Statesman-Examiner top stories of 2019

By: 
RaeLynn Ricarte
Editor

No. 1 Stevens County has been on the front lines of fight for gun rights since I-1639 passage

Northeastern Washington started 2019 by mounting active opposition to new gun control laws brought by passage of Initiative 1639, and ended with failure of a campaign to repeal the measure due to a lack of voter signatures on petitions. Still in the pipeline is a lawsuit filed by Stevens County Prosecutor Tim Rasmussen, at the behest of the county commission against a new “red flag” gun control law that is expected to make its way to the state Supreme Court because the decision will have far-reaching implications. Last week, organizers of Initiative 1094, the proposal to repeal I-1639 regulations, had to gather up petitions from area businesses several days earlier than planned at the request of the Secretary of State's Office. I-1094 was co-authored by John Valle, a county resident, and the campaign to collect signatures in the northern sector of Stevens County began in October and was spearheaded by Dan Wallace, a local farmer and Air Force veteran. Wallace said Friday he dropped off about 2,500 signatures from northern Stevens County to a distribution point where they would be counted along with others from across the state. On Sunday, he reported that the effort had garnered 128,000 signatures, less than half the 258,000 needed to qualify the measure for the ballot. Wallace said the outcome was difficult to understand given that 73% voters in Stevens County weighed in against I-1639 in November 2018, and similar results were reported in most Eastern Washington counties. “Voter apathy, difficulty of getting the word to everyone, voter fatigue, low number of volunteers and a short time frame to gather signatures all played a part,” said Wallace. “I fear that gun-grabbing elected officials will now feel free to infringe further.” Pend Oreille County Sheriff Glenn Blakelee signed the repeal petition, along with Stevens County Sheriff Brad Manke, Rasmussen and the Stevens County Commissioners. Blakeslee said it was “disappointing” to learn that the repeal effort had failed. He said citizens need to get more engaged to stop further erosion of their rights. “The people haven’t finished their work,” he said. The battle to overturn I-1639 now lies in the courts and Blakeslee said people opposed to gun control should support the National Rifle Association and Second Amendment Foundation, which are challenging the voter initiative. “Everybody has to do their part. If you aren’t willing to fight for your rights, you will surely lose them,” said Blakeslee. I-1639 was supported by the billionaire-backed Alliance for Gun Responsibility and Michael Bloomberg's Everytown for Gun Safety. It was approved by nearly 60 percent of the electorate statewide, although only two counties in Eastern Washington voted in favor. Proponents of I-1639 said that more stringent gun laws would reduce the potential for mass shootings and better protect students. The Seattle Times described I-1639 as the most “ambitious” gun control legislation in the history of the state. Under new laws developed as a result of I-1639's passage, the definition of a “semiautomatic assault” rifle applies to every self-leading rifle that is manufactured. People under the age of 21 are prohibited from purchasing and possessing such firearms. A 10-day waiting period and training requirement has been imposed on new gun purchases. People also waive the right to privacy with their medical records to purchase a gun. State officials can now access those records to decide if the person should be allowed to own a gun. In addition, gun owners caught with an unlocked firearm can now be fined $500. If a person's gun is stolen, the gun owner can be fined $1,000. If the stolen firearm is used in the commission of a crime, the owner has to pay $10,000. Ferry County Police Chief Loren Culp led the movement in Washington of law enforcement officials refusing to enforce I-1639 regulations, at least until the court case had been adjudicated. Manke, Blakeslee and 22 other sheriffs across the state stated the belief the laws were unconstitutional and should not stand. Stevens County Commissioners Wes McCart, Don Dashiell and Steve Parker signed a resolution against enactment of any law not in keeping with the state and federal constitutions. Rasmussen was authorized by the county commission to legally challenge The Involuntary Treatment Act — Firearms that went into effect July 28. The new law gives mental health counselors the right to take away guns from people detained for 72 hours for evaluation. Even if the person is not involuntarily committed after that evaluation, he or she still loses the right to keep a firearm in their home for six months, or has to petition to court to regain possession. Manke and other law enforcement officials across the state are required by the law to confiscate weapons of the detained person, even going into his or her home if necessary. The concealed carry permit of that individual is also seized. Rasmussen contends the new law strips away not only constitutional gun rights, but due process rights as well. That case, filed last summer, has not yet had a hearing on its merits. The county lots its bid to have an injunction put on Manke and NEW Alliance Counseling Services while the lawsuit was underway. Earlier this year, another effort to fight back against I-1639 failed. Citizen affidavits seeking sanctions against Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson for using his office to campaign for the gun control measure lost in every court on the east side of the state. Judges said the matter needed to be taken up “where the harm occurred,” which was in Thurston County where Ferguson works. Valle said citizens in Thurston counties and others on the west side are still pursuing affidavits to hold Ferguson accountable for what they believe are ethics violations. “We are attacking this gun control agenda in any way that we can because that is what is required of us as Americans,” Valle said several weeks ago.

