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Tuesday 29 Jan, 2013

The Welcome, foreign tech workers. The perks of legislating. Gorilla resurgence.

Immigration and workers

at 4:16pm by Joe Copeland

With a sudden blossoming of rational immigration reform, the U.S. Senate introduced a bill today that would create opportunities for U.S. companies to hire highly skilled foreign professionals in computing and other fields. It's an important issue for the Pacific Northwest. As a Seattle Times report by D.C. correspondent Kyung M. Song notes, the bill from two Democrats and two Republicans largely mirrors a proposal from Microsoft last year. Tech companies may actually be happier about this version, which would allow more workers to come here for smaller immigration fees than the tech giant originally suggested. It seems that when Congress sets its mind to deregulating, it really goes all in.

Reimbursing our lawmakers

at 4:16pm by Joe Copeland

Does your employer pay your dry-cleaning bill? Cover the cost of a sweet Bose headset, or your home Internet service? No? Then you must not be a Washington state legislator. In a story featured on The Seattle Times home page today, the Associated Press examined expense reimbursements for state legislators and found that various lawmakers are getting tax dollars to pay for those and other costs.The two top senators, Majority Leader Rodney Tom and Minority Leader Ed Murray, received reimbursements for the Bose headset (Tom) and part of the cost of home Internet service (Murray). Murray has raised fair points about whether minor expense charges are newsworthy — after all, we pay legislators as part-timers and expect them to be on the job pretty much 24/7. Still, it's an entertaining story. A Times poll even made decent use of the usually worthless online poll, asking, "Should the public pick up the tab for dry cleaning the clothes state lawmakers wear on the job?" At last check, 93.2 percent were saying no.

Capital punishment

at 4:16pm by Joe Copeland

Eliminating state executions may be a lost cause politically, but several legislators are willing to give it a try. There's at least one Republican speaking up already for the change — Maureen Walsh of Walla Walla (her courageous stand on marriage equality went viral). Crosscut's John Stang reports from Olympia: 

Two bills were introduced Tuesday to eliminate the death penalty in Washington — replacing the punishment for first-degree murder with life imprisonment without parole. Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, submitted the House bill (HB 1504), while Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle introduced the Senate bill.

Carlyle, Rep.Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, and Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla, issued a joint statement on why they want the death penalty repealed: "There is meaningful value in uniting behind our shared convictions that life has value and that the death penalty is below us as a civilized society. … We believe the death penalty is immoral, unfairly implemented and appeals to society's most violent instincts rather than love and compassion."

Getaway driver

at 4:16pm by Joe Copeland

The Everett Police Department is just releasing frightening details about a bank robbery last Wednesday that took place on a busy Everett street. The Herald reports that the robber actually kidnapped an Everett Community College student after the robbery as she returned to her car near campus, forcing her to act as getaway driver for the Wells Fargo branch holdup. He then made her drive him around for hours. Police are distributing a high-quality security photo of the robber.The college reportedly didn't learn of the incident until late Monday, and the administration alerted the campus community today. No explanation from the Everett Police Department about why they didn't mention the kidnapping earlier. Only in Snohomish County?

Ivan the gorilla

at 4:16pm by Joe Copeland

"The One and Only Ivan," a children's book about Tacoma's Ivan the Gorilla, has won the prestigious 2013 Newberry Medal, according to seattlepi.com's Vanessa Ho. Author Katherine Applegate wrote the book about the famous gorilla who was kept alone in a cage at a Tacoma shopping mall for 27 years, before finally being moved to an Atlanta zoo to live out his life amid grass and trees. "Ivan’s transformative emergence from the 'Ape at Exit 8' to 'The One and Only Ivan, Mighty Silverback,' comes to life through the gorilla’s own distinct narrative voice, which is filled with wry humor, deep emotion and thought-provoking insights into the nature of friendship, hope and humanity," said the Newberry selection committee. Expect kids all over the country to grow up with Ivan's story in their memory banks. Perhaps one of these young readers will eventually write their own happy-ever-after story about Woodland Park Zoo's elephants, for whom even a zoo is much too small.Here's a trailer for the book (Yes, books have trailers now too.)

Monday 28 Jan, 2013

The Gun buyback could be back. Anything for Microsoft. Writer's account of shooting.

Tax breaks for tech

at 4:17pm by Joe Copeland

Seattle Times tech columnist Brier Dudley showed courage with a hard-hitting, detailed article this morning on the tax breaks received by the big tech companies here — and how they want even more. Including major state improvements in education. He notes that just-departed Gov. Chris Gregoire had proposed $248 million in new taxes on beer, gasoline and other businesses to meet the educational needs. Tech firms, though, would be exempted from the new taxes. And while other new breaks are being proposed for tech firms on top of existing ones, Dudley notes an existing one saved Microsoft and others almost the exact amount Gregoire suggested in new taxes for the rest of the state.

