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Tuesday 4 Mar, 2014

The A gondola for Seattle? Starbucks the banker? Ryan Lewis' Magnolia mansion.

Colbert mocks Obamacare claims

at 4:15pm by Joe Copeland

Political satirist Stephen Colbert held Republican Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers' recent criticisms of the Affordable Care Act up for national ridicule on Monday, seattlepi.com's Joel Connelly reports. In her January response to the president's State of the Union Address, McMorris Rodgers quoted "Bette in Spokane" as saying that her health insurance premiums had gone up $700 since the introduction of the Affordable Care Act. But a Spokesman-Review reporter found the woman, who told the paper, "I wouldn't go on that Obama website at all."“Well, there’s another flaw of the Obamacare website," Colbert joked. "You have to go on it to use it. That’s how they get ya.” — J.C.


 

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in the House and Senate. As of mid-afternoon Tuesday, neither had come up for action by the full House or Senate. — J.S.

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introduced similar bills Monday

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and Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond,

Today in Olympia 

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  • Legislators introduced two bills Monday in a last-minute attempt to head off the impending loss of $40 million in federal education aid. A recent Senate vote killed a bill that would have linked schools' teacher evaluations to student test scores; a move which threatens to disqualify Washington for certain requirements of No Child Left Behind funding. Rep. Pat Sullivan, D-Covington,

UW's latest spin-off: Development

at 4:15pm by Joe Copeland

Michelangelo — a UW-developed computer program for fundraising — has received a U.S. patent for its innovative data collection processes, according to Xconomy. The tool, which connects disparate databases, supports the university's donor-alumni relations. UW Advancement's Chris Sorensen spearheaded the Michelangelo tool, which allows the university to sort and query its databases in order to send targeted invitations and requests to its community of donors and alumni. The UW hopes to start licensing the system as a development tool to other universities and organizations coordinating donors. — H.W.

Ryan Lewis thrifts for a mansion

at 4:15pm by Joe Copeland

Macklemore’s musical right hand man, Ryan Lewis, just threw down on a mansion in Seattle's Magnolia neighborhood. At 7,610 square feet, the mansion spans approximately an acre, according to the Puget Sound Business Journal, overlooks Puget Sound and contains a wine cellar, library and jetted tub in the master bathroom. (PSBJ has a photo gallery of the property.)After being on and off the market, according to reporter Marc Stiles, the mansion was sold to Lewis at a fraction of its original price. In 2005 it listed at $8.9 million; nine years later, its discount price sold for $3.3 million. Apparently, Lewis knows how to pop real-estate tags as well. — H.W.

Starbucks baristas: bank tellers?

at 4:15pm by Joe Copeland

The Seattle coffee empire has a powerful hold on customers, including through its “loyalty card” — a pre-paid card that acts much like a savings account for your coffee purchases. The card has Wired writer Marcus Wohlsen talking about Starbucks and its baristas as a threat to traditional banks. Other nonbank entities such as Wal-Mart, PayPal and Google Wallet already use a bank-like model to provide checking, savings and money transfers."As one of the world’s most admired brands, it’s not hard to imagine Starbucks capitalizing on that cachet to offer an expanded range of financial services centered on its cards," reports Wohlsen. In the U.S. alone, purchases made through Starbucks cards was approximately $2.5 billion last year. So, if your barista starts asking if you'd like to make a cash withdrawal anytime soon, remember you heard it here first. — H.W.

Seattle: Gotta have a gondola?

at 4:15pm by Joe Copeland

The developers of the Seattle waterfront ferris wheel, the Great Wheel, on Tuesday unveiled what they hope is another can't-be-beat idea: An aerial gondola to connect the waterfront and downtown. It'd take about five minutes to go to the Washington State Convention Center with one stop at the Pike Place Market, according to MyNorthwest. No tax dollars would be needed, according to developer Kyle Griffith. The aim would be to have the gondola in operation by the time the waterfront tunnel is completed and the Alaskan Way Viaduct is demolished. Demolition of the Viaduct is scheduled to start in 2016, assuming Bertha gets moving on the tunnel job. — J.C.

Monday 3 Mar, 2014

The Mess at Snoqualmie. Gates back to No. 1. More NW pro sports teams? Transpo proposal pushed forward.

