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Thursday 19 Feb, 2015

Bertha on the move. Vote to split Seattle schools. Foreign policy: What Would Jeb Do?

Bertha birthed.

at 5:02pm by David Kroman

Bertha, the tunnel boring machine (TBM) that has not seen daylight for a year and two months, broke through the walls of her access pit around noon on Thursday. Some critics were concerned the broken machine would not be able to bore through the 20-foot-thick concrete walls of the pit built to excavate Bertha’s cutterhead. But Chris Dixon of contractor Seattle Tunnel Partners said she did admirably. “We were willing to run it until the internal temperature reached 60 degrees celsius. It never got higher than 30.”

Earlier in the troll, we mentioned hearing a boom before noon. Although it wasn’t confirmed, officials said the noise was likely the falling of the final layer of concrete between the machine and the pit, as can be seen in the video from WSDOT below.

Chris Dixon in front of Bertha’s access pit. Photo: David Kroman

Dixon spoke with media in front of the cauldron-like repair pit, which was still spewing dust. He said that once the concrete is removed from the pit, crews will move Bertha an additional 40 feet into the open air. Once Bertha is there, they will be able to extract the busted cutterhead with a massive crane, turn the 2,000 ton piece of metal horizontally and replace the rubber seals.

They will also replace the main bearing behind the cutterhead, even though they’re not sure it’s actually broken.

Dixon, although unwilling to hold onto any particular timeline, said the tunnel’s completion date was late 2017, the same date WSDOT has previously provided.

Crew moral? “They were very happy to operate the TBM again,” said Dixon, “even if for only 20 feet.” As they go deeper, said Dixon, the hope is that better, cleaner soils will make for faster progress.

Seattle Schools breakup wins a vote

at 3:50pm by John Stang

The Washington House Education Committee voted Thursday for a bill to split the Seattle School District in two.

The bill sponsored by south Seattle Democratic Reps. Sharon Tomiko Santos and Eric Pettigrew, would force the breakup by forbidding the existence of any school district with more than 35,000 students. With roughly 52,000 students, only Seattle fits that description. Spokane, Tacoma and Kent’s school districts are distant runners-up with roughly 29,000 pupils apiece. The Seattle district is just too big to effectively work with students and parents, the pair have argued.

Pettigrew and Santos’ bill would also limit the number of school board members to five. The Seattle School Board has seven.

The committee recommended that the full House of Representatives vote on the measure.

Under the bill, the state superintendent of public instruction would convene a group to map out the two districts’ new boundaries. Representatives of the regional education service district and other officials would also develop a plan for addressing financial issues, dividing employees between the districts and dealing with union contracts. The full plan, including proposals for new laws that would be needed to carry out the split, would then go to the governor and the Legislature by Dec. 1. The bill does not set a specific timetable for dividing the district.

Foreign affairs: What Would Jeb Do?

at 3:33pm by Joe Copeland

David Horsey has some thoughts.

Health official misquoted by the governor's office

at 1:11pm by Cody Olsen

The office of Gov. Jay Inslee has amended an erroneous quote it ran from state Secretary of Health John Wiesman last week. Weisman was originally quoted in Inslee’s e-cigarette data press release as saying, “Many kids believe e-cigarettes are safer, but scientific evidence suggests they are not.” The quote was criticized as misleading by vaping advocates including Dr. Michael Siegel, professor of public health at the University of Boston School of Public Health, and longtime worker in the field of tobacco control.

Dr. Wiesman’s quote has since been amended. It now reads, “Many kids believe e-cigarettes are safe, but scientific evidence suggests they are not.” The dust-up over the extra ‘r’ appears to have been a simple typo or miscommunication, but the American Vaping Association was quick to point out that Gov. Inslee’s office did not publicly announce the typo. The association praised the change.

Gov. Inslee’s data and quotes related to the safety of e-cigarettes can be found here. A Crosscut story that quoted Wiesman has been updated to reflect the change.

The possible links between marijuana and psychosis

at 12:53pm by Cody Olsen

KUOW talks to Roger Roffman, UW professor emeritus, about links between high potency marijuana and psychosis.

Bertha on the move. And a boom in Pioneer Square.

at 12:23pm by Cambria Roth

State officials are putting out the word that Bertha is on the move, headed toward the pit where crews plan to begin repairs. That’s promising news.

But did something happen with Bertha? Around 11 a.m., we felt something at the Crosscut offices in Pioneer Square, a quarter mile or less from the viaduct. It was one brief boom, shake — like something dropped and the floor shook. The shake wasn’t just in our imagination — maintenance workers told us the building definitely shook. Of course, there can be a lot of causes for a big bang in the city.

Seattle Department of Transportation spokesman Rick Sheridan told us to call Washington State Department of Transportation. “It is their project now.” Washington State Department of Transportation spokesperson Laura Newborn said late this afternoon that the boom was probably related to the Bertha’s movement into the repair pit. She said chunks of concrete flew about as Bertha moved forward to the repair pit.

Superbug outbreak at UCLA

at 10:38am by Cambria Roth

The Los Angeles Times reports the FDA has warned hospitals and medical providers that a commonly used medical scope may have facilitated a superbug outbreak affecting over 170 patients and killing two people.

A step toward $15 in Portland. Girls get robotic. M's hospitalized prospect a little better.

at 4:00am by Joe Copeland

Portland is getting into the $15 minimum wage, but only in a small way for now, at least. The City Council voted unanimously to require $15 pay for 173 contractors and full-time workers who are making less than that. The Oregonian reports that the city is looking for ideas on how it can pay $15 an hour to 1,800 part-time and seasonal workers who won’t be covered by the new policy. While that may leave Portland well behind Seattle, the Oregon Legislature is looking at a bill to raise the state minimum wage to $15. There’s talk in Washington’s Legislature of a possible $12 minimum.

High school robotics may be dominated by boys, but now there’s one all-girls robotics team competing in the Pacific Northwest, according to KING 5. It’s at Holy Names High School, and the team, which came together just 45 days ago, will take part in its first competition next month. There may only be 30 all-girls teams worldwide.

A report out of Venezuela has somewhat encouraging news about a Mariners’ pitching prospect, 20-year-old Victor Sanchez, according to The News-Tribune. After surgery for a head injury, he remained unconscious and in critical condition but was moving his hands and legs. A boat propeller struck him in the head while he was swimming.

Today’s journalistic shoutout goes to Fox News for its use of quotation marks to try to skew perceptions:

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Wednesday 18 Feb, 2015

Gender-neutral graduation for Franklin High.

Benton county florist violated the Consumer Protection Act

at 5:19pm by Cody Olsen

A Benton County Superior Court judge today ruled that a Benton County florist’s refusal to serve a same-sex couple in 2013 violated the state’s Consumer Protection Act. Washington’s Attorney General Bob Ferguson released a statement supporting the decision. “The law is clear: If you choose to provide a service to couples of the opposite sex, you must provide the same service to same-sex couples.”

The ruling is here.

Councilmember Sally Clark will not seek re-election

at 4:18pm by David Kroman

Councilmember Sally Clark announced Wednesday she would not seek re-election in 2015. She is the third councilmember to withdraw, following Nick Licata and Tom Rasmussen.

The announcement is something of a surprise, as Clark had already settled into her campaign for one of the two citywide seats. “I was looking at what this whole year would hold, doing the fundraising and sponsorships,” she said. “But I found that I was more excited thinking about the future.”

She denied that the switch to district elections had anything to do with her decision. She also denied that her office had collected any information to suggest she wouldn’t win. “I’ve run citywide three times. I know the game and felt good about my chances,” she said.

Clark has been on the council since 2006 when she was appointed to fill Jim Compton’s vacated seat. Since then she has worked extensively on issues of neighborhood planning and banking for low-income populations. Her most recent success was the council’s approval of priority hiring for local construction workers.

When asked what’s next, Clark was unsure. “I’m really trying to stay open. It will be something that involves untying difficult knots.” She added, “I need to work. I can’t retire.”

