Seattle wins on police hiring dispute. For now.
A state official has tentatively decided in favor of letting Seattle's police chief have the authority to hire top brass from outside the city, The Seattle Times reports. The city recently approved an ordinance overturning the strange, decades-old ban on hiring of the top police command staff, which reports to the chief, from outside the department. The union representing police lieutenants and captains is already working on an amended complaint to state Public Employment Relations Commission. — J.C.
Seattle teachers playing hooky?
A new national study, which analyzed the attendance records of 234,000 teachers in 40 school districts, found that 41.3 percent of Seattle teachers were "frequently" or "chronically" absent from school. Teachers who missed an average of 11-17 school days annually were characterized as "frequently absent"; 18 days or more days was considered "chronically absent." The report counted professional development days and sick days among their absences.
Still, Seattle fared better than its big-city neighbor, Portland, which ranked fourth among school districts for the highest rates of teacher absences, according to a USA Today report. “While these big city school districts are struggling to improve student achievement, they may be overlooking one of the most basic aspects of teacher effectiveness: every teacher being regularly on the job, teaching kids,” argued Kate Walsh, President of the National Council on Teacher Quality, the think tank that published the report.
Theresa Wippel, a spokesperson for Seattle Public Schools, said the district will review the results with the teachers’ union, the Seattle Education Association, to see whether any new recommendations can be made based on the data. — M.L.
Seattle police data praised
The Community Police Commission issued a statement on Tuesday saying that the Seattle Police Department should be commended for recently sharing raw data with them that showed declines in low-level crime enforcement. Some of the downward trends in the data coincided with the onset of Seattle's federally-mandated police reforms, fueling speculation that the reforms had caused officers to dial back their efforts to police proactively.
The data, the commission said in the statement, "do not present any clear evidence of so-called 'de-policing.' " The statement said that "lower levels of citation and arrest in some areas may likely reflect the Department moving in directions that [Department of Justice], the CPC and many other community leaders have long called for: de-escalation of minor incidents, crisis intervention training for engaging mentally ill individuals, and community-based diversion of many quality of life-type offenses."
The commission's statement also said that the information was erroneously being referred to as a "report," when it was in fact a "presentation." (A U.S. Attorney called the information a report last week when she criticized the way the department had released the data; media stories have as well.)
"The Department certainly should be commended for its cooperation and transparency in producing and discussing these data with the CPC," the commission's statement said. "Without further analysis, no conclusions can be drawn from these data regarding the productivity of particular officers or squads or of the department as a whole." — B.L.
Rainier Valley height rezoning bill advances in Council
A Seattle City Council committee on Tuesday passed a land rezoning bill, which would loosen height restrictions for buildings near the Mount Baker light rail station in the North Rainier Valley. The thorny piece of legislation has elicited strong views from both backers and opponents. If approved by the full council, the maximum allowable height would go from 65 feet to 125 feet — approximately 11 stories — on a parcel of land along Rainier Avenue South, where a Lowe's Home Improvement store is currently located. In areas to the south and west of that site, height restrictions would change from 65 to 85 feet.
The bill passed 4-1 and is scheduled for a full Council vote on June 23. Council members Mike O'Brien, Sally Clark, Nick Licata and Tim Burgess voted for the bill. The no-vote came from Bruce Harrell, who introduced two motions during the committee meeting. One would have indefinitely delayed a vote on the so-called "up-zone," the other would have dropped the height restriction at the Lowe's land parcel to 85 feet from 125 feet. Both of Harrell's motions flopped.
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