Student Athlete

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Just when the TV hype around a few men's college sports threatens to obliterate all perspective about the proper relationship between sports and school, somebody like Washington State University's Jason Monda comes along. The aspiring doctor is a star on the Cougars baseball team, and has come back this year despite being drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies. The Spokesman-Review says Monda was a 6th round pick. At that level, almost every athlete signs up for a chance to play in the bigs. But Monday, says the paper, "values his degree" — to the tune of the $200,000 he rejected. (Ironically, according to a Philadelphia report  that was highly critical of the Phillies and the NCAA, the team tried and failed to get Monda in trouble with the NCAA. (Monda had the temerity to engage in the general — and prudent — draftee practice of having a financial adviser look at the proposal, which is apparently questionable under existing NCAA rules.) — J.C.

Portland Raiders?

at 4:11pm by Joe Copeland

The owner of the Oakland Raiders football team mused rather generally to a San Francisco writer about the difficulties he has had getting a deal for a new stadium with the East Bay city. He didn't talk about any "Plan B" sites, although he acknowledged a visit to the neighboring city of Concord. That hasn't stopped Portland sportswriters from fantasizing about Raiders in Oregon. On OregonLive and elsewhere, John Canzano is already looking at suburbs that might be quicker to jump at a deal than Portland itself. It seems like a longshot, but it'd certainly make for a good Northwest football rivalry to have another team that close to Seattle. As for resuming the Portland-Seattle pro basketball rivalry: Seattlepi.com notes that the new NBA commissioner, Adam Silver, says he is "open" to putting a team in … Europe. One more nail in the coffin of a certain arena proposal? — J.C.

Today in Olympia

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  • The Senate Majority Coalition has finally put its $12.3 billion transportation package into a bill for consideration. The proposal, formally introduced late Friday, features an 11.5-cents-per-gallon gas tax hike, compared to a 10.5-cents-per-gallon increase in the House Democrats' $10.5 billion package. Democratic leaders want a guarantee that a majority of the 26-member coalition supports Republican Sen. Curtis King's bill. So far, an internal caucus head count has showed 13 supporters. Two caucus members, King and Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, D-Medina, have actually signed on to the bill. — J.S. 
  • House Democrats may make teacher cost-of-living raises and how to pay for them part of their supplemental budget proposal, according to House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D-Covington. That tactic could make it more difficult for the Senate Majority Coalition to keep proposals to close four tax breaks out of the upcoming negotiations over the supplemental budget. The Majority Coalition already passed a $96 million supplemental budget; the Democratic-controlled House is looking at a $219 supplemental budget. The cost-of-living adjustments (a.k.a. COLAs), which are already in the House proposal, are expected to add $51 million in 2014-2015; the Democratic plan to close four tax breaks would raise $101 million in 2014-2015, more than enough to pay for the COLAs. — J.S.

Gates: Back on top

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Bill Gates is the world's wealthiest man. Again. Forbes magazine reports that a bounce in Microsoft shares pushed his net worth up to $76 billion, surpassing Mexican telecom magnate Carlos Slim Helu. Forbes' 500 richest people are collectively worth $4.4 trillion — a record. Joining the Gates family on the most monied list are Warren Buffet (#4), Oracle's Larry Ellison (#5) and  the two conservative Koch brothers (tied for #6). Walmart heiress Christy Walton is the only woman in the Top 10 — at #9. (Disclosure note: Crosscut is a recipient of Gates Foundation funding.) — J.C.

Pass: Do not pass

at 4:11pm by Joe Copeland

Updated at 5:34 p.m. Blasted by two feet of new snow over the weekend, Snoqualmie Pass remained shut down through most of Monday. According to the WSDOT blog, crews managed to reopen it at 4:30 p.m., but traffic cameras and sensors showed it was still a slow go for those venturing over the divide as sunset neared. The state Department of Transportation, which closed I-90 over the pass late Sunday night, had 17 plows and 48 employees working all day on avalanche control and removal of downed trees to make the pass safe for travel. At noon today the line of cars and trucks waiting to cross the mountains at I-90 stretched for three miles.With Stevens Pass also periodically closed today for avalanche control, it was, in the words of a WSDOT blogger, an "extremely challenging" day to try and cross the mountains. — C.H.

Friday 28 Feb, 2014

The Public housing, Red Bryant get the boot. Boeing's self-destructing smart phone. The real Joe Dear.