Her endorsement for the candidate in her district? She only laughed. “This is still pretty fresh. I’m not going to say anything about that.”

Can guns help curb campus rape?

at 4:17pm by Cody Olsen

Gun-rights advocates argue that arming female college students would help curb rapes on campuses.

Chad forces combat Boko Haram

at 4:14pm by Cody Olsen

Security forces in Chad have pushed Boko Haram back from Dikwa, a town the militant group had occupied.

Seattle's James Beard finalists

at 3:38pm by David Kroman

The Seattle Times published a list of this year’s James Beard Award nominees from the Seattle area. They are:

  • Holly Smith of Cafe Juanita for Outstanding Chef
  • Jay Blackinton of Hogstone’s Wood Oven on Orcas Island for Rising Star Chef of the Year
  • Canlis for Outstanding Restaurant
  • Ethan Stowell for Outstanding Restaurateur
  • Wild Ginger for Outstanding Wine Program
  • Canon for Outstanding Bar Program
  • Evan Andres of Columbia City Bakery for Outstanding Baker

Argentine prosecutors rally over colleague's suspicious death

at 3:35pm by Cody Olsen

According to the Wall Street Journal, federal prosecutors in Argentina are planning a silent march in response to the Jan. 18th death of fellow prosecutor Alberto Nisman. Nisman was found dead in his apartment last month, a day before he was to report to Congress that Argentine president Cristina Kirchner had conspired to sabotage a probe into the 1994 bombing in Buenos Aires. His death has been ruled a suicide from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, but many in Argentina are convinced there was foul-play.


Carnegie Mellon accepts 800 applicants, then rejects them

at 2:15pm by Cambria Roth

CNN reports that the school’s admissions office mistakenly sent out acceptance emails to 800 rejected applicants for the university’s master’s program in computer science.

Thanks to Marshawn Lynch, W. Washington more prepared for earthquakes than E. Washington

at 2:08pm by David Kroman

According to MyNorthwest.com, a 4.3 earthquake shook the Cascades early Wednesday. Unfortunately, a system of seismometers meant to detect early tremors kicked in 18 seconds later than it should have. Says John Vidale, director of the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network at the University of Washington, the earthquake would have been much more quickly detected in the Puget Sound region, where there are more sensors. Seattle also has had the opportunity to test their early detection system. How? Think Beast Mode…

Bertha moving

at 1:23pm by Cody Olsen

Update 4:30 PM: She’s gone 6 feet!

Bertha just has to make it 17 more feet, before she reaches an access point where workers will finally be able to remove the front for repairs, seattlepi.com reported Wednesday morning. Seattle Tunnel Partners, the company running the stalled drilling machine, offered up no estimate on the amount of time it might take the wounded behemoth to reach her destination, adding in that if Bertha overheats, operators will temporarily shut her down again. Glass half full? We’re hopefully, almost, getting closer to some tangible progress on the odyssey of our replacement SR 99

Here’s a WSDOT video of the work they’re doing on the other side to help Bertha along. We found it on SLOG.

Kate Brown sworn in as Oregon governor

at 12:58pm by Cambria Roth

World Cup is underway (for Cricket)

at 12:12pm by Joe Copeland

The World Cup of Cricket is underway in New Zealand and Australia — and Afghanistan is the Cinderella team. They lost their first match today, but not before the U.S. Embassy in got so excited by the team’s fast start that it tweeted out a congratulations on their victory. That led to The Guardian (and probably millions of others) mocking American lack of knowledge (and ability: we failed to qualify).

Even in this country, the World Cup is getting a bit of media attention nationally, including a Philadelphia Inquirer article by former Crosscut Publisher Greg Shaw. As he notes, America got off to a good start in sport — G. Washington had the troops playing “wicket” at Valley Forge and the U.S. and Canada actually held the first international cricket competition in 1844. For those who really would like to know, Greg says that the Wikipedia page offers enough explanation that five minutes reading “will tell the beginner enough to enjoy the game.” As someone who conducted a couple fruitless searches for a good guide (after Greg wrote “Coder by day, cricket bowler by night”  on the local scene in 2013), that sounds like a decent place to learn enough to know something to say in cheering for the Afghan team.

According to another Wikipedia page, the U.S. broadcast rights are held by Dish and ESPN Broadband, with both requiring payment.

Another try for a meaningful primary. Gender-neutral graduation lines.

at 4:00am by Joe Copeland

Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman wants voters to have a 2016 presidential primary that means something — with results that count toward picking the major party’s presidential candidates. As Joel Connelly of seattlepi.com notes, the parties won’t like that. They love their caucuses: If you are new to the state, leaders of either party would be happy to sit down and bend your ear about the glories of meeting with a tiny sampling of neighbors rather than voting. 

At the next graduation, Franklin High School in Seattle isn’t going to put the young men and women into separate lines and seating sections, The Seattle Times reports. The decision will reduce stress for students who don’t identify with male or female — and there’s plenty of stress (as well as pride) around taking a new step anyway. The Times says the traditional separation still holds at some schools’ graduation ceremonies.

Coming soon: Baseball spring training

Lake Tapps is at its lowest level in a decade — but it’s not the weather or any lack of rain. KING 5 reports that the 40-foot drawdown will allow operators to make repairs to aging facilities at the Cascade Water Alliance, which operates the reservoir along the King-Pierce county line. And the weather for Auburn (down on the county line) and Seattle:

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Tuesday 17 Feb, 2015

A call for feds' help in Pasco. AG Ferguson backs immigration orders. Record temps.

Yakima told to change city council elections

at 7:04pm by Cody Olsen

Yakima’s voting districts for their city council elections will soon look a bit different. On Tuesday, the U.S. District Court for Eastern Washington ordered the city of Yakima to adopt seven single-member districts for city council elections. Although the city population is 40 percent Latino, there has never been a Latino on the council. Back in 2012 the ACLU of Washington filed a lawsuit on behalf of two Yakima residents who felt the city’s at-large voting procedures contributed to the Latino population not being represented adequately.

The court sided with the plaintiffs in August 2014, and today’s decision picked a proposal for changes from the ACLU over one from the city. The city will likely consider an appeal, according to KIMA TV. Under the plan, all seven council seats would be up for election in August.

Report: Non-violent drug prosecutions on the decline

at 6:47pm by Amy Augustine

USA Today reports that mandatory minimum prison terms for non-violent drug offenders dropped to record lows in 2014, according to data released Tuesday.

Figures from the U.S. Sentencing Commission, an independent agency of the judicial branch, show that prosecutors sought harsh mandatory-minimum punishments 51 percent of the time last year, down from 61 percent in 2013. Administration officials say that’s a sign the Justice Department’s new sentencing policy is working.

The data was released ahead of Attorney General Eric Holder’s speech at the National Press Club. Sentencing reform is a cornerstone of Holder’s criminal justice strategy to reduce the overcrowded federal prison population. About 30 percent of the Justice Department budget goes toward federal prison operations.

The number of drug prosecutions also declined by 6 percent during the same period.


Zillow closes Trulia deal. Layoffs follow.

at 4:46pm by Amy Augustine

Online real estate giants — and longtime rivals — Zillow and Trulia are now bunking under the same roof, GeekWire reported on Tuesday.

The Seattle-based Zillow forked over $2.5 billion in stock to close on the acquisition of Trulia, based in San Francisco, down from a $3.5 billion price tag when the deal was first announced last summer. Zillow now operates under the name Zillow Group and is comprised of four real estate brands: Zillow, Trulia, StreetEasy and HotPads.

About 350 staffers will lose their jobs in the acquisition, mostly between Bellevue and San Francisco. The company axed 280 people today; another 70 staffers will be let go by the end of the second quarter, according to a press release from the company. The layoffs were primarily to eliminate redundancy in the combined company’s sales and administrative organizations, it said.

