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Thursday 29 Oct, 2015

Questions about how restaurant workers are doing

WA licenses: Not good enough at airports?

at 3:28pm by Joe Copeland

The federal government says it’s out of patience with Washington’s failure to update its drivers license, according to Associated Press. So, if you have a standard drivers license, you could find yourself blocked at airport security lines in as little as 90 days, the Seattle Times and AP report. There is an option (besides a passport): the state’s enhanced drivers license. The key issue is that Washington (and New Mexico, which was also put on notice) don’t require proof of legal residence. A number of other states offer only restricted licenses to people who don’t present proof of legal U.S. residence.

Sen. Curtis King, chair of the state Senate Transportation Committee, said the Legislature will try again in January to come up with a license that resolves the federal concerns.

Help wanted: Attorneys

at 2:17pm by Joe Copeland

A newly released report says that low-income Washingtonians face increasing burdens of civil legal issues — debt collection, health-care coverage, housing problems — with little recourse to attorneys or any professional legal services. A survey commissioned by the Washington Supreme Court shows that 7 out of 10 low-income residents runs into some civil problem over the course of a year. It also showed that families face three times the average number of civil problems they did a decade ago.

The suggested solutions include state funding of more civil legal aid attorneys and greater use of volunteer attorneys.

Report: Seattle’s restaurant workers still await better wages and benefits

at 1:21pm by Leslie Holleran

Seattle’s Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) has completed and released a comprehensive report of the city’s restaurant economy. The analysis, in which over 500 workers were surveyed, concludes that restaurant workers are still impacted by low wages and paltry benefits, in spite of the new minimum wage and a law mandating paid sick-leave.  According to the report – titled “Behind the Kitchen Door: the Highs and Lows of Seattle’s Booming Restaurant Economy” – 42.7% of restaurant employees reported receiving poverty wages and 73.5% report that they are not given paid sick-leave.

ROC calls upon policymakers to strengthen and enforce employments laws in the restaurant industry, and restaurant owners and employers to implement fairer workplace practices, such as increasing wages and communicating to workers about their benefits.

Wednesday 28 Oct, 2015

AG goes after 'organic' vaping liquids

Deal on Downtown development

at 3:06pm by Joe Copeland

A developer and tenant activists have a deal to allow a controversial construction project on an empty block across the street from City Hall. The Tenants Union of Washington State said that $5.7 million for affordable housing under the agreement is an “unprecedented victory.” Most of the money is contingent on the high-rise project actually being built, but $700,000 will be provided no matter what.

The project came into the City Council election campaign when a candidate, Jon Grant, said that a Triad representative had told him that plans for a large independent campaign against him would be dropped if he facilitated a deal with the Tenants Union, which Grant formerly headed. The Triad representative was let go.

But is it going ahead? Mayor Ed Murray, who has lost patience with the long promised project, says the deal changes nothing about his plan to pull a permit when it expires at the end of the year and the property won’t be developed by Triad, according to the Puget Sound Business Journal.

Kids, have some spending ideas for the city?

at 2:32pm by Joe Copeland

The city of Seattle is looking for people interested in helping to oversee an experiment in which the city will let young people ages 13 to 19 help determine how a half-million dollars will be spent next year. The “participatory budgeting project” grew out of discussions led by Councilmember Nick Licata about how to let citizens generally have control of how to spend parts of the city’s budget; Licata and Mayor Ed Murray agreed in July to let youth take part in the budgeting this year. The city Department of Neighborhoods is accepting applications by both youth as young 13 and representatives of groups serving young people to be part of a steering committee guiding the project, details here.

Port Commission candidate Goodspaceguy interviewed by Crosscut

at 2:06pm by Matt Spaw

In case you missed it: Perennial candidate Goodspaceguy had quite the confab with Crosscut’s Drew Atkins. Although his goals for the Port Commission (this year’s election target) do not directly relate to space travel, Goodspaceguy says that a strong economy with a high living standard is necessary to foster space exploration. Goodspaceguy says that he doesn’t think it would be smart to launch into space from the port — due to noise. But we like that you can tell that he really, really likes the idea of local space launches (if it weren’t for that pesky noise issue). 

