Op-ed: Seattle boom an inconvenient truth for Republicans
In a dramatic reversal, Republicans responded to the news that Seattle has become one of the nation’s top jobs factories by openly questioning everything they’ve said over the years about job creation and how to grow the economy. “We’re going to send some fact-finding missions into the city,” said Kirby Wilbur, state GOP chairman. “It’s possible all these years we were wrong.” OK, none of that happened. I imagined it. Well, not all. The part about how Seattle with all its taxes and rules and supposedly socialistic groupthink is also one of the hottest spots for capitalism and jobs in the nation? That’s true. Inconvenient to the politics of the day. But true. Danny Westneat, Seattle Times, 3-23-13.
Surprise! A long-planned I-405 expansion project is taking one family’s new home
When Richard and Lori Randquist Chung first saw the house on Davis Street, they knew it was probably out of their price range but decided to look anyway. Not only was the house beautiful, it was less than one mile from their business, had quick access on and off the highways and had a beautiful view of Lake Washington. They made an offer and by last summer, Richard, Lori and their three young children moved in and began to build their life. Then WSDOT confirmed for them that, yes, the freeway was coming through their neighborhood and, yes, their house would have to come down. A retaining wall was slated to go right through what was now their living room. It was devastating. Renton Reporter, 3-22-13. And even though the city knew of and supported the project, with no funding, technically the $335 million connector project was still not happening. It may have been on the books for “years and years and years,” but without funding, the city was not in a position to tell the landowners to not use their land. Renton Reporter, 3-23-13.
Boeing plans to lay off about 800 Machinists
Boeing plans to lay off about 800 Machinists in the Puget Sound area, the company told the union Friday. The layoffs come because 787 and 747-8 airplanes require less rework on the assembly lines, now that the programs have matured, Boeing told the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District 751. “This is not the start of a Boeing down cycle,” the union added. “Unlike past layoffs, there are no production rate decreases on any airplane line. Production rates remain high, and there is a seven-year backlog.” Boeing had 86,198 employees in Washington at the end of February, down 199 from the end of January. Seattle P-I, 3-22-13.
PCC bans genetically engineered salmon, but leaves door open to other GMOs
As the debate over genetically modified foods heats up in anticipation of a labeling initiative on the November ballot, PCC has made one definitive stand. Along with several national food outlets, the locally-based cooperative said last week it will not sell what might be the first genetically engineered animal to reach the market: salmon. PCC is a major backer of Initiative 522, which would require most GMOs or products containing GMOs to be labeled. “There are few issues that threaten so fundamentally our core values as the hidden presence of genetically engineered ingredients in our food supply,” PCC ‘s Tracy Wolpert said last fall as the organization contributed $100,000 to the campaign. Seattle Weekly, 3-22-13.
SPD’s Captain’s Log: Seattle enters the final frontier of police blogging
There are certain tools of the trade that people associate with police work. Things like handcuffs, billy clubs and donuts. Rarely, however, is a blog included in that list. But in Seattle that might soon change, thanks to a new effort launched by SPD last week going by the dorky title of Captain’s Log. What is Captain’s Log, you might wonder? “It’s Initiative 17 stuff,” says SPD’s Sean Whitcomb, referring to the agency’s 20/20 plan – a 20 initiative effort to reform Seattle’s police force and better connect with the community that was launched a year ago this month. But to be more specific, Captain’s Log is a new feature on the SPD website where the police captains from the city’s five precincts will blog – at least once a month – about localized topics specific to the area they serve. Seattle Weekly, 3-22-13.
Bellevue School District will have three open board seats on November ballotThe Bellevue School Board will have three positions up for election on the November 5 ballot. It’s the first time the school district has had three board positions on the ballot at the same time in more than a decade. Michael Murphy said last week he will resign from the board effective May 8. Board member Paul Mills has said he won’t run for re-election. The third seat that will be on the ballot is held by Chris Marks, who has said she intends to file for re-election. Bellevue Reporter, 3-22-13.
Conservatives cry ‘activism’ after losing pair of major court cases
There are three functions of government that courts are never supposed to touch, state Rep. Matt Manweller (R-13) told a legislative panel this month: spending money, collecting money, and going to war. The Washington Supreme Court crossed the first line last year by ordering the state to spend more on education — and vowing to oversee the effort — argued Manweller, a political-science professor at Central Washington University. The court breached the second last month by striking down a voter-imposed two-thirds requirement for lawmakers to raise taxes, Manweller asserted. Manweller is among many conservatives who, after losing major cases in consecutive years, are taking up the time-honored tradition of accusing judges of judicial activism. Seattle Times, 3-13-13.
