Northwest Briefly: Jon Stewart too busy to get Bellingham’s key

BELLINGHAM — “The Daily Show” host Jon Stewart won’t be coming to Bellingham to accept the key to the city.

Mayor Dan Pike said representatives of Stewart’s talent agency told him that Stewart appreciated the offer, but was too busy to accept. Pike made the offer after the mayor of Mount Vernon decided to give Fox News commentator Glenn Beck a key to that city.

Pike told The Bellingham Herald that he’s not disappointed by Stewart’s decision because the point of the offer was to spark community discussion. He says he still plans to send Stewart a key to the city.

Mount Vernon: Brothers arrested in fatal shooting

Two Mount Vernon brothers have been arrested for investigation of murder in the shooting death of an 18-year-old man last June.

Mount Vernon police Detective Sgt. Mark Shipman said a 20-year-old man was arrested Tuesday morning during a traffic stop. His 24-year-old brother was asked to come to the police department and was arrested that evening.

The victim, Edgar Reyes-Bravo, was shot to death while sitting in his car early on June 22. Shipman told the Skagit Valley Herald that there had been prior conflicts between the two arrested and Reyes-Bravo.

Vancouver, Wash.: Court says man can withdraw 1985 guilty pleas

A state appeals court has ruled that former Vancouver police officer Clyde Spencer can withdraw pleas he entered in 1985, admitting then that he would be found guilty of molesting his children.

The ruling Tuesday sends the case back to Clark County for Spencer to withdraw the pleas.

The Vancouver Columbian reported prosecutors can appeal, refile charges or dismiss the case.

Spencer’s son and daughter testified last summer the abuse never took place and they were pressured by their mother and police investigators to accuse their father.

Spencer spent more than 20 years in prison before his sentenced was commuted in 2004 by the governor. Spencer was still required to register as a sex offender.

Alleged ‘River Rat’ robbery accomplice appears in court

A man accused of being the getaway driver for the “River Rat Bandit” has been ordered held on $2 million bail.

Travis Lee Oles made his first appearance Wednesday in Clark County Superior Court in Vancouver on five counts of first-degree robbery. Arraignment for the 35-year-old Portland, Ore., man is set for Oct. 28.

Police say the River Rat Bandit is to blame for a string of armed robberies of banks and check-cashing stores in Washington and Oregon.

On Tuesday, the man alleged to be the bandit, 32-year-old Alexey Perez-Hernandez, was charged in Clark County with five counts of first-degree robbery. He is being held in Pierce County on robbery and attempted robbery charges filed there.

Seattle: Teacher study finds many trouble spots

An independent study of teacher quality in Seattle Public Schools found many areas of concern.

The nonprofit National Council on Teacher Quality conducted the study commissioned by Seattle’s Alliance for Education. The study expresses concern about the way teachers are evaluated in Seattle. And it says some state and district policies get in the way of efforts to put a good teacher in every classroom.

The study makes dozens of recommendations. It calls for lengthening the workday for elementary teachers, who work 30 minutes less than the national average. It suggests the state shorten the amount of time teachers can be on probation.

The report also makes some controversial recommendations, such as basing part of teachers’ pay on how their students perform.

Seattle bans guns in most city parks

Seattle Parks and Recreation on Wednesday put into effect a new rule banning the possession or display of firearms at playgrounds, community centers and other places where children are likely to be.

Firearms will be prohibited at designated facilities once signs are posted notifying people of the new rule. The first signs are to be posted today, with the rest up by Dec. 1.

In all, the rule will be applied at more than 500 parks, recreation centers, pools, beaches and golf courses.

Gold stolen from Seattle medical and dental offices

Seattle police want to put the bite on whoever has been stealing gold from dental and medical offices.

Police say more than 30 burglaries have taken place since early September. Most have been in north Seattle.

Seattle police spokesman Mark Jamieson told KING-TV that the burglars often take prescription narcotics as well as gold. He said they are breaking into offices that have alarms, which doesn’t seem to be a deterrent.

State’s community colleges get foundation dollars

Two foundations are investing more than $6 million in a project that aims at helping Washington community colleges improve their students’ graduation rates.

The Bill &Melinda Gates Foundation is providing $5.3 million to the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, and the Ford Foundation is giving $800,000.

Gates Foundation officials believe Washington state’s efforts could be expanded to help colleges across the nation increase the number of people who earn a degree or certificate beyond high school. The foundation is looking to double the number of low-income students in the United States who graduate from college or another post-high-school program in the next 15 years.

One program getting support allows students to combine remedial classes with career or skills training so they finish faster than if they had to do the remedial work first.

Others being expanded focus on online learning and math instruction.

Spokane: Canadian man accused of hauling cocaine

Drug Enforcement Administration agents found 80 pounds of cocaine in a sport utility vehicle rented in Spokane by a man from Salmon Arm, B.C.

Agents seized the drug Oct. 7 and arrested the 36-year-old, Michael Barry Yuill.

He was in Spokane federal court Tuesday for a bail hearing. His public defender, Jaime Hawk, described Yuill as a low-level player in the alleged drug ring.

The Spokesman-Review reported federal agents were tipped off by Spokane International Airport police who became suspicious of the Canadian because he rented several SUVs in the last four months and returned them with high mileage.

Tacoma: Trial begins for accused judge

Testimony has begun in Tacoma in the trial of Pierce County Superior Court Judge Michael Hecht.

He’s accused of paying a man for sex and threatening another man to stop him from talking about it. Hecht has pleaded not guilty to charges of harassment and patronizing a prostitute. He says he’s a victim of political opponents.

In opening arguments Wednesday, Hecht’s defense lawyer said he’s an advocate for the homeless who gave men money, but not for sex.

The News Tribune of Tacoma reported the trial is expected to last about two weeks.

KING-TV says Hecht is expected to testify next week.

Olympia: Fire fatalities up this year in Washington

The state Fire Marshal’s Office reports there have been 42 fire fatalities so far this year compared to 31 at this time in 2008 in Washington.

Deputy Fire Marshal Melissa Gannie said fires caused by with wiring or electrical appliances have replaced smoking as the leading cause of fatalities.

The office recommended that households install and maintain smoke alarms and prepare a home escape plan.

There were 45 fire deaths last year in the state.

Oregon: Soda pop off menu for prison inmates

Oregon’s Department of Corrections is taking soda pop off the menu for state prisoners.

Administrator Michael Gower told KGW-TV that soda will be dropped from meal service on Dec. 31. Instead, Gower said Tuesday, prisoners will be offered tea at meal time, which he says is a healthier option.

The department took criticism earlier this year for spending nearly $775,000 for soda pop for prisoners between 2007 and 2009.

Gower says prison staff and inmates will still be able to buy soda on their own, and is working to add more beverage choices.

From Herald news services

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