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December 11, 2013 at 6:31 AM
In an editorial today, the Seattle Times urged restraint for people making assumptions about last year’s landmark marijuana legalization law. One group making no assumptions: lawyers.
The passage of Initiative 502 opened interesting ethics questions for lawyers, especially those serving the new marijuana industry. Can an attorney avoid discipline if they advise a client about breaking federal law? What about one with an ownership stake in a marijuana business? For that matter, can a lawyer personally light it up?
In an advisory opinion in October, the trustees at King County Bar Association, which has been on the forefront of drug reform for a decade, essentially said yes to all three. That’s important, because lawyers take an oath to uphold state and federal law. And ethics violations can cost a lawyer their license.
December 4, 2013 at 6:30 AM
The Northwest Passage has captured my imagination since my Pacific Northwest childhood as a final frontier for marine expedition, ambition and, well, cannibalism. That last part loomed large in my recollection of school lessons, so as the famed passage across the north coast of North America began opening in the past two centuries, I’ve been jarred back to images of the ultimate adventure gone wrong.
More news today: the National Academies of Science has a new report about the potential effects of climate change, including projections about the mid-century prospects for more routine sailing of the Northwest Passage. Overall, it’s a sobering report on the “tipping points” for abrupt impacts on societies, as The New York Times’ Andrew Revkin reports.
The 900-mile Northwest Passage, which skitters among the Canadian archipelago and above the Arctic circle, is one of the winners in the global lottery of climate change. The report suggests that the 900-mile passage will be navigable in midsummer by “moderately ice-strengthened ships” by around 2050, opening up a much shorter shipping route. Here is an excerpt:
The shipping distance between Shanghai and Rotterdam, for example, is approximately ~19,600 and ~25,600 km, respectively via the Suez or Panama canals, but only ~15,800 over the northern coast of Russia (the Northern Sea route) or ~17,600 km through the Canadian archipelago (the Northwest Passage).
November 27, 2013 at 1:00 PM
Civil Disagreement is an occasional feature on the Opinion Northwest blog. Here editorial writers Lynne K. Varner and Jonathan Martin debate whether an armed robber on a Seattle Metro bus indicates an unsafe city.
Did you see The Times story about the 19-year-old man who got on the King County Metro RapidRide C Line bus at Third and Pike Street wearing a nylon stocking over part of his face and began robbing passengers at gunpoint? He got personal property from a few before he was tackled by other passengers and held until police arrived. The suspect was “agitated and belligerent” during the arrest, reported the West Seattle Blog.
This was not only a scary moment that could have ended more tragically (was that gun loaded?) but it also was not good advertising for public transit. I’m sympathetic to calls to ride public transportation as both a cost-saver and a way to reduce our carbon footprint. I’m willing to strike a bargain with King County Metro: I’ll get out of my car and ride the bus, saving personal money on gas and saving the public coffers on costly repairs to heavily used and clogged roads. In exchange, it must reassure me that I’m not taking my life into my hands each time I board a bus.
This morning I took the 70 bus to Third Avenue in the heart of Seattle’s downtown retail corridor. People hung out in front of the Macy’s, McDonald’s and other points along the city street. The 7-Eleven did a robust business selling beer and malt liquor. Police sat on bikes nearby, but did not engage anyone. The time it took my bus to show up, no more than 15 minutes, I was accosted by a couple of guys who thought I looked extra good today (Nope, never met them before.) I grew more cognizant of the dirty unswept street and the smell of weed. I sidestepped people who were hanging out on the street as though they were at a block party. Yes, others were commuting to work or going shopping, but I felt we were in the minority.
To endure that and get on the bus and be confronted by an armed robber is more than any commuter should be expected to bear. Bus-related crime is up and, given the armed robbery and shooting of a Metro bus driver last August, more brazen. Bus operators have reported 45 assaults on passengers inside buses between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30, a Metro spokesman told The Times in a news report. There were 27 assaults during the same period last year. The same story quotes a Seattle police spokesman noting a spike in cellphone robberies on buses, light-rail trains and near transit centers countywide.
I do not suggest we put armed guards on buses or wall off drivers from passengers, but we should consider whether a brazen armed robbery at dinnertime is a harbinger of bad things to come.
