Will Hanford ever be cleaned up?
For 42 years, tank AY-102 has stored some of the deadliest material at one of the most environmentally contaminated places in the country: the Hanford nuclear reservation. This complex along the Columbia River holds a storied place in American history. It was here that workers produced the plutonium for the atomic bomb dropped by the United States on Nagasaki, Japan, in 1945. Today, Hanford’s legacy is less about what was made here than the environmental mess left behind — and the federal government’s inability, for nearly a quarter-century now, to rid Hanford once and for all of its worst hazard: 56 million gallons of toxic waste cached in aging underground tanks. Technical problems, mismanagement, and repeated delays have plagued the interminable cleanup of the 586-square-mile site, prolonging an effort that has cost taxpayers $36 billion to date and is estimated will cost $115 billion more. Add to that the leaks involving AY-102 and other tanks, and watchdog groups, politicians and others wonder: Will Hanford ever be free of its waste? If not, what will its environmental impact be on important waterways, towns and generations to come? Associated Press (Seattle Times), 6-2-13.
Aaron Reardon’s fall from grace
The top elected official in the state’s third-largest county, Aaron Reardon spent much of 2012 laying low during a sex scandal that could have ended in criminal prosecution. He emerged uncharged, his reputation scarred but his job intact. While his campaign practices remained under scrutiny by state election watchdogs, there was no obvious reason to believe Reardon couldn’t have remained county executive until his third term expired in 2015. Instead, he stepped down Friday. Reardon, 42, walked away from office as two members of his former personal staff are the focus of an ongoing King County Sheriff’s Office investigation into possible criminal harassment of other elected county leaders. He also leaves behind myriad unanswered questions. What did he know? When did he know it? What was it about this particular dustup that would cause him to call it quits? Everett Herald, 6-2-13.
Lovick top choice in local Democratic vote
Snohomish County Democratic PCOs voted Saturday to pick Sheriff John Lovick as their top choice to become County executive. About half of the county’s PCOs showed up to select nominees to replace Aaron Reardon, who resigned Friday after a series of scandals. Some of the loudest applause Saturday came when the top two candidates made clear they plan to lead differently than Reardon, who they never mentioned by name. Out of 94 ballots counted, Lovick landed the most support with 69 votes. State Rep. John McCoy (D-38) took 18. The third candidate, Everett attorney Todd Nichols, received seven votes. Everett Herald, 6-1-13.
Coalition pressuring Inslee to streamline coal terminal permit process
A coalition of business, labor, and local government leaders is urging Gov. Jay Inslee to speed up the permit process for two coal terminals proposed in Washington, including one in Longview. In a letter sent Thursday, members of the Alliance for Northwest Jobs and Exports asked Inslee to take a similar pro-business stance as he did earlier this month with Boeing. In a news conference, Inslee, a Democrat, said he would explore tax breaks, transportation improvements, and other incentives to encourage the aerospace giant to build its new 777X plane in Washington. Longview City Councilman Mike Wallin was among the 30 signees of the letter. Millennium Bulk Terminals wants to build a $643 million dock at the former Reynolds site west of Longview, and SSA Marine has proposed building a $600 million facility in Whatcom County. Longview Daily News, 5-31-13.
Is naming of new state senator an emergency?
The Pierce County Council is facing pressure to speed up the process of naming a replacement for state Sen. Mike Carrell (R-28), who died Wednesday. At a quickly called meeting Thursday, the Pierce County Republican Party chose three possible successors to the Lakewood Republican: former County Councilman Dick Muri, freshman state Rep. Steve O’Ban, and University Place City Councilman Javier Figueroa — with Muri as the top pick. The names go to the County Council, which must pick from among them. On Friday, initiative guru Tim Eyman joined the growing chorus calling for the Pierce County Council to appoint Carrell’s replacement sooner than June 11. That is the earliest the council could act if it followed the usual path of giving one-week notice of a public hearing on the resolution. June 11 also happens to be the last day of the Legislature’s 30-day special session. Tacoma News Tribune, 6-2-13.
Pierce County considering drone ban
Pierce County Councilman Dan Roach is proposing an ordinance banning warrantless use of drones by law enforcement. The law is now in committee and comes after a similar measure in the Washington legislature stalled and Seattle Police backtracked from its own drone usage earlier this year. “If we don’t act now to set some common sense regulations in place to protect privacy,” Roach said Saturday, “It’s going to be hard to implement them once it’s already out of the bag.” That “bag” opens in 2015, when the FAA is required to open air space to drones. “When that happens, it’s going to explode,” Roach commented. KING5.com, 6-1-13.
State tells Seattle schools to fix problems in special education
Seattle Public Schools has 18 months to fix persistent problems in its special-education programs, or risk losing millions of dollars in federal special-education funding or control over how it can spend that money. The state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) set the deadline after years of warnings. The district, state officials say, is failing to keep an accurate count of its special-education students, doesn’t ensure that all students who qualify for special-education services receive them, and often doesn’t follow the academic plans all such students must have. That’s just a sampling. Most important, they say, the same problems keep cropping up, with the district addressing an issue at one school, only to have it recur the next year in other schools, and yet other schools the next. Seattle Times, 6-1-13.
New immigration approach? Give me your skilled masses, yearning to succeed
The sweeping compromise measure awaiting debate by the Senate represents the most dramatic shift in American immigration policy in nearly 50 years — away from a tradition that has admitted immigrants based on family ties and toward one that gives preference to skill, merit and entrepreneurial ability. For the first time, automatic legal permanent residency — green cards — would be accorded to an unlimited number of high achievers, including scientists, professors, executives and holders of doctoral degrees in any field from any country. Seattle Times, 6-1-13. If passed in its present form, the bill would have huge implications for King County and Washington state. Seattle Times, 6-1-13.
