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Tuesday 29 Oct, 2013

Ballots coming in, slowly. Flooding worries for winter. Remembering Tom Foley.

King County balloting: a tad slow

at 4:14pm by Joe Copeland

The King County elections office says about 12 percent of general election ballots have been returned, a slightly lower rate than usual. “There's a lot on the ballot," said Barbara Ramey, of the elections office, by way of explanation. "It has two sides. And a lot of people wait. We'll have a better sense by next week.” The county is expecting 55 percent of voters to cast their ballots by the deadline on Tuesday. The county's advice: Don't wait until the last minute. Early returns ensure there will be time to deal with any balolt problems, like missing signatures. You wouldn't want your vote not to count, right? (Details on returning ballots are here.) — E.M.

Pacific worried about flooding again

at 4:14pm by Joe Copeland

King County is taking a series of emergency steps to protect the city of Pacific after learning that the risk of winter flooding there is higher than expected. Pacific (pop. 6,800) straddles the King-Pierce county line. King county flood control district is installing a series of barriers along three stretches of the White River, which flows through the town. King County Council member Pete von Reichbauer called the barriers "an important first step." The White River has a reputation for building up sediment quickly, which raises the flood threat, but officials say a series of new observations showed much more sediment than expected. The last big flood in Pacific was just four years ago. — J.C.

Remembering Tom Foley

at 4:14pm by Joe Copeland

President Barack Obama ordered flags to fly at half-mast today in honor of the late Speaker of the House Tom Foley and spoke at the D,C. memorial service for the Spokane native. The memorial focused on Foley's "warmth, wit, collegiality and class" — the opposite, Joel Connelly of seattlepi.com writes, of today's Congress. Heather Foley said her husband “believed there was honor in compromise.” Even as the memorial went on, several Tweets from House Speaker John Boehner went out denouncing Obamacare. — J.C. 

Back to contentiousness

at 4:14pm by Joe Copeland

Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott supports Obamacare — naturally — and he’s plenty annoyed about Republican outrage over the rocky start of the national health exchange. During a House hearing on the troubled start up, he compared the Affordable Care Act’s magnitude to Medicare Part D’s implementation and other historic health steps. “Medicare wasn’t built in a day," says McDermott. "Part D didn’t roll out without snags along the way.” He noted that the House waited six months before holding oversight hearings on Part D. “This hearing," said McDermott, "four weeks from the start of open enrollment on the ACA, is premature.” OK: Both parties like to joust over health care. But the good doctor – and, yes, McDermott is an M.D. — may have a bit more standing when it comes to talking about health care than your average Tea Party backbencher. — A.S.

New waterfront needs art

at 4:14pm by Joe Copeland

The Seattle Office of Arts & Culture wants to give away $1 million or, more precisely, award contracts for that amount to commission art for the central waterfront. In an announcement, the arts office notes that, as part of the plan for the future waterfront, 26 acres of new public space, buildings and streets will be available for art works. It's a sign that, while the tunnel boring is out of sight, Seattle's waterfront really is about to be transformed. Oh, if you have what it takes to make art for the new waterfront, you can apply here. — J.C. 

Monday 28 Oct, 2013

The Coastal climate solution? The unspoken costs of more cops. How much was that text from the drivers seat worth to you?

Partnering for the planet

at 3:59pm by Joe Copeland

The governors of California, Oregon and Washington, along with the premier of British Columbia are forming a partnership to arrest climate change and promote clean energy. California’s Jerry Brown, Oregon’s John Kitzhaber, BC’s Christy Clark and our own Jay Inslee will formally announce their new climate coalition late this afternoon in San Francisco. The four Northwest neighbors plan to sync up their respective climate policies as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the region. This new climate deal grew out of the Pacific Coast Collaborative Agreement, which was signed by leaders of California, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and British Columbia in June of 2008. Alaska apparently opted out of this latest climate partnership, which links together four economies whose combined GDP (of $2.8 trillion) is the fifth largest in the world. 

