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Monday 16 Dec, 2013

The Workers mad at Amazon, Boeing union. A snub to Inslee. Harder times ahead for umemployed.

brings home the Bacon

at 4:32pm by Joe Copeland

The Portland Art Museum is about to open an exhibit that includes "the most expensive work of art ever sold at auction," according to OregonLive.com. That record-setting piece? A triptych by Francis Bacon titled, "Three Studies of Lucian Freud." The Bacon triptych went for $142.4 million in an auction at Christie's last month. The work is on view from Dec. 21 to March 30.

Portland art museum

at 4:32pm by Joe Copeland

Unemployment cutoffs loom

at 4:32pm by Joe Copeland

A new report from five Democratic members of Congress shows that, if federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation ends — and it looks likely — more than 12,000 unemployed workers in the central Puget Sound area will lose their unemployment benefits on Dec. 28. At the state level, some 24,000 people will suffer the same fate on the 28th; another 37,000 will see their unemployment benefits disappear during the first six months of 2014. The five Dems (Jim McDermott, Suzan DelBene, Denny Heck, Derek Kilmer and Rick Larsen) want Congress to extend emergency unemployment payments. They argue that due to the weak recovery there are still fewer jobs than before the recession began. The emergency compensation provides up to 43 weeks of unemployment payments; without the program, most benefits end in 13 to 26 weeks. The five Dems blame House Republican leaders for blocking the extension; the extension of benefits was not included in the recent bipartisan budget deal. (Washington's  sixth Democratic congressman, Adam Smith, didn't join his colleagues on this one.)

Snow problem

at 4:32pm by Joe Copeland

A new poll finds that 80 percent of Northwest drivers believe they do a good job driving in the snow. This despite what The Herald so aptly calls "the chaos that plays out on Puget Sound-area roads on snow days," and the fact that nearly half the poll respondents admit they are uncomfortable driving in the white stuff. Confusion notwithstanding, the findings of this unscientific poll — you can take it here — seem about right: Just consider how many drivers go sailing through a storm as if they've got everything under control. And the fact that, as writer Bill Sheets notes, Washington state's accident rates go up in fall and winter, snow or no. 

Boeing workers march on union 

at 4:32pm by Joe Copeland

Updated at 5:15 p.m. Speaking of unions, a Boeing machinist tells the Associated Press that some of his fellow machinists are planning a march Wednesday on union District 751 headquarters in Seattle. They plan to demand a vote on the company's most recent contract offer. The proposal would have guaranteed construction of the new 777X airliner in the Puget Sound area in return for concessions by the union work force. But union leadership rejected the proposal before union members got to vote and Boeing appears disinterested in pursuing it further. Publicola reports that major unions statewide are snubbing Gov. Jay Inslee's holiday party over his calling on the District 751 leadership to allow a vote on the contract.

Union workers march on Amazon

at 4:32pm by Joe Copeland

Supporters of Amazon's dissatisfied German workers took their cause to the company's Seattle headquarters today in a protest that drew several dozen people. The protesters mainly came from labor unions here, but there were two reps from Germany, according to the Puget Sound Business Journal. A report on the German magazine Stern's website said that some 1,800 workers walked off the job in three Amazon centers in that country, the latest in a series of walkouts that began last summer. The German Ver.di union is unhappy with Amazon's wages and the lack of a collective bargaining agreement.

Friday 13 Dec, 2013

The Inslee wants a Boeing vote. King County too powerful? The subway to Ballard.

Green Power vacuum

at 4:11pm by Joe Copeland

The head of Green Power, an alternative energy operation that was supposed to be built in Pasco, is being held on federal charges of defrauding investors, according to The Tri-City Herald. CEO Michael Spitzauer claimed to have a technology that turns municipal waste into biofuels. The Port of Pasco has started eviction proceedings to get him out of the facility he leased in an industrial park. In 2009, the state Department of Ecology shut down Spitzauer's operations after he failed to get the necessary air-quality permits. — J.C.

Getting out the vote

at 4:11pm by Joe Copeland

A new study says Washington and other states using an advanced data system to identify eligible but unregistered voters have seen an increase of about 1 percentage point in election participation. The states used the demographic data from motor vehicle licenses, voter registrations, postal records and other sources to send postcards to eligible but unregistered residents urging them to sign up to vote. Washington is one of seven states to pioneer the system, supported by the Pew Charitable Trusts. — J.C.

