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Monday 30 Jun, 2014

The Ancient and modern baby booms. Adoptees get information. Sea stars in decline.

Ancient baby boom

at 3:20pm by Joe Copeland

4:04 p.m. A Washington State University study could be a spooky reincarnation of Thomas Malthus’ theory, or a warning to regions with rising populations (hint, Washington). Back in 500 to 1300 A.D., southwestern Native Americans boasted birth rates that likely exceeded the highest in the world today. The northern southwest region of North America held as many as 40,000 people in the mid-1200s, but within 30 years, the land was empty due to causes archaeologists haven’t entirely pinpointed. Whatever the explanation, this ancient mystery has lessons for moderns, according to WSU Professor Tim Kohler — overpopulation has consequences. — E.W.

Adult adoptees gain access to birth certificates 

at 3:20pm by Joe Copeland

3:45 p.m. When a new law goes into effect Tuesday, many adult adoptees in Washington state may gain access to their original birth certificates. The information, which have generally been closed to those adopted before Oct. 1, 1993, will help adoptees understand their family medical history or find their birth parents, if they desire to do so. However, birth parents can still red-light the release of birth certificates by completing form on the state Health Department website. The birth parents can also file paperwork to indicate their desire for contact from a child or even ask for contact through an intermediary, The News Tribune notes. — E.W.

Washington

at 3:20pm by Joe Copeland

’s population is poppin’

at 3:20pm by Joe Copeland

Washington’s population grew by almost 100,000 last year, bringing the total number of residents to nearly 7 million. This rise marks the largest one-year increase since 2008, according to the Office of Financial Management. Seventy-five percent of the increase occurred in the state’s major metropolitan counties: Clark, King, Pierce, Snohomish and Spokane. Rural counties have had little or no population growth recently, but this year experienced an increase of more than 1,000 people. Most of the overall growth was due to people moving into the state from elsewhere, rather than from births. So-called net migration accounts for 57 percent of the total population growth, exceeding the three-decade historical average of 48,800 per year for the first time since the economic recession. — E. W.

Breast cancer researcher: A surprising key moment

at 3:20pm by Joe Copeland

University of Washington Professor Mary-Claire King has been a trailblazer in science, particularly in breast cancer. She found the BRCA1 gene, the first one shown to be involved with inherited risk for breast cancer, as well as doing pioneering research in other genetic ties to diseases. Recently, at the annual World Science Festival in New York City, the research superstar also proved herself to be a good storyteller, recounting how fate seemed to be lining up against her effort to win the research grant that ultimately launched her on the way to her discoveries. Not to give away too much, but if the name of the baseball superstar who provides an assist at a key moment isn't familiar to younger readers, it's DiMaggio and you can look him up here. (We spotted the video on New York-based journalist Greg Mitchell's blog.) — J.C. 

Stars falling across the coast 

at 3:20pm by Joe Copeland

Sea stars are dying at unprecedented rates across the West Coast, due to an unknown cause. First reported three years ago on the shores of Olympic National Park, “sea star wasting syndrome” has impacted 20 different sea star species, including the world’s fastest and largest — the meter-wide sunflower star.  The sick stars wither like deflated balloons; their arms fall off and walk away on their own. The epidemic could reshuffle the entire tidal food web, where sea stars have historically ruled as king predators. Scientists haven’t cracked the case, but they have some promising leads. Read today’s Crosscut report by Eric Scigliano for details. — E.W.

Replanting for Potato Commission money  

at 3:20pm by Joe Copeland

The bulk of the Washington Potato Commission's investments are not in banks nor institutions approved by the state, according to a state auditor's report released Monday. Based in Moses Lake, the potato commission tackles overall marketing of the state's potato crop and is funded by assessments on Washington's potato farmers.The auditors report noted that the commission in fiscal 2012 had 16 certificates of deposits and money market accounts not in public depositories authorized by the state Public Deposit Protection Commission. Those investments totaled $3.2 million, or 77 percent or the commission's investment portfolio. In fiscal 2013, the commission had 21 unauthorized investments worth a little over $3 million, or 64 percent of of its investment portfolio. By not using banks and institutions approved by the Public Deposits Protection  Commission, the potato commission increased the risk of having uninsured losses if the banks or institutions failed. The potato commission agreed with the auditor's findings, including the report’s recommendation to move the money to authorized banks. — J.S.

Friday 27 Jun, 2014

The Berry workers pick up a court win. JBLM cuts could hurt economically. Orca science: Can you hear us?

Victory for migrant berry pickers

at 1:56pm by Marissa Luck

4:07 p.m. Migrant farm workers got a big win Thursday: The Skagit County Superior Court ruled that Sakuma Brothers Farms must offer housing to berry pickers’ families. KPLU says the housing program was originally provided to all seasonal employees and their family members. But after workers staged a strike last year, the company announced a new policy barring families with children and married couples from using company quarters — a move that counted as housing discrimination and illegally punished workers for labor organizing, according to the Superior Court judge. Sakuma Farms plans to appeal but said it would abide by the ruling in the meantime. Just two weeks ago, Sakuma Brother Farms agreed to pay $850,000 to settle another case with its berry pickers over wage theft and insufficient rest breaks. — M.L.

