Green Jobs? State’s first big marijuana grow operation is announced, and here’s the fun part – it’s in a public building
Under the brave new world created by Washington’s Initiative 502, it looks like all that campaign talk about green jobs is coming true. Seattle restaurateur Marcus Charles will take over a part of vacant sawmill complex at the Port of Willapa Harbor in Raymond, Pacific County, a coastal community hard-hit by decades of downturn in the lumber industry. Port officials say Washington’s new cannabis industry is a good fit. They have the buildings. Charles has the capital. And isn’t that the way economic development is supposed to work? Washington State Wire, 3-16-13.
Ex-Gov. Booth Gardner dies of Parkinson’s complications
Former two-term Gov. Booth Gardner, who died late Friday at 76, was celebrated rather than mourned over the weekend as a wealthy man with a common touch, a font of ideas, a fine self-depreciating sense of humor, and the grit to prod a statewide initiative campaign while seriously ill with Parkinson’s Disease. Gardner was elected Governor in 1984, a Democrat winning in the face of Ronald Reagan’s landslide, and served for eight years. Former Gov. Dan Evans, a Republican, recalled working with Gardner when both were long out of office but deeply worried that the state was letting a first-rate higher education system go to seed and saddling students with enormous tuition burdens. In 2008, Evans endorsed Initiative 1000, the Gardner-championed “death with dignity” measure that legalized assisted suicide in Washington. It passed with 58 percent of the vote.“We were not really that far apart on what was good for the state,” Evans added. He was a good man. He never let go.” Seattle P-I, 3-16-13.
Climate emerges as hot issue in Columbia River Treaty talks with Canada
Environmentalists want climate change to take center stage as U.S. and Canadian officials try to decide whether to extend or change the Columbia River Treaty. Either party may end the agreement on Sept. 16, 2024, with a 10-year notice, which has both sides scrambling to figure out what to do by next year. Critics say the pact has been a force of destruction for the environment, killing off many endangered species. Thirteen different stocks of Columbia River salmon and steelhead are on the list of threatened and endangered species, while dozens more are extinct. Indian tribes are particularly unhappy, saying the dams made it impossible for salmon to navigate the river, once home to the largest salmon runs in the world. And they’re upset that they weren’t allowed to participate in the original treaty talks. Bellingham Herald, 3-16-13.
Legislature is running out of places to hide from school funding decisions
A lot of education reform bills are in play in the Washington Legislature. But none so far directly tackles the shortcomings that the Washington Supreme Court has ruled that the state must fix. When the Supreme Court told the state in early 2012 that it has a legal obligation to improve K-12 education, the required upgrades boiled down to improving teacher-student ratios, and increasing the amount of instruction. Bottom line: The court believes a lot more teachers are needed. That means digging up more money. Most likely Republicans and Democrats will have a big gap between their education budget proposals. Senate Republicans will likely try to put out a proposal that backs their contention that no new taxes will be needed. Democrats are expected to use their proposal to prove that new taxes will be needed. Crosscut, 3-15-13.
Eyman campaign investigated by Public Disclosure Commission
The state Public Disclosure Commission will investigate a complaint that Tim Eyman’s statewide campaign for Initiative 517 failed to register in a timely fashion under state campaign laws and did not deliver timely reports on the money it raised and where it went. Initiative 517, which has qualified for the ballot, would double the time that Eyman and his paid signature gatherers have to qualify initiatives for the ballot. It would require cities and localities to put initiatives up for a vote, even if measures exceed the scope of local initiative powers. Seattle P-I, 3-15-13.
Local student takes on corporate giant Dole Foods and wins
When David took on Goliath, no one thought he could win. That was pretty much the case when a University of Washington law student took on the Dole Food Company, which happens to be the world’s largest producer of fresh fruits and vegetables. Eric Harrison learned that one of Dole’s banana plantations had cleared 1,200 acres in Guatemala and diverted a river. He said that move left 4,500 people — mostly children — without clean water. He sued. Dole settled. The company denied the allegations, but agreed to help Harrison set up a water and distribution system for the Guatemalan community. Harrison is currently in Guatemala launching the first step in the clean water project and setting up a plant for the locals to make their own clay filters. KOMO, 3-15-13.
Bellevue, Sound Transit, judge keep light-rail plan on track
Watching Bellevue and Sound Transit talk about light-rail transit has sometimes been like watching Laurel and Hardy. You just knew something would go wrong. But the relationship has been on the mend, and things have gone particularly well the past few weeks. Now the city and transit agency seem confident they’ll be able to agree on thorny design issues — including where to put the downtown Bellevue station. “It is a goal of mine to ensure that Bellevue is not the cause of delay to Sound Transit. We have worked very hard to assure that is not the case,” City Council member Kevin Wallace said. Seattle Times, 3-15-13.
Mercer Islanders ask feds to put brakes on I-90 tolling proposal
The state’s proposal to toll Interstate 90 across Lake Washington is not sitting well with Mercer Island officials, and they’re not wasting any time voicing their concerns with federal and state leaders. Earlier this week the city sent a letter to the Federal Highway Administration asking them to hold off on authorizing the tolling plan altogether. “We want to make sure the Federal Highway Administration understands the legality of approving tolls and the significance,” said Noel Treat, deputy city manager for Mercer Island. “From what we understand, this is the first time an interstate could be tolled to pay for a completely separate state project.” City officials believe tolling a federal interstate to pay for an unrelated project could set a national precedent – something they want the federal administration to evaluate. KOMO, 3-15-13.
