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Topic: Washington State Legislature
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December 5, 2013 at 6:00 AM
The Michael Walter King story reads like a Shakespearean tragedy: Golden boy lands his dream job as executive director of the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee. Two years later, he’s cleaning restaurants and living in a “sober house.” Democrats lose their majority in the Washington Senate. Then a judge sentences him to 25 months for embezzlement.
(Read The Seattle Times’ initial account of what happened in this February story by Andrew Garber and Brian Rosenthal. Reporter Jim Brunner followed up on the investigation in September. And here’s Sara Jean Green’s Tuesday report on King’s sentencing.)
Washington Democrats must be kicking themselves. If they’re not, they really should be. Don’t politicos hang out together in bars just as much as they do in board rooms? How did no one question King’s absences from work? Or that he perhaps drank a little too much during happy hour?
Humans tend to do a good job at hiding their vices. King had no prior record. Clearly, he knew he had a problem when he reportedly confessed his transgressions to an associate.
The sad irony is Senate Democrats didn’t lose their majority during the 2013 legislative session because of failed legislative policies per se. They simply didn’t pay enough attention to the guy handling their campaign money, and that mistake may have cost them dearly.
Several sources say the $330,000 or so King spent to fuel his habits could have been funneled into some critical races. The most notable election, of course, is former state Rep. Tim Probst’s failed attempt in 2012 to unseat conservative Republican state Sen. Don Benton in the Vancouver area. Probst lost by 78 votes. That outcome set the stage for two Democratic senators, Rodney Tom and Tim Sheldon, to join with Republicans to form the Majority Coalition Caucus. (more…)
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.
October 21, 2013 at 12:49 PM
UPDATE: One of the two people killed in the Nevada middle school shooting was a teacher who stepped in to protect his students. This Huffington Post story has the details. The teacher’s death may renew ridiculous suggestions by the National Rifle Association that teachers should be allowed to carry a gun or at least have one handy in the classroom.
This New York Times story noted the public is less than enamored with the idea.
#Guncontrol and #schoolshooting began trending on social media minutes after CNN and other news outlets reported two people had been killed and two others were in serious condition after a shooting rampage Monday morning at a Nevada middle school.
Sparks Middle School, located just outside of Reno, was evacuated quickly. Parents picked up their kids. District authorities have gone from tweeting “Code Red” to offering Twitter updates from the crime scene. A new name joins Newtown and other schools in that macabre section of the American lexicon reserved for mass school shootings. Public discourse on social media quickly turned to gun control, a debate that illustrates better than any other policy issue, America’s stark political divide.
Tweeting under the name @globaloutrage, Jack Scharber asked:
“Another day in America. Another school shooting. When are we going to confront the awful root causes of this senselessness?”
“Another shooting in America kills more innocent kids. Their obsession with guns is destroying the country.”
Time for another run at comprehensive gun control. The kind that includes background checks and other safeguards argued for by the Seattle Times Editorial Board, most recently here. I’m not too hopeful this latest shooting will be the catalyst that moves people from their fixed positions on both sides of the debate. That is because the problem has never been a lack of political effort to better regulate guns, the problem is that these efforts never get very far. The heavy thumb of the Second Amendment lobby tamps down on anything that hints of gun safety legislation. A prime example can be found in this piece by the National Rifle Association’s legislative policy arm. The powerful gun lobby brags about the veto by Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) of gun control legislation last June. The article calls New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg “an extremist” for promoting sensible gun control through “Mayors Against Illegal Guns.”
The exception may be Washington state, where almost enough signatures have been secured to mount an initiative calling for universal background checks for gun sales. Initiative 594 would go first to the Legislature. But if lawmakers failed to pass the measure, it would go to voters in 2014, a Times blog reported. Among those helping secure signatures here was Cheryl Stumbo, a victim of the 2006 shooting rampage at the Seattle Jewish Federation. This Washington Post story warns of the uphill battle gun control advocates face in Washington state.
If I’m correct and this latest tragedy failed to move beyond #Nevadashooting on Twitter, then it sadly is just another day in America.
October 21, 2013 at 7:31 AM
Back in 1998, Washington’s decision to follow California into an experiment with medical marijuana was radical. (See an earlier Seattle Times news story.) But 15 years in, after voters went for the exciting new thing in Initiative 502’s legalized recreation marijuana last fall, medical marijuana now seems be viewed as a late-’90s Honda Prelude, hardly worth its scrap value.