JBLM cuts could sting

at 1:56pm by Marissa Luck

3:57 p.m. A new Army report reveals that potential cuts to Joint Base Lewis-McChord could strike a serious blow to South Sound economies if carried through, The Olympian reports. In a worse case scenario, the base could contract by 16,000 soldiers from its 2011 levels. That would result in a loss of $971 million in income for the area and  $17.4 million in tax dollars for Pierce and Thurston Counties. “The potential elimination of thousands of military and civilian positions is devastating,” said Rep. Denny Heck, D-Olympia. An Army spokesperson said the Pentagon likely would not cut the maximum amount stated in the report. — M.L.

Orcas still in decline

at 1:56pm by Marissa Luck

A NOAA study released this week found that Orcas’ limited growth is threatened by a variety of problems including lack of their main food source — Chinook salmon — industrial fishing, noise from boats and pollution. In the decade since the southern-resident killer whale was protected under the Endangered Species Act, scientists are still puzzled about why these whales are not recovering quicker from a big drop in numbers in the 1970s, after many were captured and placed in amusement parks. The most recent census count is 82 members. “Part of what I hoped at the beginning was that it would be mostly one thing that was wrong,” NOAA fisheries expert Brad Hanson told The Seattle Times. “But they all appear to be intertwined.”Mark Anderson, founder and president of Orca Relief Citizens’ Alliance, a non-profit organization aimed at reducing the death rates of killer whales, tells us that this information has been available for some time but no one is understanding or linking these three main causes.  His organization is dedicated to creating a Whale Protection Zone on the west side of San Juan Island where no commercial motorized whale watch boats are allowed so that the southern resident killer whales have a space where they are protected from loud motors. And Orca Relief praised the report on several counts, including its mention of a protection zone as a way to help the orcas’ recovery. (Disclosure: Mark Anderson is related to one of Crosscut's editors.) — J.B. 

Bellevue launches July toy-and-food drive

at 1:56pm by Marissa Luck

The Bellevue Firefighters Community Support Foundation and the Parks & Community Services Department are hosting "Joy in July,” a toy-and-food drive aimed at providing toys and food for children. Although the holidays are six months away, 6,000 toys have been distributed so far in 2014 and the shelves need restocking to provide more toys to children later this year. The suggested donations include: new, unwrapped toys for infants, youth and teens, books, games, sports equipment, arts and crafts kits, cars/trucks, dolls and plush animals. Food donations are also included in this drive to feed children and families during the summer. With 1-in-5 children qualifying for free or reduced meals in the Bellevue School District, many families may find it more difficult to provide food while school is out. And the drive is a good chance to roll out that holiday spirit of giving early. Details are here. — J.B.

Canadian court ruling complicates oil pipeline project

at 1:56pm by Marissa Luck

4:16 p.m. The future of a major oil pipeline project in British Columbia, the Northern Gateway, just became a little more uncertain after a landmark decision in the Supreme Court of Canada on Thursday. The ruling grants a broad title to Tsilhqot'in Nation over a section of interior British Columbia, located south of where the pipeline will run. Now, the government will have to consult with Tsilhqot'in Nation before starting economic projects that cut through its aboriginal land, according to the Canadian Press. But the land title isn’t absolute: economic projects can move forward without the native group’s consent, if the development is considered of major public interest, reports Reuters. The decision doesn’t directly impact the Northern Gateway but it could pave the way for other native groups to contest the pipeline, if they can establish a title over the land (a process which could take several years). As Crosscut's Floyd McKay reported Monday, opinions in Canada differ on whether Northern Gateway has a realistic chance of being built. But, if it is constructed, it would greatly increase the amount of oil tanker traffic along the Pacific Coast and, potentially, within the Salish Sea. — M.L.

Thursday 26 Jun, 2014

The World Cup lifts a Seattle alley. State justices review airport workers' wages, hospital's mental health holds.

Pioneer Square alley saner than soccer's Suarez

at 4:13pm by kate harloe

In what is decidedly the most urgent news of today, Germany beat the U.S. 1-0. Even so, the U.S. advances. But you probably know that already.What you might not know: The hottest spot in Seattle to watch the World Cup appears to be Nord Alley (OK, it’s right next door to the Crosscut office, as luck would have it). The International Sustainability Institute puts up the giant screen and hosts the game-alley-party as part of their “Alley Activation” project. Perks include: coffee, donuts, festive hats, a raffle and a whole lot of Seattle spirit – topped off with a giant blow-up soccer ball.And in more important World Cup news: Luis Suarez. Need we say more? FIFA today suspended the man The New York Times refers to as the “enigmatic striker from Uruguay” today. He’s suspended for nine games and barred from all soccer-related activities for four months. Why, you ask? He was, literally, chomping at the bit to win (had to). When he bit Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini in the Italy-Uruguay game on Tuesday, he brought his biting incidents to a total of three (three!!!). And biting may not be his worst offense. — K.H.

