(Daily Clips will resume Tuesday, October 29. The editor will be taking a long weekend.)
Challenge for Seattle’s next mayor: Making housing affordable
Seattle’s next mayor will face the challenge of balancing the city’s growth with affordability. “Because our city’s popular, because we’re adding jobs, because more people want to live in our walkable urban places, the competition for existing housing is driving up the rent, driving up housing prices,” said Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn. Seattle rents have climbed 7 percent in the past year—faster than any other big city in the country, according to real estate data firm Reis Inc. And the median home price now tops $450,000, according to Northwest Multiple Listing Service. Affordable housing advocate John Fox blames McGinn for the loss of low-income housing. He recently slammed McGinn as being “the most shamelessly pro-developer, pro-density, pro-growth mayor” in many years. Seattle is expected to add more than 25,000 units by 2017, a 47 percent jump in the rental supply. That may cause rents to drop, but not enough to make apartments affordable for low- and moderate-income residents. KPLU, 10-23-13.
King County Sheriff endorses Ed Murray
King County Sheriff John Urquhart Tuesday endorsed State Sen. Ed Murray for Seattle Mayor, saying Murray will address Seattle’s public safety issues. “We need an effective mayor who will act to address the very real public safety challenges Seattle faces, and I believe Ed Murray will be that mayor,” Urquhart said in a statement released by the Murray campaign. Contacted by phone, Urquhart declined to comment about Mayor Mike McGinn, who is seeking reelection, or the job he’s done on public safety. But he did say about Murray, “There has to be a mix between enforcement and social services. He has the right mix.” Seattle Times, 10-22-13.
ACLU says parts of Seattle Community Colleges’ proposed free-speech rule are unconstitutional
The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington (ACLU) says portions of a proposed new rule to regulate free speech on Seattle Community College District campuses are unconstitutional. The Seattle college district – composed of North Seattle, South Seattle and Seattle Central community colleges – has been working on a new free speech regulation since the Occupy Seattle protests in fall 2011. The trustees scrapped an earlier rule proposal after the ACLU said it was too broad, and student leaders and faculty members sharply criticized it. Since that time, a task force has been meeting to draft a new rule, and held a hearing Tuesday on the proposal. In an Oct. 21 letter to the college district’s Board of Trustees, ACLU attorney La Rond Baker took issue with the most recent proposal because it requires people and groups not affiliated with the college to sign in and provide a name before exercising free speech. That requirement would violate both the First Amendment and Washington’s constitution, according to the ACLU. Seattle Times, Seattle Times, 10-23-13.
Bellevue City Council bans outdoor growing of marijuana
Cannabis entrepreneurs who planned to grow recreational marijuana outdoors in Bellevue are out of luck for the next six months. The Bellevue City Council Monday approved an emergency zoning ordinance that prohibits outdoor cannabis growing operations within city limits. The 5-1 decision will stand for up to six months. In a separate 5-1 vote, council members decided to regulate medical cannabis collective gardens. They voted to ban gardens in residential areas while allowing them in some nonresidential areas. The vote by the city council follows draft recommendations about medical marijuana that theWashington State Liquor Control Board released Monday. Puget Sound Business Journal, 10-22-13.
Judge won’t curtail No on 522 campaign
A Thurston County judge has refused to issue a restraining order that sought to severely curtail the food industry’s multimillion dollar campaign to defeat Initiative 522, which would require labeling of genetically modified foods sold in Washington stores. Judge Chris Wickham turned back a group called Moms for Labeling, which sought immediate pre-election sanctions against the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), which has poured $7.2 million into the No on 522 campaign. The judge ruled that Attorney General Bob Ferguson has first rights to seek penalties against the GMA. Ferguson is doing just that, but any penalties will come after the state’s voters have mailed in their ballots. Seattle P-I, 10-23-13.
Anti-522 ads stretch truth on what would be labeled
TV ads opposing Initiative 522, the ballot measure to label genetically engineered foods, contend it’s riddled with unfair exemptions. Each ad contains some true, some misleading and some false elements. Drafters of the initiative say the exemptions were written to harmonize with existing federal labeling regulations as a way to ease compliance for food producers and safeguard the measure against potential legal challenges. Truth Needle rankings are based on those used by Politifact.com, a fact-checking project by the Tampa Bay Times. Seattle Times, 10-23-13.