City will rack-up new costs if it takes money from COPS (the federal grant, not the TV show) 

at 3:59pm by Joe Copeland

A $1.25 million Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) federal grant that the mayor's office wants to use to hire 10 new officers will actually cost the city more than $3 million over the next four years. That money is Seattle's share of salaries and equipment for the new cops, according to a city council budget briefing Friday. The COPS grant stipulates that the 10 new officers must be assigned to Community Police Teams, which focus on neighborhood problems and emphasize getting to know residents and business owners. A staff report suggests the city might consider simply spending its own money on new hires to have greater flexibility in how the officers are assigned. The number of community police officers has dropped from 33 in 2010 to just 17 now. In a September announcement about the grant, Mayor Mike McGinn's office made no mention of the city's costs. — B.L.

Texting and driving: Where it costs the most in fines

at 3:59pm by Joe Copeland

When it comes to maximum fines for texting while driving, Washington ranks 20th among U.S. states and territories, according to figures published by Mother Jones. If you get caught texting while driving in Washington, it could cost you up to $124. In Oregon, up to $500 (although the usual fine there is more like $110). Our neighbor to the north, Alaska, is the national leader: Driving texters get up to $10,000 in fines and one year in the slammer. For fine-free texting, head to Montana, where there is no texting-and-driving ban. But, before you reach for your phone, remember that vehicular texting accidents caused 3,331 deaths in 2011, according to a 2013 report  from the Governors Highway Safety Association. Among teenagers, texting is now the leading cause of fatal car accidents. — B.L.

Oil-by-rail plan for Vancouver

at 3:59pm by Joe Copeland

State agencies will take comments on Tuesday about what issues they should address in the environmental review of the large oil shipping terminal proposed for Vancouver in southern Washington. That's according to Oregon Public Broadcasting. The oil would arrive at Vancouver by rail from North Dakota and then be shipped to West Coast refineries. Terminal backers call it a step toward energy independence; opposing environmental groups raise concerns about spills and the safety of transporting oil in train cars. (Remember Lac-Megantic, Quebec.) The environmental think tank Sightline has reported nearly a dozen new proposals for shipping oil, by rail, to facilities in Oregon and Washington; at least two Northwest Washington refineries already receive rail shipments. — J.C.

Inquest in police shooting

at 3:59pm by Joe Copeland

King County Executive Dow Constantine has ordered a court inquest into a fatal shooting by police last July. Police tried for hours to negotiate with Joel Reuter, who had barricaded himself inside a Capitol Hill condominium. At least two SWAT officers returned fire when Reuter reportedly came outside and shot at them. After being struck by one SWAT officer's bullet, Reuter retreated inside the condo, only to come back out holding a weapon. A press statement said that, to ensure transparency, inquests are routinely called when police are involved in a fatality. — J.C. 

Friday 25 Oct, 2013

The Speed may have led to I-5 slowdown. Pedometers for healthier kids. Burning money in coal election.

I-5 mess blamed on speed

at 4:31pm by Joe Copeland

The State Patrol says that one driver's following another vehicle too closely at a high rate of speed appears to have been the triggering factor in a series of accidents and a huge pileup on I-5 near Boeing Field during the morning commute. One of the 20 injured people suffered a serious injury to the head, MyNorthwest.com reports. Backups on northbound I-5 extended 14 miles at one point. So, if the patrol is correct, one person hurrying resulted in 20 injuries and still-uncounted medical and repair bills. Not to mention a massive slowdown.

Healthier kids through technology

at 4:31pm by Joe Copeland

Nearly 7,000 students in school districts across most of Snohomish County are about to receive pedometer-like devices to measure their levels of physical activity. The hope, according to Herald health writer Sharon Salyer, is that the feedback will encourage the fifth-graders using the devices to become more active. And the chief county health officer, Dr. Gary Goldbaum, says studies show that such information does change behavior. The devices are worn on the wrist. A nudge in the right direction.

Burning money in coal fight

at 4:31pm by Joe Copeland

More than $1 million has gone into four races for control of the Whatcom County Council, mainly because the county will have a huge say in whether a coal port is built north of Bellingham, The Seattle Times reports. The total was closer to $800,000 last week, when Crosscut's Floyd McKay reported on the big fight.

