Friday 27 May, 2016

Speeding up Sound Transit projects

Crosscut's Floyd McKay to talk about t'he greening of Northwest politics'

at 3:43pm by Chetanya Robinson

In the 1960s and ’70s in Oregon, activists and politicians achieved many successes in preserving public lands and the environment. Floyd McKay, a long time reporter for The Oregon Statesman and KGW-TV in Portland — who has also been covering coal ports in Washington for Crosscut — is the author of a new book about this era, called Reporting the Oregon Story. (Crosscut will soon publish an excerpt from the book.)McKay will be joined by Seattle historian Bob Royer, who has also covered this story in Oregon, at Folio: The Seattle Athenaeum library on June 16 for a conversation called “The Greening of Northwest Politics.”

Details: Thursday, June 16 at 7 p.m. at Folio: The Seattle Athenaeum, located in the YMCA building downtown, 314 Marion St. Seattle. Price is $5 at the door.

Sound Transit projects coming sooner, best burgers in Portland, innovate business competition, and settlement for railway whistleblower

at 3:00pm by Chetanya Robinson

If voters approve a proposal on the ballot later this year, several Sound Transit light rail projects would be arriving sooner than envisioned in an earlier version of the proposal, KIRO 7 reports. Admittedly, it will be a long wait for most of them, but it should be a slightly shorter wait thanks to an extra $4 billion in funding that Sound Transit found after it crunched a new financial model. The extra funding comes from the possibility of extra bonding. As a result:

  • Light rail to Everett would open by 2036, five years sooner than earlier predicted
  • The light rail extension to Ballard would open three years sooner (by 2035), and part of the light rail line would be built on a more expensive track that won’t take up lanes of traffic along 15th Avenue NW
  • The extension to West Seattle would open three years sooner (by 2030)
  • Light rail to Renton would open four years sooner (by 2024)
  • Rapid transit buses would have a new stop at I-405 in Renton
  • A light rail line going between Issaquah, Redmond, Bellevue would now include a stop in South Kirkland

If you’re heading to Portland for Memorial Day weekend and wondering where to find the best burger in the city, The Oregonian has you covered. Two Oregonian staffers taste-tested two of the best burgers in the city and decided their favorite was a double pimento cheeseburger from a place called Trifecta. The Oregonian critics liked the double patty, soft brioche bun and melted tangy pimento cheese. They thought the other contender, from The Loyal Legion, made a great second place. If you’re looking for more choices, The Oregonian counted down their top ten favorite burgers last year.

At the University of Washington’s 19th annual Business Plan Competition, 12 teams collectively took home $85,000 in prizes for their innovative business ideas, Geekwire reports. The biggest prize of $25,000 went to a company researching ways to use excess electricity from stoves to charge electronic devices. Other ideas included ways to quickly decaffeinate coffee and tea without using chemicals, developing efficient medical technology for developing countries, a GPS implant for pets that can help their owners find them, and more.

Yesterday a whistleblower from Arlington who was dismissed in 2010 from his job at BNSF Railways was awarded more than $1.6 million by a federal jury, the Seattle Times reports. Six years ago, Curtis Rookaird took time to check on the brakes of 42 train cars at the railway, which carries freight including crude oil. After his supervisor objected, he called the Federal Railroad Administration to relay his safety concerns to them. He was fired soon afterward. A spokesperson from BNSF Railways told the Seattle Times that the firing was justified, but an investigation from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) concluded that Rookaird’s whistleblowing contributed to his firing. This is not the first time an employee of BNSF has been punished for being a whistleblower. Last year another BNSF employee in Washington was awarded $1.25 million (though the railway has appealed, and he hasn’t received any yet). In 2013, OSHA reached a settlement with BNSF and concluded that 36 employees who had filed whistleblower complaints should be given settlements.

Best of the Web: North Korea dictator's aunt lives in U.S. Obama in Hiroshima. TSA PreCheck troubles.

at 2:53pm by Joe Copeland

The hopes for nuclear sanity that President Obama expressed in Hiroshima face any number of challenges, not the least of which is North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons under brutal young leader Kim Jong Un. The Washington Post has a lengthy look at the lives of an aunt and her husband who — surprisingly — have been living in the United States since 1998. The Post’s writer, Anna Fifield, profiles them well, providing insight about their lives after defecting while watching over Kim Jong Un when he attending boarding school in Switzerland. They have different views about whether they would ever like to go back — very different.

“The secret life of Kim Jong Un’s aunt, who has lived in the U.S. since 1998,” the Washington Post.