Washington Attorney General goes after 'organic' e-cigarette liquids

at 2:03pm by Matt Spaw

Attorney General Bob Ferguson says he is taking action against three e-cigarette liquid manufacturers for deceptive labeling and advertising. These manufacturers sell their e-liquid as organic without being certified, Ferguson says.

According to a press release, Ferguson has filed a lawsuit against one of the companies—California-based Alchemy e-Lixir. And he has required two other companies — California-based Jai Mundi and New Jersey-based Orb Vapor — to enter into “Assurance of Discontinuance” agreements promising to change their labeling practices.

Separately, Ferguson has been working with Gov. Jay Inslee on proposed legislation to regulate e-cigarettes much more closely, along the lines of current controls on tobacco products. E-cigarettes are essentially unregulated in Washington.

Tuesday 27 Oct, 2015

Garbage truck leaves trail of damage on Capitol Hill

Rent control for business? Sawant says yes

at 3:30pm by David Kroman

Councilmember Kshama Sawant revealed her “progressive plan for Seattle’s small businesses and their workers” at City Hall on Tuesday. The plan includes, most notably, a proposal to regulate the rents of commercial spaces. Restricting the rents of private residences is clearly prohibited by state law, but Sawant is gambling that the ban does not apply to commercial real estate. However, the City Attorney’s Office was not given the opportunity to weigh in before Sawant’s office went public.

The proposal also includes expanded late night bus service, more social service outreach, the establishment of a city-run municipal bank and priority leasing for small businesses. Sawant expects legislation by December or, if she’s still around, January. Crosscut has a full report here.

John Stockton takes a surprising basketball job

at 2:59pm by Joe Copeland

Spokane’s John Stockton is taking a position that might seem a bit less than what an NBA Hall of Famer could land: as an assistant coach at Montana State University. As the Spokane Spokesman-Review reports, there is a reason he wants to help coach the women’s team: His daughter, Lindsay, is a senior guard for the Bobcats. Plus, he told reporter Jim Allen, he coached three other members of the team on Spokane youth or high school teams.

Stockton described the offer from Montana State as unexpected. Coach Tricia Binford said she was looking for a replacement for an assistant who announced she was leaving last week, and Stockton came to mind as someone who knows the program and is trusted. She and Stockton declined to talk about whether he might continue in Bozeman when his daughter graduates. Another daughter is a freshman with Gonzaga’s team.

Learning to drive ... a garbage truck?

at 11:41am by Joe Copeland

Following the arrest of an 18-year-old man on Capitol Hill, where a stolen garbage truck left a trail of garbage early this morning, police say — surprise! — a drug and alcohol recognition was called in to conduct an evaluation. The man tried to flee on foot after crashing into another garbage truck but was quickly captured. Before crashing, he hit several other cars and a bike-share kiosk.

Officers discovered the man only has a learner’s permit for driving. Or had.

Monday 26 Oct, 2015

Traffic delays are up.

Murray nominates new Community Police Commissioners

at 3:52pm by David Kroman

Four positions on the Community Police Commission, the civilian police reform advisory board created as a part of federally mandated reforms in the Seattle Police Department, have sat vacant for months. Mayor Ed Murray announced his nominations to fill those spaces Monday. His nominees are Fred Kiga, the interim Executive Director of the state Public Disclosure Commission; Executive Director of the Ethnic Business Coalition Taylor Hoang; Isaac Ruiz, an attorney with Keller Rohrback Isaac Ruiz; and Josias Flynn, an attorney at Seattle law firm Riddell Williams.

As it stands now, the CPC will only exist so long as the Department of Justice is in town as part of a settlement agreement signed with the City of Seattle in 2012. A majority of the candidates for Seattle City Council have said they support making the CPC a permanent body. That said, the CPC has been a bit of a buzzkill for city officials who are gung-ho on body cameras for police, including Mayor Murray. The CPC is urging the city to delay until all privacy and public disclosure law are worked out. Nevertheless, Murray’s nominations were bolstered with positive language for the civilian commission.

