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Issue #157

King County

Backers of SeaTac’s $15 wage floor eye Seattle

SEIU 775 president David Rolf

After claiming victory in SeaTac, backers of a $15-an-hour minimum wage are turning their attention to Seattle. Labor activists who backed the measure that raises wages for airport-related workers in SeaTac said Wednesday that the push is on to raise Seattle’s wage floor to $15 for all workers. “There is going to be a debate about a $15 minimum wage in Seattle, and it will be led by our new mayor,” said David Rolf, president of the Service Employees International Union’s (SEIU) Seattle-based Healthcare 775 NW local. “There are citizens who are perfectly ready to move an initiative to ballot next year if an agreement can’t be reached at City Hall between labor and business,” he said. “But I’m hopeful that we can engage in a reasonable dialogue about how to get to $15.” Seattle Times, 11-6-13.

McGinn likely to concede; other losers concede nothing

Seattle City council member Richard Conlin

State Sen. Ed Murray saw his lead over Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn grow by 1,100 votes as King County Elections disgorged additional returns late Wednesday, and McGinn announced a Thursday morning news conference to do what supporters dissuaded him from doing election night — concede. McGinn received a very slight uptick to 43.66 percent of the vote, but Murray maintained a 12 percentage-point lead and an advantage of nearly 13,000 votes in the actual ballot count. In a closer race, Socialist challenger Kshama Sawant inched up to 46.71 percent of the vote, but appears to have little chance of catching incumbent Seattle City Councilman Richard Conlin. No matter.  The Sawant camp has celebrated as if it were the Paris Commune, 1917 in St. Petersburg, WTO in Seattle, and the fall of Saigon all at once. The Stranger proclaimed her victorious.  The candidate, in a fiery election night speech, quoting Trotsky and depicting Conlin as Seattle’s washed-up Alexander Kerensky, declaring:  “Richard Conlin is finished.  He may collect his salary for another two years, but he has no political future.” Conlin already has said he will not run in 215. Seattle P-I, 11-6-13 (includes updates on other races).

Downtown Seattle’s only shelter for young homeless adults is closing due to financial troubles

The only overnight shelter for young adults in downtown Seattle is about to close due to money troubles. YouthCare says funding from a private grant has run out and as a result, its 20-bed shelter will close in January. At the bottom of Seattle’s Capitol Hill sits a bright-green building you can’t miss. It’s the home of YouthCare, which offers job training, counseling, and food to young adults in need. And for the past three years, it has also operated an overnight shelter for the 18- to 24-year-olds. YouthCare’s shelter, which served 268 young adults last year, needs $350,000 to keep its nightly facility open into the new year. Two other shelters in King County in the U-District and in Redmond offer beds to young adults. KPLU, 11-6-13.

Auburn mayoral race tightens; 22 votes separate Wagner and Binetti for City Council seat

Mayoral candidate Nancy Backus, with daughter Lucky, thanks her supporters during an election night party.
Mayoral candidate Nancy Backus, with daughter Lucky, thanks her supporters during an election night party.

Auburn’s close mayoral race tightened a bit more Wednesday afternoon as King and Pierce counties released their latest numbers. As of 5 p.m., City Council member and Deputy Mayor Nancy Backus maintained her early edge over Council member John Partridge. Backus, seeking to become Auburn’s first female mayor, has received 4,480 votes so far in the combined total of King and Pierce counties to John Partridge’s combined 4,154. Only 326 votes separate them, a 20-vote pickup for Partridge from Tuesday was not enough to cause alarm in the Backus camp. “It’s close, and we will remain optimistic,” Backus said. Auburn Reporter, 11-6-13.

You are a rogue device

What are these things for? SPD “is not comfortable answering policy questions when we do not yet have a policy.”
What are these things for? SPD “is not comfortable answering policy questions when we do not yet have a policy.”