Iran imprisons Idahoan

at 4:17pm by Joe Copeland

Iran has sentenced a pastor from Boise to eight years in the notorious Evin prison, according to Northwest Cable News and other reports. Saeed Abedini has made repeated trips to Iran, his homeland, but agreed several years ago to give up religious missionary activity and was on a humanitarian mission, building an orphanage, according to NWCN. A CNN blog says that a conservative religious advocacy group (funded by televangelist Pat Robertson) has reported that the judge in the case has faced European Union sanctions for his harsh sentences in some rights cases. The State Department says it is seeking Abedini's release.

Gun buyback

at 4:17pm by Joe Copeland

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn is already talking up another gun buyback. No wonder: The one over the weekend produced long lines and led to more than 700 weapons being turned in. As seattlepi.com's Joel Connelly notes, the Seattle-King County event also produced a vivid (some might say pornographic) illustration of the state and federal failure to close the gun-show loophole. Private gun dealers lined the street, hoping to scoop up any weapons that missed the buyout. It turns out that buying and selling weapons on a street corner is perfectly legal.McGinn said at a press conference today that it's up to the state Legislature or Congress to close the unregulated, unregistered sale of guns: “We can’t regulate, at the city or county level, the private sale of guns with no background checks whatsoever.” Connelly also notes that, while more money would be needed to launch another buyback event, King County Sheriff John Urquhart and the Seattle Police Department will pick up guns people wish to dispose of.

Guns in use

at 4:17pm by Joe Copeland

Of course, the gun buyback wasn't designed to stop all gun violence, and a shooting the next day had police and the public in danger. A man and a woman suffered gunshot injuries and the gunman wound up dead in the Sunday night incident at the Central District's Twilight Exit, described as a popular bar. The Stranger's fashion columnist, Marti Jonjak, happened to be there and this morning she wrote a brief, gripping account. She recounted that she was next to the gunman's target, "a really beautiful young woman," as the trouble unfolded. Reports indicate that the gunman died when shot by police after firing at arriving officers. The woman, who was a customer, and a bouncer who tried to help are expected to survive, according to a Seattle Police Department statement.

Transit funding

at 4:17pm by Joe Copeland

The smart money seems to be on the Legislature and Gov. Jay Inslee taking a year to assemble a transportation funding package to submit to voters statewide. As a Seattle Transit Blog report this morning shows, however, transit supporters aren't waiting until then to advocate for efficiency and the environment as serious considerations during the development of a new plan. The blog's Ben Schiendelman says that 31 agencies statewide have united to demand at least $400 million for transit or 25 percent of whatever funding request the Legislature puts before voters. He writes of the $400 million:

That’s the level that will shore up Pierce Transit, keep Metro from having to make huge cuts, and even assist Sound Transit a tiny bit in implementing light rail. As part of a statewide package, direct funding would avoid fighting every local battle individually, and provide a rock for the next economic crisis.Given that voters in the Puget Sound area won't approve a measure that focuses entirely on roads and transit, even the most highway-oriented legislators may want to pay attention.

Habitat for Humanity

at 4:17pm by Joe Copeland

After last week's unfortunate news from an annual count that more people seem to be homeless locally, here's a good reminder that a lot of efforts continue to make a real difference for many people. This video of a Habitat for Humanity home dedication was posted Sunday. Love the Daily Troll? Now you can sign up to get it in your inbox every afternoon.

Friday 25 Jan, 2013

The McKenna reflects. Homeless count grows. Charges against police beating victim.

Hit-and-run charges

at 5:08pm by Joe Copeland

The Seattle City Attorney's Office today filed misdeameanor (hit-and–run and driving-without-a-license) charges against the man who was beaten by a Seattle police officer on Oct. 6, not long after he is supposed to have struck a woman bicyclist with his car. (Yeah, it's complicated.) In a statement, the attorney's office said the 58-year-old cyclist suffered pain and damage to her bike, helmet and clothing. She was examined by fire department personnel but didn't seek medical treatment. Seattle Weekly has a quick rundown on the case and the police beating of hit-and-run perp Leo Etherly, which was caught on videotape. Etherly's attorney told The Weekly, in an email: "Leo Etherly has a valid claim for damages regardless of the outcome of new criminal charges."

Homeless Count: Tragedy

at 5:08pm by Joe Copeland

This year's homeless count revealed a small uptick in the number of homeless people in Seattle: 2,736 compared to 2,594 a year ago. Volunteers also found a woman's body in the 1200 block of Rainier Avenue South. She showed no obvious signs of trauma, according to the Seattle Times reports. In a statement, Alison Eisinger of the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness said, "This morning we are especially reminded that everyone should have a place to call home." Tim Harris, the executive director of Real Change often argues with other advocates on how to address homelessness, but today Harris was helping organize a demonstration at City Hall (covered by Publicola) on a very unifying idea: No matter the annual count's finally tally, up or down, even one person without shelter is one too many. In Real Change, Harris had some good ideas for addressing homelessness through tax measures, greater equity and innovative housing programs.