Here’s what that incident yesterday tells me: when hundreds of thousands of strangers mingle each day, weird things very occasionally happen. According to King County Metro, there were 137 arrests or infractions issued on buses during the entire month of September. That month, there were 385,768 people boarding buses every weekday. By my rough calculations, that works out to .000016 arrests per weekday boarding.
Contrast that with the national rate of fatal car crashes per 100,000 of population: 10.39. It’s not a perfect analogy but, Lynne, you get my point. You are far more likely to get into a crash, or even die, on your commute across Lake Washington than I am to even witness an arrest on my bus ride in from Wallingford. Your car is a death trap! Take a bus!
This incident, and the bus-driver shooting in August aren’t good for public perception. But these crimes didn’t happen because of the bus. They just happened on the bus. If we’re going to anecdotally tie location to crime (which the news media often does), you’d have to never walk into a coffee shop because of the Lakewood police and Café Racer shootings both happened in cafes.
Okay, Metro bus riders can be kooky. Toenail clippers. Heroin nodders. The ranters. But mighty Seattle grinds to a halt without Metro. One bus removes 40 cars from the street. Weekday mornings, my bus, the 358, stops at Denny and Aurora, and dozens of Amazon workers (along with Seattle City Council member Mike O’Brien and myself) hop off and walk a few blocks. If your answer to perceived (not statistically-based) fear of transit is for us to instead make single-occupancy car commutes, Amazon could not plop 15,000 jobs into downtown Seattle because their workers would be stuck in traffic.
Public perceptions are easily made and hard to reverse. But the data do not support your premise. I’ll bet you one of those soy London Fog drinks you favor that if you hop on my bus any random morning, you’re more likely to find a city council member than a gun-waving nutso.
November 22, 2013 at 3:25 PM
UPDATE: At right is the Department of Social and Health Services’ timeline for opening the mental health system to competitive bidding (click on it to expand). It includes a long window for public comment and an even longer phase-in process. From what I’m hearing from providers, consumers and lawmakers since this original post, the public comment period is going to be rough.
ORIGINAL POST, Nov. 22, 3:25 p.m. – A sharp exchange Thursday between Gov. Jay Inslee’s human services director and the longest-serving state senator was a preview to an upcoming Legislative debate about Inslee’s plan to open Washington’s outpatient mental health system to competitive bidding.
Testifying before a Senate committee, Kevin Quigley, secretary of the Department of Social and Health Services, unveiled Inslee’s plan (here’s a one-pager on the plan) to respond to federal pressure to reconfigure the mental health system beginning in 2016.
Inslee’s proposal calls for the state, beginning as soon as next April, to open the state’s mental health and substance abuse treatment services to competitive bidding, likely drawing interest from private managed care firms. Bids would be accept by region. One potential model could include physical health care in the bidding as well.
If this sounds dry, think of it this way: Inslee is talking about one of the biggest privatizations of state services ever, with at least $750 million a year in spending and care for 135,000 severely ill people at stake.
And he wants lawmakers to do it this Legislative session.
That’s going to be a tough sell, given the reception Quigley got Thursday.
November 21, 2013 at 6:25 AM
Seattle Mayor-elect Ed Murray did a B-grade Cory Booker impersonation Wednesday morning when he stopped in Capitol Hill to help mop the face of a crashed cyclist. The heroic story appeared in The Seattle Times 46 minutes later.
That’s nice timing for a mayor-to-be who comes into office with some skepticism about his enthusiasm for bikes. He helped create that impression during the mayoral campaign with muddled opinions on the city’s plan for closing the Burke-Gilman Trail’s “missing link.” (I wrote a column about this last May.) Murray was vague enough that Mayor Mike McGinn’s supporters portrayed him (inaccurately) as being against the planned Westlake Avenue North cycle track.
In his post-campaign analysis, Tom Fucoloro of Seattle Bike Blog (who endorsed McGinn) said Murray’s “anti-bike” reputation is wrong:
Anyone who voted for Murray because they think he will fight bike lanes is probably in for a disappointment. They are not just pet projects of a cycling mayor.
