Extra pride at Seattle parade over stunning victories for gays
Downtown Seattle streets were awash in the colors of the rainbow Sunday as thousands of Pride parade spectators — both gay and straight — jammed the sidewalks along 12 blocks of Fourth Avenue. Pride comes this year at a time of momentous achievement for the LGBT movement. It’s the first one since Washington voters last November legalized gay marriage, and comes days after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a portion of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that had blocked federal benefits to same-sex couples. From Union Street north to Denny Way, the Pride parade procession covered 12 blocks and featured a range of floats and entries — from Fred Meyer to Seattle Public Schools. Friends and family of gay and lesbian people wore their support on their backs, while couples held hands, waved rainbow flags and carried signs. One read: “Closets are for clothes, not for us.” Seattle Times, 6-30-13.
First-married couple raises equality flag on Space Needle
The two women who were the first same-sex couple to be granted a marriage license in Washington state, West Seattle couple Jane Abbot Lighty and Pete-e Petersen, stood on the Space Needle Sunday morning to raise a giant marriage equality flag above the Seattle icon. The flag featuring a red equal sign is making its first appearance atop the Space Needle. Lighty and Petersen were grand marshals in Seattle’s Gay Pride Parade. In another first, the Seattle Mariners flew the rainbow flag during their game Sunday against the Chicago Cubs. Seattle’s gay pride parade began downtown on late Sunday morning and concluded at Seattle Center with a pride festival until early evening. Associated Press (KPLU), 6-30-13.
National fast for immigration overhaul arrives in Seattle
A national campaign of fasting among day laborers, domestic workers, and other immigrants in the country illegally has been rolling through American cities since May Day and arrives in Seattle Monday. Dozens of people — immigrant workers and their advocates — plan to break from food for a day or longer during the week to draw attention to the conditions of those living in the shadows of the nation’s economy. They want the federal government to suspend deportations while Congress works on legislation that would create a path to legal status for an estimated 10 million people living in the U.S. illegally. Seattle Times, 6-30-13.
Chamber endorses Shen over Council incumbent O’Brien
The political arm of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce has endorsed City Council challenger Albert Shen, giving Shen a big boost in his challenge to incumbent (and Mike McGinn ally) Mike O’Brien. The chamber group, called Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy (CASE), is backing two incumbent City Council members — Richard Conlin and Sally Bagshaw — but has spurned O’Brien and Nick Licata. Seeking a fifth term, Licata does not have a credible opponent. O’Brien does. Shen runs a transportation and engineering consulting business in the International District, serves on the Seattle Community College board of trustees and was part of President Obama’s national finance committee. Seattle P-I, 6-28-13.
After bulking up, plastic bags return to the grocery checkout
After their ban in Seattle, plastic bags made a pretty quiet exit from Seattle grocery stores. But they may have some fight in them yet. This week, Uwajimaya began offering shoppers – for a mere quarter – a green “reusable” plastic bag in case they don’t care for paper and forgot their cloth totes at home. The bags are clearly thicker than the ocean polluting ones banished in Seattle, and in many ways they look and feel like the bags of old. Denise Moriguchi, marketing director for the grocer, says the company is releasing the bag on a trial basis, announcing on signs at check-outs that they are available – and that they were approved by Seattle Public Utilities. “They’re using a perfectly legal bag because it’s a bag that the ordinance allows,” says Dick Lilly, manager for waste prevention with the city. “The ordinance explicitly allows a thick plastic bag.” Seattle Weekly, 6-28-13.
Kent City Council candidate is target of police probe
Ken Sharp has served as president of Kent’s Chamber of Commerce and is now running for Position No. 6 on the Kent City Council. But just weeks before voters cast their ballots, Sharp, 63, is being investigated for stealing half a million dollars from his own mother. According to a search warrant filed recently in King County Superior Court, the owner of Minuteman Press allegedly transferred $485,417.58 from the account of his 93-year-old mother into his own. The documents also reveal Sharp initiated a reverse mortgage on his mother’s Tacoma home that overlooks Commencement Bay, even though she was no longer living there. That’s a violation of the mortgage terms, according to investigators. Sharp hasn’t been charged. The Kent City Council primary election is in August. (Sharp is opposed by Bailey Stober, who has been endorsed by the King County Democrats.) KIRO, 6-28-13.
UFCW plans informational pickets at Kent, Renton grocery stores
Shoppers at grocery stores in Kent, Renton, and across the Puget Sound region can expect to see informational pickets from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday, July 3. Pickets will stand in front of the stores to promote a fair contract for 30,000 union grocery store workers, according to a Friday media release from UFCW Local 21, one of the union locals that represents the employees. The other unions are UFCW Local 367 and Teamsters Local 38. Pickets will show up at 12 stores. The workers have been in contract negotiations since March. According to the union, the CEOs of Safeway, Albertsons, Fred Meyer and QFC have continued to get paid millions while proposing to eliminate health care coverage for thousands of Puget Sound area grocery store workers, offer no wage increases and only a 15 cent per hour end of year bonus for the most senior employees, take away paid sick days for Seattle workers and forbid others in the region from ever getting them, and other takebacks. Kent Reporter, 6-28-13.
Lots to learn from six months of session
One example: Republicans of both houses are leery of the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. The state’s two-year operating budget relies on the expansion of Medicaid, via Obamacare, for about $300 million and a group of Senate Republicans tried Friday afternoon to cut that provision out of the bill, with well-rehearsed talking points in hand. That effort failed, but the 16 GOP senators who voted for the amendment to cut Obamacare out of the budget had voted for a Republican budget just a few weeks earlier that had that money in it. The reason: They couldn’t make the budget balance without it. Jim Camden, Spokesman-Review, 6-29-13.