Moeller, Wylie, Cleveland say revived CRC faces long odds
State legislators from Vancouver’s 49th Legislative District, who have long supported the Columbia River Crossing project, appear to view the scaled-back, Oregon-led CRC as a long shot. During a visit with the Columbian’s editorial board Tuesday afternoon, the three Vancouver Democrats were asked what the odds were that the $2.7 billion project would gain the approval of Oregon’s Legislature. On a scale from one to 10, with one being no chance at all, Rep. Jim Moeller gave the project’s fate a three, Rep. Sharon Wylie gave it a two and Sen. Annette Cleveland said five. The legislators made it clear that they still hope Oregon state lawmakers will meet in a special session this fall to approve the recently revised CRC. If the project moves forward with Oregon at the helm, they said they want to make sure Washington state still plays a role in parts of the project, including the setting of toll rates. Vancouver Columbian, 10-23-13.
Chelan PUD general manager responds to reports of intimidation, rule-bending during his tenure as head of BPA
A culture of intimidation and a mentality that rules were open to interpretation prevailed among some employees while Steve Wright was in charge of the Bonneville Power Administration, a federal investigation has concluded. But Wright says his record in that post should be enough to show that those problems aren’t likely to filter into the work environment at the Chelan County PUD while he’s general manager. “Look at the body of work,” he said Tuesday of his 12 years as leader of the federal agency, which owns most northwestern U.S. transmission lines and sells power generated by federal dams on the Columbia River system. Wright is barely three months into his new job at a PUD with its own history of paying big penalties or settlements for retaliating against or improperly firing employees. Wenatchee World, 10-23-13.
State Rep. Larry Crouse to resign at end of year
State Rep. Larry Crouse (R-4), a Republican from Spokane Valley, will leave the Legislature Dec. 31 because of “family health concerns,” according to a press release House Republicans sent out Monday. Crouse has served in the House since 1995, making him the longest-serving member of the House Republican Caucus. According to Monday’s announcement, Crouse and his wife have suffered from health problems recently, which caused him to be absent for some of the 2013 legislative session. Crouse’s will be leaving a year before his two-year term is set to expire at the end of 2014. The Spokane County Republican Party must nominate three candidates, with the Spokane County Board of Commissioners ultimately deciding who among them should replace Crouse. Olympian, 10-22-13.
Jury finds Bank of America liable in mortgage case
Bank of America, one of the nation’s largest banks, was found liable Wednesday of having sold defective mortgages, a jury decision that will be seen as a victory for the government in its aggressive effort to hold banks accountable for their role in the housing crisis. Moreover, the jury also found a top manager at Bank of America’s Countrywide Financial unit liable, pinning some — if not all — of the responsibility for the bad acts on an individual. During the trial, federal prosecutors accused Rebecca Mairone, a top manager at Countrywide at the time, of having opted for quantity over quality in its mortgage-writing program, which resulted in the bank’s churning out to unqualified buyers housing loans that were destined to fail. Federal lawyers claimed that Mairone, who now works at JPMorgan Chase, led a program nicknamed the “hustle,” derived from the initialism HSSL, or the “high-speed swim lane.” The program linked bonuses to how fast bankers could originate loans and as a result, the credit quality of the borrower was given short shrift, the government contended. When the loans were sold to mortgage giants like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, they failed, generating more than $1 billion in losses. New York Times, 10-23-13.
Democrats blast Wal-Mart “welfare kings”
A slide from Wal-Mart’s U.S. CEO’s presentation to Goldman Sachs’ retail conference boasts that “Over 475K” U.S. employees earned more than $25,000 last year. Activist workers and members of Congress seized on that statistic at a Wednesday press event, arguing it amounts to an admission that annual pay for the majority of Walmart’s 1.3 million-member U.S. workforce falls below $25,000. “Low-income people, poor people, have been demonized for being the ‘takers,’” Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) told reporters at a D.C. press conference. But because “taxpayers are the ones that are subsidizing Wal-Mart right now,” she contended, Wal-Mart elites are the true “welfare kings in this country.” Schakowsky’s critique was echoed by two other House Democrats. Rep. George Miller (D-CA), the top Democrat on the House Education & the Workforce Committee, argued that when Congress passed welfare reform, the goal was to help poor people “end their dependency on public assistance – but that’s not the business plan that Wal-Mart and others have fashioned out.” Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA) urged that “we need to start looking” at what portion of public assistances dollars are “subsidizing the Wal-Mart employees, and actually in turn subsidizing Wal-Mart itself.” Salon, 10-23-13.
