Troll: on summer pause
at 1:55pm by Joe Copeland
The Troll is taking some time off this summer — resting up during staff vacations and shaping up to come back in a new form.
Danuta Wojnar and DoQuyen Huynh left behind everything they knew in search of a better life. Now, they are devoting their lives to helping those whose experiences are not so different from their own.
Seattle University graduate Ayesha Pirbhai builds solar- and wind-powered “community microgrids” in the most remote corners of the developing world. What difference does it make? Just ask the school kids…
The Troll is taking some time off this summer — resting up during staff vacations and shaping up to come back in a new form.
At attempted coup is underway in Turkey, with a military group issuing a statement over TV saying it was in control. Officials of the elected government are saying they will prevail. Some of the best coverage comes from the Guardian and BBC (both providing a stream of live updates), and one of Turkey’s English language news sources, Hurriyet Daily News (hopefully no one shuts it down).
Former King County Executive Ron Sims opened a lot of eyes about traffic stops for driving while black (or brown) even in supposedly aware Seattle by talking about his frequent stops by police. Now, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina is opening up about his own demeaning experiences, and he may reach a larger audience: his fellow Republicans across the south and the nation. (Well, we can hope.) Says the senator: “There is absolutely nothing more frustrating, more damaging to your soul, than when you know you’re following the rules and being treated like you are not.”
Ready to get out of the city for a weekend? There seems to be a bit of news tied to rural areas today.
For the first time since the past decade’s Great Recession, King County’s Historic Preservation Program is helping owners of old barns restore their structures. The Natural Resources and Parks Department today announced grants to restore a half-dozen barns, plus several milk houses, a chicken house and a milk parlor in east and south county. County Councilmember Kathy Lambert noted that there seems to have been a pent-up demand: Requests ran four times as high as the awards of some $235,000 in assistance. But a new round of funding will occur next year.
If you are driving in rural areas, there’s one traffic danger that is often overlooked: deer — where a lot of the risk involves crashing into other vehicles or something along the side of the road after hitting one or swerving to avoid one. The University of Washington says that new research by a team that includes wildlife sciences Assistant Professor Laura Prugh has found that reintroducing cougars in eastern states could thin deer populations and reduce vehicle collisions involving deer by 22 percent. Geico has seven safety tips for avoiding deer collisions or reducing the risks here.)
And, as long as we are on a roll with the outdoors, there’s this: One of the most read stories on the Seattle Times site at the moment is “How to discourage an attack when you meet a bear in the wild.” One takeaway: If you’re in a group, it’s great to bunch together, shout and wave your arms. And noise is a good thing generally, even just walking along.
Have a good weekend.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has gone into high gear, making news on a couple of fronts.
Responding to complaints about the possible sale of one of the city’s largest undeveloped pieces of land, Murray will hold onto the Myers Way Parcels in West Seattle. Murray said four acres will be used for expanding a fire-fighting training facility there and the remainder that had been considered for sale, likely to a commercial developer, will be retained. Murray said the Parks Department doesn’t have money at this point to create a park but the move will at least keep the land as open space.
City Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who had raised questions about the sale, issued a statement saying, “This is a significant and important victory for the community who has worked so hard to bring the value of these properties to the attention of City decision-makers.”
Also Wednesday, the mayor signed an executive order that will lead to divorcing the city from its longstanding City Neighborhood Council and its 13 district councils. The mayor envisions creating new systems for public involvement, with an aim of involving much broader and more diverse sections of the city population. As he noted in the order, there have been longstanding concerns about whether the current system, set up in 1987, still reached representative parts of the population. He pointed to a particular lack of African-American involvement.
There’s more than one paradox surrounding Hillary Clinton, but journalist Ezra Klein does the deepest of dives on one of them: “Why is the Hillary Clinton described to me by her staff, her colleagues, and even her foes so different from the one I see on the campaign trail?” The editor of Vox writes about the wooden, scripted Clinton usually seen on the campaign trail and the Clinton who is known as witty, open and — in many cases — beloved by colleagues. He finds a single trait at the center of the dilemma: She listens, genuinely. Including to Republicans. Sometimes to the point it gets her in trouble.
Donald Trump is set to announce his choice for vice president, but CNN is already reporting that it’s Indiana Gov. Mike Pence. He’s a much more conventional and conservative Republican than the New York tycoon. As we await the final word (by Friday), here’s some of the better reads about the thinking around the likely selection, starting with an Indiana university political expert’s assessment of how Pence could be very helpful to Trump.
