King County

Seattle endorsement season begins; will McGinn be spurned?

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn

McGinn

The power of endorsement and its significance has long been subject of debate by political consultants. Without question, it can mean money for paid media and literature drops, and, equally important, enlisting boots on the ground: rousing volunteers for door-belling, putting up yard signs, and manning phone banks. But the endorsement establishes a link between values shared by interest groups and the candidates they support, and help build momentum or a sense of invincibility, they are also fairly predictable. But this year, even a Cascade Bicycle Club endorsement for Mayor Mike McGinn might not be a sure thing. Seattle Weekly, 4-15-13.

Seattle City Council split on fees for high-rise developers

Seattle City Council member Bruce Harrell

Harrell

The Seattle City Council was divided Monday on affordable-housing fees for developers in South Lake Union, with mayoral candidate Bruce Harrell positioning himself as the swing vote in next week’s decision. In informal voting, council members were split 4-4 between a modest proposal by Tim Burgess and Sally Clark and a slightly more aggressive one by Mike O’Brien. A much bolder proposal by Nick Licata, meant to bring Seattle in line with other major cities, did not garner support. Harrell came close to endorsing O’Brien’s plan, saying it made the most sense from a policy standpoint and he would have a “hard time arguing against it.” Seattle Times, 4-15-13.

Constantine orders inquest into fatal police shooting of Native American man in Seattle

Jack Sun Keewatinawin

Keewatinawin

King County Executive Dow Constantine Monday ordered an inquest into the fatal police shooting of Jack Sun Keewatinawin on February 26, 2013. The 21-year old was fatally shot after Seattle police responded to calls about a man holding his father hostage with a knife at a home in the 10100 block of Fourth Avenue Northwest. In a confrontation, police said the man brandished a piece of rebar and approached an officer who had slipped on wet ground. Three officers fired, hitting Keewatinawin several times. Daily Clips linked to the neighbors’ reaction on April 8. Ballard News Tribune, 4-15-13.

Shelley Kloba appointed to Kirkland City Council

Newly appointed Kirkland City Council member Shelley Kloba

Kloba

The Kirkland City Council has appointed Shelley Kloba, a local and state civic activist, to fill a vacant position on the council. The vacancy was created when Bob Sternoff, a member since 2005, resigned last month amid personal financial problems. Kloba, a Kirkland resident since 2001, is close to finishing a two-year stint as legislative director of the Washington State Parent Teacher Association, and has served as a Kirkland Park Board member, trustee of the Lake Washington Schools Foundation, member of last year’s successful Yes! For Great Kirkland Parks levy campaign, and member of Jay Inslee’s education advisory group after his election as governor. She works as a massage therapist. Kloba, who was selected over 16 other applicants for the council seat,  will serve until the November election. The uncompleted term ends after the 2015 election. Seattle Times, 4-17-13.

Mercer Island candidates step up for city, county and schools

Mercer Island City Council candidate Richard Erwin

Erwin

Boeing engineer Richard Erwin, along with two incumbents, City Councilman Dan Grausz and School Board member Dave  Myerson, have announced their intentions to run again for public office along with King County Sheriff John Urquhart. Erwin will run for Position 6 on the Mercer Island City Council, the seat now held by Mike Grady. Islander Benson Wong announced his run for Council last week. Grausz, who has served on the Council since 1999, will run to retain his seat, Position 2. School Board member Dave Myerson said he will run again for his seat. Urquhart, elected to fill the remaining term of Sheriff Sue Rahr (who resigned last year), will run for re-election. Mercer Island Reporter, 4-16-13.

The State

Inslee, lawmakers propose tougher drunken driving laws

Frank Blair and Carol Blair of Tacoma, whose daughter Sheena, 24 (in picture at right), was killed by a drunk driver in a head-on collision in 2011, with Governor Jay Inslee and Rep. Dawn Morrell (D-25) (right) Tuesday in Olympia, announcing the introduction of HB 2030.

Frank Blair and Carol Blair of Tacoma, whose daughter Sheena, 24 (in picture at right), was killed by a drunk driver in a head-on collision in 2011, with Governor Jay Inslee and Rep. Dawn Morrell (D-25) (right) Tuesday in Olympia, announcing the introduction of HB 2030.

Governor Jay Inslee and a bipartisan group of lawmakers unveiled a plan Tuesday that would make changes to the state’s impaired driving laws, such as requiring an arrest on the first offense and mandatory jail time if offenders don’t enroll in a sobriety program after a second arrest. The measure also would prohibit people from purchasing alcohol for 10 years after a third conviction on drunken driving, and it would require mandatory installment of interlock devices on cars after someone is charged, rather than convicted, unless an exception is made by a court. Inslee called the plan, HB 2030, sponsored by Rep. Dawn Morrell (D-25),  the “most aggressive, the most effective, the most ambitious program to reduce drunk driving on our roads.” Associated Press (Olympian), 4-17-13.