$15 for airport workers? Supreme Court considers

at 4:13pm by kate harloe

When SeaTac voters passed a $15-minimum wage initiative last year, many assumed it would cover airport workers. Not so fast, said the Port of Seattle and companies like Alaska Airlines. And a lower court has sided with the port: Under state law, the port argues it has exclusive jurisdiction over the airport, making any citywide ordinance on minimum wage null.The City of SeaTac and proponents of the $15 initiative today argued their case in an appeal to the state Supreme Court: The city has the power to enact labor rules at the airport, as long as the rules don’t impede operations. “No one thinks that requiring a subcontractor to pay a living wage to its workers has a substantial, material effect on the operation of its airport, ” said Dmitri Iglitzin, lawyer for SeaTac Committee for Good Jobs, which supports the ordinance. Harry Korrell III, attorney for Filo Foods and the companies contesting the ordinance, said that various labor rules folded into the new law essentially “[tie] employers hands behind their backs” during bargaining.There’s no deadline for a court decision. — M.L. 

Mental health advocates battle state in Wash. Supreme Court

at 4:13pm by kate harloe

Should mentally ill patients be held against their will in emergency departments without mental health care? That’s what the Washington State Supreme Court will consider in a case pitting the state against hospitals and mental health advocates, who oppose the practice, The News Tribune reports.Patients deemed to constitute a risk to themselves or others can be held for treatment for up to three days before appearing before a court to see if they should stay for longer. But state budget cuts have sliced into services, leaving patients to languish in emergency departments for weeks, if not months, as they await admission to mental health treatment. Holding them in an E.R. is known as "psychiatric boarding.”A Pierce County Superior Court ruled against the practice earlier this year. If the decision is upheld, the Department of Social and Health Services warned in its briefing, hospitals would likely be forced to release detained patients any time there is no mental health bed available — and that could endanger the patients or others. — M.L. 

Wednesday 25 Jun, 2014

The Kreidler wants transgender insurance coverage. Murray promises 'summer of safety.' Oil trains: More explosive?

Insurance commissioner paves way for inclusive transgender health care

at 3:06pm by Joe Copeland

4:33 p.m. State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler sent a letter to Washington health insurers today, spelling out the bottom line transgender activists have been hoping for. “Transgender people are entitled to the same access to health care as everyone else,” Kreidler said in the release, which includes gender-transition services that are available to others such as hormone therapy, counseling, mastectomies, breast augmentation and breast reconstruction. Kreidler added that future regulations could be implemented if insurers do not comply. The Coalition for Inclusive Healthcare told The Olympian this move is important because most private and public health insurance plans sold in Washington deny transgender people services they need, even care unrelated to gender identity such as routine blood work and therapy — E.W. .

Marijuana munchies on wheels

at 3:06pm by Joe Copeland

3:48 p.m. A hot-pink bus dubbed the Samich Truck will offer a variety of THC-fortified treats at Everett’sJet City farmers market this weekend, according to a Daily Herald report. Those with doctor’s permission to use pot can indulge in PB&J, truffle popcorn or a Vietnamese-style pork sandwich, all pot-infused. The Samich Truck doesn’t intend to comply with state rules for legal pot sales. The story says the truck will operates in a gray area of medical marijuana sales, outside the jurisdiction of local public health agencies and rules the state Liquor Control Board has been crafting since voters passed Initiative 502. Gray area: really? — E.W.

Murray calls for greater public safety 

at 3:06pm by Joe Copeland

3:32 p.m. Seattle Mayor Ed Murray told the City Council that, in the wake of recent shootings involving young people, he wants to create "a lifetime of safety" for people of all ages. Murray said he will work across city departments to create a "summer of safety" this year but promised yearly updates on the progress toward improving public safety. Among many other things, the efforts will includes more youth programs, summer jobs for teens and improving connections between patrol officers and neighborhoods. Crosscut will have a full report shortly; the prepared text of his speech is here. — J.C. 

New study: No reefer madness

at 3:06pm by Joe Copeland

Just as Washington gears up for legal retail sales of pot, a new study done by the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London has revealed that genes linked to schizophrenia might lead a person to use marijuana – and not vice versa.The study, which was picked up by seattlepi.com, found that schizophrenia and cannabis use is linked by shared genes, instead of the preconceived notion that using marijuana directly causes schizophrenia. Robert Power, who led the study, told Retuers, “We know that cannabis increases the risk of schizophrenia. Our study certainly does not rule this out, but it suggests that there is likely to be an association in the other direction as well – that a pre-disposition to schizophrenia also increases your likelihood of cannabis use.” — J.B.

Oil trains: Explosive question

at 3:06pm by Joe Copeland

We've got one more big question mark on oil trains moving from North Dakota's Bakken fields to Washington's refineries. On June 17, Kari Cutting, vice president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, told the Washington Senate's Energy and Environment Committee in Spokane that Bakken oil is no more volatile than oil shipped from other fields. But a Tuesday Associated Press story noted that Bakken oil has been involved in most of the major oil train accidents — involving big fires or explosions — during the past several years. That might raise questions on its volatility. However, it should be noted that shipments of Bakken oil have dramatically increased in recent years. — J.S.

