Cops: “We’re not spying” Residents: “We don’t believe you”
A healthy crowd of Alki residents packed Wednesday’s Seattle City Council Public Safety, Civil Rights, and Technology committee meeting to voice their concerns about 30 surveillance cameras recently erected along Seattle’s waterways—most notably Alki beach. The cameras, purchased through a $5 million federal homeland security grant last year and installed in January, would ostensibly be used to monitor nearby port facilities and guard our waterways against acts of terrorism. But the ACLU of Washington likened the cameras to citywide network ushering in 24-hour government surveillance, while Alki residents fear that their 360-degree capabilities could be easily manipulated to zoom into resident windows or used to spy on unsuspecting, law-abiding beachgoers. Stranger, 2-20-13.
Alison Holcomb, weighing a jump into politics, wants to move beyond pot
Pot reformer Alison Holcomb started hearing late last week about a political robo-poll testing her name against Seattle City Council members Nick Licata and Mike O’Brien. “I got a couple of calls from Licata supporters saying, ‘you’re not thinking of running against Licata, are you?’ ” the ACLU lawyer recalls. She isn’t necessarily, and she still doesn’t know who was conducting the poll and why. But she concedes that she has been talking to people about a possible run for some elected office, and it’s not because she wants to stir up yet another marijuana revolution. Seattle Weekly, 2-19-13.
Armondo Pavone to run for open Renton City Council seat
Armondo Pavone, a lifelong Renton resident and business owner, said Tuesday he will run for a seat on the Renton City Council this year. Pavone will seek an open seat on the council currently held by council member Rich Zwicker, who has said he does not plan to seek re-election this year. Zwicker was appointed to the City Council in 2008 and elected in 2010. Renton Reporter, 2-19-13.
Joey Martinez to run again for Burien City Council
Joey Martinez, who unsuccessfully ran for Burien City Council last year – losing against Gordon Shaw and Bob Edgar in the primary – appears to be the first to announce that he will be running for a seat in 2013. Martinez works for Seattle City Light, and is also a member of the Burien Planning Commission, with his term expiring in March 2016. B-Town Blog, 2-18-13.
Reardon will resign, effective at end of May
‘Enough is enough,’ Snohomish County executive says after latest controversy, battle with County Council
Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon said today he will resign effective at the end of May. Reardon said the timeframe gives the Democratic party enough time to pick a replacement. Reardon, whose third term ends in January 2016, is embroiled in controversy over a campaign by his staff members that appears to have been intended to harass Reardon’s political rivals. On Wednesday, the County Council removed authority for the county’s information technology department from Reardon’s office. Everett Herald, 2-21-13. (see below for previous story).
Gas, car-tab taxes drive House Dems’ transportation plan
House Democrats rolled out a nearly $10 billion transportation package Wednesday that would boost taxes on gasoline, increase car tabs,and even charge a bicycle fee to raise money. The proposal would increase the state gas tax by 10 cents over five years, eventually reaching a total of 47.5 cents per gallon. Washington currently has the nation’s ninth-highest gas tax. In addition, it would create a car-tab tax equal to 0.7 percent of a vehicle’s value — $140 for a $20,000 car. There’s even a $25 sales fee on bicycles worth $500 or more that would raise $1 million over 10 years, a nod to motorists who complain that bicyclists don’t pay their fair share. Seattle Times, 2-20-13.
Inslee: Washington must do something about climate change
Gov. Jay Inslee stepped up his campaign Wednesday to do something on climate change, telling a legislative committee this morning that the impacts of global warming could cause $10 billion damage to Washington’s economy by 2020. “I believe we in Washington ought to be optimistic in our ability to whip climate change,’’ Inslee told the committee in testifying for his proposal to create a legislative task force to study climate change responses. The Republican-led Senate Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee welcomed the Democratic governor, and chairman Doug Ericksen (R-42) welcomed Inslee’s “bold” and “big” approach to developing energy and technological innovation in Washington. Olympian, 2-20-13.