“The Community Police Commission plays a key role in police reform and serves as an important stakeholder voice for Seattle,” said Murray in a statement. “A role for the CPC will continue, and I expect significant input as we provide greater fairness, independence and transparency in the police discipline and accountability process.”

Another one-term mayor

at 2:52pm by Joe Copeland

In the middle of a re-election campaign he announced in March, Portland Mayor Charlie Hales today said, Nevermind. He told The Oregonian dropping out to concentrate on the dealing with such issues as long-term planning, curbing gang violence and affordable housing over his remaining 14 months in office. But he said he could have won if he had “poured himself into campaigning.”

The Oregonian notes that he’s the third straight Portland mayor to decide against running for a second term. So, there’s a difference between Portland and Seattle: In Portland, mayors decide not to try re-election, while in Seattle, they keep trying but frequently get kicked out by voters.

Something almost happened in Pullman

at 12:28pm by Joe Copeland

With WSU hosting highly ranked Stanford, ESPN thought overnight on whether to go to Pullman for this Saturday’s premier football program, College Gameday, but finally decided this morning on Philadelphia, where undefeated Temple is hosting Notre Dame. KING 5 notes that the producer of Gameday ended a tweet by promising Washington State University fans “we’ll get there one day, promise.” Before the announcement, though, a host for ESPN’s Seattle radio outlet had wondered aloud when the Cougs would ever have a better chance.

Traffic is getting ...

at 12:13pm by Joe Copeland

The Washington State Department of Transportation says economic growth brought increasing traffic and more congestion delays on the roads. Statewide, delay increased by 4.6 percent from 2012 to 2014, but it would have been a lot worse without transit. Transit ridership on urban commute corridors during peak periods rose 7.8 percent. The central Puget Sound corridor — King and Snohomish counties — experienced more than 90 percent of all the state’s delay time, but saw only 1 percent growth in delays. South Puget Sound, in contrast, saw more than a doubling of its delay time, largely near Fife and Joint Base Lewis McChord.

Friday 23 Oct, 2015

Mariners pick a new manager

Winter weather ahead

at 3:03pm by Joe Copeland

Everybody talks about the weather and now everybody can watch experts talk about it. The Oregonian says a packed house is expected on Saturday when the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry holds its Winter Weather Forecast Conference. Two forecasters and a host of experts from Oregon chapter of American Meteorological Society will make presentations. The big topic, of course, is whether El Niño means less precipitation and worsening drought (not to mention horrid skiing conditions) or powerful storms bedeviling the Northwest. Weather forecasting as spectator sport? It seems so. Maybe a new reality TV show can follow.

Legislator moves up to Senate

at 1:45pm by Joe Copeland

Commissioners from five southwest Washington counties have appointed Dean Takko, a House member for more than a decade, to the state Senate. The Daily News in Longview reports that the commissioners then picked JD Rosetti, a member of the Longview School Board, to replace Takko in the House of Representatives.

The changes were set in motion when Sen. Brian Hatfield resigned to take a job in the governor’s office leading rural development efforts.

Dean Takko
Dean Takko

Mariners name Scott Servais as manager

at 12:27pm by Matt Spaw

The Seattle Mariners have picked Scott Servais as manager, who worked for the team’s new general manager, Jerry Dipoto, in Los Angeles.

According to the Seattle Times’ Ryan Divish, the Mariners will also Tim Bogar, who also worked with Dipoto in Los Angeles, as bench coach on Friday afternoon. Servais has no managerial experience, but general manager Dipoto downplayed the relevance of the issue.


Thursday 22 Oct, 2015

Spoiler alert: Bertha is ...

A change in a top police position

at 2:23pm by David Kroman

The Seattle Police Department’s Chief Operating Officer Mike Wagers is leaving the department after 15 months, reports the Seattle Times. Wagers’ family never came to Seattle from Virginia and Wagers told the Times he wanted to move home to be with them. He does not have another job offer.

He will be replaced by Brian Maxey, an attorney who is currently the department’s senior legal counsel.

