clifton Larson Allen, Community Building Foundation, Bricklin & Newman LLP, The Inlander, Kalispel Tribe of Indians, Pioneer Technical Services, ROW Adventure Center. And thank you to our individual sponsors for their generous support: Ian Cunningham, Patty Gates, Ted Knight, Jeff Lambert, and Craig Trueblood. We simply could not do this without all of you!
Mark your calendars for next year’s Dirty Martinis for Clean Water on Fri Sept 18th! And we look forward to spending another wonderful evening with you all in May to support the Center for Justice at our annual Jazzed for Justice social featuring live jazz music and silent auction. Save the date: Thurs May 14, 2015!
3 CFJ Ladies share how their leadership will benefit Spokane
Intern Katie Freeman-Otte, Staff Attorney Julie Schaffer and CFJ Communications and Development Staff Randi Madison attended a 6-day Women’s Leadership Conference, focusing on individual and collaborative visions for Spokane. Generously funded by the a few anonymous donors, 20 Spokane women altered their busy professional and personal schedules to dedicate their undivided energies toward finding their purpose, strengthening community and support systems and enhancing their leadership. As a result, each woman was able to work through issues of shedding insidious beliefs, stories and biases that can limit women’s leadership capacity, to begin prioritizing connecting across differences, and reinventing leadership while integrating healthy feminine and masculine characteristics. Each woman became a witness to each other’s self-proclaimed commitment as to how, through supported amplification of their purpose, their leadership can and will benefit Spokane.
The training, rooted in values of respect, humility, creativity, intentionality and inquiry is called Cultivating Women’s Leadership (CWL) and was co-founded by Nina Simons (Bioneers) and Toby Herzlich (Biomimicry for Social Innovation) in 2006. Joined by Rachel Bagby (Artist and Leadership Consultant for Google, et.al.), the three have gracefully navigated the facilitation of leadership skills for over 200 women. Julie Schaffer shares, “It was a dream come true to have this retreat come to Spokane. This was the first time CWL has ever done a place-based retreat where all of the participants live in the same community….and I can confidently say it was a success.”
To end up with a group of 20 women who are individually and collaboratively committed to building upon the current strengths and improving Spokane for the benefit of its residents cannot help but make unforeseen transformations for our city.
Julie Schaffer attended the CWL retreat two years ago and stepped into a new pair of shoes this time in Spokane as a facilitator-in-training. “It was a transformative experience for all of us personally, and I am confident that real and tangible ripples will be felt across all of Spokane as a result of us connecting with one another and having the space to dream.”
NOT JUST TALK, THERE ARE REAL RESULTS….
- Schaffer committed her purpose and leadership toward creating ongoing opportunities like CWL to reach more women in Spokane in order “to create space for women to open the channels to their passion, to find their voices, to rewrite internal stories, to use leadership to empower others, and to feel truly supported by other women.” Her first goal is to nurture this group by organizing ongoing opportunities to continue the work that was started. The first reunion is scheduled for October 24.
- Randi Madison is currently working toward “greening” her current screen printing and graphic design business and expanding it’s social responsibility to offer fair trade, fair labor and organic apparel to her customers in March of 2015. The expansion will include a relocation of the printing shop and the development of a retail space in a soon to be renovated building on Ash Street. There she will hope to offer opportunities to help foster neighborhood pride and bring economic traffic to a typically impoverished part of town. She plans on provide training and employment opportunities for recently released prisoners to aid in re-entry and to offer a “one for one” program where purchases of retail goods result in subsequent donations of organic, fair trade, fair labor onesies or kid’s tees to low income families with children under age 6.
- A new Spokane Women’s Business Union has been formed to address the wage-gap between women and men with a focused effort on women of color and men. The group will be meeting on Tuesday October 21 to launch the program and form it’s first operating agreement.
CFJ Staff Attorney, Julie Schaffer completed her Fellowship with the Washington Bar Association’s Leadership Institute!
The mission of the Washington Leadership Institute (WLI) is to recruit, train, and develop minority and traditionally underrepresented attorneys for future leadership positions in the Washington State Bar Association and legal community. They strive to recruit fellows for each class who reflect the full diversity of our state, which includes race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability, and geographic location. Julie had an opportunity, along with the other Fellows to be mentored by experienced facilitators that currently hold or have held high-level leadership roles and positions within the Washington State Bar Association (WSBA) Board of Governors; WSBI committees or sections; county, minority, or specialty bars; local courts; the Washington State Supreme Court or the U.S. District Court. The cohort of Fellows from each year’s institute are required to complete a cooperative community service project. You can find out more about the Washington Leadership Institute fellowship program here.