Art for the Duwamish

at 3:06pm by Joe Copeland

ArtPlace America, which collaborates with numerous foundations nationally, today awarded $300,000 to a local art, culture and environmental justice project, Duwamish Revealed. The project will use public art and cultural events to reach out to communities along the river in south Seattle and educate people about issues. Working with the  Environmental Coalition of South Seattle, artists Nicole Kistler and Sarah Kavage will serve as artistic directors. — J.C. 

Paint Pioneer Square with partnership

at 3:06pm by Joe Copeland

Art collectors and philanthropists John and Shari Behnke have big, colorful plans for Pioneer Square — a new home for cultural organizations and artists. The JANDS Center, which will open next year, aims to encourage “creative synergy,” and consist of an existing building on 123 Third Ave. S. and another to be built in the adjacent parking lot. Seattle Arts & Lectures is on board, along with a bunch of snazzy architects and designers (featured in the center’s 24 page press release). Despite JANDS’ grand ambitions, the center’s name is playful and simple — a sandwiching of the founders’ first initials, Shari Behnke told The Puget Sound Business Journal. — E.W.

Tuesday 24 Jun, 2014

The Council tackles transit taxes. Effort for a downtown school heats up. JBLM may house refugee kids.

Kids, no more birthday cupcakes

at 1:50pm by Bill Lucia

4:10 p.m. Edmonds School District’s Wellness Committee has banned parents bringing edible treats to school for sharing at birthday parties. The Herald reports that the sacking of sweets was inspired by a federal Wellness Policy, which requires schools participating in federal child-nutrition programs to monitor the healthfulness of unregulated items, including food sold through vending machines or student-run stores. Edmonds decided to take the policy one step further — federal policy doesn’t apply to food freebies.Classroom birthday parties pose a problem that’s far from short and sweet — “we’re not just talking about one cupcake a year, we’re talking about 25 cupcakes a year,” said DJ Jakala, spokeswoman for Edmonds School District. Kids will be able to receive gift pencils, origami frogs or even extra recess time — but, at last check, more than 83 percent of those voting in an unscientific poll were telling The Herald that’s not enough for the children to chew on. — E.W. 

Seattle looking at transit tax options

at 1:50pm by Bill Lucia

City Council members met Tuesday to begin discussing Mayor Ed Murray's plan to raise revenue for protecting bus service. The mayor's proposal aims to generate about $45 million annually through a $60 vehicle license fee for Seattle residents and a 0.1 percent city sales tax. The money would pay for bus service that is slated to be cut due to a shortfall in King County Metro Transit’s budget.Councilmembers Nick Licata and Kshama Sawant have proposed eliminating the sales tax portion of the plan. As an alternative revenue source they have recommended an increase in the commercial parking tax from the current 12.5 percent to 17.5 percent, and a "head tax" on businesses of up $18 annually for each employee.“The sales tax is not a stable revenue source," Licata said during Tuesday's meeting, in which the council was sitting as the governing board of the special-purpose Seattle Transportation Benefit District. Licata and Sawant also say their proposal would lessen the financial burden of the bus revenue plan on low-income Seattleites.But Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, who chairs the benefit district, said that he has heard significant concerns from colleges, universities and hospitals about the parking tax. He specifically noted the University of Washington. Sawant didn't buy it. "They could easily absorb the commercial parking tax," she said, referring to UW. Mike O'Brien suggested that staffers look into whether it would be possible to eliminate the head tax from the Licata-Sawant proposal and make up the difference with a higher parking tax rate. Sawant said the idea did not seem viable. The benefit district will have until Aug. 5 to refer the proposal to voters for the fall election. —  B.L.

Pushing for a downtown school

at 1:50pm by Bill Lucia

Downtown Seattle Association, Seattle Public Schools and the City of Seattle’s proposal to turn the old Federal Reserve Building in Seattle into a public school has moved into a higher gear. The federal Department of Health and Human Services recently turned down Compass Housing Alliance’s proposal to turn the downtown Federal Reserve Bank Building into a homeless shelter and center, due to inadequate financial resources, according to a letter from the Department of Health & Human Services. (Compass has not returned a call for comment.) Even though the July 3 application deadline is rapidly approaching, Downtown Seattle Association Vice President of Advocacy & Economic Development Jon Scholes said the process is running smoothly. “We have a good shot,” Scholes said, adding that high utilization of the 90,000 square-foot building — which could serve about 660 students — is one of the proposal’s strengths. – E.W.

JBLM may shelter detained immigrant children

at 1:50pm by Bill Lucia

Joint Base Lewis-McChord could become an emergency home for some of the thousands of undocumented children flowing from Central America. The Olympian reports that Gov. Jay Inslee has been communicating with the Defense Department and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services about using JBLM as a temporary holding place for the children before deporting them to their countries of origin.Last week, the Obama administration announced it is sending $9.6 million to the governments of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador to assist in repatriating returned migrants. The Border Patrol apprehended more than 24,000 child migrants in the last fiscal year, but by mid-June of this fiscal year, that number has already doubled to over 52,000. In a testimony on Capitol Hill today, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson argued, “…this is a humanitarian issue as much as it is a matter of border security. We are talking about large numbers of children, without their parents, who have arrived at our border — hungry, thirsty, exhausted, scared and vulnerable. How we treat the children, in particular, is a reflection of our laws and our values.“ – M.L.