Coal data

at 4:31pm by Joe Copeland

Speaking of coal: On Nov. 4, University of Washington Bothell Professor Dan Jaffe will release the preliminary results of what is billed as the first look at the diesel emissions and coal dust from trains crossing the state. Jaffe used online crowd-funding to help finance the research. He promised strict neutrality, telling KUOW in May: "I have no interest in skewing the data to come to a predetermined conclusion because, you know, reputation in science is a lot like virginity. You can only lose it once." Jaffe is a widely respected scientist, having served on a number of National Academy of Sciences review panels. And he obviously knows how to give a reporter a good quote.

Wallingford, where the cats parlais

at 4:31pm by Joe Copeland

Will Braden, a Wallingford resident, is the creator of a very popular series of YouTube videos about "Henri, Le Chat Noir," according to the neighborhood Wallyhood blog. One of the videos of the French-speaking black cat has more than 1.2 million views. Here's Henri's latest, a promotion for a benefit, with a touch of his philosophical musings (which come complete with English sub-titles).

Thursday 24 Oct, 2013

The McGinn, Murray: Better in butter? Final landing for the 747 line? Patty Murray: Hands off programs for poor

Slippery characters enter mayor's race

at 3:42pm by Knute Berger

Have Seattle politics suddenly gone all Minnesota State Fair? Darigold has flown in renowned butter sculptor Linda Christensen, to carve larger-than-life likenesses of Mayor Mike McGinn and Sen. Ed Murray out of pure butter. This is a departure from her usual work making butter busts of dairy princesses around the country. Men — political men at that — posed a few challenges for Christensen. She gave them disheveled ties to make them look as if they were in campaign mode. She had to work hard to get McGinn's unshaven face just right. She noted that both candidates have protruding lower lips and carving them correctly is key to getting their faces right. She's done her job well. Murray's butter statue looks even livelier than the real candidate! The busts will be placed behind podiums and appear at each candidate's election-night party. Voters for the "Better Butter Mayor" candidates at Darigold's Facebook page until Nov. 1. — K.B.

Ed Murray, left, and Mike McGinn/Photo courtesy of Darigold

Is the 747 becoming the dinosaur of jumbo-jets?

at 3:42pm by Knute Berger

Boeing 747 production is hardly sky-high. The company is cutting manufacturing targets for the once-chic, Everett-made jumbo jet and will only produce 18 of the planes in the next two years, The Associated Press reported on Thursday. The reasons for the drop in production: Airlines prefer newer two-engine planes, which get better gas mileage compared to the four-engine 747, and there aren’t enough passengers on most flights to fill the plane’s 380 to 560 seats. Boeing officials told AP that they see a market for the 747 in Asia. Unveiled in the 1960s, the plane quickly became a symbol of a golden age of air travel, when the inflight peanuts flowed as freely as the alcohol and there was overhead baggage space for all. Boeing said the decline in demand for 747s will not affect the company’s finances. Currently, Boeing has a 4,787 backlog in orders for other planes — mostly 737s. The article also mentions that the two Air Force One 747s, which have transported Presidents for nearly 30 years, are ripe for replacement. Unlike most commercial airlines, The Air Force is on the market for a four-engine model and Boeing has said it’s interested in filling the order. — B.L.

Patty Murray stakes-out budget turf, says cuts for poor are a no-go

at 3:42pm by Knute Berger

With federal budget negotiations beginning next week, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., says she’ll push to keep funding in place for programs that help the poor, such as food stamps, Head Start and housing assistance, KUOW reports. Murray outlined her budget priorities during a speech at a Seattle food bank on Wednesday. As Crosscut's Greg Shaw wrote last weekend, Murray, who chairs the Senate Budget Committee, and Rep. Paul Ryan, who holds the same job in the House, are responsible for heading a committee to hammer out a budget deal before Dec. 13. — B.L.

