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Issue #140

King County

Inslee says federal shutdown is ‘deranged,’ hurting state

After talking about losing his job come Tuesday, Nick Towne, of the state employment security department, second from right, returns the podium to Gov. Jay Inslee Sunday.
After talking about losing his job come Tuesday, Nick Towne, of the state employment security department, second from right, returns the podium to Gov. Jay Inslee Sunday.

Calling the federal government shutdown “deranged,” Gov. Jay Inslee said the state’s economic recovery is being jeopardized by congressional Republicans who want to derail or delay health-care reforms that people here want and need. Inslee, a Democrat, told reporters at a news conference in Seattle on Sunday that veterans’ services, unemployment compensation and the state’s aerospace industry are feeling the effects of the shutdown. He also said that a fourth of the state’s employment security department could be furloughed in the coming weeks unless Congress passes a spending bill to allow the government to pay its bills. The state is currently using its own funds to keep processing unemployment claims, but Inslee said the situation is “unsustainable” because the money will eventually dry up. Seattle Times, 10-6-13.

As Murray wins business support, McGinn casts him as big-money candidate

Mayor Mike McGinn, right, and Sen. Ed Murray spoke at the West Seattle Senior Center during a forum Sept. 17.
Mayor Mike McGinn, right, and Sen. Ed Murray spoke at the West Seattle Senior Center during a forum Sept. 17.

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn was elected in 2009 despite the opposition of the downtown business establishment. Four years later, not much has changed. While McGinn’s re-election campaign is getting its share of support from developers and business lobbyists, most of Seattle’s business bigwigs have lined up behind challenger Ed Murray with endorsements and substantial financial backing. McGinn has sought to turn that to his advantage, taking delight in casting Murray as a puppet of big-money interests. At times that has seemed like McGinn’s answer to every development in the campaign. Seattle Times, 10-5-13.

Government shutdown threatens Alaska king crab season, Seattle-based fishing fleet

A crab boat awaits fitting out at Seattle's Fishermen's Terminal.
A crab boat awaits fitting out at Seattle’s Fishermen’s Terminal.

Just 10 days before the lucrative king crab season is supposed to start, the government shutdown is preventing the required permits from being distributed to fishing vessels. The permits, which designate catch quotas for each boat, are required for crews to begin legally fishing. Until then, boats remain docked and idle, which could cost the industry millions of dollars. Many vessels are already at Dutch Harbor in Alaska, standing by. Others haven’t left Seattle yet. Rep. Suzan Del Bene (D-1) spoke about the issue on the House floor. “Instead of a fiscal cliff, right now we’re facing a fishing cliff in the Bering Sea, unless Congress acts before the season is scheduled to start on Oct. 15,” DelBene said. KIRO, 10-5-13.

Issaquah’s plastic bag ban law to head to voters

An effort to repeal Issaquah’s ban on plastic bags has gathered enough signatures to put the issue to the voters. Save Our Choice was notified Oct. 3 by King County Elections that it had rounded up 2,597 valid signatures, 48 more than required by law. The group needed 2,549, which represents 15 percent of the city’s registered voters as of Nov. 2011. State Sen. Mark Mullet (D-5), who sponsored the bag ban law while he was still on the Issaquah City Council, criticized the group’s effort. “The organization is not from Issaquah,” Mullet said. “They tried this in Seattle and it didn’t work, so now they are putting all of their energy into a smaller city hoping to overturn it.” Mullet said the industry that makes plastic bags is working to make sure these ordinances fail and that they are not looking at the long-term environmental impact. Issaquah Reporter, 10-4-13.

The State

Company fires scientist who warned of Hanford waste site problems

Workers at the Hanford nuclear reservation near Richland work in a tank farm where highly radioactive waste is stored underground.
Workers at the Hanford nuclear reservation near Richland work in a tank farm where highly radioactive waste is stored underground.