The real Joe Dear

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Seattle Mayor Ed Murray is making national headlines — for all the wrong reasons again. But amidst all the jokes about Murray’s office releasing a statement about a dead man who wasn’t really dead, it’s worthwhile to pause and acknowledge the man who actually did pass away this week. Joseph A. Dear, chief of staff for former Gov. Gary Locke and director of the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, was a true public servant who was much admired in Olympia and beyond. An Evergreen College alum, Dear was a savvy investor, who helped lead California’s — indeed, the nation’s — largest public pension fund out of the wilderness when the economy took a nosedive in 2008. As assistant secretary of OSHA during the Clinton administration, he formed a taskforce that addressed critical oversights in workplace safety and health. Joe Dear died on Wednesday, in Sacramento, of prostate cancer, at age 62. Nothing funny about that. — H.B.C.

Jim Cramer picks Zulily

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Jim “Mad Money” Cramer has his eye on diaper bags and cute sweaters for mom. The frenetic CNBC host aggressively praised Zulily today, calling the Seattle-based deals site a “rival” for Amazon, GeekWire reports. The company’s stock has skyrocketed since its favorable Q4 earnings release, but not everyone sides with Cramer on this. MarketWatch warns that Amazon could move in and edge out the local competition if they double-down on the already fizzling daily deal market.

Seahawks announce predictable shakeup

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Few were surprised today when the Seahawks released wide receiver Sidney Rice and defensive end Red Bryant today. Both players were up for substantial raises — though, as the AP reports, neither quite performed at a level that would justify a raise. The personnel move could save the Seahawks as much as $12 million.

Angel kills housing bill

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Today, the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus blocked (26-23) an attempt by Democrats to revive a homeless-housing bill. The bill, which passed the House (62-36), would have renewed a $40 fee on home sales and used the revenue to help homeless Washingtonians procure public housing. The News Tribune reported that Rep. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard and co-chair of the Senate's Financial Insitutions Committee, abruptly gaveled the Thursday committee meeting to a close just before the housing bill was scheduled to come up for a vote to move it out of committee. Over Democratic protests, the majority coalition installed Angel as committee co-chair part way through the session, demoting then-chair Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, to co-chair. Hobbs opposed Angel's abrupt action on the House bill, which he believed had bipartisan support in the Senate going into the committee process. "To simply do away with a primary source of funding that actually helps solve the homeless problem is ignorant at best and evil at worst,” said Hobbs in a press release. The minority Democrats fell two votes short (25-23) of reviving the bill on the floor. — JS

Boeing gets into the phone business

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Just a few days after the debut of the snoop-proof Black Phone, Boeing announced its own super-secret, similarly-named mobile device, Boeing Black. Designed to protect trade and government secrets for industry partnerships with the Department of Homeland Security, the Boeing Black even has a self-destruct features, just in case it should fall into the wrong hands. How very clandestine. — HBO

Thursday 27 Feb, 2014

The Inslee may sue over Hanford cleanup delays. Numbers of homeless students soar. Seattle warms to bitcoin.

Everyone loves Amazon and Starbucks

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Two of Seattle's top employers — Amazon and Starbucks — got a big nod in "Fortune" this week when they were named two of the most admired companies in the country. Amazon came in an impressive number two; Starbucks ranked fifth. Puget Sound Business Journal points out that they are not the only local companies on the list. Nordstrom, Costco and even Microsoft all cracked the top 25. Weirdly, BP, Coke and Comcast did not make the list.

Washington State defends privacy - again

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In another win for individuals, the State Supreme Court ruled that citizens do have a reasonable right to privacy when it comes to text messaging. The decision overruled a questionable drug conviction in Cowlitz County that came as a result of police text-dropping; that is, snooping into a suspect's texts. The ruling comes just a few months after Gov. Inslee signed a bill that prevents your boss from asking for your Facebook password. Now if only someone could reign in the NSA.

Sony store that no one knew about is set to close

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Even a prime location in U. Village couldn't help Seattle's Sony store overcome the fact that the company makes very few desirable products — PlayStation aside. Citing competition from Apple and Microsoft, Sony says it's shutting down the majority of its stores — Consumerist has the full list — including the Seattle Sony, which has been holding down that space in U. Village for eight years.

Care for a bitcoin?