McKenna talks

at 5:08pm by Joe Copeland

Could Washington's recently defeated gubernatorial candidate be laying some groundwork for another run for office? In an interview with Joel Connelly, Rob McKenna blamed last November's narrow defeat to Jay Inslee on Seattle and some smarter campaign spending choices by Democrats. But he also looked ahead. In the seattlepi.com article published this afternoon, the former state attorney general talked about his plans to volunteer for causes — charitable and political — while likely heading into private law, where the money is better than in public service. He plays down another run. But McKenna's passion for improving education, especially at four-year public colleges, was on display, as were his fears about what will happen to education funding now that Democrats Inslee and House Speaker Frank Chopp are playing such prominent budget roles. (Though, honestly, it's hard to imagine things getting much worse, educationwise: Washington languishes in the Bottom 10 nationally when it comes to the percentage of young people earning bachelor's degrees — that's one spot ahead of Mississippi and breathing down Arkansas and Louisiana's necks?)

Song of the Sound

at 5:08pm by Joe Copeland

Look for a "Flash Shanty" next Friday when Sound Experience, the Port Townsend-based nonprofit dedicated to cleaning up Puget Sound through sailing programs, celebrates its 100-year-old schooner Adventuress. And boy that Flash Shanty is one catchy tune (For shanty novices out there, a sea shanty is a kind of work song, or so says Wikipedia.)The Flash Shanty event, noted this morning in veteran Sound advocate Mike Sato's excellent Salish Sea News and Weather blog, will be held at the Boathaven Marina, 305 Eighth Street in Port Townsend at exactly 12:30 p.m., the exact time that, 100 years earlier that the Adventuress first hit the water — in Maine. Come prepared. Watch the video to learn the tune — and the words.

Thursday 24 Jan, 2013

The Safety board zings 787. Macklemore hits new highs. Inslee rolls up one sleeve.

Inslee's got the flu (shot)

at 4:54pm by Joe Copeland

New Gov. Jay Inslee got his flu shot this afternoon. Have you gotten yours? Public Health Seattle-King County has one more free flu clinic currently scheduled (10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Federal Way Public Health Center). And the guv did leave some vaccine. There's a flu shotv finder on the county's site (it tracks places statewide and nationally that have stocked vaccine), along with details on Saturday's clinic.

Boeing had a Dream

at 4:54pm by Joe Copeland

Boeing's hopes for a quick fix for its troubled 787 dimmed today with this blunt statement from National Transportation Safety Board chair Deborah Hersman: "The expectation in aviation is to never experience a fire on board an aircraft." Ouch. Hersman was speaking at a NTSB briefing on the Dreamliner, which was broadcast by Northwest Cable News Network. Hersman's statement and tone was decidedly back to the drawing board.In a detailed Bloomberg news account, the NTSB chair also said the plane's design should have prevented the spate of recent lithium-ion battery meltdowns that have grounded the Dream. Are Hersman and the NTSB second-guessing the Federal Aviation Administration's approval of Boeing's plan? If so, it could spell trouble for the 787. Rule of thumb when the NTSB and FAA clash? The NTSB wns.

'Emergency' amendment to state constitution?

at 4:54pm by Joe Copeland

Monday will bring a State Senate hearing on a proposed constitutional amendment that would limit the ability of legislators to protect laws from public vote by declaring them a matter of public emergency. Jason Mercier, a knowledgeable transparency and government accountability advocate at the conservative Washington Policy Center, explains the amendment in a well-detailed blog post today.If approved by the Legislature and voters, the measure would require a 60 percent majority for any non-budget measure to be designated an emergency. Even with greater restraint on emergency designations by lawmakers in recent years, 8 percent of all newly-enacted laws in 2012 were designated emergencies.And — painful as this is for a Mariner fan to point out — Mercier says the poster child for abuse of the term "emergency" is the 1995 piece of legislation that led to the construction of Safeco Field.

Been a long time coming

at 4:54pm by Joe Copeland

Macklemore's "Thrift Shop" has grabbed the coveted No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 — the first time in more than two decades a Seattle talent has topped the hit parade, according to seattlepi.com. The story by reporter Casey McNerthney — it's always good to see the super-talented young reporter mastering something besides the cops-and-robbers beat — notes that Sir Mix-a-Lot's "Baby Got Back" was the last time Seattle rocked the nation's world. Gossip alert: McNerthney also digs into Macklemore's recent engagement and his attempt to get Mix-a-Lot to appear in one of his videos.If your afternoon needs a little extra spice, check out the video of Mix-a-Lot's 1992 song. The uploader (Quantumofficial) claims it made "the list of censored MTV clips." Umm, yes, we can see how that could be. But maybe we could also say it's timeless?

Wednesday 23 Jan, 2013

The Pam Roach, set to music. Seattle building up again. More ferry questions.

Going up

at 4:32pm by Joe Copeland

Seattle is about to see the construction of what Seattle Times real estate reporter Eric Pryne describes as "the tallest building erected in Seattle in more than 20 years." Developers first unveiled plans for the 43-story Fifth and Columbia Tower, which will be 50 feet taller than even the Space Needle, in 2007. Then the recession thing happened — with its epicenter, at least locally, just blocks away at WaMu's Seattle headquarters. One development principal told Pryne: "We just really like Seattle as a market, today and for the long term.”

