Murray got job at UW amid cuts
In 2009, the University of Washington faced an $81 million state budget cut, rising tuition, and elimination of hundreds of jobs. Its Office of Planning and Budgeting took one of the largest hits, with the budget slashed by 16 percent. Nevertheless, the small department found money that fall to hire state Sen. Ed Murray (D-43) for a new post coordinating UW outreach to the neighborhood west of campus. Initially advertised as a one-year post on a “time-critical” project, Murray’s job has been extended every year since, giving the Senate Democratic leader a steady second paycheck during the months when the Legislature is not in session. Murray’s employment was cleared by the state Legislative Ethics Board, which monitors public-agency jobs taken by state lawmakers. The board found his hiring was competitive and did not represent a conflict of interest. Seattle Times, 7-21-13.
Picking up the pieces in Pacific
Newly minted Pacific Mayor Leanne Guier found the atmosphere at last weekend’s annual Pacific Days celebration fantastic, hard to believe, unreal. Riding with council members atop a Valley Regional Fire Authority fire truck during the Pacific Days Parade, with just two days under her belt as the City’s chief administrator, Guier said, the reality of her new position set in. “That was a good feeling, it was a surreal feeling,” said Guier, whom the City Council appointed as mayor on July 11 after former Mayor Cy Sun’s ouster in the recall election became official. “That’s probably a moment I’ll never forget my whole life. It just felt good.” Now the hard work begins for Guier, 52 — and for the community of Pacific. Most important for the community, perhaps, is healing the rift that split the city during Sun’s shortened term as mayor. Auburn Reporter, 7-18-13.
Kent council, mayoral candidates discuss downtown plans, taxes, and golf course
How to bring more business to downtown Kent, the proposed sale of the Riverbend Par 3 Golf Course, and the business and occupation (B&O) tax were among the hot topics for debate among City Council and mayoral candidates Thursday at a forum sponsored by the Kent Chamber of Commerce. Candidates differed somewhat on the best way to revitalize downtown. They were opposed to the council’s idea of the par 3 sale despite heavy revenue losses at the city-owned Riverbend Golf Complex. The new B&O tax took an anti-tax hit. Candidates rotated tables filled with several voters every eight minutes at the Kent Senior Center during a speed “candidating” event based on the speed dating format. Kent Reporter, 7-19-13.
Costs prompt state to close data center early
In a switch of strategy, state government now plans to completely shut down one of its major data centers in Olympia, merging data-processing from that older facility into a $262 million State Data Center and office building complex built two years ago near the Capitol. The data center portion of the new complex has been considered vastly overbuilt by critics, including a consultant hired in 2010. That view has also been held by the Consolidated Technology Services agency that was created in 2011 to operate the center. The new approach will cost about $9 million in the short term but overall is expected to save money, according to Chief Information Officer Michael Cockrill. “The state will avoid a net $23 million in expenses over five years by only operating one central data center instead of two,” Cockrill’s report states. Olympian, 7-21-13.
After Detroit bankruptcy filing, city retirees on edge as they face pension cuts
The battle over the future of Detroit is set to begin this week in federal court, where government leaders will square off against retirees in a colossal debate over what the city owes to a prior generation of residents as it tries to rebuild for the next. Soon after Detroit emergency manager Kevyn D. Orr and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R)approved a bankruptcy filing Thursday, groups representing the 20,000 retirees reliant on city pensions successfully petitioned a county court to effectively freeze the bankruptcy process. The prospect of cuts has sent a deep wave of fear over Detroit’s retirees, who like many in the city, are skeptical of Orr, a corporate lawyer who previously worked in Washington DC, and Snyder, a Republican unpopular in this deeply Democratic city. “It’s been a nightmare for all of us,” said Shirley Lightsey, president of the Detroit Retired City Employees Association. “We don’t have that many people with pensions big enough for anything to be taken away from them.” Washington Post, 7-21-13.
Leahy claims filibuster-proof support in Senate for bill that would require warrants for e-mail searches
The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee is pushing to fast-track legislation that would require police to obtain a warrant before accessing e-mails and other private online messages. Sen. Patrick Leahy’s (D-VT) goal is for the Senate to unanimously approve his bill before the August recess, according to one of his committee aides. Any opposition could delay a vote until after Congress returns in the fall. He has secured unanimous support from his fellow Democrats and is in negotiations with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the Judiciary Committee’s ranking member, and other Republicans to address their concerns. Leahy’s aide claimed that even if a floor vote is delayed until after the recess, they are already “way past” the 60 votes they would need to overcome a filibuster and approve the bill, which is co-sponsored by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT). The Hill, 7-21-13.
National healthcare reform sparks concern about scams
The national health reform law is expected to open the door for identity theft and insurance scams when millions of uninsured Americans begin enrolling in coverage this fall, officials and advocates warn. The Federal Trade Commission said dozens of consumers have reported fraud since last summer’s Supreme Court ruling upholding the law, and officials predict widespread abuse when enrollment begins in October. Those especially at risk for fraud are seniors, people who speak limited English and those who have never had insurance before. In California, large numbers of those newly eligible for insurance are Spanish-speaking. Los Angeles Times, 7-20-13.
To Think About
Swindling dumb conservatives
If the late social critic Eric Hoffer is correct in his often quoted (inaccurately, it turns out) adage that “every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket,” then the conservative movement is well onto the third phase of that life cycle. Last week, preeminent conservative blogger and Fox News contributor Erick Erickson was busted hawking a pricey but dubiously valuable financial advice newsletter to his readers in an ad that turned out to be lifted from a previous ad for the same newsletter sent in the name of Ann Coulter a few years earlier. The truth is, peddling shady products to your most loyal listeners and readers is the rule, not the exception, and Erickson was just unfortunate enough to have someone notice him, and not the dozen other talkers or news outlets it could have easily been. From miracle health cures, to get rich quick schemes, to overpriced precious metals and seed banks, talk radio hosts and conservative news outlets are making a killing by trading their platform and credibility for the hard-earned cash of their unsuspecting listeners. Salon, 7-22-13.