CEO Spencer Rascoff said while the decision to lay people off weighed on him, he believes the company is poised in a good place to move forward. He told GeekWire, “I am excited about how we are positioned relative to the size of the opportunity.”

Local leader calls for feds to investigate Pasco shooting

at 2:50pm by Amy Augustine

Hispanic leaders in Pasco are calling on the Justice Department to investigate last week’s deadly police shooting of a 35-year-old orchard worker, the fourth officer-involved shooting there since July.

Felix Vargas, chairman of Consejo Latino, a community organization to advance economic development for Hispanic-owned businesses, said he believes there is a conflict of interest in Tri-City Special Investigations Unit investigating the death and believes federal investigators should assist, KOMO news reports.

This was the fourth fatal shooting involving a Tri-City police officer in Pasco in the past six months. Officers have been cleared of any wrongdoing in the previous cases.

The police said Antonio Zambrano-Montes threw rocks at cars and officers before he was shot last Tuesday as he tried to run away. Police said officers fired because they felt threatened. Zambrano-Montes was unarmed. Witnesses told the Tri-City Herald that Zambrano-Montes ran about half a block before he was killed about 5 p.m.

Locals are split over whether the incident points to a larger trend of racism within the department or whether the shooting was isolated. See Crosscut’s coverage about the events in Pasco.

Pam Roach reprimanded by Lt. Gov. Owen

at 2:45pm by Cody Olsen

“I’ve been the most unfairly treated senator in state history.” Sen. Pam Roach made that statement in response to Lt. Gov. Brad Owen’s letter reprimanding her for her behavior in recent public hearings. The Seattle Times reported on the letter to Roach, obtained Monday by the Associated Press, in which Owen tells Roach he received a written complaint about her behavior at a hearing on a bill about initiative signature gathering. Owen writes about Roach’s treatment of those who appear before her committee, citing a trend of not allowing some committee members to ask questions and talking over others. Crosscut’s John Stang will have a report later on a wide-ranging response that Roach made today.


Judge halts Obama's immigration action; state AG supports administration

at 1:29pm by Amy Augustine

The New York Times reports that the Obama administration is putting the brakes on actions to allow undocumented immigrants to apply for work permits and legal protections after a federal judge ruled that the administration had not followed the law in instituting the program.

The move came one day before the executive orders, which would extend temporary work permits for up to five million undocumented immigrants and protect them from the threat of deportation, were to be implemented.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh C. Johnson vowed to appeal the ruling but said the department would comply by suspending plans to begin accepting applications from an expanded group of illegal immigrants on Wednesday.

Locally Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson released a statement of support for the president, arguing that the move would benefits states by raising revenue and reducing demand for social services.

“I am disappointed in the District Court’s decision to halt needed immigration reform,” Ferguson said in a statement. “Washington and other states have a strong interest in reforms that will improve public safety and strengthen our economies. Delay will hurt our communities and punish hard-working, tax-paying immigrants and their families.”

Record-setting temps across the region

at 1:08pm by Amy Augustine

Unless you’ve been stuck underground in a large tunnel, you’ve probably noticed it’s an unseasonably warm February.

Temps hit record highs on Monday across parts of the state and Oregon as one of the warmest winters on record slogs on. The National Weather Service reported record highs in Sea-Tac, Olympia, Hoquiam, and Vancouver, as well as Portland, Hillsboro and Salem, which topped out at 66.

This week’s weather pattern is being caused by a high pressure ridge creating sunny, dry days, The Olympian reports. Forecasters predict a letup on Wednesday, with a chance of snow and light rain in the mountains, though it may be wise to unpack your spring wardrobe sooner rather than later: The high pressure system is expected to be back at it over the weekend and into next week.

Pilot program to provide early quake detection

at 12:57pm by Amy Augustine

Local businesses and emergency management offices are teaming up with the University of Washington to pilot usage of a program that provides early warnings ahead of earthquakes. The software, implemented by the university’s Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, is the region’s first warning system for quakes. KUOW reports that researchers today met with a trial group that includes Boeing, Microsoft, Sound Transit, Providence Hospital and others to discuss emergency planning and response in the region.

The warning system could be used to slow trains, halt factories, or stop surgeries in the moments before a quake. Beta testing with the companies and agencies will help determine how long it might be before a system could be in general public use here. Earthquake warning systems have long been used in Japan. A similar software system is being piloted in California.

Facebook footprint growing?

at 6:00am by Mary Bruno

Facebook is increasing its presence in Seattle in a big way. TechFlash reports the company will lease all but two floors in the 10 floor Dexter building, which opens next week. Currently Facebook Seattle is headquartered at a building on Minor Avenue that houses 400 employees.

This move will quadruple that presence, adding the potential for 2,000 more employees at their Dexter building site. Sources from Facebook and the Dexter building wouldn’t go on the record, and TechFlash, part of the Puget Sound Business Journal, is using “sources in the commercial real estate industry.”

Parking costs soar. A better car story. Danes gather promising unity.

at 5:00am by Joe Copeland

Perhaps you’ve noticed: Parking prices are soaring all over Seattle. But it’s worse than most of us probably realized: In fact, reports KING 5 News’ Linda Byron, the costs are approaching those in Manhattan and San Francisco. Metro Transit is looking better and better.

On the brighter side of cars: The Seattle Times’ Brier Dudley tells about a museum soon to open in Interbay  that will look at the composite materials pioneered for Lamborghini cars both in Italy and Seattle. But, yes, it will include one of the rarer Lamborghini cars, the Sesto Elemento.

Danes gathered across the country Monday to remember the victims of the weekend terror attacks., The Guardian reports.

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Monday 16 Feb, 2015

Presidents Day. So, it's spring already?

An aircraft carrier bridge linking Bremerton and Port Orchard?

at 5:52pm by John Stang

Rep. Jesse Young, R-Gig Harbor, wants to build a new “armed forces legacy memorial” bridge across Sinclair Inlet (which separates Bremerton and Port Orchard) — and he wants to use decommissioned aircraft carriers as part of the design. The rookie legislator introduced a bill Monday that would create a task force, with himself as chair, to explore the idea. On that committee’s to-do list: researching whether the U.S. Navy will sell any of its decommissioned carriers.

The bridge, says Young, would provide a faster commercial corridor between state routes 16 and 304. The project is not currently in the state Senate or House transportation package proposals.

State mental illness report: lots of cases, not enough beds

at 1:21pm by Mary Bruno

According to a study from the state’s nonpartisan Institute for Public Policy, about 24 percent of Washington adults are suffering from some form of mental health disorder. That’s the third-highest rate among the states. And that “demand,” Chelene Whiteaker, policy director for the Washington State Hospital Association, told The News Tribune has been “outpacing supply.”

KING-TV building likely to become site of office towers

at 12:23pm by Joe Copeland

GeekWire reports that the TV station’s building near Amazon’s headquarters has sold to a company that wants to build two 12-story office towers. KING, owned by the Gannett Co., could move to the SoDo area, but no plans have been confirmed.

Defibrillators for more schools

at 11:52am by Joe Copeland

An Edmonds family whose 16-year-old son collapsed and died at Meadowdale High School in 2013 is leading a drive to put automated external defibrillators throughout the Edmonds School District. My Northwest reports a Feb. 28 fund raiser is being held in Lynnwood to raise money. Their effort is based on a Seattle School District that installed AEDs in every school. Matthew Truax died after collapsing while running during a PE class at Meadowdale High School. The Nick of Time Foundation works with the University of Washington Medical Center to conduct heart screenings of young people ages 14 to 24: A list of upcoming screenings in the Seattle, Bellevue, Mukilteo and Edmonds school districts is here.

EPA to block work on Pebble Mine

at 11:00am by Mary Bruno

In a rare legal maneuver, the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to block work on Alaska’s controversial Pebble Mine. The Washington Post reports that the federal agency came down on the side of salmon and the pristine waters of Bristol Bay and will attempt to prevent Canada’s Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. from mining in the area.