2 preschool voting choices

at 1:50pm by Bill Lucia

Seattle voters will decide between two preschool proposals this fall. The Seattle City Council voted on Monday to place the competing measures on this November's ballot. One of the measures would use a four-year, $58 million property tax levy to fund a voluntary preschool program developed by the council and Mayor Ed Murray. The other, Initiative 107, is union-backed and includes pay and training requirements for preschool teachers, but does not designate a funding source.Backers of I-107 wanted to see the two plans appear on the ballot as complementary measures, which would have potentially allowed voters to approve both. Council President Tim Burgess was among the council members who did not support that option. Burgess has championed the benefits of universal preschool and at Monday's meeting, he touted the work that the council has put into developing the levy-funded proposal. "The plan that we will vote on today is based on what works," he said. "We have followed the evidence." The plan aims to serve up to 2,000 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds in 100 classrooms by 2018. Families making up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level ($71,550 for a family of four) would qualify for free tuition. Families making over 300 percent of the federal poverty level would pay tuition rates set on a sliding scale, with subsidies.Yes For Early Success, the campaign supporting I-107, has received $267,550 in contributions from SEIU Local 925 and $147,180 from American Federation of Teachers Washington, according to disclosure reports filed with the Seattle Ethics and Election Commission through June 18. SEIU represents education, childcare and public service workers. I-107 proponents filed an ethics complaint against the city yesterday related to the initiative. They asked the state Auditor, the Washington Public Disclosure Commission and the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission, to investigate whether the city improperly used public funds to "attack" I-107 by, among other things, obtaining a legal memo on the initiative that the group says was biased. The complaint also says city officials fed biased information to The Seattle Times in order to malign the initiative. — B.L.

Monday 23 Jun, 2014

The Seattle nabs its new police chief. 5 hospitals could see penalties. Oil trains: more information?

Police chief confirmed

at 4:49pm by John Stang

Seattle has its new police chief: Kathleen O'Toole. The former Boston police commissioner was sworn in after the City Council confirmed her on an 8-to-1 vote this afternoon. Crosscut's Bill Lucia will have a full report later.

5 area hospitals could face penalties 

at 4:49pm by John Stang

Harborview Medical Center, Northwest Hospital, Swedish Medical Center hospitals on First Hill and Cherry Hill, and MultiCare Auburn Medical Center are among a quarter of U.S. hospitals whose Medicare payments may be docked for high rates of infection and other patient injuries, according to a Seattle Times report. Starting in October, about 30 percent of Washington hospitals and more than a third of Oregon hospitals — 761 nationwide — may face a 1 percent reduction of every Medicare payment for a year. The sanctions, estimated to total $330 million nationwide, are likely to pack a bigger punch to major teaching hospitals like Harborview, and those that are publicly owned and treat many low-income patients. — E.W. 

Oil train worries

at 4:49pm by John Stang

Two Washington state senators have asked the feds to go further in expanding public disclosure requirements on oil trains. Last week, the U.S. Deparment of Transportation department said any train carrying more than 1 million gallons of oil must make information on the contents available to emergency services and the public. However, Sens. Christine Rolfes, D- Bainbridge Island, and Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, have sent a letter to the feds, asking for public disclosure on any trains that include oil cars. "An incident involving release and ignition of Bakken crude from even one rail car could potentially cause the loss of life and severe damage in some of our densely populated communities," they wrote.In the Washington Legislature, Democratic legislators have favored notifications about trains carrying oil, while Republicans have said companies should be able to keep information confidential. Neither side has been able to get its oil train legislation passed. — J.S. 

Bank prizes for saving?

at 4:49pm by John Stang

Last year, Washington state credit unions began offering savings accounts available to anyone with the chance to win cash prizes, based on a law that was introduced in 2011 by then-state legislator Derek Kilmer. Now, as a U.S. Congress member, Kilmer hopes to allow the same offerings by federally chartered banks. The state law was designed to encourage more savings by Americans; a quarter of the population has zero savings, and nearly half have less than $1,000 tucked away. The Seattle Times Washington correspondent Kyung M. Song notes that Kilmer's American Savings Promotions Act has been picked up by 21 Democratic and Republican co-sponsors in the U.S. House and two in the Senate. Kilmer sees the idea of cash prizes as an incentive. “If you make it more fun, they’re more likely to save,” he said. — J.B. 

Friday 20 Jun, 2014

The League recommends 'no' on parks measure. Superintendent looking to leave. Starbucks will get a little pricier.

How many bags of Doritos for lawmakers?

at 12:40pm by Joe Copeland

2:12 p.m. The Legislative Ethics Board, a panel of lawmakers and legal minds, is struggling to draw clear ethical boundaries about how many free meals lawmakers can accept from lobbyists. Currently, state lawmakers are allowed to “accept gifts in the form of free food and beverage on infrequent occasions.” However the term infrequent is not clearly defined. The Herald reports that an Ethics Board meeting earlier this week, Rep. Drew Hansen, D-Bainbridge Island, who considers a bag of Doritos a meal for him, wanted to know how many bags of Doritos he could accept before it has to be reported. The board counsel responded it wasn’t clear, but if he was given $50 worth of Doritos at once, he would have to report it.  Hansen has endorsed limiting lawmakers to one free meal a week and requiring reports on meals exceeding $5. However, Rep. Matt Manweller, R-Ellensburg, disagreed, saying he has limited resources and can pick up valuable perspectives over a dinner meeting. And Manweller expressed offense at the idea he could be influenced by a meal, “I sometimes get asked to go to four dinners a night. My big fear is not that I'm going to get influenced, it's that I'm going to get fat.” — J.B.