A bad grade on transparency

at 4:32pm by Joe Copeland

In a report released this morning by progressive group WashPIRG and their national affiliates, Seattle receives just a C-plus for transparency about city spending and finances. But the grade isn't necessarily as bad as it sounds: Only 11 of the 31 cities evaluated nationally scored higher (Chicago and New York were the top two). The report cites Seattle's lack of an easily accessible central transparency website, information about corporate tax breaks and the ability to download overall expenditure details as its biggest weaknesses.

Spending on ferries

at 4:32pm by Joe Copeland

A recent auditor's report on state ferry construction costs seemed pretty damning, but a key state legislator is claiming that the audit didn't even get into the details it was intended for — namely why exactly a recent pair of state ferries cost so much more than their East Coast counterparts. Crosscut's John Stang reports:

A state audit of ferry construction costs did not look at what it was supposed to, claimed Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, who frequently birddogs the Washington State Ferries. The report, released Jan. 3 after more than a year of study, concluded that the ferry system's newly built 64-car ferries are among the most expensive ferries of that type to be built in the past 20 years. The final costs in 2011 dollars were $87.3 million for the this state's first 64-car vessel Chetzemoka and $48.5 million for the Massachusetts ferry that was the Chetzemoka's prototype.

The audit report blamed the high costs on difficulties in getting more than one in-state bid for ferry construction, Washington State Ferries design changes during construction, and the lack of appropriate shipyard apprentice programs. Regulations require ferries to be built by Washington shipyards.

Speaking at a Wednesday legislative briefing on the report though, Seaquist said the audit was originally conceived to look at extremely high design costs, at why the first  64-ferry had several operating problems including leaning to the side when loaded with cars, and at  "fuel consumption costs that are through the roof." None of those factors were addressed in the Jan.3 report, Seaquist said.

He said the audit's original purpose was to find out where the state's money specifically went in building the 64-car ferries, which the state auditor's report did not do.

Reforming police reform

at 4:32pm by Joe Copeland

An interesting nugget from the Seattle Times this morning: The SPD compliance officer tasked with overseeing Seattle's police reform initiative is resigning for personal reasons. His replacement, Bob Scales, has a history with the issue. Sources expressed conflicting views about whether newly hired coordinator Bob Scales could approach police reform neutrally, after having earlier "sparred with" the federal Department of Justice in the negotiations that led to a settlement mandating reforms.Reporters Steve Miletich and Mike Carter, our region's journalistic leaders in covering the police problems, did get a statement from the U.S. Attorney's office for the region, indicating that it was reassured by a meeting Tuesday that reform is on track. A city source very committed to the reforms throughout the process (including when Mayor Mike McGinn was trying on a confrontational approach with the feds) expressed complete confidence in Scales: "Bob will do a great job."

Bellevue murder arraignment

at 4:32pm by Joe Copeland

The suspect from a horrific cold-case murder in Bellevue maintained his innocence during an arraignment this morning, Bellevue Patch reports. The suspect, Michael Allan Halgren, was already being held at McNeil Island Special Commitment Center when he was arrested for the death of 19-year-old Susan Lowe, who was murdered at her apartment. The report by Venice Buhain includes this still-heartbreaking summary:

Lowe was last seen alive around 7 p.m. April 23, 1980, when she told her roommate that she planned to stay in and watch the Seattle Supersonics game on television, according to the court documents. Around 10 p.m. that night — while "Charlie's Angels" was on TV — Lowe's neighbors heard a knock at Lowe's door, then a banging noise as if something hit a wall, running sounds and a muffled scream, but did not act on what they heard, according to the charging papers. If only.

Dry mobile dining

at 4:32pm by Joe Copeland

With the rains back, Western Washington now confronts its perpetual winter conundrum: Is it easier to get outside when it's gray and wet or when it's clear and cold? Today, The News Tribune's Sue Kidd looked into just how one Northwest phenomenon (rainy weather) affects another: food trucks. Today, she reported on Jay Dogs, a mobile hot dog spot owned by Jay Gallinatti, who emailed her about rainy weather: “My two 10-by-10 pop-ups have a 10-by-20 feet heavy duty waterproof tarp over the top so it is nice and dry underneath." She's coming back Thursday for a full discussion with another mobile vendor, who decided the economics of a food truck demand all-year operation.

Roach Watch

at 4:32pm by Joe Copeland

Undead Olympia is a zombie satire website (at least we think it's satire) that targets Washington state government. On Tuesday, they published a musical montage of Republican Sen. Pam Roach, who was restored to her own caucus only because the GOP-dominated coalition needed her support in order to control the Senate. The piece was inspired by her recent "rambling" defense of herself. As Undead notes, Roach defended herself as, among other things, a good person; actually, we agree she deserves some sympathy — even if that has absolutely nothing to do with her legislative chops. 


at 4:32pm by Joe Copeland

Tuesday 22 Jan, 2013

The Feds mum on marijuana. Your kid's brain on words. Mayoral candidate gives gun plan.