When senior scientist Walter Tamosaitis warned in 2011 about fundamental design flaws at the nation’s largest facility to treat radioactive waste at Hanford, he was assigned to work in a basement room without office furniture or a telephone. Wednesday, Tamosaitis, an employee of San Francisco-based URS Corp., was laid off from his job after 44 years with the company. The concerns that Tamosaitis raised two years ago about the design of the waste treatment plant, a $12.3-billion industrial complex that would turn highly radioactive sludge into glass, were validated by federal investigators. Construction of the plant was halted and the Energy Department is trying to address a wide range of problems with the design. Tom Carpenter, executive director of Hanford Challenge, a watchdog group that assisted a number of whistle-blowers at the federal complex, said the dismissal was “clearly another act of retribution against Walter Tamosaitis.” Los Angeles Times, 10-3-13.

Spanaway furlough protesters get their wish

Dolly Barraugh puts up a “Furlough Buck” note at Uncle Sam’s American Grill in Spanaway.
Dolly Barraugh puts up a “Furlough Buck” note at Uncle Sam’s American Grill in Spanaway.

Civilian employees at Madigan Army Medical Center took their frustration with the government shutdown to the streets Saturday. Eight members of the union that represents furloughed workers at Madigan spent the morning walking up and down Pacific Avenue in Spanaway, talking to small-business owners about the impacts of the shutdown and urging them to call their congressional representatives. The union members were mostly preaching to the choir in Spanaway, where many business owners are former military members themselves or rely heavily on military families as customers. As AFGE members were working the streets Saturday, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced that he would recall to work almost all of the 350,000 DoD civilian employees who had been sent home when the government shut down. Tacoma News Tribune, 10-5-13.

Svoboda is Democrats’ top pick for Grays Harbor County prosecutor; Spencer’s name is not submitted

Katie Svoboda, Mike Spencer
Katie Svoboda, Mike Spencer

The Grays Harbor County Commissioners now have a list of three candidates to fill the partisan office of county prosecutor, although they may not like the process the Grays Harbor Democrats went through to get it. “I thought it was a farce on the process and how it was supposed to be done,” Commissioner Frank Gordon said Friday. “I’m a little bit ashamed of the Democratic Party even though I’m a member.” At Thursday night’s meeting, two last-minute candidates were nominated to fill out the list, leaving off former prosecutor and Superior Court judge Mike Spencer, one of the two people who had publicly declared interest before the meeting. The commissioners can now only choose between Senior Deputy Prosecutor Katie Svoboda — the other person who declared interest in the post — party Chairman George Smylie and former party chairwoman Vini Samuel. Svoboda recently received retired prosecutor Stew Menefee’s endorsement, he confirmed Thursday. Aberdeen Daily World, 10-5-13.

State admonishes Thurston County Judge Gary Tabor over remarks about same-sex weddings

Thurston County Superior Court Judge Gary Tabor

Thurston County Superior Court Judge Gary Tabor was admonished by state judicial authorities Friday for saying last year he would not perform weddings for same-sex couples — even though he was doing them for opposite-sex couples. The Washington Judicial Conduct Commission announced the sanction Friday, saying that state law does not allow discrimination based on sexual orientation. The admonition amounts to a warning, and was the least-severe punishment available. It came about as part of a stipulated agreement with the socially conservative judge. Tabor did not return a telephone message left at the Superior Court, but the commission said Tabor has since stopped performing weddings as a judge. Olympian, 10-5-13.

No-on-I-522: Show us the money!!

Seattle P-I columnist Joel Connelly

that I-522 is “misleading” should bring tears to your eyes, if you happen to be a crocodile. The people leveling that accusation have mastered the art in their own campaign. (I-522 would require labeling of most genetically modified raw agricultural products, processed foods, seeds, and seed stocks sold in Washington.) The food industry and agribusiness spent $46 million in 2012 to narrowly defeat Prop 37, a California measure similar to I-522.. The giants of the food industry left footprints, with Pepsico giving $2.14 million to the anti-37 campaign, Coca Cola $1.45 million, Kraft foods $1.64 million, and Nestle $1.31 million. Such names are invisble this year. Instead, it is the Grocery Manufacturers Association, with donations of $472,000, and then $1.75 million, and finally — last week — $5 million. Joel Connelly, Seattle P-I, 10-6-13.