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Though a general lack of understanding and the fear of theft still hampers a mass acceptance of virtual currency, the Seattle business community seems to be warming up to the bitcoin. As the Seattle Times reported yesterday, Seahawk cornerback Richard Sherman has been accepting bitcoin in his online store since December, cheese-loving locals can empty their virtual wallets at Seattle's grilled cheese food truck Cheese Wizards, and Las Vegas-based Robocoin will open Seattle's first bitcoin ATM at the end of February.  — K.H.

Homeless student numbers at an all-time high

at 4:37pm by John Stang

New statistics out today show that the number of homeless students in Washington state is at an all-time high. According to the Office of Superintendent Public Instruction (OSPI), the 30,609 homeless students in the state represents an 11.8 percent increase since 2011-12, and a disturbing 47 percent rise since 2007. OSPI cites the unsteady job market and the lack of stable, affordable housing options as reasons for the increase. However unstable their housing situation, OSPI youth still have access to education; the federal McKinney-Vento act ensures that homeless students get “the same free, appropriate public education, including a public preschool education, as provided to other children and youths.” Washington State receives $950,000 in federal aid for homeless students. The money pays for instruction, materials and transportation to and from school. — H.W.

Inslee gets serious about Hanford

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The Governor says he’ll be meeting with U.S.Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz in mid-­March to discuss how best to tackle construction of Hanford's $12.7 billion waste­-glassification plant, which is falling behind schedule — something that has happened several times over the past two decades. "We may have to pursue legal action," said the governor. "… The secretary knows we're about at the end of our patience in this regard." The plant's original start­-up date was 1999. Now, a 2019 start looks iffy. The 25-year-old Hanford cleanup pact that Washington State shares with the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been modified several times. — J.S.

Wednesday 26 Feb, 2014

The Macklemore for rideshare. Alaska Airline steps up for diversity. One Senator's quest for cheaper booze.

Alaska Airlines favors diversity - and tourism

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If passed, Arizona’s controversial SB 1062 would would make it legal for Arizona businesses to deny service to gay patrons, or anyone else who doesn't share the owners' religious views. The bill would effect plenty of people and establishments outside the state’s lines. Chiefly, as more than a few business leaders have warned, it could severely reduce tourism. Which is part of the reason principals at Alaska Airlines, which services Arizona, came out against the bill today — in an open letter tweeted to Governor Jan Brewer. Beyond the tourism effect, Alaska expressed concerns about the bill's blow to progress, diversity and human rights, calling SB 1062 “divisive” and “chilling,” which are some of the more polite ways to put it. — H.B.O.

Today in Olympia: Inslee signs DREAM Act into law

at 3:37pm by John Stang

It goes by the DREAM Act or the Real Hope Act, ­­ depending on whom you want to credit politically. Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill into law today that makes Washington high school grads whose parents are undocumented immigrants eligible for college financial aid. After spending one-­and-­a-­half sessions in opposition, the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus unexpectedly threw its support behind the bill, resulting in its 35-­10 passage. That turnaround apparently caused an internal rift in the coalition, which may or may not have healed. (The House has always supported the bill.) Today's bill provides $5 million to cover the extra applicants. — J.S.

Minimum wage increase caught in support/concern tug-of-war

at 3:37pm by John Stang

As the debate over a $15 minimum wage heats up in Seattle, most nonprofit social-service groups are backing the proposal. However, despite their support, there’s concern that some of these organizations can’t afford the increase; without additional funding from the city, many would be forced to cut back on essential programs. According to The Seattle Times, a higher minimum wage would cost more than $10 million for most programs, while child-care centers are looking at a figure closer to $20 million. Some believe that with an increase in wage comes an increase in taxes.

“We can’t talk about income inequality and act like the $15 wage is cost-free, with the burden borne only by someone else,” says Bill Hobson, director of the Downtown Emergency Service Center. “We have to address how we’re going to pay for it. That includes taxpayers.”

One poll of Seattle residents found that about 68% support a bump in the minimum wage. A Town Hall forum on the issue is set for March 5.  — M.C.

Sinners have a new ally in the Senate

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It’s no secret that we Washington residents pay for our alcohol with more than just our pickled livers; our state has the highest booze taxes in the union. But State Senator Jenea Holmquist Newbry (R-13th) has brewed up a way to reduce the liquor sticker-shock. SB 6547, which she sponsored, seeks to reduce the alcohol sin tax over the course of eight years. “…We're losing a lot of sales tax,” Holmquist Newbry told KIRO Radio this morning, citing an increase in the number of of Washington residents who go out of state to buy alcohol. “This bill is actually expected to help Washington businesses generate $80 million in new business sales annually once the tax rate reaches 6.5 percent.”Holmquist Newbry’s PR campaign with this bill — which is sure to be popular with the masses — may be related to her next career move; She recently announced that she’ll be seeking the Congressional seat held, for now, by the soon-to-be-retired Doc Hastings. — H.B.O.

