Democrats offer compromise
Democrats in the state Legislature today announced a compromise offer on the state budget that provides $700 million in additional help to schools and $93 million for higher education while closing seven tax loopholes. Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina, said the schools money fell short of the "bold investment" Democrats hoped to make, "but it does allow us to move forward in reducing class size, investing in all-day kindergarten and supporting college students.” Crosscut's John Stang will have a full report, including Republican reaction.
University of Washington researchers say that urban infrastructure problems as simple as cracked sidewalks and poor lighting can hurt the ability of older people to stay healthy and fit through walking. According to a UW summary of a report done for the journal Gerontology, public health and nursing researchers "learned that poorly lit neighborhoods, lack of public transportation, sidewalks in disrepair and unmarked or poorly marked intersections prevent people with disabilities from taking advantage of the benefits of walking." As the report notes, at least one Phinney Ridge resident involved in a UW study on the issue has approached the city about improvements it can make. We bet every neighborhood could make a list.
In addition to promoting walking, the UW is gearing up to host the International Bicycle Urbanism Conference next week. Note, too, that Kirkland is encouraging families to bring their kids, their bikes and their helmets to the city's Walk and Roll Safety Fair at the Juanita Friday Market, from 3 to 7 p.m. It seems the war on cars is spreading.
Mastros' sentence: Brie and Bordeaux
A French court has granted freedom to Eastside fugitives Michael and Linda Mastro, accepting the couple's pleas on humanitarian grounds for protection from extradition to face U.S. charges of bankruptcy fraud. As a Seattle Times story notes, Michael Mastro, at age 88, will now have to live out his days in France. No wonder his attorney tells The Times' Sanjay Bhatt that Michael Mastro is relieved ... and heading out to dinner.
Coeur d'Alene: Gay friendly since Tuesday
The Coeur d'Alene City Council has added protection for gays to its anti-discrimination ordinance, the Spokesman-Review reports. And it's not alone. The city is one of a string of cities that has taken action in the face of the state Legislature's refusal — for the last seven years — to add sexual orientation and gender identity protections to Idaho's Human Rights Act. Before the 5-to-1 vote, the council heard some citizens say the action would fit with Coeur d'Alene's historical rejection of hate and fear. Community groups long complained about the presence of the racist, neo-Nazi Aryan Nations group, which moved to Florida after a major lawsuit over a beating of two local residents.
Breathe deep, salmon
The Sierra Club and other environmental groups today filed suit against BNSF and several coal companies over the pollution from coal trains in several parts of Washington state, including the Columbia Gorge. The suit, filed with the U.S. District Court in Seattle, charges that coal dust blowing from open cars is fouling rivers. Currently, only four trains per day run through Washington, but things could get much worse if coal export terminals are approved in Washington. BNSF didn't have an immediate comment, but it has previously said it's "committed to preventing coal dust from escaping in transit."
Massacre plea accepted
An Army judge today accepted the guilty plea of staff Sgt. Robert Bales to charges that he murdered 16 Afghanistan civilians, ruling that Bales will face no threat of the death penalty. Bales told the court, "There's not a good reason in the world for why I did the horrible things I did." The obvious question: If the United States won't impose a death penalty for massacring women and children it is supposed to be helping, can the government continue to pursue capital punishment against any foreign nationals? Even if you leave aside moral qualms about capital punishment, how two-faced would that look to the rest of the world?
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