Warrant in murder investigation allowed unauthorized red-light image
State legislators are considering whether to allow images from red-light cameras to be used in investigations beyond red-light infractions, but Bremerton police have already done it while working on one high-profile case. The Kitsap Sun last Friday received a copy of a warrant Bremerton Police received to get video images between 8 and 10 p.m., May 3, 2011 from a Redflex Traffic Systems camera on the corner of 11th Street and Warren Avenue. That was the night Sara Burke was stabbed to death on Warren Avenue between Eighth Street and Ninth Street around 9:30 p.m. The Legislature gave cities and counties the ability to use traffic enforcement cameras in 2005. The law stipulates that images from the cameras can only be used to enforce red light, railroad crossing, and school speed zone violations. The law also states that images are only to be of the vehicle and the license of the vehicle in violation. Kitsap Sun, 3-22-13.
ACLU says faith-based hospitals jeopardize reproductive, end-of-life care
Hospitals are supposed to be places of healing, but Washington’s hospitals are becoming places of conflict between religion and government over health care services. The state’s American Civil Liberties Union is questioning whether health care regulatory agencies and public hospital districts should grant approval to faith-based hospitals — primarily Catholic — that don’t offer reproductive and end-of-life services that are widely available at secular hospitals. In some rural areas of the state, the ACLU says, hospital consolidations and mergers could leave communities only with Catholic hospitals which refuse, based on Catholic religious beliefs, to provide such services. “We’re very troubled by what’s going on,” said Sarah Dunne, legal director for the Seattle-based American Civil Liberties Union of Washington Foundation. The ACLU is pressing its case on several fronts, including the possibility of legal action. The group also is challenging proposed partnerships between Vancouver-based PeaceHealth and other health care providers. Vancouver Columbian, 3-24-13.
Inslee’s marijuana memo to feds pitches control, prosecution of violators
While U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder remains mum about how the federal government will respond to legal marijuana in Washington and Colorado, a document obtained by seattlepi.com shows Washington Gov. Jay Inslee eager to convince the feds to go easy. The letter emphasizes law enforcement and prosecution of any activity falling outside of the law created by Initiative 502 and whatever state rules come after it. The reasons are fairly obvious. If the feds are likely to give Washington and Colorado the legal room to let this experiment in legal marijuana – still illegal as a Schedule I Controlled Substance on the federal level – run, Holder et al. must have confidence the West won’t become a marijuana free-for-all. Seattle P-I, 3-21-13.
Washington tax burden ranks on low side
As a tax-and-spend debate is about to unfold at the Capitol in Olympia, a new report rates the tax burden borne by Washingtonians as just below-average. The Washington, D.C.-based Tax Foundation last week ranked Washington No. 28 out of the 50 states for the percentage of income paid by residents in state and local taxes in 2010. The report pegged Washington’s state-local tax burden at about 9.3 percent of incomes in 2010, lower than 27 other states. For Democrats concerned that the tax system is not keeping up with the growth in demand for state services, such calculations are not surprising. Rep. Reuven Carlyle (D-36) says Washington cannot be considered overtaxed and that the state tax code is full of holes — or exemptions — that favor select industries. Olympian, 3-24-13.
State would stand alone with abortion-coverage bill
In 1970, Washington became the first — and remains the only — state in the country to legalize elective abortions by a popular vote. Now, 40 years removed from the landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court Roe v. Wade ruling that extended abortion access nationwide, Washington is once again poised to stand out. With 21 states having adopted bans or severe restrictions on insurance companies from paying for abortions, Washington is alone in seriously considering legislation mandating the opposite. The Reproductive Parity Act would require insurers in Washington state who cover maternity care — which all insurers must do — to also pay for abortions. “It’s not expanding abortion coverage,” said Rep. Eileen Cody (D-34), the bill’s primary sponsor. “It’s ensuring the rights of women to get what they’re paying for now and to continue their freedom of choice.” Associated Press (Seattle Times), 3-23-13.
County auditors whine about ballot drop-box bill
Election officials statewide are pushing back against Democratic lawmakers who want ballot drop boxes placed on college campuses to boost voting by students. They say requiring county auditors to install at least one box on the grounds of community and technical colleges, branch campuses and universities, is costly and provides special treatment to one group of voters. “Local county auditors are in the very best position to make decisions about how and where to expand drop boxes,” Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson told the Senate Committee on Governmental Operations Thursday in a hearing on HB 1290. Rep. Tina Orwall (D-33), the bill’s prime sponsor, told senators she is trying to replicate the experience of Central Washington University, where students paid for a drop box and saw interest in the elections grow as result. Everett Herald, 3-23-13.