Bus drivers at risk

at 4:11pm by Joe Copeland

Portland's TriMet transit system is offering a $1,000 reward for information on the vicious beating of a woman bus driver by a passenger who hadn't paid the correct fare. As The Oregonian's transportation writer Joseph Rose notes, the bus drivers' union there has been fighting to keep its generous benefits, arguing that the profession is high risk. The Portland beating and the shooting of a Metro Transit driver in Seattle this summer only support the union's position. — J.C. 

Take the A Train — to Ballard? 

at 4:11pm by Joe Copeland

Sound Transit is wrapping up public comments on the possibility of rail service from Downtown Seattle to Ballard. On Seattle Transit Blog, Ben Schiendelman argues that a subway running through Fremont would be the best approach, rewarding neighborhoods for absorbing so much growth, shaving travel times and generating the excitement needed to win voter support for a city financing plan. Sure, rail critics will laugh. But Schiendelman might have a good point about voter psychology in Seattle. — J.C.

They don't call it "King" County for nothing

at 4:11pm by Joe Copeland

A new survey reports that Washington residents believe King County has too much power in state politics. As Joel Connelly of seattlepi.com notes, the state's biggest elections tend to go the way King County voters do. Even a majority of King County residents in the poll agreed with the assessment. Of course, there is that whole thing about one-person, one-vote: It's wrapped up in democracy, which might even be more important than polling. — J.C.

All Jay wants for Christmas is a vote

at 4:11pm by Joe Copeland

If a vote actually takes place on — prospects uncertain — Boeing and IAM may both come out ahead in the proposed contract to win 777X assembly work here. Not because one side shut the other down, but because they compromised. The union would get to keep its six-years-to-max pay scale; Boeing would unload potentially costly and outdated worker pensions. Boeing also gets a plane delivered by 2020, machinists get an additional $5,000 and the satisfaction of knowing that their votes paid off. Moving R&D jobs out of state was a signal that Boeing doesn’t need WA as much as we would like, but returning to the table for quiet negotiations indicates that the aerospace giant still needs Everett’s expertise. Union leadership remains divided over whether to schedule a vote, but with many machinists demanding a chance to decide on this contract, one will likely be scheduled. In the meantime, we wonder whether the reluctance to schedule a vote is an attempt to avoid charges of shoving a second contract down the rank and file’s throat, while at the same time building support for the deal. But with Gov. Jay Inslee — advocate of tax breaks and transportation improvements — now jumping in with a request to let the members vote, at least Boeing knows somebody wants to build its planes here. — A.S.

Thursday 12 Dec, 2013

The Boeing talks collapse. Charter schools get court nod. New family housing effort.

Mariners get Cano

at 4:45pm by Joe Copeland

The Seattle Mariners made it official: They have signed second baseman Robinson Cano to the third largest contract in baseball history. And Cano dutifully echoed the company line that his acquisition is about building for the future. OK, but don't forget that Seattle baseball fans are more than a little impatient at this point.

Pay to park, even if you don't own a car

at 4:45pm by Joe Copeland

A new study by the Northwest environmental organization Sightline looks at the costs and apparent waste of providing car parking spots at multi-family residences around Seattle. One big point: Nearly three of every eight parking spots at condos and apartments sits empty — at night, when use should be at the max. Publicola's Erica C. Barnett responds with a short, smart rant: "As someone who doesn't own a car, this infuriates me. I was well aware that I involuntarily rent a parking space at my own apartment building — 'included' in the rent, whether I want it or not — but I was stunned to see how much it's actually costing me to pay for something I don't use." We're guessing that just about everybody will be surprised by the oversupply enforced by local government development requirements — except maybe developers and operators of multi-family housing. Better to require more low-rent units, perhaps?

Rapid re-housing

at 4:45pm by Joe Copeland

King County Executive Dow Constantine says that a pilot project will put hundreds of homeless families into rental housing as quickly as possible. The new Rapid Re-housing for Families could serve as many as 350 families in the county by the end of next year, moving them directly from the streets to rental units while providing temporary training, job-finding and other support services. The program is supported by $3.1 million in public and private funds. United Way of King County's Jon Fine says the approach can help families "avoid spiraling deeper into homelessness." Speaking of spiraling: An absolutely remarkable New York Times series focusing on a 12-year-old girl named Dasani ought to serve as a continuing inspiration for this and other efforts to lift families out of homelessness.

Charter schools mostly win

at 4:45pm by Joe Copeland

A King County Superior Court judge's ruling generally upholds the voter-approved charter school law against challenges from the teachers union and other plaintiffs, according to the Attorney General's office. Even though Judge Jean Rietschel's opinion finds that charter schools can't be considered part of the "common schools" system — i.e. public schools — and are therefore ineligible for some state funds, the rest of her decision upholds the charter measure (Initiative 1240). The AG says the common schools problem doesn't invalidate the rest of the law. A spokesman for the Washington Education Association said an appeal is likely. 

