Seattle mayoral candidates: Who pays if tunnel goes over budget?
What if Seattle gets stuck with cost overruns on the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement project? That question sparked a lively exchange on KING-TV between the two candidates for mayor of Seattle during their first televised debate. During the hour long debate sponsored by KING-TV, KIRO-FM, and the Seattle Times, Mayor Mike McGinn and Sen. Ed Murray traded jabs on everything from leadership style to police reform. But their discussion of the tunnel project raised one of the most interesting questions. Will we have to pay more in taxes if Bertha runs into additional delays? KPLU, 10-9-13.
Shutdown could interrupt King County nutritional services for women, children
Advance layoff notices were sent Wednesday to 82 King County employees who provide essential nutrition services for Women, Infants, and Children, as a consequence of the continuing federal shutdown. “This self-inflicted, manufactured crisis will interrupt essential nutrition services for 38,000 pregnant women, new mothers, and young children in King County,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine in a media release. “They are literally taking food from the mouths of babies.” As a result of the shutdown, USDA funding in King County and Washington state for the Women, Infants, and Children program, known as WIC, will expire on Oct. 31. The loss of funding will have a total economic impact of up to $30 million dollars a year, including $23 million that goes directly for food for families. At a news conference at the White Center Public Health Center at Greenbridge, Constantine was joined by King County Councilman and Council Budget Chair Joe McDermott, and a WIC client, Crystal Ruegger. “I differ with every one of my Council colleagues on politics and policy on occasion. But we work through our differences and adopt responsible budgets annually,” said McDermott. “To threaten mothers and children over politics is inexcusable.” Kent Reporter, 10-9-13.
Garfield teacher Jesse Hagopian brings anti-testing message to NBC News
Garfield High School history teacher Jesse Hagopian continues to raise his profile nationally with his participation in the just concluded Education Nation Summit, convened by NBC News. Hagopian was one of the instigators of the MAP test boycott last spring that got national media coverage and set fire to an array of anti-testing protests across the country. So enthralled were some teachers with the boycott—which gave voice to a deeply-felt belief that over-testing is stifling creativity and taking away from valuable class time—that they flooded Garfield with pizza, roses, and other gestures of support. Hagopian raised cheers too when he appeared on a Monday panel that was part of the three-day summit. His moment in the sun came when NBC host Brian William asked, “You’re not against testing, are you?” “Well teachers invented testing. So I’m not against testing. I’m not against assessment,” he replied. “What I am against is the inundation of our classroom with standardized testing.” Seattle Weekly, 10-9-13.
Vengadasalam, Elliott square off for Kent School Board seat
Outside of their mutual interest in the importance of English proficiency for students, Maya Vengadasalam and Bruce Elliott – candidates for Kent School District School Board seat No. 5 – have very different views on where the district needs to go in the future. While Vengadasalam comes from more than a decade of experience within the school system, Elliott grew up in the valley, attended Renton schools, and has lived here ever since as a farmer. A Washington State University graduate with a degree in animal science, Elliott said he can provide the board with a more experienced perspective as a longtime resident. Elliott took the majority vote during the Aug. 6 general elections with just under a 2,000-vote margin between himself and Vengadasalam, who was endorsed by a wide array of people in Kent. Kent Reporter, 10-10-13.
Shutdown Cathy and GOP are in denial
There it was in stark relief: House Republicans, including Shutdown Cathy, calling a press conference to protest the shutting down of an essential, life-or-death government service. Some of them put on lab coats. The Washington press corps attended and took notes. Shutdown Cathy intoned about the crucial importance of the work done by the National Institutes of Health – vital, life-saving work that had tragically come to a halt for some reason that these lab-coated, research-loving Republicans just could not understand. If only there was something they could do about this. If only they had it within their grasp to do something – anything – about the shutdown that they themselves had … planned and … Oh, right. Never mind. Shawn Vestal, Spokesman-Review, 10-11-13.
State transportation leaders urged at Tacoma meeting to finish SR167
A parade of mayors, county officials, and the like spotlighted transportation gaps and choke points from Lacey to the north Olympic Peninsula Wednesday night. But the extension of state Route 167 was the clear favorite of not just governments but unions, businesses, and other interests whose representatives spoke at the public-comment session — along with a few unaffiliated folks. Construction of SR167 stopped decades ago in Puyallup. About 75 people testified out of a crowd of well more than twice that many. Nearly all sought a revenue package. Hardly anyone spoke up to complain about taxes. A few called for bringing costs under control, while carpenters urged lawmakers not to cut regulations requiring the use of apprentices on public works projects. Tacoma News Tribune, 10-9-13.
