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July 29, 2011 11:32 AM

Local government says to Congress:"Get your act together"

Posted by Emily Heffter

Local government leaders who were put on "watch" Thursday by Moody's called on Congress to, as state Treasurer Jim McIntire put it, "quit playing Russian roulette with our bond ratings."

County Executive Dow Constantine, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, three Seattle School Board members, Seattle City Council budget Chairwoman Jean Godden, King County Councilmembers Larry Gossett and Joe McDermott, and a representative from the office of Congressman Jim McDermott all showed up at the Friday morning news conference. They called on Congress to act on the debt ceiling, to stop being "reckless," and "irresponsible."

"Congress, get your act together," said McGinn. "You have no right to do this to our city."

All the representatives -- all Democrats -- said Congress should raise the debt ceiling to avoid a federal government default Aug. 2.

At the end of the speeches, KING 5 reporter Linda Brill asked: "Is there anything any of you can do, other than beg?"

And of course, there isn't. The local delegation favors raising the debt ceiling. But Constantine said he is hoping local residents will take note of the problem and contact members of Congress.

"Clearly, just being put on notice casts a cloud over our ability to borrow at the lowest rates," he said.

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July 28, 2011 3:22 PM

McDermott: every intent to run for 13th term

Posted by Jim Brunner

Once or twice a year, it seems, a rumor buzzes around that longtime Seattle Congressman Jim McDermott may finally decide to retire.

Another was circulating recently, but McDermott repeated what he's said all year: He plans to stick around and seek a 13th term.

"I like being in the Congress. I came to the Congress in 1988 with the express idea of getting a national health plan," McDermott said in a telephone interview. "I want to be here when it's being implemented."

McDermott, 74, has risen to become one of the senior Democrats on the powerful House Ways & Means Committee. He said he's confident Democrats will retake a House majority in 2012, giving him the power to work on the health-care law's implementation, specifically on changes to medical payments to get costs under control.

What gives him that confidence? McDermott cited the ongoing fight over the debt ceiling, blasting Republicans for manufacturing a crisis over what he said has in the past been a routine piece of business.

"I've been in the Congress for 23 years. We've raised the debt limit I don't know how many times. There was never this kind of nonsense. We didn't try to tie it to 27 other things," McDermott said.

As for the rumors about his own future, McDermott attributed such chatter to people who have their own congressional ambitions.

"I suspect that when I decide I'm not gonna run, there will be a couple of people who are interested in my seat," McDermott said, in a vast understatement.

But that opening, he repeated, won't be available next year.

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July 28, 2011 10:24 AM

Thankfully, Burgess rap less catchy than "Mallahan Can"

Posted by Emily Heffter

Thursday morning, Tim Burgess' campaign posted a video of the 62-year-old council member at a bar, rapping about his candidacy. (PubliCola published the lyrics).

Burgess' beat was performed at Wednesday night's Washington Bus-sponsored "Candidate Survivor" event, which seeks to engage younger voters.

The event is designed so that candidates walk the line between being able to laugh at themselves and humiliating themselves.

Burgess reportedly brought the house down with this number.

Still, I can't help but remember 2009's biggest musical mistake, Mallahan Can, which will be stuck in my head for the rest of my life.

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July 27, 2011 8:23 PM

No boycott of Bellevue Square, Constantine says

Posted by Keith Ervin

King County Executive Dow Constantine delivered a seemingly obvious message to Bellevue's movers and shakers Tuesday: Go ahead and shop at the Eastside's premier shopping center, Bellevue Square.

When an elected official has to reiterate his support of local business, you know he's gotten himself in hot water.

Constantine was scalded by reaction to his comment on a radio talk show last Thursday that he "wouldn't give 10 cents" to Tim Eyman's anti-toll, anti-light rail Initiative 1125 by shopping at Bellevue Square. Kemper Freeman, owner of the upscale mall, bankrolled the I-1125 signature-gathering with contributions topping $1 million.

And, the exec told host Steve Scher on KUOW's "Weekday," "If you shop at Bellevue Square you are contributing to that campaign." As word of those comments spread, critics said the usually cautious Constantine was calling for a boycott of Bellevue's retail engine.

Not so, he said in his previously scheduled address to the Bellevue Rotary Club luncheon in the Harbor Club two blocks from Bellevue Square.

"People should shop in Bellevue," Constantine told the Rotarians. "They should shop at Factoria, at Overlake, at The Bravern. And they should shop at Bellevue Square."

He didn't directly apologize for what he called his "pretty minor, offhand" radio comment, and reiterated his "grave concern" about the damage he said Eyman's Freeman-funded initiative would cause if passed in November.