Greenpeace calling

at 3:42pm by Knute Berger

Greenpeace's Rainbow Warrior, the newest ship to join the organization's peaceful fight for mother earth, is in Seattle on a tour of the West Coast, from Vancouver, B.C. to San Francisco. The captain and crew will be greeting the public and offering free tours this weekend at Pier 66, where it's docked (it made its first waves this week when it was spotted off the shore of West Seattle).The ship, which features 180-foot masts and 13,500 feet of sails, is said to be — naturally — one of the most environmentally-friendly ships ever made. The ship is used for conducting scientific research, hosting world leaders, and undertaking direct action — including missions like the one that landed 28 activists and two journalists in a Russian prison last month on piracy charges — since downgraded, with no apparent attempt at self-parody by the Putin crowd, from piracy to "hooliganism".By inviting the public on board, Greenpeace hopes to build support for the organization and raise awareness about the importance of creating marine reserves in the Bering Sea, the stretch of ocean between Russia and Alaska that's key to Seattle's commercial fishing industry (profiled in Crosscut's Thanks for All the Fish series). Creating protected areas could help ensure the marine life continues to thrive there and down the West Coast. — E.M.

Wednesday 23 Oct, 2013

The Airbus happy in Mobile. Seattle's slow to respond. An Incredible shrinking legislator.

If it's not Mobile, AirBus isn't hiring

at 4:57pm by Joe Copeland

Airbus Amercas' CEO tells the Puget Sound Business Journal that the company's interest in the Pacific Northwest is limited — to parts. Barry Eccleston says he hopes to purchase a lot more aircraft parts from Puget Sound vendors, maybe even doubling Airbus's current $180 million a year spending total by 2020. But when writer Steve Wilhelm asked whether Airbus was thinking about building any facilities here in the Pacific Northwest, Eccleston gave a pretty much flat out no. Airbus, he said, is very happy with its engineering center in Mobile, Alabama, echoing what an analyst told Wilhelm just one day earlier: The growth centers for the aerospace industry are the American South and Asia.— J.C. 

Public information request overload

at 4:57pm by Joe Copeland

Seattle received over 5,750 requests for public information last year, and expects even more this year, according to a City Council staffer. (Most of the 2012 requests — about 70 percent — were directed toward the Seattle Police Department, many for video recordings.) The city isn't exactly speedy when it comes to responding. In the last four years, Seattle has paid nearly $600,000 in legal settlements for its sluggishness. Which is why the expected growth in public information requests has the council considering whether it should add money for some new employees and an audit to its 2014 budget. Council staff is recommending  a task force to improve coordination across departments (cost: about $175,000 in 2014); a $300,000 audit of the police department’s public disclosure process; and two new $125,000 per-year hires in the City Attorney’s office to advise departments about how to handle requests. — B.L.

Lose weight now. Ask your state rep how.

at 4:57pm by Joe Copeland

State Rep. Marko Liias of Edmonds, at 32 a rising Democratic star, is on a serious health kick. Liias has dropped at least 146 pounds. The uncertainty, he tells The Herald's political writer Jerry Cornfield, has to do with the fact that he stopped checking his weight when he hit 352 pounds in late 2008. Since then, Liias has had gastric band surgery. But he didn't really start shedding the pounds until he changed his eating and exercise habits, walking, biking and running several times of week. Speaking of running, Liias plans to make a run for state Senate next year. — J.C. 

43rd District ambitions

at 4:57pm by Joe Copeland

While we're on the legislature, several people in Ed Murray's state Senate district have noticed that a seat will open up if Murray ousts incumbent Mike McGinn in the Seattle mayoral election. Publicola reports that three Democrats are letting it be known that they are interested in representing the 43rd Legislative District, which stretches from E. Madison Street on Capitol Hill all the way across Lake Union to North 85th Street. Wannabees are Alison Holcomb, a key force behind marijuana legalization; the district's Democratic chair, Scott Forbes; and Brady Walkinshaw, a Gates Foundation program officer. — J.C. 

Plastic: Ban or unban

at 4:57pm by Joe Copeland

Issaquah voters will decide in February whether to overturn the city's ban on plastic shopping bags. Ban opponent Craig Keller recently told Crosscut that he expects Issaquah voters to reject the plastic bag ban by an even greater margin than the 53 percent of voters who overturned a similar ban in Seattle in 2009. Seattle has since enacted a new ban that dropped a city ban-dnforcement fee, which seemed to stoke public anger. Keller says he's heard from many Issaqhau residents who are doing their grocery shopping somewhere else. — J.C. 

Tuesday 22 Oct, 2013

The Thanks for nothing, Canada. Mayoral money games. American cycling through Dutch eyes.