Boeing talks jobs, moves jobs

at 4:45pm by Joe Copeland

Updated at 8:20 p.m.Talks between Boeing and the Machinists Union District 751 collapsed Thursday afternoon after the union rejected what Boeing said was a final offer of a deal to build the new 777X airliner in the Puget Sound area. The collapse set off speculation in several media reports that the breakdown made it more likely that Boeing would take the work, which once seemed destined for Everett, to another part of the country. Gov. Jay Inslee sent out a statement holding out "hope that the company will recognize that the best way to ensure that the 777X is delivered to its customers on time and at the least cost is to build it here." Inslee went on to say that he would be contacting both the union and Boeing on Thursday night. In a statement on the Machinists District 751 website, the union said the contract offer was "mostly unchanged" from one that members rejected 2-to-1. The Puget Sound Business Journal pointed to the company's continuing desire to end traditional pensions under the new offer as a possible factor.The unadulterated bad news came on a day that Boeing also issued a bad news-good news announcement about a series of technology research centers Boeing is establishing around the country as it redistributes its cutting-edge work. The Seattle area is the big loser in jobs, which are expected to decrease by 800 or more. South Carolina, Alabama and St. Louis will get more Boeing jobs. The little bit of good news: Seattle gets one research center, focused on "manufacturing technology integration." Whatever that means. Love those bread crumbs.

Wednesday 11 Dec, 2013

The Murray crowd-hiring. A few words from Broadband provider. Pot biz gets hearings.

Boeing and Machinists talking

at 3:43pm by Joe Copeland

The Machinists Union's District 751 leadership and Boeing executives were talking Wednesday for the second day in a row. Talks were described as informal, but a union spokesperson was clear with The Herald about the purpose: making the Puget Sound area the site of the new 777X airliner's assembly. On the District 751 web site, President Tom Wroblewski promised an update after Wednesday's talks. 

Pot business hearings

at 3:43pm by Joe Copeland

The state Liquor Control Board is considering a rule to block bars from allowing any pot consumption on their premises. An Olympia bar owner says it's a bad idea but — not to worry, customers — he won't comply even if the board adopts the rule. Frank Schnarr, owner of Frankie's Sports Bar, tells The Olympian that the state and the Thurston County Health Department approved his private smoking room before marijuana became legal. Now that it is, pot should be grandfathered in. The board is expected to vote on the measure at a meeting next week, according to spokesman Brian Smith.In D.C., The Seattle Times' Bob Young reports, the federal Bank Secrecy Act Advisory Group will have a closed-door discussion about how to handle the business of legalized pot. Without some adjustment to current practices, operations here will have to be all cash, which raises the robbery risk. Of course, even if the feds let banks and pot stores do business, how many people will want to put an ounce of the best stuff on their debit card?  

Broadband aid. Not coming.

at 3:43pm by Joe Copeland

Gigabit, the company partnering with the city of Seattle to provide ultra high-speed Internet service for many neighborhoods is re-emerging — at least in the form of an email. As Crosscut and other outlets have reported, speedier internet service is delayed and possibly in doubt. A spokesman sent this to Crosscut's Matt Fikse-Verkerk: "Gigabit Squared has completed several rounds of investment financing and is currently executing projects in Illinois and Florida with a combination of public and private funding. Gigabit Squared appreciates Mayor McGinn’s passion for, and support of, the FTTH project in Seattle. We look forward to a dialogue regarding project possibilities with Mayor-elect Murray and his staff." Translation: Make your monthly Comcast payment. 

Murray go 'round

at 3:43pm by Joe Copeland

Mayor-elect Ed Murray announced more than a dozen top appointments for his administration. One big surprise: He grabbed highly regarded City Council staff director Ben Noble to run his own budget office. Hyeok Kim, executive director of a community development association aimed at immigrant and refugee groups, will be the new deputy mayor for external matters. She's been a legislative analyst for state House Democrats and Speaker Frank Chopp. Andrea Riniker agreed to a six-month term as interim deputy mayor for internal affairs while Murray conducts a larger search. She retired as Port of Tacoma director in 2005 and before that served as state Department of Ecology director and as Bellevue city manager. Bill Lucia has a report on the hires shortly. The press release from Murray's office — including salaries — is here. Staff biographies are here

Tuesday 10 Dec, 2013

The Patty Murray delivers on budget. Bike plan to get comments spinning. Inslee submits Boeing bid.