 

No. 2 Ranchers are concerned about grazing rights being removed

A series of wolf attacks on cattle in the Kettle Range of Northeast Washington during 2019 has reignited the debate about how the state should manage predators.
Since 2008, Washington’s wolf population has grown an average of 28 percent per year, according to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. The agency estimated there were at least 126  wolves  and 27 packs living in the state at the end of 2018. 
Livestock producers contend the numbers are being underreported by state officials to keep wolf protections in place. 
The growth in the population of the apex predator has led to increased attacks on livestock, particularly in the Kettle Range of Ferry County.
To stop wolf packs from continuously killing cattle, the state authorized killings of predatory wolves that drew howls from conservation groups.
In August and September of 2019, the entire Old Profanity Territory pack and some members of the Grouse Flats pack were killed after a series of livestock kills.
That followed the Profanity Peak pack being shot by contractors from helicopters in 2016 because of repeated attacks on cattle. Members of the Togo Pack were killed in 2018 for the same reason. 
In early December, the Stevens County Cattlemen's Association arranged for a briefing about grazing rights at its annual meeting. 
The presentation by Dr. Angus McIntosh, executive director of Range Allotment Owners, followed a letter by Gov. Jay Inslee  to WDFW in October asking the agency to seek out opportunities to get the U.S. Forest Service and other public land managers to change cattle grazing politics to reduce conflict in prime wolf habitat.
Inslee said steps needed to be taken to reduce the lethal killing of wolves for livestock depredation. 
Scott Nielsen, president of the Cattlemen’s Association, said McIntosh was invited to brief concerned ranchers about their rights. 
McIntosh, who resides on a ranch in Colorado, formerly worked for the U.S. Forest Service and is an expert witness on grazing issues in the federal district courts.  
At the Dec. 7 meeting of the association, which was held at the Kettle Falls Gun Range, McIntosh informed ranchers that grazing rights equated to constitutional property rights that could not be taken without just compensation and due process. 
He gave examples of a series of court battles and Congressional acts that had upheld existing rights. 
“A right's a right, it's not a permissive use,” said McIntosh.
He also told ranchers that they had the right by federal law to kill a wolf if they held the good faith belief that the animal was going to hurt them or somebody else. 
“That is what the law says, whether Fish and Wildlife likes it or not,” he said. 
The association is also concerned that WDFW’s response to Inslee to the Department of Fish and Wildlife about wolf management puts too much responsibility for wolf management on ranchers.
“We would like to see the governor a little more concerned about our livestock,” said Nielsen, who is also president of the Cattle Producers of Washington.
Kelly Susewind, director of Fish and Wildlife, responded to Inslee's letter in late November. He said the agency intended to approach the 2020 grazing season with reinforced proactive, non-lethal tools, such as range riding, as well as long-term grazing options that benefit wolves, livestock and producers.
In that letter, Susewind said the Forest Service was also working directly with ranchers who utilized public lands for grazing in the Kettle Range to prepare for the upcoming season.
The Forest Service, stated Susewind, is supportive of using range riders on grazing allotments in that area. 