Sex offender arrested

at 4:07pm by Joe Copeland

Michael Sean Alexander, the violent sex offender who fled Canada for Seattle, has been arrested. Police are investigating whether he was involved in the sexual assault of a 16-year-old boy in West Seattle, who told police that a man had given him wine, then grabbed and sexually assaulted him. Apparently, he was able to run away after pulling a knife on his assailant. The police began looking at Alexander as a suspect in the incident after arresting him early this morning in a West Seattle alley, where they had reports of a man yelling. Alexander had a knife and appeared to be intoxicated, according to police. It was only last Thursday that police found Alexander in Seattle. Dear Canada: … oh, never mind.

Mayoral money race

at 4:07pm by Joe Copeland

Mayor Mike McGinn remains reasonably competitive with challenger state Sen. Ed Murray in fundraising as the two enter the final two weeks of the Seattle mayor's racePublicola finds that Murray raised $33,800 to McGinn's $20,700 last week. Since money isn't everything for a candidate like McGinn, who relies significantly on the enthusiasm of volunteers, that isn't a huge gap. But if it were to translate into voting results, well, Murray could win easily — as a number of polls have said.

Biking: Learning from how others see us

at 4:07pm by Joe Copeland

"It takes courage to ride between motorized traffic… and you can't trust drivers to follow the rules." So declares a crotchety Dutchman  taking on the urban American biking experience from his pulpit — or video — on the Seattle Transit Blog. We never seem to tire of comparisons between bicycling in American cities and the Netherlands, where you'll find children and grandparents riding in lanes separated from traffic by raised curbs and rows of trees. But comparisons usually come from starry-eyed Americans who've vacationed in Amsterdam, and this one is worth watching for its Dutch perspective.

The Dutchman doesn't have many kind words for our country's cycling "infra." He doesn't like Lycra, helmets, bike lanes, left turn boxes, automated bike counters or (the horror!) sharrows. But it's worth noting that Seattle seems to be making slow changes of which our Dutchman would approve. We've got a newly-installed cycle track on Broadway and bike share on the horizon for 2014, with many more improvements slated for completion as part of Seattle's Bicycle Master Plan. — E.M. 

Zoo decision

at 4:07pm by Joe Copeland

The task force studying the future of Woodland Park Zoo's elephants will issue its final report this evening at a 6 p.m. meeting. The task force was formed after an investigative Seattle Times report highlighted the elephants' harsh living conditions and a Times editorial recommended moving the three elephants to a sanctuary. Crosscut's Eric Scigliano, who has written extensively about the issue, will have a story later.  — J.C. 

Monday 21 Oct, 2013

McGinn numbers spark poll dispute. Will hope for groceries. Russia gets Seattle City Council invite.

Dueling mayoral polls 

at 4:08pm by Joe Copeland

A new KIRO 7 poll shows a tight 4-point race for mayor of Seattle, with Ed Murray ahead of Mike McGinn 33 to 29 percent — and 38 percent of surveyed voters undecided. But in another new poll, conducted independently by Strategies 360, a Seattle-based public and government relations firm, Murray retains the kind of large lead (17 points in this case) seen in other surveys, leading McGinn 51 to 34 percent. The new Strategies 360 poll was conducted last week, Oct. 14-16, making it the most recent. In an email this morning, Murray’s campaign criticized the KIRO poll, saying it doesn’t consider the difference between registered and likely voters and is based on old survey data. KIRO, which said that Boston's Bernette Research conducted the poll between Oct. 7 and Oct. 10, declined to comment on the Murray camp’s criticism.We looked back at the 2009 election (PubliCola did, too) and found that a KING 5/SurveyUSA poll in mid-October had Joe Mallahan leading McGinn 43 to 36 percent. McGinn won 51 to 47 percent. A cursory Internet search didn’t produce any late-race polls from the 2005 mayoral contest, in which Greg Nickels trounced Al Runte, taking home 65 percent of the vote. A deeper trip down mayoral memory lane turns up an Oct. 23, 2001 KING poll with a statistical tie between Nickels and Mark Sidran. That poll seemed spot-on. Nickels eked out a November victory by just 3,158 votes. — B.L.

