Join the informed writers of The Times' editorial board in lively discussions at our blog, Opinion Northwest.
March 7, 2014 at 6:04 AM
One week after a Seattle City Council subcommittee‘s controversial and preliminary decision to limit ridesharing services to 150 drivers per network at any given time, Lyft, uberX and Sidecar have each come forward to reveal the number of drivers on their respective platforms.
During a Feb. 27 hearing, council members complained loudly that these companies were refusing to release that information. The city’s top officials have struggled for months to reach an agreement on how to legalize ridesharing, which has disrupted Seattle’s highly regulated taxi industry.
Now armed with a little more information, council members should revisit the cap number they proposed and at least raise the limit on the number of drivers from each company who can work at the same time.
A March 10 vote by the full council has been postponed until March 17.
On Friday afternoon, uberX sent out a press release revealing it “has 900 active drivers on its system. This number does not include drivers who have left the system or those awaiting background checks to join the system. That number also does not include UberBlack or UberSUV drivers.”
The service also said more than 300 drivers are active at any given time and continues to grow with demand. So if the city’s proposed legislation is passed, hundreds of drivers using their personal cars will lose the ability they currently enjoy to earn income through uberX.
Uber Seattle General Manager Brooke Steger’s statement: (more…)
March 6, 2014 at 6:04 AM
Updated 3:31 p.m. on March 7:
Bills are moving through the Legislature quickly. I’ve revised information throughout this post, which was originally published Thursday morning. Check back after the weekend for more updates.
As the Washington Legislature nears its March 13 deadline, now is the time to track and review efforts to end sex trafficking.
Yes, this is a statewide crisis. In the Seattle-King County area alone, the most recent studies suggest hundreds of children as young as 11 years old are being sexually exploited for commercial purposes. Organizations such as the Center for Child & Youth Justice and YouthCare are building new models to identify and treat these sex workers as victims, not criminals.
Below, watch video of StolenYouth’s Jan. 29 forum at Town Hall to understand how advocates are responding to the problem.
This year in Olympia, lawmakers took up several measures to strengthen the state’s laws against trafficking. So far, two bills outlined below have passed both houses. Lawmakers should make sure several other measures get to the governor’s desk before time runs out. They must maintain the state’s position as a leader in combating sex trafficking through strong legislation.
Here’s a rundown of several bills related to sex trafficking and their status as of Wednesday: (more…)
March 5, 2014 at 6:30 AM
Members of Congress do not, cannot, will not agree on anything, but the prospect of one proposed change has bound them together. The Federal Communications Commission is contemplating allowing cellphone calls on planes.
Listen to the howling. Virtually no one likes the idea, including the federal Department of Transportation. Airline passengers are already shoe-horned into tight spaces, and seething about the cost of air fares, and the payment of fees for, well, everything.
Now those passengers must contemplate being squeezed next to some yammering idiot for hours and hours. Opposition among passengers who have flown four or more times in recent months pushes 80 percent. This is a truly horrible idea.
This is all about phone calls. Those loud, chatty confabs that would go on and on and on –endlessly. This is not about using tablets or smartphones or music players. The FAA lifted a ban last fall on using that electronic gear to send emails, text or surf the Internet during takeoffs and landings. Go for it.
Want a preview of what it would be like for even a fraction of a typical flight? Ride a crowded morning or evening commuter bus. The conversations – not fast calls home or to work – often share too much information, are too loud and too long. The annoyed looks from those trying to read or doze cross genders and generations among riders miffed about audio violations of precious space.
Chatting on cellphone calls has not been allowed on planes for 23 years. No reason exists to change that.
March 4, 2014 at 6:11 AM
Opinion Northwest recently asked for readers’ thoughts on Congress’ failure so far to extend federal unemployment insurance. The Feb. 21 blog post followed this editorial calling on lawmakers to help struggling but active job-seekers.