Wagers, a civilian, came on when Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole was hired in 2014. As second in command, equivalent to Assistant Police Chief Carmen Best, he has overseen the Patrol Support Bureau, Administrative Services, Information Technology, Human Resources and Public Affairs. His tenure was defined by his emphasis on technology — organizing hackathons, pushing for the creation of a chief technology officer and rolling out the new Real Time Crime Center.

In a statement, O’Toole thanked Wagers, a longtime associate, they had engaged in discussions of a succession plan since his arrival. She said Wagers and Maxey will work closely together until Wagers’ departure, sometime before the end of the year. She said of Maxey, “Brian has my complete trust and confidence and will continue the work that Mike has begun. In addition to being a lawyer, Brian holds a Master’s Degree in Public Administration. He has played a critical role in our on-going reform efforts.”

Rick Steves gives big money close to home

at 2:08pm by Joe Copeland

Travel expert Rick Steves has kicked off a drive to build a south Snohomish County community center with a splash: a $2 million pledge for the $10 million fund-raising campaign. The Herald reports that the facility, to be built for the Volunteers of America and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Snohomish County, will provide a variety of services. The site, near a main intersection in Lynnwood, is owned by Trinity Lutheran Church, which has long been active in social services, including for the homeless. Steves is a member of the Trinity congregation. In July, Steves also helped launch a campaign for a senior and community center in Edmonds with a $500,000 pledge.

Steves and former Gov. Gary Locke were the featured guests at October’s Civic Cocktail, sponsored by Crosscut, Seattle City Club and the Seattle Channel. You can see Seattle Channel’s video here.

Spoiler alert: Bertha will be ...

at 1:48pm by David Kroman

The media frenzy that used to surround announcements of Bertha’s delay has become more of a simmer lately as the revelations are less and less surprising. The Washington State Department of Transportation announced Thursday that Seattle Tunnel Partners, the contract group responsible for the tunnel boring machine’s operation, has pushed back the machine’s restart date to December 23, a month later than STP hoped.

After breaking down nearly two years ago (yes, two years), the machine was extracted through a 120 foot pit, disassembled, repaired and lowered back into the ground late last summer. The plan was that Bertha would undergo a month of testing inside the empty pit and then another month of testing after the pit had been filled in, before resuming tunneling around Thanksgiving. But according to WSDOT’s latest statement, crews are still welding and reconnecting parts. WSDOT has been careful to emphasize that it does not verify or necessarily agree with STP’s schedule.

The stakes will be high when STP kicks Bertha back into action, which begs the question: Is there a reason the two different start dates both happened to fall right around the holidays?

Wednesday 21 Oct, 2015

Poll sees little enthusiasm for Patty Murray.

UW expert weighs in on new Sesame Street Workshop autism initiative

at 4:06pm by Leslie Holleran

Sesame Street characters Elmo and Cadabby have a new playmate, Julia, a little girl with autism. The University of Washington’s Wendy Stone, an autism expert, played an important role in developing the character and getting the “See Amazing in All Children” initiative off the ground. Autism, a developmental disorder, affects one in 68 American children.

A 2010 background paper, co-authored by Stone, who directs the Research in Early Autism Detection and Intervention Lab at the UW, and Vanderbilt University’s Evon Bately Lee, helped Sesame Street Workshop decide whether or not to introduce autism to its audience. Then, she and 11 other advisory board members from universities and autism organizations around the country reviewed materials for the initiative as they were being developed.

The initiative includes a free iPad app, instructional cards and digital and printed storybooks. Some of these materials can also be found online.

EU: Pay up, Starbucks

at 2:28pm by Joe Copeland

The European Union says the Netherlands fixed Starbucks a much-too-sweet deal on taxes, and ordered Dutch authorities to collect up to $34 million from the coffee giant. As a Seattle Times story notes, this is one of a number of investigations the EU has launched regarding its member states’ tax rulings, some of which the European Commission regards as amounting to illegal subsidies. The commission found that Starbucks subsidiaries in other parts of Europe received substantial payments from the company’s roasting unit in Holland, minimizing Starbucks’ overall tax payments. Starbucks said it disagrees with the ruling and has acted properly.