If you’re walking around downtown Seattle, look up: You’ll see off-white boxes, each one about a foot tall with vertical antennae, attached to utility poles. If you’re walking around downtown while looking at a smartphone, you will probably see at least one—and more likely two or three—Wi-Fi networks named after intersections: “4th&Seneca,” “4th&Union,” “4th&University,” and so on. That is how you can see the Seattle Police Department’s new wireless mesh network, bought from a California-based company called Aruba Networks, whose clients include the Department of Defense, school districts in Canada, oil-mining interests in China, and telecommunications companies in Saudi Arabia. The question is: How well can this mesh network see you? The Stranger, 11-6-13.

The State

Inslee defends call for Olympia to act quickly to win 777X

A Boeing 777 on the assembly line at the company's Everett plant.
A Boeing 777 on the assembly line at the company’s Everett plant.

Gov. Jay Inslee’s office battled assertions Wednesday that a transportation-tax package should be delayed, or that a special session wasn’t even needed to get Boeing to build the 777X in Washington state. State lawmakers in both parties, though open to extending certain tax breaks for Boeing, cast doubts about being able to reach quick agreement on a $10 billion transportation-tax package — a deal that has eluded them all year. Inslee’s message of urgency laid out Tuesday was muddied by a summary of a letter of understanding between Boeing and the Machinists union. The document, posted online Wednesday, says Boeing “agrees to locate the 777X wing fabrication and assembly, and final assembly of the 777X in Puget Sound” if union members approve the contract in a Nov. 13 vote. There is no mention that lawmakers in Olympia, in the session that starts Thursday, need to do anything to make Boeing stay. Inslee’s office pushed back hard, arguing the governor was doing what’s needed to secure the future of the state’s largest private employer. Seattle Times, 11-6-13.

Lawmaker says JBLM must be big part of transportation package

Sen. Steve O'Ban (R-28)

State Sen. Steve O’Ban (R-28) wrote in a letter Wednesday that any gas-tax increase by the Legislature must pay for a major widening project on Interstate 5 near Joint Base Lewis-McChord. O’Ban is a newly appointed senator, but his demand is significant because he is one of the few Senate Republicans who has publicly said he would be open to voting for new transportation revenue. O’Ban’s district contains much of the congested area around JBLM. He is calling for $820 million for I-5 improvements, nearly five times what was included in a package that passed the state House earlier this year but stalled in the Senate. According to WSDOT, it would take $820 million to reconstruct I-5 interchanges along the base and fully extend eight lanes of traffic south to DuPont. O’Ban said in his letter that the congestion would be held against the state the next time the Pentagon goes through a round of base realignment and closures, or BRAC. Tacoma News Tribune, 11-6-13.

State’s Democrats are looking for leaders

Sen. Sharon Nelson (D-34)

With the curtain all but closed on the fall election, Democrats will turn their attention to filling two jobs critically important for the political party’s future in Olympia and throughout the state. First up is a vote for a new leader of the Democratic caucus in the state Senate. Sen. Ed Murray (D-43) of Seattle holds the seat but looks to be departing in a few weeks to begin his new gig as mayor of his hometown. Sens. Sharon Nelson (D-34) and Karen Keiser (D-33) are considered the top contenders to succeed him. Sen. Nick Harper (D-38), the caucus’ deputy leader, had been viewed as a front-runner, but said Wednesday he is no longer pursuing the leadership post. Then in February, comes the selection of a new chairman for the state Democratic Party. Dwight Pelz is retiring and will exit once a successor is chosen by those at the helm of the party operations in all 39 counties. Everett Herald, 11-7-13.

