(Daily Clips will take the rest of this week off, so that the editor can attend the 34th District Democrats’ monthly meeting Wednesday and the Kohl-Welles election recap Thursday. See you there. Daily Clips should return Monday, November 18. Thanks for reading.)
Sawant pulls ahead of Conlin in Seattle Council race
Socialist challenger Kshama Sawant pulled narrowly ahead of longtime Seattle City Council member Richard Conlin in updated vote totals released Tuesday afternoon. Sawant, the first socialist to make a general election for Seattle City Council in 22 years, led Conlin by 41 votes – 79,751 to 79,710 — in the latest update. That translates to a 49.91 percent to 49.88 percent lead. The close contest marks a stunning turnaround from election night, when Sawant was carrying 46.1 percent of the vote. Since then, Sawant has steadily increased her share of the vote. Tuesday, she won 57.4 percent of the 8,395 newly counted votes in the race. “Our result today is a confirmation of a systematic trend that we’ve seen since election day,” Sawant told reporters assembled at her campaign headquarters. “Many of the late voters tend to vote not for business-as-usual candidates.” Seattle Times, 11-12-13.
SeaTac minimum wage initiative passing by just 43 votes
The voter initiative to raise minimum wage to $15 an hour for airport and hotel workers in SeaTac is still undecided. The initiative was passing by just 43 votes Tuesday afternoon. And activists say they don’t expect a clear outcome before Thanksgiving due to hundreds of contested ballots in a relatively small electorate. “It’s amazing, isn’t it?” said Heather Weiner, spokeswoman for the Yes for SeaTac campaign, which declared a premature victory on election night when the initiative was passing by an 8-point margin. With the margin so narrow, both sides are contesting ballots that appear to have been improperly signed. And those votes could swing the measure one way or another. KPLU, 11-12-13.
County Council pledges $120,000 to keep Orion Center’s young adult shelter open
The King County Council Tuesday announced an allocation of $120,000 in its 2014 budget to fund YouthCare’s James W. Ray Orion Center, located at the foot of Capitol Hill on Denny Way. The funds are a vital step in keeping the Orion Center’s overnight shelter open. It hosts up to 20 homeless young adults ages 18-24 each night, but the organization isn’t out of the woods yet. The shelter’s annual operating costs amount to $350,000. “We are hopeful that the city council will provide $130,000 to match the King County Council investment, and we are waiting until their budget is finalized to make decisions about our own 2014 young adult shelter budget and operations,” explains YouthCare spokeswoman Elizabeth Trautman. The Stranger, 11-12-13.
Seattle Schools managers get questionable OT payments
Select Seattle Public Schools managers are making a staggering amount of overtime they’re not entitled to. And the district is spending millions on a public benefit unheard of in the private sector. The findings are from an exclusive KIRO 7 investigation into Seattle Public Schools. KIRO obtained a 12-page audit that launched a months-long inquiry on how the district manages money meant to educate children. Assistant Superintendent of Operations Pegi McEvoy told KIRO she was so concerned about overtime for exempt employees she eliminated it in August 2012 for people in her departments, which includes transportation. However, after our interview, we double-checked district records and found employees working for McEvoy still receiving overtime despite being ineligible. KIRO, 11-12-13.
Jilted tunnel contract bidder: ‘It’s about greed, money’
Elton Mason got the ball rolling, a Kirkland-based trucker whose complaint led to a scathing federal report that concluded that minority-owned businesses were not getting anywhere near their fair share of work on the downtown waterfront tunnel. In February 2012, Mason, owner of Washington State Trucking, complained that he failed to get a contract worth several million dollars to haul dirt away from the launch area in Sodo. “I was told I wasn’t the low bid, but I was the low bid,” Mason insists. Had he secured the contract, Mason tells Seattle Weekly, he could have expanded the trucking firm he started two years ago from a couple of workers to about 50 employees. After investigating, the Federal Highway Administration concluded that Seattle Tunnel Partners, the chief contractor on the $3.1 billion Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement project (which includes $787 million in federal money), has paid out just 1 percent to minority businesses, even though they are obligated to give 8 percent. Around $91 million has been earmarked for subcontracts with local “disadvantaged business enterprises.” At stake are federal funds that could be suspended or eliminated for the tunnel and future state projects if the problems aren’t fixed. Seattle Weekly, 11-12-13.