But Murray is in for an early test of his stated support for cycle tracks (bike lanes physically separated from traffic) thanks to the Seattle City Council. On Monday, when the council votes on the 2014 budget, it will include $1 million to speed up planning on a cross-downtown cycle track. That puts the project on a downhill slope toward a 2015 launch date, with the wind of the City Council at its back. (more…)
November 18, 2013 at 7:32 AM
Last month, Tina Podlodowski went gun shopping for the first time in her life. After a few clicks on www.armslist.com, the Craigslist of guns, Podlodowski was soon meeting a seller in a Shoreline parking lot. For $300, she walked away with a 9-mm Beretta, no questions asked.
Podlodowski, a former Seattle City Council member and gun control advocate, was curious how hard it would be to buy a gun without submitting to a background check. The answer: too easy. “I could have been anybody and they could have been anybody,” she said.
Gun control is shaping up to the next big political fight in Washington. If all goes as expected, the November 2014 ballot will feature two gun-related initiatives. Initiative 594, sponsored by a new group called Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility, would expand gun background checks to cover private sales, including those at gun shows, with the cost borne by the buyer. Gifts and transfers among immediate family members would be exempt. (more…)
November 13, 2013 at 12:15 PM
The Republican-dominated state Senate Majority Coalition, which balked at passing a huge transportation funding package earlier this year, is now floating a $12.3 billion transportation package, with an expectation that Gov. Jay Inslee may call another special Legislative session next week.
That alone is big news, because the deal includes a 11.5 cent gas tax increase theoretically endorsed by a fiscally conservative caucus. The package is heavy on maintenance, but would also pay for 51 projects, with billion-dollar chunks going to completion of the State Route 520 floating bridge ($1.3 billion), widening of Interstate 405 from Lynnwood to Renton ($1.25 billion) and the so-called Puget Sound Gateway expansion of State Route 509-167 ($1.69 billion). Here’s the draft project list and balance sheet. It also gives King and Snohomish counties authority to fund transit services by putting local-option taxes on the ballot.
Senate and House leaders are negotiating, but Senate Transportation Committee Co-chairman Curtis King, R-Yakima, and House Transportation Committee Chairwoman Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, said they agree on a broad outline, and on many of the projects. Clibborn’s version, passed by the House in June, is here.
Inslee spokesman David Postman said the governor could call a special session Nov. 21 and 22, when lawmakers are in Olympia to pick committee chairs for the 2014 session, but would only do so if there’s enough votes to pass the package. A clearer path toward a special session may emerge Friday, when caucuses meet in Olympia.
What’s odd about the MCC proposal is the muted response by King County Democrats. They hammered the coalition for failing to act last June, largely because the package would have given King County “local option” taxes to stave off devastating cuts (including cancelling 74 routes). (more…)
November 4, 2013 at 6:45 AM
Tucked into the SeaTac $15 minimum wage ordinance is a big exemption to the landmark proposal.
In the Waivers section of the proposed ordinance, available on the City of SeaTac website, Proposition 1 gives employers a break from the minimum wage, the paid sick days and other employee protections – as long as the business is unionized.
All of the provisions of this Chapter, or any part hereof, including the employee work environment reporting requirement set forth herein, may be waived in a bona fide collective bargaining agreement, but only if the waiver is explicitly set forth in such agreement in clear and unambiguous terms.
That means employers have a big incentive to cozy up with the same labor unions who pushed the idea and have contributed hundreds of thousands to the campaign. It all looks like a nice bit of self-dealing for organized labor. And it’s often overlooked. It’s missing from the Yes! for SeaTac’s “Get the Facts” and in some coverage, although it’s consistently noted in Amy Martinez’s stories for the Seattle Times.
Yes for SeaTac spokeswoman Heather Weiner said the provision gives employers and unionized employees flexibility. She cites an example: When Seattle passed a mandatory sick leave policy that has a similar waiver, Catholic Community Services negotiated with unions to delay the policy for eight months. In exchange, Catholic Community Services agreed to apply the sick leave policy to all home care workers statewide.
“If I were an employer, I’d rather have a collective bargaining agreement because it gives me flexibility. But some employers won’t do that because they don’t like CBAs,” said Weiner.
Unions have donated the vast majority of the $1.377 million raised by Yes for SeaTac as of Sunday. Max Nelson of the libertarian Freedom Foundation, writing a guest op-ed in the Puget Sound Business Journal, suggests that river of money is a wise financial investment.
