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Tuesday 3 Jun, 2014

The Police hiring fight settled. Seattle teachers playing hooky? Rainier Valley might be getting taller.

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.

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. 

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. 

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.

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.

 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

at 5:14pm by Joe Copeland

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.

Monday 2 Jun, 2014

The $15 approved. Microsoft hires a former Google exec. Inslee likes climate action.

The key to your child’s future, in 20 minutes

at 4:17pm by John Stang

Turns out watching digital doodads doesn’t always rot your brain. University of Washington’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences has released free online videos that synthesize the institute’s latest research through demonstrations of playtime activities that can boost your little ones’ learning and development — before they apply to Harvard, or even enter pre-school. The institute released its first four online training modules in May and plans to create up to 60 over the next five years, according to a University of Washington press release. At 20 minutes a pop, the videos are the perfect length to fill time between carpools and nap times. (You can get directions for seeing their materials here.) — E.W.

4 climbers identified

at 4:17pm by John Stang

Authorities have now identified four of the six climbers who died on Mount Rainier over the weekend, The News Tribune reported. On Monday afternoon, they released the name of  Eitan Green, one of the Alpine Ascents International guides on the trip. The 28-year-old graduated in 2009 from Maine’s Colby College, where his senior honor’s thesis analyzed the global climbing community. Green was part of his college’s mountaineering club and a native of Massachusetts. Previously identified are Mark Mahaney of St. Paul, Minnesota, Alpine Ascents International guide Matt Hegeman and Microsoft employee John Mullally. Mahaney, 26, was an experienced climber and had climbed Mount Rainier previously. Hegeman, the lead guide, was a resident of Truckee, Calif. and described as philosophical with a good sense of humor. Mullally had been climbing for 20 years and before he left, he thanked his wife for the chance to climb Rainier's Liberty Ridge. — J.B.

Inslee: Bring on the climate action

at 4:17pm by John Stang

Gov. Jay Inslee praised the Obama administration's newly announced plan for reducing carbon emissions from power plants by 30 percent by 2030. "There have been no limits on carbon pollution — even though power plants are the single largest source of carbon pollution in the country," the governor said. "The approach announced by the President and EPA provides flexibility to states to create solutions that best fit their needs and spur innovation."Washington has one coal-fired power plant — the privately operated TransAlta facility in Centralia — which is scheduled to be phased out by 2025. Washington's legislative Democrats and Republicans have deadlocked so far on whether limits should be put on the state's carbon emissions, and on whether a cap-and-trade system should be installed. Inslee has set up an advisory group to look at these and other options in order to make recommendations late this year. Inslee is expected to make a big push on climate change in the 2015 legislative session, and he put in a plug for lawmakers to act, saying that the fires, shellfish problems and drought associated with warming will cost our state almost $10 billion per year after 2020, unless we take additional actions." — J.S.

The enemy enters Microsoft

at 4:17pm by John Stang

A Google executive is trading the multicolored logo of the California company, where he had recently worked, for yet another multicolored logo as he becomes Microsoft’s chief economist. Preston McAfee, who had been Google's director of strategic technologies, is taking the newly created economist position as part of the company's drive to better serve customers and the company's bottom line, according to a Microsoft blog posting this morning. The Microsoft statement stresses that McAfee had previously worked as "chief economist and research fellow for our search partner, Yahoo!, where he captured our attention by building a great team that became well known for doing interesting research while ensuring it was impacting current products." — E.W.

Seattle council approves $15 minimum wage  

at 4:17pm by John Stang

Seattle becomes the first major city to take effective action in addressing income inequality by adopting a $15 minimum wage. After Mayor Ed Murray signs the ordinance passed unanimously by the City Council, the action will go into effect April 1, 2015 with a minimum wage of $10 or $11 per hour depending on employer size. Washington state’s minimum wage is currently $9.32 per hour. Approximately 13.6 percent of Seattle’s community lives below the poverty level and 24 percent of Seattle’s hourly workers make $15 per hour or less. Seattle councilmembers applauded the historic move as a step towards progress in ending income inequality and giving minorities and women a fair chance to succeed. — J.B.

Friday 30 May, 2014

The GOP jockey changes horses. Hansen clings to hoop dreams. Bad news for life on Earth.

Will there ever not be a mess around Mercer?

at 3:46pm by Floyd McKay

As if the Mercer Corridor weren’t already a terrible cluster of traffic jam terror, the Seattle Department of Transportation announced yesterday that a section of Broad St. — between I-5 and Seattle Center — will be permanently closed starting Sunday evening. Using “alternate routes” is advised as the number of vehicles going East on Mercer St. will balloon. On the bright side, Mercer St. will be opened for the first time to two-way traffic between I-5 and lower Queen Anne. For a detailed breakdown of upcoming traffic changes in your futile quest for a quick commute, check the Department of Transportation’s website. — K.H.