Cab alternatives have friends in high places

at 3:37pm by John Stang

As the City Council’s Committee for Taxi, For-hire, and Limousine Regulations prepares to (finally) make a decision that will somehow appease both the cab lobby and the rideshare/for-hire companies — and maybe limit the number of rideshare drives to 300 — celebs such as Macklemore and a couple of Seahawks have come to the defense of UberX, a lower-cost, on-demand car service that could be toast depending on where the committee comes down. GeekWire observed that Mack, musician Allen Stone, Golden Tate and even Sidney Rice have all jumped on the rideshare bandwagon, inveighing against driver caps. The committee's decision is due tomorrow. — H.B.O.

Tuesday 25 Feb, 2014

The That sinking viaduct feeling. Olympia tense over budget. Sen. Benton squawks at fellow Republicans.

Cleaning up at La Conner

at 4:46pm by Joe Copeland

The Department of Ecology finished raising all six sunken boats from a La Conner marina fire Tuesday afternoon, according to spokesperson Lisa Copeland. Those boats, plus another destroyed one, will be barged away and examined by investigators looking into the Friday afternoon fire that caused an estimated $1 million worth of damage. So far, Ecology officials say the fire caused no harm to wildlife. — C.H. 

More liquor sticker shock

at 4:46pm by Joe Copeland

The problem with rising liquor prices is back. According to the Department of Revenue, two years after the 2011 Initiative 1183 vote, we saw an 11 percent hike in the cost of booze. And we could see another spike at bars and restaurants, according to Associated Press. Why? Because I-1183 didn't allow for distributors to offer volume-based discounts to bar and restaurant owners. The Puget Sound Business Journal says prices could climb as much as 15 percent if the Legislature doesn't make changes in the law. The question hanging over our heads: How much are we willing to pay for that martini? — H.W.

Today in Olympia: Republican vs. Republicans 

at 4:46pm by Joe Copeland

Washington Senate Deputy Majority Leader Don Benton, R-Vancouver, scolded 14 House Republicans, including their leader Dan Kristiansen of Snohomish, for voting yes on a bill to tighten regulations on signature-gathering for initiatives. The bill is opposed by Mukilteo initiative promoter Tim Eyman. The House passed that bill 71-26 on Feb.17. It would require signature gatherers to register with the Washington Secretary of State. "I am deeply disturbed by your 'yes' vote on the Democrats' House Bill 2552  …," Benton wrote to his fellow Republicans on Tuesday. "HB 2552 is one of the most oppressive Big Government anti-initiative bills they've ever tried. And you voted for it!" The bill is now in the Senate Government Operations Committee, where Benton is vice chair.  — J.S. 

Dems seek more ed dollars

at 4:46pm by Joe Copeland

Senate Democrats unveiled a plan to put an extra $101 million into educational improvements as a way to comply with a state Supreme Court ruling and revive cost-of-living raises for teachers. Crosscut's John Stang reports that Dems would raise the millions by ending five tax breaks for businesses; we'll post a full story shortly. The Republican-dominated Senate Majority Coalition Caucus has a budget proposal with considerably less for education and no provision for teacher raises. Budget impasse, anyone? — J.C. 

Bertha and the Viaduct: Closer than ever?

at 4:46pm by Joe Copeland

The Washington State Department of Transportation advises citizens to chill about reports that the Alaskan Way Viaduct is settling farther into the ground. The sinking was anticipated in the planning process for boring the tunnel that will replace the nearby viaduct, WSDOT said in a statement Tuesday. Monitors detected ground settlement of as much as .4 inches, which is "well within" the limits set by engineers. And the department said it can do more to shore up the viaduct if need be. We hope. — J.C.

Monday 24 Feb, 2014

The Holdengate continued. Senate stiffs teachers. Preparing for a transit election.

Seattle's boom

at 4:59pm by Joe Copeland

Seattle's is adding population at a faster pace than its neighboring cities in suburban King County, The Seattle Times reports. Incredibly, notes the paper's FYI Guy Gene Balk, this is the first time Seattle has outpaced its neighbors in a century. The new census estimates cover the years 2010-2012.