Deicer debacle

at 4:33pm by Joe Copeland

Seattle Department of Transportation officials say that human error led to the accidents and slippery conditions that shut down the West Seattle Bridge for several hours earlier this month. (Crosscut's Bill Lucia has the story here.) 

$100 for your thoughts

at 4:33pm by Joe Copeland

As part of a study looking at tolling options on I-90 across Lake Washington, the state Department of Transportation is turning to a modern surveying gambit: offering a $100 gift card in exchange for participating. Catch: You have to be a freight delivery driver or an employer of freight drivers. WSDOT spokeswoman Emily Pace says the gift card enticement is a way to gather more information for an upcoming environmental impact study on the tolling idea. The department has offered gift cards to focus group participants before and thought it might be a good way to reach the audience of professional drivers that is "a bit more difficult" to survey than normal. The survey also takes about 10 minutes, which is on the long side. Consider it an inducement to speak up now — or shut up later. — J.C. 

Tunnel: No answers

at 4:33pm by Joe Copeland

Updated at 5:30 p.m. The state says it and the contractor are still investigating what has slowed work on the boring of the Seattle waterfront tunnel to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct. In a statement, the state Department of Transportation backed away somewhat from the suggestions on Monday that the "Bertha" tunneling machine had encountered an obstruction, saying that the machine had encountered unanticipated resistance "possibly due to an obstruction." There's quite a bit of talk about the difficult conditions, the water level and "the challenging nature" of the soils. The department promises additional information on Friday. Could there be an I-told-you-so moment for Mayor Mike McGinn even before he leaves office?  — J.C. 

GOP congresswoman challenged

at 4:33pm by Joe Copeland

Jaime Herrera Beutler, Southwest Washington's member of Congress, will have a potentially serious challenger, according to seattlepi.com's Joel Connelly. Democrat Bob Dingethal, a former aide to Sen. Maria Cantwell, kicked off his campaign on Monday, criticizing Congress as dysfunctional. He's executive director of an environmental group and has business credentials too, including co-founding the SandHill Winery and Red Mountain Vineyards. We'll raise a glass of Cab to the competition of a good race. But, as Connelly notes, redistricting has made Herrera Beutler's seat safer.  — J.C. 

No internet upgrades for you, Seattle

at 4:33pm by Joe Copeland

Outgoing Mayor Mike McGinn says some neighborhoods in Seattle won't get upgraded Internet service on time. Or maybe not at all. In an Geekwire nterview published late Monday afternoon, the soon-to-be ex-mayor said broadband contractor Gigabit Squared, which plans to use dormant city fiber to deliver faster service, is having trouble raising capital as quickly as it had hoped. Internet upgrade plans call for improving service on unused city fiber optic cables in a dozen neighborhoods, hopefully as a model for citywide upgrades. But McGinn's downbeat assessment makes us wonder whether we will even start to catch up with better equipped places like Seoul, Hong Kong and Tokyo. (Crosscut's Matt Fikse-Verkerk will have a report.) — J.C. 

Boeing plan submitted

at 4:33pm by Joe Copeland

Updated at 5:05 p.m. Gov. Jay Inslee just sent out a tweet saying that the state has submitted its plan for building the 777X here to Boeing. No details were announced. The Puget Sound Business Journal had suggested earlier in the day that one of the trickier sections may be explaining how the state would provide the transportation improvements sought by the company. Legislators have been unable to come an agreement on a new funding plan. — J.C.

Bike utopia ahead?

at 4:33pm by Joe Copeland

The new Seattle Bicycle Master Plan recommends more than 400 miles of new bike lanes, cycle tracks and greenways, along with an emphasis on improved biker safety. Seattle Department of Transportation officials presented some of the highlights of the plan at a City Council committee meeting Tuesday. The plan also identifies possible upgrades to about 70 miles of existing bicycle infrastructure. The recommended changes are proposed for a 20-year span. Estimated price tag for improvements and new facilities: $390 million to $525 million. A public hearing about the plan is scheduled for tomorrow night at City Hall. With tensions between groups that support and oppose bike infrastructure burning like a low-grade fever in the city, the comments could get lively. — B.L.

Kind of a big deal in D.C.

at 4:33pm by Joe Copeland

A task force led by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin has reached a budget deal that protects health research, Head Start, education and the Pentagon from some $65 billion in across-the-board cuts over the next two years. The New York Times calls the agreement a cease-fire in D.C.'s endless budget wars: "For Democrats and their negotiator, Ms. Murray, the deal marks a turning point in the spending wars that have dominated the Capitol since Republicans swept to control of the House in 2011." Remember when in-the-know types were dismissing Murray as a lightweight? Constituents who have elected her four times will feel vindicated. But there is this dilemma: Might this victory prompt Murray — still very down to earth — to decide it's time to enjoy family and a personal life rather than run again in 2016?  — J.C. 