Morrow Coalport on hold - again

at 3:46pm by Floyd McKay

Developers of the Coyote Island Terminal, a coal export facility on the Columbia River upstream of Portland, remain stuck in regulatory quicksand. Oregon’s Department of State Lands is delaying once again (until Aug. 18, at least) its decision on allowing the proposed terminal developers to build on submerged or submersible state-owned lands. This delay marks the seventh postponement in a process that began back in 2012, the same year facility developer Ambre Energy predicted the terminal would be operational in 2014.Some of the extensions were requested by Ambre and some by the state; the latest was mutually agreed upon because of the need for additional fisheries data. (The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also have permit authority.) If permitting goes forward, about 8 million tons of coal a year would arrive by rail at Port of Morrow, where it would be stored before being barged downstream to St. Helens, west of Portland, for transfer to ocean-going ships. Gov. John Kitzhaber had set May 31 deadline for a Coyote Island decision. — F.M.

Cliff Mass: A stunner of a weekend

at 3:46pm by Floyd McKay

Bring forth the water wings and SPF! In the one upside of bad climate news, northwest cult weather hero Cliff Mass tells KPLU that this is going to be the kind of weekend that keeps Seattleites from mass migrating to California every winter. He predicts temperatures will be in the low-to-mid 70s all weekend long. Enjoy it while it lasts, because Mass is also predicting the eventual onset of Juneuary. "I suspect the coastal areas will see a big piece of the June Gloom certainly early in the week," he said. — B.A.

(Sorry kids)

at 3:46pm by Floyd McKay

If the last IPCC report didn't cause you to trade in your coffee sweetener for qualudes, this one surely will: A landmark study by the journal Science, published Thursday, reported that plant and animal species are now disappearing about 10 times faster than scientists originally believed. An AP article picked up by the Seattle Times today called Stuart Pimm, the lead author of the study, a "noted biologist" at Duke University. "We are on the verge of the sixth extinction," Pimm told AP reporter Seth Borenstein, from his research base in the Dry Tortugas. "Whether we avoid it or not will depend on our actions." — B.A.

Friday downer

at 3:46pm by Floyd McKay

Alcohol emergencies rise

at 3:46pm by Floyd McKay

The downside to Washington's privatization of hard liquor retail? The News Tribune reports that emergency rooms are seeing an uptick in the number of alcohol-related visits, according to preliminary results from a report released by the state Liquor Control Board. Researchers saw 50 percent more alcohol-related visits to emergency rooms in King County between June and September 2013.Among underaged Medicaid enrollees, there were nearly 400 more visits than expected. So where are kids getting access to alcohol? Compliance checks show that private liquor stores sell to minors 6-9 percent of the time, which isn't remarkably different than the 7 percent of minors who could purchase alcohol at compliance checks of state-run liquor stores. Instead, researchers say there seems to be an increase in alcohol theft among minors, although they haven't yet established firm numbers. — M.L.

From Silicon to Seattle: A quest for a healthier kind of innovation

at 3:46pm by Floyd McKay

Why did Jordan Ritter, Napster co-founder and Silicon Valley resident since 1999, make the move to Seattle last fall? “There is room for growth that I don’t think exists in Silicon Valley right now,” Ritter told Geekwire’s John Cook in a candid interview. “[San Francisco] is a crammed city, a crammed area…I sense the experience of pressure building up.”Crosscut likes Seattle’s “spaciousness” Seattle too. So much so that we’ve launched our first Community Idea Lab — a new kind of community problem-solving journalism, focused on how we can use the Seattle area’s tech boom as an asset to create an equitable and integrated city. In fact, our idea contest ends TODAY, so be sure — while contemplating what makes Seattle so spacious for innovative solutions — to send us yours.Ritter’s new company, Ivy Softworks, is also worth checking out, mostly for its approach to changing start-up culture. Tired of models that lose innovators after about three years, Ritter is experimenting with creating teams of entrepreneurs that stick together for the long-term: “A good idea with a bad team fails 100 percent of the time,” says Ritter. “A great team with a terrible idea has a chance of a succeeding.” — K.H.

Seattle NBA could rise again

at 3:46pm by Floyd McKay

Investor and Sonicsgate darling Chris Hansen is not giving up on bringing Seattle an NBA team. At least not according to a statement Hansen posted on his website yesterday after former partner Steve Ballmer dropped a cool $2B on the L.A. Clippers. Hansen congratulated Ballmer on his "apparent successful bid", saying he'd make "a great owner and a strong asset for the league." Then he got serious. "I would also like to assure Seattle fans that my remaining partners and I remain committed to bringing the NBA back to Seattle. The environmental review process for the Seattle Arena is nearing completion and we will soon be in a strong position to attract a franchise back to the Emerald City.​" — B.A.