Language learning

at 4:16pm by Joe Copeland

A new University of Washington study breaks new ground on brain structure and language skills: Researchers found that brain-imaging of infants provides a good prediction of what their language abilities will be months later, as 1-year-olds. The study in the journal Brain and Language showed that MRIs found structural differences in the brains — concentrations of gray and white matter — that indicated who would be good at language. And there's a practical aspect, according to a UW release:  "Identifying which brain areas are related to early language learning could provide a first glimpse of development going awry, allowing for treatments to begin earlier."

Talking marijuana 

at 4:16pm by Joe Copeland

Federal Attorney General Eric Holder offered no hint of how he is leaning in regard to the federal stance on the state's marijuana legalization initiative, according to Gov. Jay Inslee. In a conference call with reporters right after their meeting with Holder this afternoon, the governor and state Attorney General Bob Ferguson portrayed Holder as attentive but not at a point of making decisions on any federal action — or, hopefully, inaction — on the implementation of the state's measure. Inslee said he and Ferguson didn't expect a decision. Ferguson said that they "particularly emphasized the issue of timing" to Holder. He added, "It's fair to say that Attorney General Holder understood that we would need some clarity in the coming months." Holder also wants more information on what the state will do to prevent what Inslee referred to as "leakage" of marijuana to other parts of the country."I feel good about having this meeting with an attorney general who is willing to hear us out," Inslee told callers. We tweeted highlights of Inslee and Ferguson's remarks here during the call. Check back for a full story later this afternoon. 

Seattle un-benediction

at 4:16pm by Joe Copeland

In true Seattle style, Mars Hill pastor Mark Driscoll sent the ultimate passive-aggressive tweet yesterday. The message, which seattlepi.com's Joel Connelly first reported, was nominally prayerful and supportive but actually, well, quite damning of the president on the most personal level. "Praying for our President, who today will place his hand on a Bible he does not believe to take an oath to a God he likely does not know,” he wrote.The discussion continues today. On the Huffington Post's religion section, the Rev. Emily C. Heath writes in a way that most of Seattle will get:

If Barack Obama says he is a Christian, if he confesses his faith in Christ, that's where the conversation ends. The same is true for George W. Bush, or Franklin D. Roosevelt, or even Mark Driscoll.

There is a difference between saying to someone "my understanding of Christian faith is different from yours on this issue" and saying "we don't believe the same thing, so you must not be a Christian." I often disagreed with George W. Bush's actions, and struggled to reconcile them with my understanding of Christian faith, but I refused to speculate on the sincerity of his faith. That's not my place. And I've had it done far too often in my life to turn around and do it to others.

And it happens far too often. We forget that some Christian right figures believe that Catholics are not "real Christians". We forget that "real Christians" used their firm belief that they were right to rail against the faith of those who wanted to end slavery and later segregation. We forget that on an ongoing basis, gay Christians are told by these "loving" "real Christians" their faith is not real. 

A gun plan for Seattle

at 4:16pm by Joe Copeland

Mayoral candidate Charlie Staadecker today released what he calls "a simple, realistic, three-point plan for gun safety." In a nutshell, Staadecker is advocating for more funding for mental health evaluations, gun-lock storage laws and tighter permitting and real waiting periods for gun purchases.His argument shows more attention to supporting evidence for his arguments — there are a number of hot links — than most politicians would bother with. Yet, even as a political newcomer, he shows a bit of flair for making his points: "As a real estate professional, I am required by state law to be fingerprinted and yet I can buy a handgun or long gun at a gun show without providing my fingerprints or a waiting period. Does this make sense?"

Weather, whether we like it or not

at 4:16pm by Joe Copeland

The National Weather Service forecast says we are finally about to switch back from our schizophrenic fog/sun conditions to more normal winter weather. The burn bans are already being lifted, but the odd winter weather has given meteorologist Cliff Mass license to put on his professorial hat again. This morning, Mass looked at how the inversion affects Snoqualmie Pass, writing: "How would you like to take a ski lift where you begin with temperatures in the low teens and by the end of your journey minutes later (and after a second lift), you are sweating in the sun with temperatures close to 50F?"Here are videos from gloriously sunny conditions at the pass, both posted Sunday. Love the Daily Troll? Now you can sign up to get it in your inbox every afternoon.

Monday 21 Jan, 2013

The Basking in Sonics glow. KeyArena's future. Political DUI in Tacoma?

Basking in the Sonics glow

at 4:30pm by Joe Copeland

The confirmation that Seattle-native hedge fund manager Chris Hansen has a deal to purchase the Sacramento Kings set off a political land rush to bask in the light. Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and County Executive Dow Constantine seemed to be one-two out of the starting gate, with emails to press welcoming the nearly assured return of NBA basketball. City Councilmember Tim Burgess, a candidate for mayor and an architect of council approval for a new arena plan, also got off a quick release announcing his availability to discuss the purchase.One day for celebrating? Sure. But soon will follow the necessary re-examinations and questions about where the team goes, whether it's really good for the city, etc.