Labor supports Initiative 522, food labeling
A cross section of labor groups, from firefighters to farm workers to nurses — including the Washington State Labor Council – is supporting Initiative 522, the ballot measure that would require the labeling of most genetically modified food products, seeds, and seed products sold in Washington stores. I-522 has generated furious opposition from agribusiness interests such as Montsanto, and from major food manufacturers. Opponents have raised a $17.,1 million No-on-522 war chest, with more than $7 million put up by the Grocery Manufacturers Association. “Genetically engineered crops use more toxic chemicals than regular crops, putting the workers tending these farms at greater risk: We stand in support of greater safety at work, and by labeling genetically engineering in food, we can choose to support safer jobs,” said Kelly Fox, president of the Washington State Council of Firefighters. Nicole Grant, vice president of the Labor Council, added: ”Every Washingtonian deserves more information about their groceries so they can decide against genetically modified organism products that require intensified chemical use.” Seattle P-I, 10-10-13.
Grocers, grocery workers begin two-day negotiations to avert strike, gain contract
Negotiators representing four grocery chains and union grocery workers met Thursday and will continue through Friday, a United Food and Commercial Workers spokesman said Thursday. Representatives from UFCW Locals 21 and 367, and Teamsters Local 38, are meeting with representatives of Fred Meyer, QFC, Safeway, and Albertsons at an undisclosed Seattle-area location, said Tom Geiger, grocery workers spokesman. The union negotiators represent some 30,000 Western Washington grocery workers. Union members have authorized a strike if initial negotiations are unsuccessful. Geiger said picket signs have been printed and delivered.Meanwhile grocers have posted advertisements and signs calling for applications from
workers who would replace strikers scabs if a strike is called. “The hope is that the employers will come to their senses on this,” Geiger said. “My hope would be that sometime late tomorrow night that I’m able to send out a communication.” Olympian, 10-10-13.
Judge set to rule on Tidewater complaint against ILWU
A judge in Portland is expected to decide soon whether to bar the International Longshore and Warehouse Union from interfering with the operations of Vancouver-based Tidewater Barge Lines when the union carries out pickets against Columbia Grain in Portland and United Grain in Vancouver. At issue is whether water-based pickets by the union, held as part of its yearlong contract dispute with Northwest grain handlers, should be allowed to affect ostensibly neutral companies that are moving cargo on the region’s waterways for the grain companies. U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken heard arguments Thursday, including from attorneys representing Tidewater and the ILWU, and from an official with the National Labor Relations Board. The hearing was in response to an Aug. 26 complaint filed by Tidewater with the NLRB. It alleges the union has damaged its business by picketing near the company’s facilities at sites along the Snake and Columbia rivers. The NLRB, which investigated Tidewater’s complaint, is asking Judge Aiken to prohibit the ILWU from conducting pickets that interfere with operations by Tidewater and other transportation companies. Vancouver Columbian, 10-10-13.
Opponents of Longview coal terminal use Vancouver hearing to push for comprehensive review
Hundreds of coal opponents urged regulators Wednesday night to consider how increased train traffic and coal dust from a proposed Longview coal export terminal would affect cities in Clark County and beyond. About 1,000 people attended two separate hearings at the Clark County Event Center, well below the 2,500 capacity and about half the number that showed up at similar hearings in Longview last month. Opponents, who appeared to outnumber supporters by about 2-1 Wednesday, wore red shirts, waved signs and demanded a comprehensive review of the Millennium project from the inland mines to the coal-fired power plants in Asia. “It’s not just a Longview matter. Recognize that,” Den Mark Wicher, a Vancouver science teacher, told regulators from Cowlitz County and the state Department of Ecology. Millennium is seeking to build a $643 million dock at the former Reynolds Metals Co. site west of Longview and export 44 million tons of coal annually. The terminal would generate 18 train trips daily from the Powder River Basin mines in Montana and Wyoming to Longview. Longview Daily News, 10-10-13.
Ferry system puts mistakenly ordered generators on auction website
Washington State Ferries is auctioning nine brand new, multimillion-dollar generators on an EBay-like website, five years after State Ferries’ port engineers began to realize that the equipment they’d ordered could never work on ferry system boats.