GOP's prize jockey lands in Federal Way

at 3:46pm by Floyd McKay

Keith Schipper, the Republican campaign honcho behind Rodney Tom's state senate re-election campaign, is now running Republican Mark Miloscia's campaign against Democrat Shari Song for the 30th District senate seat. The race in that district, which spans the Federal Way area, is considered wide-open and could be the key to control of the Washington State Senate in 2015. In addition to Tom's successful re-election campaign, Schipper was behind Republican Rep. Jan. Angel's victory over Democratic Sen. Nathan Schlicher in 2013, which bumped up the Senate Majority Coalition's advantage to 26-23. — J.S.

Thursday 29 May, 2014

The Sonics' dream screwed. Council votes for $15 wage. Obesity growing and growing.

Echo at Olympic Sculpture Park

at 4:55pm by Joe Copeland

Crews today put the final touches on the installation and landscaping for Spanish artist Jaume Plensa's startling new "Echo" on the waterfront at the Olympic Sculpture Park. Seattle Art Museum spokeswoman Cara Egan says the impression is startling and already popular with passersby, who are sending out cellphone photo images that look Photoshopped. Until you can get there, here's an image shot for SAM by Benjamin Benschneider, one of the region's renowned photographers. — J.C.

I-5 traffic jam likely caused caused by a chain dangling from truck

at 4:55pm by Joe Copeland

All that commuter misery this morning apparently stemmed from a chain dangling from a truck. Officials told The Seattle Times that the chain got caught on an expansion joint in the southbound lanes of I-5 near Holgate Street and pulled up a 10-12 foot long section of the joint's protective steel plate. The joints, which are inspected weekly, allow highways and bridges to expand and contract with temperature changes. Damaged and aging joints are a known hazard on I-5. The Times’ ace transportation reporter Mike Lindblom wrote that he had seen a protective plate pop up nearly 3 feet as a truck passed before dropping back down — also on southbound I-5 near the site of today’s trouble. — J.B.

Police reform lawsuit

at 4:55pm by Joe Copeland

More than 120 Seattle police officers have filed suit against the mayor, the police department and the U.S. Attorney General, among others, contending that the city's policies on the use of force are so restrictive as to constitute a danger to police and the public. The city and the U.S. Department of Justice agreed to the policies and related training as part of the ongoing police reform effort. U.S. Attorney for Western Washington Jenny Durkan told reporters this afternoon that the suit is "without merit." Crosscut's Bill Lucia will have a full story later.  — J.C.

Obesity: We're not alone

at 4:55pm by Joe Copeland

A University of Washington-led study shows that obesity has become a worldwide epidemic, with some 37 percent of adults around the globe overweight or obese. In developing countries, the rates of obesity are rising rapidly, but the increases in the richest countries have slowed. But the Los Angeles Times notes that the United States remains special: It has more obese people than any other single country. — J.C.

$15 minimum wage

at 4:55pm by Joe Copeland

In a preliminary vote, the Seattle City Council today unanimously favored imposing a phased-in $15 minimum wage beginning next year. Meeting as a committee, the council voted 4-to-3 to approve an amendment to delay the hike three months into the year, until April 1, 2015. Under the approved version, most companies of 500+ would have three years to phase in the full $15 minimum wage. Smaller businesses and non-profits would have seven years.Since two members were absent, the delay could theoretically be dropped when the measure comes to a final vote on Monday. Minimum Wage and Income Inequality Committee Chair Sally Clark said the extra time will let businesses adapt better to the wage. The council also voted to allow exceptions for teens, people in training programs and disabled workers and to toughen enforcement provisions. —J.C.

Ballmer gets ... another team

at 4:55pm by Joe Copeland

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has just won a bidding war to buy the Los Angeles Clippers, outbidding all rivals with a record-setting $2 billion bid, according to the Los Angeles Times. The next highest bid that the paper mentioned was $1.6 billion. The Times didn't identify its sources for the report and said that the tentative deal with Clippers co-owner Shelly Sterling still must receive approval from her husband, Donald Sterling, and other NBA owners. The news could hardly be worse for those who hope to see a new version of the Seattle Sonics, since Ballmer had been identified as a key part of hedge fund manager Chris Hansen's group seeking a franchise here. — J.C.

Wednesday 28 May, 2014

The Review of police shooting. Patty Murray points to VA cost-cutting. More help for aerospace efforts.