Floating a gondola idea in Kirkland

at 4:59pm by Joe Copeland

In an effort to speed up mass transit improvements, the City of Kirkland is considering gondolas — a relatively low-cost option that could be up and running much more quickly than light rail, according to The Seattle Times. (And so much more romantic.) The comprehensive article by Alexa Vaughn notes that the unexpectedly high costs of Portland's gondola system initially scared some Kirklanders, but Oragon's difficulties were deemed an exception. If nothing else, the gondola idea could keep radio talk shows gainfully employed. On KIRO Radio 97.3 FM, Dori Monson immediately proclaimed, "This is the stupidest idea ever," suggested that we all get out of our cars and trains and gondolas and lose weight by walking. 

Metro Transit rescue

at 4:59pm by Joe Copeland

Members of the King County Council were holding a meeting this afternoon to discuss an April 22 public vote on a rescue for Metro Transit, which faces a possible 17 percent cut in services, and local roads. The measure would ask for public approval of a .1 percent sales tax and a new $60 annual fee on vehicles. The agenda for the Transportation Benefit District provides for a possible vote, but the council has until March 7 to get the measure on the ballot.

stiffs teachers

at 4:59pm by Joe Copeland

The Senate Majority Coalition Caucus unveiled a supplemental budget of $96 million on Monday afternoon. One key addition, according to Crosscut's John Stang, is $38 million for improving education but nothing for teachers. Gov. Jay Inslee has proposed $200 for education, including cost-of-living raises for teachers. John will have a full report shortly. 

Budget proposal

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Holdengate

at 4:59pm by Joe Copeland

Seattle Police have reinstated a misconduct finding against the officer who threatened Stranger editor Dominic Holden. At a hastily called press conference, Interim Police Chief Harry Bailey said he had "sent the wrong message" to the public when he dropped the original misconduct finding. Mayor Ed Murray, who had supported Bailey's initial reversal, sent out a statement saying "the buck stops with me." He said he directed Bailey to reinstate the finding, which goes on the officer's record, but he praised Bailey at length. Joel Connelly of seattlepi.com called the misstep "the new administration's first major embarrassment." Murray has been on the job since Jan. 1. A lot of critics thought then-new Mayor Mike McGinn's first stumble was the mid-January 2010 press conference where he announced plans for a seawall replacement without getting City Council members lined up to support him. So, Mayor Murray, join the club.

Friday 21 Feb, 2014

The Police controversy tweeting up. Inslee ponders bump in minimum wage. Railroads accept oil train precautions.

Oil by rail

at 4:14pm by John Stang

Railroads agreed Friday to voluntary measures that would improve the safety of oil train shipments. The measures include reducing speeds, stepping up track inspections and installing advanced braking systems on trains carrying 20 or more cars of crude oil. U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen praised the agreement, but said that more safety improvements are needed. He plans to meet with officials from cities and counties along Washington's rail corridors this week to hear their concerns. Seattle City Council held a hearing on oil train issues Friday afternoon. Here's our earlier story on cities' concerns. — J.C.

Ferries steeled for fuel savings

at 4:14pm by John Stang

You remember those three 64-car state ferries that tilted slightly to the side in their normal state, which was a bit embarrassing. To straighten two of them up ( the Salish and the Kennewick),  the Washington State Ferries poured tons of granular steel shot. Since then, both have worked better. According to reporter Jerry Cornfield of The Herald, the average fuel consumption on both vessels dropped from 83.7 gallons per hour in late 2012 to 71.7 gallons per hour in late 2013. That decline means $233,000 in savings over six months. The Chetzemoka is the next ballast candidate. — J.S. 

Is Inslee serious about minimum wage for state workers?

at 4:14pm by John Stang

Gov. Jay Inslee acknowledged Friday that he might at some point consider raising the minimum wage for workers employed on state contracts. That casual trial balloon was launched in response to a reporter's question at a Friday telephone press conference. Inslee said he might consider that approach, along with other possibilities, months down the road. Right now, a $12-per-hour-minimum wage bill by Rep. Jessyn Farrell, D-Seattle, is still stalled in the state House. Inslee is in Washington, D.C. , meeting with President Barack Obama, the nation's governors and several cabinet secretaries on a variety of subjects. The governor said Obama told him that his own underlying philosophy on minimum wage is that raising it would mean more spending by workers, which would benefit businesses. — J.S. 

