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Thursday 28 Mar, 2013

The Inslee budgets. Health trouble on the Duwamish. Boeing hearts FAA.

Inslee budget ideas

at 3:49pm by Joe Copeland

Saying that he will support the continuation of taxes set to expire and elimination of some tax breaks, Gov. Jay Inslee released his budget priorities this morning. Inslee's office said his tax break eliminations and changes would bring the state $500 million in additional revenue over two years. Crosscut's John Stang is preparing a full report.

Big mayoral entry?

at 3:49pm by Joe Copeland

Maud Daudon, investment banker turned Seattle Metropolitan Chamber CEO, is seriously considering a run for mayor, according to a couple of reports this week by the well-attuned Publicola. The news site suggested this morning that this could be the day for an announcement (one way or another, apparently). At this point, it's looking more like Friday or Monday now. Either way, it's at least the second Daudon boomlet: David Brewster explored the first signs of a candidacy in September 2011. She would immediately have strong business support in a crowded field. 

Environmental injustice

at 3:49pm by Joe Copeland

Living near the Duwamish River superfund site shortens life spans, according to an Environmental Protection Agency-financed study of people in Seattle's 98108 zip code. InvestigateWest, which has reported extensively for Crosscut and other media on health troubles near the Duwamish, quotes the report: 

Duwamish Valley residents are more likely to live in poverty, be foreign born, have no health insurance or leisure time, and are more likely to be sick. Georgetown and South Park residents have up to a 13-year shorter life expectancy (at birth) than wealthier parts of Seattle.Among the Duwamish-area health concerns previously identified in InvestigateWest stories are air pollution (some of it from Port of Seattle truck traffic), fish contaminated with chemicals and the lack of healthy grocery shopping options in neighborhoods. The EPA will hold public meetings in late April and May; details here.

FAA and Boeing

at 3:49pm by Joe Copeland

Boeing Chief Jim McNerney went before the U.S. Chamber of Commerce today to predict a quick return of 787 airliners to service, according to Reuters. And he doled out praise for the Federal Aviation Administration, which will decide on when to allow the 787s to fly, and its chief, Michael Huerta. In an accompaying video (around the 2:30 mark), McNerney said:

I must say, the FAA [and] Michael Huerta have been champs here. They have put us through our paces. They have America's best interests in mind. They have the safety of the flying public in mind, as we do.The regulated company is praising the regulator? That could be a sign of coziness, but let's hope not. In this case, the FAA and Boeing do have a shared interest in complete safety. And the National Transportation Safety Board is clearly watching both closely.

Sacramento and Sonics

at 3:49pm by Joe Copeland

Sacramento's NBA arena deal came together so quickly and with so little examination of public financing costs that even the pro-arena editorial board of the The Sacramento Bee wrote a scolding editorial this morning:

[T]he meeting Tuesday seemed like a pro forma exercise, with votes already counted and committed long before members of the public had a chance to speak. That only increases the chances there will be lawsuits or a petition drive for a public referendum that could trip up this project, even if NBA owners support Sacramento's bid.Before Seattle supporters of moving the Sacramento team here start celebrating, they should remember that there are plenty of divisions here as well. At a Port of Seattle customer appreciation breakfast today, CEO Tay Yoshitani told the audience not to mistake current quiet about a SODO arena for port acceptance of plans to build an NBA team home there.

Which came first, the tuition or the STEM degree? 

at 3:49pm by Joe Copeland

The Business Roundtable, which issued a report Wednesday on the job opportunities Washingtonians are missing due to insufficient support for STEM in higher education, is worried about a bill in Olympia that would prohibit universities from charging extra tuition for expensive-to-operate degree programs, like engineering, life sciences and computer sciences. As Crosscut's John Stang reported, the Roundtable is concerned that without differential tuition, the state won't be able to provide the needed number of degrees in those high-demand fields.Here's a different view of the bill, which has yet to see a Senate vote, from the Associated Students of the University of Washington.  

Wednesday 27 Mar, 2013

The Hansen makes another NBA play. Sliding away on Whidbey. State lagging on transparency.

Hansen's Sonics screen play?

at 4:25pm by Joe Copeland

Investor Chris Hansen has reportedly tied up rights to buy another 7 percent share of the Sacramento NBA team he hopes to move to Seattle. That midday news followed last night's divided Sacramento City Council vote in favor of public financing to pay for a share of a new arena designed to keep them there. Nick Eaton of seattlepi.com pulls together a busy 24 hours of developments here.

Budget transparency

at 4:25pm by Joe Copeland

A new report from the WashPIRG (Public Interest Research Group) gives Washington state a B-minus for its budget transparency. The state is one of nine that earned some kind of B grade, but is making advances in providing state spending and budget information to the public (Washington's site is here). Seven states received A grades, including top-scoring Texas. Texas? Are you really going to take that, Olympia?

