(Daily Clips will not publish Thursday, January 16. The editor is recovering from root canal surgery.)
The price for saving Metro: Taxes, fares and fees
The lethargy and dysfunction of the state Senate means that King County residents must pay higher bus fares, a small sales tax hike, and a $60 vehicle fee to prevent deep cuts in Metro bus service, including elimination of 74 routes. An hour after Gov. Jay Inslee in Olympia urged the Senate to get moving, King County Executive Dow Constantine declared: “We’ve waited and waited, and time is up.” To avoid service cuts that would begin in late spring, Constantine announced plans to put together a package and take it to the county’s voters on April 22. (1) A one-tenth of one-cent sales tax increase to finance a new Transit Benefit District, allowed under state law; (2) A flat $60 vehicle fee, the same for all cars, trucks and SUVs; (3) A 25-cent-per-trip increase in bus fares; (4) A new reduced-fare category for people with low incomes. The tax-fare-fee revenue would be divvied up with 60 percent going to transit and 40 percent to local jurisdictions. Seattle would receive about $16.5 million. The money is “badly needed,” said Seattle City Council member Tom Rasmussen. Seattle P-I, 1-14-14.
Boeing contract victory could backfire, analyst warns
Boeing’s new labor contract with the Machinists may prove to be a Pyrrhic victory, one that costs more than the seeming gains. That’s the warning from Teal Group aerospace analyst Richard Aboulafia in his January letter. Boeing may have cut its labor costs by a few hundred million dollars through the recent contract process, Aboulafia warns, but it may lose far more than that in employee goodwill and productivity—not to mention Boeing’s political capital around the nation. “In this context, is there anyone who really believes a few hundred million per year in savings will have any impact whatsoever on Boeing’s behavior or its competitiveness?” Aboulafia writes. “Since final assembly labor costs aren’t that big a part of the total cost buildup of an aircraft, management’s approach to labor might just be counterproductive and short-sighted.” Puget Sound Business Journal, 1-14-14.
How Seattle’s bid for faster, cheaper Internet fell apart
Network engineer Lee Kirk was working for Comcast when a friend of his tried to hire him away to Gigabit Squared Seattle for a partnership between the company and the city to improve Internet service in the area. But Kirk said an offer never materialized, and his friend at Gigabit–which designs and builds networks–started having difficulties. “After a couple of months he confided that he was not being paid any longer,” Kirk said. “And then, shortly after that, he confided that he had gone to fill a prescription and his health insurance had been canceled. So I sort of saw the company crumbling from the outside.” The deal had collapsed, leaving unpaid bills and no clear path forward on a mayoral promise to expand broadband in the city. Success on the Gigabit Squared project would have meant more competition to Comcast and CenturyLink. Its cheapest package gave customers free Internet for five years after an initial $350 installation fee. Gigabit Squared also planned to extend service to residents of public housing. But the company didn’t have a track record. Bill Schrier, Seattle’s former chief technology officer, retired before the partnership was announced. He said he was cautiously optimistic, but said, “My major concern was that Gigabit Squared had never really done anything.” (It still hasn’t.) KUOW, 1-14-14.
No criminal charges against Priest in theft of yard signs
The Attorney General’s Office is not planning to file criminal charges against former Federal Way Mayor Skip Priest, who was caught removing city-confiscated campaign signs last September. “The actions of the suspect, while perhaps viewed as suspicious to the reporting officer given the time of evening when the suspect chose to retrieve his campaign signs, do not amount to a crime,” said Scott Marlow, assistant attorney general, in a letter he sent to the King County Prosecutor’s Office Jan. 9. He noted the Washington State Patrol’s initial investigation revealed a “complete lack of criminal activity in this matter.” Priest said the outcome of the investigation “confirms what I’ve said all along … that I acted legally and appropriately when I picked up the signs.” Federal Way Mirror, 1-14-14.