What now, Key Arena?

at 4:30pm by Joe Copeland

The future of KeyArena will be one subject for debate. Some will insist that if it's good enough for the first two years — while a proposed new SoDo arena would be built — it's also a permanent solution. Perhaps more relevantly, there will be the question of whether to tear down the Key. As Crosscut's Knute Berger has been arguing, there's a big historic preservation issue involved.Watching some 4,000 people enjoy themselves Saturday at the opening of the Rat City Roller Girls season (crowds tend to grow as the season goes on), it was easy to imagine that creative ways can be found to keep the arena, which dates back to the 1962 World's Fair.Side note: For those of you interested in dipping your toes into the local roller derby scene, don't let your knowledge level (or lack thereof) keep you from attending a game. The league does a great job in person of explaining the competition. 

Tacoma councilman arrested

at 4:30pm by Joe Copeland

Here's the kind of news no politician wants to be associated with: Tacoma City Councilmember Ryan Mello was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving over the weekend. A report on MyNorthwest.com says that he was polite throughout and avoided any suggestion that he was too important for the officer to mess with. In fact, he didn't even mention his political position.Guess that's a start on political rehabilitation — and a lot better than sometimes may happen when a politician is pulled over.

Seattle business is U.S. business

at 4:30pm by Joe Copeland

Not to get all pompous or anything, but it sometimes feels like — aside from the little matter of Wall Street — Seattle business news is national business news. Three New York Times articles this morning provide a case in point.The national news bigwig had a report this morning on the safety investigation into Boeing's 787 problems and, at more length, the potential business impacts for the company, a leading U.S. exporter. There was also a lengthy look at how Amazon's customer review system affects book sales. The system has faced scrutiny recently after livid Michael Jackson fans review-bombed a new biography that claimed the famous singer's plastic surgery reduced his nose to mere slits and that he died a virgin. The book's content aside, if angry fans can effectively censor a biography they disagree with, what's to stop others from organizing to destroy the sales of other tomes they dislike? Is this the new way to ban books online? 

Eyman apologizes?

at 4:30pm by Joe Copeland

In a unique, if not rare, move for initiative entrepreneur Tim Eyman, he apologized today to Wenatchee city council members. Eyman sent out a seemingly heartfelt email this morning saying he had gone overboard in calling officials in Wenatchee arrogant for blocking an initiative to let voters decide on local red-light cameras.The Wenatchee World has a story noting the initial email was about an initiative he recently filed that would, among other things, block cities from refusing to put local initiatives, like ones he has run on red-light cameras, before voters. Eyman is usually genial in person, even while being an aggressive debater. But an apology? Is success mellowing him? 

NBA return video

at 4:30pm by Joe Copeland

Before the coming rounds of debate, here's a look back at a rally last year urging the Sonics' return, posted by John Hanson.  Love the Daily Troll? Now you can sign up to get it in your inbox every afternoon.

Friday 18 Jan, 2013

The Hijacking hijinks. A court for college drinking? Eyman takes a stab at Inslee.

Hijacker false alarm

at 4:24pm by Joe Copeland

The FBI is not amused about a fake phone tip that pointed them toward a supposed hijacker on a Hawaii to Seattle flight yesterday. The Alaska Airlines jet, escorted by military jets into Sea-Tac Airport, carried no potential hijacker, the Associated Press reports. Whatever kick the tipster got out of an apparently false report may come back to bite him or her. "The FBI gets lots of hoax phone calls but something that rises to this level is not something that we're going to take lightly," an FBI spokesman in Hawaii told the AP.

Visiting with the feds

at 4:24pm by Joe Copeland

Gov. Jay Inslee and state Attorney General Bob Ferguson will meet with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder next week to discuss the state's legalization of marijuana, The Seattle Times reports. It's not clear whether Holder plans to play the tough cop or take a somewhat relaxed attitude.

Eyman the tax umpire

at 4:24pm by Joe Copeland

As Crosscut reported yesterday, Gov. Jay Inslee doesn't see extensions of existing taxes that are set to expire as a violation of his campaign pledge to veto new taxes. His reasoning: An existing tax isn't a new tax.That reasoning might work for some, but Tim Eyman, the initiative business entrepreneur, is only too happy to supply his own interpretation. He sent out an email to media and supporters today: "Re: Inslee breaks no-new-taxes pledge within 24 hours of becoming Governor." Despite the alarmist subject line, the message itself is a bit more nuanced and fair. Ever happy to get into linguistic wrestling matches, he colorfully accuses Democrats of tricking voters on taxes:

Taxpayers feel like Charlie Brown running at the football, and Democrat Lucy pulling it away again and again. 

It's almost like Gregoire whispered to Inslee "when you break your no new taxes promise, do it early so voters have four years to forget." 

And to think there are still people out there who wonder why our tax initiatives keep passing by wider and wider margins.Since his email came less than 48 hours after Inslee's swearing in ceremony, we guess it'd be an exaggeration to say that the Era of Good Feeling between Eyman and the new governor lasted two days.

Put down the drinks, kids

at 4:24pm by Joe Copeland

Crosscut's John Stang reports from Olympia today that legislators are looking at an idea to curb the often-worrisome levels of drinking by college students.Stang reports:

Specific alcohol-offense-related courts could be set up on college campuses under

a bill

at 4:24pm by Joe Copeland

beginning to work its way through the Washington Senate. The idea is to help deal with heavy drinking by college students.

