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Photo: Improvements begin at Hale Park

Douglas County among fastest-growing in state

NCW — Douglas County was the fourth fastest-growing county in the state last year, according to the state Office of Financial Management.

Douglas County saw a 2.17% population increase in the last year, according to the data, putting it behind only Kittitas, Clark and Franklin counties. It saw a 13.84% increase in the last 10 years.

Rock Island now has more residents than Waterville. Its estimated population is 1,220, compared to Waterville’s 1,195.

The Office of Financial Management provides annual population estimates that are used for state program administration and allocation of revenue.

The most recent estimates, from April 1, were released last week.

Chelan County saw a 1.58% increase in the last year, according to the data. It saw a 9.95% increase in the last 10 years.

The data show Washington had over 7.6 million residents as of April 1 — a 1.45% increase in the last year and a 13.85% increase in the last 10 years. The Office of Financial Management says most population change occurred before the COVID-19 crisis and that the increase is primarily due to people moving to the state.

Catholic Charities video sparks controversy, highlights failures to address systemic racism

SPOKANE — Remarks by Rob McCann, the chief executive of Catholic Charities of Eastern Washington, have drawn outrage from members of the Catholic community who accuse him of making overbroad “generalizations” about systemic racism and the complicity of white church members.

McCann expressed solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement in a video released several weeks ago, capturing the attention of Catholic groups nationwide amid protests against police brutality and racial injustice. Among the most vocal critics of the video is Spokane’s Catholic bishop, Thomas Daly, who said in a statement Monday the church has been “roiled” by McCann’s message.

“When Rob spoke of the church as racist, himself as racist and essentially all white people are racist — I thought it was a very simplistic way to look at the tragedy of racism,” Daly said in an interview with The Spokesman-Review.

Daly said he has received many calls and emails from church members who feel McCann spoke too broadly about racism and ignored positive things the church has done.

“No, not everybody is racist by sheer skin color,” Daly said.

McCann declined a request for an interview on Monday, but recently he issued a statement on the Catholic Charities website in an effort to clarify the remarks he made in the video.

“Though I meant the video to begin a humble examination of my role and Catholic Charities’ role in systemic racism, it was perceived as an attack on the church,” McCann wrote. “And though I meant the video to begin healing rifts within our community, it resulted in some people becoming further entrenched in their positions.”

McCann said his Spokane-based organization, which runs numerous charitable operations including a homeless shelter and low-income housing programs, has been the target of “violent and hateful language” in response to his video.

“There also has now been violence committed against my wife and children at my home,” McCann wrote. “For all of my best intentions, these past weeks have been marked by hurt and sadness from all involved.”

Kurtis Robinson, president of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP, noted the Catholic Church was built on a so-called “doctrine of discovery” that drove the church’s expansion from Europe into other continents and encouraged church leaders to dehumanize and oppress Indigenous people.

“It’s no surprise they’re having a hard time coming to terms with it,” Robinson said. “They’ve been so saturated and permeated with that, and many times don’t see anything wrong it. That’s the dilemma.”

Robinson said he’s not surprised that McCann received backlash for calling out racism in the church — for pushing back against oppressive systems that maintain the status quo. He said it’s a predictable, reflexive response by white people who sense their outsize power in society being threatened.

It’s largely a result of an education system that omits historical injustices and atrocities committed against people of color, Robinson said.

“We have generations of people in operation right now that are running around under that false narrative, and those are the ones reacting when statements like these come out,” he said.

McCann emphasized that he does not speak for the church or the Spokane diocese, and he apologized for not making that clear in his earlier video. He said his remarks were not intended to discount any good deeds performed by the church.

“The temptation of racism is rooted in the lives and experiences of every human being,” McCann wrote. “This each person must discern for themselves. I was attempting to address this temptation in my own life, but I was careless with my words in a number of instances. I acknowledge that I was wrong in that, and I apologize for the hurt that it caused.”

He later added, “As an individual with white privilege, I certainly have had moments where I could and should have done more to be actively anti-racist. I am not saying that all white people are racists or that all Catholics are racist.”

Daly noted that the diocese recently issued a statement condemning institutional racism amid the protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. But in his statement Monday, the bishop criticized McCann for continuing to support the sweeping movement that has fallen under the Black Lives Matter umbrella.

Daly accused members of that movement of failing to condemn violence and looting at protests. He wrote that “one need not stand with BLM to stand for Black lives.”

Robinson, the NAACP president, said people should listen and seek to understand when issues of systemic racism are called out.

“What they’re really trying to do is undermine the invitation that we’re getting to move forward as a healthy community,” he said, “and keep perpetuating the systemic racism, dehumanizing, otherizing, classism dynamics that created the problem in the first place.”

Interior stops grizzly bear reintroduction

NCW — Grizzly bears will not be reintroduced into the North Cascades.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt announced the decision Tuesday during a meeting with Omak residents, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Residents of the North Cascades have made it clear that they do not want grizzly bears in their backyard, Bernhardt said. The bears are not in danger of extinction, he said, and the department will focus on helping the bears in their existing range.

The agency started a review process for reintroducing the bears in 2015, according to the news release, and held meetings in 2017 and 2018 for public comment. The agency received more than 143,000 comments on the plan.

The Chelan County Commission expressed its opposition to the plan during the public comment period in 2019.

Conservation Northwest, a non-profit environmental group in Seattle, disputes that the agency received overwhelming negative feedback about the grizzly bear reintroduction plan, according to a news release. The agency says that based on the public comments it reviewed, 80% of people supported grizzly bear restoration.

Grizzly bears are listed as a threatened species by the U.S. The North Cascades is one of six ecosystems that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service identified to reintroduce grizzly bears. The other areas include parts of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Selkirk Ecosystem in northeastern Washington.

The last known grizzly bear in the North Cascades in the U.S. was in 1996, according to the North Cascades National Park website. At least one grizzly bear has been confirmed on the British Columbia side of the Cascades in the last five years.

Washington state has a law banning the reintroduction of grizzly bears, but that does not apply to federal land.

Residents to be randomly tested for COVID-19

NCW — Health officials are seeking volunteers for random COVID-19 testing to determine the prevalence of the coronavirus in Chelan and Douglas counties.

It is part of an effort by the Chelan-Douglas Health District and local hospitals to see how far the virus has spread across the two counties, said Joyous Van Meter, Health District regional epidemiologist.

Medical officials will then be able to compare that to the rate of infection from people already coming in to get tested.

The health district sent letters to random households last Friday in both Chelan and Douglas counties asking residents to get tested, Van Meter said. They can come in and be tested for free. It takes about two days for the results to come back, so the health district will likely start seeing data next week.

People do not need to get tested if they don’t want to, she said.

The health district used a method called CASPER to select the household that received the letters, Van Meter said. CASPER is a two-stage cluster sampling methodology that breaks homes within a survey population into clusters and then selects about seven homes at random within that cluster to survey — or in this case test, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Normally with the CASPER study, surveyors would go door to door and ask households if they were willing to be tested, Van Meter said. But a lot of healthcare workers don’t feel safe doing that at this point, she said.

Doing door-to-door surveys is less of a safety concern and more of a practical one, said Bruce Buckles, Chelan-Douglas Health District interim administrator. The agency doesn’t have the manpower to do door-to-door testing.