“Two critically important tools for mitigating wolf-livestock conflict are the use of range riders (to monitor livestock on dispersed, rangeland grazing settings) and cost-share contracts between the department and livestock producers (for the implementation of tools, such as fencing, scare devices and additional ranch staff to monitor livestock),” wrote Susewind.
He said current funding to support these efforts comes from a surcharge on personalized license plates and state general funds. 
According to Susewind, the general fund-state portion has been provided as a series of one-time allocations during the past several legislative sessions, which made it difficult to plan and maintain programs.
“As of last grazing season, there was more interest in range riding and cost-share contracts than the department’s available funding could support,” stated Susewind.
He said, in addition to funding for non-lethal tools, there were other funding needs that would help prevent wolf-livestock conflicts. 
These included maintaining the agency's specialist staff in the Kettle Range area, providing compensation as a mitigation measure and monitoring activities and growth of the wolf populations.
Susewind provided a funding proposal that he asked Inslee to include in his supplemental proposed budget for the 2021-2023 biennium.
“Your request was to increase our reliance on non-lethal tools and significantly reduce the need for lethal removal of wolves, and we sincerely believe the best way to do that it so develop willing, collaborative and lasting partnerships at the community level with livestock producers in the heart of what is now core wolf habitat,” wrote Susewind. 
“Plans recommended at any level of government are only true solutions if they are perceived to be beneficial to the recipients, and if they are based on our shared, common goals intended to be Washington together around wolf issues.”
Nielsen said Cattle Producers received a $144,000 state grant to hire two more conflict management specialists to respond to wolf attacks on livestock.
He said the funds are being administered by the state Department of Agriculture to avoid any potential conflict in their use by Fish and Wildlife, which has frequently found itself at odds with ranchers over wolf management.
The two new specialists are on hiatus for the winter but Nielsen said they will return to their duties in early summer 2020, after cows and calves have been turned out to graze. 
With wolf numbers growing and more depredations of cattle, Nielsen said having extra help for Jeff Flood, the conflict management specialist hired by Ferry and Stevens counties, will help ensure ranchers are treated fairly when a depredation occurs.
Data is also being collected on wolf movement using trail cams in coordination with sheriff's offices in Stevens, Ferry, Pend Oreille and Okanogan counties, said Nielsen.
“Non-lethal deterrents can help but they are a short-term fix, not the answer,” he said. 
The public was provided with an opportunity to comment last fall on issues related to long-term wolf conservation and management as WDFW readies for a time when wolves will no longer be a protected species.
In 2020, the public will be provided with the opportunity to provide input on the agency's draft Environmental Impact Statement that will evaluate potential actions and alternatives for long-term wolf conservation.
Neilsen said it is important that the burden to manage wolves not be put on ranchers, who are already faced with mounting costs to protect livestock and recover from losses, which include stress on the herd that affects fertility and weight, which sets the market value.