Bodies recovered in plane crash

at 4:54pm by Joe Copeland

Ward Zimmerman, an 86-year-old Seattle man, sat beside his brother and fellow pilot Robert for many long-distance flights, reaching as far as South America. Ward Zimmerman and his 84-year-old brother, who was from Alabama, were still in their small plane's seats when their bodies were airlifted off a Wyoming mountain Tuesday, according to the Seattle Times. The brothers had embarked on a leisurely trip across the country for several weeks before crashing May 6 after taking off from Cody, Wyoming. The wreckage was found on May 12 but recovery efforts were postponed due to avalanche danger. — E.W. 

Congressional bill: happier oysters, healthier oceans?

at 4:54pm by Joe Copeland

First term Democratic Congressman Derek Kilmer’s solution to combatting ocean acidification drew co-sponsorship from Republican U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, according to The News Tribune. Kilmer has proposed that federal agencies devote existing dollars allocated to ocean acidification research to competitions for prizes, which he thinks will encourage investment of more private dollars toward solving the acidification problem. Kilmer estimates that the bill could generate four to 10 times more value than the amount of the prize, up to $50 million for a $5 million prize. The federal government currently spends about $30 million a year on conventional research grants.Ocean acidification, a phenomenon caused by rising carbon dioxide emissions which scientists link to climate change, threatens many Pacific Ocean dwellers. Kilmer and Herrera Beutler have both pointed to the potential benefits for the local seafood industry from resolving problems stemming from acidification. — E.W.

Manufacturing: Going up?

at 4:54pm by Joe Copeland

The Obama administration today selected the Puget Sound area as one of 12 centers where it hopes to increase production and exports by manufacturers with targeted federal support and opportunities to apply for federal grants. The main focus here will be in training for aerospace work and in identifying opportunities for aerospace supplies. Gov. Jay Inslee welcomed the designation, saying, “Aerospace provides one thing that fewer and fewer industries can offer: large numbers of high-paying manufacturing jobs." — J.C.

Sen. Patty Murray blames our cost-cutting for VA troubles

at 4:54pm by Joe Copeland

Instead of pointing fingers at Veterans Administration Secretary Eric Shinseki over reports of secret waiting lists at VA hospitals across the nation, Sen. Patty Murray points to a political culture requiring cost-cutting. Murray told Yahoo News that the cost-cutting atmosphere has led VA leaders to consistently mislead themselves and the government about how much money they actually need to care for veterans. Murray suggests that the problem is not a flawed prediction of health services, but a “deliberate downsizing” of budget requests due to Congress’ austerity approaches. While pointing to the political culture, Murray also said she has told every VA secretary to give the Congress the truth about how much funding it needs. That might not be a good sign for Shinseki, who faces calls for his resignation from increasing numbers of senators and representatives in both parties. — J.B.

Inquest in police shooting

at 4:54pm by Joe Copeland

King County Executive Dow Constantine today ordered a jury inquest into a January fatal shooting by a Seattle police officer. The shooting claimed the life of 36-year-old Andrew Law, who was reportedly pointing a replica gun at passersby in the SoDo district on Jan. 20. Police said he pointed it at them after they arrived on the scene; police later determined he had a replica gun rather than an actual weapon. Constantine said the review is routine, with all shootings involving an officer subject to an inquest under a standing executive order. ""Inquests provide transparency into law enforcement actions so the public may have all the facts," according to a statement from his office. A King County District Court judge will empanel a six-person jury and conduct the inquest. — J.C. 

Tuesday 27 May, 2014

The Support for preschool. Bait and switch on warming. Mental health documents lead to arrest.

Spokane, meet Seattle

at 3:55pm by Joe Copeland

Delta Airlines is going to start Seattle-Spokane service in November, beginning with four daily roundtrips. It's part of a package of service additions at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport that Delta announced this morning, including two roundtrips a day to Calgary. The Spokesman-Review reports that Spokane's only scheduled service to Seattle has been on Alaska Airlines since Southwest dropped its flights between the cities more than two years ago. Also on Tuesday, Alaska announced it will use larger planes on some of its Seattle-Spokane flights, adding additional passenger capacity.   — J.C. 

Gates-to-Gates giving drops

at 3:55pm by Joe Copeland

Bill Gates has reduced his donations to his favorite charity, but his foundation's philanthropic gates are far from closed. In fact, the cutback in his personal donations apparently reflects the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's growth, which has challenged its ability to give away money at the pace required by law, according to The New York Times. To maintain its tax-exempt status, the foundation, now worth $40.2 billion, must spend 5 percent of its assets on grants and expenses annually.Another factor has been the size of Warren Buffet's donations to the Foundation. Buffet has given $13 billion since 2006. and his gifts require that the full dollar amount be spent each year. A looming issue: When Buffet dies, the remainder of the stock he pledged, now worth $42.1 billion, will likely flood into the foundation at a faster rate, accelerating its required annual spending. Talk about money problems. — E.W. 