“Mike Pence is everything Donald Trump is not,” the Washington Post.
“Why Mike Pence would be Trump’s least worst choice,” FiveThirtyEight.
“Who’s Mike Pence and why would Trump pick him?” Roll Call.
A King County jury heard allegations Monday that Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole retaliated against police sergeant Ella Elias for blowing the whistle on unfair overtime distribution. Elias was transferred out of her precinct to desk work following accusations that former Assistant Chief Nick Metz had set up a “gravy train” of easy overtime hours to friends. According to the Seattle Times, the prosecutor argued the transfer was in response to the whistle blowing and painted Chief O’Toole as using the department as a stepping stone to higher aspirations.
The city’s lawyers, on the other hand, argued Elias’ punishment was in response to racially charged comments and divisive leadership.
The trial began Monday.
In the wake of a tragic last week, in which two black men were killed by police and five Dallas police officers were killed by sniper fire, rumblings of a race war began to simmer. At an interfaith memorial for the officers Tuesday, President Obama begged to differ. “We’re not as divided as we seem,” he told the crowd.
Former President George W. Bush also addressed the crowd. “Too often we judge other groups by their worst examples, while judging ourselves by our best intentions,” he said.
It’s a tense time as African American communities demand more accountability from police officers and as some in the law enforcement world, such as the Seattle Police Officer’s Guild, blame anti-police sentiment for stoking the fire. President Obama sought balance as he praised the policing profession and also brought to mind America’s institutional racism dating back to slavery.
Puget Sound Energy says it and co-owners will close two coal-powered generating units in eastern Montana to settle a lawsuit with the Sierra Club. The settlement dismisses all Clean Air Act complaints against the Colstrip Generating Station in return for shutting down the two oldest units there by July 1, 2022, PSE says. PSE says the closures will better align its production with “a changing energy landscape,” but it suggested two remaining Colstrip units will operate indefinitely because they are newer and more efficient than the ones that will close.
Singling out PSE’s Kimberly Harris for praise, Gov. Jay Inslee said, “The settlement reflects the market realities in the power sector and will allow PSE to responsibly manage their risks, protect their ratepayers, and reduce pollution.” Montana’s governor, Steve Bullock, talked earlier this year of exploring new ownership for the plants that are closing, but nothing appears to have come of that.
The United Kingdom (it’s still united for now) will get a new prime minister — quick. Theresa May will take office on Wednesday, months before her fellow Conservative, David Cameron, had planned to leave the prime ministership. She’s talking about making the exit from the European Union work. In a generally hopeful tone, the Guardian profiles her as a strong-minded, morally driven, very controlling leader, the child of a minister. “What makes a May premiership interestingly unpredictable is that she has always been driven less by ideology than by morality, a very personal sense of right or wrong,” the Guardian’s writer suggests.
You might have noticed people walking down the streets last weekend, really studying their phones — and other people approaching them, saying, “Are you playing?” The Pokémon video game brand is back in the biggest of ways, with Pokémon Go, and it has zoomed to the top of Apple’s app downloads (not sales, it’s free). Vox takes a good look at the appeal, explaining, “By using your phone’s ability to track the time and your location, the game imitates what it would be like if Pokémon really were roaming around you at all times, ready to be caught and collected. And given that many original Pokémon fans are now adults, this idea has the extra benefit of hitting a sweet spot of nostalgia, helping boost its popularity.” TechCrunch looks at what it considers the brilliance of its technology, design and marketing. It’s even good for the price of the stock of maker Nintendo, whose North American headquarters is, of course, in Redmond.
“The brilliant mechanics of Pokémon Go,” TechCrunch.
He’s 68 years old, a Seattle political legend, and he’s still being pulled over by the cops. Ron Sims was King County’s top elected official for 14 years, and a candidate for Washington state governor and U.S. Senate. Also, an ordained Baptist minister. And,Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat writes, like African-Americans everywhere, he’s exasperated by police targeting him because he’s black. Last year, Sims said the police stopped his car and asked, “Where are you going?” And Sims thought, “What possible business is that of yours:”
Westneat says Sims told him wearily that he’d been pulled over eight times by Seattle cops over the years. Sims’ admirable career profile counted for nothing in the eyes of the police, Westneat notes, while his own bedraggled youth and humdrum white middle class existence passed perfect muster with the police. Zero traffic stops.