Within days, the post received more than 300 responses from across the country — the map at the top of this post shows locations of responses we received. Many people explained how the temporary assistance had helped them to keep their families housed and their Internet connections available so that they could post their resumes online. A few disagreed with the extension, saying it discourages the long-term unemployed from trying harder to find work. Older workers offered heart-wrenching stories about the difficulty of getting an interview and holding on to a position in today’s economy. During the process of verifying a few different writers’ identities, a few phone numbers were disconnected.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. Senate is plotting again to pass an extension measure with the help of some Republicans. The Congressional Budget Office outlined the benefits of a short-term fix in this Dec. 3 analysis. “Recipients of the additional benefits would increase their spending on consumer goods and services. That increase in aggregate demand would encourage businesses to boost production and hire more workers than they otherwise would, particularly given the expected slack in the capital and labor markets,” the report concludes.
Here in Washington state, the Employment Security Department reports about 28,000 people exhausted their federal benefits on Dec. 28 after Congress failed to act. Since then, the agency estimates thousands more drop out of the system every week.
What happens to them now?
Scroll down to read some of their stories.
Support a federal extension of unemployment insurance:
I support the extension due to the fact that I lost my job of 29 years in June. My benefits ran out in January. No one will hire me due to my age. I’m 64 years old. Having 26 weeks is not long enough to find a job at my age. It is devastating to our budget with first the loss of a long-term job, and then no unemployment to help with expenses. My job loss was due to my position being eliminated. I would have loved to continue working until I was old enough to retire, but my employer had other plans. We have now had to put our home up for sale, we sold our second vehicle and have cut out anything possible to cut back. I’ve gone from a job that paid over $3,000 a month, to unemployment at less than half of that amount, and now down to zero for my income — it is hard to live on just my husband’s Social Security. I need to work, and have worked since I was a teenager. I need the extra weeks of unemployment to carry me until I can find a job. It is not right to not extend the benefits to those of us who are struggling to find a job. Something needs to be done to help all us who are out of work.
— Sharon Washburn, Yakima (more…)
March 3, 2014 at 6:25 AM
To drive across Snoqualmie Pass in mid- to late-Feburary was to play chicken with weather. The pass opened and closed like the Fremont Bridge, as state crews swept and re-swept the suddenly snowy pass. I was fool enough to nearly get stuck twice.
This traveler’s hassle, however, was a golden ticket for Northwest energy generation. On Feb. 4, The Bonneville Power Administration, which supplies about 30 percent of the Northwest’s electricity, estimated the snow-fueled stream flows would be 80 percent of average come spring snowmelt because of an usually dry winter. On Friday, the estimate had risen to 90 percent.
For BPA, which forecasts its surplus power sales, the February storms translate to a $30 million windfall. BPA spokesman Michael Hansen said the figure depends on continued favorable weather and energy market prices. But such a sudden change in snow pack, he said, is unusual.
Click on the regions below to see the change in snowpack since Jan. 1. For comparison, here’s the same graphic from Feb. 18.
*Snow water equivalent represents the depth of water in the snowpack, if the snowpack were melted, in inches.
Source: Natural Resources Conservation Service. (SEATTLE TIMES / GARLAND POTTS)
February 28, 2014 at 8:58 AM
Arizona’s odious anti-gay “religious freedom” bill would have exempted true believers from state anti-discrimination and other laws if they could argue that compliance would violate their religious beliefs or moral principles. Fortunately, Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed the bill Wednesday.
But imagine if that kind of thinking had prevailed 50 years ago, when Congress passed the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. We might still be living in a land of whites-only lunch counters and segregated movie theaters.
February 27, 2014 at 6:30 AM
Here is how a stunning PBS documentary describes itself:
“In Secrets of the Vatican, FRONTLINE tells the epic, inside story of the collapse of the Benedict papacy and illuminates the extraordinary challenges facing Pope Francis as he tries to reform the powerful Vatican bureaucracy, root out corruption and chart a new course for the troubled Catholic Church and its 1.2 billion followers.”
Viewers might easily imagine they’ve heard it all. Oh that. Why bother? Take everything you have ever heard about the Catholic Church and the global clergy child sexual abuse scandals, the dodgy Vatican bank, add in drug abuse, and multiply it all by ten. A primary insight is that Pope Benedict really did not step down from the papacy so much as flee the job.