Seattle Police Department disables its mesh network (the new apparatus capable of spying on you)
The Seattle Police Department Tuesday said it has begun to deactivate its wireless mesh network, a powerful tool for sending vast amounts of data that also has powerful surveillance potential. In theory, the network (built by a California-based company called Aruba Networks) could track and indefinitely log the movements of any wireless device with a MAC address (phones, laptops, tablets) that moves through its coverage area. The possibility of a police department creating a historical digital map of the city, or using such a system for real-time locating of individuals, without governmental or civilian oversight, has some serious implications. The mesh network, as the Stranger had reported earlier, was quietly purchased with grant money from the Department of Homeland Security and whisked through the Seattle City Council without any serious process of review and approval. But, SPD’s Sgt. Sean Whitcomb said Tuesday evening, “The wireless mesh network will be deactivated until city council approves a draft policy and until there’s an opportunity for vigorous public debate.” Chief Jim Pugel gave the order to begin the deactivation process Tuesday. The Stranger, 11-12-13.
Protest at Federal Way Walmart calls for better wages, end of ‘bullying’
More than 100 protesters picketed outside a Federal Way Walmart store Tuesday morning calling for higher wages, more working hours and an end to what they called “bullying” of dissident workers. The protest was part of a national campaign to persuade the world’s largest retailer to share more of its wealth with workers and suppliers. Tuesday’s rally was organized with the aid of unions, churches, and social welfare organizations. Tuesday’s Federal Way protest was a prelude to a larger demonstration planned for the chain’s Factoria store in Bellevue. Walmart has launched its own national counteroffensive with commercials touting job and promotion opportunities, worker benefits, and working conditions. Tacoma News Tribune, 11-12-13.
Senate’s $12.3 billion highways plan nixes tolls on I-90, finishes 167, 509, eases JBLM snarl, insists on reforms
At long last, a $12.3 billion Senate transportation proposal finally surfaced Monday–raising the House by $2.5 billion, fully financing big road projects the House would leave half-done, and raising the state gas tax to 11.5 cents a gallon. The Senate plan nixes tolls on the I-90 floating bridge across Lake Washington, largely finishes the North-South Freeway in Spokane, builds the long-awaited freeway link between Puyallup and the Port of Tacoma, and launches the widening of Interstate 5 at the crowded choke point at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. It is tied to a series of highway-construction reforms that aim to reduce the cost of road projects statewide. Washington State Wire, 11-12-13. The rumblings are this: Legislative Republicans might be willing to go whole hog on raising gas taxes if Inslee guts his push to deal with climate change. Meanwhile, King and Snohomish counties appear on the way to get the authority to levy their own motor vehicle excise taxes to prop up their transit systems. Crosscut, 11-13-13.
Gonzaga dispute raises issue of gun rights v. property rights
Two Gonzaga University students disciplined for pointing a pistol at a man they suspected of attempting to force his way into their school-owned housing have sparked a national debate pitting gun rights against private property rights. Seniors Erik Fagan and Daniel McIntosh say they were protecting themselves in their off-campus apartment with weapons assured them by the Second Amendment. But the apartment complex is owned by Gonzaga, which—like many universities—has chosen to prohibit firearms on its campus and in its buildings. Additionally, courts at all levels have upheld the rights of “sensitive locations,” which include learning institutions, to draft policies designed to foster safe environments but that some may argue trample on their civil rights. Spokesman-Review, 11-12-13.
Kiss your daffodils goodbye, Puyallup; you’ll get to look at warehouses instead, after City Council vote
A divisive land-use debate in Puyallup ended Tuesday night with testimony from the affected property owner, a highly vocal crowd, and a split vote by the City Council. The 4-2 decision approving a rezone paves the way for real-estate firm Schnitzer West to buy former daffodil farmland near Shaw Road for industrial development. Mayor Rick Hansen and council members John Knutsen, Steve Vermillion, and Tom Swanson voted in favor of the change. Council members John Palmer and John Hopkins cast dissenting votes. Retired farmer Neil Van Lierop, who closed his decades-old operation in May, had secured a contingent deal to sell 13 acres to Schnitzer pending a decision on a proposed rezone of the land. The council approved the change despite a Planning Commission recommendation to reject the proposal, vocal opposition from a standing-room-only crowd, and an anti-rezone petition. Tacoma News Tribune, 11-12-13.
