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'Everyone's excited' | Apple Blossom Carnival takes off at Lincoln Park

WENATCHEE — One crosswalk and a couple more steps away, Juan Serrano Mendoza, father of four, walked with two of his youngest kids on Friday evening to the 2021 Apple Blossom Carnival at Lincoln Park.

The majority of the carnival and amusement rides are visible from his home across Crawford Avenue.

This year’s carnival, fitting neatly between a line of trees along Crawford Avenue and a trail cutting down the middle of the park, was moved from its usual spot at the Town Toyota Center parking lot because of the pandemic.

The Town Toyota Center is currently home to a COVID-19 testing and vaccination site run by Lifeline Ambulance and the Chelan-Douglas Health District.

What was a 10-minute car ride two years ago to drive from their home to the arena and find parking, now is a couple steps for the Mendoza family.

Living so close to the location of this year’s Funtastic Shows Carnival, Mendoza said on Saturday that his two youngest kids, ages 4 and 10, already want to head back.

The move to Lincoln Park, while temporary, has been awesome, said Darci Christoferson, Apple Blossom festival administrator.

“Everyone’s excited for the carnival,” she said.

bonnicksen / World photo/Mike Bonnicksen  

The carnival and festival are usually held in late April and early May, but were delayed this year because of COVID-19 concerns. The events were canceled last year.

Christoferson said the No. 1 phone call at the festival office has been about the carnival, a considerable jump in interest from previous years.

The Funtastic Shows Carnival opened Friday and continues through June 13, opening at 3 p.m. weekdays, noon Saturday, and 1 p.m. on Sunday.

bonnicksen / World photo/Mike Bonnicksen 

Riders laugh and scream as they ride the “Rock Star.” The carnival relocated this year because the arena is currently home to a COVID-19 testing and vaccination site run by Lifeline Ambulance and the Chelan-Douglas Health District.

To abide by city noise ordinance, the carnival closes at 10 p.m., though it could close earlier if attendance is low.

Mendoza said that after one night with the carnival so close by, the noise has not been a bother.

Christoferson said that because the Washington State Apple Blossom Festival was pushed further into the year, normally taking place in late April to early May, kids are way more excited now that the end of the school year aligns with the festival.

The graduating seniors at Wenatchee High School were able to enjoy two exclusive hours of unlimited access Friday before the carnival opened to the general public, according to Christoferson.

Unable to organize a graduation party at the school due to COVID, the parent committee reached out to the Apple Blossom staff about the possibility of funding an exclusive time for Wenatchee High School seniors, she said.

An opportunity like this will likely never happen again, Christoferson said.

But under these unique circumstances, “Funtastic Shows were more than happy to take care of these kids and have them have a great senior party,’’ Christoferson said. “These poor seniors haven’t had a senior year. And to be able to have the carnival all to yourself for two hours, how fun is that?”

Mendoza also said his children are exhausted from being cooped inside due to the pandemic, but he has plans to return to the carnival now that it is so close.

“It’s a relief,” he said.

State to halt driver's license suspension for unpaid tickets, failure to appear in court

OLYMPIA — About 100,000 Washington drivers will soon have their licenses reinstated under a court-ordered moratorium on the state’s practice of revoking licenses to penalize drivers who fail to pay fines or fail to appear in court.

The new policy will start Tuesday. The change comes after a Thurston County Superior Court judge in May ruled it was unconstitutional for the state to take away licenses for people who didn’t pay traffic fines without determining their ability to afford it, because it violated their right to due process.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington sued the state Department of Licensing last year, arguing the state’s practice unfairly hurts those who can’t afford to pay their tickets.

By June 16, the state will reinstate licenses for all drivers who had them suspended for failing to pay or failing to appear in court for a noncriminal moving violation, such as running a red light or speeding.

About 200,000 people have their licenses suspended for failure to appear in court, although that number includes citations for criminal offenses, according to DOL. The ACLU of Washington estimates 100,000 people will get their licenses restored under the policy changes.

The previous $75 fee to reinstate licenses will be waived.

“This makes a tremendous difference for many people in their lives,” said ACLU senior staff attorney John Midgley. “Some of our plaintiffs in the case couldn’t take jobs because they couldn’t drive to get there. Medical care, child care, school, work — things that people need cars to get to. And in many areas of the state, especially rural areas, there just aren’t a lot of public-transportation options.”

Following the order, the ACLU met with the state department in what Midgley called a “respectful negotiation” to discuss the terms. “We will abide by the order and will not appeal it,” said DOL spokesperson Nathan Olson.

The new policy will be in place until Jan. 1, 2023, when Senate Bill 5226 takes effect. Under SB 5226, which passed in the state Legislature this year, drivers who show up in court for all of their hearings will not have their licenses suspended.

