High salaries, low wages
Ed Murray wants experienced public servants and he’s willing to pay for them. He recently announced a gaggle of appointments and some are making more than their predecessors appointed at the beginning of the Mike McGinn regime. Their bios and service records are generally impressive. Murray’s message: you get what you pay for. If anything, the news about the high salaries removes any barrier to a slow decision to implement the $15-hour minimum wage, which was confirmed to have passed in SeaTac last week. The city needs to address two issues strongly, without too much foot dragging or convening of summit meetings. One, get the citizens a raise. After all, you get what you pay for, citizen-wise. Second, make some other advances in the affordability realm and stop driving the poor and working class out of the city. Crosscut, 12-16-13.
777X offer puts Machinists, Boeing at ‘rock and a hard place’
If the Machinists union and Boeing could agree to a contract deal, Washington state would secure decades of work fabricating the 777X airliner’s advanced wing and assembling the jet here. Yet the union is divided and in turmoil over what the company calls its best and final offer. Two distinct, passionate arguments boiled up among the 31,000 local Machinists after their leaders Thursday rejected the revised offer. One vocal faction, including the local leadership, is dug in, unwilling to give up its hard-won gains from the past by making concessions on pay and benefits. Another group, including officials from the national headquarters, fears massive job losses within a decade and is ready to endorse the eight-year contract extension to ensure future work. Seattle Times, 12-14-13.
Sex offenders, ACLU sue to hide low-level offenders’ identities
“My family would lose everything.” That’s the argument made by a King County sex offender terrified his name will be publicized if the State Patrol releases the sex offender registry it maintains. A married father of two convicted of sex crimes in 2009, the man is one of two low-level sex offenders brought forward by the American Civil Liberties Union in a lawsuit aimed at stopping the state from releasing the names of 21,000 registered sex offenders residing in Washington. At issue in the lawsuit are “level one” offenders, convicts judged by police evaluators to pose the least risk of further sex crimes. The names of offenders deemed more likely to commit additional sex crimes—“level two” and “level three” offenders—are already broadcast on free, public websites maintained by state law enforcement. Filing the potential class action lawsuit earlier this month, attorneys for the offenders contend their identities and addresses should not be released to a Franklin County woman who has requested the entire database under the state public records act. Seattle P-I, 12-15-13.
County Council to vote on election for Klahanie annexation
The King County Council will vote Monday on approving a special election to allow Klahanie residents to vote for annexation to Issaquah. But opponents to that annexation are urging residents to vote no so Sammamish has a chance to acquire the area. Klahanie residents have a lot to gain if they’re incorporated into a city: lower taxes, more local law enforcement, and the ability to hold office in a local government. A Klahanie home assessed at $320,000 would pay about $380 less in taxes and fees every year after an annexation to Issaquah, according to a study that the city commissioned. Sammamish and Issaquah would also have a lot to gain if either annexed the community. Seattle Times, 12-15-13.
Blue-green alliance: As business urges caution, labor declares support for sweeping climate change program
After months of argument, one new thing came out of the public hearing Friday on the state’s ambitious and rather vague effort to do something about the global climate. In a conflict that seems to be pitting greens against jobs and the economy, labor is taking the side of the environmental groups. At the final public hearing of the Climate Legislative and Executive Workgroup, the state Labor Council appeared to declare that its longstanding political alliance with green groups at election-time now extends to environmental issues. In a statement from Jeff Johnson that was read at the hearing, the labor council president pointed to the strong ties between labor and environmental groups, and he said the council joins with them in embracing what has become a central element of the progressive agenda. (Erik Smith gnashes his teeth). Washington State Wire, 12-14-13.
Bob Drewel, a longtime giant in Snohomish County politics, will retire this month
Former Snohomish mayor Liz Loomis was a 25-year-old political consultant in Washington, D.C., when Bob Drewel hired her to run his campaign for a second term as Snohomish County executive. With calluses from bare-knuckle campaigns involving not-so-shiny candidates back East, she arrived in 1995 expecting more of the same, with a Northwest flavor. What she encountered shocked her. “I found the most amazing, clean ,and wholesome political family I had ever seen and I have ever seen,” Loomis recalled. “The kids are perfect. The wife is perfect and Bob is perfect. This is the kind of person you want in office making decisions. “He is truly motivated to be in politics for the right reason: to make people’s lives better,” she said. Drewel, who won that race and another, then took the helm of the Puget Sound Regional Council, is retiring this month after a career of more than 30 years. The longtime Arlington resident arguably is one of the most significant public figures to emerge from Snohomish County in the last generation. Everett Herald, 12-15-13.
Dueling reports argue for, against Richland nuclear plant
Whether continuing to operate the nuclear power plant near Richland is costing utilities more than $1 billion or saving them more than $1 billion is a matter of which of two recently released reports ratepayers choose to believe. One came from an anti-nuclear group, the other from those who operate and sell the power from the nuclear power plant. Physicians for Social Responsibility say ratepayers could save at least $1.7 billion during the next 17 years if Energy Northwest’s nuclear power plant, the Columbia Generating Station, is shut down, according to a report prepared by McCullough Research in Portland for Physicians for Social Responsibility, or PSR. But Energy Northwest countered with a report it commissioned from Cambridge Energy Research Associates, or CERA, in Massachusetts that found continuing to operate Columbia Generating Station is cost-effective. Operating the plant through 2043 provides a $1.6 billion savings compared with the lowest-cost alternative of closing the plant and replacing it with a natural gas-fired power plant, CERA concluded. There are no plans to consider shutting the Columbia Generating Station down, according to the Bonneville Power Administration, which markets the power produced by the plant. If that were considered, a decision would be up to Energy Northwest and BPA, it said. Tri-City Herald, 12-14-13.