Netanyahu again calls for mass migration of Jews to Israel

at 10:25am by Mary Bruno

The Guardian reports that in the wake of the shooting in Copenhagen this weekend, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu again invited European Jews to migrate to Israel. “Jews have been murdered again on European soil only because they were Jews, and this wave of attacks is expected to continue …,” he said. “Of course, Jews deserve protection in every country. But we say to Jews, to our brothers and sisters: Israel is your home. We are preparing for the absorption of mass migration from Europe.” The Israeli Prime Minister made a similar call after the recent attack on a kosher market in Paris.

The power of online comments

at 9:58am by Mary Bruno

Online forums aren’t always the most civil places, but they sure are entertaining. And now, according to The New York Times, scientists, including a team at Washington State University, are asking what our online blathering says about us. WSU colleagues Ionnis Kareklas, Darrel D. Muehling, and TJ Weber found, for example, that readers of the comments on a public-service announcement about vaccination were influenced as much by the comments as by the announcement itself. If the commenters were perceived as experts, say, doctors? Fuhgetaboutit. Their opinions mattered more than the P.S.A. In fact, the mere act of commenting seems to confer credibility, said WSU’s TJ Weber. Many less web-savvy readers assume that commenters actually “know something about the subject, because otherwise they wouldn’t be commenting on it.”


at 8:00am by Mary Bruno

snow_Grafitti2_500_this colossal

For a graffiti artist like New York’s Faust, the East Coast’s serial snowstorms are creating a universe of blank (albeit ephemeral) canvases. Faust has been leaving calligraphic messages on snow-covered cars all over New York City. And we’re not talking “Wash me.” Imagine what Faust could do in Boston . . .

Quacking issue on Eastlake. Spring in February.

at 5:00am by Joe Copeland

Ride the Ducks has received Seattle permission for a new Lake Union dock in the Eastlake neighborhood. But not everyone is tooting on the “quacker” noisemakers given to riders: The Seattle Times says at least one possible appeal is under consideration.

The Islamic State took their campaign of crimes against humanity, war atrocities and barbarity to a new level, releasing a video said to show the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians, Reuters reports.  It followed terror acts in Copenhagen over the weekend that included killing two people, one at a synagogue.

The Northwest weather is weird, no doubt about it. And it’s going to stay that way. But as University of Washington climatologist Cliff Mass points out,  spring in February is not a phenomenon likely associated with global warming — although it is tied into the same pattern producing snow in the East. As he wrote Friday, “I can not stress enough that there is no reason to expect that this has anything to do with global warming.   And those in the eastern U.S. should not be claiming that it is proof of global cooling.” (His post includes information about upcoming KPLU-sponsored speech he’s giving.)

If you want snow here, Winthrop is one of your better bets (based on what’s already there).

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Friday 13 Feb, 2015

1 tunnel worker in serious condition. OR has same old governor. Media writer David Carr dies.

Bertha, the sleeping giant, will no longer lie

at 3:56pm by David Kroman

Get ready Pioneer Square: Bertha’s about to awake from her more than year-long slumber. Her first task will be to muster enough energy to plow through the 20-foot concrete walls in her 120-feet-deep rescue pit. According to the Washington State Department of Transportation, crews will begin chipping away at the walls as early as this weekend.

Sometime next week, they will begin to run Bertha until she overheats, pause for cooling, then repeat. They will continue until the tunnel boring machine is far enough into the access pit for an enormous crane to lift the 2,000-ton cutterhead from Bertha’s face to the surface for repairs. How long before we can catch a glimpse of our long-lost tunneling machine? Not sure, says WSDOT. “The duration of Bertha’s dig will depend on her ability to mine through and digest concrete while operating with a damaged seal system.”

WSDOT officials did mention one other thing: an additional 1/4 inch settlement in the viaduct. They say their bridge experts aren’t worried and that the viaduct is still safe; we’ll see if everyone is so relaxed.

WSDOT pictures below.


Community Police group recommends delaying body-cams

at 1:56pm by David Kroman

Seattle’s Community Police Commission, the civilian organization developed to recommend reforms to the Seattle Police Department, released a statement Thursday suggesting that the SPD delay rolling out the body worn camera program. “Because body camera programs are already being implemented in law enforcement agencies across the state,” reads the statement, “and this is a new technology which may have unintended consequences of significance to communities across the state as well as in Seattle, the CPC believes it is premature to implement a body camera program in Seattle until and unless state laws are modified to address complex privacy and public disclosure concerns.”

Although the statement does not cite specific concerns, they are most likely referring to Tim Clemans’ blanket request for every video recording from departments across the state, chronicled in Crosscut last fall. They may also be referring to questions surrounding the city’s recent privacy initiative as well as a privacy ordinance from 1979 which requires an auditor to review material that may contain sexual, political or religious content — an impossible task considering the sheer amount of information collected. “For many,” the statement continues, “the purpose of this new technology is to provide another tool that can help strengthen public trust in law enforcement by improved accountability; it would be unfortunate if by not striking the right balance, instead community trust was undermined.”

Pasco PD: Kennewick Police will handle media relations concerning shooting

at 1:36pm by David Kroman

In a briefing Friday afternoon, Pasco Police Chief Bob Metzger said that nearby Kennewick Police would handle the media relations concerning the investigation of the shooting death of 35 year-old Antonio Zambrano-Montes at the hands of Pasco Police. “This is not your favorite police show on television,” said Kennewick Police sergeant Ken Lattin. “This will not be solved in 60 minutes. It may take weeks, even months.” In a video released last week, police are seen shooting Zambrano-Montes after he threatens them with what appears to be a rock. In all, thirteen shots were fired. “What we know,” continued Lattin, “is that he was not armed. He did throw a rock. Is what [the police] did right or wrong? That will come out later.” Lattin said the next briefing will be next Thursday, but that any new information would be released before then.

Below: The video of Zambrano-Montes’ shooting. Warning: Graphic.

Oregon Gov. Kitzhaber resigns: How he got there

at 12:21pm by Cambria Roth

As Oregon awaited the anticipated resignation of Gov. John Kitzhaber, The Oregonian put together a timeline of the twists and turns of events. This article takes us all the way back to 2002 when Kitzhaber met his fiancee Cylvia Hayes to today.


AP: Source says Kitzhaber is leaving

at 12:01pm by Joe Copeland

Obama to sign executive order enabling cybersecurity information sharing

at 12:00pm by David Kroman

GeekWire reports that President Obama will sign an executive order later today that will improve sharing cybersecurity threat information between the federal government and outside companies.

Seattle Times: New groups emerging to lure NHL, NBA to Seattle

at 11:19am by David Kroman

According to the Seattle Times, Chris Hansen may have some competition for bringing winter-time sports franchises back to Seattle. Jac Sperling, a longtime NHL and NBA deal-maker based out of Florida, and Ray Bartoszek, a New York investment banker, have been independently courting investors interested in establishing franchises in the Seattle area. The most likely location for an arena appears to be Tukwila.

Update: Tunnel worker still in ICU, but stable

at 10:23am by David Kroman

The unnamed, 23-year-old man injured in yesterday’s elevator collapse at the tunnel project’s north portal remains in serious but stable condition in Harborview’s intensive care unit this morning, according to Susan Gregg, a spokesperson for UW Medicine. Three other men, ages 29, 31 and 36, were also injured, but all three were discharged from UW’s Harborview last night. The medical center is not allowing media access, but promises updates as new information becomes available.

Happy "Galentine's Day"

at 10:12am by Mary Bruno

More measles in Washington

at 10:07am by David Kroman

According to the Peninsula Daily News, a 5-year-old girl from north Olympic Peninsula has measles. She’s the second person from the Olympic Peninsula to come down with the once eradicated disease and the fourth in Washington State. While the report made no mention of her vaccination history, the recurrence of measles in Washington brings the vaccination debate home.
Thursday, the Puget Sound Business Journal reported on a 2010 study of a measles outbreak in San Diego in 2008. The sudy found that each case cost the public $10,376 in missed days at work, school closures and other disease-related slowdowns. Point being: A measles uptick is very much a public health problem.
So how at risk are you? King County has mapped the number of residents who’ve been granted vaccine exemptions, so you can see where your neighborhood ranks in terms of immunity.

