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December 15, 2014 at 6:20 AM

As Gov. Inslee asks for $1 billion more, where are the promised efficiencies?

UPDATE: A state human resources report cited below, showing a 13 percent jump in overtime for state workers, has been updated to fix an inaccuracy. In fact, overtime dropped three percent from 2013, according to the new report. Ralph Thomas, spokesman for the Office of Financial Management, writes: The overtime pay figures come from an annual…


Comments | Topics: Andy Hill, Gov. Jay Inslee, lean management

December 8, 2014 at 11:30 AM

Why do small police departments need 18-ton armor-plated assault vehicles?

The U.S. Department of Defense’s 1033 program was a mostly obscure surplus military equipment program until the Ferguson, Mo., riots, when America suddenly alerted to the creeping militarization of local police. Details of the decades-old program, which has given away about $5 billion in weapons and equipment since 1990, were opaque until last month, when the…



November 14, 2014 at 6:20 AM

Yet another flashing light at state Department of Social and Health Services

The budget slashing of human services during the Great Recession is coming back to bite Washington.

The $90 million cut from the state’s mental health system from 2009 to 2013 directly led to a state Supreme Court’s ruling in August banning very sick patients from being warehoused in hospitals, and probably will lead to a similar ruling next year regarding a lack of treatment in jails. A wavering financial commitment to court-ordered foster care reforms in the same era resulted in an extension of court oversight.

In a column tallying up the “flashing red lights” in state human services, I included a less-noticed new red light at Lakeland Village, an institution for people with developmental disabilities near Spokane. The problems there also flow directly from Great Recession budget cutting: as described in a Seattle Times story, a $1 million cut in 2011 forced dozens of patients into cheaper care that to me veers toward simple warehousing of patients.

A resident at Lakeland Village near Spokane, in a 2003 photo (Torsten Kjellstrand / Spokesman-Review)

A resident at Lakeland Village near Spokane, in a 2003 photo (Torsten Kjellstrand / Spokesman-Review)

But the response since then by the Department of Social and Health Services — to dispute and fight these red flashing lights — is exacerbating the problems. Federal auditors and disability advocates have now objected annually at least three years now, including an astonishing 41,231 separate violations of Medicaid rules in 2013, as described in a Seattle Times story. Patients who are in the most expensive type of care the state offers were parked in front of “The Jerry Springer Show” with the blinds folded.



November 11, 2014 at 6:40 AM

Lighting Seattle’s Green Lake park for safety

    The 2.8-mile paved trail around Green Lake makes it Seattle’s most-used park. But in the low-light winter months of the sun-deprived Pacific Northwest, the trail, which is not lighted, is dark for up to 15 hours a day. I was reminded how dark the trail gets from dusk til dawn when my wife, a frequent Green Lake runner, came across…



November 4, 2014 at 7:15 AM

About those car break-ins…

My colleague Danny Westneat touched a live wire with his first-hand column about the police’s blasé response to property crime; it had triple the readership of any other story in Seattle Times website and 550 comments (and counting). Property crime is out of control. Washington has the third-highest property crime rate in the U.S. That makes…



November 4, 2014 at 6:25 AM

What if both Washington state gun initiatives pass?

gun cartoon

The likelihood that the conflicting gun initiatives on Tuesday’s ballot both will pass has lessened amid a barrage of advertising in the closing weeks of the campaign. The percentage of voters who said they’d vote for Initiative 591 and Initiative 594 both fell from 32 percent in July to 22 percent in October.

I have no idea what those voters are thinking. The measures are fundamentally conflicting. Initiative 594 expands background checks. Initiative 591 restricts broader background checks, deferring to federal standards.

But the latest KCTS9 Washington Poll, led by the University of Washington’s Matt Barreto, shows that both measures still could pass. I-594 is in stronger position in the Washington Poll (64 percent say they’re certain, likely, or leaning toward a yes vote) and the Elway Poll (60 percent).