"What we're seeing is not more students drinking nationally and locally, but seeing higher blood alcohol levels. We're seeing more women drinking more with higher alcohol levels," said Bruce Wright, a psychiatrist working for Washington State University at a Senate Law and Justice Committee hearing Friday.  

Under this bill, counties and cities would be allowed to set up specific alcohol-offense-related courts on college campuses. The local governments would have sole authority over the judges and courts, but they would coordinate with the host colleges on referrals for alcohol treatment measures. A college's measures could be counseling or treatment, suspensions or even expulsions — depending on its own regulations.

Judges would be able to make rulings based solely on state law, said Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley and chairman of the law and justice committee, who introduced the bill. But the colleges could use their internal regulations to require treatments or extra punishments. 

Olympia resident Arthur West criticized the concept, saying it discriminates between college students and people who are not in college. "I have a problem with on-campus punishment for off-campus activities."

Home care workers still hopeful 

at 4:24pm by Joe Copeland

State-employed home healthcare workers have tough jobs, working few hours for relatively little pay, despite recent support from voters for better working arrangements. Crosscut's Tom James was in Olympia today, listening to union leaders organize around a push for better pay. James reports:

The state's largest union of home healthcare workers will be asking the legislature for a new contract this year. 

Members of SEIU Healthcare 775 currently work under a contract that sets wages along with the number of work-hours the state will pay for. Under the contract most members make between $10 and $11 per hour. 

Since the 2008 recession, the average union member's yearly income has dropped by 28 percent, to $12,318 last year, according to documents the union provided, and one-quarter of the union's members live below the federal poverty line. Unlike in other fields, the hours paid for by the state are assigned to individual patients, said Adam Glickman, the union's treasurer-secretary. Most of the decrease in members' incomes has come from a decrease in available paid hours, which the state has been reducing since 2008, Glickman said. 

The union has asked legislators to sponsor a bill increasing both care hours and pay, Glickman said. 

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

at 4:24pm by Joe Copeland

The country will honor the great civil rights leader, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., on Monday. Here's a video version of his 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech. If you have 15 minutes to listen sometime over the weekend, it's still uplifting nearly 50 years later.  Love the Daily Troll? Now you can sign up to get it in your inbox every afternoon.

Thursday 17 Jan, 2013

The Sheriff deputies sue. Mariners get new voice. Food forest prepares to party.

Tacoma's cool mayor

at 5:16pm by Joe Copeland

Best we can tell sitting here in our Pioneer Square office, Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland is kind of a big deal: head of one of the state's biggest cities, passionate about education, not afraid to break with ideology (she spoke up for charter schools during the fall debate on a state initiative). And now we learn that she also . . . likes to party! As The News Tribune's Lewis Kamb writes, the city's Facebook page just posted a picture of a smiling Strickland alongside hip-hop and rap pioneer M.C. Hammer. The photo was snapped in D.C. where she's attending a U.S. Conference of Mayors event.

... and Mayor McGinn?

at 5:16pm by Joe Copeland

Seattle's Mike McGinn is also at the mayor's conference. Asked if there was anything fun or outstanding about his trip to the nation's capitol, McGinn's spokesman Aaron Pickus mentions his boss's attendance at the president's gun control announcement yesterday which, emails Pickus, "has been a highlight so far." At least 75 percent of his constituents back home applaud the mayor's support for the prez on gun control. Plus, Pickus says the mayor plans to stay in D.C. for Barack Obama's Inauguration next Monday. Have some fun at that event, Mike. Never know what the voters might do come election time. And — small editorial — we're damn sure you (and Marilyn Strickland) will come back with enough good ideas and good will to more than justify the cost of the trip.

Sheriff's sex descrimination suit

at 5:16pm by Joe Copeland

But let's talk ways to waste of public money, like when public employees screw up so bad that lawsuits follow. The Seattle Times reports that three King County sheriff's detectives today filed a sex-harrassment lawsuit following their alleged treatment while working with the department's Sexual Assault Unit. One charge: frequent crotch-grabbing (his own) by a boss. The defense hasn't been heard from yet, but if the charges hold up it certainly begs a question: How long was the county skimping on employee training, not to mention manners in the workplace?

(Update 6:30 p.m.) Pam Roach speaks

at 5:16pm by Joe Copeland

Republican state Sen. Pam Roach is key to the control of the Senate held by her party and two Democrats. Today she held what The Seattle Times Brian M. Rosenthal calls a "rambling, hour-long news conference." Roach, who was long banned from the GOP Senate caucus over her treatment of staffers, said she had been the target of a “long, drawn-out campaign to ruin my good name." There's a brief video from a part of the session posted here by a TVW journalist.

New M's broadcaster

at 5:16pm by Joe Copeland

The Mariners have another youth movement: in the broadcast booth. The team has hired Aaron Goldsmith, a 29-year-old St. Louis native to be Rick Rizzs' broadcast partner. A report from Nick Eaton of seattlepi.com makes the Goldsmith addition sound promising, especially in light of most Mariner hiring moves. While some of us will miss the rotation of former players and longtime broadcasters that shared the booth with the super-capable Rizzs the past two years, it will be fun to watch the chemistry develop between Rizzs and a full-time partner — maybe more fun than following the team itself.