Opposition to Prop 1

at 12:40pm by Joe Copeland

Upddated at 1:42 p.m. The League of Women Voters is coming out with a statement opposing the Aug. 5 city of Seattle primary measure to create a Metropolitan Parks District with new taxing powers. The League’s statement says the measure would “fundamentally change” relationships of the city council, mayor and the parks department to parks operations by creating the new district. It also says local voters would have no power on their own to dissolve the parks district if they were unhappy with it. It also cites concerns that controls under an interlocal agreement with the city and the independent parks district might not be legally enforceable and says there is no mechanism to force an outside financial or performance audit.Barbara Wright of the Seattle Parks for All campaign, responded in an email: "While we respect the League of Women Voters, we regret that the rationale they offer for their endorsement is faulty and riddled with errors. If the Seattle voters decide to create a parks district, it will provide more accountability than any other funding mechanism and will cost the average homeowner $4 per month more than the expiring levy." She also pointed to endorsements from a broad range of groups and political leaders. A spokesperson said the latest endorsement came Friday from the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Council, which includes private organizations and government agencies. — J.C. 

Superintendent: Thanks for the grins, Seattle

at 12:40pm by Joe Copeland

Updated at 2:24 p.m. Seattle Public Schools could be looking for a new superintendent — ASAP. José Banda today said he is a finalist for the top job in the Sacramento School District. He has "really valued" Seattle, said banda in a statement, but wants to be closer to family in California. Banda started here in July 2012, so he's had an extremely short term, even for the limited shelf life of big city Supes. It feels like even less than two years in Banda's case, maybe because he's kept things pretty quiet. In a letter, School Board President Sharon Peaslee praised him for creating stability and said, "he pushed our district to ensure equity, access and opportunities for all of our students." In an exclusive interview with KUOW, Banda cited the advantages of returning to the California retirement system late in his career. Seattle hired him from a southern California district. The Sacramento Bee is reporting that Banda is the only finalist but board members decided Thursday night to postpone a vote on hiring him until they can visit Seattle next week as part of "due diligence" in checking out their choice. — J.C. 

Weekend tip: Stay home

at 12:40pm by Joe Copeland

A word to the wise — and the impatient — this Solstice weekend, 2014: Stay home! The 520 Floating Bridge is closed all weekend. Ditto the Alaskan Way Viaduct northbound, the Battery Tunnel and for good measure a southbound lane of 99 near South Lake Union. This on the weekend Fremont throws its legendary and pathologically-packed Solstice Festival, and assorted streets around Seattle Center (and the Rainier Valley and Mercer Island) are off-line for Seattle’s Rock ‘n Roll marathoners (start time: 7 a.m. Saturday).  Whose idea was it to shut down major thoroughfares on Solstice weekend in a city that’s already been rerouted to death by construction cranes! Talk about road rage. — M.B.

Stock up on Starbucks coffee?

at 12:40pm by Joe Copeland

Starbucks will be raising prices on its packaged coffee and some beverages at its cafes. The packaged coffee will go up by 8 percent on July 21, making a 12 ounce bag $9.99 and 20 ounce bag $13.99. Some prices on beverages sold in U.S. coffeehouses will rise by 5 and 20 cents, starting Tuesday. Starbucks spokesman Zack Hutson told The Seattle Times that “competitive dynamics” is part of the price hike, meaning that the company's rivals — major chains like Dunkin Donuts, Folgers Coffee and Kraft Foods — have already hiked their prices. Fear of a drought in Brazil, the commodity’s largest producer, has led to a general increase in prices.Starbucks is not directly affected by this drought so far because it has bought all its coffee for 2014 already, and 40 percent of 2015 requirements. However, if Brazil’s drought does reduce bean exports, then it might affect the company next time they are looking to purchase. — J.B. 

Thursday 19 Jun, 2014

The Clint Didier aims to please gun voters. University prez says Starbucks isn't paying. Regrouping on apodments.

Didier shooting for victory in 4th District

at 2:57pm by Joe Copeland

U.S. House of Representatives candidate Clint Didier is going for the gun vote in the crowded August 5 primary balloting in Eastern Washington's 4th Congressional district: On his website, he's offering chances on a military style rifle and two handguns to people who submit their email addresses and zip codes. He's hoping to reach 10,000 likes on Facebook — he was a little under 2,000 early this afternoon — or the same amount of followers on Twitter. Joel Connelly of seattlepi.com notes that Didier, during an unsuccessful run for the U.S. Senate four years ago, said the UN was "out to take our guns." At least one person in Richland has questioned whether the random giveaway amounts to offering something of value for a vote, according to the Tri-City Herald. With a dozen candidates seeking to replace retiring Congressmember Doc Hastings, it's a wild, wild race. — J.C.