Monday, the state Liquor Control Board is to set to recommend, at the Legislature’s request, upgrades to the Prelude. The Seattle City Council earlier this month gave what most cannabis watchers believe was a sneak preview, asking Gov. Jay Inslee and key lawmakers to merge the medical and soon-to-be opened recreational markets.
The Legislature should because it’s the right thing for patients, and for the state, and because the state can’t allow the two to operate side-by-side. Washington’s medical marijuana market is the most unregulated in the country – no state licensing, taxation or centralized patient registry to assure medical qualification. The recreational market created by Initiative 502 is more heavily regulated than liquor – stringent seed-to-sale controls, heavy tax and closed to people under 21. The tax revenue – estimated to raise between $635 million and $3.2 billion over the next 10 years according to Botec, the Liquor Control Board’s I-502 consultant – is too fat a purse for lawmakers ignore by leaving the medical market an unregulated competitor.
October 16, 2013 at 12:12 PM
It may not seem so at first glance, but parents in the Federal Way School District have their priorities in order. At a recent meeting, former School Board President Tony Moore voted along with a board majority to step away from his leadership post in light of a criminal investigation, in which he is charged with stealing tires for his salvage business.
But as a Times blog post reports, dozens of parents spoke up at the board meeting, not for or against Williams, but rather about the board spending more than $60,000 for trips to Europe, Australia and South Korea. The district is studying education in those countries in preparation for a global partnership program. In the age of Skype and other video-conferencing options, did the Federal Way School Board really need to travel around the world, stay in hotels and eat meals on the public dime?
I am not accusing the board of embarking upon international junkets, although parents interviewed in this KOMO 4 story did. I do think policy leaders need to get out of their silos and see up-close and personal the effects of their decisions. Moreover, Federal Way’s 37 schools are part of a global education initiative partnering them with 1,000 schools from 10 countries. The district website offers more details on the program touted as a way to bring innovation and deeper learning to Federal Way.
I get the desire to understand why South Korean schools are so darn successful. A new area of tourism has been practically carved from the large numbers of American educators making pilgrimages to South Korea, Finland and other highly educated countries. But the search for successful models must better fit the extraordinary economic times we’re living in. The state Legislature just a few months ago essentially robbed Peter to pay more for public schools. Sagging teacher compensation is the embarrassing elephant in the education policy room. And it is now considered normal, rather than dysfunctional, for music and arts education to raise their own funds to remain viable parts of education. Never mind activities like band and sports, which are almost exclusively funded by parents and the community. With so many drains on public education dollars — and with little in relief, in terms of a long-term funding plan, in sight — policymakers must be aware of the message their financial decisions send. What’s your take on this?
October 15, 2013 at 12:08 PM
I wish I could be a fly on the wall at a Seattle panel later today that promises to better frame critical debates about teacher effectiveness. Tonight teachers and those who help train them will talk about how teachers are prepared, supported, evaluated and paid.
The teacher prep event, hosted by Teachers United, starts at 5 p.m. Tuesday at McKinstry Innovation Center, 210 S. Hudson Street in Seattle. This is billed as a deep-dive discussion geared toward teachers, but I suspect everyone following the teacher quality debate would be interested in following along. Changes to state education laws and local school district policies are going to be culled from conversations like this one.
Here are the panelists for tonight: Elham Kazemi, Associate Dean of Professional Learning at the University of Washington; Marisa Bier, Director, Seattle Urban Teacher Residency; Lindsay Hill, Executive Director, Teach For America for Washington state and Jeff Wilson, Project Director of Performance Management, The New Teacher Project.
Follow this discussion and future ones on teacher quality at this Teachers United website http://www.teachersunitedwa.org/prep_panel
In the YouTube video below, Prof. Kazemi talks about ways elementary school teachers can become better instructors of mathematics.
October 8, 2013 at 9:06 AM
Thoughtful responses have piled up in my email inbox since my column about Proposition 1 which, if approved by City of SeaTac voters, would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour for about 6,300 workers at Sea-Tac airport and nearby hotels, car-rental agencies and parking lots.
I disagree with the Nov. 5 ballot measure. There’s not much point in raising the minimum wage for thousands when the issues are wage depression for millions of workers and a yawning gap between the skills workers possess and the ones they need to have a shot at a good paying job. Going city by city – SeaTac today, Puyallup tomorrow - will result in a nationwide shift in the minimum wage by, oh, 2070.