No. 3 Hearing looms on homelessness fund issue

Legal action taken by Stevens County Prosecutor Tim Rasmussen to recoup homelessness funds expended by the three county commissioners has taken several twists and turns in recent months, with another hearing coming up at the end of the month.
Attorneys for both parties will square off before Superior Court Judge Maryann Moreno at 1 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 31. Although prior hearings have been held in Spokane, where Moreno presides, this time arguments are being presented in a Colville court room. Proceedings are open to the public.
In November, Moreno denied a request by Rasmussen to hold the commissioner in contempt of court. He sought the contempt charge after learning the commissioners had been denied the right to use taxpayer funds for their legal defense, but had taken legislative action to do so anyway.
Moreno determined that per order barring the commission from getting their legal bills paid with public funds had been made under one statue, and their subsequent actions taken under another statute, the Tort Claims Act.
Whether that act allows them to cover legal bills will be argued at the upcoming hearing. 
In the meantime, the resolutions pass by Commissioners Wes McCart, Steve Parker and Don Dashiell in May to appoint an attorney at public expense remain in effect. No payments have been made to date. 
Also awaiting judgment is Rasmussen's request that the court require the commission to repay $121,000 in homelessness funds that he says were spent wrongfully. Rasmussen has appointed attorney George Ahrend of Moses Lake to act as a special prosecutor in the case. The commission is now represented by attorney Todd Starzell of Spokane, who replaces Jerry Moberg of Moses Lake.
Rasmussen is seeking two years of surety bonds from each commissioner (the time period when two separate disbursements of homelessness funds were made) to replace public money that was spent. 
These bonds are required for an individual to hold office because they provide protection to the government and citizens for actions taken that result in liability. Rasmussen said the commissioners will still have some additional costs owing if he succeeds in getting the bonds. 
The latest round in court came after Rasmussen discovered in October that the commission had approved an ordinance in mid-May to indemnify themselves of any wrongdoing in the case, which would clear them from paying legal expenses and damages.
They also passed three identical resolution at the end of May claiming to have been “falsely accused” of wrongdoing. Each official noted in the resolution using his name that he had acted in good faith in his official capacity, which qualified him for an attorney at taxpayer expense. 
Rasmussen sought contempt of court penalties after learning these actions had either taken place without being listed on the agenda or were advertised only as “board business.”
He has asked the Washington State Attorney General's office to investigate the matter. He made that move after an opinion was rendered Sept. 27 by the Municipal Research and Service Center that the commission did not have the legal authority for the actions taken in May.
The rift between the commission and prosecutor began in February of 2019 when Rasmussen initiated the legal case after learning the commission had spent funds that were mandated to be used on homelessness projects on two private projects where the recipients were not homeless.
He took the case to court after obtaining a state auditor's finding that the reimbursement of $30,000 to a couple to move their house away from an eroding embankment, and roughly $90,000 to help a nonprofit build a home for a disabled veteran, were “unallowable” under the local homeless plan or state law.
McCart, who chairs the commission, said the auditor's report was intended to be corrective and not punitive. 
He said state officials told the commission the award of funds would not have been wrong if the language of the homelessness plan adopted in 2012 was broader to accommodate such expenditure.
Rasmussen counters that state law outlines how homelessness funds can be used, which is for services such as shelters and low-income housing options to get people off the streets. 

No. 4 Supreme Court settles local jurisdictional dispute

A jurisdictional dispute between courts that began almost two years ago was resolved last month after the Supreme Court issued and a ruling that sets statewide precedent.
On Dec. 12, the Washington Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Superior Court has jurisdiction to oversee first appearances by defendants in all cases, including misdemeanor offenses filed in District Court.
“I'm happy that the issue was put to rest,” said Stevens County Prosecutor Tim Rasmussen, who sought the decision on behalf of Superior Court Judges Jessica Reeves and Patrick Monasmith.
“It was a well written decision and it should serve to end the question between our superior and district courts,” said Rasmussen. 
The state's high court determined that Reeves and Monasmith could follow through on their decision in January 2018 to handle all first appearances. At that time, they asserted the change was necessary to prevent scheduling conflicts between court employees, prosecutors, defense counsel and the county jail.
District Court Judge Gina Tveit said justices have established a new rule, but did not address the “intricacies and difficulties of two completely separate courts making decisions in the same case.”
She said each court has a separate clerical and administrative staff and its own unique computer data system that the other court does not have access to. 
“In the end, District Court will continue to make every effort to see its cases are handled in as orderly and efficient manner as possible,” said Tveit.
The question of jurisdiction was taken to court after Tveit responded to Superior Court's pronouncement about overseeing all first appearances by defendants by notifying her staff that no court orders were to be accepted unless she or another District Court judge had signed them.
Reeves and Monasmith then directed Tveit to permit filing of their orders, which she legally challenged. Tveit won the first round in court. Lincoln County Superior Court Judge John Strohmaier agreed with her argument that orders from Superior Court might not be enforceable in District Court because they did not originate there. 
Rasmussen appealed that decision, which was reversed by the Appeals Court in the summer of 2019.
Moses Lake attorney Jerry Moberg represented Tveit at the appeals and supreme court levels. 
He said it had been a longstanding practice to give the court where a misdemeanor case was filed authority to manage proceedings.
The appeals court determined that a preliminary appearance hearing was not a critical stage of the criminal trial process so it could also take place in Superior Court.
At the Supreme Court level, the issues was referred to by several parties as a “turf war.” 
Special Deputy Prosecutor Will Ferguson represented Reeves and Monasmith in Olympia. 
He argued that giving Superior Court control of first appearances would create uniformity and prevent overlapping orders that confused staffers.
The justices uphold Ferguson’s argument in the case that was referred to in court by several of the participating parties as a “turf war.”

