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King County Council vacancy
King County Exeuctive Dow Constantine today named a committee to advise him on nominating a slate of three potential successors to county councilmember Bob Ferguson, who is leaving his north Seattle-Shoreline district seat.
The 13-member committee is drawn from a variety of backgrounds, including business, labor, education and a couple of city governments. The co-chairs are George Allen from the Metropolitan Seattle Chamber of Commerce and Kathe Fowler, vice president of the Washington Environmental Council's board.
The vacancy occurs Jan. 16, when Ferguson is sworn in as state attorney general. The committee will advise Constantine on the potential replacements' qualifications before he submits a list of three nominees, from which the remaining council members choose.
There are 13 candidates for the 13 committee members to review. So, in the spirit of Seattle nice, does everybody get a personal advocate?
Public affairs on UW TV?
Word has it that there is some discussion around the University of Washington leadership about the possibility of mobilizing UWTV to fill the growing loss of public affairs discussion on local television.
The concern comes in the wake of both Robert Mak's departure from KING5 this week after his highly regarded weekly public affairs program had been axed by the cost-cutting at the Belo Corp. channel and Ken Schram's departure from KOMO radio. Earlier, as UW folks note, KCTS 9 — a public TV station — axed its weekly public affairs show with Enrique Cerna.
The university would have to find a funding source. But the apparent interest in a weekly, high-level discussion of public issues is encouraging.
Marriage attention shift
Washington state was the focus of national coverage of the marriage equality movement and will be even more intensely so on Sunday as weddings occur — great visuals, everyone dressed up, flowers, music. But for today, D.C. and California take center stage, with the U.S. Supreme Court agreeing to hear challenges to the Golden State's anti-equality Prop 8 and to the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
Doug Honig of the state ACLU chapter sent along a briefing from James Esseks, the national ACLU's Director of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & AIDS Project, about the significance of the court agreeing to hear the challenge. Here's an excerpt:
This is it – the Supreme Court marriage moment that the ACLU has been working towards for years. The Court announced today that it has granted review of the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act in Edie Windsor’s case. The Court also took review of California’s Prop 8, so the full range of marriage issues will now be before the high court. These cases are poised not just to take down DOMA and Prop 8, but to be the next building blocks for LGBT equality more broadly.
The Windsor and Perry rulings, expected in June 2013, will be a watershed moment if our side wins either one.
Here’s why these cases are so important:
Ending explicit federal discrimination. DOMA requires the federal government to discriminate against married same-sex couples by treating them as legal strangers for purposes of all federal statutes and programs. There are approximately 120,000 married same-sex couples in the U.S. today, and DOMA treats all of them as single in each of the 1,100+ places in the federal code where being married makes a difference – from eligibility for family medical leave, to social security survivor’s benefits, to access to health care for a spouse. It’s the last explicit federal declaration that gay people are inferior, which is reason enough to get rid of it.
Heightened scrutiny in the balance. The Windsor ruling from the federal appeals court announced an important new protection for LGB people – “heightened scrutiny” by the courts. Under this standard, courts will presume that anti-gay discrimination by the government is unconstitutional and will require the government to have a good explanation for why it needs to treat us badly. Courts have usually applied a much less rigorous standard that often allows the government to discriminate against lesbians and gay men. While DOMA and Prop 8 should fail under any standard, if the Supreme Court adopts the heightened scrutiny standard, it would help eliminate anti-gay discrimination in many different contexts, from the workplace, to state parenting laws, to public schools across the country.
Showing the country that discrimination in marriage is wrong. Both Windsor and Perry make profound contributions to the public’s understanding of the freedom to marry. Edie’s story resonates because her relationship with Thea exemplifies what many people think marriage is all about – making a commitment to another person and sticking with it through difficult times. When two people make the commitment that’s at the heart of marriage, it’s profoundly unfair for the government to treat them as though they’re not a family. The evidence presented at the Prop 8 trial helped the country see how baseless are the many anti-gay stereotypes that are at the core of our opponents’ arguments. And having prominent conservatives like Ted Olson champion this cause gets a big chunk of America to take another look. Once they do, many realize they don’t really have a problem with same-sex couples tying the knot.
Bike track for Seattle
For bicyclists, the weekend may have its good moments. With that thought, we reach back to a posting on Thursday from the Cascade Bicycle Club's Bike Blog reporting that work has begun on city construction of pedestrian improvements and a cycle track on NE 65th Street.
As Anne-Marije Rook explains:
The project will provide a dedicated 10-foot wide area on the street for people of all ages and abilities to ride bicycles, separated from vehicle traffic by curbing and a sturdy metal lane separator.
It will also provide new curb ramps for people with strollers, wheelchairs, and other mobility challenges; a curb extension on the east side of the intersection to shorten the crossing distance of NE 65th Street, better aligned crosswalks; larger waiting areas; and improved drainage. Emergency vehicle access and driveway access will be maintained. Parking will be consolidated to the north side of the street by removing parking on the south side of the street.
With these improvements, the City hope[s] to create a safe, family-friendly connection between the Burke-Gilman Trail and Magnuson Park.
Bring on the kind of improvements that make bicycling a safe, reasonable option for those of us without super fitness — or athletic skills.
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