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Thursday 4 Apr, 2013

The Spring break, Mars edition. Seattle's most polite bike activists. Payton ascent to Fame.

WSU faculty member critically injured

at 4:42pm by Joe Copeland

Pullman police have released video related to the assault of a WSU professor, in an attempt to find people wanted for questioning about the incident. Dr. David Warner, an instructor in the Department of Critical Culture, Gender and Race Studies, was reportedly trying to get between people who were arguing early Saturday. Family and friends have set up a fundraising effort.  Police are trying to identify the three men in dark clothing walking along the sidewalk together.

Higher ed funding

at 4:42pm by Joe Copeland

Western Washington University President Bruce Shepard gives a very mixed review to the Senate Majority Coalition's budget, which has been advertised as helping higher education. In a message to the university community on the WWU website, Shepard admits it is progress that legislators are talking about helping universities and holding down tuition increases. But he rips into the details of the proposal, writing that they rely on unrealistic levels of savings and foreign enrollment tax.Let's see: Washington knows its economic future relies on skilled people, but the best the Senate can do is to say nice things about higher ed? Though we haven't seen the budget from House Democrats yet, they have consistently made university support a low priority since the 2009 retirement of finance chair Rep. Helen Sommers. Sometimes lip service isn't enough.  

Sex trafficking no more?

at 4:42pm by Joe Copeland

The state Legislature appears close to fixing problems with its earlier efforts to deal with online sex trafficking. Crosscut's John Stang reports:

The Washington House unanimously passed a bill Wednesday to levy an extra $5,000 fine against anyone convicted of online crimes relating to sex with a minor. “Anyone who would use Backpage.com and similar outlets to promote sex trafficking is on notice,” said bill sponsor Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle.

Last year, the Legislature passed a Kohl-Welles bill aimed at Backpage.com, whose national online advertising includes sex ads, some of which have been linked to underage prostitutes. Village Voice Media — until recently, the owner of the Seattle Weekly — owns Backpage.com. But a federal judge in Seattle struck down the new sex advertising law, agreeing with the arguments of the Electronic Frontier Foundation that the law violated the Federal Communications Decency Act of 1996. The federal act provides immunity to those facilitating the provision of online services. Kohl-Welles' new version instead targets people using the services illegally.

Bike lane protectors

at 4:42pm by Joe Copeland

A group of bicyclists became Seattle's politest activists this week. The group, which calls itself the "Reasonably Polite Seattleites," put up plastic pylons to protect the Cherry Street bike lane that runs under I-5, the Seattle Bike Blog reported. In a note to the Seattle Department of Transportation the group pointed out that the pylons were only secured with velcro — for easy removal. And SDOT, of course, quickly removed the unauthorized pylons.But the point (if not the tactic of installing something that could theoretically interfere with street travel and safety) was a good one: It would be simple and inexpensive to install at least some bike upgrades now. Of course, the city is working on an update of its Bike Master Plan, which will be completed … well, we couldn't tell from looking at the Bike Master Plan website. But it's obvious that the process is generating lots of reports and meetings. Enough to irk even Reasonably Polite Seattleites, perhaps. 

Payton a slam dunk for Fame

at 4:42pm by Joe Copeland

Former Sonics guard Gary Payton is about to be elected to pro basketball's Hall of Fame, according to a MyNorthwest report. The voting totals won't come out until Monday, but an NBA.com writer says he is in. And Seattle? Is it in the NBA? Credit Payton for doing all he can on that, too. 

520 fatality

at 4:42pm by Joe Copeland

A wrong-way driver in an SUV slammed into a sedan on Highway 520 near the Montlake exit at 5:30 this morning, as the commute picked up. The sedan driver, identified by several stories as Morgan F. Williams, died shortly afterward of her injuries. Washington State Patrol said the SUV driver may have been drinking. KING 5 reported that the driver has no previous DUI convictions, but is awaiting trial in a DUI case from December. 

Spring Break, Mars edition

at 4:42pm by Joe Copeland

University of Washington researchers and MSNW, a Redmond-based nuclear fusion technology company, believe they are making progress on a propulsion system that would allow trips to Mars of 90 days and less. They are working with nuclear fusion, according to a UW news release. The work is financed through a NASA program, which estimates that a trip to Mars using current technology would take four years.