Holding our breath for groceries  

at 4:08pm by Joe Copeland

The big national chains and local grocery workers continued talking today, but preparations for a strike are moving forward. The News Tribune reported early Monday afternoon that stores have noted some small progress, which doesn't sound very encouraging. A walkout would hit Safeway, Fred Meyer, Albertson's and QFC, all of which say they would stay open with non-union employees and new hires. Alternatives to crossing a picket line include some smaller unionized stores — Metropolitan Markets and PCC Natural Markets, for instance — or non-union spots like Trader Joe's and Whole Foods. The last Seattle area grocery strike lasted three months, so even those of us who did some last-minute shopping on Sunday might have choices to make. — J.C. 

On the carpet?

at 4:08pm by Joe Copeland

Seattle City Council today invited Russia's local consulate to explain his country's position on gay rights at a Nov. 18 public forum the council is convening. The SLOG reports that the letter, signed by the whole council, was delivered this morning. Any bets on whether the consul will want to explain the bigotry orchestrated by Putin and friends? — J.C. 

Don James remembered

at 4:08pm by Joe Copeland

The University of Washington has scheduled a memorial at 3 p.m. next Sunday for former football coach Don James, who passed away on Sunday. At the Seattle Times, former sports columnist Blaine Newnham, who covered James during his UW career (1975-1992), captures the discipline and vision of James' legendary game preparation for games. Sportspressnw.com's Steve Rudman, another UW follower of James', recalls the only two times he ever saw the unflappable coach angry — "for all the right reasons." Once was because he feared that information about an opponent's strategy had been given to his assistants unethically. In the spirit of James' discipline and decency, we will bite our tongue, several times, and just say we think that most coaches today are honorable and decent. But in any era, he would stand out. — J.C. 

Best country music station: In NW

at 4:08pm by Joe Copeland

The Country Music Association announced this week that the nation's best country music station is in the Northwest: Portland's KUPL. OregonLive.com notes today that the station, which broadcasts at 98.7 FM and online (of course), was celebrating (including here on Facebook). If there's a qualification on the award, it's that the category was for "major market" stations, meaning a lot of outlets in the heart of the South and Midwest were in other categories. But, as Crosscut's Greg Shaw noted recently, NPR and country are Northwest favorites. — J.C.

Friday 18 Oct, 2013

The Scarecrow Video's SOS. The last great Speaker? No on 522: Meet the money.

Step right up!

at 3:41pm by Joe Copeland

Prompted by a state attorney general's lawsuit, the Grocery Manufacturers Association is dribbling out the details behind behind a large lump sum donation it made to oppose I-522, the state GMO labeling initiative. Final dollar details will reportedly be available later today, but the donors list already provides a who's who of big corporate food manufacturers: Hershey, Del Monte, Nestlé, Bumble Bee Foods, General Mills and (together at last) Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo Inc. It's a quick turnaround from the association's previous silence on who was providing money for the campaign.Bigger picture: Attorney General Bob Ferguson, less than a year into his new job, may be getting comfortable in an office that has a tradition of strong professional leadership. — J.C. 

The last great Speaker?

at 3:41pm by Joe Copeland

Former U.S. House Speaker Tom Foley, who represented Spokane in Congress for 30 years and later served as U.S. ambassador to Japan, has died at age 84. As he rose in power within the House Democratic caucus, Foley gave up the chairmanship of the Agriculture Committee, something he would later say was his favorite position, according to an excellent Associated Press account. Also not to be missed: Joel Connelly of seattlepi.com combines telling details from Foley's career with bitter regret over the current condition of the House of Representatives.  — J.C.  

What a difference a border makes

at 3:41pm by Joe Copeland

Washington’s HealthPlanFinder managed to enroll almost 25,000 people, with over 37,000 applications awaiting only final payment. Oregon residents were not so lucky, the Seattle Times reports. The Cover Oregon website is still not yet accepting enrollments from the public, which admittedly was part of their plan. Oregon wanted a soft rollout, allowing only brokers and certified assisters to enroll the good people of Oregon. Unfortunately, the site still does not allow either group to register anyone, so not a single person has successfully enrolled. Cover Oregon will now start enrolling people by hand: Yes, with pen and paper. This shines some good light on Washington — something we usually start losing this time of the year. — A.S.

