Lesson from 43 Earth Days: Successful green politics is grassroots
Earth Day was born at a Seattle speech nearly 44 years ago, when Sen. Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin announced a national teach-in on the environment and urged young people to rally to defense of the Earth, as they had to resist the Vietnam War and stand for civil rights. An enduring national movement was born. Today, all successful environmental politics is local. The top-down attacks on the Keystone XL pipeline have not swayed public opinion, and probably not President Obama. By contrast, the anti-coal-port movement in the Northwest is growing in leaps and bounds. It’s a grassroots effort based in towns through which mile-and-a-half-long coal trains would pass. It has far outclassed an industry campaign consisting typically of TV commercials, an “astroturf” front group and legions of flack-mercenaries. Joel Connelly, Seattle P-I, 4-19-13.
Government expects legal action after Elwha River sediment flows into, clogs water plant
Department of Interior officials are preparing for possible legal action because they say alleged design flaws have led to Elwha River sediment unleashed by dam removal clogging the Elwha Water Facilities, which treat industrial and drinking water. The $79 million Elwha Water Facilities, which consist of the Elwha Water Treatment Plant and the Elwha Surface Water Intake, have “not functioned as designed in removing sediment and large and small woody debris” from the water, the Department of the Interior’s Office of the Solicitor said in an email sent Wednesday to federal officials telling them to keep information in case of a lawsuit. Removal of dams on the Elwha River, which began in September 2011, has created the largest sediment release seen in such a project, said Tim Randle of the Bureau of Reclamation. Peninsula Daily News, 4-20-13.
From wild birds to beet seeds, the Skagit Valley’s riches are being kept safe
The Lower Skagit Valley, a lingering teardrop of tillable soil in a swelling asphalt sea, is still decidedly “wild.” This is partly due to luck, but a great deal due to human design — a multipronged defense against the very industrial and suburban sprawl that swallowed up nearly every other place in the region where fertile soil once sustained both plentiful crops and endangered critters. Saving the Skagit for farmland and wildlife — complementary goals — is beyond the scope of any single person, government or agency. It is being accomplished by thousands of people, and some will confess that, from a historical perspective, something remarkable has happened over two decades in what many people refer to as the “Magic Skagit”: The 20-year-old battle to save the valley for its hallmark family farms, and the abundant wildlife that comes with them, is being won. Seattle Times, 4-19-13.
Senate Transportation Committee breaks logjam at Columbia River Crossing—state would wait for nod from Coast Guard
After more than a week of battle, the state Senate finally found a way to strike a deal on a controversial Columbia River bridge project, clearing the way for lawmakers to pass a transportation budget Friday 47-0. That’s one fight out of the way, but it certainly isn’t the end of it. The project is proving mighty difficult for the Washington Legislature to swallow even as Gov. Jay Inslee throws his political capital behind it, and it is drawing the state’s attention to an argument that until now seemed to be a parochial Clark County spat. Under the Senate plan, the bridge project will remain on life support and the state will offer a trickle of planning money, until the U.S. Coast Guard can decide whether the blueprints pass muster. Yet an even bigger decision about state spending on the project will be deferred until lawmakers consider a transportation-tax increase. That might come this session, maybe next. Washington State Wire, 4-19-13.
Federal judge tosses second lawsuit against Evans Fruit
A federal judge has dismissed the second of two lawsuits brought on behalf of orchard workers by a federal agency against Evans Fruit, one of the country’s largest apple growers. Ten orchard workers claimed that Evans Fruit had retaliated against them for meeting with representatives of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to pursue a claim alleging sexual harassment. The EEOC’s lawsuit centered around allegations that one of Evans Fruit’s ranch foremen had sent two individuals to spy on a February 2010 meeting the EEOC held with employees at the Sunnyside Public Library. U.S. District Court Judge Lonny Suko Friday ruled that the EEOC had failed to present evidence that any of the workers had been threatened by anyone associated with Evans Fruit. Yakima Herald Republic, 4-21-13.
Who cares about your port? Hansen has a VISION! LA, baby!
Corporate logos, ads, movie trailers, music videos and promos for upcoming events come at you in an amped stream of flashing lights on dozens of big screens. Fans in Lakers or Clippers jerseys grab dinner and drinks at the many restaurants, sitting outdoors next to a central plaza that’s lively with pregame crowds. The vibe is effervescent. Even the plaza paving is flecked with mica so it glitters in the early evening sun. L.A. Live is the entertainment complex across from Staples Center in Los Angeles. There’s nothing like it in Seattle — yet. Chris Hansen’s proposal for a new basketball and hockey arena in Sodo has been highly publicized and debated. Less well-known are his plans to create a smaller, Seattle version of L.A. Live. Seattle Times, 4-21-13.