Eastside rail moving forward

at 4:25pm by Joe Copeland

Sound Transit will kick off the final design phase of its East Link project with a meeting Thursday in the Bel-Red area. The light-rail route will run from Seattle to Redmond via Mercer Island and Bellevue. The meeting is from 4 to 7 p.m. in the Highland Community Center, 14224 Bel-Red Road. There's a staff presentation at 5:30. More details and links to project materials here

King County detention of immigrants

at 4:25pm by Joe Copeland

A new UW study says that King County's costs increase significantly when jail officials comply with federal immigration authorities' routine requests to turn over inmates suspected of being undocumented immigrants. Looking at 2011 records, University of Washington sociologist Katherine Beckett found that King County's costs went up $3 million because of inmates they held longer to release into federal custody. The study also showed that more than a quarter of all Hispanic-identified inmates wound up going to federal custody on release.In February, King County Executive Dow Constantine told the County Council he would support limiting cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement requests to cases where an inmate has prior convictions of serious crimes.

A girl? And a freshman?

at 4:25pm by Joe Copeland

Megan Dedrick is one of just three freshman players to make the varsity Everett High School boy's baseball team. Not to mention the only girl. A delightful story from The Herald's veteran sportswriter Rich Myhre tells us:

It takes a special player to make the high school varsity baseball team as a freshman.

And when that player is a girl, she is more than special. She is unique.Megan — whose father, Jim Dedrick, is a former pro player with a 1995 six-game Major League stint — had to prove herself to doubtful teammates. But one of the team's captains, Steve Cook, had seen her play and told Myhre that he knew she was "the real deal." She has lots of friends on the girls softball team, but chose baseball "because I've always played baseball." 

Tripped by the railroad tracks

at 4:25pm by Joe Copeland

Seattle police say that suspects in an early morning Capitol Hill gunfire incident (no injuries, apparently) got away. An hour later, though, police received a report of a car stuck on railroad tracks in an industrial area a few blocks south of the Spokane Street Viaduct. The men in the car got into a fight with railroad police. When city police arrived, they "arrested the two men, and found two handguns in the car, a bullet resistant vest, handcuffs, an extendable asp baton and ammo for a handgun, which matched the type of gun fired back on Capitol Hill earlier in the evening." Someone call the Darwin Awards. Seattle's got a few new candidates.

Amsterdam West

at 4:25pm by Joe Copeland

A Tacoma bar is one of a few in Washington and Colorado pushing the legal limits by offering folks a place to smoke pot, according to Associated Press. Except, with the no-smoking laws here, Tacoma's Stonegate requires "vaporizing" the marijuana, which AP describes as "a method that involves heating the marijuana without burning it." It sounds like Seattle and Tacoma are well on their way to becoming the Amsterdam of the New World for marijuana-smoking tourists.

Whidbey Island slide

at 4:25pm by Joe Copeland

A big landslide this morning has damaged, threatened or isolated dozens of homes. With so many slides this winter, it seems like we should be through with them by now. But, as KING5 reports, neighbors say last Friday's freaky weather dumped 6 inches of snow.  

Tuesday 26 Mar, 2013

The Drones stuck in Seattle? Coal letter slammed. Italy vs. Amanda Knox.

Amanda Knox

at 4:00pm by Joe Copeland

Amanda Knox expressed disappointment over the Italian court ruling that ordered a rehearing of the murder case against her. According to her lawyer, Knox doesn't plan to take part in the court rehearing, but will continue to fight the case. A seattlepi.com report, written by a freelancer who's followed the case from the start, described the finding as "stunning." Well, the surprises from the Italian justice system just keep coming.

Kirkland Council member out

at 4:00pm by Joe Copeland

Bob Sternoff, a Kirkland City Council member who was facing a variety of business debts and complaints, has resigned. The city's announcement of the resignation this morning said the Kirkland council has 90 days to fill the vacancy; after that, the King County Council could make the appointment. Sternoff owned a number of real-estate businesses and had been forced into receivership, according to the Kirkland Reporter.

Tackling DUIs

at 4:00pm by Joe Copeland

A mother and her infant daughter clung to life this afternoon in the wake of the horrific accident that killed the baby's paternal grandparents, while they walked near Eckstein Middle School, according to a Seattle Times report. Bail was just set at $2.5 million.Since the driver has a history of DUI citations, expect lots of discussion of what to do about drunk driving. And maybe we will even come up with some better solutions. Consider, for instance, two of the ideas posted by two KIRO Radio hosts.In an over-the-top presentation, suggesting that "once again our legislature has blood on its hands," Dori Monson lays out a reasonable set of progressively tougher sentences for DUI convictions. Dave Ross suggests letting families of repeated DUI offenders petition to take away their driving rights.In Japan, Ichiro was the star of a 2009 ad campaign selling the first truly 0 percent beer. There's a simple reason the Japanese were actually interested: Fines for even simple, first-time cases can easily run toward $10,000 and breath detectors are so finely tuned that people fear even letting a passenger who has been drinking into a car. 

No drones, no way, no how

at 4:00pm by Joe Copeland

Seattle Police today used their website to disavow any interest in using drones. In a cleverly worded post (headline: "We Dronen't Want Any Misunderstanding"), the police said, "We’re done with drones & will continue our focus on public safety and community building." But — and this may be what is behind the posting — the department said returning the drones to the vendor is proving "more complex than expected." The police said they are working on the return of the drones with the Department of Homeland Security, which financed the purchase with a grant. The police also said they completely support a recent ordinance restricting surveillance by city departments. Well, yes, perhaps because of the broad exemption for some police activities? 

