After years of grunt work, Patty Murray finally gets her senate pilot's wings. Meanwhile, a world-wise look at Metro's haphazard RapidRide scheduling and Expedia pushes U.S. vacation time.
Patty Murray at the helm
There was a surprisingly long time when power brokers in Seattle liked to dismiss U.S. Sen. Patty Murray as a lightweight. She was stereotyped as a mom in tennis shoes, and her focus on the needs of families struck some as unfortunate — if not irrelevant to their own business needs. That eventually faded as many of them, at least, recognized her hard work on everything from Boeing issues to ensuring that veterans and their families receive decent medical care.
Now? Hah. Forgive those of us who have long admired her for taking a moment to relish her national ascent. She's about to become chair of the U.S. Senate's powerful Budget Committee. She's not just in a position to shape national policy, but also to help on even more local causes than she already does. Congress may not be able spend as freely as it did back when Sens. Warren Magnuson and Henry Jackson brought home appropriations for all sorts of Washington public works, higher education and medical projects, but Murray will still do plenty.
In the wake of Thursday's news that she is virtually certain to receive the post, she is being quoted, praised and featured regionally and nationally. Roll Call, an influential Capitol Hill publication, began an admiring profile this way: "No one takes more thankless jobs within the Senate Democratic leadership than Patty Murray, and the Washington state Democrat may finally be in a position to reap the rewards."
Murray never seems to have forgotten that she's working for the people. She talked to the Roll Call reporter about making national budget decisions — including how the country deals with its so-called fiscal cliff — meaningful to a mom sending a child off to school or hoping her husband gets a chance for job training. She also told Roll Call:
“If we just look at the budget as ‘how do we deal with this debt and deficit’, we are going to short-change the ability for this country to be who we’ve always been: a place of opportunity, in the global marketplace, competitive, forward-leaning and able to invest in our people in this country to be ... at the top.”
Serious stuff, from a senator who studies the issues well.
Metro: The unschedule
Rather than posting a precise schedule for its RapidRide services, most recently added for Ballard and West Seattle, Metro has only been saying how much time there is supposed to be between each bus. Thus, riders are told that buses come every 10 minutes during rush hours, for example.
Maybe it's something that works, at least during rush hour. But the Seattle Transit Blog, which has covered the agency's thinking in some detail, today has a very detailed look at the practices in two dozen cities, mostly in northern Europe, with similarly frequent or considerably more frequent service. Most do provide transit riders the service of giving exact schedules.
The writer, Adam Bejan Parast, said he had collected the data for a master's degree research project. Here's to demanding academic standards — and getting the results to the public.
Boeing contract posturing
Boeing and its engineers still appear far from agreeing on a contract. The Herald of Everett reports that the two parties will resume their long-running talks next Tuesday, but Boeing and the engineering and technical workers' union, the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, are still far apart.
A Seattle Times story ealier in the week suggested a breakdown in high-level talks that were supposed to clear the way for big progress on a contract.
Some employees are reportedly reducing productivity to fit minimum requirements in an attempt to pressure the company. But there have been similar reports since at least September. The union isn't expected to move toward a strike soon for practical reasons: Boeing shuts down for two weeks during the holidays.
Did someone say time off? U.S. workers have long received much less vacation time than their counterparts in most advanced economies. A survey cited today in the Puget Sound Business Journal shows that the average worker in this country only takes 10 vacation days a year.
The report also says the workers are passing on a couple of days of vacation annually, a trend long associated with death-by-overwork Japan.
It's important to note though, that the survey comes from a source with a certain interest in enabling vacations: Bellevue-based Expedia. Enable away, Expedia.