Random sobriety checkpoints? Lawmakers look to act next year

Rep. Roger Goodman (D-45)

A legislative work group appears poised to recommend the state adopt random sobriety checkpoints to reduce drunken driving, a controversial idea that would likely require a constitutional amendment. Rep. Brad Klippert (R-8) said this week that his staff is drafting language for a new bill to authorize the checkpoints, which would stop drivers even if they have done nothing wrong. Rep. Roger Goodman (D-45), the chairman of the state House Public Safety Committee, said he plans to hold a hearing on the proposal. Both lawmakers said they don’t know whether their colleagues would support the idea, which if framed as a constitutional amendment would need support from two-thirds of each chamber. Seattle Times, 11-5-13.

School board candidate who withdrew, then won, says she’ll serve

Yakima School Board candidate Jeni Rice
School Board candidate Graciela Villanueva

In yet another twist to Tuesday night’s Yakima school board race, candidate Jeni Rice — who dropped out of the race, yet is leading unofficial results — said Wednesday she would accept the seat if results remain in her favor. As of Wednesday afternoon, Rice had 4,310 votes, or 62.4 percent of the vote. Incumbent Graciela Villanueva, meanwhile, received 2,545 votes, or 36.9 percent of votes counted. Villanueva Tuesday explained that the election results could possibly be blamed on discrimination because of her Hispanic surname, but also allowed that voters might have confused her opponent’s last name with board president Martha Rice, who is often quoted in the news media. Villanueva had no additional comment Wednesday. Jeni Rice and Martha Rice are not related. A spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union, which is suing the city of Yakima for alleged violations of the Voting Rights Act, declined to comment Wednesday on the Villanueva-Rice race because of the pending litigation. The suit alleges that the city’s at-large general election voting allows racially polarized voting to disenfranchise the city’s Latinos, an action that would violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The city has denied the allegations. A May trial has been set. Yakima Herald-Republic, 11-7-13.

DOE says just 1, not 6, Hanford single-shell tanks leaking

Hanford single-shell Tank T-111 is potentially leaking up to 300 gallons of radioactive waste per year.
Hanford single-shell Tank T-111 is potentially leaking up to 300 gallons of radioactive waste per year.

Just one of six suspect tanks at Hanford is leaking radioactive waste into the ground, according to evaluations released Wednesday by the Department of Energy. However, the Washington State Department of Ecology does not agree with all of the conclusions in the reports. Both DOE and the state agree that four of the six tanks in question are not leaking, said Dieter Bohrmann, a spokesman for the Department of Ecology. In the past, 67 of 149 single-shell tanks at Hanford were suspected of leaking radioactive and hazardous chemical waste into the ground. But the underground tanks were believed to be stable after the last of the pumpable liquids was transferred to newer double-shell tanks by 2004, leaving mostly solids in the single-shell tanks. Tri-City Herald, 11-6-13.

Meet the (hopeful) charters: Some mixed records, others just failing

Supporters of last year’s charter schools initiative in Washington state promised the law would bring successful charter models from across the country and improve academic outcomes for public school students. But a KUOW analysis found that the six established out-of-state charter organizations that hope to open schools here are failing to consistently meet state standards where they operate.  Academic standards can vary dramatically by state. But of the 27 charter schools for which state data were available, only 12 schools met all of their state benchmarks. Gary Miron, a professor of education at Western Michigan University, said that reflects what he’s found in his research. Miron said studies show that the most successful charter schools tend to have demographics different than the surrounding community. KUOW found the same is true of the high-performing charter schools run by operators that want to open schools here in Washington state. Most of the 12 charter schools meeting state standards have much smaller percentages of low-income students, English language learners, and special education students than their surrounding districts. Those are among the “at-risk” student groups that charter boosters said would benefit from Washington’s charter law. KUOW, 11-5-13.

The Nation

Democrats begin effort to define Chris Christie negatively before 2016 campaign

Gov. Chris Christie may be eyeing a 2016 presidential run, but he may have move to the right if he wants to appeal to the Republican base.
Gov. Chris Christie may be eyeing a 2016 presidential run, but he may have move to the right if he wants to appeal to the Republican base.