Routine unemployment bill offers labor
a hostage some leverage in workers’ comp fight
Labor appears to be setting up a hostage maneuver on what many considered a routine unemployment-insurance bill — giving it leverage in the Legislature’s upcoming debate over workers’ compensation, and offering a possible explanation for the mysterious death of the Labor Council agenda in the House last week. As it turns out, maybe labor didn’t need it after all. “I think that’s what it comes down to,” says Patrick Connor of the National Federation of Independent Buisness. “Labor is having a temper tantrum for not getting their way on other legislation.” (Another overblown GOP, AWB, NFIB conspiracy theory from) Washington State Wire, 3-22-13.
Pro-democracy movement rises against ‘disaster capitalism’ in Detroit
Community and pro-democracy activists in Detroit have no intention of rolling over and playing dead for Kevyn Orr, the city’s new ’emergency manager’ appointed by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, who will begin his contract to run the city as a one-person government on Monday. Called a “bloodless coup” by some, the appointment of an ’emergency financial manager’ (EFM) will allow Orr to take full control over the city’s resources now that the city council and school board have been stripped of their governing powers. Common Dreams, 3-24-13.
Immigrants held in solitary cells, often for weeks
On any given day, about 300 immigrants are held in solitary confinement at the 50 largest detention facilities that make up the sprawling patchwork of holding centers nationwide overseen by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, according to new federal data. Nearly half are isolated for 15 days or more, the point at which psychiatric experts say they are at risk for severe mental harm, with about 35 detainees kept for more than 75 days. While Immigration and Customs Enforcement places only about 1 percent of its jailed immigrants in solitary, this practice is nonetheless startling because those detainees are being held on civil, not criminal, charges. As such, they are not supposed to be punished; they are simply confined to ensure that they appear for administrative hearings. New York Times, 3-23-13.
How the NRA grades our Washington lawmakers
Members of Congress learn a lesson even before they arrive on Capitol Hill. You can be either for the National Rifle Association or against it. The NRA has accumulated vast influence and great power on Capitol Hill by grading members of the House and Senate. The 4 million-member organization makes donations, but it also draws a bead on lawmakers by announcing when an upcoming vote will count toward their grade. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell get an “F,” marking each as a “true enemy of gun owners’ rights.” Rep. Jim McDermott also gets an “F,” along with 145 of his House colleagues. Three of Washington’s Republican House members get an “A,” Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Doc Hastings, and Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler. Seattle P-I, 3-22-13.
Bob Dole Tells the Republican Party to ‘close its doors to make repairs’
How can you be sure that your party is truly off course? Consistently bad polling is a start, an inability to win national elections is another clue. But for the final nail in the GOP’s coffin, we have the revered former Republican Senator and presidential candidate Bob Dole’s deep disappointment and shock at the modern day Republican Party. After the 89-year-old Republican wheeled his way back onto the Senate floor in 2012, hoping to pass an international treaty modeled on his historic Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, he got quite a shock. Dole was betrayed by his own party, including a senator from his own state of Kansas: The treaty was killed by his own party. Dole called for the party to take a time-out to make repairs. Politics USA, 3-24-13.
To Think About
Wave of ‘Ag Gag’ Bills Threaten Food Safety and Freedom of the Press
Remember “fecal soup”? A CBS “60 Minutes” exposé in 1987 documented widespread food safety violations by the poultry industry, making use of undercover video from a hidden camera placed by the “60 Minutes” crew. The episode vindicated U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) whistleblower Hobart Bartley, who had been ignored and threatened by his superiors and finally transferred to another plant when he warned of unsanitary conditions at a Simmons Industries plant in Missouri. Bartley was particularly irate about the “eight-foot-high vat of water called the ‘chiller,’ where as many as 10,000 chicken carcasses were routinely left to float, soaking up moisture to increase their selling weight. Dried blood, feces, and hair were floating in along with the dead birds. Diane Sawyer later called it ‘fecal soup.'” effective enforcement of food safety and the humane treatment of animals has long relied on undercover video investigations by reporters and citizens. The footage and images gained can serve as proof of criminal wrongdoing or lay ugly practices bare. Such images can vindicate whistleblowers who otherwise risk retaliation. Now this practice, which has time and time again exposed hidden dangers — including downer cows linked to Mad Cow disease in the food supply — is under threat by state bills dubbed “ag gag” bills. PR Watch, 3-13-13.