Memo to Washington: Boeing tax breaks only make us weaker
Business-friendly tax structures and incentives, it seems, are not the determining factor for state economic growth. Instead, we may look to innate qualities: history, experience, environment. It is hard to imagine the NYSE moving to Wyoming to escape New York’s tax burden, for example. The positive attributes of its location balance out the business-unfriendliness of New York. And a lack of tax breaks can help fund things like education, which can draw more advanced, and profitable, businesses. Assuming that Boeing keeps production in Washington, the Legislature may have had little to do with it. Tax breaks may be the icing on Boeing’s cake, but they’re not likely the baking soda that makes the company’s cake rise. And, as it turns out, they may not be doing much for the rise of our state economy either—not when the money could be spent on other priorities. Adrian Servetnick, Crosscut, 11-12-13.
GOP tempts nuclear showdown; filibusters another Obama judge
Senate Republicans escalated the showdown over the nuclear option in dramatic fashion Tuesday with a second consecutive filibuster of a top judicial nominee, daring Democrats to put up or shut up when it comes to changing the rules. Nina Pillard, President Barack Obama’s nominee to the powerful D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, received 56 votes to move forward, short of the 60 needed to break a filibuster. Two weeks ago, Republicans filibustered Patricia Millett to the same court. A third nominee, Robert Wilkins, is expected to have the same fate in a vote that has yet to be scheduled. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, taunted Democrats who are “clamoring for rules change” to go ahead and pull the nuclear trigger, warning that it would make it easier for a future GOP to nominate judges in the mold of Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Talking Points Memo, 11-12-13.
Supreme Court rejects Oklahoma abortion regulation again
For the second time in two weeks, the U.S. Supreme Court has let stand a ruling that strikes down a major abortion regulation from Oklahoma. The justices Tuesday turned down the state’s attempt to reinstate a law that would have required pregnant women to undergo an ultrasound test and hear about the size and possible heartbeat of the fetus. Last year, the Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down the state’s ultrasound law on the grounds it put an undue burden on a woman’s right to abortion. Without comment or dissent, the justices said they would not hear the state’s appeal in Pruitt vs. Nova Health Systems. Los Angeles Times, 11-12-13.
Meet your taxpayer-subsidized farm bill billionaires!
When most people think about farm subsidies, they’ve probably heard about how hard it is out there for small family farmers, doing honest work in the world, keeping everyone fed, and maintaining our institutional repository of agricultural practices. Surely, these subsidies are helping to keep an important way of life alive for the True Sons of Soil and Toil … like, say, multibillionaire Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. Wait. What? He’s a farmer? Ha ha, yes. Your taxpayer dollars “subsidize” the “farming” that’s being done by a host of mega-rich superstars from the Forbes 400 list, none of whom you’d immediately associate with the sort of hardscrabble agri-artisan who’s in need of a leg up from the federal government. But their numbers are legion. And the farm bill currently being considered contains changes that will likely increase the subsidies these billionaires take away. Huffington Post, 11-11-13.
Former president of chemical company sentenced for federal crimes related to employee deaths
Matthew Bowman, the former president of Port Arthur Chemical and Environmental Services LLC (PACES) finally had his (sentencing) day in court. Bowman pleaded guilty May 9 to violating the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act). It is rare for individuals to be prosecuted and sentenced to such violations. Bowman admitted to not properly protecting PACES employees from exposure to hydrogen sulfide. The poisonous gas resulted in the death of truck driver Joey Sutter on Dec. 18, 2008. In addition, Bowman admitted to directing employees to falsify transportation documents to conceal that the wastewater was coming from PACES, after a disposal facility put a moratorium on all wastewater shipments from PACES after it received loads containing hydrogen sulfide. Bowman was sentenced to serve 12 months in federal prison by U.S. District Judge Marcia Crone. Bowman was also ordered to pay $5,000 in fines. EHS Today, 11-11-13.
To Think About
How Republicans rig the game
As the nation recovers from the Republican shutdown of government, the question Americans should be asking is not “Why did the GOP do that to us?” but “Why were they even relevant in the first place?” So dramatically have the demographic and electoral tides in this country turned against the Republican Party that, in a representative democracy worthy of the designation, the Grand Old Party should be watching from the sidelines and licking its wounds. And yet, John Boehner still wields the gavel in the House and Republican resistance remains a defining force in the Senate, frustrating Obama’s ambitious agenda. How is this possible? National Republicans have waged an unrelenting campaign to exploit every weakness and anachronism in our electoral system. Rolling Stone, 11-11-13.