Jedi astronauts

at 10:00am by Mary Bruno

Meet the international astronaut crew of Expedition 45 to the International Space Station.

NASA goes all Star Wars promoting the space agency’s upcoming Expedition 45 to the International Space Station. The global crew, says Geekwire, draws from the U.S., Russia and Japan. Lift-off is in September. May the force be with them.


Avoiding "another Ferguson" in Pasco

at 9:47am by Mary Bruno

The Seattle Times reports that Franklin County coroner Dan Blasdel may take the rare step of conducting an inquest into the controversial shooting death of 35-year-old Antonio Zambrano-Montes by three Pasco police officers on Tuesday. Said Blasdel: “We don’t want another Ferguson here in Pasco.”

FBI Director speaks out about race

at 9:39am by Mary Bruno

FBI Director James B. Comey’s thoughtful and powerful speech on race and law enforcement at Georgetown University on Thursday promises to actually move this painful, but necessary conversation forward. “We must all learn to live together as brothers,” said Comey, quoting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “or we will all perish together as fools.”

1 tunnel worker hospitalized. He's still governor. Media writer Carr dies.

at 5:00am by Joe Copeland

One of the four workers injured at the north end of the Highway 99 tunnel project was being treated overnight in the intensive care unit at Harborview Medical Center. A hospital spokesperson’s statement said the 23-year-old man was in serious but stable condition. Three other workers were treated and released.

Gov. John Kitzhaber will face another nasty day, after a Thursday that The Oregonian described as “one of the most surreal days in Oregon political history.” Among other things, Secretary of State Kate Brown (in line to succeed when/if he leaves office) described her interactions with him as “bizarre,” fellow Democrats said he was defiant when they told him he had to go, and he disappeared from view. And Willamette Week said its public records request showed his office sought to expunge thousands of email last week as ethics probes into the conduct of the governor and his financee mounted.

Oregon left Washington state in the dust: The best politicians in Olympia could do for drama is to have a bipartisan group of senators in the Republican-led Senate come up with a transportation plan (John Stang’s story is here).

In national news, New York Times media critic David Carr, the pre-eminent and ever-fair chronicler of the changing journalistic landscape, collapsed at work and died. (Times’ account here.)

Better news: seattlepi.com reports the spotting of a second new Orca baby, seen Thursday in Haro Strait dividing the San Juans from Canada’s Gulf Islands and Vancouver Island.

The outlook for Boeing (and Airbus) is bright, according to a noted industry analyst. The Herald reports that Richard Aboulafia told a conference Thursday: “The last 10 years, the next 10 years, man we’re on a great trajectory. Sunshine, happiness and light.”

Speaking of sunshine (and islands), it looks sunny in Western Washington on Monday, with a generally nice Sunday.

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Thursday 12 Feb, 2015

Welcome to the new Troll. Powerball winner? Protest in Pasco.

Four Men injured at SR 99 construction site

at 5:36pm by Cody Olsen

Four men were injured working at the north end of the SR 99 waterfront tunnel near Seattle Center this afternoon. The men fell 25 feet down an elevator shaft around 2 p.m. today. They were initially listed in satisfactory condition at Harborview Medical Center, and are currently being evaluated more thoroughly. One worker had to be lifted out with a rescue basket, but the other three were able to walk out. MyNorthwest.com reported the worst injury as a fractured arm.

Seattle Office of Arts and Culture launches new search engine

at 5:27pm by Cody Olsen

Artists in Seattle rejoice, the search engine you’re looking for has finally arrived. The Seattle Office of Arts & Culture unveiled a new website today, SpacefinderSeattle.org, that seeks to connect artists and art spaces. The project’s goal is to support, strengthen and expand cultural square footage in the city. “This tool makes connections and opens doors many artists may not know about,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “It’s a win for arts businesses and artists.”

The site launches with approximately 200 spaces. including theaters, galleries, cinemas and museums, as well as artist’s studios, rehearsal rooms and offices. “The arts community has been asking for this kind of tool for years and the city was able to make it a reality,” says Matthew Richter, cultural space liaison at the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture.

Buzzfeed gets the President to use a selfie stick

at 5:14pm by Cody Olsen

In a push to promote the health care exchange website, healthcare.gov, Barack Obama partnered with Buzzfeed to create the video “Things everybody does but doesn’t talk about featuring President Obama.” In it, our Commander-in-Chief performs a variety of silly tasks, including posing in front of his mirror with sunglasses, using a selfie stick for a portrait and pretending to shoot hoops. Depending on whom you ask the video is either a lighthearted look at the man occupying our nation’s highest office, or an unforgivable exercise in diminishing the office of the Presidency. In truth the video probably falls somewhere in the middle, but the President saying “Thanks, Obama” when his cookie is too big to dunk in his glass of milk is pretty funny.

This isn’t the first time the president has sacrificed some dignity to promote the health care website. Remember that appearance on Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakisi?

GOP tackles in-state tuition

at 5:08pm by Cody Olsen

Sixteen Majority Coalition Caucus senators are backing a new bill to limit resident-undergraduate tuition to a percentage of the state’s average wage, depending on the type of institution. Sen.Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor and chairwoman of the Senate Higher Education Committee, and Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia,  introduced the bill, which they believe will reduce in-state tuition by an average of 30 percent.

“Without affordable college options we are seeing increased student debt that will have ripple effects throughout the economy. Students are delaying major life events like starting a family or buying a home. This bill makes sense for all students and invests in higher education after years of neglect, ” Braun said in a press release.

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats issued a press release to criticize the bill for being an unfunded mandate with no money identified to make up for the reduced tuition level. “If this policy were followed with actual dollars to make up the difference to the schools in revenue from lower tuition, then it could be something worth talking about,” said Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle, in the release. However, he complained that the funding for the proposal is not identified.


UW names Ana Mari Cauce as interim president

at 4:34pm by Joe Copeland

Ana Mari Cauce, Dean of Arts & Sciences at U.W.
Ana Mari Cauce, Dean of Arts & Sciences at U.W.

The University of Washington regents this morning selected popular provost Ana Mari Cauce as interim president, The Seattle Times reports.  Cauce will take charge March 2.

She will fill the sudden, surprise vacancy created by Michael Young’s decision to take the presidency of Texas A&M — and say he wanted to be there in the spring.

Joel Connelly of seattlepi.com notes that the UW has never had a woman president, but that the most recent interim president was Phyllis Wise. The regents then selected Young. Wise is chancellor of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.


Insee wants to slow e-cigarettes

at 2:33pm by Cody Olsen

Gov. Jay Inslee called on the Legislature to put further restrictions on e-cigarettes Thursday. “It’s too easy and too cheap for teens to buy and use vaping products.” Inslee said, citing the preliminary results of a 2014 Health Youth Survey that show Washington’s 8th and 10th grade students use e-cigarettes more than twice as much as they smoke tobacco.

“Many kids believe e-cigarettes are safer, but scientific evidence suggests they are not. Vaping may expose our children to harmful toxic chemicals such as lead and formaldehyde as well as nicotine,” said John Wiesman, Secretary of Health.

Gregory Conley, a spokesman for the American Vaping Association questions the wisdom of this move, saying e-cigarettes are still far less hazardous than tobacco products. Between 2013 and 2014, the nation “had the largest decline in teen smoking, in history.” Conley says this decrease in smoking in directly related to the increase in vaping. We will have a full report shortly.

Mixed reception for lawmaker's family news

at 2:27pm by John Stang

Three years ago, Rep. Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla, stood up in the Washington House chamber and spoke passionately about her lesbian daughter and her hopes that her daughter could get married.Walsh was one of two House Republicans who voted for gay marriage in a 55-43 decision to legalize it.