PUDs, tribes back final recommendation to modernize river treaty with Canada
North Central Washington’s PUDs and tribes are cautiously pleased with a final, regional recommendation that the landmark Columbia River Treaty with Canada be continued and modernized to be more equitable, flexible, and fish friendly. “We’re happy to see the final recommendation,” Kevin Nordt, chief financial officer for Grant County PUD, said Friday. “It addresses some of what we’re after. It’s not perfect, but it’s a viable framework for moving the process forward.” “The tribes appear to have broad-level support for the recommendation,” said Paul Lumley, a member of the Yakama Nation and executive director of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. “We remain committed to working with the Department of State to ensure we do get a modernized treaty.” The leaders of the Portland-based Bonneville Power Administration and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers delivered their final recommendation to the State Department Friday morning, after three years of analysis, fact finding, and public outreach. Wenatchee World, 12-13-13.
White House delayed enacting rules ahead of 2012 election to avoid controversy
The White House systematically delayed enacting a series of rules on the environment, worker safety, and health care to prevent them from becoming points of contention before the 2012 election, according to documents and interviews with current and former administration officials. Some agency officials were instructed to hold off submitting proposals to the White House for up to a year to ensure that they would not be issued before voters went to the polls, the current and former officials said. The delays meant that rules were postponed or never issued. The stalled regulations included crucial elements of the Affordable Care Act, what bodies of water deserved federal protection, pollution controls for industrial boilers, and limits on dangerous silica exposure in the workplace. The Obama administration has repeatedly said that any delays until after the election were coincidental and that such decisions were made without regard to politics. But seven current and former administration officials told the Washington Post that the motives behind many of the delays were clearly political, as Obama’s top aides focused on avoiding controversy before his reelection. Washington Post, 12-14-13.
Defeated Tea Party one-termers tone down their rhetoric in bids to regain their former House seats
Former Rep. Bob Dold (R-IL) is among at least nine Republicans, a mix of former incumbents and previous challengers, who are running again — but with a difference. This time they have shelved their incendiary remarks about President Obama and the national debt in favor of a narrower focus on the Affordable Care Act, which they hope will attract moderate voters from both parties, even in heavily Democratic districts, who are disenchanted with its rollout. The campaigns, if successful, could be an indication of change in some corners of the Republican Party as many former firebrands mellow their messages and people like Dold, who benefited from the Tea Party but was one of the more moderate members of the House, try to capitalize on the center. At the very least, their campaigns show that some people who ran vociferously against Washington appear eager to get back there. They figure their odds of winning next year are much better in a nonpresidential election without Obama at the top of the Democratic ticket. New York Times, 12-15-13.
De Blasio: ‘Organic unity’ among mayors behind Obama’s progressive turn
President Obama “senses the same thing” people like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and New York City Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio do as he prepares a 2014 domestic agenda that will be about connecting to progressive populism, a White House official told Politico last week, and de Blasio said he’s happy to have the support. “I think there’s a progressive movement in this country that’s having a real effect,” de Blasio said, speaking outside the White House Friday after a meeting of 16 newly elected mayors with Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and senior adviser Valerie Jarrett in the Roosevelt Room. “It’s clear that something is happening around this country and the inequalities we’re facing are fundamentally unacceptable.” De Blasio cited an “organic unity” among the new mayors for what he called “the mission of our time.” Politico, 12-13-13.
Life under the Republicans: NC schools deal with fewer dollars—far fewer dollars—for textbooks
It wasn’t long ago that people were worried about students getting injuries from carrying too many textbooks in their backpacks. But now many North Carolina public school students are lucky to have any textbooks to take home. State funding for textbooks has been cut by nearly 80 percent in the past four years, just as the state has been switching to a new curriculum with new textbooks. At the same time, school districts are expected to make the switch to digital textbooks by 2017 even though no money is set aside for computers or other digital devices for every student. Raleigh News and Observer, 12-15-13.
To Think About
‘Terror in Twilight ‘—Seattle U. study focuses on confrontations between Latinos, Border Patrol officers in Forks
The relationship between Latinos and U.S. Border Patrol officers in Forks has improved, according to an academic study released last Thursday. But state legislation should be passed to further protect the Spanish-speaking population from unwarranted stops and questioning by agency law enforcement personnel, it said. “Twilight in Forks: The Real-Life Legacy of U.S. Border Patrol on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State” was prepared by the immigrant-advocacy organization Forks Human Rights Group, the Ronald Peterson Student Law Clinic at the Seattle University School of Law, and the Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality at Seattle University. Forks is best known for the fantasy trilogy the Twilight saga, the authors said in the report’s background and summary statement. “Members of the Latino community in Forks, however, live with the very real fear, not of vampires or the supernatural, but of the United States Border Patrol.” Peninsula Daily News, 12-12-13.