Monday 9 Dec, 2013

The Microsoft wants NSA rules. Bertha stuck. $15 wage recount results.

Inside the Mariners 

at 4:51pm by Joe Copeland

We all knew the Mariners haven’t been at their best for the last, oh, decade or two. But former manager Eric Wedge and others revealed just how bad things have gotten at the top in a Seattle Times report this weekend. Wedge blasted the Mariners’ front office, run by CEO Howard Lincoln and President Chuck Armstrong, saying the franchise was plagued by “total dysfunction and a lack of leadership.”The franchise struck back with a statement from General Manager Jack Zduriencik that defended Lincoln, Armstrong and himself, the communications with Wedge and the passing along of executives' suggestions to the manager. "When our upper management has questions or suggestions, it’s my job to respond to them," Zduriencik said. "I don’t believe meddling is a fair portrayal." Crosscut sports contributor Art Thiel tweets this morning that the criticisms of the executive office “say much because Wedge and others risked going on the record.”  — B.A. 

Your owner gotten you the good stuff yet?

at 4:51pm by Joe Copeland

In Washington’s fledgling weed market, it was only a matter of time before stoners stopped blowing smoke into their pets' ears. The practice is used by some to get dogs and cats stoned, but pets, like humans, don’t always enjoy the process (marijuana intoxication and overdoses an be a problem).Now, one Seattle vet has developed a safer, more institutionalized way to treat pet pain using hemp tablets. The tablets are called Canna-Pet and they sell for a dollar a pill. While they contain all of the natural compounds found in marijuana, they won’t actually get your pet high and they’re legal even on a federal level. The vet  who created Canna-Pet says it has some mysterious attributes. "If you give an animal the hemp and use it for pain control, they don't get hungry. If you're using it for controlling nausea, or to help increase appetite, they eat better." Sounds like a good deal to me. — B.A.

Oregon governor wants another term

at 4:51pm by Joe Copeland

John Kitzhaber says he is running for re-election as governor next year, potentially breaking his own record for most times elected governor in Oregon history. He held office for two terms from 1995 to 2003, and then was elected a third time in 2010. Oregon's constitution forbids more than two consecutive terms. Kitzhaber, who turns 67 next March, is widely regarded as a likely winner next year, so ambitious Oregon politicians might do well to start marking off the days until the 2018 election. — J.C.

Recounting the ballots for SeaTac

at 4:51pm by Joe Copeland

King County Elections on Monday morning began a hand recount of the ballots for SeaTac's $15 minimum wage law, which would cover about 6,000 workers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and in large nearby hotels. The proposition won by just 77 votes out of more than 6,000 ballots cast in the November general election, but opponents requested the recount. Just after 4 p.m., supporters of the measure said the margin appeared to have held up in the recount. King County said the results won't be final until morning, but no discrepancies with earlier tallying were discovered. — J.C.

Whatsamatter, Bertha?

at 4:51pm by Joe Copeland

The tunnel boring machine on Seattle's waterfront has run into "an obstruction" and is standing still as officials investigate what it has encountered under First Avenue in Pioneer Square. State Department of Transportation officials say they expect to have more information soon. KING5, which first broke the story, says the tunneling machine was about 60 feet underground when it ran into something on Friday. You can follow the Twitter account for the machine nicknamed Bertha here on Twitter.  — J.C. 

Spying is no Xbox game

at 4:51pm by Joe Copeland

Microsoft, Google and a half-dozen major tech firms called for reforms to make government surveillance more targeted and respectful of privacy and free speech in an open letter to Washington, D.C. today. The letter called on Congress and President Barack Obama to implement reform based on five major principles. In a Microsoft press release, General Counsel Brad Smith explained their concern. “People won’t use technology they don’t trust,” he wrote. “Governments have put this trust at risk, and governments need to help restore it.” Their effort comes just as the latest Guardian report using Edward Snowden documents shows that U.S. and British spies have made sophisticated efforts to spy on people playing online games, including developing the ability to collect large amounts of data from Xbox Live users. We're thinking that Microsoft isn't amused about that, either. — B.A.

Friday 6 Dec, 2013

The Baseball star headed this way? Changes in Olympia. A bridge to Oregon?