GOP Senate candidate in Mississippi addressed conference hosted by neo-Confederate secessionist group
Chris McDaniel is taking the “GOP Civil War” to a new level. Two months ago, the tea party-backed Mississippi Senate candidate addressed a neo-Confederate conference and costume ball hosted by a group that promotes the work of present-day secessionists and contends the wrong side won the “war of southern independence.” Other speakers at the event included a historian who believes Lincoln was a Marxist and Ryan Walters, a PhD candidate who worked on McDaniel’s first political campaign and wrote recently that the “controversy” over President Barack Obama’s birth certificate “hasn’t really been solved.” McDaniel, a state senator, is challenging incumbent Republican Sen. Thad Cochran in next summer’s GOP Senate primary. Mother Jones, 10-23-13.
Grayson compares Tea Party to KKK
Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) is ruffling feathers again — this time with a fundraising appeal that compares the tea-party movement to the Ku Klux Klan. In a campaign email sent Monday, the Orlando Democrat includes the transcript of an interview he did recently on MSNBC in which Grayson said that the politics of the government shutdown had turned many Americans away from the tea party. “At this point, the tea party is no more popular than the Klan,” Grayson said. The email then takes that comparison one step further by including a photograph of a burning cross with Klansmen in the background. The cross then becomes the “T” in the words “Tea Party” transposed over the picture. Below is the caption: “Now you know what the ‘T’ stands for.” When asked about the KKK imagery, Grayson was unapologetic. In a statement sent through a spokesman, Grayson said, “If the shoe fits, wear it.” Orlando Sentinel, 10-22-13. (Huffington Post reports that Grayson said “If the hood fits, wear it.”
Fracking fight focuses on NY town’s ban
Dryden NY, in the Finger Lakes region, is not the kind of place to expect a grass-roots uprising. Even its promotional brochure makes it sound sleepy, listing the main attractions as “a few large dairy farms, some crop farms and several horse ranches.” But Dryden could soon be synonymous with something more than animals and agriculture. In August 2011, the town passed a zoning ordinance effectively forbidding hydraulic fracturing, the controversial gas extraction method also known as fracking. The ordinance, passed after a feisty local lobbying effort, prompted a lawsuit now being mulled by New York State’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, whose ruling could settle the long-simmering issue of whether the state’s municipalities can ban the drilling process. New York Times, 10-23-13.
‘North Colorado’ secession legality questioned in Weld County
Voting in 11 rural Colorado counties on whether or not to split off from proper Colorado and form the 51st state of “New Colorado” or “North Colorado”has already begun, but a group of attorneys is debating the legality of the secession movement in one of the state’s largest counties. In Weld County, the attorneys argue, only the region’s residents can initiate the movement to secede from the state. But in Weld and some other rural counties, County Commissioners have led the way toward secession, the Denver Post reports. The secession plan is driven by a number of new laws recently passed by the Democratic-controlled legislature, including gun control, the curbing of perceived cruel treatment of livestock, expanded regulation of oil and gas production, an increase in renewable energy standards in rural areas, and civil unions. Huffington Post, 10-23-13.
To Think About
Prisoners of profit
From a glance at his background, one might assume that James F. Slattery would have a difficult time convincing any state in America to entrust him with the supervision of its lawbreaking youth. Over the past quarter century, Slattery’s for-profit prison enterprises have run afoul of the Justice Department and authorities in New York, Florida, Maryland, Nevada, and Texas for alleged offenses ranging from condoning abuse of inmates to plying politicians with undisclosed gifts while seeking to secure state contracts. Despite that history, Slattery’s current company, Youth Services International, has retained and even expanded its contracts to operate juvenile prisons in several states. The company has capitalized on budgetary strains across the country as governments embrace privatization in pursuit of cost savings. Nearly 40 percent of the nation’s juvenile delinquents are today committed to private facilities, according to the most recent federal data from 2011, up from about 33 percent twelve years earlier. The private prison industry has long sold itself as a boon to taxpayers, delivering better outcomes at lower costs than state facilities. But significant evidence undermines that argument: the tendency of young people to return to crime once they get out, for example, and long-term contracts that can leave states obligated to fill prison beds. Huffington Post, 10-22-13.