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February 24, 2015 at 6:30 AM

How far left will the Seattle City Council go?

Seattle politics are being shaken like a rug at spring cleaning. In the last month, three City Council members — Nick Licata, Tom Rasmussen and Sally Clark — with a collective 38 years in office called it quits. An astonishing 28 candidates have filed to take their spots and to challenge the remaining six incumbents…

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January 28, 2015 at 6:20 AM

Should marijuana home grows be legal in Washington?

2015 is going to be a big year in marijuana policy and politics. But the most provocative question in pot has yet to be heard in Olympia, or even debated much: legalizing home growing. Seattle Democrat Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, the Legislature’s senior stateswoman on marijuana, proposes allowing six-plant home grows for everyone over 21 years old as…

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Comments | Topics: initiative 502, marijuana, state Legislature

January 15, 2015 at 6:25 AM

King County’s one-stop shopping for government benefits

Joshua Stanton stopped by a King County office yesterday to sign up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act. “I’m going to be able to get my teeth taken care of,” said Stanton, 30, who lives on Capitol Hill. By the time he walked out a bit later, Stanton got a check up for much more. The…

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December 29, 2014 at 6:20 AM

Who is your unsung hero of the year? Here’s mine

The media’s year-end “Person of the Year” ritual honors headline-grabbing deeds, good or bad. I’m more interested in the behind-the-scenes folks who did something amazing, without the public kudos. Who’s your unsung hero of the year?

Craig Adams gets my vote. As a Pierce County Superior Court commissioner, Adams single-handedly kicked off a court case that is dramatically reforming Washington’s beleaguered mental health system. He’s gotten almost no credit. In fact, he was second-guessed by state lawyers all the way to the state Supreme Court.

But he was right. A Seattle Times editorial on Friday criticized what’s known as psychiatric boarding. That wouldn’t have happened, at least so quickly, without the work of Adams.

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Comments | Topics: mental health, psychiatric boarding

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…

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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…

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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.

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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…

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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…

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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.

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