Wednesday 3 Apr, 2013

The A good day for Sacramento. Sidewalk-chalked criminal. A'bipartisan' budget.

Daily World cutting back 

at 4:13pm by Joe Copeland

Aberdeen's Daily World newspaper will cut back its print edition to three days a week. Beginning June 1, home delivery of the paper will be on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The announcement, first posted late Tuesday afternoon, tries to paint a rosy picture: more digital emphasis, advertising will hold steady, but be concentrated in the larger print editions, and seven days a week of news still — online. A community can hope, can't it?

2,000 Tacoma jobs

at 4:13pm by Joe Copeland

Tacoma's News Tribune reported this morning that a deal appears imminent to bring 2,000 State Farm insurance jobs to the downtown core. One sweet aspect for Tacoma: It would fill the headquarters building that Russell Investment left when it decamped to Seattle. The News Tribune story said State Farm has been expanding and opening regional headquarters around the country.

NBA pitch

at 4:13pm by Joe Copeland

Chris Hansen, Steve Ballmer and others this afternoon told an NBA committee how great it'd be to bring a team here. Trouble is, Sacramento had a group making their own pitch. It'll be spun all sorts of ways, particularly by the elected officials in the delegations, but NBA.com blogger Scott Howard-Cooper has a nice analysis. His bottom line: The proposals are so close that we should expect two more weeks of tension before a final decision. Even Seattle's own Art Thiel says Sacramento did a fantastic job in its post-pitch press conference.Things got even tighter when NBA commissioner David Stern told media that the league owners may need to continue studying the proposals even beyond the expected April 19th decision point. Thiel is preparing a Crosscut column on the NBA discussions. So how long does the tension drag on? Here's something to keep up the morale of would-be Sonics fans while they wait.

Seattle officer charged

at 4:13pm by Joe Copeland

City Attorney Pete Holmes today said he has charged a Seattle police officer, Chris Hairston, with misdemeanor assault during an incident last September. It's a complicated situation: The supposed victim had allegedly assaulted Hairston's wife, Katherine Hairston, also a Seattle officer, when she and another officer responded to a report of several people drinking alcohol in public near Seattle Central Community College. Chris Hairston, assigned to a K9 unit, arrived and allegedly assaulted the suspect in the assault on his wife. The man later entered a guilty plea to assaulting Katherine Hairston.At the same time, Holmes announced there would be no charges against another Seattle officer, Clayton Powell. In August, Powell allegedly shoved a suspect who had spit on him and later taunted the suspect in a holding cell. Holmes called the behavior "extremely troublesome."

Liquor control board vs. pot bars

at 4:13pm by Joe Copeland

The state Liquor Control Board this morning said it plans to adopt new rules to head off the smoking of marijuana in bars. Gov. Jay Inslee, who is trying to keep the federal government from squashing the state's initiative-approved regulatory scheme for distributing marijuana, had been upset by a report that at least two bars were attracting customers by allowing pot.

Bipartisan budget?

at 4:13pm by Joe Copeland

The Republican-led Senate Majority Caucus Coalition released a proposed budget today that they called "bipartisan." Democratic senators did work with them on it, with the Republicans quoting Democratic Sen. Jim Hargrove as saying it was “the most transparent bipartisan process that’s ever happened.”But Gov. Jay Inslee criticized the proposal harshly: “The Senate proposal to address our basic education obligations is funded in large part through cuts to vital services for children, families and vulnerable adults — exactly what I have said we must not do." The Herald's excellent political reporter Jerry Cornfield notes that the majority coalition can't guarantee it actually has a majority willing to vote for the plan. Oh. Crosscut's John Stang is preparing a full report.

West Seattle runner attacked

at 4:13pm by Joe Copeland

Seattle police say that a man attacked a West Seattle runner as she was jogging in the 5400 block of California Avenue SW shortly after 5 a.m. She screamed and the man quickly ran off. She followed up with a chalk drawing on the sidewalk to warn other women. Great, neighborly idea — and well reported by the West Seattle Blog.