Mandela: a life well lived

at 3:38pm by Joe Copeland

Among the many, and widely varied, tributes to Nelson Mandela’s life, the Council on Foreign Relations' postings reflect a long history with the man and his ideas. When he spoke before the council in 2005, at age 87, Mandela's humility and humor were on full display. Describing how happy he was to have been invited, Mandela explained that he was “trembling, although my clothing is covering my movement inside.” The council also focused on his unbending insistence on the rule of law, even in the aftermath of a successful revolution, and his demand that South Africa recognize the rights of all people. South Africa remains the only African nation that permits gay marriage. And against the backdrop of the Arab spring and continued African conflicts marred by power-hungry despots, Mandela’s choice to step down after a single term remains a shining example of his dedication to his vision and not his power.There will be a candlelight vigil for Mandela at 6:30 p.m. Saturday around the Seattle Center's International Fountain. — A.S.

Cancer researcher sentenced

at 3:38pm by Joe Copeland

A cancer researcher, Peter D. Urrea of Washougal in southwest Washington, has received an 18-month sentence for tax evasion, according to the U.S. Attorney for Western Washington. Urrea had gone to considerable trouble to avoid paying tax on some of his income, even signing the name of a non-existent vice pharma president to a document. "Instead of devoting all his energies to his cancer research," said U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan in a statement, "this defendant schemed to avoid paying his fair share of taxes." Dedication, of the worst sort. — J.C. 

You can get to Oregon (or Washington)

at 3:38pm by Joe Copeland

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber is holding out hope for a new I-5 bridge crossing the Columbia River, according to The Oregonian. He tells the paper that federal officials still have money that could be used to help with construction, despite Washington's refusal to participate so far. And he says Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a supporter of the plan, might speak at an Oregon legislative hearing next month in favor of a new bridge. Some Washington State Republican senators are deadset against the existing bridge plan, which includes — gasp — rail transit. — J.C. 

Musical chairs in Legislature

at 3:38pm by Joe Copeland

A lot of new legislators from around the state will be heading to Olympia for the first time, or in new positions for the 2014 session. While the Seattle version of musical chairs to replace Mayor-elect Ed Murray has received most of the media attention, a roundup by The Olympian shows that changes are occurring from Gig Harbor to Spokane. So many changes — at least six — in the House that the Clerk's Office has scheduled a new member orientation. In addition to replacing Ed Murray, King County will also replace Rep. Dave Upthegrove, who is joining the county council. Get ready for four new senators, also as a result of the resignations of incumbents or their elections to other posts. And this wasn't even a regular election year for the Legislature. — J.C.

Sports, sports everywhere

at 3:38pm by Joe Copeland

The University of Washington has hired Boise State football coach Chris Peterson and the Seattle Mariners have — reportedly — shelled out well over $200 million to land free-agent Robinson Cano. Peterson is a natural, having brought the once-sleepy Boise program to national prominence. Of course, it does amount to a raid on another Northwest institution. Gonzaga, you are on notice: If basketball Coach Lorenzo Romar leaves the UW, don't expect any Montlake qualms of conscience over coveting the neighbor's coach. Of course, Coach Mark Few seems pretty happy in Spokane. Crosscut contributor Art Thiel is writing a column about the sports moves. — J.C.

Thursday 5 Dec, 2013

The States, Boeing wants your land! Mariners want a slugger. A strike at Hanford?

Spokane girl sings live on NBC

at 4:36pm by Joe Copeland

Sophia Caruso, a 12-year-old from Spokane, will sing a key role in NBC's live broadcast of "The Sound of Music" (8 p.m. tonight,  Thursday), according to The Spokesman Review. Sophia moved to New York City with her mom a year and a half ago to pursue an acting career. Dad is minding the family home in Spokane. She recently appeared at Seattle 5th Avenue Theatre in "Secondhand Lions." Of her role as Brigitta von Trapp in "The Sound of Music," Sophia told the paper, "I can check this off my bucket list." 12-year-olds have bucket lists?

Whistleblower trouble at BPA 

at 4:36pm by Joe Copeland

A hiring scandal at the Bonneville Power Administration, which markets federal hydropower around the Northwest, may be taking on a new dimension: uabated retaliation against a whistleblower. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., has asked a federal inspector general to look into what Wyden believes is credible evidence of retaliation, according to The Oregonian. The agency allegedly discriminated against veterans in hiring; vets are supposed to get preference. Bonneville executives argued that the veterans weren't specifically targeted but that they lost opportunities as the agency concentrated on more promising candidates.