State of State: Inslee calls for COLA for teachers, part of $200M for K-12
Gov. Jay Inslee gave a boost Tuesday to a teacher-backed proposal to secure a 1.3 percent cost-of-living increase for educators in 2014, an effort that was already gaining steam in the Washington House. Inslee, a Democrat, said in his State of the State speech that after the state Supreme Court’s order issued last week on school funding, he is now proposing a COLA for teachers as part of a $200 million increase in K-12 school funding. He indicated closure of unspecified tax breaks could raise new money. Rep. Hans Dunshee (D-44) already had signatures from 49 House members—including three Republicans–in favor of a bill that reinstates the COLA in state law for 2014. In a bipartisan move last year, lawmakers in the Republican-steered Senate and Democrat-controlled House agreed to suspend the voter-approved initiative that required yearly COLAs for K-12 teachers and some community college employees. Cost to add the adjustment is estimated at $57 million for K-12 and $4.7 million more for community and technical colleges, based on estimates from Inslee’s Office of Financial Management in December. Olympian, 1-14-14.
Bill would allow 16- and 17-year olds to preregister to vote
A bill that would allow young people to preregister to vote when gaining a drivers license has a second chance during the 2014 legislative session. Sponsored by Democratic Rep. Steve Bergquist (D-11), a social studies teacher from Renton, the proposal would allow 16- and 17-year-olds to preregister to vote when they receive a drivers license or state-issued identification card. EHB 1279 was introduced during the last legislative session and passed the House, but didn’t make it out of committee in the Senate. “Studies show that people that begin voting at an early age continue voting,” Bergquist said. He added that those who register later are more sporadic in their voting patterns. Tacoma News Tribune, 1-14-14.
Bill seeks fines for smoking in cars with minors
Smokers could pay a hefty fine for lighting up in a car with a minor Washington state.
Lawmakers in Olympia are taking public comment during a hearing Tuesday on HB 2086. Under the bill, which has broad bipartisan support, a person who lights up a cigarette, cigar, or pipe in a moving or parked car with a minor inside would be guilty of a traffic infraction. The fine could range from $125 to $250. The bill does add a provision that the infraction would not be on a person’s driving record and would not be disclosed to insurance companies or employers. A total ban on smoking in cars with minors has failed to pass in Washington before. KING, 1-14-14.
Bill would clear convictions during 60s fish-ins
Decades after American Indians were arrested for exercising treaty-protected fishing rights during a nationally watched confrontation with authorities, a proposal in the state Legislature would give those who were jailed a chance to clear their convictions from the record. Tribal members and others were roughed up, harassed, and arrested while asserting their right to fish for salmon off-reservation under treaties signed with the federal government more than a century before. The Northwest fish-ins, which were known as the “Fish Wars” and modeled after sit-ins of the civil rights movement, were part of larger demonstrations to assert American Indian rights nationwide. The fishing acts, however, violated state regulations at the time, and prompted raids by police and state game wardens and clashes between Indian activists and police. “We as a state have a very dark past, and we need to own up to our mistakes,” said Rep. David Sawyer (D-29), prime sponsor of HB 2080. “We made a mistake, and we should allow people to live their lives without these criminal charges on their record.” Associated Press (Washington Post), 1-14-14.
Yakamas want to ban pot on 12 million acres of ceded land
The Yakama Nation is considering an unprecedented move in its fight against legalized marijuana that could have implications for 10 Central Washington counties. With a marijuana ban already in place on the Yakama reservation, tribal representatives now say they’ll fight the state to keep marijuana businesses from opening anywhere on ceded lands, which constitute one-fifth of the state’s land mass. The tribe’s options include suing the state in federal court if no compromise can be reached, Yakama Nation Tribal Council Chairman Harry Smiskin said. Under the Yakama Treaty of 1855 with the federal government, the Yakama Nation was to have exclusive use of the 1.2 million-acre reservation and maintain fishing, hunting, and food-gathering rights on more than 12 million acres of ceded land. The tribe has successfully taken court action against federal and state entities, ansd private interests, in the past to defend those rights, but most of those cases have been directly tied to the tribe’s access to natural and cultural resources. “To my knowledge, this would be the first time” the tribe has sought to prevent implementation of a state law on all ceded land, said George Colby, an attorney for the Yakama Nation. “The tribe’s stance is if you don’t fight, you don’t get to win,” Colby said. Yakima Herald-Republic, 1-12-14.