The Nation

Government shutdown: Right-wingers, backed by billionaires, planned the federal budget crisis for months

“You are here because now is the single best time we have to defund Obamacare. This is a fight we can win.” Senator Ted Cruz, speaking in August to a Heritage Action gathering in Dallas.

Shortly after President Obama started his second term, a loose-knit coalition of conservative activists led by former Attorney General Edwin Meese III gathered in the capital to plot strategy. Their push to repeal Obama’s health care law was going nowhere, and they desperately needed a new plan. Out of that session, held one morning in a location the members insist on keeping secret, came a little-noticed “blueprint to defunding Obamacare,” signed by Meese and leaders of more than three dozen conservative groups. It articulated a take-no-prisoners legislative strategy that had long percolated in conservative circles: that Republicans could derail the health care overhaul if conservative lawmakers were willing to push fellow Republicans — including their cautious leaders — into cutting off financing for the entire federal government. Last week the country witnessed the fallout from that strategy: a standoff that has shuttered much of the federal bureaucracy and unsettled the nation. To many Americans, the shutdown came out of nowhere. But interviews with a wide array of conservatives show that the confrontation that precipitated the crisis was the outgrowth of a long-running effort to undo the Affordable Care Act, since its passage in 2010 — waged by a galaxy of conservative groups with more money, organized tactics and interconnections than is commonly known. New York Times, 10-5-13.

Government shutdown: Obama flips 2011 script

President Barack Obama

President Obama is taking a completely different tack in this year’s budget fight than in 2011, when talks with congressional leaders ended with him at a low point in his presidency. Administration officials and White House allies argue Obama learned from his mistakes in that round, and that this reinforces his decision to not negotiate with Republicans over raising the debt ceiling and ending the government shutdown. Aides and Democrats close to the White House say this year’s dynamics are a far cry from 2011. Though Obama has stumbled in his second term — Gallup Friday said his approval rating stood at an anemic 41 percent — the president doesn’t face the pressure of running for another term. In 2011, Obama had one eye on the debt talks and another on his reelection, and this gave leverage to Republicans. The Hill, 10-6-13.

GOP identity crisis plays out in Alabama

Bradley Byrne, left, and Dean Young
Bradley Byrne, left, and Dean Young

The Republican Party’s identity crisis is on full display in a special congressional election in Alabama. A Nov. 5 runoff for the state’s vacant 1st District is emerging as a proxy fight pitting those who argue that the GOP should embrace a conventional, mainstream approach aimed at appealing to a broad spectrum of voters and those who favor a hard-hitting, bombastic approach that excites the conservative base. On one side of the divide is Bradley Byrne, a former state senator and lawyer. An unsuccessful 2010 gubernatorial candidate, he presents himself as a pragmatic-minded friend of the business community. A former Democrat, Byrne switched parties in 1997 while serving on the state Board of Education. On the other side is Dean Young, a real estate investor and bomb-thrower who has said that he’s “against homosexuals pretending like they’re married” and who’s called for President Barack Obama’s impeachment. Politico, 10-6-13.

To Think About

Who decides who sees students’ data? Hint: It’s not their parents

Cynthia Stevenson, superintendent of Jefferson County Schools in Colorado, sees inBloom’s data storage system as helping teachers and students.
Cynthia Stevenson, superintendent of Jefferson County Schools in Colorado, sees inBloom’s data storage system as helping teachers and students.

When Cynthia Stevenson, the superintendent of Jefferson County, CO, public schools, heard about a data repository called inBloom, she thought it sounded like a technological fix for one of her bigger headaches. Over the years, the Jeffco school system, as it is known, which lies west of Denver, had invested in a couple of dozen student data systems, many of which were incompatible. She did not imagine that five months later, she would be sitting in a special school board meeting in the district’s headquarters, listening as a series of parents, school board members and privacy lawyers assailed the plan to outsource student data storage to inBloom. What troubled the naysayers at that August session was that the district seemed to be rushing to increase data-sharing before weighing the risks of granting companies access to intimate details about children. They noted that administrators had no policies in place to govern who could see the information, how long it would be kept or whether it would be shared with the colleges to which students applied. New York Times, 10-6-13.

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