Last-minute Puyallup slams rejected

at 4:00pm by Joe Copeland

At a hearing last week on her appointment to the state Public Disclosure Commission, former Puyallup Mayor Kathy Turner got slammed with last-minute objections from former colleagues, including one who had lost an election to her. The commission is responsible for enforcing state campaign finance laws. Crosscut's John Stang, who covered the earlier hearing, updates us:

Puyallup's former mayor Kathy Turner received a 6-0 endorsement from the Washington Senate's Government Operations Committee Tuesday to be appointed to the state Public Disclosure Commission. Turner's appointment is opposed by Puyallup's current mayor and deputy mayor — Rick Hansen and John Knutsen. They sent emails that contended Turner fought transparency in Puyallup government affairs. Turner put the attacks down to bad blood from previous Puyallup issues. 

"I'm pleased with [the committee's] decision," Turner said today. "It's not over until its over." The committee also recommended approval of former Bellevue mayor Grant Degginger to the PDC. Both recommendations go to the full Senate for final approval.

Ex-chief in Medina wins suit

at 4:00pm by Joe Copeland

Update 4:08 p.m. A jury awarded $2 million to former Medina Police Chief Jeffrey Chen in his discrimination case against the city and its city manager. Bellevue Patch says that the verdict includes $1.6 million for loss of income. 

Energy exports: the international battle

at 4:00pm by Joe Copeland

Gov. Jay Inslee and Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber's letter seeking a broad federal review of coal exports to China has drawn a sharp rebuke from supporters of proposed coal export facilities. A press release from The Alliance for Northwest Jobs & Exports included a statement warning that the review might halt coal exports and cause economic harm to the region, much like the restriction of timber harvests under Clinton.Meanwhile, the battles over shipping coal and tar sands oil to Asia are heating up in Canada, too. First Nations groups have put out this video, which The Globe and Mail notes matches the Exxon Valdez disaster with Simon and Garfunkel music.

Monday 25 Mar, 2013

The Nice day for a 787 flight. No one wants to smell our compost. Climate bill passes.

Amanda Knox

at 4:00pm by Joe Copeland

An Italian court will take until tomorrow to make the final decision on prosecutors' appeal of Amanda Knox's acquittal in a Perugia murder case, Associated Press reports. If the acquittal is overturned, Italy could eventually seek Knox's extradition, but there are a lot of hurdles between here and there. Including justice. The decision is expected at 10 a.m. Tuesday in Rome — 2 a.m. in Seattle.

Boeing's prodigal flight

at 4:00pm by Joe Copeland

Boeing put a 787 back in the air this afternoon for a test flight to check the redesigned battery system. The flight took off from Paine Field on a route sending it down the Washington and Oregon coasts before turning to come back to Everett, according to The Herald. This may be the most closely-watched flight of a 787 since its very first test flight on Dec. 15, 2009, which also took off from Everett — with a lot more fanfare.

Inslee's climate bill

at 4:00pm by Joe Copeland

The state House of Representatives today passed a bill setting up a climate change task force to look at the best options for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The Democratic House accepted the version passed by the Republican-dominated Senate, sending the bill to Gov. Jay Inslee for his approval. He had sought the task force. So expect a big signing ceremony. And lots of happy talk about bipartisan collaboration. Crosscut's John Stang will have more on this.

No one wants to smell our compost

at 4:00pm by Joe Copeland

The City Council today went along with a request from Councilmember Sally Bagshaw to delay a week before voting on a contract to send its compost waste to Eastern Washington. Currently, much of the city's compost goes to a south King County facility, where neighbors have complained about the stench. The move would be an attempt to ameliorate community relations.Councilmember Tom Rasmussen had already said he would vote "no," largely out of concern that more consideration should have been given to options for keeping the trash closer to home. The situation is turning into a hot political one for the council. The top bidder for the project gave up on a permit application for disposal in Kittitas County last week, after being faced with intense objections. Today, Councilmember Jean Godden, who has overseen the proposal, said the waste would still go to Eastern Washington, "potentially" to another Kittitas site. A Seattle Public Utilities staffer said it's possible that technological advances would make the compost easier to deal with closer to home: Generating electric energy and reducing the smell within the minimum six year term of the proposed contract. (Disclosure: Bagshaw is married to Crosscut board chair Brad Bagshaw.)

Coal letter

at 4:00pm by Joe Copeland

Update: 4:28 p.m. Gov. Jay Inslee and Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber today wrote a letter to the White House Council on Environmental Quality calling for a broad review of the environmental effects of shipping coal to Asia. They urged the council to "undertake and complete a thorough examination of the greenhouse gas and other air quality effects of continued coal leasing and export before the U.S. and its partners make irretrievable long-term investments in expanding this trade."Inslee stressed in a separate letter to state Ecology Director Maia Bellon that he remains committed to a fair, objective assessment of permit applications for coal exporting through state ports.

Wave energy technology

at 4:00pm by Joe Copeland

Oscilla Power, a company based in Seattle and Salt Lake City, said today that it has successfully completed a nine-week field test in Lake Washington of technology to capture electric energy from ocean waves. The company said that NOAA and the University of Washington's Applied Physics Laboratory had helped in the nine-week test, which included periods of winter storms. Capturing energy from waves has been discussed for decades, but may finally be getting more readily useful.

