County Council may restrict holds on jailed immigrants
The King County Council will consider an ordinance preventing its jail from honoring requests from federal immigration authorities to “hold for pick up” immigrant inmates who have committed only low-level offenses. The legislation, which council President Larry Gossett expects to introduce within weeks, would be a departure from the practice by jails and prisons across the state and many nationwide of detaining all immigrants — those in the country both legally and illegally — who qualify for deportation. Immigrant advocates have long pushed for the change as a way to preserve community trust in law enforcement and to limit what they see as the breakup of families when parents and breadwinners are taken away (not to mention a considerable savings in tax dollars). Seattle Times, 4-11-13.
State GOP to auction AR-15 style rifle at dinner
When the Washington State Republican Party holds its annual fundraising dinner this weekend at the Bellevue Hilton,, one of the items up for auction will be an AR-15 style rifle — the type of semi-automatic weapon targeted by many gun-control advocates since Adam Lanza used one to rapidly kill 20 children and six adults at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school. State GOP Chairman Kirby Wilbur touted the gun auction on Twitter Wednesday. In an e-mail to the Seattle Times, he said the party has auctioned other weapons in the past and that the AR-15 sale was not meant as a pro-gun political statement. “It’s intended as a pro-fundraising statement. I think folks already know the state GOP is committed to gun rights,” he said. Wilbur said he is aware of the controversy surrounding the rifles, but added: “It’s also the best-selling weapon in America, I own two, they have never killed an innocent person.” Seattle Times, 4-11-13.
Time isn’t on the side of state’s gun control advocates
The longer U.S. senators debate gun control, or even just debate the rules of their debate, the less likely Washington voters will encounter the issue this fall. The chances of an initiative requiring background checks on private sales of firearms making the ballot already had slimmed to nearly none as a result of creative differences between the old guard and new faces of Washington’s gun control movement. Those forces pondering a path to the ballot have not filed a measure, let alone agreed on what it should say and do. If they did act soon, they would need to collect and turn in the signatures of 325,000 voters by July 5 to have any hope of snagging a spot on the ballot. Now, the glimmer of possibility that the Senate, then the House, will deal with the issue —even if they don’t—pretty much snuffs out the likelihood of an initiative this year because federal action would likely trump any new state rules. Everett Herald, 4-11-13.
McGinn urges speedier studies of new Ship Canal transit crossings
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn is trying again to push the Seattle City Council to fund studies this year for two new transit crossings, one to the University District and one to Fremont. McGinn said in a Wednesday news conference he has proposed a 2013 supplemental budget request to fund the two studies. The council turned down a similar request from the mayor last fall, saying the projects may be worthy but the city had other pressing priorities, such as sidewalks and backlogged maintenance. “Déjà vu,” said council President Sally Clark. “It seems like we just discussed this. There are a lot of competing priorities and I don’t know that the landscape has changed that much from four months ago.” Seattle Times, 4-10-13.
Walking after midnight
Missing the last Number 24 bus to Magnolia means a steep hike over the Magnolia bridge, a much-repaired 1929 structure that seems to shudder with each passing car. “It’s a long, long trudge; it takes about a half hour to get up that bridge,” Magnolia resident James McIntosh said. At midnight on April 6, about 50 people, including King County Council member Larry Phillips, walked the narrow sidewalk as a way to drive home their point: Metro’s looming budget cuts will hurt the most vulnerable people. Seniors, low-income people, disabled people and those who don’t drive suffer the most when there is no public transportation, said McIntosh, founder of the grassroots group Magnolia Transit Riders Union. Real Change, 4-10-13.
Metro shortfall puts Vashon Island buses at risk
Cuts to the county’s bus system, should it fail to secure new funding by next year, could hit Vashon hard, according to a scenario released by the county last week. An illustration showing which bus routes could be affected should King County Metro cut 17 percent of its service next year has both of Vashon’s bus routes on the chopping block. Route 119, which runs between the north end ferry terminal and Dockton, is at risk of being completely eliminated, and 118, which runs between the north end and Tahlequah, could see reductions. Some of Vashon’s regular bus riders have expressed alarm at the possible reductions, saying they think the island’s bus service is already too infrequent. “I don’t see how you can reduce the bus service even more on Vashon and fit all the people on the bus who want to ride the bus,” said Chris Townsend, who rides the 118 to his job in downtown Seattle each day. Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber, 4-10-13.
Kirkland reaches agreement in Medic One levy controversy
The King County Regional Policy Committee unanimously approved an agreement Wednesday that may put Kirkland on the path toward becoming an Advanced Life Support paramedics provider. The vote comes as the city of Kirkland was withholding support of a region-wide Emergency Medical Services levy, which would sustain Washington’s Medic One service. The committee’s approval will allow Kirkland to be included in an examination of how paramedic services are delivered around the region. “It will require a study,” said Kirkland City Councilman Dave Asher, who also serves on the EMS Advisory Task Force. “But at least, now, we’ll get a fair shake.” Kirkland Reporter, 4-11-13.
