New SPD oversight director outlines a way forward
Pierce Murphy, the new civilian director of the Seattle Police Department’s Office of Professional Accountability, is already making changes and promises more. Murphy, 59, the former public ombudsman in Boise, is promising sweeping changes to the OPA, most aimed at restoring its credibility and making its process more user-friendly. That includes moving in with investigators and the rest of the OPA staff in the Seattle Municipal Tower, near police headquarters. In the meantime, Murphy has been out in the community at every opportunity, talking to police officers, their commanders, the union representing officers and sergeants, and community groups and leaders. Seattle Times, 9-14-13.
Backdoor endorsement for Federal Way mayor? Candidate says school board crossed the line
The Federal Way Public Schools (FWPS) Board of Directors recently recognized Mayor Skip Priest’s work on securing education funding during his time as a state legislator. However, Deputy Mayor Jim Ferrell, Priest’s opponent for mayor this year, was a bit perturbed by the recognition, believing it to be an indirect endorsement of the mayor in an election year. “I think it was pretty dubious, it’s kind of a head scratcher, that they would wait three years to recognize the mayor,” Ferrell said. “It would have had a lot more legitimacy if done two years ago, or a year ago. I think the timing speaks for itself. It doesn’t really pass the logic test.” Ferrell’s objection to the recognition is one that is, oddly enough, raised consistently at Federal Way City Council meetings. Priest and City Attorney Pat Richardson remind the public that City Hall and the public comment podium are not the place for endorsing a candidate, or speaking out against a candidate or current council member. Federal Way Mirror, 9-13-13.
TV ads against food-labeling initiative to launch this week
Opponents of a food labeling initiative are gearing up to air their first television commercials in an ad campaign expected to cost millions of dollars and run up to Election Day in November. A copy of a contract filed with the Federal Communication Commission shows the No on Initiative 522 campaign has booked $72,000 worth of advertising this week on KOMO-TV in Seattle. A 30-second spot would air beginning with the early-morning newscast Monday, according to the contract. Additional contracts reserve time every day on the station through the last day of voting, Nov. 5. Everett Herald, 9-15-13.
Does state law forgive legislators’ speeding?
It’s a joke shared privately among some state lawmakers in Olympia: Go ahead, drive as fast as you want on the way to the Capitol. You won’t get a ticket — it’s the law. Though said in jest, the advice is rooted in reality. Legislators headed to work can’t get speeding tickets — or so says the Washington State Patrol and at least one local police department. A WSP spokesman says Washington lawmakers are constitutionally protected from receiving noncriminal traffic tickets during a legislative session, and 15 days before. The Tacoma Police Department abides by a similar policy, a spokeswoman said. Tacoma News Tribune, 9-15-13.
Legal status defines immigrants’ health reform benefits
For immigrants living in the country illegally, the new health care coverage under President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act will be simple: They don’t get any. In Washington state, however, some of those immigrants can still qualify for certain already-existing state health programs. Both immigrants legally in the country and those illegally here who qualify for state programs will be able to look up their eligibility through the web portal created by the Washington Health Benefit Exchange. Those are a few nuggets of information in often-confusing health care facts the exchange is tasked with diffusing among minority populations in the state before enrollment begins on Oct. 1 for the expanded marketplace of health insurances. KPLU, 9-14-13.
Selah could be site for energy storage project
While hundreds of towering wind turbines now dot hillsides across Central Washington, engineers have yet to solve the vexing problem of matching production to demand. With hydropower, most water is stored behind dams and released when needed to meet power demand. There’s no such option with turbines, which spin when the wind blows and stand idle in calm weather, indifferent to demand. But now a rock formation thousands of feet below the Yakima River Canyon could hold a key to solving the problem. Research from the Bonneville Power Administration and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory shows excess electricity from wind turbines could be used to compress air. In turn, the compressed air would be stored deep in a formation of porous rock below a layer of impermeable basalt that would act like a reservoir. When wanted, the air would be released to spin turbines to make electricity. Yakima Herald-Republic, 9-15-13.
Idaho Freedom Foundation’s charitable status scrutinized
The Idaho Legislature has experienced the raw political power of a nonprofit charity that some believe is abusing its lucrative tax-free status. Although charitable organizations are allowed to do some lobbying without risking their tax benefits, the Idaho Freedom Foundation actively pushes and opposes legislation on dozens of issues every session in ways that more closely resemble a full-on lobbying group. “If Wayne Hoffman can call a committee chairman and have a bill pulled, that’s pretty remarkable clout,” said House Minority Leader John Rusche (D-Lewiston). At issue is whether taxpayers should be subsidizing its activities. Spokesman-Review, 9-15-13.
Larry Summers withdraws name from Fed consideration
Lawrence H. Summers, the former Treasury secretary and senior White House economic adviser, has withdrawn as a candidate for Federal Reserve chairman in a startling development that raises urgent questions about who will lead the central bank when Chairman Ben S. Bernanke steps down in four months. Summers withdrew after an intense uproar among liberal Democrats, women’s groups, and other advocacy organizations against his potential nomination — a highly unusual assault on the candidate who President Obama favored for the job. bama has said he is considering two other candidates for the post, Fed Vice Chairman Janet L. Yellen and former Fed vice chairman Don Kohn. Washington Post, 9-15-13.
To Think About
Amid slow economic recovery, more Americans identify as ‘lower class’
A small but surging share of Americans now identify themselves as “lower class.” Last year, a record 8.4 percent of Americans put themselves in that category — more than at any other time in the four decades that the question has been asked on the General Social Survey, a project of the independent research organization NORC at the University of Chicago. The rising numbers surprised some researchers and activists even in light of the bruising economy. For decades, the vast majority of Americans have seen themselves as “middle class” or “working class.” Even during earlier downturns, so few people called themselves lower class that scholars routinely lumped them with working class. Activists for the poor often avoid the term, deeming it an insult. Los Angeles Times, 9-15-13.