Politico has a good account of President Obama’s visit to Hiroshima, emphasizing the forward-looking aspects of his talk there. It includes a good amount of one of the survivors with whom Obama chatted after the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park speech, historian Mori Shigeaki, who created a memorial to U.S. air crew members who died in the bombing. The New York Times has short vignettes of a number of survivors, including Sunao Tsuboi, an ebullient 90-year-old who had Obama laughing as they visited. Tsuboi has repeatedly been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

“Obama, in Hiroshima, calls for a ‘moral awakening’ on nuclear weapons,” Politico.

“Survivors recount horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” New York Times.

If you happen to be flying anywhere this holiday weekend, there’s more than a small chance you found security screening lines backed up. The Los Angeles Times has a good exploration of the disappointments around the Transportation Security Administration PreCheck program, meant to speed the lines for trusted travelers (and, by doing that, for everyone else). As they note, some critics think there hasn’t been enough marketing to get people to sign up, but some travelers probably have another explanation. You have to make an appointment (currently two weeks in advance around LA) at a sign-up center, planning a disruption in your schedule against the chance to disruption at the airport.

“Why hasn’t TSA PreCheck reduced airport wait times?” Los Angeles Times.

Thursday 26 May, 2016

Another one bites the dust for Eyman

Around the Northwest: About those big pay raises. Rethinking the presidential primary?

at 3:32pm by Joe Copeland

How’s that $70,000 annual pay working out for the Seattle company, Gravity Payments, where the CEO decided to move up salaries dramatically starting last year? Pretty darn well, according to USA Today (its story is posted on KING 5). A bunch of stats show good results for the company, and really good changes for the employees, who have upped their retirement contributions a whopping 130 percent. Experts tell USA Today, however, that CEO Dan Price’s model shouldn’t be followed exactly: It might generally be better to give a little less dramatic boosts than the 42 percent average at the company. But the experts still seemed to like the general idea of getting people truly livable incomes.

The Washington State Democratic Party has been particularly ardent in its love for using caucuses to pick presidential candidates, refusing to give any official credence to the results of the presidential primary. But Hillary Clinton’s 53-47 percent whopping of Bernie Sanders in Tuesday’s primary has some calling for a rethinking, The News Tribune reports. A party spokesperson anticipates a discussion before the next presidential election.

Quite a fish tale: An Edmonds man caught a record 124-pound halibut in the Pacific off Neah Bay — while he was kayaking. Leo Vergara, who is 34, actually got the idea of fishing from a kayak from YouTube videos, and then bought a 12-foot sit-top pedal kayak and took lessons. He told a reporter from the Peninsula Daily News (story picked up by the Everett Herald): “No, I had no experience at all, I had never been on a boat in my life.”

Supreme Court puts final nail to I-1366's coffin

at 2:16pm by Chetan Sharma

Yet another Tim Eyman initiative won’t become law, thanks to the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision to uphold a previous ruling against last fall’s I-1366.

King County Superior Court Judge William L. Downing had earlier ruled that Initiative 1366 improperly covered more than one topic and interfered with the Legislature’s power when it comes to changing the state constitution. The initiative was approved by voters last year by 51.5 percent to 48.5 percent.

I-1366 sought to force the Legislature to put a constitutional amendment requiring supermajority approval by lawmakers of tax increases and extensions. If the Legislature didn’t send the amendment to voters, 1366 would have cut the state income tax. Courts had earlier tossed another of his supermajority initiatives, I-1185,  and Eyman responded with 1366. as a way to thrown out by the courts.

Wednesday 25 May, 2016

Major power outage in Seattle

Patty Murray happy on Defense spending

at 12:55pm by Chetanya Robinson

The Senate’s latest version of a military budget for next fiscal year includes funding for several projects important to U.S Sen. Patty Murray. The Washington Democrat is a member of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, which decides how federal funding will be spent on military projects. The latest budget, she said in a press release, for the 2017 year, which passed the subcommittee with bipartisan support on Tuesday, will include $1 billion for a new heavy icebreaker in the Arctic, and $207 million on two aircraft from Boeing. Murray also advocated for $25 million to go toward legal advice for military victims of sexual assault and $5 million for a Women in Military Service Museum at Arlington National Cemetery. This will be the first museum dedicated to honoring women in all branches of the military, she said in a press release.

The full Senate and the House have to agree on the spending details before the budget can take effect.

 

Power outage strikes Seattle

at 12:35pm by Joe Copeland

A major power outage struck Downtown Seattle late Wednesday morning, sending many workers home and shutting light rail service. Sound Transit’s announcement of light rail closure contained no estimate of when service might restart.

KING 5 reported that officials said power could be restored as early at 12:30, and some spots did have electricity then, according to the Seattle Times. The outage was blamed on a City Light equipment failure at a substation.

 

Tuesday 24 May, 2016

Better deal on rent assistance from feds

Feds to give more rental assistance for King County residents

at 3:32pm by Chetan Sharma

The King County Housing Authority recorded a whopping 26 percent increase in rents between 2014 and 2015. Despite the significant increase, low-income residents who rely on the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program saw no increase in the amount of federal funding they received for housing costs during the same period. In response, U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Medina, and other area members of Congress asked the Department of Housing and Urban Development last year to change the way it allocated money in the HCV program.