Starbucks: Not quite so generous

at 2:57pm by Joe Copeland

Shining praise for Starbucks’ new barista scholarships got a bit duller today: The company isn’t actually furnishing funds for the scholarship according to The Associated Press. Starbucks originally gave reporters the understanding it would reimburse its baristas for two years’ worth of tuition for online classes from Arizona State Universality. But the university’s president told The Chronicle of Higher Education that Starbucks isn't actually paying it for the classes. Rather, the university is giving baristas a steep discount for the bulk of tuition costs.In students' final two years of college, they could be reimbursed for the remainder of tuition (an estimated $1,000 a year, according to Starbucks), but the money will likely be paid with federal financial aid — after all, barista tips only go so far. — M.L.

Regrouping on micro-housing

at 2:57pm by Joe Copeland

City Councilmember Mike O'Brien has asked neighborhood groups and developers to take part in a series of meeting about legislation to impose new conditions on micro-housing, aka apodments. Crosscut's Bill Lucia has the full story here. Both sides appear to welcome the discussions. At least for now. — J.C. 

Judge dismisses lawsuit against JBLM “spy”

at 2:57pm by Joe Copeland

A U.S. District Court in Tacoma has dismissed all civil rights charges against a military informant who allegedly spied on peace activists in Olympia, The News Tribune reports. The lawsuit, filed by members of the anti-war group Port Militarization Resistance, accused a JBLM employee, John Towery, of chilling political speech when he infiltrated the group and reported on its activities to local police in 2007. Larry Hildes, the attorney representing the activists, argued the informant enabled local police to target specific anti-war organizers. Hildes also contended that Towery’s actions violated a federal law prohibiting military personnel from engaging in domestic law enforcement.But Judge Ronald B. Leighton said Towery acted legally as he tried to protect the safety of JBLM’s property, since he was a member of the base’s security and protection division. In 2007, protestors from the group attempted to block JBLM from using the Port of Olympia to ship troop brigades and equipment used in the Iraq War. More than 60 activists were arrested. Attorney Hildes plans to appeal the decision. No surprise: The legal battle has been going on since 2010. — M.L.

Wednesday 18 Jun, 2014

The Amazon phone: Use it for all your shopping? Cantwell cheers NFL loss. Senior projects walk the plank.

Amazon dragon breathes “Fire”

at 3:17pm by Marissa Luck

CEO Jeff Bezos dished out the details about Amazon’s new Fire phone in Fremont today. Geekwire reports. The smartphone boasts 3D capabilities, unlimited photo storage, a one-year free membership to Amazon Prime and a new program called Firefly, which allows users to scan objects, songs and TV shows so that Amazon can identify them and offer a way to purchase them from its store. Firefly can recognize up to 100 million items — now that’s smart-shopping, or downright spooky. The phone will start shipping out July 25. — E.W.

NFL nickname blasted

at 3:17pm by Marissa Luck

The federal Trademark Trial and Appeal Board today canceled six of Washington NFL team’s federal trademark registration, ruling the team's nickname is “disparaging of Native Americans.” The team immediately jumped to appeal the decision, so the cancellations are currently on hold pending a court appeal, according to the Associated Press. In 2003, the team succeeded in overturning a similar trademark board ruling from 1999.U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington said on the Senate floor, “This is not the end of this case, but this is a landmark decision." Cantwell has helped to spearhead a national campaign against the mascot. In May, Sen. Cantwell and 49 other senators sent a letter to the NFL urging the league to pressure the Washington team to abandon the mascot.While NFL team owner Daniel Snyder clings to the offensive name, a local school is way ahead of him and the rest of the NFL: Port Townsend High School is switching its mascot from the racial slur to the Redhawks. Just a few days before the trademark board’s decision, this commercial (produced by the National Congress of American Indians) aired during the NBA finals. — M.L.

A senior project to end all senior projects

at 3:17pm by Marissa Luck

Seattle Public Schools recently joined other school districts in Washington — including Edmonds, Ellensburg and Waitsburg — in dropping a graduation requirement looming over the heads of seniors: the senior project. State legislators voted last spring to drop a statewide mandate, leaving it up to districts whether to require the projects, which range from research papers to community service undertakings. The Legislature acted in response to the efforts of a Yakima high school senior. 17-year-old Tiffany Stewart. The stepdaughter of state Rep. David Taylor, Stewart helped draft a bill as part of her own senior project. Her reasoning? Many students blow the projects off or don’t have the time or money to do more than the bare minimum. Should your district chuck senior projects? At last check, 68 percent of respondents to a Seattle Times' poll think so. — E.W.

State revenues, jobs: Going up 

at 3:17pm by Marissa Luck

Washington state officials today said employers added about 4,000 jobs during May, although the unemployment rate stayed steady at 6.1 percent. That followed a revenue forecast issued Tuesday saying the state will take in $157 million more than expected in the coming fiscal year,, and another $238 million for the 2015-2017 budget. But the expected surge in revenue is not enough to fund a state Supreme Court order (the McCleary decision) that Washington state must supply sufficient funding to public education, The Herald reports.With the weight of the McCleary decision and other budget pressures, state agencies are discussing ways on how to cut off 15 percent from their budgets. “This is a drill to give the governor options,” budget director David Schumacher said. “We're not expecting to do 15 percent in each and every agency.” — J.B.