Tuesday 2 Apr, 2013

The Tunnel machine reaches Seattle. Midnight march for transit. Coal trains face lawsuit.

No kayak zone

at 5:25pm by Joe Copeland

With North Korea escalating its threats of war, the Pentagon is moving ships closer to the N. Korea coast. A Boeing-built SBX-1 floating radar ship is part of the fleet. That's the vessel with what looks like a giant golf ball on top. It was in Elliiott bay for several months during 2011. Here's a look from more peaceful times. Note to North Koreans: Kayaking nearby is not recommended at this time.

March for Metro

at 5:25pm by Joe Copeland

A bus riders' advocacy group plans a "midnight march" to Magnolia. The group is urging state legislators to renew Metro Transit's ability to finance existing bus service. An article on Seattle Transit Blog explains that, contrary to perception, well-to-do Magnolia has low-income, elderly, disabled and other residents who are dependent on bus service. And if people in Magnolia are affected, the impact of a potential 17 percent cut in service would be felt all around King County.The march, which will begin at 11 p.m. on Saturday, goes across the Magnolia Bridge late at night, just as stranded riders will have to do if nighttime service cuts go into effect. Details on the march are here.

Bellevue Youth Theatre

at 5:25pm by Joe Copeland

The Bellevue Youth Theatre Foundation today held a groundbreaking for construction of a 150-seat theater that will be near the Crossroads Community Center. The building is expected to open in late 2014. Part of the money comes from a 2008 parks and natural areas levy, according to the city. The foundation, which currently presents 10 productions a year, says the new facility will allow it to improve its offerings in a variety of ways, including workshops, summer camps and additional opportunities for young people with disabilities.

Bellevue City Manager out

at 5:25pm by Joe Copeland

Bellevue’s city manager, Steve Sarkozy, is resigning, The Seattle Times reported this afternoon. There was no immediate explanation.

Social media privacy

at 5:25pm by Joe Copeland

A state House committee chair has proposed a change that could dilute proposed protections of employees from any social media intrusions by their bosses. Crosscut's John Stang reports from Olympia:

Employers would be able to request passwords and other access information from an employee's or job seeker's social media accounts in response if a specific reason materializes, according to a proposed change to a Senate bill intended to forbid employer-related Facebook snooping. The proposed change does not precisely define the parameters of such a specific reason. Committee chairman Rep. Mike Sells, D-Everett, brought up the change Tuesday in the House Labor and Workforce Development Committee. The committee will discuss that change Wednesday.

The Senate earlier unanimously passed the bill by Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, which would forbid employers from obtaining passwords to an employee' or job seeker's social media account. Currently, state law does not prevent employers from doing so. In its present form, the Senate bill would allow employers to view an employee's or job seeker's social media accounts if they are already open to the public or if government regulatory issues require access to private settings.

Women in Congress

at 5:25pm by Joe Copeland

In a visit with Crosscut writers and editors today, U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene noted that the percentage of women in Congress has reached its highest point its history. That would be 18 percent, which DelBene doesn't consider a final goal. Washington has "certainly done its part," she allowed: Five of the 12 our Senate and House members are women. DelBene said she has met briefly with the two Republican women in the state's House delegation, Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Jaime Herrera Beutler. She noted that McMorris Rodgers is very busy with Republican leadership duties. Crosscut's Floyd McKay will be writing a report shortly.

Coal dust lawsuit

at 5:25pm by Joe Copeland

The Sierra Club and other groups today said they plan to sue over the coal dust escaping from existing rail shipments for export to Asia. As The Oregonian notes, the planned suit against BNSF and six coal companies could play a big role in corporate efforts to greatly expand exports to China with new ports pending near Bellingham, Longview and Boardman, Oregon.The environmental group said it had found significant amounts of coal dust along the tracks at nine Columbia River points. The Sierra Clob notified coal shippers of its plans to sue under the Clean Water Act (for polluting without a permit). A BNSF spokeswoman told The Oregonian that the allegations are hearsay so far. but that it would be prepared to conduct its own tests if it receives a formal complaint.