Today, HUD announced that they are partially changing their formula to give King County voucher recipients 12 percent more than they received last year. However, many in Washington’s congressional delegation want the formula changed further so that other regions in the country with steep rent hikes get more money now and in years to come.

Republican U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert joined his Democratic colleagues from around Puget Sound in pushing for the change.

Vaginal mesh lawsuit filed. SeaTac mayor wanted to profile Muslims, researchers invent nursing cup to save babies,

at 3:25pm by Chetanya Robinson

A product sold by pharmaceutical and medical devices company Johnson and Johnson allegedly has been causing chronic pain, inflammation and infection in thousands of woman —and the company was misleading in letting patients know the risks. This is according to a consumer protection lawsuit Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson is filing against Johnson and Johnson, KIRO 7 reports. The lawsuit concerns a mesh that is permanently inserted through surgery, meant to treat pelvic floor problems in women. Thousands of patients have experienced painful effects as the body tries to rid itself of the mesh, or the mesh moves around or erodes, according to the lawsuit. Johnson & Johnson told the Associated Press that the marketing of the mesh was appropriate and responsible.

SeaTac’s former interim City Manager James Payne wanted to create a map of the location of every Muslim house and even person in the city, a city investigation found. Payne’s fears of Muslim terrorism were the motivation for his asking the city’s GIS coordinator to create such a map, according to the investigation, but Payne told the Seattle Times that this was untrue. The purpose? Just to better serve the diverse population of SeaTac. The project ultimately never got off the ground, because the census does not record information on people’s religion. Payne, who had no previous city management experience, resigned on April 6 this year.

Researchers from the University of Washington, Seattle Children’s and global health organization PATH designed a new feeding cup for babies that they hope will curb malnutrition in the developing world, the Seattle Times reports. Babies born prematurely or with a cleft palate often have problems nursing, and mothers have a hard time feeding them the amount of milk they need using other means. The cups, made of soft silicon, are designed to be easy for babies to use. Their official name is Neonatal Intuitive Feeding Technology, with an acronym of NIFTY, and they’ll sell for $1 each. The cup’s inventors plan to distribute them in Africa this year.

Best of the Web: Limbaugh still hurt by Limbaugh. Praise for Bill Clinton from ex-prosecutor. American 'rage' rooms.

at 3:16pm by Joe Copeland

It’s a great year for talk radio, what with Donald Trump at all. But Politico Magazine tells of one host who might be left behind, at least financially: Rush Limbaugh. It’s for a reason that, in a season of the utmost political sleaze, is a bit refreshing: Limbaugh has never recovered with sponsors for his sexually loaded, appalling attacks on a Georgetown Law School student for her 2012 congressional testimony on coverage of contraception costs. Limbaugh’s contract for $38 million annually expires next year. Everyone expects Limbaugh to keep broadcasting, but he might be relegated to satellite channels or the like.

Is Rush Limbaugh in trouble? Politico Magazine.

And guess who is saying kindly things about Bill Clinton? Kenneth Starr, the special prosecutor whose investigation of President Clinton in the 1990s led to a Senate trial that almost kicked him out of office. At a recent panel discussion, the New York Times reports, Starr, now president of Baylor University, spoke highly of Clinton’s genuine empathy for others and his work post-presidency, while decrying the current political climate.

“Kenneth Starr, who tried to bury Bill Clinton, now only praises him,” the New York Times.

British-based media keep finding America’s few “rage rooms” and deciding to tell their readers all about how we are taking out our frustrations by bashing the heck out of old computer monitors and stuff in padded rooms. Such places are out there in a few cities. But as a thing worth covering? Well, at least it shows folks abroad that Americans aren’t always shooting each other, maybe?

“‘They’re here for therapy’: Houston’s ‘rage room’ a smash as economy struggles,” The Guardian.

 

 

Monday 23 May, 2016

Disease in fish farm. Hate message at Bellevue College.

Concern about Jungle clearing plan

at 4:53pm by Joe Copeland

A key City Councilmember, Sally Bagshaw, says there are loose ends to wrap up in Mayor Ed Murray’s plan to clear homeless encampments from the Jungle, the greenbelt along I-5 south of downtown. She and some colleagues are planning to discuss their concerns with the Mayor’s Office this evening in hopes of pulling together a resolution with measures to strengthen the plan. Crosscut’s David Kroman has a full report here.