No. 5 Colville's new mayor took oath of office on Tuesday

Colville's new mayor, Ralph Lane, Jr., was sworn into office Tuesday at city hall, replacing Louis Janke, who served for five years.
The final voter turnout for the Nov. 3 election was 48 percent and Lane, 63, won by a 55.27 margin. He was endorsed by Stevens County Sheriff Brad Manke. 
He takes office with 25 years of government experience, including two decades in the city of Colville's Public Works Department. While there, he worked his way up to supervisor of the wastewater treatment plant. He held certifications in water quality and wastewater treatment.
Lane then took a job as general manager of the Odell Sanitation District in Hood River County, Oregon, until his retirement in 2014. 
Because of his background, Lane believes it is possible to tackle infrastructure projects more efficiently with greater cost-savings. 
He campaigned on making “needs” and not “wants” a funding priority. By that, he explained that fixing roads, replacing aging water and sewer lines, and removing undesirable minerals from the water delivery system will be more of a focus than aesthetic projects.
For that reason, Lane opposed a council decision in December to pay $156,000 as a city match for $300,000 in state grant funds to reconstruct the intersection of Main Street and Astor Avenue.
Lane questioned the city spending that kind of money on one intersection, particularly on beautification projects, when it had miles of streets in disrepair. 
“We are speaking that kind of money on a section of one block when we might have been bale to fix a larger section of roadway. It just doesn't make sense to me,” he said. 
None of the city council positions were challenged , so the only new face at the table will be Greg Chambers, who replaces Missy Stalp. Councilors Anne Lawson, Chris Loggers and Adenea Thompson were re-elected. 
Also seated on the dais are Jack Smith, Nancy Foll and Mallory Conner. 
Lane also stated strong interest during his campaign of having the city address the lack of affordable housing.
He said helping the homeless find shelter is the humanitarian thing to do.
Equally important, said Lane, is establishing more rental housing, as well as home ownership opportunities, that can help attract a workforce to support industries in town and keep the economy healthy.

No. 6 Major employers expanded operations, boosted local economy

Major changes were made to two of the largest employers in Stevens County to keep the firms on the cutting edge of their respective industries. 
Vaagen Timbers opened last summer to global interest as a plant that promises to revolutionize the construction industry while helping the health the environment.
“This equipment is so advanced that people could be learning skills that could transfer into aerospace and other fields,” said Russ Vaagen, founder and chief executive officer of the $17 million plant.
The 40,000 square foot building produces cross-laminated and glued-laminated timber components up to 60 feet wide, 4 feet long and up to 11.25 inches thick. 
Vaagen explained last year that, while traditional steel and concrete structures are complex and labor intensive, wooden components simply construction so buildings go up must faster. He anticipated that products produced in Colville would be sold to mid-sized cities around the globe. 
The components made at the plant, said Vaagen, will boost the affordable housing market by giving contractors the ability to keep pace with a fluctuating demand. 
He said building with wood components has been in vogue in Europe for the last few decades, but Vaagen Timbers is one of the few producers in North America.
He said the product is strong enough to compete with steel and concrete and is much more eco-friendly.
“Because these product seals up so well, we can have energy efficient structures. We can take the carbon from the wood and embed it in a structure that will last hundreds of years, which is a major carbon negative for the environment,” said Vaagen.
The new production line is fully automated, but the facility has 12-15 workers per shift. 
State officials and members of the Association of Washington Businesses toured Vaagen Timbers last fall, as well as Hewes Marine Company, located next door along North Highway.
Three years ago, Hewes Marine expanded its factory into the old Hearth and Home fwacility of 120,000 square feet that allowed production space to double. Smaller components for boats under the Hewescraft name are still made at the original factory to the west of the larger facility.
In 2019, Hewes Marine expected to produce 950 boats, including its new 290 Adventure that was added to the lineup in September.
The reputation for high quality and the lifetime warranty on the hull and all welds has made Hewescraft vessels the top sellers built in the Northwest, said Clint Kirry, a company executive, to AWB visitors.
He said all Hewescraft boats meet or exceed U.S. and Canadian Coast Guard flotation requirements. 
Hewes Marine was founded in 1948 and now has 160 staffers on deck. 

