Art work by Noel Franklin
Jobs: Looking up
The jobless rate in the Seattle-Bellevue area fell below 6 percent, to 5.9 percent last month, according to preliminary state figures. Statewide, the rate stayed at 7.5 percent, although the number of jobs did grow, particularly in the private sector. It's progress, but in February of 2008, the state unemployment rate was 4.6 percent. Really.
The economic forecast for state government showed a mixed picture. In fact, the overall shortfall still rounds out to some $1.2 billion. In other words, absent the ending of some tax breaks or approval of some new taxes, Gov. Jay Inslee and lawmakers will have about as much money to work with as they've been expecting for months. In other words, after all the procrastination, it's time for some decisions in Olympia. Crosscut's John Stang is preparing a full report.
My road building is better than yours
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn said today that there's an extra $11.5 million for other transportation projects because work on the Spokane Street Viaduct cost less than budgeted. McGinn said the money will be used for "sidewalks, basic road maintenance, upgrades to the City’s traffic signal system, work to complete the Burke-Gilman 'Missing Link' and support for Seattle’s updated Transit Master Plan." The announcement comes just one day after City Councilman Tim Burgess, one of McGinn's challengers in the mayor's race, called for an audit of unspent transportation funds raised by bond sales. In Seattle, all transportation is political.
Even without being burned, coal can have significant environmental effects on air and water. The nonprofit Sightline organization, which is against coal ports, today outlines existing research on coal dust or coal spills in the water. Much of it is old and inconclusive, or both. David Kershner writes about the dilemmas this poses for the Northwest, where major coal ports are under discussion:
Yet the region is in the dark when it comes to understanding the risks of coal on sensitive ecosystems and endangered species. Scientific studies raise a variety of concerns, but the most comprehensive reviews also suggest that the core issues have not been well-studied and that the aquatic risks of coal are poorly understood.
On Thursday, Crosscut's Floyd McKay will have the final part in a three-day series on arguments about the scope of an environmental review for the coal port proposals. Parts 1 and 2 are here and here.
Willapa: Not just great oysters anymore
The Port of Willapa Harbor in Raymond is becoming the first public agency in Washington state to get into pot growing — at least indirectly. It is leasing a port facility to Seattle restaurateur Marcus Charles, who plans to use it to grow marijuana. Associated Press has picked up on the story today, but a more detailed version came from Washington State Wire at the end of last week. Writer Erik Smith noted that the coastal community south of Aberdeen has lost a lot of jobs due to the decline of the timber industry. The new jobs? The grow operation would be in a 30,000-square-foot former storage shed with a headquarters in a former sawmill office, according to Smith.
Seahawks, Gonzaga have already won
Going into the NCAA men's basketball tournament, Gonzaga is No. 1. And, more than five months before the first kickoff, the Seattle Seahawks are the best team in the NFL, according to an ESPN ranking. Well, at least the Mariners don't have to live with the burden of great expectations, right? But for those fans wanting to build hope on something beyond a lot of meaningless spring training wins: The Mariners' Michael Saunders was named to the All World Baseball Classic team from the just-completed tournament, where he played for Canada.
Drones and rights
Seattle City Council approved regulations to restrict the use of surveillance technology by city departments, proclaiming itself a leader in balancing privacy and providing important public information. Most departments need to have all plans approved in advance. Police, however, received a last-minute exemption in some cases. Kshama Sawant, who plans to challenge incumbent Councilmember Richard Conlin, today said she completely objects to allowing police to use drones, citing historic problems between the police and minority communities. Otherwise, she credited the council with a step in the right direction but complained today about “gaping holes.”
Update (4:08 p.m.): Mayor Mike McGinn's spokesman Aaron Pickus says the city doesn't envision any near-term usage of drones. He pointed out that the police department has returned two drones it had acquired earlier with federal support. "We support the ordinance," he said in an email.
There’s a video and informative story on TheVerge.com on drones and privacy rights (Hint: you might have fewer than you think).
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