Dean Shoemaker from Kent said: “Of course, not many have the talent and determination of a Subelbia. All I would ask is that the minimum wage stay up with inflation. Choose any decade in the last half century, any you want and track inflation and the minimum wage down to the present. Minimum wage has fallen behind which suggests that working folks have suffered a decline in their standard of living.” (more…)
September 13, 2013 at 5:33 PM
Rainier Beach High School is proud enough of its rising standardized test scores and other improvements to create T-shirts in the school’s Crayola orange-and-blue colors with the message: “Our Future’s Trending Up.” On Saturday, we’re publishing an editorial notebook that captures some of the exciting changes at Rainier Beach, including the first year of its rigorous International Baccalaureate program.
More Rainier Beach students are doing better and passing the reading, writing and mathematics sections of the state test. Enrollment is up above 500, crucial for a school criticized for attracting too few students. Nearly all of the teachers have been trained in the IB method. All students are required to take at least one IB course.The higher level of teaching and learning is paying off. Juniors in Adam Christopulos’ IB math class are preparing for college by tackling algebra, trigonometry and calculus. When I sat in on Colin Pierce’s IB Language Arts and Literature class, students were poring over a famous photograph, “Falling Man,” to see how they’d describe the horrific image from September 11, 2001 to a blind person. Two football players relaxed on the couch and talked about a related poem by a Polish Nobel Laureate.
This is the new Beach. One would have to recall where the school once was to appreciate where it is now. Rainier Beach’s troubled leadership and scarce resources were documented in my more than decade-old Times story about a student at the Bush School pondering a transfer to Rainier Beach and in another Times story I wrote about the Cunningham family who sold their Seward Park house to avoid their daughter attending Rainier Beach.
So when a recent Times story noted Rainier Beach’s impressive jump in test scores at a time when the trend statewide was flat, I called the PTSA president Rita Green. IB has been a positive influence on the school, but so has the PTSA, an organization unapologetically lobbying lawmakers and local education groups for assistance. It has paid off. Last year, the Legislature gave Rainier Beach $1 million to help its improvement efforts. The White House called the PTSA one of the nation’s 12 ”Champions for Change.” Their new motto: “Not your Mother’s PTSA” fits to a T.
Scroll down to see some photos from my visit to Rainier Beach, located at the southern edge of Lake Washington in south Seattle. I sat in on classes, talked to teachers and students and had a great time. Enjoy. (more…)
August 13, 2013 at 6:00 AM
The choice of turning the old PacMed Center into apartments or classrooms is expected to be made Tuesday.
The Pacific Hospital Preservation and Development Authority, the public entity that owns the sprawling art deco-style building atop Beacon Hill, is holding a public meeting Tuesday starting at 6 . Afterward, the authority’s governing council is expected to vote on whether to lease the Pacific Tower building to Seattle Central Community College or to a Miami-based developer looking to convert the historic building into market-rate apartments.
For reasons underscoring the vital importance of education and healthcare, Seattle is better off if the college is chosen. Seattle Central’s plan to expand its nursing, dentistry, respiratory, surgical technical and optician programs would increase employment options for students entering the fast-growing medical fields. Healthcare providers would have access to skilled, locally-trained employees.
There is an appropriate interest in keeping the building consistent with its historic role as a place for good health care. The building was built in 1932 as a hospital for military veterans, merchant seamen and the Coast Guard. From 1998 to 2011, the building was the headquarters for Amazon.com.
A credible plan is not marred by the big feet of House Speaker Frank Chopp, who unilaterally earmarked $20 million from the state capital budget to pay for Seattle Central’s renovation of the building. An additional $4.8 million from the state operating budget would cover lease payments and other operating costs for two years.
Chopp’s rare public flexing of political muscle, detailed in this Times story, rankled some, including Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, D-Medina. Chopp’s 43rd legislative district includes Seattle Central and the Democrat found a workable way to preserve a historic building and help a fine educational institution grow.
Chopp is not the first legislator on either side of the political aisle to earmark money for a project in his or her district. That does not mean keeping an eye on the public debt created by capital spending is not a worthwhile endeavor. It is. But in this case, the spending is on an important and beneficial project.
July 29, 2013 at 6:00 AM
I recently wrote this column about my efforts to live car-free in Seattle. I argued for preserving and expanding the Metro bus network. With the August 6 primary just one week away, this is the time for us all to think about voting for leaders who understand our transportation system’s funding woes.
If you want a better understanding of where the money comes from and why Metro has reached the point of possibly cutting service by 17 percent, go to this King County Metro link. Fares increased 80 percent between 2008 and 2011. Metro’s revenue comes mostly from collecting sales taxes, which have fluctuated since the recession began. Hence the need for local option taxing authority — an argument outlined in this May 13 op-ed by King County Executive Dow Constantine. (more…)