No. 7 Cause of pilot's death remains a mystery

The search for missing pilot Terry Coleman, a resident of Colville and local businessman, made headlines across the state and beyond.
The body of the 67-year-old man was found Nov. 16 in Sullivan Lake on the fifth day of the search coordinated by the Washington State Department of Transportation Aviation Division. Participating in the search of rugged terrain east of Highway 31 in northern Pend Oreille County was friends and family, the Stevens County Sheriff's Office, U.S. Border Patrol and other agencies.
The search area was defined by a radar “ping” from Spokane that put Coleman's Cessna 182 Skyland at about 4,000 feet in that location on Nov. 11.
According to reports, Coleman had decided that, because he was not working on Veterans Day, he would take his plane out for a flight of about an hour. When he did not return, his family alerted authorities and a search was initiated.
Coleman had not filed a flight plan nad the  emergency locator beacon on his plane never sent out a signal. One ping from his cell phone was recorded on a tower in Metaline Falls.
With little information to work with, state officials said finding Coleman became somewhat of a guessing game.
The search was made difficult by a series of fall storms that prevented planes and helicopters from flying on all but one day. 
Pend Oreille Sheriff Glenn Blakeslee said boats had been out on the lake several times with no results in the days prior to the discovery of Coleman's remains. He said searchers also combed the shoreline with no results. 
Blakeslee believed Coleman's body floated free of the plane and the aircraft was still submerged, possibly near the southern end of the lake. 
He said the depth of the lake reaches 280 feet in some places, so it could be difficult to spot the plane, but he was hopeful of its eventual recovery to determine if a mechanical problem caused the crash.
An autopsy was also done on Coleman's remains to see if he suffered some type of a medical condition that might have contributed to the crash.
Blakeslee said Monday the results of the autopsy were “inconclusive” and the search for the plane was halted due to inclement weather. He is hoping to organize a search in the spring.
“Unfortunately, we really have no new discoveries,” said Blakeslee. 
“It would be nice to have some answers about what happened.”

No. 8 Mine shutters, leaving 200 without jobs

A workforce of more than 200 lost jobs in July when the Pend Oreille Mine suspended operations due to a downturn in the lead and zinc markets.
“This is a sad announcement for Pend Oreille, however, it is necessary as the mine has exhausted its reserves,” said Chris Stannell, public relations manager for Teck Resources Limited, which owns the mine.
He said the mine, located a couple miles north of Metaline Falls, will be preserved in case the market changed, as well as other factors that contributed to the closure.
A complete shut down would trigger expensive requirements in state and federal mining permits. About 30 employees will be involved in ongoing maintenance of the site. 
Operations at the mine restarted in December 2014 after the main was put on care and maintenance in 2009 because prices for its products tumbled in the global recession.
Zinc is used to rust-proof steel and its markets is affected by downturns in construction and automobile manufacting.
In 2018, zinc prices dropped again and Teck was no longer able to afford exploration for new deposits of mineral rock, according to reports.
“The farther miners dig, the more difficult and expensive the process becomes,” said a Teck spokesman at that time.
The Pend Oreille Mine was the last major operation of its kind in Northeast Washington and the largest employer in Pend Oreille County. 
Mine employees were warned in 2018 of the likely shutdown so they had some time to prepare, said Pend Oreille County Commissioner Steve Kiss last July. 
He said the closure would not only hurt families directly involved in the mine, but businesses that provided support services. 
Workers rented apartments, ate at restaurants and supported stores and other service providers, not only in Metaline, Metaline Falls and Ione, but Colville and other communities in Stevens County, said Kiss.
The Selkirk School District stood to lose up to 40 students, affecting its funding.
Worksource Colville helped mine workers get their resumes in order and practice interview skills.
Barney Brockwell, employment specialist, estimated that about half of the displaced miners had homes outside Washington, but the half who were local residents would be seeking work. However, he said wages paid at the mine — $20 to $35 per hour plus benefits — far exceeded what miners were likely to find in the area.