Top Democratic officials launched a concerted offensive Wednesday to define New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in a negative light, believing that he has emerged from his reelection landslide as the Republican Party’s strongest potential presidential contender for 2016. Some Democratic strategists said the party made a mistake by not spending more money to attack Christie during the gubernatorial campaign, which might have suppressed his margin of victory and denied the Republican a sweeping mandate in a blue state. In the months to come, Democrats say, they plan to chip away at Christie’s moderate image and present him nationally as a hard-edged conservative. Washington Post, 11-6-13.

In disputed election, Palmdale CA chooses first black council member

A view from high ground of Palmdale, whose elections system is being debated in court. The city elected its first black council member on Tuesday but the courts must decide whether to certify the results.
A view from high ground of Palmdale, whose elections system is being debated in court. The city elected its first black council member on Tuesday but the courts must decide whether to certify the results.

In the midst of a widely watched court battle over its system for choosing its leaders, the city of Palmdale elected its first African American councilman Tuesday. Retired college administrator Fred Thompson won one of two city council seats on the ballot. But it will be up to an appellate court to determine whether the city’s municipal election was legitimate. Activists recently won a lawsuit claiming the city’s at-large system violates the California Voting Rights Act, citing as evidence that the minorities who make up much of Palmdale’s population have been largely unable to elect one of their own due to racially polarized voting in the city. They are pressing for council members to be elected by geographic district. It was unclear Wednesday what effect Thompson’s victory might have on the lawsuit.  Los Angeles Times, 11-6-13.

Colorado’s 51st-staters seek legislation to fix urban-rural divide

A farm in Burlington, Kit Carson County, Colorado.
A farm in Burlington, Kit Carson County, Colorado.

Proponents of a failed move to secede from Colorado say they will now look to the legislature for help in giving their counties more political clout. “The issue has not gone away for us,” Phillips County Administrator Randy Schafer said. “We have no voice in how this state is run and we will still try to rectify that.” Eleven rural Colorado counties voted Tuesday on the question of whether their commissioners should proceed with plans to create a 51st state. Phillips County was one of five counties where the nonbinding measure passed. The other four counties were Cheyenne, Kit Carson, Washington, and Yuma. The five counties have a total population of about 29,200. The measure failed 58 percent to 42 percent in Weld County — population 263,691 — where the idea first gained traction. Elbert, Lincoln, Logan, Moffat, and Sedgwick counties also voted against secession. Denver Post, 11-6-13.


To Think About

Down to the dollar

More than 1.1 million people in Washington state lost a portion of their food assistance benefits this month; here’s one family’s story

Brittny Eidsvoog and her children, Dagan and Aleya.
Brittny Eidsvoog and her children, Dagan and Aleya.

Brittny Eidsvoog’s most recent receipt from Walmart stretches two feet and 148 items long. Her groceries — about $400 worth — typically don’t last until the 10th of the following month, when her food stamps kick in. So she and her two kids will start eating buttered noodles, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and Malt-O-Meal’s Blueberry Toasters by the bowlful. She bought four supersize bags of cereal last month ($4.98 each) plus three gallons of 2-percent milk ($2.68 each). She stashes the extra jugs in the freezer with the popsicles (on sale for 99¢) and corn dogs ($5.88) in her bedroom. “You can always eat cereal for dinner if you got milk and there’s nothing else,” she says. “It’s not nutritious and it’s by all means not a complete meal, but it gets them to bed without being hungry.” Eidsvoog, 40, strains to speak above a whisper. Her voice is hoarse from a screaming match that morning with her son’s grandmother (his father’s mother). There’s too much tension between them, and this trailer’s too small. Eidsvoog’s all alone out here in Deer Park, in her clapboard mobile home, where the wind whistles through busted windows and the water, she suspects, isn’t safe to drink. Food stamps are her only source of income. Now she’s bracing herself for another cut. Another thing she’ll have to do without. “Every two dollars count,” she says. Pacific Northwest Inlander, 11-7-13.


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