Seattle City Council panel OKs zoning for big pot-growing operations
Indoor pot-growing operations as large as a football field would be allowed in some Seattle industrial areas under new zoning approved Wednesday by a City Council committee. The proposed rules would prohibit large indoor farms in the industrial sanctuaries closest to the Port of Seattle and maritime businesses, which represent 46 percent of Seattle’s industrial land. But over the objections of the North Seattle Industrial Association, council members voted to permit growing operations of up to 50,000 square feet in the city’s other workhorse zones for industry. Seattle Times, 5-22-13.
UW students seek end of fossil fuel investments
Students at the University of Washington want the school to dump its investments in major fossil fuel companies like Exxon and BP as part of a nationwide campaign to combat climate change through public institutions. The University of Washington prides itself on being a green campus, but Kyle Murphy thinks they should have a green portfolio too. Murphy is one of the founders of UW Divest, the student group proposing a change to the way the UW Endowment Fund invests its money. The group started the campaign early this year. But they have already developed a proposal for how the UW can invest more responsibly. The proposal has a list of almost 60 companies involved in oil, natural gas, and coal they want out of the endowment fund. But energy investments only make up a tiny fraction of the UW portfolio. And many of the investments are tied up in both fossil fuels and alternative energy. KUOW, 5-20-13.
Right-wing group bringing Scott Walker to Seattle
The political right’s top event of the year in this corner of America’s “Left Coast” is the annual dinner of the Washington Policy Center, where guests have ranged from ex-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to Fox News pundit (and onetime Jimmy Carter speechwriter) Charles Krauthammer to columnist George Will. The dinner isn’t until September 5 this year, but tickets go early and the guest-of-honor is certain to be greeted by a picket line outside the Seattle Sheraton. Seattle is still a labor town, about as much as any place in America. He is Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who moved decisively in 2011 to strip bargaining powers from his state’s public employee unions, surviving mass protests and a recall election. Walker will be joined by Dr. Ben Carson, the Johns Hopkins University medical school professor who challenged President Obama at the last White House Prayer Breakfast. Seattle P-I, 5-22-13.
Kent City Council cuts casino gambling tax rate
The Kent City Council voted 4-2 Tuesday night to reduce the city’s gambling tax rate on the Great American Casino from 11 percent to 7 percent on gross revenues. Casino officials asked the city to reduce the tax to help reduce their losses of more than $1 million over the last two years at the Panther Lake facility. Great American is the only casino in Kent. Council members approved the reduction in part because city officials said the lost city tax revenue would be covered by the state Department of Revenue as part of the annual annexation sales tax rebate Kent receives to help cover the costs of annexing 24,000 Panther Lake residents in 2010. Kent Reporter, 5-22-13.
Enviro groups demand that Corps conduct “comprehensive” coal terminal study
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers must undertake a comprehensive, region-wide study of all possible impacts of three remaining proposals to export coal from Wyoming and Montana out of Northwest ports to China, public health and environmental groups said Wednesday in a petition filed with the Corps. The proposed coal export terminals are at Boardman OR and Longview WA along the Columbia River, and at Cherry Point north of Bellingham. If completed, they could export 100 million metric tons of coal each year to China. China has become the world’s No. 1 emitter of greenhouse gases. “Petitioners are deeply concerned that each of these individual proposals will go through environmental review without an opportunity to consider the bigger picture of what it means for the region if all the proposed terminals are built and operated,” said the petition. The groups asking for a “single, comprehensive” environmental impact statement include Climate Solutions, Columbia Riverkeeper, the Sierra Club, Washington Environmental Council, and Physicians for Social Responsibility. Seattle P-I, 5-22-13.
Tribal judge refuses to block disenrollment of 306 Nooksacks
Nooksack Tribal Chief Judge Raquel Montoya-Lewis has cleared the way for tribal officials to go ahead with plans to strip 306 people of their membership in the tribe, refusing to grant an injunction that would have blocked such a move. Attorney Gabriel Galanda, representing five of the 306, had filed a lawsuit in tribal court challenging a resolution to disenroll them. Chairman Bob Kelly and five other members of the eight-member tribal council approved that resolution in February 2013. The remaining two members of the council are among those facing disenrollment. Among other things, Galanda contends that the 306 are being singled out because they are of partial Filipino descent. Bellingham Herald, 5-22-13.