Mental health documents provide key to arrest

at 3:55pm by Joe Copeland

Mental health treatment documents helped lead police to arrest a man in connection with the bizarre case of a body found in a shopping cart last week. Checking on a report about suspicious activity by a trash can in the Othello neighborhood on Wednesday, police found a shopping cart with the body of 49-year-old Daryl Ford. They also found a backpack with documents from Sound Mental Health containing the name of a 46-year-old man. Police are holding that the 46-year-old, who may have been arrested as many as 30 times in the past decade, according to a seattlepi.com report. — J.C. 

Yachts: Going big

at 3:55pm by Joe Copeland

It's cruise ship season for those who want to float through vacation, but it's also playtime for the super rich who own humongous yachts and stop here on the way to Alaska. The Puget Sound Business Journal's Patti Payne reports says that moorage costs here and along the West Coast are less than half of the daily charges on the Mediterranean (which apparently could be a consideration for those considering the classic dilemma: Shall we spend August in Seattle or Santorini?). Payne says that at least several dozen large yachts will stop here on the way up the coast for food, maintenance and repairs. And maybe to install solar panels to avoid ramping up the yacht owners' global-warming profiles? — J.C. 

Climate bait and switch

at 3:55pm by Joe Copeland

The term "climate change" inserted itself into political messaging during George W. Bush's presidency, ostensibly as a less politically divisive term for global warming, but a new study out of Yale's School of Forestry and Environmental Studies has found it communicates the urgency of the problem less effectively. The term "global warming," the study found, was associated with a greater certainty that man-made global warming is a real scientific consensus and caused more intense worry and willingness to take action.That's probably no surprise to GOP messaging guru Frank Luntz, who advised the Bush administration to swap out the two terms in a memo where he also urged further obfuscation of climate sciences. He's also the bold pioneer responsible for introducing the term "energy exploration" as a replacement for "oil drilling." — B.A.

Preschool support

at 3:55pm by Joe Copeland

There's almost universal support for univeral preschool funding in Seattle, at least among parents. That's one finding from a new survey presented to Seattle City Council this morning as part of its preparation for a possible ballot measure asking the public to support preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds in the city. Among the parents, 96 percent agree with the idea that all families should have access to preschool for their children, regardless of income. The survey also found that cost is the second largest factor for not placing children in preschool or daycare. Thirty percent of parents who do not use out-of-home care cited cost as the reason. The only bigger reason was wanting to stay at home with their children or not needing daycare. The council's Committee on Preschool for All will hold a public hearing at 5:30 p.m. at Jefferson Community Center, 3801 Beacon Ave. S. — J.C. 

Friday 23 May, 2014

The Holiday travel stats. Cable use down in Seattle. Amazon blocks sales of Bezos book. Canada's at-risk salmon.

Broadband plea

at 3:38pm by Joe Copeland

A Beacon Hill video blogger, Brett Hamil, is fed up enough with poor Internet service that he wants the city of Seattle to get moving on long-discussed municipal broadband. Hamil thinks he deserves a level of service close to the national averages for a reasonable price. That's setting bar kinda high, Brett. What's next? Catching up to more advanced countries like Korea? — J.C.

Shellfish relief

at 3:38pm by Joe Copeland

China has lifted a five-month ban on imports of geoducks and other West Coast shellfish, which had hit Washington state producers particularly hard. China had said it found unacceptably high levels of the paralytic shellfish poisoning biotoxin, and then raised concerns about arsenic levels. Growers said the levels reported by China were far below the thresholds for health concerns, and other Asian countries continued to import shellfish from Western states, according to Associated Press. Gov. Jay Inslee issued a statement thanking state officials and several federal agencies that had worked to resolve China's concerns. — J.C.

Portland: Boil your water

at 3:38pm by Joe Copeland

Portland officials today ordered residents to boil their city water before drinking it or using it for food preparation, making ice or brushing your teeth after E-coli showed up in routine water sampling. At a noon time press conference, an official said he had "every expectation" the city would be able to life the order on Saturday. Officials said they are still checking on the possible sources of contamination. The school system stayed open but told students and staff not to use the drinking fountains; bottled water was being delivered to schools. With the holiday travel, expect hotels to be handing out bottled water like crazy, too.  — J.C.