Best of the Web: Trump and mobsters? North Korea as employment agency. Ovarian cancer and talcum.

at 3:39pm by Joe Copeland

Donald Trump has had lots of dealings with mobsters over the years. Pulitizer Prize winning journalist David Cay Johnston has written about Trump’s ties to questionable folks off and on over a generation. In Politico Magazine, Johnston takes a shot at putting it together (in the face of the usual Trump bluster — “if I don’t like what you write, I’ll sue you” — and lack of recall of events The Donald deems “a long time ago.” Johnston writes, “No other candidate for the White House this year has anything close to Trump’s record of repeated social and business dealings with mobsters, swindlers, and other crooks.” A possible comparison? President Warren G. Harding, whose 1920s administration saw its Interior Secretary go to prison. Harding was from Ohio, less known for mob activity than Trump’s New York stomping grounds, but the Harding taint was so bad that Ohio, a key electoral state and the home of seven presidents before Harding, has never sent someone to the White House since.

“Just what were Donald Trump’s ties to the mob?” Politico Magazine.

Who operates the world’s largest employment agency? One Korean studies expert tells Vice news that it’s none other the totalitarian North Korean government, which is desperate to raise cash. Surprisingly, the workers can be found in Poland and other parts of the European Union, making billions from within Europe, a Dutch professor says.

“North Korea makes billions from forced laborers working in the EU,” Vice.

Johnson & Johnson promises to appeal two large awards against it from juries considering claims that the company’s Baby Powder causes ovarian cancer. The New York Times takes a detailed, refreshingly clear and look at the science on both sides of the issue. The report includes this Seattle-related passage:

“Talcum powder is an interesting case, because it’s not something that’s necessary,” said Dr. Anne McTiernan, an epidemiologist with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. “If there’s any doubt, why should anyone use it?”

“Lawsuits over baby powder raise questions about cancer risk,” New York Times.

Around the Northwest: Disease in B.C. fish farm. Bellevue College students upset over hate speech. Sonics talk.

at 2:34pm by Joe Copeland

At least one British Columbia fish farm has been hit with a heart disease that did large damage at commercial aquaculture operations in Norway. The nonprofit Tyee in Vancouver reports that although officials say that the disease has not been found in B.C. wild salmon, it would be unlikely that an infected fish would survive in the wild long enough for any testing to detect the infection. The Canadian government and an aquaculture operator have been appealing a 2015 court ruling that would require the salmon farms to keep diseased fish out of open net pens near wild fish runs.

A group of Bellevue College students is upset that it took months for them to hear about hateful grafitti or writing on campus, including threats against Muslim or LGBTQ students, KING 5 reports. The administration sent an email to staff early in the year, but students get the word until recently. An official said the administrators thought students had been included on early notifications. BC Students United, which says the college hasn’t taken the hate speech seriously enough, will meet with college administrators on Tuesday.

Speaking of hate speech: In the Atlantic over the weekend, Erica C. Barnett took a deeper look at the hateful and sexist harassment of the five women members of the Seattle City Council who stopped the giveaway of a city right-of-way for a proposed sports arena sought by the leaders of an effort to bring back pro basketball. By interviewing at least three of the five councilmembers, Barnett provides new insight into the harm done by a truly shameful moment in recent city history. Councilmember Sally Bagshaw said she received so much hateful and offensive comment that her staff stopped taking phone calls during the air time of one particular radio show, where the hosts were urging their listeners to call. Lorena González said she was taken aback by the sexism, even though the first Latina on the council said she’s somewhat accustomed to racism. She told Barnett: “We cannot fool ourselves in this city, as progressive as it might be, into believing that sexism is a thing of the past because it is not.”

Moving on (we can hope): There was one very good moment for Sonics fans and the community over the weekend. Art Thiel writes on SportspressNW.com about a new documentary shown at SIFF on ex-Sonic Spencer Haywood, a superstar in the NBA after helping lead a team of U.S. college players to Olympic gold in 1968. More lastingly, Haywood fought for the right of players to enter the league waiting four years after high school graduation, achieving a win in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Friday 20 May, 2016

UW's natural fertilizer discovery. Disappearing West.

Research on nitrogen fixation in plants could reduce use of fossil fuel fertilizers

at 4:42pm by Chetanya Robinson

Researchers at the University of Washington have found microbes in poplar trees that may help crops grow without the use of a lot of fertilizer.

Sharon Doty and her team show that, with the help of bacteria, the trees can get nitrogen through their branches  — no roots required. This might be huge, said Doty, because if the process could be replicated in other crops, it could be the beginning of a shift away from synthetic fertilizers. That’s a good thing because agriculture is highly dependent on fertilizers made of fossil fuels, notes Michelle Ma on the UW’s news and information site. These fertilizers are used in food production, lumber and even growing crops for biofuels.

The researchers plan to do more work to refine their understanding of which microbes are really doing this.