Murray can't tweet police problem away

at 4:14pm by John Stang

Updated at 5:47 p.m.Mayor Ed Murray held a press conference Friday afternoon in an attempt to defuse mounting questions about police discipline decisions by his interim police chief, Harry Bailey. Murray said that Bailey had changed one disciplinary decision, substituting additional training for the punishment of a day without pay. Earlier, in response to questions on Twitter, Murray tweeted that Bailey was making an individual decision in the case of the officer who threatened to come to the Stranger's offices to harass news editor Dominic Holden. Responding to a message from Joel Connelly of seattlepi.com, Murray released a letter from Bailey telling top officials that retraining would be "far more productive" than punishment. Mid-afternoon, The Seattle Times' Steve Miletich reported that City Councilmember Tim Burgess has written a pointed note to Bailey.  — J.C.

Thursday 20 Feb, 2014

The 'McPoverty' protests spread across city. AG won't defend OR marriage ban. Viaduct traffic plummets.

Juvie records bill

at 4:33pm by Joe Copeland

A bill to keep the records of juvenile offenders confidential in most cases will go to a hearing at 10 a.m. Monday before the Senate Human Services & Corrections Committee. Under the bill by Rep. Ruth Kagi, D-Seattle, a juvenile's court file would be kept confidential, except in cases of serious violent offenses, sex offenses, first-  and second-degree assault of a child and several other categories. Washington is one of the few states that makes minor juvenile offenses public records — and even sells them — which often makes it difficult for reformed offenders to find jobs and housing. The House passed the bill 96-0. Crosscut has been covering this issue with stories here and also here. — J.S.

Unionizing part-timers at Seattle U.

at 4:33pm by Joe Copeland

The Service Employees International Union 925 said Thursday that non-tenure faculty at Seattle University are seeking to form a union. It's the latest in a series of efforts by increasingly large numbers of part-time or temporary faculty at public and private institutions to win greater protections and better wages. Seattle University has a statement on its website expressing concerns about union representation but detailing steps it has been taking to improve conditions for faculty.— J.C. 

Marshawn Lynch about to plea

at 4:33pm by Joe Copeland

Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch will plead guilty to reckless driving and prosecutors will drop a charge of driving under the influence, according to media reports. His agent tells USA Today that Lynch could have beaten the DUI charge but didn't want to go through a trial. — J.C. 

Don't weep for Bertha

at 4:33pm by Joe Copeland

Sightline's Clark Williams-Derry reports that traffic on the Alaskan Way Viaduct has dropped drastically since the state started its (currently stopped) tunnel project. He suggests four likely reasons for the decline (48,000 trips over three 3 years), including people moving to buses and a general decline in car traffic through downtown. There's also some shifting of vehicle traffic from the viaduct to I-5 and downtown streets. And because of delays associated with construction, some people have started consolidating trips, creating — bonus! — more efficient use of roads and cars. Williams-Derry's conclusion: "Seattle can survive, and even thrive, without a viaduct or a tunnel." So, if Bertha has reached her final resting place, as some skeptics fear, maybe that's not so bad after all. — J.C.

Courtesy of Sightline  

Police punishment reversed

at 4:33pm by Joe Copeland

Interim Police Chief Harry Bailey told The Seattle Times on Thursday that he erased a one-day suspension for an officer who had threatened news editor Dominic Holden of The Stranger. Bailey said the officer, who reacted when Holden stopped to watch police surround a man at the International District transit station, will instead receive additional training. Holden told The Times that the department has plenty of opportunities to improve training for the officer and others. King County recently fired a deputy who threatened to arrest Holden for taking pictures from the sidewalk, which is legal. — J.C. 

Oregon AG just can't defend marriage discrimination

at 4:33pm by Joe Copeland

Oregon's attorney general, Ellen Rosenblum, has told a federal court that she cannot defend the state's ban on same-sex marriage. As Joel Connelly describes it on seattlepi.com, her statement, filed Thursday, is "one more serious jolt" to the walls blocking full marriage equality. Rosenblum framed her decision in rather dry legal terms, saying Oregon's 2004 constitutional ban on gay marriage "cannot withstand a federal constitutional challenge under any standard of review." But since there's always a certain political risk in failing to defend a voter-approved provision to state law, her decision could also be seen as an act of conscience. — J.C. 