Mind your fish, Canada!

at 3:38pm by Joe Copeland

It seems wild salmon in British Columbia aren't getting the support they deserve, and the Commission for Environmental Cooperation wants to know why. The NAFTA-established watchdog group wants a formal investigation into why Canada isn’t effectively enforcing its own Fisheries Act, which aims to keep harmful pollutants, viruses and parasites out of waterways used by wild salmon. The culprits are the Norwegian industrial salmon farms setting up feedlots along wild salmon migration routes and releasing chemical nasties that pollute the water and kill the fish. Apparently, Canada’s own Cohen Commission recommended relocating these farms, but the commission never pushed for the change, and gave no reason for backing off. Fishy business. — K.L.

Skagit, say what???!!!

at 3:38pm by Joe Copeland

Remember when that Canadian truck and its oversized load clipped a steel truss on the I-5 Skagit River Bridge and kerplunk! the bridge and three cars went swimming? Well, that was a year ago, and according to the The Tacoma News Tribune the state still doesn’t have a good way to alert drivers to the clearance heights for each of the state’s 3,100 bridges. WSDOT wants to create an interactive map. You know, click a bridge, get a clearance. But there are two obstacles in the way. First, WSDOT needs to double check all the clearance heights. “Some of them haven’t been updated in 20 years,” WSDOT bridge engineer Chris Keegan told TNT. Then the department has to find some funding. No money, no map. — M.B.

The end of cable?

at 3:38pm by Joe Copeland

Look out, Comcast. According to Seattle’s 2014 Information Technology Access and Adoption report, your subscription base is shrinking. Cable TV subscribers are down 13 percent since 2009, based on the intel from 2,686 residents surveyed, and the downward spiral is even worse with the 18- to 25-year-old, aka customers of tomorrow, crowd. Only 48 percent of Millennials are cable subscribers, compared to 74 percent of Seattle’s (65 and up) seniors. Fully 75 percent of 18-25-year-olds surveyed by phone – and 86 percent queried online – said they watch their favorite TV shows on the web (YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, etc.). So it’s probably not surprising that roughly 46 percent of those surveyed are at least somewhat likely to abandon their cable TV service within the next five years. Gulp. — M.B.

Amazon won't sell book about Bezos

at 3:38pm by Joe Copeland

As of last night, Amazon has stopped selling the paperback edition of The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon. Author Brad Stone’s book exposed some of Amazon’s heavy-handed publishing tactics. The retail giant is currently locked in contract negotiations with Stone’s publisher, Hachette Book Group, the smallest of New York’s top five houses. Last week, Amazon started delaying shipment of Hachette books and blocking preorder buttons for the publisher’s new novels. (Amazon is also delaying books published by the German company Bonnier in another dispute.)According to The New York Times, Wall Street is pressuring Amazon to boost profits, which is prompting the hardball tactics. But hardball is the Amazon way. This isn’t the first time the e-tail giant has punished publishers during heated price talks. In 2012, it pulled over 4,000 titles from its Kindle Store during a battle with the Independent Publishing Group. In 2010, Amazon blocked purchases of Macmillan’s e-books. — M.L.

Holiday travel alerts

at 3:38pm by Joe Copeland

With the holiday weekend upon us, the weather has returned to normal (as in cloudy and rainy) and all the usual travel alerts (crowded ferries, jammed freeways) and pleas (safe driving) are out. WSDOT was quick to remind this morning's weekend travelers, lulled by a week's worth of sunshine, that rain really does cause slick highways. 

Your weekend weather report: But there could be more inviting choices to the East. — J.C.

Thursday 22 May, 2014

The Stressing about minimum wage details. Food and ethics clash at Sea-Tac. 787 battery tests faulted.

Seattle's growth spurt

at 4:41pm by hailey way

U.S. Census figures show the city of Seattle's population is growing faster than any other major city in the country,  according to The Seattle Times' FYI Guy, Gene Balk. Austin, Texas held the highest single-year growth rate the last few years. Seattle took Boston’s place as the 21st most populous city nationally. — H.W. 

Mercer Island mail suspect takes the plunge

at 4:41pm by hailey way

A fleeing suspect was treated for hypothermia after he jumped into Lake Washington early Thursday morning. Police were called to Clarice Apartments on Mercer Island at 2 a.m., where a suspicious duo (man and woman) was attempting to break into locked mail boxes, according to the Mercer Island Reporter. The caller had used his own car to prevent the couple from leaving the scene while officers were en route. The female suspect was immediately arrested but the man fled on foot. State troopers found him two hours later on the I-90 bridge. When they approached the suspect, he leapt into the chilly Lake Washington waters. He didn’t get very far, but it was 30 minutes before Seattle Harbor Patrol dragged him from the water. Both suspects will reportedly be booked on multiple felony charges after a search of their vehicle turned up bundles of stolen mail. — K.L.