Health insurance access

at 4:00pm by Joe Copeland

Update 4:47 p.m. The state is working on the details of expanding access to health insurance under the federal Affordable Care Act. John Stang reports from Olympia:

Insurance providers backed a House bill to assess a yet-to-be-determined fee on health and dental insurance plans provided by a new Washington Health Benefits Exchange. The fee would cover the insurance companies' administrative costs under a portion of federal health care reform. 

That backing came Monday at a hearing before the Senate Health Care Committee. No one opposed the bill. But most supporters wanted to make several technical tweaks to it. Supporters included Group Health, Premera Blue Cross, the Association of Washington Business and the state Office of the Insurance Commissioner.

The bill by Rep. Eileen Cody, D-Seattle, passed the House 69-29. The Health Benefits Exchange will begin enrolling people in October for health insurance coverage beginning Jan. 1, 2014. The Washington Health Benefits Exchange will be an online clearinghouse for people and small businesses to compare and enroll in health insurance programs– as well as gaining access to tax credits, cost sharing and programs such as Medicaid. 

Terrorist sentencing

at 4:00pm by Joe Copeland

A federal judge today imposed an 18-year prison sentence for Abu Khalid Abdul-Latif, who was convicted in December of plotting to kill military and civilian personnel at a military processing on East Marginal Way South. The Seattle Times reports that U.S. District Judge James Robart criticized destruction of evidence gathered on a cell phone during a Seattle police investigation.

Starbucks stands up

at 4:00pm by Joe Copeland

Seattlepi.com today alerted us to a video from the Puget Sound Business Journal capturing Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz bluntly  rejecting a shareholder suggestion that the company back away from his support of same-sex marriage. Maybe Seattle can start to forgive that whole sell-the-Sonics thing.

Friday 22 Mar, 2013

The Big Boeing job cuts. Room for Needle views? Bellevue police in Seattle shooting.

Police shoot suspect

at 3:43pm by Joe Copeland

A Bellevue police SWAT team fatally shot a man this morning while serving a warrant in South Seattle near Columbia City. A Seattle police spokeswoman told The Seattle Times that the local police were aware in advance of the Bellevue police serving the warrant, which was connected to an investigation into robberies in both cities. Expect this to take a while to sort out.

Micro housing

at 3:43pm by Joe Copeland

The City Council today announced a public meeting on so-called micro housing developments, or apodments. Those multi-family developments with extremely small studio units that have been popping up in some number on Capitol Hill and, to a degree, in some other neighborhoods. The Capitol Hill Seattle blog reported last year on the not-so-happy reactions the units elicit and how they escape reviews that traditional apartments would face. The City Hall meeting will be April 18; details here.Capitol Hill Seattle mentioned spaces of less than 100 square feet; the council's announcement said units are "typically" 150 to 200 square feet. No, that would not be considered spacious in Tokyo.

Space Needle views

at 3:43pm by Joe Copeland

The owners of the Space Needle have launched radio ads to protect views from South Lake Union, which are being threatened by city plans for 40 story buildings there. City Council member Richard Conlin is promising two amendments to zoning laws that should make a difference from parks and streets, according to a report by KIRO Radio's Chris Sullivan: Setbacks and view protection from the sparkling new South Lake Union Park.Crosscut's Knute Berger recently wrote about the value of the Space Needle as a symbol of Seattle, so what Conlin is saying sounds like a smart move. But don't underestimate the power of commercial interests, including The Seattle Times, to make the council dance to the beat of their drum while singing a soothing lullaby. (Disclosure note: As Berger mentioned in his article, he has worked for the Space Needle's owners.)

Boeing making big cuts here

at 3:43pm by Joe Copeland

Boeing will lay off 800 workers in Everett in 2013 as part of larger reductions that will reduce its Puget Sound work force by up to 2,300 positions this year, according to The Herald in Everett. Many of the losses will come through attrition, meaning workers won't be replaced. The layoffs primarily involve 787 and 747 modification workers at Paine Field. Reports from South Carolina a few weeks ago said that a few hundred workers employed under contract would be cut there too.Boeing says none of the cuts are related to the 787 battery issues.

RapidRide kudos

at 3:43pm by Joe Copeland

After a careful study of the Metro Transit RapidRide routes, the Seattle Transit Blog has concluded that there may be a politically expedient reason for their stranglehold on King County geography. That is, their prevalence gives Metro a little something to brag about to voters across the county. Frank Chiachiere writes:

Defense contractors figured out long ago that the best weapons system is one that’s built in all 435 congressional districts and never actually ships. So kudos to Metro making RapidRide “hard to kill” in the political parlance.We just thought we'd mention that for all of you pro-bus advocates. We've seen you out there, telling everyone about how fast bus service is God's gift to Seattle, while muttering that Sound Transit's light rail is a big political scam/ waste of money/ whatever.

No easy weekend traffic?

at 3:43pm by Joe Copeland

Once again, the Washington State Department of Transportation is planning to get a few things done over the weekend. In the middle of some of the busier highways. The closures include up to three lanes of I-5 in north Seattle, ramps from the West Seattle Bridge to I-5 and I-90 bridge express lanes. Details here.