Best of the Web: The disappearing West. The case for building up. Justin Trudeau's loss of control.

at 3:01pm by Joe Copeland

Seattle has plenty of questions about the height of its increasing development, some in its so-called urban villages like Ballard and West Seattle but also in the center of the city. An interactive feature in the New York Times today looks at Manhattan’s intense development and finds that, in essence, it may be lucky that the heart of the city developed under looser standards than currently apply. Among the conclusions, “a new New York” — one built under current rules — would be less dense and have shorter buildings. New York instituted the first zoning codes exactly 100 years ago this fall, the article notes, “meant to promote a healthier city, which was then filling with filthy tenements and office towers.”

“40 percent of the buildings in Manhattan could not be built today,” the New York Times.

It will soon be the season for road trips, a chance to explore Washington state and the rest of the West. CityLab from the Atlantic reports on a project examining the rapid urbanization of 11 Western states in the continental United States. Every two and a half minutes from 2001 to 2011, according to the Center for American Progress and Conservation Science Partners, a football field’s worth of natural land was lost in the West, mainly to urbanization but also to transportation and energy projects (including wind farms). There are lots of good maps. The report ends on an upbeat note: There is still a great deal to save.

“Mapping America’s ‘Disappearing West,’ ” CityLab.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau lost his cool, and maybe some of his cool image, in a House of Commons incident on Wednesday. It occurred during parliamentary maneuvering where he became concerned that a New Democratic Party opposition leader, Gordon Brown, was being delayed in getting to his seat. The sober National Post’s report includes this passage:

NDP MP Tracey Ramsey claimed Trudeau swore at MPs as he tried to grab Brown, saying, “Get the f–k out of the way” she wrote on Twitter. Video clearly showed NDP MP Ruth-Ellen Brosseau crying out in pain as Trudeau elbowed her in his attempt to drag Brown to his seat so the vote could start.

“Chaos in the House,” the National Post.

Around the Northwest: Bryant joins governor race, guilty plea in Oregon standoff case, Seattle Pride president resigns

at 2:01pm by Chetanya Robinson

Seattle Port Commissioner Bill Bryant has officially filed paperwork to run for governor of Washington in November, MyNorthwest notes. Bryant previously announced that he would run as a Republican against Gov. Jay Inslee, who is running for a second term. Today is the last day for candidates to file official paperwork for offices that are on this year’s fall ballot. But you won’t have to wait until November to vote in the governor’s race: Seven other candidates have also filed: Bill Hirt, Patrick O’Rourke, David W. Blomstrom, Mary Martin, Steven Rubenstein, Jonathan Dodds and Goodspaceguy, who may have the most name recognition of the seven.

Thursday saw the first guilty plea from one of the occupiers of the Malheur National Wildlife refuge in Oregon this winter. Corey Lequieu, one of the 26 charged with crimes, pleaded guilty for conspiracy to impede federal officers. The charge of federal conspiracy basically means that he was guilty of preventing U.S. Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees to go to work at the Malheur National Wildlife refuge. This was a plea deal, his lawyer told The Oregonian. Lequieu may spend two and a half years in jail (and a maximum of six). In exchange, he avoids being prosecuted for other federal charges that may have carried a heavier penalty, such as felony possession of a firearm. Lequieu does not plan to help the government when it comes to prosecuting the other 25 defendants.

The president of Seattle Pride, an organization that puts together LGBT events in the city, resigned Thursday in the wake of a Denny Westneat column in the Seattle Times that exposed a misunderstanding about sponsorship of this summer’s pride parade. The parade has a new sponsor this year in Delta Air Lines. Seattle Pride president Eric Bennett told Alaska Airlines employees that they couldn’t wear Alaska Airlines logos, believing this went against the Delta sponsorship agreement. Bennett, who has been president of Seattle Pride for two years, resigned after apologizing for his mistake.

Thursday 19 May, 2016

Secure work schedules. Housing crises.

O'Brien seeks to expand backyard cottage options

at 4:40pm by Joe Copeland

Seattle City Councilmember Mike O’Brien wants to allow the construction of backyard cottages on more single-family housing lots and let the cottages be a bit bigger.  The proposal, which he has been working on for months, tries to address some concerns of neighborhood groups, especially with a compromise on owner occupancy, while opening the doors to significantly more units. Crosscut’s David Kroman has a full report here.

Councilmember Mike O'Brien visits a backyard to talk about backyard cottage legislation.
Councilmember Mike O’Brien visits a Ballard backyard to talk about backyard cottage legislation.

Best of the Web: GMO research. Trump's appeal.

at 4:32pm by Joe Copeland

GMO foods have been the subject of debate around the Northwest for years. Are they good or bad for the environment? Is it safe to eat them? Should they be labeled? A report released Tuesday from the National Academies of Sciences suggests that, contrary to what most Americans believe, GMO crops are probably safe to eat. At least, there’s no evidence they pose health risks. But the report is cautious in drawing conclusions.