The generators were ordered in 2006 for installation on the ferries Kaleetan and Yakima, but they have never been used. The generators are too powerful to work safely with existing connector cables on the boats. State Ferries placed the $4.2 million order with Texas-based manufacturer TECO-Westinghouse without realizing that if installed, the equipment could cause an electrical explosion called an “arc flash.” Since 2006, WSF has paid a total of $5.5 million to TECO-Westinghouse for manufacturing and storing the equipment. WSF also paid consultants to study whether the generators could be adapted to work on WSF boats. No fix was ever found. All nine generators are listed on the auction website publicsurplus.com with a minimum bid set at $3 million. The auction went live on October 9 and is scheduled to end on October 24. KING, 10-10-13.
DOL error almost moves Rodney Tom out of his district
A mixup at a driver licensing office has caused the leader of the state Senate to be mistakenly registered to vote outside of his legislative district, according to the state Department of Licensing. Theoretically, legislators registering to vote outside the district they represent is grounds for removal from office. But in the case of state Sen. Rodney Tom (“D”-48), his voter registration was accidentally updated to a home address on Mercer Island after he renewed his driver’s license in July, a spokesman for the Department of Licensing said Wednesday. Tom’s waterfront home in Medina is in the 48t, but the Mercer Island address where he is now registered to vote is in the neighboring 41st, according to data from the Secretary of State’s office. Tom said he doesn’t live on Mercer Island, and hasn’t updated his voter registration to list a new address. “I’m where I’ve always been,” Tom said Tuesday. Brad Benfield, a spokesman for the state Department of Licensing, said it appears that when Tom went to a licensing office to renewed his driver’s license, his information was crossed with another customer’s who was helped a few minutes later at the same computer terminal. Olympian, 10-9-13.
Shorelines Hearings Board sides with Quinaults in serious blow to Hoquiam crude-by-rail projects
The state Shorelines Hearings Board plans to rule that the City of Hoquiam and the state Department of Ecology didn’t account for all relevant factors when issuing permits to two crude-by-rail projects on Grays Harbor. In siding with the Quinault Indian Nation’s appeal filed in June, the board said in a letter that the Determination of Non-Significance rulings for projects proposed by Westway Terminal Co. and Imperium Renewables, issued by the City of Hoquiam and the state Department of Ecology, will likely be revoked. The board’s letter goes on to say the agencies also didn’t properly consider the impacts on rail transportation and shipping when issuing the permits. Aberdeen Daily World, 10-9-13.
Government shutdown: White House looks to avoid a premature celebration
There’s no one dancing in the West Wing end zone. That’s partly because the ball isn’t there yet — the shutdown isn’t over and the debt ceiling hasn’t been raised. It’s also partly because the White House knows a premature celebration could cause a backlash among Republicans whose votes will be needed and partly because the public suffered when large portions of the government closed. But that doesn’t mean administration officials aren’t looking ahead. If a budget deal can be struck in the coming days, White House officials will surely portray it as a victory of common sense over greed, a necessary step forward for the American people so that federal operations can continue and the economy can avoid the catastrophe of a default. President Barack Obama will disavow any interest in the scorekeeping of Washington’s winners and losers. Politico, 10-11-13.
Government shutdown: Reichert would support ‘clean’ spending bill
U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA) is on the record as supporting a “clean” spending bill to reopen the federal government. But he isn’t exactly trumpeting it. Reichert, a fifth-term congressman from Auburn, was asked on KIRO radio Saturday whether he was among a breakaway band of Republicans willing to vote for a no-strings-attached bill to restore lapsed funding for the federal government. Reichert didn’t directly answer host Jason Rantz at first, but he went on to say, “Whatever bill comes to the floor that opens this government, I’m going to vote yes on.” “So if (House Speaker) John Boehner today put up a bill that was just a clean resolution, you’d support it? Rantz asked. “Yes,” Reichert said. Reichert’s answer contrasted with his official statements, which have been limited and ambiguous. Seattle Times, 10-9-13.