On Thursday, Walsh stood up again — to announce the November wedding of her daughter. The House Democrats and about half of the House Republicans stood and applauded Walsh. Since Walsh’s seat is near the rear of the House chamber, the remainder of the Republicans not only sat silently but also with their backs to their colleague as she made her happy announcement.

Here’s her 2012 speech.

Amazon: We weren't late as often as all that

at 12:33pm by Cody Olsen

Amazon deliveries didn’t always make it on time this Holiday season. GeekWire reported yesterday that a Reuters/Ipsos survey of 1,700 Amazon users indicated that November/December deliveries arrived late for 10 percent of users. Amazon however disputes this claim, saying their internal numbers show significantly better results.

Satisfaction with Amazon prime is still high though — 96 percent of those surveyed by Reuters/Ipsos said they are happy with the service.

Membership losing its cachet?

at 10:26am by Joe Copeland

Bloomberg Business suggests that American Express has a problem: It might be losing the loyalty of the wealthiest. Some don’t even use their AmEx cards for grocery shopping anymore. There’s more competition for the super-wealthy market as American Express targets other demographics, including young tech professionals. Next time we’re at the South Lake Union Whole Foods, we watching to see what card gets used.

Expedia expands again

at 8:44am by Joe Copeland

The Bellevue-based travel giant Expedia is getting more gigantic: It said it’s buying Orbitz — less than a month after putting down cash for Travelocity. GeekWire’s Todd Bishop notes that the deal will need regulatory approval, but there are reports of fierce competition for online travel bookings as Google and others become important players. Expedia’s press release talks about reaching an “even wider set of travelers all over the world” but it has repeated shoutouts to the Orbitz “team”: Will that make some existing staff in Bellevue nervous about consolidation leading to layoffs?

Teen wage idea gets Senate committee OK

at 8:27am by John Stang

The Washington Senate Commerce & Labor Committee green-lighted two bills in a 4-to-3 vote along party lines Wednesday to allow teens to be paid slightly less than the minimum wage for summer jobs and for training.

Committee chair Sen. Mike Baumgartner, R-Spokane, sponsored a summer wage bill to allow employers to pay employees ages 14 through 19 the federal minimum wage from June 1 through Aug. 31 annually. Currently, Washington’s minimum wage is $9.47 an hour. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.

Baumgartner also sponsored a bill to allow teens 16 to 19 to be paid 85 percent of the state minimum wage or the federal minimum wage — whichever is higher — while they are being trained. But his bill does not say how long a training wage period would last. It limits any employer to paying a teen wage to a maximum of 10 percent of workers. Baumgartner said he is willing to work on defining what “training” is.

Baumgarnger said the two bills’ purposes are to enable teens to get jobs in a tight working market. Committee member Sen. Steve Conway, D-Tacoma, said that a shrunken teen wage would handicap future college students, who are currently being helped by a tuition freeze at the state’s universities. Sen. Bob Hasegawa, D-Seattle, said, “I believe if you do the work, you get the pay.”

Baumgartner declined to speculate whether the teen wage bills could end up in a deal made with the Democratic-led House, which is pondering whether to pass a $12-an-hour minimum wage bill.

Welcome to the new Troll. Powerball winner? Protest in Pasco.

at 5:00am by Joe Copeland

Updated at 8:12 a.m. With the launch of our new website comes the new, souped-up version of our Daily Troll. To keep you current on the latest Northwest news, we’ve mashed the best of Clicker (our headlines from other publications) and Troll into a new aggregation service that promises the most compelling headlines, stories, quotes, tweets, you name it – not just once a day, but all day long.

Anyone newly rich? It was a busy day at lottery sales counters here and across because the Powerball jackpot roared to $564 million before Wednesday’s night’s drawing. During the night, Powerball officials determined that winning tickets were sold in stores in Texas, Puerto Rico and North Carolina. If you just want to determine if you won (or maybe just came close), the winning numbers 11-13-25-39-54, with the Powerball at 19 and the Power Play at 3.

Some 100 people protested at Pasco City Hall into the evening Wednesday over the police shooting of a 35-year-old man, Antonio Zambrano-Montes, according to the Tri-City Herald. One chant: “Use your training, not your gun.”

Down in Oregon, politics got pretty crazy: The Oregonian reports that on Tuesday Gov. Jon Kitzhaber had planned to resign (on either Thursday or Friday), but then changed his mind Wednesday. Now it’s a new day and who knows how wild it could get with the scandal-plagued governor?

CBS News correspondent Bob Simons died in a New York City car crash (CBS remembrance here). If you caught “60 Minutes” on Sunday, it was Simons who had the excellent segment with “Selma” director Ava DuVernay.

In the category of “it never gets any easier,” this from Art Thiel:

The weather looks, well, Pacific Northwest-like. Until Saturday. Not much variation between, for example, Oso and Seattle but here are their outlooks from the National Weather Service. No immediate relief in sight for Snoqualmie Pass, where the Summit at Snoqualmie Pass ski resort is closed, at least temporarily, according to KOMO and seattlepi.com. The long-range forecast through next Wednesday has no indication of any snow.

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Wednesday 11 Feb, 2015

Seattle's gentrification gone wild. Having our organic. Dog breeds targetedPolice in Pasco shoot man after confrontation.

Pasco man shot by police

at 4:02pm by Alyssa Campbell

A man was shot and killed in Pasco on Tuesday night, becoming the fourth officer-involved shooting there in the past seven months, according to KOMO News. This time, however, everything was captured on video and watched by onlookers as the scene broke out at a busy intersection. Eyewitness accounts reveal differing stories of what happened, with some recalling that the man was running away when the shots were fired while others claimed that he was about to fight officers with a rock. The officers are to be placed on paid leave while an investigation is carried out.

Local tech industry looking ahead

at 3:55pm by Alyssa Campbell

With all the word on the block of Seattle’s booming tech industry, local tech companies are still saying they have a hard time finding enough talent, often being overshadowed by California’s vibrant tech scene. The Washington Technology Industry Association (WTIA) recently appointed Julie Pham to a position to help bring leaders of the state’s tech industry together. In an interview with the Puget Sound Business Journal, Pham reveals a perspective different from what you might think.

“One of the things we’re working on is how do we show we don’t want to be San Francisco.” Even with all the new Amazon and Microsoft employees moving to Seattle, Pham insists that “there needs to be more [diverse] tech talent here.” She adds that we can’t forget to support the small companies and startups in the region, which are a key part of a “thriving [tech] ecosystem.”

Seattle costs send jobs away

at 3:54pm by Alyssa Campbell

While Seattle has seen a slew of new businesses opening in the city this past year, the locally-based company Cascade Designs plans to move one-fifth of its workforce to Nevada, the Seattle Times reports. They plan to open a new manufacturing and distribution facility in Reno next year. The outdoor apparel company has found Seattle’s real estate and labor costs to be too expensive to continue its expansion locally. Company officials say the new $15 minimum wage will put the company at a competitive disadvantage with other brands that use overseas labor. In spite of all this, Cascade insists that they “want to remain a Seattle company.”

A top organic city

at 3:52pm by Alyssa Campbell

Seattle is hitting the top of lists for rankings of all sorts this week: besides gentrification, there’s our love for organic food. As noted in the Puget Sound Business Journal, Seattle came in seventh on a list put together by Campbell’s Soup of U.S cities with the top consumption and production of organic food. Other cities such as Portland, San Francisco, and Minneapolis came in ahead of Seattle. What methodology was used to decipher which cities were indeed the most organic of them all?

Data on the consumption of organic labelled foods, the number of results for online searches for organic restaurants and grocery stores, the number of local farmer’s markets and the number of USA certified organic producers were all calculated into the matrix. Another interesting trend? Seven of the top-10 organic cities are located in colder climates, including Seattle.