Video store struggles

at 3:41pm by Joe Copeland

Scarecrow Video in the University District is alerting customers that Saturday is Independent Video Store Day — and the store might not be around for next year's celebration. Scarecrow has posted an open letter on their website asking for help from the people who tell employees how much they love the store and how they used to come in all the time: "Come back in! Rent a couple of movies once or twice a month. … have a latte." Sad to think that this is coming from Scarecrow, which boasts of being one of the largest video stores in the country. Yes, the technology at the heart of its business model may be a little out of date, but it's way ahead of Cover Oregon's pen and paper approach. — J.C. 

Mental health gets a boost

at 3:41pm by Joe Copeland

A public hearing Thursday on putting a 75-bed psychiatric hospital near the Smokey Point I-5 exit west of Arlington brought almost entirely positive comments, The Herald reports. A number of public officials joined in the call for additional mental health services in Snohomish County, which currently has only 23 beds, all at Swedish/Edmonds. Could common sense be trumping NIMBYism? — J.C.

What does the Norwegian entertainer say?  

at 3:41pm by Joe Copeland

A song called "What Does The Fox Say?" has been viral for weeks now, but Rolling Stone made things official this week when they declared the brothers behind the song — Norwegian comedy team Ylvis — a "breakout" act. Norwegians mixing comedy with song certainly has its own Northwest lineage. Stan Boreson, a Norwegian-American kid from Everett, built himself quite a television career on that concept, slinging musical jokes about nudity and his pair of bassett hounds. In later years, Boreson, now 88, had a half-dozen appearances on public radio's "Prairie Home Companion." (Videos on the next page.) — J.C.

Thursday 17 Oct, 2013

The Murray-McGinn fight dirty. A blow to state transparency. Starbucks ban.

Mayoral maneuvering speeds up

at 4:43pm by Joe Copeland

Former city council member Peter Steinbrueck today endorsed Ed Murray in the Seattle mayor's race. This is one endorsement that could carry some weight. Steinbrueck is generally given high marks for understanding city business — especially by neighborhood groups — and he's been an avid watcher of this season's debates. Knute Berger's report is here. McGinn, for his part, held a press conference today to complain about a new political action committee ad that criticizes him as soft on domestic violence. Do we really need a PAC playing Karl Rove games in a race between two very decent liberal candidates? Not that negativity is all one-sided here: McGinn has been complaining that an embezzlement by a state Senate Democratic staffer shows lax oversight by Sen. Murray. So should Murray now point at McGinn over fresh details (reported by the Seattle Weekly) on multiple city employees cutting themselves breaks on their Seattle Public Utility bills?  — J.C.

What are you thinking, Seattle?

at 4:43pm by Joe Copeland

Homeless people should not be able to camp on public property — at least according to the 56 percent of Seattleites surveyed in a KIRO7 TV poll. Of survey respondents, 35 percent said the homeless should be able to camp on public property and 10 percent said they “didn’t know.”The poll, released late Wednesday, also surveyed city residents about other hot-button issues. Asked whether more social services for the mentally ill or more aggressive policing would reduce crime in Seattle, 58 percent of respondents said social services, 32 percent said more aggressive policing and 10 percent said they didn’t know. Other questions touched-on home grown marijuana, speed cameras and whether police are enforcing the law. The full poll results are posted on KIRO 7’s website. — B.L.

A blow to state transparency

at 4:43pm by Joe Copeland

The Washington State Supreme Court has upheld former Gov. Chris Gregoire’s claims that she had the right to withhold documents about the replacement of the viaduct, the Columbia River Biological Opinion and medical marijuana from the Olympia-based Freedom Foundation. The foundation, a conservative think tank, sought the documents in 2011 under the Public Records Act, but Gregoire refused to supply them, citing executive privilege. A lawsuit brought by the Freedom Foundation argued that the state of Washington had no basis for executive privilege, and indeed that executive privilege is not a possible exemption of the Public Records Act. The court ruled however that executive privilege is a right granted by the state constitution, rather than any specific legislative act. There are limits to executive privilege: United States v. Nixon found that the privilege ended when a party could prove that their need for documents outweighed the need of the executive to conceal them.The good news for transparency is that Gov. Jay Inslee has declined to use executive privilege to conceal documents so far, has promised not to do so in the future, and has released the previously sealed documents. — A.S.