However, the bill will keep in place suspensions for drivers who fail to appear in court.

Midgley says the ACLU remains concerned about this part of the bill because failures to appear can occur because people have to work, can’t get transportation to court or miss hearings for other unintentional reasons.

“We’re very concerned that failure to appear debt-based suspensions are still there. But we want to see how it’s implemented and, and work from there.”

The court mandated that the DOL produce reports on the implementation of SB 5226.

Previously in Washington, a driver who received a speeding ticket or another kind of moving violation, could pay the fine or request a hearing. If the individual either did not respond to the citation or failed to appear in court, their driver’s license would be suspended.

People caught driving with a suspended license for noncriminal offenses were charged with a misdemeanor crime that led to 90 days in jail or another $1,000 fine — adding to existing debt and making it harder for drivers to get their licenses back, Midgley said.

In its complaint, the ACLU argued the “severe and life-altering” impacts of the law would often “trigger a cascading set of adverse consequences” felt acutely by people with lower incomes. Wealthier individuals could retain their licenses “even though they are guilty of the exact same infractions.”

The Attorney General’s Office, which defended the state in the legal case, referred a request for comment to the DOL.

In arguments against the bill, Kelsi Hamilton, who represented the Washington Collectors Association, said Washington has high rates in the nation for uninsured drivers and reports said “This is one of the few incentives to get people to provide insurance.”

The changes will not apply to habitual offenders or people who committed criminal offenses. And the state will continue to put a “hold” on a vehicle registrations for infractions such as unpaid tolling or parking tickets, unpaid fees and dishonored payments.

In Guatemala, Harris tells would-be migrants to US, 'You will be turned back'

GUATEMALA CITY — Speaking from Guatemala’s capital with the nation’s president at her side, Vice President Kamala Harris delivered a stark message Monday to would-be migrants from Central America, saying they “will be turned back” if they attempt to cross the U.S. border illegally.

Harris, on her first foreign trip as vice president, also gently chided her host, Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei. He and other regional leaders, she said, must work to reduce poverty, violence and corruption and give their citizens reasons to stay in their home countries — to create “hope” for citizens about their futures there.

“I believe if you come to our border, you will be turned back,” Harris said during a joint news conference with Giammattei. “So let’s discourage our friends or neighbors or family members from embarking on what is otherwise an extremely dangerous journey.”

Harris was to continue to Mexico City later Monday for the second stop on a two-stop, two-day trip. She is to meet on Tuesday with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a left-wing populist who developed a collegial relationship with the Trump administration.

Harris, in remarks to reporters before her meeting with Giammattei, said her visit here underscored the priority that President Joe Biden placed on the region. “It is important that as we embark on a new era that we recognize the significance and importance of this relationship,” she said.

Giammattei, at the news conference, said Harris’ visit provided an “opportunity to work on a joint agenda” to help the Guatemalan economy. But he also seemed defensive at Harris’ remarks on corruption, bristling at the implicit criticism of his government.

He said the two discussed opening U.S. markets and expanding the availability of work visas — “a very simple process to allow people to migrate regularly to the United States.”

“We can move forward mile after mile until we can turn this country into a country of opportunity where people want to stay,” Giammattei said.

Harris, in what she called a “robust, candid” and thorough discussion, said she and Giammattei discussed “the fundamental belief that most people don’t want to leave home.”

She said they agreed that illicit drugs and human trafficking are undermining security in both Guatemala and the United States. To improve conditions, she said the United States would start an initiative to empower young women, provide investment in agribusiness, housing and start-up businesses and encourage corporate executives globally to invest.

Significantly, given the role of corruption in the region’s plight, Harris said, “The president and I discussed the importance of anti-corruption and the importance of an independent judiciary.” She said a task force will be set up to train people and support local prosecutors, adding, “Corruption does not know borders, and we want to make sure that this is about transnational crime... Follow the money.”

Later, Harris sought to emphasize what she has described as a pillar of the new Biden administration policy: To work more closely with nongovernmental organizations and activist groups, channeling aid money away from corrupt politicians.

She met with a large group of leaders in Guatemala’s civil society, including well known activists Rigoberta Menchú, a Nobel Peace laureate and veteran campaigner for indigenous rights; former Vice President Eduardo Stein, who has long worked on behalf of migrants and refugees; and Helen Mack, a prominent human rights defender whose anthropologist sister was assassinated by the Guatemalan military three decades ago.

Harris had landed in Guatemala City on Sunday evening to a red-carpet reception and was greeted by a national honor guard under a slight breeze. This first trip outside the United States since taking office is one with historic significance. Harris is now the highest-ranking woman of color in the history of the United States to represent the country on foreign soil.

