Seattle Police oversight
Federally appointed police monitor Merrick Bobb today issued a mixed report on the Seattle Police Department's efforts to reform its use of force practices. A Seattle Times story reports Bobb is concerned about much of the department being "dug in" against changes. But he praises Interim Chief Jim Pugel — who can certainly use the praise amid news reports of his apologies for his 1980s' participation in a music video mocking Seattle's homeless. Crosscut's Matt Fikse has more on that.
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn today nominated Boise city ombudsman Pierce Murphy as the city's new director of the Office of Professional Accountability, the office that recommends discipline of police officers. McGinn's announcement included praise for Murphy from federal monitor Bobb. That's an especially big deal for two reasons: The argument-loving McGinn has had to extricate himself from fights with Bobb and the U.S. Department of Justice over federal involvement in local police reform here. And in developing the case behind Bobb's appointment, the U.S. Department of Justice had expressed concerns about a lack of strong disciplinary recommendations from the Professional Accountability office.
Julia Patterson departing County Council
King County Councilmember Julia Patterson today announced that she won't seek re-election when her term ends this year. Patterson has served since 2001, establishing herself as a council leader on social service, transportation and budget issues. She's currently a vice chair. Her south King County district, which is increasingly Democratic, includes parts of Renton, Kent, Des Moines, SeaTac and Burien. The council is officially nonpartisan, but nobody is confused about where loyalties lie: Patterson was previously a Democratic state legislator and the district itself is increasingly going that way too.
The press release announcing her departure — no other immediate plans announced — hit the nail on the head:
As a fierce supporter of equity and social justice issues, Patterson committed herself to standing up for struggling and working class families, as well as immigrants and refugees facing language and cultural barriers.
Prosecutors have barely used a state law to increase penalties for drivers who hit bicyclists, pedestrians and other "vulnerable" roadway users, according to a report on the Cascade Bike Blog. One exception: The Seattle City Attorney's office (which also helped get the law passed in 2011) won fines totaling some $11,000 in January against a driver who blew through a stop sign and seriously injured a cyclist in the Ballard-Fremont area last fall. A court later threw out the fine on a procedural issue, but a spokesperson said today the office is preparing an appeal.
The cyclist, Heather Barnett, spent five days in a hospital and months in a wheelchair. The blog author Anne-Marije Rook explains the penalties this way:
Under the Vulnerable User Law, which Cascade worked to pass through the Washington Legislature in 2011, a driver committing a traffic infraction — such as speeding, texting while driving or running a stop sign — that results in the serious injury or death of a vulnerable roadway user will face an automatic fine of up to $5,000 and a 90-day suspension of driving privileges.
The law lays out options for reduced penalties on first offenses.
Fishing and restaurant worries
Sen. Maria Cantwell said today that proposed mining development near Alaska's Bristol Bay would devastate salmon "and the thousands of Washington state jobs that depend on them.” Joel Connelly of seattlepi.com quotes her in reporting on an EPA analysis of the Pebble Mine project proposed there. Cantwell has been worried for months about job loss in restaurants and among the Seattle-based fishing fleet if the project is approved in Bristol Bay, where about half of the world's sockeye salmon harvest originates.
Going somewhere? Patience may be required. The Washington State Department of Transportation has several projects this weekend involving lane closures:
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