Food Forest

at 5:16pm by Joe Copeland

The Friends of the Beacon Food Forest are holding an event on Friday to celebrate progress on their Beacon Hill project. The very same project that has drawn international attention since a Crosscut report showcased the group's efforts to create the nation's largest "urban oasis of public food." And there's a lot celebrate in recent months: an $86,000 Seattle Department of Neighborhoods grant, completion of a fruit tree planting project underwritten by another grant, and both volunteer and Seattle Conservation Corps work constructing parts of the project.Friday's celebration will start at 7 p.m. in the Garden House (2336 15th Ave. S.). Desserts, popcorn and warm beverages will be provided but the Friends "will probably want to hug you if you bring a favorite dessert to serve."The group will show a film, "The Power of Community." Here's a trailer. Spoiler alert for Cuba critics: that unNorteAmericano nation  apparently comes off well in the movie. (More event details here.)  Love the Daily Troll? Now you can sign up to get it in your inbox every afternoon.

Wednesday 16 Jan, 2013

The 787s grounded. Inslee wants 'disruptive change.' Seattle Weekly gets it.

Update (5:48 p.m.): Boeing 787s grounded

at 5:00pm by Joe Copeland

The FAA grounded the 787 fleet late today, issuing a statement that the safety of the planes' batteries must be demonstrated before they go back in the air. The 787 problems have quickly gone from the whistling-in-the-dark stage to a crisis for Boeing —  although, fortunately, not the flying public. A New York Times story is here.

Inslee wants change

at 5:00pm by Joe Copeland

In his Inaugural address today, Gov. Jay Inslee called for "disruptive change," promising to streamline government, promote clean-energy innovations, use federal dollars to expand health care access and improve education. The speech was big on generalities although the new governor did manage to knit the topics together fairly coherently around the larger themes of jobs and opportunities. And it was clear that Inslee aims to radically change the way state agencies operate. (Crosscut's full coverage of Olympia 2013 is here.)Judging from the Republican reaction (picked up by The Seattle Times), you'd think Inslee was targeting them instead. And we're confused: Why is House GOP leader Richard DeBolt so surprised that Inslee called — yet again — for tax credits to encourage clean energy and for health insurance plans to cover abortions? “It was funny that he would take a day of unification and try to make it a politically dividing event,” said DeBolt. Seriously?For his part, Inslee talked about creating a "real dialogue" with the Legislature and "a true partnership" with legislative leaders including DeBolt, one of four he mentioned by name. We say, good luck, guv.

Seattle Weekly gets change

at 5:00pm by Joe Copeland

Editor Mike Seely went on the website of the recently sold Seattle Weekly to announce his departure. He sought to downplay speculation that the new owners, Sound Publishing, had forced him out. (Seely sounds like he may be the only media person around who completely trusts Sound's takeover as nothing-but-good for the paper.) Seely's departure immediately prompted questions: The Stranger's Cienna Madrid reports that Seely emailed her to say that no successor has been named and that he was unaware of any plans for, in her words, more shake-ups. In his own posting, Seely makes a cogent case for seizing better economic opportunities for his growing family — two daughters in 17 months! — and says his new radio-oriented employer, ReelWorld, is a good fit for him.

No gold star for Gold Bar

at 5:00pm by Joe Copeland

Speaking of The Weekly, its print edition out today features a colorful, in-depth piece on the tiny town of Gold Bar on U.S. 2. Veteran journalist Ellis Conklin writes about how the bizarre in-fighting around local politics has gotten so the city is threatening to disband as an incorporated municipality. You think the U.S. Congress is dysfunctional, or that Seattle's city government does a lousy job of relating to the neighborhoods, the public and businesses? Gold Bar has them both beat.

Guns down

at 5:00pm by Joe Copeland

Organizers of a pro-guns rally in Olympia — part of the Guns Across America event scheduled for this Saturday — are urging followers to dress well and keep sidearms out of sight, according to a report by Joel Connelly of seattlepi.com. The email, sent to followers from Matthew Piquet of Marysville, says, "Let’s freak out the media with such a positive image of the American gun owner that they cannot spin a negative message." 

Flu near you

at 5:00pm by Joe Copeland

If you're still debating about whether to get that flu shot, you should know that the vaccine is getting harder to find. Public Health Seattle-King County's flu site to the rescue. The site provides the phone numbers and addresses of places that are offering shots. But it's best to call ahead. The site also lists upcoming free flu vaccination events at four Public Health centers around the county. And if we haven't freaked you out yet, let us fill you in on the growing number of outbreaks. Or rather, let's let HealthMap.org break the news. The site, which was founded by researchers, epidemiologists and software developers at Boston Children's Hospital, features neat interactive graphics that track disease outbreaks worldwide and encourage reader submissions. This is the flu outbreak HealthMap generated when I entered my Seattle zip code. Love the Daily Troll? Now you can sign up to get it in your inbox every afternoon. 

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