At the same time as it went after Starbucks, the European Commission issued a similar ruling against Fiat.

On top of the world and the Needle, too

at 1:02pm by Leslie Holleran

The victorious U.S. women’s soccer team, having won the World Cup this summer, had the honor of raising the American flag on top of the Space Needle this morning. Their victory over Japan was the first time in 16 years the U.S. team earned the cup. Earlier today, the Space Needle and Seattle Reign FC tweeted photos of Hope Solo, Julie Johnston and Cari Lloyd with America’s stars and stripes and smiles on their faces.

Tonight at 7, the champs will play the Brazilian team in a friendly game that is part of a 10-game “Victory Tour” at CenturyLink Field. The two teams will meet up again in Orlando on Sunday.

Front to back: Julie Johnston, Cari Lloyd and Hope Solo
Front to back: Julie Johnston, Cari Lloyd and Hope Solo Credit: Seattle Reign


Patty Murray's numbers: Ever so meh

at 12:20pm by Joe Copeland

A new Elway Poll shows that Washingtonians are well short of wild about the performance of U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, who faces re-election in November of next year. Nearly half of her constituents — 49 percent —  rate her performance only fair or poor, and just 41 percent believe she is doing a good or excellent job. It’s pretty much a flip from 2009, a year before her last election campaign, when 48 percent gave her positive job ratings, and she wound up winning with just 52 percent of the vote. So far, Elway notes, she is far ahead of Republican challenger Chris Vance, 44 to 23 percent.

Tuesday 20 Oct, 2015

Licata: Well, it ought to be illegal. Spokane may allow pot convictions to be overturned. Seattle's school start times set off alarms.

Spokane may look back at pot convictions

at 3:04pm by Joe Copeland

Spokane City Council’s president wants to allow anyone found guilty of pot possession in its city court to have their convictions overturned. The Spokesman-Review reports that the proposal by the council leader, Ben Stuckart, grew out of his work on racial justice issues; members of minority groups tended to be convicted for marijuana possession at higher rates. He notes that convictions, even for the possession of now-legal pot, can make it harder for people to get jobs or rental housing.

The proposal is modeled on one that failed to win approval in the Legislature earlier this year.

Licata asks for Ethics and Elections rule change

at 2:43pm by David Kroman

Since Seattle City Council candidate Jon Grant went public with accusations he’d been blackmailed, there has been some head-scratching over legal niceties. The Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission (SEEC), responsible for enforcing election rules, has said numerous times it is unable to do anything because the interaction between Grant and Triad Capital VP Brett Allen centered on possible actions by an Independent Expenditure group that hadn’t officially been formed.

Allen apparently told Grant that the group was prepared to spend $200,000 attacking Grant but that could be headed off by the candidate’s intervention to settle a suit over a Triad project.

In response, Councilmember Nick Licata sent a letter to the SEEC urging a rule change. “Public trust is undermined by the lack of a clear, unambiguous prohibition in the Seattle Ethics and Elections Code of these activities that could be construed as unethical coercion at best, extortion at worst,” he wrote. “I am requesting that the Ethics and Elections Commission propose amendments to the Ethics and Elections Code to clearly and unambiguously prohibit similar activity in future Seattle elections.”

Seattle Public Schools’ start times become contentious

at 1:29pm by Leslie Holleran

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends later start times for high school students in order to improve their academic performance. But, for Seattle schools, achieving this recommendation isn’t simply a matter of pushing back the start times for the high schools.

In order to remain cost-neutral and not increase transportation costs, SPS superintendent Larry Nyland has put forth a proposal that would affect some Seattle elementary and K-8 schools as well, the Seattle Times reports. He will introduce the proposal to at the school board’s meeting Wednesday evening. High schools would begin at 8:50 a.m., as per the Academy of Pediatric’s recommendation, as would most middle schools. Most elementary schools would begin at 8 am. Under Nyland’s plan, however, 10 elementary schools and three K-8 schools will start at 9:40 a.m. to hold down transportation costs, something that has some parents very unhappy and planning to object at the board meeting.