Decision time here for Bellevue light-rail design
Years of seemingly endless debate about whether to operate future light-rail trains at ground level through South Bellevue, and whether to relocate a station away from a downtown tunnel, are about to end. The Bellevue City Council is scheduled to vote Monday, and the Sound Transit Board Thursday, on which options to carry forward to final design. All of the choices are fraught with difficult tradeoffs, and neighbors oppose cost-saving options they fear would magnify noise from the trains. Disputes over light rail have dominated Bellevue politics since voters approved expansion of Sound Transit’s system more than four years ago, sparking personal confrontations at City Council meetings, conflict-of interest investigations, lawsuits and neighborhood protests. Seattle Times, 4-20-13.
Courts will try to settle Pacific Police officer reinstatments
The players in the city of Pacific’s ongoing drama will take their latest act to a new stage this week – the courts. According to Pacific Civil Service Commission Chair Scott McIver, the commission will seek a King County Superior Court order to force Mayor Cy Sun to comply with the commission’s decision to return suspended Police Chief John Calkins and Lt. Edwin Massey to duty. Sun placed Massey and Calkins on paid administrative leave March 22 pending the outcome of an investigation into claims of intimidation and harassment. On April 4 the commission, after considering an appeal filed by Calkins and Massey, ordered Sun to return both officers to duty. Despite the City Council’s efforts to return them to active duty, Sun has refused to comply with the Civil Service Commission’s order. Auburn Reporter, 4-20-13.
Boston frames surveillance debate
Americans hate Big Brother — until moments like this. Police state paranoia has long stoked angst and outrage, until an incident like the Boston Marathon bombings takes place and the nation heaves a sigh of relief that security cameras gazed unblinkingly upon Beantown’s streets and sidewalks. The developments have once again pitted personal rights against public safety. Politicians at every level — from the sheriff in Tampa to members of Congress — are urging the deployment of more surveillance and law enforcement access to captured material. Civil libertarians and privacy advocates, just as predictably, are preaching restraint. Politico, 4-21-13.
Right-wing Koch brothers eye purchase of major newspapers
Other than financing a few fringe libertarian publications, the Kochs have mostly avoided media investments. Now, Koch Industries, the sprawling private company of which Charles G. Koch serves as chairman and chief executive, is exploring a bid to buy the Tribune Company’s eight regional newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun, Orlando Sentinel, and Hartford Courant. New York Times, 4-20-13.
Feds want to study border-crossing fee
In an effort to raise more money for border protection and inspection, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security wants Congress to authorize the study of a fee that could be collected from everyone who enters this country at land crossings. The DHS 2014 budget proposal seeks increases in existing fees charged for a variety of customs and immigration services, such as the fees that air and sea travelers pay when they enter the country. But until now, no fees have been imposed on those who enter by car, bus or train. The budget request says the study should consider a fee that could be added to existing tolls in places like Detroit and Buffalo, or to ticket prices for those arriving by bus or train. But DHS also wants to take a look at collecting fees at “land ports of entry where existing capability is not present,” which would include the Blaine, Lynden and Sumas crossings in Whatcom County. Bellingham Herald, 4-20-13.
To Think About
Why should I care that no one’s reading Dzhokhar Tsarnaev his Miranda rights?
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will not hear his Miranda rights before the FBI questions him. He will have to remember on his own that he has a right to a lawyer, and that anything he says can be used against him in court, because the government won’t tell him. This is an extension of a rule the Justice Department wrote for the FBI—without the oversight of any court—called the “public safety exception.” The police can interrogate a suspect without offering him the benefit of Miranda if he could have information that’s of urgent concern for public safety. That may or may not be the case with Tsarnaev. The problem is that Attorney General Eric Holder has stretched the law beyond that scenario. And that should trouble anyone who worries about the police railroading suspects, which can end in false confessions. No matter how unsympathetic accused terrorists are, the precedents the government sets for them matter outside the easy context of questioning them. When the law gets bent out of shape for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, it’s easier to bend out of shape for the rest of us. Emily Bazelon, Slate, 4-19-13.