Tunneling machine

at 5:25pm by Joe Copeland

The huge machine that will bore the waterfront tunnel is arriving in Seattle after a two-week journey from Japan. Last year, Washington State's Department of Transportation held a contest to nickname the world's largest diameter tunneling machine. The winner was "Bertha." Does that mean we have someone to blame by name — other than, say, DOT Secretary Lynn Pedersen — if things go wrong in digging the tunnel that will replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct? We'll see. For now, Bertha is here and, like the Mariners after one game, she boasts an unblemished record. 

Real Change: Real price increase

at 5:25pm by Joe Copeland

It's the last day to buy the excellent Real Change weekly for a $1. Beginning with the Wednesday issue, Real Change goes up to $2. In the press release announcing the change, Publisher Tim Harris said, "When you need to sell three papers to net enough money for a cup of coffee, it's definitely time for a raise." Real Change itself will get an extra quarter per paper (60 cents), which will help it expand into east King County and Kitsap County. You grow, Real Change.

Monday 1 Apr, 2013

The Metro under threat. Goodbye, Lake Union fireworks.

Metro Transit worries

at 4:05pm by Joe Copeland

Metro Transit today released a report on service changes it will have to consider without help on its finances, which are currently scheduled to take a big hit when a two-year tax expires mid-2014. Metro General Manager Kevin Desmond said one-third of all routes could be up for elimination, and another 40 percent might see service reductions. The county can't renew the expiring tax of $20 per vehicle without new authority from the state Legislature.Early last month, Desmond gave a presentation on the overall financial picture. Here's part of it (you can find more here).

Out like a lamb

at 4:05pm by Joe Copeland

March ended beautifully, and Cliff Mass's weather blog underlined how much of a change it was from last year's "dismal" month and recent wet, cool beginnings to spring. Seattle had an inch less rain this March than normal. Portland was even drier: It had its third driest March on record at the airport, according to PortlandWeather.com. And before we start fretting that Mother Nature will make us pay later for the current good fortune, consider that Portland has had three consecutive wet springs, culminating with its wettest March ever last year.

Compost stink drifts away

at 4:05pm by Joe Copeland

Seattle City Council today approved a revised agreement to begin shipping food waste, yard clippings and other compost to Eastern Washington. The agreement requires that a still-undetermined Eastern Washington site not only be outside the Mountains to Sound Greenway, but also well-removed from forests, rivers and any neighborhoods that might be affected by odor. The revised agreement brought applause from the audience, some of which had expressed concerns about impacts around Cle Elum under an earlier version of the city's plan.The city's plan to ship most garbage to Eastern Washington could remain in effect for up to 10 years. But councilmembers Sally Bagshaw and Tom Rasmussen urged Seattle Public Utilities to get moving quickly on more local and environmentally friendly approaches.

Coal: The avalanche of comments

at 4:05pm by Joe Copeland

The government agencies reviewing a large coal port proposed north of Bellingham today released their summary of the stunning 124,000 comments on how large an environmental review to undertake. Supporters of the plant argue for its additional jobs and want a review focused on the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal itself, while opponents raised concerns ranging from global warming to increased risks of maritime accidents in Northwest waters. Crosscut's Floyd McKay says the three main agencies (the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Washington State Department of Ecology and Whatcom County) will likely take until the fall to assess the comments and decide how large an environmental impact study to conduct. His recent Coal Wars series on the competing arguments about the scope of the EIS and other Crosscut coverage of the issue can be found on our Coal Ports page.

Fireworks: The big dud

at 4:05pm by Joe Copeland

Longtime organizer One Reel said today that there will be no Lake Union 4th of July fireworks for Seattle this year. A spokeswoman told the seattlepi.com that the decision was final. Last year, One Reel got a big boost in sponsorships and contributions after heavy media coverage of a shortfall in sponsorships. It looks like going to that well a second time wasn't a viable strategy.

Friday 29 Mar, 2013

The Coal exporter demands permit. No Garfield teachers disciplined. Losing Matt Flynn.