A Disney video for grownups

at 3:43pm by Joe Copeland

Want a little social justice with your Disney music? In a four part harmony with himself (you'll see), this young acapella star gives his own, perhaps more realistic endings to all of your favorite Disney princess stories. You may not want to watch this one with young kids: Instead, put them down in front of Aladdin for the hundredth time, sequester yourself in the other room with your tablet and your headphones and prepare for straight guffawing.

Thursday 21 Mar, 2013

The Lawmakers stand for vets. Jewell nomination gets good vote. Seattle's Downton addiction.

March snow

at 3:57pm by Joe Copeland

The second day of spring finds snow and icy stuff falling in unexpected places. Parts of Snohomish County had snow on the ground in the morning, Kirkland was getting snow shortly after 2 p.m. and a Seattle broadcaster was tweeting hopefully that it "kind of looks" like snow in north Seattle. On his weather blog, Cliff Mass said spring often brings the coldest upper air temperatures.

Downton Abbey

at 3:57pm by Joe Copeland

Seattlepi.com asks, Does Seattle still lead the nation in love for "Downton Abbey"? The short answer is yes. The slightly longer one: KCTS9 dug into the numbers and found viewership here was a good 30 percent higher than the national average. So, naturally, there will be a marathon showing this Sunday of the entire Season 3 set of episodes, which finished last month. We're all for unwinding, but do we really need Seattle Sits-and-Stares Sunday?

Pushing the VA

at 3:57pm by Joe Copeland

U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott proposed a commission today to explore ways to improve care for returning veterans. The Seattle Democrat would also have the commission look for new ways to have vets and active service members "teach their public about their experiences."A day earlier, Sen. Patty Murray said she is worried about the challenges that the Department of Veterans Affairs faces in dealing with returning service members' mental health needs. She was the prime sponsor of the 2012 Mental Health ACCESS Act, designed to improve care for veterans.Recent reports from the Center for the Investigative Journalism have shown that the VA has large problems keeping up with assistance applications. The problem has been particularly bad in California, where applications often sit for 600 days before being decided. Seattle and Portland aren't great, either, with processing of applications estimated to take 340-plus days in each.Murray, a longtime advocate for veterans, recently won the Veterans of Foreign Wars' 2013 award for contributions to returning service members' needs. But remedying the VA's persistent shortcomings under the Obama administration — apparently even worse than under the not-very-high-peforming Bush administration — is going to take a lot of pushing. Hard, even angry pushing.

Jewell gets big vote 

at 3:57pm by Joe Copeland

In a largely bipartisan vote, a Senate committee approved REI's Sally Jewell as the next U.S. Secretary of the Interior. Joel Connelly of seattlepi.com notes that Idaho Republican Sen. Jim Risch might place a hold on the nomination over protection of sage grouse (he favors a state plan; some Republicans fear the feds' protection ideas might interfere with energy developments). Despite voting for her in committee, Risch could still block a full Senate vote on the nomination.The vote was 19-to-3; Republicans John Barasso of Wyoming, Mike Lee of Utah and Tim Scott of South Carolina opposed. Hmm,  opposing an REI exec (whose products reach millions of the youngest and most active folks nationwide). Perhaps they didn't get the Republican memo on modernizing the party's image. 

Hanford idea

at 3:57pm by Joe Copeland

Kurion, a small Richland-based company, wants to use a condensed glassification technology to help clean up radioactive waste leaking from Hanford tanks on the quick, according to the Tri-City Herald. Kurion is designing small, modular units to turn leaking waste into glass. That could bump up the clean-up start date to 2014. Otherwise, Hanford might be stuck waiting for the 2019 completion of a larger facility (which is needed either way). Kurion is less than 5 years old but it has already built a cesium removal system for the disaster-struck Fukushima nuclear plant. 

Coal port protest

at 3:57pm by Joe Copeland

Update 5:01 p.m.: Protesters against coal port proposals marched from Westlake Center to SSA Marine offices in Seattle this afternoon. Idle No More, a Native rights group, sponsored the march. Here’s a part of the march as it passed through Pioneer Square. For full coverage of coal ports, including today's final part in a series by Floyd McKay, check out Crosscut's coal ports page.

Bainbridge art museum opening

at 3:57pm by Joe Copeland

The brand new Bainbridge Island Museum of Art said today that it will open June 14. The museum recently met a $1.2 million challenge match grant for its capital campaign. This video is from last year, but it gives an overview of the thinking behind the museum.Love the Daily Troll? Now you can sign up to get it in your inbox every afternoon.

Wednesday 20 Mar, 2013

The Better jobs numbers. McGinn's transportation bragging rights. Pot growing goes public.

Jobs: Looking up

at 3:58pm by Joe Copeland

The jobless rate in the Seattle-Bellevue area fell below 6 percent, to 5.9 percent last month, according to preliminary state figures. Statewide, the rate stayed at 7.5 percent, although the number of jobs did grow, particularly in the private sector. It's progress, but in February of 2008, the state unemployment rate was 4.6 percent. Really. 