787 batteries: More testing?

at 4:41pm by hailey way

The National Transportation Safety Board today called for development of new tests to more thoroughly check the safety of the Boeing 787X Dreamliner's advanced lithium-ion batteries. The board also criticized the Federal Aviation Administration for failing to involve outside engineers in the development of the initial testing of the batteries, according to The New York Times. — J.C. 

Food fight at Sea-Tac

at 4:41pm by hailey way

Workers who help prepare in-flight meals at Sea-Tac have been given the go-ahead by the state Supreme Court to sue their employer over dietary deceptions. For security reasons, Gate Gourmet prohibits its employees from bringing their own meals to work. Instead, it provides workers one “healthful meal” a day. The problem, claim the workers, is that meals don’t always comply with their religious and ethical dietary restrictions. For example, employees charge that "turkey" meatballs are secretly made of pork and beef and vegetarian dishes contain animal byproducts. Washington's High Court today overturned a lower-court dismissal of the case; the justices said that state anti-discrimination law “includes a duty to reasonably accommodate an employee's religious practices." — K.L.

Minimum wage: Trouble?

at 4:41pm by hailey way

With reports of the potential failure of Mayor Ed Murray's proposal for a $15 minimum wage, a Seattle City Council committee held a lengthy session to study the mayor's approach. Councilmember Sally Clark, who chairs the Committee on Minimum Wage and Income Inequality, sought to play down suggestions that the mayor's compromise is unraveling. Council's questions and exploration of changes to his suggested legislation are a normal part of the process. "This is what we get paid to do," Clark said. But, as Publicola reports, labor leaders are already troubled by the possibility of a two-tiered payment system where businesses get to pay lower wages to teenagers and some trainees. If that's going to happen, labor leaders want the council to compensate by introducing alternative, worker-friendly changes to the mayor's plan. During the meeting, Councilmember Kshama Sawant noted that Murray had added the training wage language without any recommendation from the advisory committee that helped him on the issue. Let the fun begin. — J.C. 

Wednesday 21 May, 2014

The Obama honors Seahawks. Bridge tolls going up. Dan Lewis signing off.

GMO bans voted in Oregon

at 11:12am by Joe Copeland

2:45 p.m. Voters in two largely rural Oregon counties on Tuesday approved bans on growing genetically modified crops within their borders. The vote in Jackson County, which includes Medford and Ashland, ran nearly 66 percent in favor of the ban. Voters in neighboring Josephine County also voted in favor of a ban, but their measure is considered vulnerable to a legal challenge. Work on Josephine County's ban came after the state Legislature prohibited local governments from banning genetically engineered crops. The Jackson County ban was in the works early enough that it's not covered by the new state law.

Seattle transit plan: Not regional

at 11:12am by Joe Copeland

3:02 p.m. Metro Transit General Manager Kevin Desmond tells KIRO Radio that a proposal to fund extra bus service in Seattle is intriguing and could provide a short-term Band-Aid for some of the expected service cuts. But he said, "We need a regional solution." What would that be? There has been talk of other cities also picking up the type of revenue package that Mayor Ed Murray is proposing: a small sales tax hike and an increase in the cost of annual car tabs. But voters in almost every city except Seattle overwhelmingly rejected those funding sources when a countywide transit-and-roads package went down to defeat last months. 

Dan Lewis' final night as anchor

at 11:12am by Joe Copeland

KOMO TV's Dan Lewis is anchoring the evening news tonight for the final time before stepping down after more than 25 years of outstanding work. When he was honored Saturday with the Western Washington Society of Professional Journalists lifetime achievement award, Lewis said he had never sought to be a TV star. His real goal, he said, was just to be a journalist — a star one at that. In his acceptance speech, he talked about having the feeling that he was walking arm in arm with the audience as he and viewers took in some of the more shocking news stories. Lewis acknowledged that it might sound odd; actually, it came off as utterly authentic and devoted to the people of the region. 

Tolls going ... where else ... up?

at 11:12am by Joe Copeland

The Washington State Department of Transportation said today that tolls will go up July 1 for both the Highway 520 floating bridge across Lake Washington and the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. WSDOT said the 520 tolls, which vary by time of day and whether motorists have automatically billed passes, will increase roughly 2.5 percent in each category. Tacoma Narrows tolls are going up by 25 cents for each billing category. Cash tolls are on the rise too, from $5.25 to $5.50 (tolls are only collected on eastbound trips). (This item has been updated since it first appeared to correct an error in the percentage of increase.)

Obama greets Hawks

at 11:12am by Joe Copeland

It's a White House ritual: The president honors the winners of major sports championships. And the Seahawks were at the House today for a visit. Round after round applause greeted team members as they made their way to the rostrum. As the President Obama began to talk, he referred to the team as "quiet and reserved." Uh-huh.Obama gave nice shoutouts to individual members of the team for overcoming adversities and contributing to the community, and he hailed the 12s' support for the team while joking about the engineering and design behind the noise at CenturyLink: "You all have that is kind of cheating because it is so loud." 