On Facebook, Sims expands on the issue at length, writing near the end, “It is very demeaning and it kind of hurts. Why me is what you say to yourself, why me? I didn’t deserve this! Even after all of these years it still seems so very an unfair price to pay. The stench of it seeps deep into your pores.” — E.C.
It took a judge to settle the sibling feud of the Price kids. The richer, younger brother won, as the Seattle Times reports. Dan Price, CEO of credit card processing firm Gravity Payments, won world-wide attention for his decision last year to pay his employees a $70,000 annual minimum wage. This, and other executive decisions didn’t sit well with older brother Lucas, a Gravity co-founder. He sued Dan, arguing that Dan’s salary was excessive and that his his rights as a minority shareholder had been breached.
After a three-week trial, King County Superior Court judge Theresa Doyle late Friday dismissed Lucas’ claims and ordered him to pay Dan’s court costs. “I will never take for granted the incredibly valuable role Lucas played in creating our company,” Dan said, charitably. “I’m thankful for the opportunity to put this challenging time behind us.” — E.C.
Some dog owners are unhappy with a new Seattle Parks and Recreation plan for accommodating man’s best friend. KING 5 reports that a key gripe is that the plan lacks provisions for putting off-leash dog areas in neighborhoods throughout the city. The group Citizens for Off-Leash Areas (COLA) says the plan also lacks provisions for putting dog areas in spots that people can reach without driving. The draft plan is under review with the Board of Parks Commissioners expected to adopt a final version no earlier than late September. — Joe Copeland
Supporters of two statewide initiatives to the people — on campaign finance reform and protecting against fraud — are turning in their signature petitions just in time, barely beating today’s 5 p.m. deadline. Backers of Initiative 1501 — on fraud, identity theft and public records — and Initiative 1464 on campaign finance both say they met or beat the state guidelines for having extra signatures to ensure qualification for the November ballot. A statewide initiative keeping guns from people deemed to be dangerous looks likely to be on the November ballot after supporters turned in petition signatures on Thursday, followed by a second batch today, according to a spokesman in the Secretary of State’s Office. On Wednesday, backers of a $13.50 minimum wage, Initiative 1433, became the first group to turn in petitions.
An initiative effort to put transgender bathroom rights to a vote failed, with its leader canceling an appointment to turn in petitions.
KING 5 will broadcast a one-hour special related to the shootings of five officers in Dallas and two black men by police in Minnesota and Louisiana. The program, entitled “Stand United,” will air at 7 p.m. KING says the guests will include former Snohomish County Sheriff and Executive John Lovick, and representatives of the Washington State Patrol, NAACP and the Urban League.
At a press conference, Mayor Ed Murray said, “Violence will not resolve our hurt” and called for listening to the peaceful protests that occurred before the Dallas shooting. At the same press conference, the Seattle Times reports, Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole called this is the most challenging time she’s ever seen for law enforcement.
In the wake of the awful massacre of police officers in Dallas, the obvious need is for calm, fairness and problem-solving. As a National Review writer notes, the temptation for politicians will be to divide. Here are three calls for reason from the National Review’s David French, the New York Times’ Frank Bruni and, via the Dallas Morning News, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
“America is driving toward the abyss, and it’s time we hit the brakes,” the National Review.
“How America heals after Dallas,” the New York Times.
“Exclusive: Gov. Greg Abbott calls for unity following Dallas ambush,” the Dallas Morning News.
With its tech magnates and wannabe magnates, Seattle has its share of the high-tech, fancy Tesla cars. As far as we know, those Teslas are as safe as they are cool. But the death of a Tesla driver in an accident blamed — in part anyway — on his car’s autopilot mode is raising a host of big questions about whether the advanced system is ready for prime time. Or, in this case, the road. With a new injury reported in an accident where a driver says he was using autopilot, there’s good coverage of the larger tech, safety and transportation issues in a lot of places.
“Tesla and Google take different roads to self-driving cars,” New York Times.
“Latest Tesla crash draws additional scrutiny to autopilot system,” Bloomberg Technology.
The Stranger is reporting on a very good cause: providing some housing for a man made homeless by the March 9 natural gas explosion in Greenwood. Hal Miller, a 60-year-old who lives on disability, has been camping in Discovery Park for nearly a week after money from emergency support ran out. A reader who saw an earlier report from the Stranger has set up a GoFundMe page to help Miller until his apartment is repaired (possibly next month) but the effort is off to a slow start. But that can be changed, right?