Council strips Reardon of control over tech operations
The Snohomish County Council voted unanimously Wednesday morning to move authority for operating the county’s computers and other technology away from the control of County Executive Aaron Reardon. The move was prompted “to ensure the integrity of the public records, as well as the public confidence in the county’s records” while Prosecuting Attorney Mark Roe seeks an independent outside investigation to determine if laws were broken by Reardon’s staff in a campaign that appears to have been designed to harass their boss’ political rivals, council members said. Everett Herald, 2-0-13.
Op-ed: Workers don’t seem to be a priority
Providence St. Peter Hospital has been in our community as long as we can remember. When it was founded more than 125 years ago, the Sisters of Providence were driven by principles of charity, caring for the poor and vulnerable. Sadly, Sisters of Providence views do not seem to be as high a priority at St. Peter today. I’m sure the Sisters never envisioned the hospital they founded to care for all would become part of a health care behemoth with more than $239 million in profits. And I believe they would be shocked to hear that the hospital is cutting health benefits to the very caregivers who make it successful – the men and women who work there. Rep. Sam Hunt, Olympian, 2-20-13.
In reversal, Florida to take health law’s Medicaid expansion
Gov. Rick Scott of Florida reversed himself Wednesday and said he would expand his state’s Medicaid program to cover the poor, becoming the latest — and perhaps most prominent — Republican critic of President Obama’s health care law to decide to put it into effect. It was an about-face for Scott, a former businessman who entered politics as a critic of Obama’s health care proposals. Florida was one of the states that sued to try to block the law. New York Times, 2-20-13.
Health care, without doctors, coming to a Wal-Mart near you
As Americans gain coverage under the federal health law, putting increased demand on primary care doctors and spurring interest in cheaper, more convenient care, unmanned kiosks at Wal-Marts may be part of what their manufacturer bills as a “self-service healthcare revolution.” From SoloHealth’s stations, slated to be in 2,500 Wal-Marts and Sam’s Clubs next month, to video consultations with doctors, to smartphone apps that track blood pressure and heart rate, consumer health technology is attracting big-name backers such as Wal-Mart, health insurers Wellpoint and UnitedHealthcare, and companies that make or distribute medical products, such as Johnson & Johnson and Cardinal Health. PBS, 2-20-13.
Corporations advise school closings, while private charters suck public schools away
On Dec. 13, 2012, Philadelphia became the latest major American city to recommend sweeping school closures for the next academic year. Under this new proposal, a total of 37, or about 16 percent, of the district’s 237 public schools will be shuttered this June. That’s down from the 40 schools the city designated for closure back in May, but still represents an unprecedented move in Philadelphia’s history. The School Commission Reform, an outside body appointed to govern Philadelphia schools, has scheduled its final vote for March 7. There is nothing democratic about how this happened to the City of Brotherly Love. Though officials gave lip service to the idea of “parental empowerment” through “school choice,” in the end, parents had no role in deciding what policies would be enforced. Everything was outsourced. Truthout, 2-17-13.
Weapons made with 3-D printers could test gun-control efforts
Twenty minutes into his State of the Union address last week, President Obama entered the realm of uber-geekery — three-dimensional printing. The magical devices capable of printing prosthetics, violins and even aircraft parts have the potential, the president said, “to revolutionize the way we make almost everything.” Forty miles away from the Capitol, in Glen Burnie, Md., Travis Lerol is proving Obama’s point — with guns. In a spare bedroom, where an AR-15 rifle leans against the wall, Lerol is using a 3-D printer no larger than an espresso machine to make plastic rifle parts and ammunition magazines in between tea sets and chess pieces. Washington Post, 2-18-13.
To Think About
The wage theft epidemic: Thanks to government cuts, there’s no one to stop your boss from withholding your pay
Even as the ranks of low-wage workers have swelled since the recession, Democratic and Republican legislatures in more than a dozen states have quietly slashed funding for the agencies that enforce minimum wage law. Budget cuts are no surprise in an era of austerity. Yet the effect of these cuts on wage-and-hour investigative units—charged with examining and settling wage disputes—has seriously compromised an essential line of defense for already vulnerable low-wage earners, according to experts. State labor officials and researchers around the country say low-wage workers facing abusive employers increasingly have nowhere to turn. In These Times, 2-20-13.