Gates donation helps create statewide charter school group
The Washington State Charter Schools Association is a new statewide nonprofit that will support the startup of charter schools in Washington, with a focus on serving at-risk populations and students who do not currently have access to high-performing schools. The association received $800,000 in start-up funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Last November, voters approved the creation of up to 40 public charter schools over the next five years. These tuition-free charter schools will be open to all students. The association will focus on three key areas of support: providing information about charter schools; supporting leaders who want to grow high-performing public charter schools; and providing general support and services to help charter schools operate. Tacoma News Tribune, 5-22-13.
Impasse in talks between police-fire unions, Port Angeles City Hall
Labor contract negotiations have reached an impasse between the city and the unions representing Port Angeles’ firefighters and sworn police officers, with an arbitration hearing with the officers union set for this fall. The stall in negotiations, however, will not affect police or emergency services in the city. The issues at the heart of the impasse include wages, health benefits and sick leave. Representatives from both unions have declined to offer more specifics because negotiations are ongoing. City Human Resources Manager Bob Coons, the negotiator for the city, said Tuesday that it has had three so-called mediation sessions since January with Teamsters Union Local 589, which represents 30 police officers. During theses sessions, an assigned staff member from the state Public Employment Relations Commission mediated discussions between the two parties. Peninsula Daily News, 5-21-13.
New gay-rights battleground: Virginia
Welcome to the gay rights battleground of Virginia. Yes, you read that right. In the 2013 off-year elections, a state that once leaned solidly to the center-right has become the newest focal point in the national debate over same-sex relationships. A gubernatorial race already defined partly along culture-war lines has grown even more contentious since last weekend, when Virginia Republicans nominated as their lieutenant governor candidate a firebrand minister who has called gays “very sick people psychologically” and suggested a connection between homosexuality and pedophilia. Remarkably, in a New South battleground where Democrats have traditionally won by carving out independent, non-partisan reputations, it’s Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe who’s most eager to keep gay rights on the political front burner. Politico, 5-23-13.
Virginia Lt. Gov. candidate fought against desegregation efforts
E.W. Jackson, the Virginia GOP’s nominee for lieutenant governor, began his career as a minister and attorney in Boston. While there, he lent his support to a high-profile 1988 fight against a plan to desegregate public housing developments in the neighborhood of South Boston. Local news station WGBH filmed Jackson giving a speech at a July 1988 community meeting in South Boston hosted by opponents of the mayor’s desegregation plan. According to WGBH, at the event Jackson dismissed the desegregation plan as “social engineering.” In his remarks, Jackson characterized the matter as a question of freedom of choice. The reporter who interviewed him asked Jackson, who is African-American, if he felt as though he was being “used” by white politicians who opposed the desegregation plan. His response made it clear he fully supported their efforts. Talking Points Memo, 5-21-13.
Immigration push is bonanza for lobbyists
The sweeping immigration overhaul moving through Congress is creating a bonanza for lobbyists. While the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the AFL-CIO, and Silicon Valley companies are making the most noise on immigration reform, a grab bag of other groups and companies are working under the radar to shape the bill. Roughly 500 companies, trade groups and unions, among others, lobbied on immigration this past quarter, according to disclosure records. Many of their interests are extremely narrow, but still require checking in on the Senate Gang of Eight’s bill. Among those with a rooting interest in the immigration debate are the U.S. Olympic Committee and The Directors Guild of America. The Hill, 5-22-13.
To Think About
Why they break windows
It’s been three weeks since May Day, and the reverberations from the day’s mayhem continue. At a court hearing last Thursday, two young men accused of throwing rocks at the police were arraigned in King County Superior Court. That evening, Seattle police posted to their website asking for tips from the public on eight suspects, complete with videos that appear to show young men smashing windows with rocks and skateboards. It’s easy to stereotype window-breakers and rock-throwers as spoiled kids throwing tantrums, out with malevolent intentions to mess with the police, and then feel indignant about it. But truth be told, those are lazy, inaccurate assumptions. At the court hearing last week, it became clear that the two guys being arraigned are homeless. Of the 17 people arrested on May Day, “about nine” are homeless or without stable housing, according to Lizz M. (she prefers not use her last name), a Seattle University student who’s helping raise money to defray their legal costs. “Four or five identify as queer. Two are juveniles,” and “two or three” will be judged in mental competency hearings. The Stranger, 5-22-13.