She is doing so in her role as Biden’s emissary to address the root causes of Central Americans’ migration northward. Ahead of Harris’ trip, administration officials tried to lower expectations about any immediate results, stressing that this visit was her introduction to the region.

But she is under political pressure to show results. Republicans have tried to tie her to the administration’s struggles to manage the border and have attacked her for not acting more aggressively in her assignment. And the continued flow of migrant families and unaccompanied children to the U.S. border has created an urgent humanitarian problem.

Ricardo Zúñiga, the administration’s special envoy to the region, defended the decision for Harris to meet with Giammattei, despite attacks here on independent bodies trying to root out corruption in the government.

Zúñiga told reporters Sunday night that Harris and Giammattei would talk “clearly and plainly as partners, as countries that have to get along.” In previous conversations with leaders in the region, Zúñiga said, “we talked about the easy things, but we talk mostly about hard things.”

Specialists on the region looked to Harris’ diplomacy for further signs of the shift from the policies of President Donald Trump.

“This is a trip to Mexico and Guatemala, but it’s a trip that’s being viewed across the broader region as ... an indication of what is going to be the Biden administration’s broader strategy,” said Jason Marczak, director of the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center at the Atlantic Council think tank, which held a discussion on the trip Friday.

Biden asked Harris in March to tackle what the administration called the root causes that had led to an increased number of people from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, including many families and unaccompanied children, to head toward the United States.

The three countries, known collectively as the Northern Triangle, have been rocked by recent hurricanes and the COVID-19 pandemic. But they also have deeply embedded poverty and corruption that have allowed drug cartels and other criminals to thrive. Harris is not traveling to Honduras or El Salvador and has not met with either country’s leaders because of American concerns about corruption in both countries.

Harris has spent months meeting with experts, activists and business leaders, often virtually, and has begun implementing a strategy that includes soliciting foreign investment as well as granting foreign aid, while exerting pressure on the governments to improve their governance and human rights records.

Corruption is “kind of a driver of migration” because “when the governments are not reliable, they can’t deliver services,” said Steve Johnson, a top adviser on the region in the George W. Bush administration.

But Ana Maria Mendez, Oxfam’s Central America director who is based here, said in an interview, “We should all be clear that one visit will not solve it all.”

Harris has also emphasized the need for patience. Many of the problems have been festering for decades. Biden had a nearly identical assignment in 2014 when he served as vice president in the Obama administration but was unable to make a long-term impact.

The vice president’s trip got off to a rough start as she left Washington on Sunday afternoon. Harris’ plane was turned back after takeoff because of mechanical problems, forcing her and those traveling with her to switch aircraft.

“We all said a little prayer, but we’re good,” she told reporters as she walked off the troubled plane.

Inslee appoints Robert Jourdan to Superior Court judgeship

WENATCHEE — Public defender Robert Jourdan will be the next Chelan County Superior Court judge.

Jourdan was appointed Friday by Gov. Jay Inslee to replace Judge Lesley Allan, who is retiring June 30 after 23 years on the bench.

Jourdan has spent almost two decades as a public defender.

He worked with the Defender Association and King County Department of Public Defense in Seattle for 17 and the last two years with the Counsel for Defense of Chelan County.

“Robert has a reputation as a consummate professional and an outstanding attorney with a real depth of experience in criminal law,” Inslee said in a news release. “I’m pleased that he has decided to continue his career in public service as a member of the Chelan County bench.”

Jourdan this year served as a rater to help judge the YMCA Mock Trial Chelan County tournament, and he also is currently serving on the board of directors for Eastmont Youth Baseball.

Jourdan earned a bachelor’s degree from National American University in Rapid City, South Dakota. He earned a law degree at Gonzaga University.

Jourdan was selected from a pool of seven local applicants. In a vote amongst members of the Chelan Douglas Bar Association, Jourdan was the fifth-most preferred candidate. Beth Bratton received the most “preferred choice” votes with 29. Tied for second with 19 were N. Smith Hagopian and Jordan L. Miller. Scott Volyn received 13 votes, Jourdan 12, Sally White Harmeling 7 and David Force 2.

Inslee hasn’t always followed the local bar association’s recommendation.

Attorney polling in late 2017 for successors to retiring Chelan County Superior Court judges Alicia Nakata and T.W. “Chip” Small showed a preference for Kristin Ferrera and Travis Brandt.

Ferrera won the appointment to replace Nakata, but Robert McSeveney was tapped to succeed Small.

McSeveney’s stint on the Superior Court bench was short-lived. He announced his intent to join the U.S. Immigration Court in Seattle as a federal judge while running for election against Brandt. Brandt won the election and continues to serve in Superior Court alongside Ferrera.