Rob Holland quits Seattle Port Commission
Seattle Port Commissioner Rob Holland has resigned, three years into his first term and days after a critical article by Seattle Times reporter Emily Heffter laid out Holland’s multiple problems, ranging from improper personal expenses on his Port credit card to personal employment difficulties to tensions with port staff. Fellow Port Commissioner Tom Albro, who has had difficulties with Holland, praised him as an “advocate for working families during his service on the commission.” Seattle P-I, 2-13-13.
Senate Republicans seek to repeal Seattle’s new sick leave law
State Senate Republicans, who have already proposed repealing the state’s never-implemented family-leave requirement, are now targeting Seattle’s sick-leave law. The law, which took effect in September, requires businesses with at least five employees operating in Seattle to provide paid sick leave to workers. Seattle is one of three major cities in the United States to have the law. SB 5728 would take Seattle’s law off the books by declaring that the Legislature has the sole responsibility for sick-leave requirements. SB 5726 would scale back Seattle’s law by prohibiting cities from requiring sick leave for employers based outside the city. Both bills were introduced Tuesday by John Braun (R-20) and are supported by Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom (“D”-48). Seattle Times, 2-13-13.
City blinks on parking rates, hours in International District
Mayor Mike McGinn has agreed to roll back parking rates in the Chinatown International District a year after restaurant owners and community leaders complained that the longer hours had caused a sharp drop in business. Evening parking rates will drop from $2.50 to $1.50 an hour from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the heart of the International District. The outer areas, with about 300 of the total 450 on-street parking spaces, will again be free after 6 p.m. The new rates are expected to go into effect in early March. Seattle Times, 2-13-13.
Op-ed: STEM Schools: Where’s the art? One student speaks out
As the U.S. increases focus on STEM schools, arts advocates fear that arts education will be lost. Though art itself may not help solve climate change, advocates argue that the skills and creativity that students learn from the arts exactly what’s needed to develop tomorrow’s leaders. At Seattle’s STEM-oriented Cleveland High School, students in Ronald’s biology class made animated flip books to illustrate evolution. Overall, however, Ronald isn’t happy (“raging,” he says) about the shrinking art offerings at his school. Naturec.org, 2-5-13.
Big-time fraud found in initiative petitions
A big-time case of “apparent fraud” and bogus signatures in petitions for statewide ballot initiatives — including Tim Eyman’s I-517, which has already qualified for the ballot — was disclosed late Wednesday by the Secretary of State’s office in Olympia. The fraud involves more than 8,000 signatures collected for two campaigns that have hired paid signature gatherers, I-517 and I-522, which deals with genetically modified foods. Secretary of State Kim Wyman, the state’s chief elections officer, was furious and called for criminal action. Signature fraud is a Class C felony punishable by a prison sentence of up to five years. Seattle P-I, 2-13-13.
Voting Rights Act passes House committee
Voting rights legislation written with an eye toward changing Yakima’s City Council elections was approved Tuesday by the House Government Operations and Elections Committee. HB 1413, the Washington Voting Rights Act, sponsored by Rep. Luis Moscoso (D-1) would receive strong support in a floor vote in the House, but may have more difficult odds of passing the mostly Republican-controlled Senate. Yakima Herald-Republic, 2-13-13.
State lawmakers show support for gun measure
Washington lawmakers are beginning to coalesce around a plan that would expand the state’s laws on gun background checks, providing hope for supporters after years of failed efforts. The background checks plan has picked up support from Rep. Mike Hope (R-44). The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs also supports the idea. Background checks are already required when purchases are made at federally licensed gun shops. The bill would expand that requirement to sales between private parties. Olympian, 2-11-13.
Lawmakers are about $1B apart on K-12 education
About a billion dollars separates Senate Republicans from House Democrats on how they believe the Legislature should respond to last year’s Supreme Court ruling on money for Washington schools. But lawmakers from both parties say the differences are not so far that they won’t be able to work out a compromise. Rep. Ross Hunter (D-48), House Democrats’ Chief budget writer, says the disagreements aren’t just about money. “I don’t think we fundamentally agree on the responsibility,” he said. Kitsap Sun, 2-12-13.
Judge rules in support of strippers’ privacy
A Pierce County judge Tuesday permanently blocked a Pierce County Jail inmate from receiving the names, addresses, phone numbers and other personal information of more than 200 exotic dancers. Superior Court Judge Ronald Culpepper ruled the dancers have “a very reasonable fear” that releasing their county license applications to a public records request could put them at risk of abuse by Robert “The Traveler” Hill, a Tacoma man with three felony convictions. Tacoma News Tribune, 2-13-13.
‘Wage theft’ prevails in post-recession economy
Behind the counter at a convenience store in Princess Anne MD, Elvira Orellana worked 72 hours a week, making sandwiches, cleaning the kitchen and ordering the ingredients to prepare oxtail, curry chicken and cheese steaks. Her employer paid her $648 a week — $324 less than she was owed under laws that require that workers earn time and a half for clocking more than 40 hours a week. When she complained, Orellana said, her boss threatened to cut her wages and then fired her. Orellana’s case, which she won in federal court, illustrates a problem that historically has been more pronounced in the wake of recessions. Since the most recent downturn, worker advocates and law enforcement officials say, a growing number of employers have violated wage and labor laws enacted 75 years ago in response to worker mistreatment prevalent during the Depression. Baltimore Sun, 2-2-13.
Health officials urge FDA to limit sweeteners in sodas
Health advocates and public health officials from major cities around the country are asking the Food and Drug Administration to regulate the amount of caloric sweeteners in sodas and other beverages, arguing that the scientific consensus is that the level of added sugars in those products is unsafe. The group, led by the Center for Science in the Public Interest and including public health departments from Boston to Los Angeles, said that the FDA pledged in 1982 and 1988 to reassess the safety of sweeteners if consumption increased or if new scientific research indicated that ingredients like high fructose corn syrup and sucrose were a public health hazard. New York Times, 2-13-13.
To Think About
Fallacy of the ‘creative class’: Why Richard Florida’s ‘urban renaissance’ won’t save U.S. cities
It was an urbanist’s nightmare. On Feb. 1, a teenager was shot dead in the middle of a popular art gallery walk and street fair in Oakland, Calif. — a town that highlights exactly what a city wins and loses when it attracts a huge influx of the vaunted “creative class.” Kiante Campbell, 18 was killed in the shadow of new condominiums, gourmet food trucks, and buffed art galleries selling oil paintings that cost more than a few months’ rent in the ’hood. The festival, Art Murmur, shuts down much of Oakland’s downtown on the first Friday of each month, drawing 20,000 people, including tourists from both San Francisco and the surrounding suburbs. Now its future was called into question. The shooting highlighted a stark reality: The creative class is remaking Oakland in its own image, but the “urban renaissance” isn’t benefitting everyone. The neighborhood where Campbell was killed has new condos and galleries — and a median household income of less than $22,000. Grist, 2-11-13.