Tuesday 3 Jun, 2014 The Police hiring fight settled. Seattle teachers playing hooky? Rainier Valley might be getting taller. Seattle wins on police hiring dispute. For now. at 5:14pm by Joe Copeland A state official has tentatively decided in favor of letting Seattle's police chief have the authority to hire top brass from outside the city, The Seattle Times reports. The city recently approved an ordinance overturning the strange, decades-old ban on hiring of the top police command staff, which reports to the chief, from outside the department. The union representing police lieutenants and captains is already working on an amended complaint to state Public Employment Relations Commission. — J.C. Seattle at 5:14pm by Joe Copeland teachers playing hooky? at 5:14pm by Joe Copeland A new national study, which analyzed the attendance records of 234,000 teachers in 40 school districts, found that 41.3 percent of Seattle teachers were "frequently" or "chronically" absent from school. Teachers who missed an average of 11-17 school days annually were characterized as "frequently absent"; 18 days or more days was considered "chronically absent." The report counted professional development days and sick days among their absences.Still, Seattle fared better than its big-city neighbor, Portland, which ranked fourth among school districts for the highest rates of teacher absences, according to a USA Today report. “While these big city school districts are struggling to improve student achievement, they may be overlooking one of the most basic aspects of teacher effectiveness: every teacher being regularly on the job, teaching kids,” argued Kate Walsh, President of the National Council on Teacher Quality, the think tank that published the report.Theresa Wippel, a spokesperson for Seattle Public Schools, said the district will review the results with the teachers’ union, the Seattle Education Association, to see whether any new recommendations can be made based on the data. — M.L. Seattle police data praised at 5:14pm by Joe Copeland The Community Police Commission issued a statement on Tuesday saying that the Seattle Police Department should be commended for recently sharing raw data with them that showed declines in low-level crime enforcement. Some of the downward trends in the data coincided with the onset of Seattle's federally-mandated police reforms, fueling speculation that the reforms had caused officers to dial back their efforts to police proactively.The data, the commission said in the statement, "do not present any clear evidence of so-called 'de-policing.' " The statement said that "lower levels of citation and arrest in some areas may likely reflect the Department moving in directions that [Department of Justice], the CPC and many other community leaders have long called for: de-escalation of minor incidents, crisis intervention training for engaging mentally ill individuals, and community-based diversion of many quality of life-type offenses."The commission's statement also said that the information was erroneously being referred to as a "report," when it was in fact a "presentation." (A U.S. Attorney called the information a report last week when she criticized the way the department had released the data; media stories have as well.)"The Department certainly should be commended for its cooperation and transparency in producing and discussing these data with the CPC," the commission's statement said. "Without further analysis, no conclusions can be drawn from these data regarding the productivity of particular officers or squads or of the department as a whole." — B.L. Rainier Valley height rezoning bill advances in Council at 5:14pm by Joe Copeland A Seattle City Council committee on Tuesday passed a land rezoning bill, which would loosen height restrictions for buildings near the Mount Baker light rail station in the North Rainier Valley. The thorny piece of legislation has elicited strong views from both backers and opponents. If approved by the full council, the maximum allowable height would go from 65 feet to 125 feet — approximately 11 stories — on a parcel of land along Rainier Avenue South, where a Lowe's Home Improvement store is currently located. In areas to the south and west of that site, height restrictions would change from 65 to 85 feet.The bill passed 4-1 and is scheduled for a full Council vote on June 23. Council members Mike O'Brien, Sally Clark, Nick Licata and Tim Burgess voted for the bill. The no-vote came from Bruce Harrell, who introduced two motions during the committee meeting. One would have indefinitely delayed a vote on the so-called "up-zone," the other would have dropped the height restriction at the Lowe's land parcel to 85 feet from 125 feet. Both of Harrell's motions flopped.Opponents of the zoning changes said that easing height restrictions would allow for tall buildings that do not fit in with nearby single family homes, while also exacerbating parking problems in the neighborhood. They also argue that the rezone would open the door for new, low-income residential structures in an area that, they say, already has more than its fair share of subsidized and Section 8 housing.Supporters say that the rezone is needed to increase residential density along the light rail line, and to make the neighborhood more pedestrian friendly. The bill would also classify most of the rezoned land as "Seattle mixed," a designation that allows for a variety of residential, commercial and light industrial uses. Crosscut published an in-depth look at some of the issues surrounding the rezone back in December. You can find it here. — B.L. Portland sued over stolen car snafu at 5:14pm by Joe Copeland Erica Battles apparently cannot drive her own car off a used parking lot in Portland without being arrested, even though she has the title, ignition key and proof of insurance. When Battles’ car was stolen last year, apparently by a cousin of her boyfriend, she notified the police immediately, according to The Skanner, a newspaper and website in Portland.Her red Dodge Magnum SXT was found dumped at the side of a road a week later, but instead of notifying Battles that her vehicle had been found, the police let the car be towed away to an impound lot. Police as much as told KOIN television that the car wasn't listed as stolen because it was taken by a family member. It wasn't until Battles followed up with the DMV this year that she found her car, which was still registered to her, was sitting in a used car lot. So, theft by someone within the broadest definition of "family" doesn’t count as stealing to the Portland PD? An attorney working pro bono has filed a notice of a claim against the city. — E.W. Climate and security talk at 5:14pm by Joe Copeland The Henry M. Jackson Foundation and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory will host a discussion about the national security challenges of climate change Thursday afternoon. (The topic was also the subject of a Crosscut article this week.) The Jackson Foundation was created in 1983 to carry on the work of the late U.S. senator, Henry M. Jackson. The Everett native — who in 1976 made what remains the only serious run by a Washington native at a major party's nomination for president — was well known for his work on military and environmental issues.The Seattle discussion panel will include Captain Eric J. Trehubenko, Department of Defense, Deputy Director of the U.S. Navy’s Task Force on Climate Change, Larry Phillips, King County Council Chair and Jackson Foundation Board member, and Ian Kraucunas, Ph.d., Deputy Director of PNNL’s Atmospheric Sciences and Global Change Division. The event is at 1:30 at the offices of Perkins Coie, 1201 Third Ave. in Seattle; registration is here. — J.C. E.T., phone hospital at 5:14pm by Joe Copeland Tacoma's beloved walrus E.T. has fallen ill at Point Defiance Zoo with a recurring gastrointestinal infection. He was moved behind the scenes last week, according to The News Tribune. In 1982, E.T. was found by oil workers in Alaska. Back then, he was a starving orphan pup, but he quickly rose to fame as one of the main “talking” attractions at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. Check out the video below for a demonstration. Hint: You might want to keep the volume low when he does his whistle sound. — E.W.