I-591 fell to 39 percent in the latest Elway Poll. But in the Washington Poll, the support and opposition to I-591 is more closely split: 45.4 percent certain-likely-leaning toward yes versus 43.4 percent certain-likely-leaning toward no. The undecided vote is 8.8 percent.

What would happen if both pass? There is no precedent, no landmark case law on this.



October 30, 2014 at 6:21 AM

Should college athletes be paid for performance?

Husky linebacker John Timu celebrates a 63-yard interception return for a touchdown. What was that play worth?

Husky linebacker John Timu celebrates a 63-yard interception return for a touchdown. What was that play worth? (Photo by Dean Rutz/The Seattle Times)

The Pac-12 this week held itself out as the most progressive big athletic conference in the country in passing a suite of reforms of the increasingly criticized “student-athlete” model.

Here’s what progressive reforms look like: guaranteed 4-year scholarships for athletes, and an ability to tap the scholarship later if they leave before graduation; reimbursed medical expenses for on-the-field injuries up to four years after leaving school; liberalized transfers within Pac-12 schools; and a seat at the Pac-12 governance table.

It’s hard to argue with any of these, although it is surprising they’re new in a conference and at institutions that reap tens of millions from the athletes’ performances. Washington State University President Elson Floyd, who chairs the Pac-12 CEO group, said the conference is working on “the total cost of attendance.” That term of art refers to the gap between an athlete’s scholarship and the out-of-pocket costs, estimated to be an average of $3,500 per athlete.


Comments | Topics: college athletes, football, NCAA

October 24, 2014 at 8:58 AM

What happened to all the legal marijuana stores in Seattle?

Click the image to view an interactive map showing marijuana revenue by city since July 1.

Click the image to view an interactive map showing marijuana revenue by city since July 1.

Corrected version

“You know what’s really been successful because of Initiative 502? The black market.”

That a tough assessment, because it is exactly the opposite of what Initiative 502, the 2012 marijuana legalization measure, was supposed to do. And it’s particularly tough because it comes from a frustrated Alex Cooley, a successful but straight-arrow marijuana grower (I profiled him in a column last year) who both supported I-502 and has multiple I-502 licenses for growing and processing.


Comments | Topics: liquor control board, marijuana, pot

October 22, 2014 at 6:25 AM

Seattle preschool Proposition 1B’s consensus, and the alternative’s problems

The Seattle Preschool Program —  known as Proposition 1B on the Nov. 4 ballot —  is racking up endorsements. The King County Labor Council, El Centro De La Raza, the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and many other groups are on board.  You also have a rare consensus of Seattle’s media organizations, including the centrist Seattle Times editorial board, the left-leaning Publicola,  The Stranger, and even tipped-over-off-the-left-o-sphere blogger David Goldstein.

All say voters should pass Seattle Proposition 1B.

State Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina.

State Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina.

The unanimity forms around the simple idea that it’s time to get moving on universal, high-quality prekindergarten education. A pair of the nation’s leading pre-K researchers laid out the research behind 1B in a recent Seattle Times guest column. If you missed it, read it.

Understanding the unanimity is important because there’s a competing measure, Proposition 1A, on the ballot. Only one can pass. It’s either-or. Prop. 1A does not create a citywide preschool program. It does not have any way to fund its child-care teacher training enhancements.

And it’s a budget-buster for the city.


Comments | Topics: city council, endorsements, november election

September 30, 2014 at 1:18 PM

Another delay for the Burke-Gilman’s ‘missing link,’ and an alternative

The long-delayed end to the Burke-Gilman Trail’s “missing link” will be delayed again. The Seattle Department of Transportation has pushed back the timeline by “eight or nine months” for completion of an environmental impact statement (EIS) on route options for the recreation trail superhighway through Ballard, according to SDOT spokesperson Rick Sheridan. The draft EIS will…



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