Dark clouds on the horizon for Boeing?
By the numbers, it was a terrific quarter and year for the jet maker. Most eyes, however, are affixed to two bad news stories. Most obviously, the 787 fleet remains out of commission as investigators try to get to the bottom of their mild “catching-on-fire” problem, while within the company, tensions between management and engineers are coming to a head. When the engineering and technical workers’ union contract expired in November, Boeing’s new offer was frankly insulting. Boeing offered its engineers and technical workers raises between 2% and 3%, compared to the previous contract rate of 5%. It astounds me that CEO James McNerney thinks his own work became 34% more valuable, while the people who actually built the plane should get “rewarded” with a worse contract. Daniel Ferry, Motley Fool, 2-15-13.
Business groups take battle over Seattle sick-leave law to Olympia
A year and a half after the Seattle City Council voted to require private employers to provide paid sick leave, business groups are hoping to redo the debate on potentially more friendly turf: the state Capitol. Republican lawmakers introduced two bills last week to repeal or weaken Seattle’s ordinance — both spurred by complaints from some of the same groups that originally opposed the measure, the sponsors said. Two conservative freshman Republicans signed on to lead the effort: Sen. John Braun (R-20), and Rep. Matt Manweller (R-13). Seattle Times, 2-18-13.
UW ranked among world’s top 25 universities
The London Times Higher Education World University Rankings judged world class universities across all of their core missions – teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook. UW ranked 24th on the list. Other U.S. universities in the top 25 were, in order, Cal Tech, Stanford, Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Cal-Berkeley, Chicago, Yale, UCLA, Columbia, Penn, Johns Hopkins, Cornell, Northwestern, Michigan, Carnegie-Mellon, Duke, and Texas. Now do we need to do a better job funding higher ed in this state, or what? London Times, 2-19-13.
And while we’re on the subject . . .
As current regent Sally Jewell leaves the UW Board of Regents to join President Barack Obama’s administration as the Secretary of the Interior, her vacancy presents an opportunity for us to appointing a regent from a civics background. The UW has a long history of regents from corporate and business backgrounds. Of the nine regents currently on the board, there are former or current executives from Starbucks, Alaska Airlines, Microsoft, REI, Boeing, and a cadre of other businesses. There, however, is nobody with a public service background, nor is there anybody with a background in labor interests. Bill Dow, UW Daily, 2-18-13.
Seattle Superintendent and testing company defend MAP test
Seattle Public Schools officials and the company that produces the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test are defending the school district’s use of the standardized test after Garfield High School teachers refused to give it to their students this quarter. Superintendent Jose Banda says he hears teachers’ frustrations. “They chose this way to express themselves and the message is heard loud and clear,” Banda said. “But I’m going to hold firm to the fact that they have obligations and responsibilities. And the expectation is these two assessments will be given.” KUOW, 2-14-13.
Lake Burien: the public lake you can’t use
Lake Burien is a 44-acre public oasis in the city’s old town center. But it’s surrounded by private property, so the public is shut out. And that’s the way lakefront homeowners like it, saying public access would ruin water quality. Lake Burien is owned by the state, but because it is completely surrounded by private property — mostly homes whose owners quite enjoy their placid urban haven that is punctuated by the occasional bald eagle — the public has zero access to it. Seattle Times, 2-17-13.
Looming federal spending cuts could mean billions lost from state economy
National political dysfunction has been damaging business in the South Puget Sound region for some time, some business owners say, but the looming spending cuts called sequestration promise a parade of horribles. “Our company’s been in operation for 29 years. I’ve been through five recessions and I have not had one this bad, ever,” said Guy Stitt, president of AMI International, a Bremerton-based naval analysis firm. “I’m scared. I’m concerned for our future because I see a Congress that to me seems to be more driven by the wealth of large corporations and the condition of the stock market. “I don’t know if you noticed, the stock market is doing well,” he said. “But the small businesses in our state are hurting.” Tacoma News Tribune, 2-19-13.
Ferry godfathers: Two lawmakers want more oversight of Washington’s fleet
Two ferry bills are racing the clock in Olympia this week. Both seek to wrest control of vessel design from the Washington State Ferries and give it to the legislature. The clock ticks down at the end of Friday, when all non-budget bills must be out of committee — or die. Rep. Larry Seaquist (D-26) and Sen. Nathan Schlicher (D-26) introduced identical ferry design bills late last week. If HB 1180 and SB 5800 become law, any design of new ferries or major renovations to existing vessels would require the legislature’s prior approval. Crosscut, 2-19-13.
