Just a reminder: Crosscut, the CityClub and Seattle Channel will hold a panel discussion at 6 p.m. Wednesday on the Legislature's special session, the Seattle mayor's race and the business climate in Washington state. Panelists are state Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom (Olympia duties permitting); Howard Behar, former president of Starbucks Coffee International and current vice chair of the Washington Business Alliance; Michele Matassa Flores, Puget Sound Business Journal Managing Editor; and Knute Berger, Crosscut columnist. Limited seating is available by calling 206-682-7395; depending on availability, there may be tickets at the door at the Palace Ballroom, 2100 Fifth Avenue. Registration is $12 for Crosscut or CityClub members and $15 for non-members. Doors open at 5:30.
Halo around Microsoft Windows 8?
Microsoft unveiled plans today to release a version of its blockbuster Halo game for Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8. "Halo: Spartan Assault," which will be released in July, is an entirely new version of the popular series. Geekwire's Todd Bishop writes that starting with something new "could be good or bad depending on how this plays out." The way things have been going for Microsoft on Windows 8, that statement could easily leave fans with a queasy feeling in their stomachs. And Bishop notes one very mixed review already for the new product.
Broadband expansion: Trouble ahead
Existing efforts to improve broadband access in less-populated parts of the state are getting a boost from $300,000 in grants announced this morning by the state Department of Commerce. The money will go to several different programs, including one in the Olympic Peninsula's Jefferson and Clallam counties already started by Washington State University; a Walla Walla effort to expand economic and social opportunities around broadband; and Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians Tribal Technology Team for assisting tribes across the state. Support will also be provided for efforts in Lincoln, Skamania and Klickitat.
One big uh-ohh for equalizing opportunities, though: Because the grants are funded by federal stimulus money, this will be the final round of assistance. Related problem: The state has also funded the entire state Broadband Office using stimulus money, which will run out in October of next year. So far, there are no firm plans for how to continue the office. Unlike the funding, demand for broadband and economic competiveness, will just keep growing.
Gov. Jay Inslee today said Washington and Oregon's transportation departments have reached agreements with two of the three manufacturing firms that sometimes ship loads higher than would be allowed under a proposed new I-5 Columbia River bridge. The statement gave no details of the agreement, but said talks have also been held with the third firm. Legislative Republicans have cited the impact on the companies as part of their reason for opposing a plan to finance the I-5 Columbia River Crossing project.
They have also opposed Inslee on a gas tax increase for statewide transportation projects, about which two recent polls came to different conclusions. As Washington State Wire reports, an Elway Research poll found majority opposition to a gas tax increase. But another poll, conducted for a group that wants to see more transportation infrastructure work, found 71 percent of respondents expressing concern about the condition of state highways and bridges. Some of the questioning for the Elway poll was conducted before the Skagit River Bridge collapse. Wire writer Erik Smith notes that the immediate issue may not be how voters would respond to a transportation ballot measure, but how legislators will read the voters' wishes.
Government shutdown in this Washington?
At a midday press conference, Inslee said he has begun talking with state agencies about what would happen under a government shutdown if the Legislature fails to pass a budget by July 1, the start of a new fiscal biennium. The governor offered few details. Crosscut's Tom James will have a story later.
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