Op-ed: An open challenge to Michelle Rhee and the corporate education zombies
Maybe I shouldn’t have stood up and said, “Welcome to Seattle,” while wearing my Garfield High School hoodie when Michelle Rhee took the stage at a recent Town Hall event in Seattle. Rhee, the prominent corporate education reform advocate, former D.C. Public Schools Chancellor, and CEO of the ironically-named “Students First” organization, now has Seattle in her crosshairs. In her March 5th op-ed for the Seattle Times, Rhee berated teachers at Garfield and other Seattle schools for their boycott of the district required MAP test. In the end, the boycott reflected the will of students and parents, who agreed with teachers that student time was better spent learning in the classroom, and that library computers were better used for student research and writing rather than testing. Had she acknowledged this, Michelle Rhee would have had some difficult questions to answer. Jesse Hagopian, Common Dreams, 3-15-13.
High court to consider Arizona’s voter-registration rule
The Supreme Court will struggle this week with the validity of an Arizona law that tries to keep illegal immigrants from voting by demanding all state residents show documents proving their U.S. citizenship before registering to vote in national elections. The high court will hear arguments Monday over the legality of Arizona’s voter-approved requirement that prospective voters document their U.S. citizenship to use a registration form produced under the federal “Motor Voter” voter-registration law that doesn’t require such documentation. The Obama administration supports challengers to the law. If Arizona can add citizenship requirements, then “each state could impose all manner of its own supplemental requirements beyond the federal form,” Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. said in court papers. Associated Press (Seattle Times), 3-17-13.
Federal judge finds national security letters unconstitutional, bans them
Ultra-secret national security letters that come with a gag order on the recipient are an unconstitutional impingement on free speech, a federal judge in California ruled in a decision released Friday. U.S. District Judge Susan Illston ordered the government to stop issuing so-called NSLs across the board, in a stunning defeat for the Obama administration’s surveillance practices. She also ordered the government to cease enforcing the gag provision in any other cases. However, she stayed her order for 90 days to give the government a chance to appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Wired, 3-15-13.
Court orders CIA to disclose drone data
A federal appeals court held Friday that the Central Intelligence Agency must disclose, at least to a judge, a description of its records on drone strikes in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. The 19-page opinion by Judge Merrick B. Garland rejected an effort by the Obama administration to keep secret any aspect of the C.I.A.’s interest in the use of drone strikes to kill terrorism suspects abroad. It does not necessarily mean the contents of any of those records will ever be made public, and it stopped short of ordering the government to acknowledge publicly that the C.I.A. actually uses drones to carry out “targeted killings” against specific terrorism suspects or groups of unknown people who appear to be militants in places like tribal Pakistan. The Obama administration continues to treat that fact as a classified secret, though it has been widely reported. New York Times, 3-15-13.
Tribes plan for worst with looming budget cuts
When it comes to the automatic spending cuts that began taking effect this month, federal lawmakers spared programs that serve the nation’s most vulnerable — such as food stamps, Medicare, Medicaid and veterans’ assistance — from hard hits. That wasn’t the case with programs for American Indian reservations, where unemployment is far above the national average, women suffer disproportionately from sexual assaults, and school districts largely lack a tax base to make up for the cuts. The federal Indian Health Service, which serves 2.1 million tribal members, says it would be forced to slash its number of patient visits by more than 800,000 per year. Tribal programs under the U.S. Department of Interior and the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs that fund human services, law enforcement, schools, economic development and natural resources stand to lose almost $130 million under the cuts, according to the National Congress of American Indians. Associated Press, 3-15-13.
Companies are putting sensors on employees to track their every move
The idea of having employees walk around with electronic sensors to track their every move is unsettling. There are privacy and legal issues, and who wants to feel like they are just a cog in a system? But data companies say that the resulting reams of information will improve life for companies and employees. Sociometric Solutions has created tracking devices for Bank of America, Steelcase, and Cubist Pharmaceuticals Inc., and is in talks with General Motors. Electronic sensors are placed in employees’ badges, which includes a Bluetooth, a microphone (it doesn’t record what people say, but rather the tone of their voice, speaking speed, and volume), a motion sensor to measure movement, and an infrared beam. Business Insider, 3-14-13.
To Think About
Why Social Security is the best retirement saving vehicle
Social Security is the healthiest component of the U.S.’s retirement saving system and should therefore be expanded. This isn’t a popular position; liberals tend to prefer defined-benefit pensions from employers and conservatives defined-contribution accounts, such as 401(k)s and individual retirement accounts. But the reason Social Security works so well is that it lacks a fundamental problem that undermines the effectiveness of these other retirement vehicles. Social Security stays unfunded and sustainable because of two of its other features: It is universal, and it has a dedicated tax source. If an unfunded benefit grows to have a surprisingly large cost, but it only covers a small share of the population, the government is likely to end up simply passing that cost along to taxpayers. That’s hard to do if almost everyone is a participant. Social Security’s universality gives politicians an incentive not to overpromise and individuals an incentive not to overdemand. A lesson in economics that many Democrats need. Josh Barro, Bloomberg, 3-14-13.