Senate Democrats fall short in “ninth order” attempt

Sen. Jim Hargrove (D-24)

Hargrove

Senate Democrats tried, and failed, Tuesday to use a rare procedural move to pass two bills blocked by Republicans. Democrats wanted to bring up a controversial bill (HB 1044) that would require health-insurance plans to cover abortions, and legislation (HB 1817) that would make certain young immigrants who aren’t legal residents eligible for college financial aid. To do so, they needed to go to what’s called the ninth order, a step that would allow lawmakers to yank legislation being held in committee onto the floor for a vote. Democrats maintained they had the votes needed to pass the bills once on the floor. In this case, they did not have the votes needed to get them to the floor. Their attempt was blocked by a 25-23 vote. Sen. Jim Hargrove (D-24) crossed party lines to vote on behalf of Sen. Mike Carrell (R-28), who is out ill. That’s a longstanding tradition in the Senate. Seattle Times, 4-16-13.

Pierce Council member wants audit of Optum, county’s mental-health provider

Pierce County Council member Stan Flemming (R-University Place)

Flemming

Pierce County Councilman Stan Flemming is calling for an audit to determine how much the county’s mental-health provider spends on administrative costs compared with patient care. “Right now, Pierce County has a crisis in mental health care,” said Flemming (R-University Place). He said case managers, program directors and consumers have told him the system is not working because they can’t get access to mental health services. Since 2009, OptumHealth has run the county’s Regional Support Network, a designation applied to 11 entities around the state. The state contracted with Optum after county leaders pulled out of the mental health business. The News Tribune reported last month that Optum – the only privately run RSN in the state – spent up to five times as much for administration and profit as its public peers. That’s nearly $17 million of taxpayer money that over the last three years went to Optum and not to mentally ill patients in Pierce County. Tacoma News Tribune, 4-16-13.

The Nation

Health law could overwhelm addiction services

Michelle Adams, left, a case manager at the West Division Family Health Center in Chicago, speaks with Shavonne Bullock, a recovering heroin addict during an appointment. Bullock, who has been drug free since 2006 when she started treatment at the center, pays for her own treatment because she’s uninsured. Millions of Americans will gain insurance coverage for drug addiction and alcoholism treatment when the national health overhaul takes effect next year.

Michelle Adams, left, a case manager at the West Division Family Health Center in Chicago, speaks with Shavonne Bullock, a recovering heroin addict during an appointment. Bullock, who has been drug free since 2006 when she started treatment at the center, pays for her own treatment because she’s uninsured. Millions of Americans will gain insurance coverage for drug addiction and alcoholism treatment when the national health overhaul takes effect next year.

It has been six decades since doctors concluded that addiction was a disease that could be treated, but today the condition still dwells on the fringes of the medical community. Only 1 cent of every health care dollar in the United States goes toward addiction, and few alcoholics and drug addicts receive treatment. One huge barrier, according to many experts, has been a lack of health insurance. But that barrier crumbles in less than a year. In a major break with the past, 3 million to 5 million people with drug and alcohol problems — from homeless drug addicts to working moms who drink too much — suddenly will become eligible for insurance coverage under the new health care overhaul. The number of people seeking treatment could double over current levels, depending on how many states decide to expand their Medicaid programs and how many addicts choose to take advantage of the new opportunity, according to an Associated Press analysis of government data. The analysis compared federal data on the addiction rates in the 50 states, the capacity of treatment programs and the provisions of the new health law. Associated Press (Houston Chronicle), 4-16-13.

California Democrats blast ‘reform’ efforts to overhaul schools

California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson

Torlakson

California Democrats Sunday condemned efforts led by members of their own party to overhaul the nation’s schools, arguing that groups such as StudentsFirst and Democrats for Education Reform are fronts for Republicans and corporate interests. Before delegates overwhelmingly passed a resolution excoriating the groups on the final day of the party’s annual convention here, speakers urged them to focus on protecting students and teachers. “People can call themselves Democrats for Education Reform — it’s a free country — but if your agenda is to shut teachers and school employees out of the political process and not lift a finger to prevent cuts in education, in my book you’re not a reformer, you’re not helping education, and you’re sure not much of a Democrat,” said state Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, a registered Democrat whose office is nonpartisan. Los Angeles Times, 4-14-13.

Op-ed: A tax system stacked against the 99 percent

Economist and New York Times columnist Joseph Stiglitz

Stiglitz

Leona Helmsley, the hotel chain executive who was convicted of federal tax evasion in 1989, was notorious for, among other things, reportedly having said that “only the little people pay taxes.” As a statement of principle, the quotation may well have earned Helmsley, who died in 2007, the title Queen of Mean. But as a prediction about the fairness of American tax policy, her remark might actually have been prescient. As we pass another deadline for filing individual income-tax returns, Americans would do well to pause and reflect on our tax system and the society it creates. No one enjoys paying taxes, and yet all but the extreme libertarians agree, as Oliver Wendell Holmes said, that taxes are the price we pay for civilized society. But in recent decades, the burden for paying that price has been distributed in increasingly unfair ways. Joseph Stiglitz, New York Times, 4-14-13.

To Think About

‘We Are Not a Failing School!’

Teachers, students and parents protest the plan to close 54 Chicago public schools.

Teachers, students and parents protest the plan to close 54 Chicago public schools.

I’ve been watching a lot of adolescents cry these days. First it was twelve-year-old Jasmine Murphy, on a media bus tour led by the Chicago Teachers Union to demonstrate the devastation likely to follow from Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to close fifty-four schools. She was relating how she felt when the elementary school she loved and in which she had thrived was shuttered in 2011. Then, this week, all over town, Chicago Public School bureaucrats have sat before hearings to hear public comment on each individual school set to close this coming September. Rick Perlstein, The Nation, 4-16-13.