$1B more for schools may not be enough in court’s eye
Washington’s public schools are in line for a much-needed infusion of money from the state, but it may not be enough to get the Supreme Court to ease off lawmakers to do more. The two-year budget contained an additional $1 billion for basic education programs that serve roughly 1 million students. It’s only a slice of what schools need to comply with a court mandate to fully fund basic education by 2018. “I have no intention of sugar coating what we did and did not do,” said state Sen. David Frockt (D-46), a member of the bipartisan panel entrusted with writing the legislators’ report. “We’re moving in the right direction. We didn’t make any historic changes. We made piecemeal improvements,” Frockt said. “Overall, on funding I would give us a C. On regular and dependable funding I would give us a D.” Everett Herald, 6-30-13.
New laws set to take effect in state
This part of summer is a time for patriotism. It’s also the time new state laws go into effect across the nation. Fiscal years begin July 1 on most financial calendars, and a slew of state government spending regulations kick in each year on that date. Despite their inability to quickly agree on a state operating budget, Washington state lawmakers managed to pass more than 330 bills. Many of those laws take effect at the end of July. Among them: Farmers markets that meet certain requirements will be able to feature wine and beer tasting. The measure makes a pilot program permanent. Meanwhile, movie theaters with less 120 seats per screen will be allowed to obtain a liquor license under another approved measure and lawmakers made sure that grocery stores using self-checkout machines check people’s identification when they purchase alcohol. Associated Press (Vancouver Columbian), 6-30-13.
Op-ed: Probst reluctant to discuss nastiness of today’s politics
Tim Probst said Friday that he hadn’t been interviewed by the media in months. Still, he didn’t sound surprised by the call, and by the curiosity about his views on Don Benton’s increased buffoonery since Probst lost to him in last year’s race for state senator. Probst is clearly uncomfortable talking about the political histrionics that Benton and his county commissioner cronies, David Madore and Tom Mielke, have created this year. His life now — out of the spotlight — is devoted to enjoying his family and working as director of workforce initiatives for the state Employment Security Department. That job is similar to his work in politics, when he served as one of the pre-eminent authorities and can-do activists in creating jobs. Will Probst run for office again? “The jury is still out,” and he didn’t sound overly enthused. As I see it, when a man with his record of honorable public service is uncertain if he will seek our votes again, it says something about us as voters. It also says something about the people we elect. John Laird, Vancouver Columbian, 6-30-13.
Supreme Court rejects bid to halt same-sex marriage in California
The US Supreme Court rejected an emergency request to stop same-sex marriages in California, a lawyer for the gay couples who sued said Sunday. Theodore J. Boutrous Jr., one of the lawyers who challenged Proposition 8, said that he had just received word from the court Sunday morning that Justice Anthony M. Kennedy denied a request by ProtectMarriage, the sponsors of Proposition 8, to halt the marriages. Boutrous said that Kennedy, who handles petitions from the Western states, did not comment on the decision. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order late Friday that allowed gay marriages to resume in California, a step that ProtectMarriage said was premature and in violation of procedural rules. Los Angeles Times, 6-30-13.
Amid talk of higher office, Wendy Davis focuses on the fight
The Democratic state Senator from Fort Worth filibustered to death, at least temporarily, a Republican abortion bill and instantly built a global persona that now seems much bigger than her Tarrant County Senate district. So where does the filibustering phenom go from here? “I would love for her to run for governor,” Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa told the Star-Telegram. “Texas needs her to run for governor. I hope that doesn’t put any pressure on her, but Texas needs a dramatic change in leadership from what we have today.” Davis acknowledged all the talk of higher office. But her focus, she said, is preparing for a second special session, beginning Monday, and another round of legislative combat to defeat a version of the abortion bill that she and other Senate Democrats buried with the filibuster in the final chaotic hours of the first special session. Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 6-29-13.
Student loan doomsday has arrived, but can Congress fix it?
For anyone borrowing money for college this fall, today was supposed to be doomsday. Politicians have been warning for months that without a deal in Congress, the rate on education loans would double July 1, meaning the price of every dollar of tuition borrowed would cost more and perhaps take longer to pay back after graduation. Doomsday is here. The rates have doubled, from 3.4 to 6.8 percent. But the turn of events may not take such a toll on students after all. There’s a quirk to the system when Congress tackles fiscal issues such as loan rates or tax reform. Without congressional authorization, low student borrowing rates can expire just like sales tax deductions can expire, on the first of the year in which they apply. But as long as Congress gets its act together before borrowers have to start paying up, lawmakers can also reach back in time and vote to retroactively keep loan rates low. Las Vegas Sun, 7-1-13.
To Think About
Employer-mandated ‘pay cards’ force low-wage employees to pay ATM fees to access money that they earned
A growing number of American workers are confronting a frustrating predicament on payday: to get their wages, they must first pay a fee. For these largely hourly workers, paper paychecks and even direct deposit have been replaced by prepaid cards issued by their employers. Employees can use these cards, which work like debit cards, at an ATM to withdraw their pay. But in the overwhelming majority of cases, using the card involves a fee. And those fees can quickly add up: one provider, for example, charges $1.75 to make a withdrawal from most ATMs, $2.95 for a paper statement, and $6 to replace a card. Some users even have to pay $7 inactivity fees for not using their cards. These fees can take such a big bite out of paychecks that some employees end up making less than the minimum wage once the charges are taken into account, according to interviews with consumer lawyers, employees, and state and federal regulators. New York Times, 6-30-13.