Net neutrality ruling could be costly for consumers, advocates say
A federal appeals court swept aside government regulations designed to ensure equal access to the Internet, raising the prospects of higher fees for consumers and more barriers for start-ups seeking to compete online. The decision Tuesday could allow AT&T, Verizon, and other Internet service providers to charge the likes of Netflix and YouTube more money to deliver movies and video to their customers. The ruling also throws into disarray the efforts of the Federal Communications Commission to limit telecom and cable firms from discriminating against certain Internet traffic by slowing speeds, impeding access, or raising fees. The issue, known as “net neutrality,” involves complex technical and policy rules. But at its core, the concept comes down to a classic debate about how far government could and should go to ensure a level digital playing field. The FCC, which long has made net neutrality a top priority, faces once again a tricky calculation about how to balance the need for consumer and small-business protections against a desire to let the free market run its course. Los Angeles Times, 1-14-14.
U.S. judge strikes down Oklahoma’s ban on gay marriage
U.S. Senior Judge Terence Kern struck down Oklahoma’s ban on same-sex marriage Tuesday, saying it “intentionally discriminates against same-sex couples desiring an Oklahoma marriage license without a legally sufficient justification.” In his 68-page opinion, Kern said courts reviewing marriage regulations “must be wary of whether “defending” traditional marriage is a guise for impermissible discrimination against same-sex” couples. Oklahoma’s law, he said, violated the equal protection rights of the Tulsa couple that brought the lawsuit nine years ago. Kern called it a “a total exclusion of only one group.” And he said, “Excluding same-sex couples from marriage has done little to keep Oklahoma families together thus far, as Oklahoma consistently has one of the highest divorce rates in the country.” Because the U.S. Supreme Court has held up marriages in Utah, where a federal judge recently made a similar ruling, Kern issued a stay in the Oklahoma case so same-sex couples can’t marry while appeals are pending. Oklahoman, 1-14-14.
Hedges: The trouble with Chris Christie
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has been Wall Street’s anointed son for the presidency. He is backed by the most ruthless and corrupt figures in New Jersey politics, including the New Jersey multimillionaire and hard-line Democratic boss George Norcross III. Among his other supporters are many hedge fund managers and corporate executives and some of the nation’s most retrograde billionaires, including the Koch brothers. The brewing scandal over the closing of traffic lanes on the George Washington Bridge, apparently in retaliation for the Fort Lee mayor’s refusal to support the governor’s 2013 re-election, is a window into how federal agencies and the security and surveillance apparatus would be routinely employed in a Christie presidency to punish anyone who challenged this tiny cabal’s grip on power. Chris Hedges, Truthdig, 1-13-14.
To Think About
How the rise of women in labor could save the movement
Even as the traditional labor movement falters, hitting a 97-year low in membership rates, female labor leaders like Saru Jayaraman, co-founder and co-director of the restaurant worker organizing group ROC United, are on the rise and becoming highly visible. Women workers, all but shut out from unions in the 1930s, when the movement first gained real power, have been pushing into the top ranks. Mary Kay Henry is president of SEIU, one of the largest unions in the country. Randi Weingarten heads the American Federation of Teachers. At the AFL-CIO, Elizabeth Shuler is the secretary-treasurer and Arlene Holt-Baker recently retired as executive vice president. Lower-profile leaders are also making headway—and meeting with success. These women are bringing new ideas and strategies to labor organizing, many of which are borrowed from the women’s movement—like making the connection between what workers face on the job and what they’re dealing with at home. They don’t only target corporate bosses but bring together a variety of stakeholders within communities to fight for change in the workplace and beyond. And they’re bringing an influx of new members to the movement by reaching out to primarily female workforces that have often been excluded. Most importantly, for a movement accustomed to a steady erosion of power: they’re winning. The Nation, 1-10-14.