Just as everyone was heading off to the long holiday weekend, Mayor Ed Murray announced that he would not reappoint the head of the Seattle Police Department’s internal oversight office. As Crosscut’s David Kroman pointed out, it appeared to be the classic political move of announcing something controversial when it would receive the least attention. Now, though, the mayor is defending himself in detail, giving the Seattle Times a lengthy, rather thoughtful interview in which he basically says, How was I to know that the police union would do a victory dance on social media about the removal of Pierce Murphy, the director of the Office of Professional Accountability? Well, hmm, that sure did blow away any idea of keeping the move against Murphy low profile. Murray promises that, once any new arrangements for oversight are established, Murphy would be a strong candidate. And Murphy remains in office on an interim basis.
Is real estate going crazy in Seattle? If you need more evidence for an affirmative answer, the Seattle Times has the story for you. It reports that a West Seattle house deemed too dangerous to enter (licensed contractors could go in they signed waivers) recently sold for $427,000. That was after a bidding war involving 41 offers. As the writer notes, however, we still aren’t at Bay Area levels of insanity – in case that’s a consolation.
Sonics fans may have taken a bit of pleasure in the departure of their former favorite franchise’s top player, Kevin Durant, from the Oklahoma City Thunder. Let the city that stole the Sonics feel a sense of loss, right? A Washington Post writer takes a look at how recent basketball history and all the NBA money issues (mainly, lots of money) led to his decision to join the Golden State Warriors.
The hope of Trump — and Sanders — for criminal charges against Hillary Clinton is apparently dead. But did she learn anything? Or, more immediately, what has the public learned? FBI Director James Comey’s statements are not exactly reassuring: For instance, he notes that it is possible “hostile actors” might have gained access to her personal email account.
Since so many people are back at work after a holiday weekend, maybe it’s a good idea to stick with the theme of learning. The New York Times says that studies of bears’ practice of hibernation could lead to breakthroughs in diabetes treatment or even curing obesity. And what about ways to take a nap? Alas, that’s not really part of the story, despite a teasing headline.
“Learning from healthy bears (you mean we should hibernate?)” New York Times.
And, if you were walking around any of Seattle’s older residential neighborhoods, you may have noticed some new front-yard library boxes. A writer on Salon tells what he has learned since his family installed one. Hint: It’s not terribly inspirational about folks’ willingness to share.
Tony Ventrella says he is dropping his run against longtime Republican Member of Congress Dave Reichert. In an email to supporters, the former sportscaster said he had held lengthy discussions with family members before deciding for “personal reasons” to withdraw.
City of Seattle Department of Transportation director Scott Kubly was found by an investigator with the city Ethics and Elections Commission to have violated the city’s ethics code, and will pay $10,000, the Seattle Times reports. The ethics investigation stems from the fact that Kubly was once president of bike sharing company Alta, and then went on to work on the city’s bike sharing program Pronto, which Alta has a financial interest in. The problem was that he should have either gotten a disclosure waiver for this, or removed himself from the project, but he didn’t. Kubly won’t have to pay the full $10,000 fine — only $5,000 as long as he doesn’t commit any more ethics violations in the next two years. Meanwhile, Mayor Ed Murray said in a statement that he still supports Kubly because what he did was an accidental, not a deliberate ethical offense.
In other transportation news, gas and electric cars in Washington are seeing more taxes and fees starting today to help pay for investment in transportation infrastructure around the state, KING 5 reports. As of today, gas in Washington will be taxed at an additional 4.9 cents per gallon, making the total gas tax for Washington 49.4 cents per gallon. The increase will help pick up the $16 billion dollar tab for Connecting Washington, a program to invest in Washington’s transportation that was passed by the Legislature in 2015. There will also be an increase in fees to renew electric cars’ tabs, from $100 up to $150. About $1 million from this fund will help pay for building more electric car filling stations in Washington.
On Wednesday, cancer researchers around the country came together to discuss how to advance the field, KPLU reports. These summits were part of the federal government’s “moonshot” push to get 10 years of cancer research done in half the time. At the Seattle summit, a theme was data and the need for more of it. One researcher told KPLU that the federal government can help with sharing this data.
The head of the Seattle Police Department’s internal oversight office, Pierce Murphy, is being shown the door in what appears to be a Friday news dump before a holiday weekend. In a press release, Mayor Ed Murray said he anticipated forthcoming police accountability legislation to modify the nature of oversight within SPD and was therefore taking a “moment” to publicly thank Murphy, as well as auditor of the office Anne Levinson, for their service.