'McPoverty' protest

at 4:33pm by Joe Copeland

Activists took the $15 minimum wage campaign to local fast-food restaurants on Wednesday, calling for a boycott of places that pay workers less per hour. At a downtown event near the McDonald's at 3rd and Pine, some 50 to 60 marched, waving signs calling for a $15 per hour minimum wage in the city. "Supersize our wages now!" Socialist City Councilmember Kshama Sawant told the crowd, adding "We want more candidates who support workers and their needs." Other "Boycott McPoverty" events were held during the morning at Wendy's, Burger King and McDonald's outlets from Lake City to Ballard and Mount Baker. A late afternoon event was scheduled for West Seattle. — H.W. 

Wednesday 19 Feb, 2014

The New limits on pot profits. Burglars on film. Wyoming lawyers up to fight for coal port access.

Burglars on camera

at 3:38pm by Joe Copeland

Everyone wants to go viral, right? Except maybe the burglars who broke into the Federal Way home of Chris Beaver, who had recently installed a camera and sound system to watch and talk to his two pugs while he was at work. KIRO-TV reports Beaver's cell phone signaled him that there was activity inside the house; when he looked at his phone, he expected video of his pugs at play. Instead, a strange man and woman were ransacking his house. Fortunately, when the pair headed out with their haul, a crowd of Federal Way officers was waiting. — J.C.

Broadband: Portland scores

at 3:38pm by Joe Copeland

Seattleites hoping for local installation of the Google Fiber Internet service — or any other high speed broadband service — may be out of luck. The company announced 34 U.S. cities as possible sites for expansion, but Seattle wasn't one of them. Among the chosen were nine metro areas, including Portland, our neighbor to the south. The company hopes to bring the service to some of the areas by the end of the year. So, why not Seattle? Geekwire reached out to Google and got a vague statement about needing to "concentrate our efforts on just a few areas for now." — M.C.

Today in Olympia

at 3:38pm by Joe Copeland

  • A Senate oil transportation safety bill might be revived in the next three weeks before the current legislative session ends. Senate Republican Leader, Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, said Wednesday that the bill — which failed to make a 5 p.m. Tuesday deadline for a floor vote — could be resurrected. Maybe as an amendment to another bill. On Tuesday, the Democratic-controlled House passed its own oil-transportation safety bill, which is now in the Senate. The House bill confers more regulatory power on the state than the Republicans want. — J.S.  
  • State Rep.Janéa Holmquist Newbry, R-Moses Lake, moved her name from the "maybe" column to the "for sure" column Wednesday, announcing her candidacy to run for the 4th District congressional seat. Franklin County Commissioner Brad Peck and Franklin County farmer Clint Didier are also officially Republican candidates to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings. In addition, former Washington Agricultural  Director Dan Newhouse, state Sen. Sharon Brown of Kennewick, Gavin Seim of Ephtrata, and Kennewick attorney George Cicotte are exploring Republican candidacies. Independent Josh Ramirez is alson considering a run. — J.S.

You're suing Washington?

at 3:38pm by Joe Copeland

Wyoming might take Washington state to court in order to get its huge coal exports to Washington's ports. The Associated Press reported that the Wyoming Legislature has $500,000 in its draft state budget allocated for coal train legal fights. Washington is currently debating coal train and coal port issues. Montana has also threatened legal action, alleging that the Washington environmental review process could interfere with federal control of interstate commerce. — J.S. 

Pot growth 

at 3:38pm by Joe Copeland

The passage of I-502 and the legalization of marijuana will finally start to produce revenue for Washington state in mid-2015. A report released by the state Economic and Revenue Forecast Council on Wednesday predicts that the recreational marijuana market will bring close in to $190 million over the next four years, with $51 million expected in the first biennium. Crosscut's John Stang will write about the impact on the state budget. — M.C.

Pot limits

at 3:38pm by Joe Copeland

Potential pot growers in Washington may have to change their plans. The Washington State Liquor Control board has imposed new restrictions on the amount of marijuana that can be grown in the state. Growers now get just one license — as opposed to the three previously allowed — and production has been limited to just 70 percent of what growers had been promised, according to seattlepi.com. To put it in perspective, growers who had applied for three licenses with a total of 90,000 square growing feet are now getting one location of 21,000 square feet. Those who have already heavily invested in space for the new recreational marijuana market could be looking at huge financial disappointments. — M.C.

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