In an article in Grist, titled Nathanael Johnson breaks down exactly how cautious the report is, and concludes that the one thing we know for sure is that we can’t make broad generalizations about GMOs. Sure, there’s no hard evidence they’re unsafe to eat, and we can’t blame GMOs specifically for harming the environment (the blame goes to food production in general). Nor can we conclude that GMOs substantially increase crop yields. Johnson suggests readers peruse the original 400-page report; if you’re pressed for time, his analysis is a good start.

Here’s where the science on GMOs stands,” Grist.

“GMO Crops: Experiences and Prospects,” National Academies Press.

Why is Trump popular? Robert Kagan, in a Washington Post article, suggests it’s not because of any of his policies but because of “an attitude, an aura of crude strength and machismo, a boasting disrespect for the niceties of the democratic culture that he claims, and his followers believe, has produced national weakness and incompetence.” While The Trump-fascism connection has been made before, Kagan, a Brookings Institution fellow who served in the State Department during the Reagan administration, dives deeper into what he thinks is the core of Trump’s appeal, and how it resembles other fascist movements.

This is how fascism comes to America,” Washington Post.

 

Around the Northwest: Secure work schedules, housing prices, and private screeners at Sea-Tac Airport.

at 12:12pm by Chetan Sharma

Seattle City Councilmember Rob Johnson used some of his past work experience in explaining his support for legislation to make work schedules more predictable in Seattle. He joined Councilmembers Lisa Herbold and Lorena Gonzales, both of whom have been working on the issue for the last several months. On the Seattle Channel, Johnson mentioned that he had worked in the restaurant industry during college. He said, “it was a lot easier [for me] than it was for some of my colleagues who had young kids who were changing their hours on a week to week basis.”

The Seattle Times reports that the number of million dollar Seattle homes has tripled over the last four years, but we aren’t the only Northwest city besieged by high housing costs. The Vancouver Sun reports that our neighbors to the north think rising housing costs are hurting their economy. “Only Shanghai and Hong Kong had less-affordable housing,” points out Vancouver Sun journalist Kelly Sinoski. What’s the problem? Not enough homes are being built, and international (mainly Chinese) investors keep buying up the ones that are available as investment properties.

Sea-Tac Airport expects record passenger loads this summer. The airport hired 90 private security contractors this week to work alongside TSA agents and try to shorten security lines. The Stranger argues that hiring private contractors is “not a real solution to the problem.” There are 95,000 more people are expected to fly every day this summer than last summer, but the TSA has 5,000 fewer agents, thanks to budget cuts. Sen. Maria Cantwell has asked the Senate Appropriates Committee to give the TSA more money, but that hasn’t happened yet.

Wednesday 18 May, 2016

Job growth up a bit

Around the Northwest: Puget Sound Energy plans knocked. 16-year-old leads the change. Chuck Close retrospective.

at 4:46pm by Joe Copeland

Residents turned out in Bellevue to criticize Puget Sound Energy’s plans to expand its high-voltage transmission capacity with a $200 million project called Energize Eastside. Critics tell KING 5 that the new transmission lines will needlessly tear out trees and destroy views in an undertaking whose need has been exaggerated. The Coalition of Eastside Neighborhoods for Sensible Energy says opportunities  to use conservation and existing investments are being ignored by the company. PSE says the project opposition has made a series of mistakes in trying to assess the need for the project.

Publicola picks up a nice little sidelight on the influence of youth from Monday’s 43rd District Democrats meeting (where a crowded field of legislative candidates debated). With some help from her mom, a 16-year-old Nova student, Galaxy Marshall, led a successful effort to urge the state Democratic Party to update its rules on gender balance among state convention delegates and central committee members to include provisions for transgender members.

One of modern art’s icons, Chuck Close, came from Everett and graduated from the UW. The Seattle Times takes a good look at his career in a review of a retrospective at Everett’s Schack Art Center.

State's job growth matches uptick in job seekers

at 4:02pm by Joe Copeland

Employers in Washington added more than 11,000 jobs, but the state’s overall jobless rate stayed stuck at 5.8 percent in April, the state Employment Security Department says. That’s the same jobless rate as in March but a little bit higher than the 5.6 percent recorded a year ago in April. Most of the new job seekers are outside the Puget Sound region, but most of the job growth is occurring in the metro area. The jobless rate for the Seattle-Bellevue-Everett area dropped one-tenth of a percentage point, from 4.9 to 4.8 percent. The national unemployment rate has been at 5 percent for the past two months.