No. 9 Vets helping vets' was 2019 mantra 

Veterans in Stevens County were on a roll — sometimes literally — to perform community outreach in 2019. 
During the month of September, bikers from American Legion Post 47 in Colville and Post 54 in Chewelah mounted up for the annual 9/11 Memorial Ride and partnered to rally vets to the first Stand Down in Colville since 2015.
In addition, Post 47 member John Horton joined an escort for the cremains of veterans located through the Missing in America Project to the Washington State Veterans Cemetery in Medical Lake.
Also in September, Post 47 organized a drive to collect new and gently used coats, gloves, stoking caps, scarves and snow pants of any size to help families in need.
Right before the first snowfall of the season in late September, the Legion welcomed Mark Gutierrez, 34, a Navy veteran who rode 4,200 miles before arriving in Colville. He was treated to a complimentary stay at Beaver Lodge prior to arriving in town. 
Gutierrez had survived service as a bomb disposal technician leader in Afghanistan and Iraq. He suffered from Traumatic Brain Injuries and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and was medically discharged from 12 years of  service in 2018.
He decided that riding across the country would give him space and time to sort out his thoughts about combat and figure out his future. Along the way, he stopped to thank firefighters, police and military families, as he did in Colville. 
Legion Post 47 is now  working with community volunteers to operate a Warming Center for people in need of shelter during the cold winter months. 
The center is located at Post 47, 103 East 6th Avenue, and donations of snack foods, granola bars and drink mixes for hot chocolate and hot cider are always welcome. 
Horton said 2019 was about ‘vets helping vets. ‘

No. 10 Stevens County painted as racist enclave

Twice in 2019, Stevens County became a national focus over allegations it was an enclave for white supremacy with a violent history.
Last March, the Stevens County Commissioners were accused of being constitutionalists tied to racist militias by David Neiwerst, a presenter in a media briefing hosted by Western States Center of Portland, Oregon. 
Neiwest was the author of “Alt-America: The Rise in the Radical Right in the Age of Trump,” with ties to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
He said Stevens County was trying to undermine the rule of law by opposing Initiative 1639 gun control laws. 
Commissioner Steve Parker said the “patriot movement” that was derided as racist was “simply Americans respecting the U.S. Constitution as the supreme law of the land and realizing that amendments can only be made by going through a formal process, not by citizen initiative.”
Several months later, freelance journalist Leath Sottile penned the seven-part Bundyville series  that was published by Oregon Public Broadcasting and Longreads. 
Her reports about  a long lineage of racially-motivated violence in the area was rebutted by Stevens County Sheriff Brad Manke and Prosecutor Tim Rasmussem.
“I disagree that Stevens County is a hotbed of racial hatred,” said Rasmussen.
“I have been prosecuting attorney for 13 years and have only filed on charge involving a racially based crime, and the jury acquitted the defendant on that charge at trial.”
Manke said, “We don’t see crimes committed here in Stevens County because of extremism, although I do think it exists here just as it does anywhere else in the United States. But that is such a small minority of the population that it’s unfair to paint Stevens County with such a broad brush.”
Parker said Sottile’s work was inaccurate and offensive. “This county is full of good people who are not anti-government as she says, they are freedom-oriented and support less government, and the right to make their own decisions. 

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