Watch the video below:
No one could make up what this documentary reveals. For all of the horror on display, the reality is basic: arrogance, hubris and insularity will bring down any organization, even one ordained to do God’s work on earth. A human organization manifests all human frailties. Allow it to make its own rules and hide, and the worst happens. (more…)
February 27, 2014 at 6:25 AM
Until 1973, homosexuality was medically classified as a mental disorder. The vestige of that fundamentally wrong notion — that same-sex attraction is an illness to be cured — lives on in the fringes of psychology through the practice of “gay conversion therapy.”
In the coming weeks, Washington should become the third state to ban such “treatments” for minors. A bill in the Legislature, HB 2451, is hung up in the Senate Health Care Committee. Chairwoman Randi Becker, R-Eatonville, told The Seattle Times last week she didn’t plan to put the measure up for a vote, and there wasn’t sufficient support in the Senate. Without a vote, the bill dies this week.
That’s a mistake.
Gay conversion therapy, also called reparative therapy, is premised on the idea that sexual orientation is mutable, and that young gays and lesbians can be made into heterosexuals, often via religious counseling (hence the derisive title of “pray the gay away” therapy). The practice has a grim history; methods for forcing conversion include electroshock and ice water baths, administered while the patient watched gay porn. In legislative testimony, Daniel Cords of Seattle said he tried suicide “more times than I could count” after being forced into reparative therapy by fundamentalist parents.
Failing to put HB 2451 up for a vote is also a mistake because the politics here are clear. The House passed it 94-4. Rep. Larry Haler, R-Richland, told The Tri-City Herald the therapy was ”cruel and unusual,” and ”reminiscent of a country different than America.” Rep. Richard DeBolt, R-Centralia, on the House floor described his change from being skeptical to being convinced that some conversion therapy practices “border on child abuse.” Watch his testimony below.
If the bill gets a vote in the Senate Health Care Committee, it will pass the whole Senate easily, according to Sens. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, and Marco Liias, D-Everett, who’ve championed the bill. Hearing concerns about religious freedom, amendments were passed on the House floor that emphasized the ability for pastors to counsel their flock. The bill only applies to therapy given to minors.
Nor is there any apparent legal barrier to HB 2451. The federal 9th Circuit Court (of which Washington is a member) upheld the California ban on reparative therapy, making a lawsuit here untenable.
Here are the major medical groups that have warned that gay conversion therapy is based on bunk science and is potentially harmful: the U.S. Surgeon General (in 2001), the American Academy of Pediatrics (1983), the American Psychiatric Association (2000), the American Psychological Association (1997), the National Association of Social Work (1997) and the American Counseling Association (1998).
Bottling up HB 2451 would put the Majority Coalition Caucus on the wrong side of history.
February 26, 2014 at 6:24 AM
A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report published in The Journal of the American Medical Association indicates obesity rates have dropped among some toddlers, but the overall prevalence of the disease in kids and adults remains high.
Public health policies must continue to focus on prevention, especially among kids.
At the national level, First Lady Michelle Obama has fought hard to combat childhood obesity by launching the Let’s Move! campaign. She has appeared on Sesame Street and on late-night television numerous times to convince people of all ages to be active and to make healthful eating choices.
Here she is with Big Bird in the White House kitchen:
And here’s a hilarious (and highly effective) video encouraging Americans to be active, featuring the First Lady and “Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon in a segment called “Evolution of Mom Dancing”:
Obama makes exercise look fun and hip, but for many Americans— changing behavior is incredibly difficult.
Though this New York Times news story highlights a promising 43 percent drop in obesity among 2 and 5-year-old children over the last ten years, the CDC reported no significant reductions among other groups during that same period. (more…)
February 25, 2014 at 11:56 AM
In case you missed it, Monday’s editorial in The Seattle Times opinion section argues that a cap on ride-sharing services in Seattle does not improve consumer safety and kills an emerging business model. The board also supports lifting arbitrary caps on taxi, for-hire and ride-sharing vehicles.
Let the market determine how many vehicles should be on the road. Don’t limit growth. Focus on consumer safety.
Discussions on insurance gaps must continue in light of accidents involving ride-share drivers in other markets. Lyft has started a committee to find some clarity. Seattle leaders should join that effort.
Ride-sharing quickly gained a following because it keeps more cars off the road and gives drivers a chance to make a living with an asset they already own. Like the taxi industry, many drivers for these new services are immigrants. The council should beware of picking winners and losers.
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