Best of the Web: That Megyn Kelly walk back. One Nigerian Lost Girl found. SF's new modern art museum critiqued.

at 3:04pm by Joe Copeland

Donald Trump has just, with an imitation of aww-shucks imperial benevolence, been gracious enough to accept a fawning interview by Fox’s Megyn Kelly, while making it clear that, well, he might have to basely and crudely insult her again. In case you somehow missed last night’s broadcast of their interview, the New Yorker’s Amy Davidson this morning dissects it beautifully, offering up several tasty bits, and looks at how Kelly’s self-promoting self-abasement serves as a model for other Republicans to make peace with Trump. Opening words from Davidson:

“You are so powerful,” Megyn Kelly, of Fox, said to Donald Trump, with a note of wonder in her voice, as she interviewed him …

“Megyn Kelly’s guide to surrendering to Donald Trump,” the New Yorker.

A bit brighter news regarding mistreated women comes from Nigeria, where one of the 219 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2014 has been rescued and returned to her hometown. Amina Ali Darsha Nkeki told rescuers that the remaining girls are still in the Sambisa forest, apart from six who she said had died and 57 who escaped soon after the attack. Families express new hope of finding the remaining young women.

“Chibok abductions: family speak of joy after schoolgirl rescued,” the Guardian.

If you go to San Francisco … the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has just reopened with a 10-story (!) addition, nearly tripling its collection near the Moscone Center. The museum gets a very mixed assessment from Art in America on how well its doing in featuring West Coast artists. The museum received a much more upbeat assessment in the New York Times last week, just before the opening: “The West Coast Modern is not only bigger than the Museum of Modern Art in New York, it is poised — with concerted diversifying — to do for the late 20th and 21st centuries what its East Coast cousin did for the art of the late 19th and early 20th.” Writers for both publications pay special attention to huge role of collectors in shaping the museum’s exhibitions, with the Times’ Roberta Smith noting archly, “The predominance of new arrivals means that most of the shows are, above all, thank you notes to donors.”

“Local largesse: Collected in San Francisco,” Art in America.

“Review: SFMoMA’s expansion sets a new standard for museums,” New York Times.

 

Tuesday 17 May, 2016

Crackdown on pot deliveries

Best of the Web: Mental health and mass shootings. Sanders backers defiant. Worst Congress?

at 4:55pm by Joe Copeland

When it comes to mass shootings, D.C. politicians can’t agree on much except the role of mental illness and the need for better treatment services. But an in-depth Washington Post report suggests that outright mental illness, at least anything that can usually be treated, isn’t really a big factor. In many case, the experts say the shootings are the work of ruthless sociopaths, not anyone suffering from psychosis. So, should we back off on improving mental health services? The reforms may be very worthwhile anyway, some think.

“Most mass shooters aren’t mentally ill. So why push better treatment as the answer?” Washington Post

The primary season is nearly over and Democrats are about to unite to elect a president, just as they did in 2008: The Boston Globe challenges that conventional political wisdom. The Globe’s Victoria McGrane writes, “Every presidential primary creates divisions, but the hostility among Democrats in 2016 sounds like combatants digging in for battle rather than contemplating how to join forces to defeat their common enemy.”

“Bernie Sanders supporters remain defiant,”  Boston Globe.

Congress is still working, but it may end up performing worse than at pretty much any time in the nation’s history. That’s not a Democratic campaign ad, it’s the conclusion of Norm Ornstein, the resident scholar of the free enterprise group the American Enterprise Institute. Writing in the Atlantic today, Ornstein confesses that a similar assessment of his in 2011 about the Congress then may have been exaggerated. But he figures that the current Congress may truly take the cake for awful. He saves his harshest words for the failure to even give a Supreme Court nominee a hearing, or as he puts it, “the unprecedented failure of fundamental fiduciary responsibility by the Senate.”

“Is this the worst Congress ever?” The Atlantic.

 

City to provide subsidized ORCA cards to low-income project residents

at 4:53pm by Chetanya Robinson

An experimental project to provide ORCA cards to 122 low-income residents of Capitol Hill was approved by the City Council’s Transportation and Sustainability Committee today. Andrew Glass-Hastings of the Seattle Department of Transportation noted that transportation is the second highest living expense for low-income people, after housing. The goal of the project is to make cheaper transport options accessible to people so that they will have more money for other necessary expenses, Glass-Hastings said. The cards will all be distributed to residents of the Capitol Hill Housing Improvement Program (CHHIP), a public corporation organized by the City of Seattle, at a reduced cost of either $10 or $16. The total budget for the cards is set at $38,000 or below, to be funded by SDOT. “I’m really excited,” said Councilmember Rob Johnson at the meeting. “Transit nerds unite!”

Around the Northwest: Smarter traffic, the state of Amazon, and new development near the Space Needle

at 4:11pm by Chetanya Robinson

Traffic lights in Seattle might become smarter and more responsive this July. The Seattle Department of Transportation is tapping technology company Siemens — at a cost of $651,000 —for software that will allow traffic lights to adapt to heavier traffic, the Seattle Times reports. The system, to be named Concert, will input traffic data from the Washington State Department of Transportation and respond by prolonging green lights in key areas. One goal is to smooth traffic after baseball games, concerts or festivals.