The proposal will go to a school board vote on Nov. 4.

Monday 19 Oct, 2015

Bremerton talking to defiant coach. Amazon and NY Times continue to disagree on workplace culture. Drones: Stand by for registration.

Bremerton talking with defiant coach

at 2:05pm by Joe Copeland

The Bremerton School District is apparently trying to work with an assistant football coach who insisted on conducting a prayer after Friday’s game. The Kitsap Sun reports that the district plans to “continue a dialogue” with the coach, Joe Kennedy. Despite a district ban on prayer led by staffers, Kennedy went to mid-field after a game Friday and knelt in silent prayer. Some of Bremerton High’s team watched, but it was mainly members of the opposition team, Centralia High, that gathered around him, according to the Sun.

Amazon and NY Times continue to disagree on workplace culture

at 1:51pm by Matt Spaw

And the New York Times-Amazon war continues: In response to last month’s New York Times expose decrying Amazon’s workplace culture, Amazon’s top public relations boss has posted an article on Medium to refute many of the claims. According to a Seattle Times story, the PR boss asserts that one of the Times’ most important sources falsified records while working at Amazon. The PR boss (none other than former Obama Press Secretary Jay Carney) also said that an employee evaluation tool criticized in the NY Times piece has been well-received by employees.

New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet responded to Amazon this morning, saying that the paper’s source disputes the account of his departure provided by the Amazon pr boss. Baquet also said that many of the comments he has received from the article backed up the reporting.

Drones: Stand by for registration

at 12:15pm by Joe Copeland

The Federal Aviation Administration plans to require registration of all drones of any size, an announcement that Member of Congress Rick Larsen, D-Lake Stevens, quickly praised as an important safety step that enjoys bipartisan support in the U.S. House of Representatives. The FAA is planning to act on a very fast track, hoping to have a system in place by mid-November — in time for the Christmas shopping season. As science writer Alan Boyle notes on GeekWire, that might set a record for FAA rule-making.

Friday 16 Oct, 2015

Ballmer tweets about Twitter.

Dave Reichert: Comfy in D.C.

at 2:55pm by Joe Copeland

Eastside Member of Congress Dave Reichert is staying put, saying today that he will seek re-election in his safe district. As Joel Connelly of seattlepi.com wryly notes, this puts to bed five years of Reichert self-generated speculation that maybe he’d come home and win the governorship for Republicans ever so heroically. Since the last Republican governor left office three decades ago, meaning that perhaps half the state is too young or too newly arrived to have witnessed a GOP governor operating in Olympia.

Squatters are back at old Seattle Times offices

at 2:28pm by Matt Spaw

Even after the old Seattle Times offices were cleared by police on Sept. 30 and sealed, squatters have continued to get into the building. Squatters told a Times reporter that they returned to the building because it was safer than shelters. About 60 squatters are living in the building.

The building is large and has many small entrances, making it difficult to secure entirely. According to a spokesman with the city Department of Planning and Development, the building is unsafe because of the difficulty of getting into and out of it in an emergency. All windows and doors have been boarded up around the property.

Seahawks’ Derrick Coleman free while investigation continues

at 2:22pm by Matt Spaw

Seahawks fullback Derrick Coleman is being released from King County Jail today without being charged, but officials say an investigation is continuing. Coleman was arrested on Wednesday, and suspended by the Seahawks, on suspicion of a hit and run, according to The Seattle Times.  The man driving the other car sustained serious but non-life-threatening injuries.

According to a Bellevue police chief, there was evidence to suspect that drugs or alcohol could have been involved. A spokesman for the Prosecutor’s Office said that a toxicology report will take weeks. Coleman’s attorney says he is confident no charges will be filed. 

Ballmer bullish on Twitter

at 11:12am by Joe Copeland

Steve Ballmer tweeted the word today: He has bought a 4 percent share in Twitter. And he likes the “leaner” direction there, where CEO (again) Jack Dorsey  has just announced a few hundred layoffs. The Puget Sound Business Journal notes there was a quick jump in Twitter’s share prices after Ballmer put out the word of his investments, which he said had taken place over a few months.

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