USDA threatens to shut down Foster Farms plants
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has threatened Foster Farms with shutting down the three plants involved in the recent salmonella outbreak, according to a NBC News report Wednesday. And Consumer Reports magazine said that it had tested samples of chicken from one of those plants back in July and found traces of the same salmonella strain. This outbreak, the second to hit Foster Farms in the last year, has already sickened nearly 300 people in 17 states. It is caused by the especially serious salmonella Heidelberg bacteria that has caused a higher-than-normal percentage of victims to be hospitalized. Furthermore, several of the strains that have been found have been resistant to the antibiotics commonly used to treat such illnesses. NBC reports that USDA officials said the company had until Thursday to come up with a plan to correct the problem or the government would withhold inspections, effectively shutting down the plants in Fresno and Livingston CA. Foster Farms has announced no plans to recall any of its chicken products, nor did it recall any chickens in the previous outbreak, which sickened more than 100 people between January and July of this year. Los Angeles Times, 10-9-13.
Brown signs CA bill increasing access to abortions
California became the only state in the nation this year to increase access to abortions, as Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill Wednesday allowing more medical professionals to perform abortions. AB154 by Assemblywoman Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) would let nurse practitioners, certified nurse-midwives, and physician assistants with special training perform abortion by aspiration—in which the uterus’ contents are suctioned out—which is the most common kind of first-trimester abortion. The Assembly passed the bill on a 50-25 vote in May, and the state Senate passed it on a 50-25 vote in August, with most Democrats and no Republicans voting for it. San Jose Mercury News, 10-9-13.
Business executives come to shocking realization: Tea partiers, safe in gerrymandered districts, don’t care what they think
As the government shutdown grinds toward a potential debt default, some of the country’s most influential business executives have come to a conclusion all but unthinkable a few years ago: Their voices are carrying little weight with the House majority that their millions of dollars in campaign contributions helped build and sustain. Their frustration has grown so intense in recent days that several trade association officials warned in interviews on Wednesday that they were considering helping wage primary campaigns against Republican lawmakers who had worked to engineer the political standoff in Washington. Such an effort would thrust Washington’s traditionally cautious and pragmatic business lobby into open warfare with the Tea Party faction, which has grown in influence since the 2010 election and won a series of skirmishes with the Republican establishment in the last two years. New York Times, 10-9-13.
Whistleblowers shock US Senators with tales of cronyism, harassment, video stalking in WV Social Security office
Two West Virginia women received praise this week before the US Senate as they testified to alleged mismanagement and fraud within the Social Security Administration’s regional office along 9th Street in Huntington. Sarah Carver and Jennifer Griffith testified that they were targets of intimidation and retribution for their efforts to reveal what they considered a scheme to improperly award Social Security disability benefits involving former Administrative Law Judge David Daugherty and attorney Eric Conn of Stanville KY. Carver, a senior case technician still at the office, told the senators Monday the working environment remains unpleasant for herself and colleagues along 9th Street Plaza. She testified that management has gone to extremes to question medical leave, suspended those who aided an inspector general, and installed soundproof doors to separate themselves from the employees they supervise. But perhaps the greatest sense of retaliation was a video surveillance plot—conceived by Conn and Social Security management, according to a congressional investigative report—to target Carver on days she worked from home. Huntington Herald-Dispatch, 10-9-13.
Obama’s efforts to control media are ‘most aggressive’ since Nixon, report says
The Barack Obama administration has “chilled the flow of information on issues of great public interest,” according to a Thursday report that amounts to an indictment of the president’s campaign pledge of a more open government. The report from the Committee to Protect Journalists, a nonprofit dedicated to global press freedoms, said Obama has “fallen short” on his promises of a transparent government while at the same time forging ahead with an unprecedented effort — the “most aggressive” since the President Richard M. Nixon administration — to silence government officials and the media at large. The committee’s report, prepared by Leonard Downie Jr., former Washington Post executive editor, said that because of the revelations of the NSA’s surveillance efforts by Edward Snowden, government officials are “reluctant to even discuss unclassified” information amid fears that “leak investigations and government surveillance make it more difficult for reporters to protect them as sources.” Wired, 10-10-13.
To Think About
How racism caused the shutdown
This isn’t an article about how Republicans shut down the government because they hate that the President is black. This is an article about how racism caused the government to shut down and the U.S. to teeter on the brink of an unprecedented and catastrophic default. Understanding the history of the forces that produced the current crisis will lay plain the more subtle, but fundamental, ways in which race and racism formed the scaffolding that structures American politics — even as explicit battles over race receded from our daily politics. The roots of the current crisis began with the New Deal — but not in the way you might think. They grew gradually, with two big bursts in the 1960s and the 1980s reflecting decades of more graduated change. And the tree that grew out of them, the Tea Party and a radically polarized Republican Party, bore the shutdown as its fruits. Zack Beauchamp, Think Progress, 10-9-13.