Deputy on leave over photo incident

at 4:36pm by Joe Copeland

Sheriff John Urqhart has placed a deputy on administrative leave as he considers possible discipline over the officer’s threat to arrest an editor of The Stranger for taking pictures of police surrounding a man at a transit station. Taking photos is legal as long as it doesn’t interfere with police action. The Seattle Times notes that the deputy, Patrick Saulet, has a history of 120 public complaints, more than any other officer on the force.

Mariners: Serious about a slugger?

at 4:36pm by Joe Copeland

The Seattle Mariners — the baseball team whose seasons usually end by mid-June — brought New York Yankees' free-agent slugger Robinson Cano to town. As The Seattle Times' Larry Stone writes, it's hard to take the team's supposed serious interest in yet another big name batter seriously. But consider this: Paying for Cano's contract — likely $240 million or so — might be enough to require Mariners owners to chip in some extra funds. Which could set off some change or realignment of the ownership shares. In that case, Cano could be a real plus, no matter what he did on the field. 

Hanford workers face strike choice

at 4:36pm by Joe Copeland

Union workers cleaning up Hanford's nuclear waste tanks will decide next week whether to go on strike or accept a contract that their leaders only reluctantly have recommended, according to the Tri-City Herald. The Hanford Atomic Metal Trades Council members have rejected two previous offers from a contractor, Washington River Protection Solutions, which manages the underground tank farms. Just what Hanford needs: more problems.

Boeing: Give us your land

at 4:36pm by Joe Copeland

Boeing is telling states that it would like the land and facilities for a 777X assembly plant at no cost or "very reduced" cost. North Carolina's Charlotte Observer, one of the first papers to obtain copies of Boeing's request for proposals, said the city is working on a proposal to help Boeing locate there and that the state would likely provide most of the incentives. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch said the Missouri bid seems to meet most of the criteria in the document "but it sure would help if Missouri was on the ocean." We've got that covered in Washington, anyway. 

Wednesday 4 Dec, 2013

The Getting tough on DUIs. Canadian trouble spilling south. More pot stores needed?

Let's not talk security just yet

at 3:53pm by Joe Copeland

A City Council committee was supposed to consider an ordinance today that would let the Seattle Police Department take new Department of Homeland Security money for an "urban areas security initiative." After the Council's agenda was published, however, committee chair Bruce Harrell decided that the police needed to talk more with the American Civil Liberties Union before the City Council considers the measure. The SLOG discovered that part of the money in question would be used for facial recognition capability. As SLOG writer Brendan Kiley suggests, checking the facial images of unknown suspects against a database could well be conducted without raising privacy issues, but it's worth a little careful discussion first.

Can loggers and enviros be friends?

at 3:53pm by Joe Copeland

First-term congressional Rep. Derek Kilmer plans to tackle an old problem: the divisions between the forestry industry and  environmentalists. The Peninsula Daily News reports that he has set up a 16-member group — drawn from both camps — whose aim will be to increase logging in the Olympic National Forest while restoring natural forest ecosystems. The report notes that Kilmer still hasn't taken a position on his predecessor Norm Dicks' proposal to expand wilderness areas on the peninsula.

Moving medical pot to front of line?

at 3:53pm by Joe Copeland

Updated at 4:35 p.m. City Attorney Pete Holmes is asking the state to issue more pot store licenses for Seattle, ease rules on their locations and give existing medical marijuana retailers priority for recreational pot licenses. He says the state has to be more aggressive about creating a strong, regulated pot market than it had expected. He points to the federal willingness to take a hands-off attitude but only as long as the market is well-regulated and not creating such problems as an increased supply of pot in neighboring states or more availability of pot for young people. Without more legal stores, he says, the illegal market will remain strong, putting at risk the shift to a legal system that voter-approved Initiative 502 was meant to achieve. He suggests 50 licenses for pot stores here instead of the 21 currently planned.

Oil spill alert

at 3:53pm by Joe Copeland

A Candian panel has warned that the country is dramatically unprepared for an oil spill off British Columbia, where there are proposals to export large amounts of fuel to Asia. The national government is eager to expand exports through the construction of two new pipelines to the coast. In a well-documented analysis of the problems around the export proposals, Joel Connelly of seattlepi.com points out that a spill in Haro Straits would head right toward Washington waters and the San Juan Islands. And we can't build a wall along that border.