Tuesday 20 May, 2014

The Mary Yu joins state court. Feds don't want water turned into pot. EU irked by Boeing's 787X tax breaks.

Metro Transit: A different idea

at 4:30pm by Joe Copeland

Seattle businesses would pay a tax of up to $18 annually on each employee as a way to help fund bus service under a proposal from City Councilmembers Nick Licata and Kshama Sawant. The plan also includes a hike on the tax rate for commercial parking lots (from the current 12.5 percent to 17.5 percent). Licata and Swant offered their plan as a replacement for the 0.1 percent sales tax increase in Mayor Ed Murray's bus funding proposal. The mayor also wants a $60 vehicle license fee for Seattle motorists, which the Licata-Sawant proposal would leave in place. The revenue would preserve much of the city bus service threatened by Metro Transit cuts.Licata and Sawant say the sales tax is more regressive than their proposals. "At first blush you're thinking, 'oh my gosh there's another tax on business,'" Licata said. "But we don't say that when there's another tax on people." They also say that the council and mayor could approve their revenue sources, leaving only the car tab measure to go up for a  public vote. King County voters shot down a ballot initiative in April that was similar to Murray's plan, but the measure received strong support within the city.The Downtown Seattle Association issued a statement pooh-poohing the Licata-Sawant proposal. "A city tax on jobs sends the wrong message." said the statement, adding "Seattle already is one of the most expensive cities in the nation with respect to parking.” Resonding on Tuesday, Licata said, "It's always going to be expensive." The Seattle City Council imposed a per employee tax in 2006, but repealed it in 2009, during the recession. Licata said that many of the complaints over the tax at that time focused on the paperwork involved, something he and Sawant would try to limit this time around by eliminating exemptions.  — B.L.This report has been updated to correct the name of an organization.

EU vs. Washington state tax breaks

at 4:30pm by Joe Copeland

The European Union is weighing a possible challenge to the tax breaks Washington gave Boeing to assure its 787X would be built in the state. The Herald notes that some tax break opponents had warned that the EU would complain to the World Trade Organization. The WTO has previously ruled that both Boeing and Airbus receive illegal subsidies. At some point, the WTO could allow the EU to impose financial sanctions on U.S. imports.  — J.C.

Pot and Doritos

at 4:30pm by Joe Copeland

Sgt. Sean Whitcomb is back in action at the Seattle Police Department's public affairs unit. Whitcomb went incommunicado in recent months after another officer reportedly filed an internal complaint against him. The complaint, according to a KUOW story early this year, claimed that Whitcomb created a hostile work environment after the other officer declined to participate in the police department's nationally noted Doritos giveaway at last year's Hempfest. The bags of Doritos had labels designed to educate people about Initiative 502, which legalized recreational marijuana use.On Monday, Whitcomb was at the Mayor's Office shuttling reporters in and out of interviews with Seattle's new police chief nominee, Kathleen O'Toole. He confirmed that he is once again available to respond to media inquires but he offered no further details. Also on hand at the O'Toole interview session was former Seattle Times reporter, Andrew Garber, who the police department recently hired as a senior media adviser. — B.L.  

Pot and water

at 4:30pm by Joe Copeland

The federal Bureau of Reclamation, which supplies much of the irrigation water in the West, is doing its part to keep America from wasting precious water on marijuana. The bureau issued a statement saying it would not allow any of its water to be used to grow pot, because the 1970 federal Controlled Substances Act prohibits growing what was then sometimes referred to as mary-jo-wanna. Fortunately, as the Puget Sound Business Journal reports, the state Department of Ecology says there are a number of ways for farms east of the Cascades, where the bureau is a big player, to get water for irrigation without the bureau's involvement. Whew: We wouldn't want the feds to keep Eastern Washington from its rightful share of the state's legal marijuana industry. — J.C.

Mary Yu sworn in

at 4:30pm by Joe Copeland

Longtime King County Superior Court Judge Mary Yu today became Justice Mary Yu, the state Supreme Court's first openly gay member. Gov. Jay Inslee appointed her to fill the vacancy created by the health-related resignation of Justice Jim Johnson. No opponents filed to run against Yu, so — barring some kind of unlikely write-in campaign — she will serve the remaining two years of Johnson's term. In a statement today, Inslee said, "Justice Yu will be a great addition to the court, with years of experience as a trial judge that have grounded her in the everyday effects of our justice system." According to Associated Press, Yu is only the sixth woman justice and the second with a minority ethnic background. — J.C.

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