SeaTac City Council sends $15 minimum wage initiative to November ballot, a local measure of national significance
A local ballot measure that would impose a $15-an-hour minimum wage on Sea-Tac International Airport and surrounding businesses is headed for the November ballot, placing this small King County city on the front line of a national campaign that is being mounted by organized labor. The SeaTac City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to place the “Good Jobs SeaTac” initiative on the Nov. 5 general election ballot. The relatively small number of signatures involved belies the significance of the campaign, which would give SeaTac the nation’s highest minimum wage, and would impose other workplace standards on airlines, airport concessionaires, hotels, parking-lot operators, and other airport-related businesses. Washington State Wire, 7-24-13.
Urquhart urges County to honor fewer immigration detainers
King County’s sheriff says he’s concerned that people in immigrant communities are afraid to call the police for fear of getting deported. That’s why he’s supporting a measure to limit the county’s cooperation with federal detention requests. Sheriff John Urquhart says the county’s full cooperation up until now with detainer requests is hurting his ability to fight crime. “We cannot be an effective police agency and therefore reduce crime, and the fear of crime, if people are afraid to call us because they think they’re going to get deported, either as a victim or a witness,” Urquhart told a King County Council committee. That’s one reason why King County Council Chair Larry Gossett wants to limit the detainer requests the county honors to people who have been convicted of a serious or violent crime. He says his approach would keep King County safe, but at the same time not flag people to the immigration authorities who pose no threat. A spokesman for ICE in Seattle declined to comment. The council will hold more hearings before bringing it up for a vote. KPLU, 7-23-13.
Seattle mayoral candidates debate the issues at election forum, in Redmond—Wait, what?
There’s no question Microsoft is becoming more active in the political realm. The company lobbied for legalization of gay marriage, has spent money backing candidates for office, and has lobbied at the federal level for immigration reform. But now the company is getting active at the local level. On Tuesday, Microsoft’s political action committee hosted a debate for the Seattle mayoral candidates. In Redmond. The standing-room-only event took place on Microsoft’s campus and, while there were a few members of the news media present, was clearly aimed at Microsoft employees. Puget Sound Business Journal, 7-23-13.
Striking Skagit berry pickers say they have been evicted
Labor unrest between a Skagit Valley berry farm and its migrant workers that led to recent work stoppages escalated Wednesday, with workers saying they have been evicted from the farm’s housing. Early morning talks over wages between the 270 workers and Sakuma Bros. Farms apparently broke down after the two sides could not come to an agreement over what they should be paid per pound for the blueberries they pick. At the core of the strikers’ angst is the pending arrival early next month of some 160 guest workers from Mexico to prop up the farm’s existing workforce. The workers aren’t convinced there’s a labor shortage. They believe the company would have no trouble finding workers if it paid them more, and improved conditions. State and federal agencies run job ads to recruit other workers for the jobs, not just here in this state but across the country, ahead of the guest workers’ arrival. The state Tuesday halted recruitment for Sakuma, saying it’s against state policy to interfere in a labor dispute. Seattle Times, 7-24-13.
Mike Hope weighing whether to run again
Rep. Mike Hope (R-44) may be running out of time to serve in the Legislature. The Mill Creek Republican admits he’s struggling to find enough hours each day to enjoy life as a husband, father, Seattle cop, state representative, and aspiring actor. A solution may be for the 37-year-old to not run for re-election in 2014. If he doesn’t run, Republicans could lose the seat in the 44th Legislative District that includes Mill Creek, Snohomish, and Lake Stevens. Democrats have little interest in challenging the incumbent, but would make a serious effort at capturing it should there be an opening. Democrats already hold the district’s other two seats. Everett Herald, 7-24-13.
Port of Vancouver unanimously approves oil terminal lease
Port of Vancouver commissioners Tuesday unanimously approved leasing 42 acres for a controversial oil terminal, despite overwhelming public testimony against the plan by Tesoro Corp. and Savage Companies to build what would be the largest such facility in the Pacific Northwest. Commissioner Brian Wolfe said the lease — worth $45 million to the port over an initial 10 years — addresses public safety concerns. Port managers will stay on top of Tesoro and Savage like “white on rice” to ensure the project is “done right,” Wolfe said. Commissioner Nancy Baker said if the port doesn’t build the infrastructure to handle oil, then “someone else is going to do it. That’s the way the world works.” The project will generate family-wage jobs, said Commissioner Jerry Oliver, and help the U.S. wean itself off foreign oil. “We’re not adding to global warming,” he said. “We’re replacing oil (that’s) already being consumed.” Vancouver Columbian, 7-23-13.
Fundraising violations stall supermajority vote campaign
Incorrectly filed campaign finance reports have largely sidelined the well-funded committee backing a ballot initiative that would make it harder to increase taxes in Yakima. State regulators last week told the committee, Citizens for Two-Thirds, that it had raised more money than allowed under state law, that it must stop raising and spending money, and that it must refund any contributions that exceed the limits. The violations could also result in small fines for the committee’s officers, according to a spokeswoman for the Public Disclosure Commission, which oversees political spending in the state. Two Yakima City Councilmen — Bill Lover and Rick Ensey — are the co-chairmen for Citizens for Two-Thirds. The single-issue committee exists solely to support Proposition No. 1, which would require a council supermajority — a minimum of 5-2 — to approve any tax increase. Yakima Herald-Republic, 7-24-13.