Economic forecast

at 3:58pm by Joe Copeland

The economic forecast for state government showed a mixed picture. In fact, the overall shortfall still rounds out to some $1.2 billion. In other words, absent the ending of some tax breaks or approval of some new taxes, Gov. Jay Inslee and lawmakers will have about as much money to work with as they've been expecting for months. In other words, after all the procrastination, it's time for some decisions in Olympia. Crosscut's John Stang is preparing a full report.

My road building is better than yours

at 3:58pm by Joe Copeland

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn said today that there's an extra $11.5 million for other transportation projects because work on the Spokane Street Viaduct cost less than budgeted. McGinn said the money will be used for "sidewalks, basic road maintenance, upgrades to the City’s traffic signal system, work to complete the Burke-Gilman 'Missing Link' and support for Seattle’s updated Transit Master Plan." The announcement comes just one day after City Councilman Tim Burgess, one of McGinn's challengers in the mayor's race, called for an audit of unspent transportation funds raised by bond sales. In Seattle, all transportation is political

.

at 3:58pm by Joe Copeland

Coal pollution

at 3:58pm by Joe Copeland

Even without being burned, coal can have significant environmental effects on air and water. The nonprofit Sightline organization, which is against coal ports, today outlines existing research on coal dust or coal spills in the water. Much of it is old and inconclusive, or both. David Kershner writes about the dilemmas this poses for the Northwest, where major coal ports are under discussion:

Yet the region is in the dark when it comes to understanding the risks of coal on sensitive ecosystems and endangered species. Scientific studies raise a variety of concerns, but the most comprehensive reviews also suggest that the core issues have not been well-studied and that the aquatic risks of coal are poorly understood.On Thursday, Crosscut's Floyd McKay will have the final part in a three-day series on arguments about the scope of an environmental review for the coal port proposals. Parts 1 and 2 are here and here.

Willapa: Not just great oysters anymore

at 3:58pm by Joe Copeland

The Port of Willapa Harbor in Raymond is becoming the first public agency in Washington state to get into pot growing — at least indirectly. It is leasing a port facility to Seattle restaurateur Marcus Charles, who plans to use it to grow marijuana. Associated Press has picked up on the story today, but a more detailed version came from Washington State Wire at the end of last week. Writer Erik Smith noted that the coastal community south of Aberdeen has lost a lot of jobs due to the decline of the timber industry. The new jobs? The grow operation would be in a 30,000-square-foot former storage shed with a headquarters in a former sawmill office, according to Smith.

Seahawks, Gonzaga have already won

at 3:58pm by Joe Copeland

Going into the NCAA men's basketball tournament, Gonzaga is No. 1. And, more than five months before the first kickoff, the Seattle Seahawks are the best team in the NFL, according to an ESPN ranking. Well, at least the Mariners don't have to live with the burden of great expectations, right? But for those fans wanting to build hope on something beyond a lot of meaningless spring training wins: The Mariners' Michael Saunders was named to the All World Baseball Classic team from the just-completed tournament, where he played for Canada. 

Drones and rights

at 3:58pm by Joe Copeland

Seattle City Council approved regulations to restrict the use of surveillance technology by city departments, proclaiming itself a leader in balancing privacy and providing important public information. Most departments need to have all plans approved in advance. Police, however, received a last-minute exemption in some cases. Kshama Sawant, who plans to challenge incumbent Councilmember Richard Conlin, today said she completely objects to allowing police to use drones, citing historic problems between the police and minority communities. Otherwise, she credited the council with a step in the right direction but complained today about “gaping holes.”Update (4:08 p.m.): Mayor Mike McGinn's spokesman Aaron Pickus says the city doesn't envision any near-term usage of drones. He pointed out that the police department has returned two drones it had acquired earlier with federal support. "We support the ordinance," he said in an email. There’s a video and informative story on TheVerge.com on drones and privacy rights (Hint: you might have fewer than you think).  

Tuesday 19 Mar, 2013

The McGinn pulls a Corey Booker. MSFT bribery scandal bubbling. Metro slow walks RapidRide.

Microsoft bribery probe

at 4:18pm by Joe Copeland

The Wall Street Journal reports that U.S. Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission attorneys are examining allegations of bribery in China, Italy and Romania involving representatives of Microsoft. The report (it's behind a paywall) says that Microsoft conducted a 10-month look at the China allegations in 2010, but didn't find wrongdoing.

Airport workers

at 4:18pm by Joe Copeland

A report released this morning shows sharp (and embarrassing) differences between treatment of some Sea-Tac International workers and their counterparts in four other major West Coast airports. The report from Puget Sound Sage, a nonprofit, shows Sea-Tac baggage handling, cabin cleaning and wheelchair service workers making as little as $9.19 per hour, $3 to $6 per hour below workers at Los Angeles Airport and the three major Bay Area airports. And the Sea-Tac workers (employed by a private contractor) don't have the paid sick leave and health-insurance incentives found elsewhere. All of the California airports have standards for worker treatment. A spokeswoman for Puget Sound Sage said that a variety of jurisdictions, including the Port of Seattle, could institute requirements for better pay and working conditions. But the report's title, "Under the Radar," gets to one key point: Nobody has paid much attention to the fact that Seattle could do better — for employees, for the people who use the airport and for a regional economy that needs more living-wage jobs. (We've uploaded the pdf version of the report here.) 