No. 4 in gentrification

at 3:49pm by Alyssa Campbell

A new report released by the Governing Institute finds Seattle to be the fourth most gentrifying city in the United States, preceded only by Portland, Washington D.C., and Minneapolis. While gentrification remains an abnormal phenomenon across the country (only 8 percent of neighborhoods in cities reviewed were found to be gentrifying), the share of eligible neighborhood tracts gentrifying in Seattle has actually increased 10 percent since the 1990’s (from 40 to 50 percent).

The report, entitled “Gentrification in America,” examined census tracts in the country’s 50 largest cities. Neighborhoods were considered “eligible to gentrify” only if they had a median home value and household income within the bottom 40th percentile in 2000 for the metro area. An area qualified as gentrifying if it experienced significant growth in median home values and the percentage of adults holding a bachelor’s degree.

Interestingly, the number of Seattle’s neighborhoods qualifying as ‘eligible’ to begin with (that is, those which remain largely poor with low home values) has decreased since the 1990s from 30 to only 14 since 2000 – illustrating ever-more clearly Seattle’s wealth transformation. A Seattle gentrification map reveals the seven census tracts that gentrified in Seattle and another set of neighborhoods that have, if only for the moment, largely escaped the waves of newcomers and property investment. The newly gentrified areas include Belltown, South Lake Union, a part of Downtown, Licata Springs in north Seattle and parts of High Point, Delridge, South Park and Georgetown.

No stereotyping of dog breeds

at 12:42pm by John Stang

Think of it as profiling by dog breed. At least that’s what Rep. Sherry Appleton, D-Poulsbo, believes she is addressing in her bill to forbid a local government from making specific dog breeds illegal.

Yes, we’re talking about pit bulls.

“The best dog I’ve had in my life was a pit bull,”. Appleton told the Washington House Judiciary Committee at a hearing Wednesday She took care of my grandkids.”

She said owners need to be held responsible for the acts of their dogs. But, she said, “We are euthanizing dogs who did nothing wrong because someone called them a ‘pit bull.’ ”

The Washington Alliance for Humane Legislation supported her bill, contending a few localities will forbid non-pit-bull dogs just because they look like pit bulls. The City of Pasco — which forbids certain breeds — indicated it could support the bill if it would allow a local government to order dogs of certain breeds to get certificates of good behavior from the American Kennel Club.

Tuesday 10 Feb, 2015

Medical school passes hurdle. A wine record, tinged white. Council field grows.Hey, Fido, tell Dad to put on that leash!

Dog leash alert

at 4:39pm by Joe Copeland

King County Parks officials have unleashed a crackdown on dogs running without leashs. MyNorthwest says the decision follows reports of more dog fights and pets going free on trails in parks. One spot already targeted for the random checks was one of the most popular: Cougar Mountain Wildland Park. Officials remind dog owners that Marymoor Park has an off-leash area.

In vino auctus (growth)

at 4:36pm by Amy Augustine

It’s been another good year for Washington grape growers, with 2014 setting a record harvest for the third straight year. Federal statistics released this week showed the state’s annual yield at 227,000 tons, about 8 percent over 2013, the Yakima Daily Herald reported. Extreme weather aside, predictions for next year are also optimistic, according to industry officials.

White wine grapes led the market, making up 53 percent of the annual crush, with white riesling leading the bunch with 50,500 tons, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. White varieties jumped 16 percent in production over 2013, compared with a 1 percent increase for reds. Washington is the second largest wine grape producing state in the nation — California is first.

New council candidate

at 4:21pm by Cody Olsen

Jonathan Grant, director of the Tenants Union of Washington State, is entering the race for Seattle City Council. Grant has been working to curb what he sees as poor treatment of tenants by many Seattle developers. The Slog reports that he will either run against Tim Burgess or Sally Clark for one of the two citywide spots on the council. There are already three challengers already declared for each of those positions. So far, the biggest field of candidates is five, for District 1 in West Seattle-South Park.

“When you go back and look at just the last four or five years on the city council,” Grant told The Slog, “we’ve seen this kind of wholesale deference to developers.”

Getting medical

at 4:19pm by Joe Copeland

Committees in both the state House and Senate today recommended passage of a bill that’s needed for Washington State University to launch a medical school. The higher education committees in both bodies recommended lifting a 1917 state ban on any public medical schools other than the University of Washington. In a statement, Spokane Republican Sen. Mike Baumgartner, sponsor of the Senate measure, said, “My colleagues recognize the increasing need for more doctors in this state and the need to expand our medical education in order to meet that need. I look forward to continuing the discussion and fixing this outdated, nearly 100-year-old law.” “My colleagues recognize the increasing need for more doctors in this state and the need to expand our medical education in order to meet that need.” House sponsor Rep. Marcus Ricelli, D-Spokane, said a new medical school can particularly help rural and underserved communities.

Monday 9 Feb, 2015

The Daily Troll: Stability restored at tent city? Port labor fight could be pricey. Bertha talks go better.Symphony, Stephen Stubbs among local Grammy winners.

Bertha update goes OK

at 1:00am by David Kroman

The Washington State Department of Transportation returned to City Hall Monday to brief the council on the progress of the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program. While calling the meeting positive may be an overstatement — not much surrounding Bertha has been lately — the briefing was, shall we say, not negative.

When project manager Todd Trepanier sat down, the first thing he mentioned was improved communication protocol between the Seattle Department of Transportation and WSDOT — an obvious response to complaints from city council about poor communication, most notably surrounding a letter that made mention of a hypothetical “catastrophic failure” of Bertha’s access pit. At the last WSDOT briefing, Trepanier suggested limiting access to such letters, setting off a sharp backlash from council members. Trepanier’s assurances Monday that WSDOT and SDOT continue to have “routine and ongoing communication meetings” seemed to satisfy the council.

Trepanier has had little to celebrate in the previous months, so to watch him describe the completion of Bertha’s access pit was to see a man relieved. Now, the agency is waiting for 1,000 cubic yards of concrete, over 100 truckloads, to solidify at the base of the pit — the “cradle” to hold Bertha during repairs.

The council still had its questions, including viaduct traffic, the proximity of the pit to the viaduct, money for extra transit, whether Bertha will eventually be able to bore through all that concrete and the condition of Pioneer Square water mains. Answers rarely got more specific than “we’re working on it.” Also, WSDOT’s David Sowers made mention of minor settlement — one-tenth of an inch — near the Yesler and Western intersection, quickly catching the attention of the council. He went on to explain that this settlement is standard to Pioneer Square.

Grammys hit home

at 1:00am by Alyssa Campbell

As the Seattle Times Reports, composer John Luther Adams was awarded best contemporary classical composition yesterday for “Become Ocean,” whose performance by the Seattle Symphony Orchestra earned a nomination for best orchestral performance. The SSO was further nominated for four other Grammys: best instrumental solo, best engineered performance for two different songs, and for producer of the year. However, following the same tone as the Seahawks, we didn’t quite manage to take all the awards home this year. Other Seattle talents, however, did win, including Pacific MusicWork’s founder Stephen Stubbs for best opera recording and Jeff Ament of Pearl Jam for best recording package.

Bennett’s (borrowed) bike goes for $10K

at 1:00am by David Kroman

Let’s dwell on the sweeter days of the Seahawks, shall we? Remember that time, when they were down 16-0 in the NFC Championship versus the Green Bay Packers? And then the entire universe conspired to make them win, including a fake punt for touchdown, a crazy onside kick recovery, a fine-provoking celebration from Marshawn Lynch and a game-winning touchdown by Jermaine Kearse?

When it was over, our beloved Michael Bennett did what many recent protestors probably would love to do — he borrowed an SPD bicycle and took it for a joyride around the stadium. Of course, if a protester pulled that stunt, the reaction would be a bit different. But rather than put Bennett behind bars, the SPD donated the bicycle to be auctioned off. Seattlepi.com reports the bike fetched $10,000 dollars. Half of the money will go toward the Seattle Police Department Foundation’s fight against domestic violence and child exploitation. The other half will go to Bennett’s work to prevent childhood obesity. Unless you’re a Seahawk (especially one with as many communications gifts as athletic ones), Crosscut does not recommend appropriating police gear for charity.