Tacoma cuts sweetheart deal with water bottler
Tacoma’s water will be sold to a bottling company that plans to move to East Pierce County in spring of next year. The Tacoma City Council approved a contract Tuesday between Tacoma Water and Niagara Bottling, LLC, a California-based company that plans to start construction on a $50-million bottling plant in Frederickson this fall. About a quarter of the 1 million gallons the Niagara plant is expected to use each day will be sold at an 8 percent discount under the contract the City Council approved Tuesday. For any water used beyond that, Niagara would pay the standard rate Tacoma Water charges large-volume commercial and industrial users. Tacoma News Tribune, 7-23-13.
Initiative filed to name Skagit River bridge after Tim Eyman
An initiative to the Legislature was filed Wednesday that would apparently name the infamous Skagit River bridge — that collapsed on Interstate 5 in May – after anti-tax initiative huckster Tim Eyman. The measure reads: “That portion of state route number 5 from the junction with state route number 538 in Mount Vernon, thence northerly to the junction with state route 20 in Burlington is designated “the Tim Eyman Memorial Bridge”, dedicated to the efforts of Tim Eyman to reduce Washington State tax revenues and the collapse of the Skagit River Bridge on May 23, 2013.” The initiative was filed by Nicholas Santos of Bothell. He could not be immediately reached for comment. Seattle Times, 7-24-13.
Left-right House coalition narrowly fails to restrict NSA wiretapping
A controversial proposal to restrict how the National Security Agency collects Americans’ telephone records failed to advance in the House by a narrow margin Wednesday, a victory for the Obama administration, which has spent weeks defending the program. Lawmakers voted 217-205 to defeat the proposal from an unlikely coalition of liberal and conservative members. Those lawmakers had joined forces in response to revelations by Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor, that the agency has collected the phone records of millions of Americans — a practice that critics say goes beyond the kind of collection that has been authorized by Congress. The plan, sponsored by Tea Party Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) and liberal Democrat John Conyers Jr. (D-MI), would have restricted the collection of the records, known as metadata, only when there was a connection to relevant ongoing investigations. Obama had threatened a veto. Washington Post, 7-24-13.
House GOP recess plan: Fight Obamacare & Washington DC
House Republicans seem to be leaving little to chance as their members prepare to spend the August recess among their voters. A “planning kit” explains how to maximize exposure and minimize contrary opinions on issues like health care reform. In the kit’s introductory letter to her fellow Republicans, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers says they should tell the folks back home the GOP is fighting for them against Washington and the bureaucracy. “There is no better message than one that puts the American people before an out-of-control government,” she wrote. As chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, the Eastern Washington congresswoman is in charge of this year’s kit, a 30-page booklet of helpful hints to members on how to make the most of their time back in the district. Spokesman-Review, 7-24-13.
House panel axes popular land-acquisition program
A House appropriations subcommittee has passed out a spending bill that cuts deeply into major federal energy efficiency programs, slashes the Environmental Protection Agency budget, and “zeroes out” a popular acquisition program that has protected key recreation land and habitat across Washington. The federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), paid for by money from offshore oil leases — not taxpayer dollars — has spent $500 million over the past 40 years to protect a variety of places in Washington state. The Obama administration proposed that it get $600 million for the coming fiscal year. A Senate-passed budget provides $646 million. The House Appropriations subcommittee budget for LWCF: zero. Dollars from the LWCF have gone to such projects as popular Wallace Falls State Park in Snohomish County, the preservation of Keystone Spit on Whidbey Island, protection of ancient cedar forests on Long Island in Willapa Bay, and creation of a national wildlife refuge along the Columbia River to protect the endangered Columbian white-tailed deer. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA-3) serves on the House Appropriations Committee and its subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies. Seattle P-I, 7-24-13.
To Think About
Some Democrats weary of Obama centrism, seek populist push
With President Obama experiencing a difficult first year of his second term and his lame-duck status growing ever nearer, a recent speech illustrated the stirrings of a debate inside the Democratic Party about the party’s economic approach, given the halting recovery. If positions on foreign policy and specifically the Iraq war marked the dividing line in the Democrats’ last fierce internal debate, issues related to banks, entitlements, and the rights of consumers broadly could shape the party’s next search for an identity. Liberals, pointing to a bankrupt Detroit and new reports of diminished class mobility, believe the plight of lower-income and young Americans is so severe that the party must shift away from the center-left consensus that has shaped its fiscal politics since Bill Clinton’s 1992 election and push more aggressively to reduce income disparity. “The sooner we get back to a good, progressive, populist message, the better off we’re going to be as Democrats,” said Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa. There is a growing frustration among progressives who are now saying the party must move toward a more populist position on the issue that many on the left see as the great unfinished business of the Obama years: economic fairness. New York Times, 7-24-13.