Police can take DNA without probable cause, Supreme Court says
The US Supreme Court held Monday that police can take DNA samples from criminal suspects without probable cause, with a closely divided court finding the technique was reasonable under the Fourth Amendment. Here’s the opinion. The case came from Maryland, where the state’s highest court struck down a state law authorizing the DNA sampling. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the five-justice majority. He said an arrest “gives rise to significant state interests” in identifying the suspect “not only so that the proper name can be attached to his charges but also so that the criminal justice system can make informed decisions concerning pretrial custody.” He was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Stephen Breyer and Samuel Alito. Justice Antonin Scalia wrote for the dissenters, including Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. He said the majority opinion “taxes the credulity of the credulous” and undermined a principle “at the very heart of the Fourth Amendment.” Wall Street Journal, 6-3-13.
US Sen. Frank Lautenberg dies at 89
Frank R. Lautenberg, who rose from a poor Paterson boyhood to become a multimillionaire businessman and New Jersey’s longest-serving U.S. senator, died Monday at 89 of viral pneumonia, his office said. The oldest member of the Senate, Lautenberg had struggled with health problems since late last year, when he missed several weeks of votes because of what he said was flu and bronchitis. The death of Lautenberg, a Democrat, creates a vacancy that Gov. Christie, a Republican, will fill. Lautenberg returned to Washington in February and announced he would not seek re-election in 2014, but hoped to complete a series of accomplishments before his term ended. He had a breakthrough last month on one of them, a bill to overhaul the law that regulates chemicals used in household products, when a bipartisan compromise bill was unveiled. But he also experienced weakness in his legs throughout the year, and missed several more weeks of votes. On May 16, he returned in a wheelchair and said he was feeling better and hoped to be in Washington more regularly. Bergen County Record, 6-3-13.
WTF? Congress enlists Seagal to find Tsarnaev clues in Russia
The head of a U.S. congressional delegation said Sunday that its meetings in Russia showed there was “nothing specific” that could have helped prevent the Boston Marathon bombings, but that the two countries need to work more closely on joint security threats. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), who led the six-member delegation, described discussions with Russian parliament members and security officials as productive. Some of the meetings, he said, were made possible by American actor Steven Seagal. Seagal, who attended the news conference at the U.S. Embassy, is well connected in Russia. He met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in March, and last week paid a visit to Ramzan Kadyrov, the strongman who rules Chechnya, a province in southern Russia that has seen two brutal wars between federal troops and Chechen separatists since 1994. Associated Press (Talking Points Memo), 6-2-13.
Plan to shut military supermarkets shows difficulty of cutting defense spending
Motion sensors and razor-wire coils ring the ammunition depot on the vast Marine Corps base at Camp Lejeune NC. Sentries stand watch in the lobby of the headquarters complex. Military police officers patrol the barracks every few hours. But no building here boasts the defenses of the giant, government-run supermarket, whose bright, wide aisles are stocked with seemingly every brand of every food product available in America — Heinz ketchup, Oscar Mayer bacon, Lay’s chips — all sold at close to wholesale prices. The cost of ordering the goods, filling the shelves and checking out customers is all borne by the American taxpayer. When Pentagon cost-cutters asked if runnibng supermarkets was part of the Armed Forces’ core mission, the commissaries’ defense proved impregnable. Washington Post, 6-1-13.
How Tom Donohue transformed the U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Over the last 16 years, Thomas J. Donohue has used his considerable talent for fundraising to build the once-struggling chamber into a free-enterprise research outfit, Supreme Court advocacy group and lobbying powerhouse. The chamber’s lobbying operation alone spent $136 million last year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics; the next-biggest spender, the National Association of Realtors, spent less than a third of that. At 74, with his Kennedyesque mop of white hair and a Brooklyn accent, Mr. Donohue comes off as part street fighter, part showman and part head of state. New York Times, 6-2-13.
How liberals saved California
Last week, the Atlantic’s James Fallows penned what has almost become its own genre, a glorifying profile of California Gov. Jerry Brown, positioning him as the savior of the Golden State, singlehandedly bringing it back from fiscal collapse. Brown, the story goes, stepped away from his “Governor Moonbeam” past and embraced a new practicality. “I find that a lot of people are more invested in position-taking than they are in the inquiry,” Brown says to Fallows, an expression of his philosophy. “Generally speaking, I am in the inquiry.” It’s a nice sentiment. It’s also wrong. Contrary to the Great Man theory of politics from Brown’s hagiographers, liberal organizations led California’s comeback, by taking away the tools empowering minority Republicans. Salon, 5-31-13.
To Think About
The triumph of the working mother
Fifty years ago, Betty Friedan made a startling prediction in her controversial best seller, “The Feminine Mystique.” If American housewives would embark on lifelong careers, she claimed, they would be happier and healthier, their marriages would be more satisfying, and their children would thrive. At the time, experts believed that a married woman should work only to kill time while searching for a husband or to fill time after the children had left home. A wife who pursued a career was considered a maladjusted woman who would damage her marriage and her kids. Today, with almost two-thirds of married mothers employed and women the sole or main breadwinner in 40 percent of households, according to a Pew study released Wednesday, we can test these competing points of view. Ms. Friedan wins on the question of whether working improves women’s well-being. At all income levels, stay-at-home mothers report more sadness, anger, and episodes of diagnosed depression than their employed counterparts. Stephanie Coontz, New York Times, 6-1-13.