Port closure could cost billions

at 1:00am by Alyssa Campbell

A classic tug-of-war between labor and management has been playing out in West Coast ports since May, threatening to cost retailers up to $7 billion dollars this year after closures and slowdowns. After continuous failures in negotiations over a labor contract between the Pacific Maritime Association (which manages shipping operations at a number of West Coast ports) and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, the PMA shut down 29 West Coast ports over the weekend, including the Port of Seattle and the Port of Tacoma. The ports reopened today but negotiations seemed to be at a standstill, KIRO-TV reported. If another shutdown were to occur, however, it could cost the United States $2.1 billion a day, according to a report mentioned by the Puget Sound Business Journal today.

Nickelsville leader back

at 1:00am by Alyssa Campbell

The homeless encampment of Nickelsville has apparently escaped the threat of having to move quickly from its current location near the Chinatown International District. The ouster of the longtime leader of the group, Scott Morrow, has been reversed, likely clearing the way for the group to stay put for now.

After Morrow’s ouster by camp residents, the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd and the Low Income Housing Institute had saidthey would withdraw their support. They said the camp appeared unable to demonstrate responsible self-governance.

In a note to media this morning, Morrow said that he had been reinstated by majority vote as Nickelsville’s leader Saturday. He commented, “Any democracy can be messy, but I’m still a believer in it.” He admitted that he hadn’t “put the time into Nickelsville that it needs and deserves” but promised to be more in touch.

This is not the first time Scott Morrow has run into controversy with his leadership style, but the break in solidarity in Nickelsville also reportedly stems from a strained relationship between old residents and new arrivals in the camp. And the timing was bad: The uproar came just as the City Council is to consider a proposal by Mayor Ed Murray for three new tent cities.

UW gets grant to detect autism

at 1:00am by David Kroman

Scientists have taken only minor steps toward finding the cause of autism. And without a cause, there is certainly no cure. However, we do know that early detection is key to the child’s development. MyNorthwest.com reported Monday that the University of Washington received $3.9 million from the National Institute of Mental Health to develop a method for early diagnosis.

The UW’s Dr. Wendy Stone said, “The current situation for children with autism is that parents often have concerns about their child’s development at an average age of 17 or 18 months, yet the average age of diagnosis in the U.S. is three years or older and it can be a couple of years past that if you happen to be in a minority or under served population.” Their solution is to empower parents to better identify indicators of autism at a young age.

With the grant money, the UW will purchase and distribute tablets to physician offices in Skagit, Lewis, Spokane and Yakima counties. The tablets will have a questionnaire known as the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers or M-CHAT. Parents will take the tablets home and administer the questionnaire with their child – how their child reacts to certain noises or how they interact with peers. Unlike other tests, the tablet will ask follow-up questions, which can help eliminate false-positives. The grant then goes on to help physicians teach parents simple intervention techniques to improve basic language and filtering skills.

Not enough legislative time?

at 1:00am by John Stang

Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, is pushing a resolution to evaluate whether the Legislature should change the lengths of its annual sessions. She testified for the resolution Monday in front of the Senate Government  Operations Committee, which is chaired, by Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, is a co-sponsor of the resolution.

Kohl-Welles said: “We need to do something to see if we are keeping up with the needs of our constituents.” Kohl-Welles noted that 21 states with populations smaller than Washington’s meet for longer periods each year. Washington holds 105-day sessions and 60-day sessions on alternating years. The resolution calls for a study of session times, as well as such factors as staffing and facilities, with a report due by Dec.1, 2016. The study group would consist of eight legislators and seven citizens.

Committee member Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, said: “I’m afraid a study like this would say, ‘Gee, we’re not passing enough legislation.’ … Maybe there should be a restriction how many bills that a legislator can submit.” Benton  is one of the more prolific introducers of bills in the Legislature.

Friday 6 Feb, 2015

The Daily Troll: Ana Marie Cauce for UW prez? MSFT drops Xbox prices again. Former Seahawk charged with wage theft.The Daily Troll: Ana Marie Cauce for UW prez? MSFT drops Xbox prices again. Former Seahawk charged with wage theft.

UW provost and vice president interested in Young’s former job

at 1:00am by David Kroman

University of Washington provost and executive vice president Ana Mari Cauce told the Puget Sound Business Journal today that, if the UW board asked, she would accept the job of interim university president. The sudden departure of UW president Michael Young earlier this week caught everybody by surprise, even the university’s Board of Regents. His move to Texas A&M (whom the Seahawks pay royalties for use of the 12thMan) will be Young’s third college presidency in 5 years.

The appointment would not be surprising, as Cauce has worked at the UW for 29 years. She oversees the education, research and service missions of all the UW’s colleges. She also heads resource allocation. After getting a Ph.D in psychology from Yale, much of Cauce’s work has been with adolescent development and at-risk youth. Thanks to his collaborative decision making approach, Cauce said that she was involved in every major decision of Young’s 3-year tenure. — D.K.

Gun owners in Idaho could carry weapons without permit

at 1:00am by Cambria Roth

As Washington Senator Steve Litzow pointed out at Civic Cocktail on Wednesday, “We’ve created a lot of bills in the Senate — not all of them are genius bills.” The Idaho Legislature gave that statement new meaning by introducing a bill Thursday that would allow gun owners to carry concealed weapons in the state without a permit.

KPLU reports that Greg Pruett, the genius behind the bill, said that lawmakers don’t need a permit for their concealed weapons, so citizens shouldn’t have to either. “You’ll find that most gun owners in the state of Idaho are very responsible, especially those who carry,” Pruett said. Members of the House committee voted to introduce the bill with Republicans for and Democrats against it.

Former Seahawk charged with wage theft

at 1:00am by John Stang

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson charged Sam Adams and Dana Sargent, owners of six former Northwest athletic clubs (including the former West Seattle Athletic Club), with stealing wages and evading taxes. Adams served as a defensive lineman for the Seahawks from 1994-1999. The charges in King County Superior Court are here and here. The pair allegedly failed to pay state taxes, withheld wages from workers, failed to pay workers’ insurance premiums, and failed to pay unemployment insurance, according to a press release from the attorney general’s office.

The attorney general’s press release alleged that the pair failed to pay roughly $446,000 in taxes, $7,166 in earned employee wages, $35,000 for state unemployment insurance and deducted insurance premium payments from paychecks, but failed to pay the insurance company Aetna Healthcare. — J.S.

Is there more paid parking in Seattle nowadays?

at 1:00am by Cambria Roth

Having trouble finding parking in Seattle’s commercial core? Data from Seattle Department of Transportation shows that overall there is more paid parking than there used to be, but parking has been cut in the densest areas. Publicola reports that there are an estimated 500,000 on-street parking spaces in Seattle. Of those, 11,900 are paid on-street parking spaces, about 3,000 more than 10 years ago. However, in the city’s commercial core, the number of paid parking spots decreased from 1,444 to 1,169.

SDOT spokesman Rick Sheridan says the lost parking spots are due to transportation projects and private development. “In a growing Seattle, we need to maximize the safe movement of people and goods using our limited right of way, especially in denser neighborhoods,” he said. For example, the Alaskan Way Viaduct project removed street parking and the Sound Transit Light Rail station took parking from Capitol Hill and Pike-Pine. Bike infrastructure also impacted street parking. Thirty spaces were taken away for the 2ndAvenue bike lane and 81 spots for bike share stations citywide. —C.R.

Records requester strikes again

at 1:00am by David Kroman

Local computer programmer Tim Clemans is making a show of public disclosure laws. Last year, he submitted requests for all video recorded by police departments around the state. The request befuddled SPD, leading them to call Clemans in to their office to help them release the footage. On Thursday, he followed up that act with a request for emails on “all subjects,” from 60 government departments. In other words, every e-mail.

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