Crackdown on impaired driving?

at 3:53pm by Joe Copeland

An advisory group is urging the state Legislature to sharply increase penalties for impaired driving, including setting tougher minimum sentences and making repeat offenses felonies sooner, according to The Seattle Times. The panel, which was established by the Legislature, found that Washington is the most lax state when it comes to classifying repeat offenders as felons. It takes five DUI offenses before a conviction becomes a felony. In half the states, a conviction becomes a felony after the third offense. The group also advocated one idea that is likely a non-starter: establishing sobriety checkpoints. The practice is allowed in most states, but is considered a violation of Washington State's constitution.

Tuesday 3 Dec, 2013

The Missouri's 777X grab. Fines for blunts? Is $16 the new $15 minimum wage?

The big semi-chill

at 3:43pm by Joe Copeland

The National Weather Service's Seattle area forecast for the next seven days looks like something meant for Anchorage. There will be lots of work for emergency shelters to keep people safe: Hang in there.

The state Department of Transportation says that the North Cascades Highway is now closed for the winter. Bright side: the shutdown on Dec. 1 (just now extended for the season) came a week and a half later than 2012's Nov. 20 closure. It usually reopens between the last week of March and the first week of May. Until then, you're stuck with Hwy 2.

Idaho governor's race

at 3:43pm by Joe Copeland

The president of Boise's school board, A.J. Balukoff, has become the first Democrat to enter the 2014 Idaho governor's race, and he has such strong support that he should win the party nomination easily, according to the Idaho Statesman. The mayor of Boise turned out to cheer him on — evidence of how different Boise is from the rest of the generally conservative state. Idaho hasn't had a Democratic governor since Cecil Andrus left office in 1995, but there's always a chance.

Everett School Board murkiness

at 3:43pm by Joe Copeland

The president of Everett's school board has abruptly resigned, and the district's only explanation so far is that old standby — "personal reasons." The Herald reports that Everett superintendent Gary Cohn called the resignation of president Jeff Russell "solemn news." The Herald's Eric Stevick also dug out the district's policy on replacing school board members, which seems likely to compound the lack of public explanation: The remaining board members will have to interview and vote on replacement candidates in public, but they can talk about what to do and who to pick behind closed doors. This is a "public" school system, right? 

$15 an hour: a starting step 

at 3:43pm by Joe Copeland

new report from a Seattle-based group, the Alliance for a Just Society, says that the proportion of jobs that pay a living wage shrunk again last year as the "jobless recovery" masked a growing reliance by employers on low-wage jobs. Washington legislators, the report suggests, could help workers by increasing the minimum wage, purchasing health care insurance coverage for low-wage workers who currently fall through the cracks and raising state revenues overall. The state's $9.19 minimum wage is the highest in the nation, but the report says a single worker would need $16.04 an hour in order to save money for emergencies and plan ahead. A $15 minimum, as SeaTac voters appear to have approved for some workers, "would be a significant step in the right direction." By the time the Seattle City Council gets to work on the issue, $16 may well be the new $15. 

That pot smell on the streets

at 3:43pm by Joe Copeland

Seattle City Council and City Attorney Pete Holmes appear to be working out a law for fining people who smoke marijuana in public — it may be legal to enjoy pot, but you can't do it in public anymore than you can legally drink alcohol on the street. The Stranger's Dominic Holden reports that Councilmember Nick Licata has introduced an ordinance that cuts the $50 fine Holmes sought to $27, to match the alcohol-consumption penalty. With court costs, offenders would pay $55. Of course, all this still leaves open whether police will even choose to enforce the fine: A 2003 local initiative made marijuana offenses the city's lowest law-enforcement priority.The bigger question: Will there be enough local control to keep the feds from swooping in and cracking down on pot? That's a good question for Holmes and Alison Holcomb, the author of the state marijuana legalization measure. Both will be discussing pot and policy at Wednesday's Civic Cocktail, co-sponsored by Crosscut. You can still get tickets by calling CityClub, 206-682-7395. Or come to the event at Palace Kitchen Ballroom, 2100 Fifth Ave., and buy tickets there (always a few no-shows). Doors open at 5:30 p.m., program begins at 6 p.m.

Missouri enticing Boeing

at 3:43pm by Joe Copeland

Boeing could receive up to $1.7 billion in tax breaks if it builds the new 777X airliner in St. Louis. That's the proposal from Gov. Jay Nixon anyway, who called a special session of the state Legislature to put together a swag bag for Boeing. Lawmakers are making noises that they want to look more closely before acting — but legislators here said the same kind of thing before approving Gov. Jay Inslee's 777X tax break package. Missouri's plan, to be sure, would be far smaller than the $8.7 billion in tax breaks for staying here — but who knows where Boeing will land. St. Louis scoffers, beware: Boeing has had deep roots there since the 1997 merger with McDonnell Douglas. 

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