Repentance

at 4:08pm by Joe Copeland

For some, it's Good Friday, a day of repentance and reflection. In 2009, a Tacoma-based Jesuit priest, the Rev. Bill Bichsel, led what was called the Journey of Repentance to Hiroshima and Nagasaki to express remorse for the atomic bombings of the two cities by the United States. A young Northwest filmmaker, Ashley Michael Karitis, went along and produced an excellent video, "The Free World." It's a very good documentary and its bonus material includes interviews and commentary from Karitis. The video can be ordered from the film's website.  

Booth Gardner memorial

at 4:08pm by Joe Copeland

The memorial for former Gov. Booth Gardner will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma. TVW will stream the service on its website. TVW and at least one commercial channel will broadcast it as well.

Flynn to fly, fly away

at 4:08pm by Joe Copeland

The Seattle Seahawks are reportedly about to trade back-up quarterback Matt Flynn to the Oakland Raiders. If there were any doubt, The Seattle Times' Danny O'Neil includes a tweet from receiver Doug Baldwin, saying in part, "Sad to see a friend leave, but excited for his opportunity. Great QB, even better man." Classy.Less classy was a series of Tweets from Baldwin's teammate, defensive end Chris Clemons, who criticized an NFL player's reported decision to come out of the closet in the near future. "Who on Gods earth is this person saying he's coming out of the closet in the NFL?" Clemons tweeted. CbsSports.com's account also reported that Clemons' responses to various followers' questions clarified that he had nothing against someone being gay and included this explanation — or attempt at explanation of his thinking: "I'm not against anyone but I think it's a selfish act. They just trying to make themselves bigger than the team."

Everett School Board recall

at 4:08pm by Joe Copeland

A former candidate for the board has filed a recall petition against the five current Everett School Board members, The Herald reports. Rodman Reynolds' complaint is that the board has failed to set up an audit committee, something required under state law. As reporter Sharon Salyer notes, recall efforts usually face high hurdles, including first passing court review for worthiness. An initial hearing is tentatively scheduled for next Friday.

No discipline for Garfield boycott

at 4:08pm by Joe Copeland

Seattle Public Schools won't impose any discipline on Garfield High teachers who boycotted recent standardized testing, according to a Seattle Times report. In an email, Banda said, "Those teachers who publically said they refused to administer the test either did not teach a tested subject, or they were not a test administrator." But he expressed hope for future cooperation from teachers on school testing — even as the district reviews its testing requirements.

Sonics arena

at 4:08pm by Joe Copeland

Chris Hansen, the investor behind a proposed SODO arena and Seattle NBA team, today posted "photos" of what the arena would like inside. In the accompanying commentary, Hansen also mentions that the group will close its "priority ticket waitlist" at 1 p.m. on Monday. That probably reflects optimism about the basketball league's upcoming Seattle-Sacramento decision. Monday also happens to be Opening Day for the Seattle Mariners, who have waged a clumsily selfish anti-arena campaign. Hansen may be sending them what baseball calls "a message pitch": one not meant to hurt, but to remind the opponent that things can get nasty if necessary.

 now!

at 4:08pm by Joe Copeland

Ambre Energy, one of the companies hoping to build coal ports, is demanding that Oregon issue a draft air quality permit "immediately" for its proposed export facility in Boardman, Ore., The Oregonian reports. Writer Scott Learn also reports that companies hoping for contracts with Ambre, an Australian firm, are stepping up public pressure on the state government. In addition, Ambre wants to develop a coal export facility in Longview, Wash, where a subsidiary had appeared to be making quick progress a couple years ago until it was caught misrepresenting the scope of its plans. 

at 4:08pm by Joe Copeland

Coal permit 

at 4:08pm by Joe Copeland

Thursday 28 Mar, 2013

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

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.  

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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.

Wednesday 27 Mar, 2013

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

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.  

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.

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.

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." 

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.

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

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?

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.

Tuesday 26 Mar, 2013

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

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.

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. 

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.

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? 

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. 

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.

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.

Monday 25 Mar, 2013

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

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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.)

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.

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.

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.

Friday 22 Mar, 2013

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.)

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.

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.

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