Spread of Catholic health care raises barriers to care choices
Despite the 2008 Death With Dignity Act, Washington residents may be at a greater risk than ever of losing the ability to manage our own dying process or that of loved ones. Legal rights mean little when caretakers “always start CPR.” They mean even less when caretakers believe they serve a higher authority. Washington state is poised for the dubious distinction of becoming the national leader in Catholic control of hospital facilities. Across the country, mergers between secular and Catholic facilities almost invariably result in the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ directives being imposed on the whole system, though the change may be gradual. Once a patient enters their care, theology, rather than science, decides what range of services will be offered. Even secular providers treating secular patients are compelled to deny certain treatment options to pregnant or dying patients. Valerie Tarico, Crosscut, 4-11-13.
Federal money for Columbia River bridge at risk, LaHood warns
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood told Washington state lawmakers Wednesday that they must commit hundreds of millions of dollars toward the estimated $3.1 billion Columbia River Crossing project this year or risk losing up to $1.2 billion in federal support. LaHood was in the state advocating for the project to replace the Interstate 5 bridge between Portland and Vancouver. “It is now or never for building a bridge across the Columbia River,” Governor Jay Inslee said. “We either take action this year or there will not be action for more than a decade across the Columbia River.” Despite LaHood’s and Inslee’s urgings, some state lawmakers remained unmoved in their opposition to the project. With a large anti-Columbia River Crossing sticker affixed to his lapel, Sen. Don Benton (R-17) told reporters that the proposed bridge is too low, should not include light rail and relies too much on tolls. Associated Press (Seattle Times), 4-10-13.
Millennium announces deal to use local construction labor if coal dock approved
Millennium Bulk Terminals officials Wednesday announced an agreement to hire local union workers to build a proposed $643 million coal export dock west of Longview, solidifying the support of a major ally for its upcoming political battle with environmentalists. “I know we have some heavy lifting to do for you guys, and we’re ready,” Dave Myers, executive secretary of the Washington Building and Construction Trades Council, told Millennium officials at a signing ceremony at company headquarters. Local trade unions are also happy to avoid the slight a few years ago at the EGT terminal, which hired mostly out-of-town workers to build the grain dock at the Port of Longview. The agreement will obligate contractors who build the coal terminal to hire local union construction workers. Longview Daily News, 4-10-13.
Gay couple makes florist choose between supporting gay rights or getting sued
After five weeks of biting their tongues, a gay couple in Richland is making a loaded offer to a florist who refused to sell them flowers based her biblical belief that “marriage is between a man and a woman.” Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed’s lawyers, working with the ACLU of Washington, sent a letter today to Arlene’s Flowers owner Baronelle Stutzman saying she has two options: (1) She can vow to never again discriminate in her services for gay people, write an apology letter to be published in the Tri-City Herald, and contribute $5,000 to a local LGBT youth center, or (2) she can get sued for violating the Washington State Civil Rights Act. This would be the second lawsuit against Stutzman, who was sued by the state yesterday in Benton County Superior Court for discrimination under the consumer protection act. And given Stutzman’s stubbornness thus far, these two cases may be on track to become the country’s biggest gay-rights-versus-religious-liberty battle to date. The Stranger, 4-10-13.
Postal Service caves; Saturday delivery to remain
The Postal Service Wednesday backed away from its plan to stop Saturday mail delivery, criticizing Congress for taking the cost-cutting proposal off the table. In a statement, the Postal Service’s Board of Governors said it came to the decision Tuesday in response to a measure passed by Congress in March requiring it to continue delivering mail six days a week. “The board believes that Congress has left it with no choice but to delay this implementation at this time,” the Postal Service said. Congress included the requirement in legislation it passed to keep the government financed through September. It was the latest salvo in the power struggle between the Postal Service and lawmakers over solving the agency’s financial woes. New York Times, 4-10-13.
Rand Paul ducks record on race in awkward Howard University speech
As Rand Paul told it, the biggest problem keeping African Americans from voting Republican is that they didn’t know Republicans have long been leaders on abolition and civil rights. As students at Howard University heard it, the problem was that Paul was condescending, misleading, and removed from the issues facing their community. Paul devoted almost none of his speech Wednesday at the historically black college in Washington, D.C., to explaining the GOP’s thorny relationship with black voters over the last fifty years, and most of it arguing that “the Republican Party has always been the party of civil rights and voting rights.” His history lecture focused almost entirely on the period before 1964, when the GOP began to champion the states rights arguments of southern whites. Talking Points Memo, 4-10-13.
To Think About
DC’s other immigration fight: Washington’s undocumented community makes its stand
There are smoke-filled rooms in Washington, DC where lobbyists and senators meet in secret to negotiate the details of a national immigration bill. Then there’s Haydee’s, the smoke-filled room where the people whose lives hang in the balance gather. The restaurant serves as an informal base of operations for a network of local immigrant activists, many of whom are undocumented themselves. On this particular evening, the topic du jour was a bill being taken up by DC’s City Council to issue drivers licenses without making residents prove their legal status first. It’s an issue deeply important to many throughout the city, and to many in the room there. TPM spent a few days in March following some of the district’s immigration activists as they organized their local campaign. Their work serves as a reminder that immigration issues are hardly limited to border states like Arizona and Texas. In fact, members of Congress debating immigration reform are surrounded daily by a city of foreign-born residents whose lives will be drastically affected by their votes. Talking Points Memo, 4-11-13.