That modification is likely to look something like an inspector general that could, theoretically, have greater breadth of oversight.
In a bit of PR spin, though, the implication is that Murray is leaving behind Levinson and Murphy as he makes this move, when in fact Levinson has been pushing for this change for years. She had just recently informed the mayor’s office she was not seeking another term as auditor, a fact not mentioned in the press release.
Murphy, a former police officer, was reviled by the Seattle Police Officers Guild largely because of his role handing down disciplinary findings. On Twitter, the SPOG account celebrated his departure, saying “This is very good news!” Although Murray hasn’t said there’s a connection, Murphy’s departure comes as closed door collective bargaining negotiations between SPOG and the City of Seattle are coming to a close.
Murray said he would conduct a national search for the modified positions and invited both Murphy and Levinson to apply.
The new president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, started his job yesterday. Eager to execute drug dealers and other criminals, Duterte has called for a return of the death penalty in the Philippines. He’s also endorsed killing journalists who take bribes, and he’s made shockingly flippant and misogynistic remarks about rape. A photo essay in Al Jazeera English takes a look at the lives of the poor in the Philippines, many of whom support Duterte for his promises to end crime, in spite of the many extreme positions and inflammatory things he’s said.
“Philippines: The inequalities awaiting Rodrigo Duterte” Al Jazeera English.
The BFG, a Spielberg-produced movie about a friendly giant who befriends an orphan girl, opens in theaters today. The movie is an adaptation of a book by the late children’s book author Roald Dahl. Over at The Daily Beast, they take a look at what made Dahl such a great children’s author. For one thing, Dahl’s works didn’t try to shield readers from the harsher sides of life, like death and cruelty. “He never lied to children about what a mess the world is. If anything, he confirmed what they already knew: that children, like adults, can be stupid and mean, that bullies aren’t always punished, and that the weak must be clever and sometimes even duplicitous if they are to outwit those who persecute them.” The piece also has a rundown of some of the best movie adaptations of Dahl’s other books.
“Was Roald Dahl the best children’s author of all time?” The Daily Beast.
Relations between student activists and the student newspapers that serve their colleges have become increasingly tense, says the news editor of The Brown Daily Herald, Brown University’s student newspaper, writing in The Atlantic. At Brown, activists have refused to talk to the student newspaper and removed reporters from events after the paper published two controversial pieces. Similar incidents have happened at Smith College and infamously at the University of Missouri, where a professor called for “muscle” to remove a photographer from the scene of a protest. Some activists have even called for closing their campus newspapers, and some papers have had their funding slashed due to efforts of activists. The piece takes an in-depth and nuanced look at the issue and the way these different campus groups view the role of the press.
“When student activists refuse to talk to campus newspapers” The Atlantic.
The Columbia Journalism Review has come out with its latest roundup of the best and worst journalism of June this year. This is normally an annual feature for the CJR, but they’ve decided to make the switch to monthly, which is good news for those who like to follow media coverage of the media itself. Among the best acts of journalism this month, according to CJR, include the Washington Post’s dogged investigations into Donald Trump’s elusive contributions to charity, news outlets that chose to publish Stanford rape victim Emily Doe’s court statement, and C-SPAN finding a way to broadcast the Democratic lawmakers’ gun control sit-in, no matter what. As for the worst, CJR lists CNN hiring former Trump campaign Corey Lewandowski as a CNN commentator, and pro-Brexit British newspapers that didn’t bother to fact-check claims of the Leave campaign.
“The best and worst journalism of June 2016” Columbia Journalism Review.
BuzzFeed News is touching off a storm of local coverage about University of Washington professor Michael Katze, who is accused in university investigations of misusing funds and violating university sexual harassment policies. According to investigators, Katze’s employees said he used racist and sexist slurs and seemed ready to retaliate against employees. Until it was closed in April, Katze ran a UW lab studying viruses such as Ebola. According to statements provided by the university to reporters, Katze is going through a faculty disciplinary process that could result in his removal but is still being paid a salary. The Times reports that he sued the university for, in the paper’s summation, “damaging his name, honor and integrity.”
All of the reports have accusations that, if true, are deeply disturbing — in regard to, for instance, the level of explicit sexual harassment and the depth of concern about retaliation — and will raise wider questions about how well universities control big-name scientists who are bringing in large amounts of grant funding.
“‘He thinks he’s untouchable,” BuzzFeed.