Coaling up in Vancouver
Western Washington will see more coal trains heading north along Puget Sound to British Columbia: Port Metro Vancouver has approved a new coal loading facility at the Fraser Surrey Docks on the Fraser River southeast of the city. The Vancouver Sun reports the regional health officer objected to the decision, saying the port failed to even consult with medical experts about concerns over coal dust. Environmental groups also complained. A port official told the Sun that the new facility will mean an extra 125-car train of coal delivered each day — which, for all the Western Washington communities already worried about the increasing traffic on the rails, means an empty train coming back through as well.
Group Health ditches Virginia Mason
Group Health is aligning itself with Swedish Health Services for hospital care of its patients in Seattle, ending a long-term relationship with Virginia Mason Hospital and Medical Center. The switch won't take place until Februrary 2016, Group Health said, but maternity care will move from Group Health's Capitol Hill clinic to Swedish next spring. Group Health CEO Scott Armstrong told the Puget Sound Business Journal that the cooperative had received excellent offers from Swedish, Virginia Mason and the UW Medical Center in a competitive bidding process. The Group Health patients needing hospital care will go to Swedish's First Hill and Cherry Hill facilities.
What does the Rainier Valley want?
Residents of Rainier Valley care deeply about their neighborhoods, but feel they are getting the short end of the stick when it comes to city services (and media attention). At least that's what a group of about 20 told Crosscut editors and writers this week at a community input meeting held at the Hillman City Collaboratory. Attendees talked particularly about shortcomings in jobs (Where's the southerly economic development push?), transit (So many bus cuts after light rail.) and schools. We came away with pages of notes about good story ideas and possible solutions, like better use of environmental design to prevent crime, more focused city services and zoning changes to let church parking lots serve as park-and-rides during the weekdays.
Crosscut will hold its next community input meeting in Kirkland on Wednesday. Information and registration is here.
A pat on the back for teachers
Teachers seemed to get a little extra — and well-deserved — respect this week. On Monday, Bill Gates raved on his blog about Washington state's teacher of the year, Katie Brown of Shuksan Middle School in Bellingham — and expressed "a renewed admiration for the art of teaching. Then on Thursday, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan blogged about higher graduation rates, lower dropout numbers and improved college enrollments, especially among lower-income students — thanking teachers (along with principals, families and students themselves). As The New York Times noted, Duncan also acknowledged that testing in schools may be a bit out of hand ("sucking the oxygen out of the room in a lot of schools," as he put it). Could this all point to some progress ahead on school improvements? We can hope.
Below, an excerpt from the discussion. (Disclosure: Crosscut has previously received funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.)
Waterfront and tribes: Consulted at last
Planners for a new Seattle waterfront are devoting a lot of time to talking with tribes around the region, The Seattle Times reports. As Lynn Thompson's excellent exploration of the issue notes, city leaders are getting directly involved too. (Mayor Ed Murray deserves considerable credit, it appears.) But there are still no tribal representatives on a planning committee composed of — count 'em — 45 people. Officials did tell Thompson they plan to rectify that. Great. But do we always have to play catch-up on things like this?
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