Tuesday 17 Jun, 2014

The Ferry system restarts leader search. Oil headed toward Asia? JBLM officer gets Bergdahl job.

Ferry system: No hire at the top

at 4:10pm by Joe Copeland

Washington State Transportation Secretary Lynn Pederson has decided to relaunch the search for a new head of the Washington State Ferries, according to an Associated Press report. Interim boss George Capacci had been one of two finalists but he withdrew over the weekend. And Pederson decided against hiring former Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg, the other finalist in what seemed to be a promising search. Capacci has agreed to continue in the interim capacity while the new search is undertaken. A spokesman this afternoon told Crosscut that a new job description will likely be posted within 10 days. —  J.C. 

Pipeline plan approved

at 4:10pm by Joe Copeland

The Conservative government of Canada today approved the construction of a pipeline to carry tar sands oil to the British Columbia coast for shipment to Asia through the difficult waters along the northern coast of British Columbia. While widely expected, the decision amply fulfilled the fears of environmentalists and First Nations leaders. They are promising an all-out fight over the pipeline plan, one of several the government has been pushing to get its oil sold on the world market. —  J.C. This item has been corrected since it first appeared.

Weekly news roundup: Back at you on KUOW

at 4:10pm by Joe Copeland

5:39 p.m. KUOW today confirmed that it is resuming its popular weekly news roundup, which was suspended when host Steve Scher departed recently. Bill Radke will take over the host position Friday program, while continuing as host of the station's weekday morning newsmagazine show. The station said Radke will use a rotating panel of news people, keeping existing panelists — among them Knute Berger of Crosscut — while adding others to the mix. — J.C. 

JBLM officer takes Bergdahl role

at 4:10pm by Joe Copeland

One of Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s senior officers, Maj. Gen. Kenneth Dahl, will lead the Army’s investigation into Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s June 2009 disappearance from a combat outpost in eastern Afghanistan. Bergdahl’s release by the Taliban in a prisoner swap last month sparked a nationwide controversy. Some veterans from Bergdahl’s unit want him to be prosecuted for desertion under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. It’s unclear why Dahl was chosen for the investigative assignment or when he will interview Bergdahl, The Olympian reports. But it’s likely that the JBLM would host a trial if Bergdahl does face a court-martial. The base is the closest major military installation to Bergdahl’s Idaho hometown. — E.W.

Paine Field: Another try

at 4:10pm by Joe Copeland

A private equity company, Propellor Investments, says it has submitted a proposal to build a small terminal for commercial flights at Paine Field in Everett, according to The Herald. The airport has only rarely been used for commercial flights because of community concerns about the noise. The plan calls for two gates at "a small, state-of-the-art terminal": Perhaps robots will carry the luggage of passengers? If Mukilteo and some neighboring communities have anything to say, a plan to resume commercial flights will be killed. — J.C. 

I-5 shooting mystery

at 4:10pm by Joe Copeland

The man who blew up the evening commute by setting his car on fire along I-5 was declared dead of gunshot wounds at Harborview Medical Center, several reports said today. The man reportedly drew a knife on a Washington State Patrol trooper. When he continued to advance toward the officer, two troopers shot him, according to Seattle police, who are handling the investigation. What's known so far about the incident is bizarre: The man apparently swerved his truck, which contained an incendiary device, through traffic, before stopping in the middle of I-5 where he got out of his vehicle, walked out into traffic and painted a green circle on I-5's southbound lanes. As KIRO-TV reported midday, detectives are still trying to figure out what was behind the incident. — J.C. 

Condoms, tampons draw pr campaign

at 4:10pm by Joe Copeland

You might have heard: Condoms and tampons don't belong in the toilet. But a lot of King County residents apparently missed the memo. In 2012, King County Wastewater Treatment Division spent more than $120,000 to take 3,440 tons of trash from treatment plants to a landfill — much of it involving tampons, condoms and diapers, said Annie Kolb-Nelson from King County WTD Media Relations. “It’s an expensive way to get your trash to the landfill,” Kolb-Nelson said.To combat the toilet trouble, King County WTD recently launched the “Flushing Awesome” campaign, featuring a video that parodies Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” song. “We wanted something funny,” said Kolb-Nelson. The campaign may be lighthearted, but the issue addressed is “a problem operators deal with daily,” said Kolb-Nelson. And some of the information from the campaign isn't that well known: Even baby wipes labeled as "flushable" are part of the problem. — E.W.


 

Beast Mode is back

at 4:10pm by Joe Copeland

Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch showed up for work today. While that might not seem shocking (especially since he's known for letting his actions speak for themselves), half the football fans in the Northwest had pretty much worked themselves into a sweat over what they presumed would be a Lynch no-show at the team's first mandatory training camp. So, on to the next panic attack over the possibility that the team won't repeat as Super Bowl champions. — J.C. 

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