Data that unions report to the U.S. Department of Labor indicate that median dues for members of Unite Here Local 8 total $471 in a year, plus other fees. At the high end, members of Teamsters Local 117 pay dues totaling $1,380 a year at median rates.
Advocates estimate that Prop. 1 would cover about 6,300 workers. If the initiative produces 1,000 new union members paying an average of $900 in dues per year, unions will generate an additional annual income of about $900,000, for a one-time investment of about $825,000. Not bad at all.
There’s a similar waiver for unions in the $15.37 minimum wage at LAX airport (per the L.A. Times); one in the San Francisco minimum wage law; and there was one in a proposed 50-percent increase in the minimum wage for big-box retailers in Washington, D.C. (it failed in September because of threats by Walmart).
Weiner said there “hasn’t been a mad rush to unionize” because of minimum wage laws at airports.
But there apparently was in Long Beach. A union waiver in a $13 minimum wage prompted several Long Beach hotels to stop fighting labor and work with Unite Here to unionize, according to the Long Beach Press-Telegram.
Does the union waiver in Prop. 1 make you more or less likely to vote for it?
October 28, 2013 at 6:45 AM
Mayor Mike McGinn is a skilled debator. He speaks deliberately but forcefully, rarely stumbling.
So I cocked my head in confusion during KCTS 9′s mayoral debate last week when McGinn, in response to a question from KUOW’s Deborah Wang, seemed to be engaging in revisionist history.
“Four years ago you ran your campaign as an opponent of the tunnel to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct. That was your signature campaign issue. Then just before the election, you announced that you would not stand in the way of the tunnel. But you did continue to fight it in your first year in office. So in retrospect was it a mistake to do that, or was it mistake to pledge you wouldn’t stand in the way of the tunnel?”
“People can go roll video tape of this one as well if they’d like to see what my position was then. Which was, I did support the tunnel as the choice, but I also believe we shouldn’t have to pay cost overruns.”
Watch the video below. It’s cued up to play at the beginning of Wang’s question:
Since when did the Mayor “support the tunnel as the choice?” Did the Mayor simply misspeak?
No. Instead, it’s part of McGinn’s campaign strategy. (more…)
October 24, 2013 at 6:40 AM
On her Facebook page, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, says she wants you to share your stories of the Affordable Care Act, on a helpful little site run by the House Republican caucus, which she chairs.
One of McMorris Rodgers’ constituents, Molly Donnelly McGee, had a quick response:
Not exactly what McMorris Rodgers was looking for. She earned the nickname “Shutdown Cathy” as the public face of House GOP caucus during its disastrous effort to block the Affordable Care Act at any cost, including a 17-day government shutdown.
Shutdown Cathy once said, in an email to constituents, that insurance premiums for Eastern Washington families had risen by $3,000 between 2012 and 2013. Before Obamacare, but never mind. On CNN, she bumped it up to $7,500. The Seattle Times checked it out and concluded this: The “source for that figure – the 2013 survey by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and provided by McMorris Rodgers’ office – says family premiums rose from 2012 by 4 percent, or $629. Of that, $452 on average was borne directly by employers, not employees.”
Her office later said she misspoke. Never mind.
The irony of McMorris Rodgers’ role as Obamacare national demonizer-in-chief is that the Affordable Care Act is working in her home state. Washington chose to embrace the Affordable Care Act, tailor its own website to the local insurance market, and brought in smart people from the tech industry. Since the Oct. 1, launch, more than 100,000 people have enrolled or completed health insurance applications via the state’s wahealthplanfinder.org website.
Here’s another anecdote, which I don’t think McMorris Rodgers will like any more than Molly McGee’s. Fox News writer Sally Krohn braved the glitches of the glitchy healthcare.gov site and – presto – she got better health insurance at a big savings.
Plus in the past, I spent several days looking for and comparing insurance options. Under ObamaCare, even with the slow and sticky website, I spent a total of four hours — to save over $5,400. That kind of return on investment would make Warren Buffett drool.
Counter to wild stories about the government taking over health care, the exchange was simply a public portal to a range of all-private insurance options.
I hope McMorris Rodgers will read these. But something tells me she won’t pay attention.