Bremerton, without caffeine?

at 4:43pm by Joe Copeland

Todd Best, a candidate for mayor of Bremerton, acknowledges that he has been banned for life from Starbucks stores, according to MyNorthwest.com. Mayor Patty Lent brought up the ban in a radio debate with Best, her opponent. Best tells MyNorthwest that, after his cell phone was thrown in the garbage at a store, he had words with a Starbucks employee, who said she didn't feel comfortable with him. Best says the ban would have nothing to do with his ability to do the job, other than maybe leaving him a little groggy some mornings. Well, let's hope his sense of humor holds up in tough spots whether or not he's elected. — J.C.  

Leave your business card to win!

at 4:43pm by Joe Copeland

Snohomish County authorities tell The Herald that the suspect in a Monroe burglary apparently left his business card in a black bag he left behind as he ran from arriving police. The bag also contained stolen jewelry. Plus, the suspect also apparently left his girlfriend's BMW parked out front, containing "hammers, screwdrivers, pliers, wire cutters, gloves …" You get the picture. No word on formal charges or whether the judge will pick his name out of the bowl in the lobby as the winner of a free sandwich in the jail cafeteria. — J.C. 

Wednesday 16 Oct, 2013

The State sues over grocers' campaign donations. Key role for Patty Murray. Pot rules written.

Grocers sued on pro-GMO campaign

at 4:43pm by Joe Copeland

Attorney General Bob Ferguson is asking a court to force the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) to disclose donations it received from groups that oppose the labeling of foods with GMO products. The suit charges that the association received $7 million in secret contributions for the No-on-522 campaign. "Truly fair elections demand all sides follow the rules by disclosing who their donors are and how much they are spending to advocate their views," said ferguson. The association's D.C. office issued a statement saying it was looking into the suit, adding, "GMA takes great care to understand and comply with all state election and campaign finance laws and is surprised to learn that the Washington State authorities viewed the association’s actions as improper."

Back to work. For now.

at 4:43pm by Joe Copeland

As Congress raced to put together a short-term deal to resume operations, Sen. Patty Murray will play a key role as one of the two top leaders who will organize a House-Senate conference committee to work out a larger budget deal. The Herald's Jerry Cornfield reports that she spoke with House Republican Paul Ryan to start work on the committee. She also took to the floor of the Senate to declare there was a "silver lining" in a lesson supposedly learned: Tantrums don't work. Murray, a one-time pre-school teacher, said, "When you throw a tantrum on the floor acting like a 2-year-old you don't get the candy bar that you threw the tantrum for in the first place." We'll see whether House Republicans get the message.The Washington Post's Federal Eye column suggests that an immediate return to work for federal workers is likely, so offices could reopen Wednesday.

Always functioning: State pot regulators

at 4:43pm by Joe Copeland

The state has adopted its regulations for the legal marijuana market and will begin accepting applications for stores, producers and processors on Nov. 18. Seattlepi.com's Jake Ellison says that now the new rules will create new pressure on the Legislature to create some regulatory framework for medical marijuana producers and dispeners. In the meantime, though, get ready for a flood of applications for the licenses. Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes is pressing the board for more licensed retailers in Seattle "if the initial 21 licenses are insufficient to meet demand in our city." Only 21 for the whole city? Let's hope they're all situated along major transit corridors so the city can keep its car miles driven and carbon footprint down.

Livable Bellevue, Tacoma ...

at 4:43pm by Joe Copeland

Livability.com ranks Bellevue as the 12th best nationally and first in Washington state among small and medium-size cities. The rankings came out just a day after The Seattle Times reported that the Bravern apartment towers in Bellevue sold for a King County record-obliterating $676,000 per unit. Both Oregon and Idaho boasted one city that scored higher than Bellevue or any other city in Washington in the listing of best places to live (Rankings were based on such factors as affordability, education, parks and farmers markets). Those cities: Eugene at No. 8 and Boise at No. 11. Other Washington locales that made the national rankings include Bellingham (25), Tacoma (41), Redmond (62), Everett (73) and Vancouver (96). Vancouver appears to have been in a virtual tie with Fargo, N.D. "Winter" was not listed as a ratings factor.

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