Metro: Where's the new bus?

at 4:18pm by Joe Copeland

Metro Transit will delay the scheduled September start of the final two of six RapidRide bus lines. Shoreline-Downtown Seattle service on the new Line E will begin in February, and Line F (linking Burien, Tukwila, Southcenter and Renton) will launch in June. Metro blamed the delays on a variety of factors, including the need to install new fare-card reading equipment and coordinated traffic signals.In a press release, Metro General Manager Kevin Desmond said the agency had "learned clear lessons" from troubles starting its RapidRide services to Ballard and West Seattle. The statement also said the delay will mean Metro is "better able to provide the speed and reliability riders expect." Speed? The Ballard line is still waiting on that. But it is tops in ridership among the four lines. 

Food stamp challenge

at 4:18pm by Joe Copeland

Beginning Monday, United Way of King County wil hold its annual Hunger Action Week, which includes a food stamp challenge. Among those willing to go Monday through Saturday on $7 of food per day are, we hear, Mayor Mike McGinn and County Executive Dow Constantine will take part. Their offices just confirmed. Maybe McGinn will get a Cory Booker-like lift for his popularity. Also taking part are the chairs of United Way's annual campaign, Dan and Annie Wilson. For a family of four, the allotment goes to $22 of food daily. If you're feeling adventurous and committed, here's a small bit of encouragement: The tip sheet actually has a few healthy, tasty-looking recipes (lunch: quinoa with salsa, dinner: rosemary lemon chicken). There are more details and sign-up information here.

Transportation audit

at 4:18pm by Joe Copeland

City Council budget chair Tim Burgess has asked for an audit of the Seattle Department of Transportation's management of capital fund balances and its construction program. He pointed to unused money from construction bond sales, pointing to fund balances of $112 million in 2011 and $64 million in 2012. Burgess also expressed concern about a proposal for issuing more debt. Is this a sign that transportation will become a hot issue in the crowded field for mayor, which includes McGinn and Burgess?

A job market for Hasselbeck

at 4:18pm by Joe Copeland

The Indianapolis Colts signed former Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck this morning as a backup to young phenom Andrew Luck. After being cut by the Tennessee Titans, Hasselbeck's unemployment didn't last 24 hours. 

Prof goes dominant paradigm

at 4:18pm by Joe Copeland

A University of Oregon group, Students Against Imperialism, was holding a demonstration last week when a University of Oregon adjunct law teacher happened by. In true professorial form, he decided to … lecture … them in rather provocative terms. Then he decided to snatch the cell phone camera of one of the students. The Oregonian reports the U of O relieved him of his teaching duties; police said he would be charged with theft for taking the camera. The group focuses its energy on Palestinian and immigrant rights. In the video, the professor, James L. Olmsted, seems to take particular offense at the immigrant issue and the whole questioning of imperialism. "I am the dominant paradigm," he proclaims. At least as far as his teaching duties go, that's apparently subject to revision.

Monday 18 Mar, 2013

The New city surveillance controls. Downtown's plea to Legislature. Pot consultant picked.

Surveillance legislation

at 4:04pm by Joe Copeland

The Seattle City Council this afternoon approved legislation tightening controls on police surveillance practices and equipment purchases. An ACLU of Washington representative urged a delay to look more carefully at Seattle Police Department provisions inserted at the last minute and to add an auditing provision.Council members, led by public safety committee chair Bruce Harrell, declined to prolong the discussion any more, promising that the legislation would be just the start — not the end — of discussions about better regulation and privacy protections. Harrell said surveillance is important in some cases, suggesting the Council is "privy to certain information" from police about potential threats involving the Port of Seattle.   

Mayor on public safety, spending

at 4:04pm by Joe Copeland

Mayor Mike McGinn joined downtown business leaders and social service providers to call on the state Legislature to expand Medicaid coverage and provide good funding for housing, substance abuse and mental health treatment. The group also asked that mental health treatment be provided for those cleared of crimes on the basis of mental illness.Downtown Seattle Association President and CEO Kate Joncas described the joint approach as an "unprecedented" collaboration among city officials, business people and social service groups. "We have agreed on priorities that will protect public safety and make downtown a more attractive place to live, work and play,” she said.

Pot consultant picked

at 4:04pm by Joe Copeland

Washington state’s Liquor Control Board has reportedly chosen its pot consultant — it’s a firm headed by a UCLA professor, Mark Kleiman. Associated Press reported that the contract is expected to go to Botec Analysis Corp. of Cambridge, Mass.Hailed for his advanced thinking about law enforcement, Kleiman is familiar with the Northwest. The Seattle City Council invited him to discuss public safety in 2010. At the time, Crosscut’s Kent Kammerer (who died in 2011) wrote:

Kleiman is the epitome of the pragmatist. He can tell you exactly the cost and effectiveness of most of our laws and their enforcement. He understands the cost both in human terms and dollars of how we currently handle law enforcement. His book points to ways to overcome our nation's crime failures.