This morning Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos told a shareholder’s meeting that company’s growth has made it the fastest ever in reaching $100 billion in annual sales, GeekWire reports. Bezos said Amazon will open more stores in the future, and add new features to Prime accounts. As the Seattle Times reports, he has a rather lofty aim with Prime: “Our goal with Amazon Prime, make no mistake, is to make sure that if you are not a Prime member, you are being irresponsible.”

The meeting was protested by a women’s advocacy group who flew a plane overhead with the words “Shareholders to Amazon: #DumpTrump.” They would like to see Amazon stop selling Donald Trump’s products. Others protested Amazon’s selling of foi gras on their website.

A Chinese real-estate company plans to build a 43-story residential building near the Space Needle on the site of what’s now a parking lot. The building would house 400 one- and two-bedroom apartments. Vanke China hopes to begin construction on the $200 million project early in 2017. The land for the project is owned by a California based company called Laconia Development. Lacona’s senior vice president Bob Kagan told the Seattle Times that Vanke was attracted to Seattle’s young demographics, and liked that Amazon was three blocks away.

Monday 16 May, 2016

Farmworkers win settlement in Yakima Valley case

Farmworkers to receive settlement money

at 4:14pm by Joe Copeland

Some 700 farmworkers in the Yakima Valley will be able to receive payments in the settlement of a class-action case over violations of a state law protecting laborers on farms. Columbia Legal Services, which represented the workers, said the agreement paves the way for distributing $1,000 to $3,000 to workers who were improperly employed through an agency that was not licensed to hire farmworkers.  Landowners had leased orchards near Sunnyside to an out-of-state firm between 2009 and 2011; the out-of-state firm then subleased the land to a Pasco company, NW Managment, which had no license for farm labor operations.

Around the Northwest: Shaking about quaking. Best teacher pay: not in Seattle. Bernie feeling hopeful about Oregon.

at 3:21pm by Joe Copeland

Over the weekend, the Seattle Times published an outstanding look at the lack of earthquake retrofitting requirements in the city and state, and followed today with a quick question and answer piece on key aspects of retrofitting. The Times labels the stories as part of a continuing series called “Seismic neglect” — a hopeful sign for anyone looking for action that begins to match the emerging knowledge about earthquake threats here.

The highest pay for experienced Washington teachers is in six Snohomish County school districts, so much so that it could be a big issue for next year’s Legislature, The Herald reports. State lawmakers are under order from the Washington Supreme Court to equalize educational opportunities at school districts across the state. The most experienced Everett teachers, currently paid at least $97,445, will receive a base salary of $103,000 for the 2017-18 school year. Equivalent pay in many districts is about $67,000. The president of the Everett teachers union told the paper, “My first reaction is all teachers deserve at least this compensation in the state.”

Bernie Sanders tells the Oregonian that he is hoping for a big victory over Hillary Clinton in the state’s primary, where some polls have looked surprisingly iffy for him. The senator told a reporter, “Oregon is one of the most progressive states in the United States, and the agenda we have is the agenda that the people of Oregon feel comfortable with.” The first results from the all-mail balloting come out at 8 p.m. on Tuesday.

Best of the Web: Trump glum about UK ties. Sanders and Nader similarities? Birth control case back to lower courts.

at 1:10pm by Joe Copeland

Donald Trump tells a British television network that, if elected president, he probably would have a difficult relationship with the one leader U.S. administrations always seem to get along with: Britain’s prime minister. The problem, in the candidate’s telling, isn’t Trump but the U.K.’s David Cameron, who called the idea of banning Muslims “divisive, stupid and wrong.”

“Trump warns of poor relationship with Cameron,” ITV.

Could Bernie Sanders blow Hillary Clinton’s shot at the presidency without even running? A Politico story suggests that’s possible, pointing to polling that shows Clinton’s numbers falling when people have the choice of a Green Party and Libertarian candidate in a survey. The writer suggests that Sanders could keep his supporters motivated to vote for Clinton in the fall, and change Democratic policy for the long run, by going to the party’s convention accepting her victory but fighting for the party to adopt policy proposals like free college tuition, Medicare for all and breaking up the banks.

Is Sanders 2016 becoming Nader 2000?” Politico.

The U.S. Supreme Court today told a court of appeals to allow time for a dispute over contraception coverage under the Affordable Care Act and religious rights to be worked out through a possible compromise. The New York Times explains why the court sees room for compromise between the government and religious organizations in their own arguments. The order doesn’t decide anything in the hot case. But it does buy time for a resolution.

“Justices, seeking compromise, return contraception case to lower courts,” New York Times.

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