No collective bargaining for state worker health care under Tom bill
“Democratic” Sen. Rodney Tom (“D”-48) introduced a bill Monday that would mandate that wellness programs be a part of state employees’ health plans starting on Jan. 1, 2014. SB 5811 also would strip health-care from the issues that are subject to collective bargaining, and it is fast-tracked for a hearing Thursday afternoon. Tom I get, but why is Paull Shin (“D”-21) a co-sponsor of this bill? Olympian, 2-18-13.
And one more from Sir Rodney . . .
“The voters of this state have repeatedly said that they do not want a state income tax, yet here we go again hearing the same old proposals aimed at taxing our small-business owners out of business and taking every last dime out of the pockets of middle-class families,” he said recently. Kirkland Reporter, 2-15-13, offered here to illustrate a perfect example of a “news medium” reprinting a press release verbatim. Welcome to the world of Sound Publishing.
Hasegawa: Prevailing wage bills would erode middle-class earning power
Another day, another attack on working people’s economic and bargaining power from the “majority coalition.” Overriding opposition from Democrats, the Republican majority on the Senate Commerce & Labor Committee Monday sent to the Senate Rules Committee a quartet of bills that would reduce the earnings of middle-class men and women on construction projects across the state, by eroding prevailing wage guidelines. Sen. Bob Hasegawa (D-11) said: “Prevailing wage ensures fair compensation to working men and women trying to raise the kind of middle-class families that help our communities thrive. Prevailing wage makes for higher quality projects and makes our state stronger.” Senate Democrats Blog, 2-18-13.
Voting Rights Act in the Supreme Court’s crosshairs
When the Supreme Court hears oral arguments next week about the constitutionality of a key element of the Voting Rights Act, the Obama administration and other proponents of the law will be facing five very skeptical justices. Shelby County v. Holder is the latest in a string of landmark cases that will shape the legacy of the Roberts Court. Proponents of the law are extremely nervous, and privately acknowledge that they face a steep uphill climb in winning over a majority of the justices. Talking Points Memo, 2-20-13.
Op-ed: The GOP’s nasty newcomer
When a Vesuvius like John McCain tells you that you belch too much smoke and spew too much fire, you know you’ve got a problem. And Ted Cruz, a Republican freshman in the Senate who has been front and center in his party’s effort to squash Chuck Hagel’s nomination as Secretary of Defense, has a problem. He’s an ornery, swaggering piece of work. Frank Bruni, New York Times, 2-17-13.
Cruz is horrified: Hagel favors negotiations, having reasons to fight war
And in a satirical Onion-like look at Senator Cruz, duffelblog.com “quotes” him as berating Hagel: “You are soft on defense. How can you favor cutting the defense budget now that our wars are ending? How will the Army afford the useless equipment that’s built in my district?”
Prosecutors, shifting strategy, build new Wall Street cases
Criticized for letting Wall Street off the hook after the financial crisis, the Justice Department is building a new model for prosecuting big banks. In a recent round of actions that shook the financial industry, the government pushed for guilty pleas, rather than just the usual fines and reforms. Prosecutors now aim to apply the approach broadly to financial fraud cases, according to officials involved in the investigations. Can we please see someone serve some hard time? New York Times, 2-18-13.
Guerrilla surveillance camera destruction hits the U.S.
This was inevitable. It started in Berlin: Anarchists, donning black bloc attire, hit the streets at night in pairs, small groups, or alone to smash and dismantle the CCTV surveillance cameras adorning the city streets. The anti-surveillance project quickly spread throughout Germany, to Finland, Greece and hit the U.S. West Coast this month. A group identifying itself as “the Barefoot Bandit Brigade” released a statement claiming to have “removed and destroyed 17 security cameras throughout the Puget Sound region,” with ostensible photo evidence published alongside. Salon, 2-15-13.
To Think About
Special Report: Class Struggle – How charter schools get students they want
Getting in can be grueling. Students may be asked to submit a 15-page typed research paper, an original short story, or a handwritten essay on the historical figure they would most like to meet. There are interviews, exams, and pages of questions for parents to answer, including: How do you intend to help this school if we admit your son or daughter? These aren’t college applications. They’re applications for seats at charter schools. Charters are public schools, funded by taxpayers and widely promoted as open to all. But Reuters has found that across the United States, charters aggressively screen student applicants, assessing their academic records, parental support, disciplinary history, motivation, special needs and even their citizenship, sometimes in violation of state and federal law. Reuters, 2-15-13.