Sunset Bowl: Revival?

at 4:04pm by Joe Copeland

Residents have started moving into a recently completed housing complex in Ballard, on the site of the old Sunset Bowl, which long served as a community hub for the area. Community member Jim Bristow headed the movement to save the establishment. However, as Brian LeBlanc writes in the Ballard News-Tribune today, nearly five years after the development company shut them down, Sunset Bowl still hasn't found a new home. Developers of the new housing facility did listen to a proposal to reestablish Sunset in the new building. Other sites have been explored by Bristow, but the reminder of the loss (at least so far: LeBlanc is for making something happen) is a good one as the city faces a new building boom.

Matt Hasselbeck released

at 4:04pm by Joe Copeland

The Tennessee Titans reportedly released former Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck today. The Seahawks may well be paying attention. The News Tribune's Eric Williams writes:

No word yet on if Hasselbeck is looking for an opportunity to start, or if he’s comfortable serving as a backup on a championship-caliber team. However, if the Seahawks decide to move Matt Flynn via trade, Hasselbeck would make some sense as a backup for Russell Wilson in Seattle.

I know Hasselbeck can’t run the read option game, but the Seahawks still run a West Coast-based offense, and Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell could create packages for Hasselbeck to be successful if he had to play.

James Beard finalists

at 4:04pm by Joe Copeland

Blaine Wetzel of The Willows Inn on Lummi Island is a finalist for the James Beard Foundation's award as the country's Rising Star Chef of the Year. In the finals for Best Northwest Chef of the Year, Portland has a 3-2 advantage over Seattle. Seattle's two contenders are Jason Franey of Canlis and Ethan Stowell, Staple & Fancy Mercantile. Portland's lineup: Naomi Pomeroy (Beast), Gabriel Rucker (Le Pigeon) and Cathy Whims (Nostrana).As The Seattle Times' Rebekah Denn notes, three Seattle writers are finalists in various cookbook categories: "The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook: Sweetness in Seattle" by Tom Douglas and Shelley Lance; "Herbivoracious" by Michael Natkin and "Modernist Cuisine at Home" by Nathan Myhrvold and Maxime Bilet.

Friday 15 Mar, 2013

The Dear Armed Leader is looking at us. Boeing hopeful. Online option for youth in crisis.

Earthquake risk

at 4:25pm by Joe Copeland

A new report in Oregon says a massive earthquake and tsunami would kill more than 10,000 Oregonians, Associated Press reports. The study looked at an inevitable event (timing uncertain) like the ones that hit Fukushima in 2011 and Washington's coast in 1700. The report notes that Japan had done much more to prepare than Oregon. Ditto for Washington.

Boeing progress

at 4:25pm by Joe Copeland

Boeing officials are giving varying estimates on how long before its 787 planes return to regular service. A fairly cautious exec told Associated Press today that the basic testing for a battery fix should be done in two weeks, but the timing of a return to service is up to the feds. But at an earlier briefing in Tokyo, one Boeing official talked about being back "in weeks," according to the Chicago Tribune. In any case, it's clear the company is feeling more optimistic.

Seattle, we might have a problem

at 4:25pm by Joe Copeland

The Obama administration is responding to the obvious implications of North Korea's nuclear threats: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said today that the Pentagon is beefing up missile defenses from Alaska to California. As The New York Times noted, Hagel concedes that no missile defense system is completely secure. Uhh-huh. The 14 new ground based interceptors will be installed by 2017 for a total of 44 along the coast. But the U.N. will hold its next review of the Non-Proliferation Treaty in 2015. Maybe the United States would like to reconsider the pretense that it can avoid commitments to total nuclear disarmament while expecting the rest of the world to be serious about nonproliferation.

Suicide prevention goes online

at 4:25pm by Joe Copeland

Volunteers of America Western Washington is expanding service on its online chat portal for those in crisis. Herald columnist Julie Muhlstein tells a good story of how young people have increasingly turned to online forums rather than traditional phone hotlines when they are in crisis or considering suicide. Considering this week's state report on how many young people feel depressed or consider suicide, it's a great resource for the VOA (with a lot of volunteer help from college students in the Everett area) to provide. 

Mercer Islanders vs. Tolls

at 4:25pm by Joe Copeland

Attorneys working for Mercer Island have asked the Federal Highway Administration to block any tolls on the I-90 floating bridge. Mercer Island Patch describes it as part of a larger City Council strategy to fight the tolling proposal with lobbying and a possible lawsuit. KOMO News notes that lawmakers will be holding town hall meetings with constituents in the district this weekend (details here). Mercer Islanders should feel free to offer their thoughts. Or just whine. Unlike the rest of us, Legislators don't make fun of the first world problems of their own constituents — especially the ones from wealthy zip codes.

520 Bridge closed open

at 4:25pm by Joe Copeland

The state Department of Transportation made a last-minute decision this afternoon to leave the Highway 520 floating bridge open all weekend. The department was concerned about bad weather affecting planned construction work, which will be rescheduled. There are plenty of other lesser traffic projects, including night closures on up to three southbound lanes of I-5 from NE Ravenna Boulevard to Boylston Avenue North. Details here.

Fox News attractions

at 4:25pm by Joe Copeland

A country song sings the praises of the women of Fox News. OK, some pretty good humor (especially about Bill Clinton). But what time is Rachel Maddow on MSNBC again? 

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