Freeman and Constantine put their differences aside long enough to shake pompons and lead an "I scream for ice cream!" cheer. They decided together which table screamed the loudest and should win vouchers for free ice cream at this weekend's Bellevue Arts Museum artsfair.

Constantine posted a smiling photo of himself and Freeman on his Facebook page, under the words, "Bringing the region together, at today's Bellevue Rotary Club meeting."

Constantine didn't respond to state Republican Party Chair Kirby Wilbur's offer to buy him dinner Wednesday night at Ruth's Chris Steak House in Bellevue Square. Wilbur -- who called Constantine's radio comments "a little petty" -- said he would happy to make it a vegetarian dish.

"As for dining, the executive enjoyed a great lunch in Bellevue yesterday," said his spokesman, Frank Abe.

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July 27, 2011 7:06 PM

Is anti-tunnel brochure similar to McGinn-for-mayor brochure?

Posted by Lynn Thompson

UPDATE: This post was updated at 9:36 p.m. to include a comment from Bill Broadhead, who earlier could not be reached for comment.

Let's Move Forward, the pro-tunnel campaign, filed an ethics complaint Wednesday against the anti-tunnel group Protect Seattle Now, saying a campaign brochure to reject the tunnel looks a lot like a 2009 brochure for then-mayoral candidate Mike McGinn, and there's no record in campaign-disclosure forms of who contributed the design work for the anti-tunnel group.

"It looks identical to a piece Bill Broadhead (McGinn's campaign consultant) produced for the 2009 campaign," said Let's Move Forward spokesman Alex Fryer. "It's the same type face, the same paper, the same (style) black-and-white photos."

Esther Handy, campaign manager of Protect Seattle Now, said the brochure was designed by an unpaid volunteer graduate student after looking at old campaign material from several sources. She said Broadhead wasn't involved.

In March, Broadhead donated $5,000 to Protect Seattle Now, making him the largest individual donor to that campaign.

Broadhead emailed The Seattle Times late Wednesday with this comment: "The complaint is a complete fabrication. I'll personally bet Alex Fryer $5,000 that the SEEC (Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission) finds that we didn't do the piece. And when he loses the bet, he can write his check to the City of Seattle to compensate them for wasting taxpayer money investigating a bogus complaint."

Handy said she couldn't immediately say why the student's design work wasn't reported as a campaign expense or contribution to Protect Seattle Now.

Seattle Referendum 1 is on the Aug. 16 ballot. It asks voters to approve or reject a section of a city ordinance dealing with city-state agreements on the tunnel.

The eight-page black-and-white campaign brochure is titled "SEATTLE,WE CAN DO BETTER THAN THIS." The cover shows a state Department of Transportation depiction of the Highway 99 viaduct-replacement tunnel and the smaller headline "THE CASE FOR REJECTING REFERENDUM."

A 16-page black-and white brochure titled "THE MAYOR I WANT TO BE" also featured white type over a black-and-white photo with the smaller headline "BY MIKE MCGINN." It was produced for the 2009 McGinn mayoral campaign and inserted into copies of The Seattle Times for delivery to city residents.

The McGinn campaign included in its campaign financial disclosure reports the printing of the brochures and said it paid Broadhead's Mercury consulting group $4,000 for design, production, TV and general consulting.

Protect Seattle Now plans to insert the anti-tunnel campaign brochure into this Sunday's Seattle Times within the city. That expense will show up on the next financial report, Handy said.

Another charge from Let's Move Forward says focus groups commissioned by McGinn in June -- which, along with many other questions, asked about the mayor's opposition to the tunnel -- should have been reported as a campaign expense, either to the mayor's 2013 re-election campaign or to the anti-tunnel campaign. The Let's Move Forward complaint estimates the value of the focus groups at $5,000 - $8,000 per group.

Handy said Protect Seattle Now received "no data from focus groups."

Wayne Barnett, executive director of the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission, said he couldn't comment on the substance of the complaint. The commission doesn't have a meeting scheduled for August, but in the past has held emergency sessions to resolve complaints in advance of elections.

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July 27, 2011 1:07 PM

It's Kline vs. Eyman in CityClub debate

Posted by Lynn Thompson

Conspiracy theorists raised eyebrows when the lineup was announced for an Aug. 4 CityClub debate on the tunnel referendum. Representing the pro-tunnel Legislature, Seattle Sen. Adam Kline.

Kline is married to King County Superior Court Judge Laura Gene Middaugh, who ruled that a portion of a city ordinance covering city-state tunnel agreements could go on the Aug. 16 ballot.

Lawyers for Protect Seattle Now, the anti-tunnel group that defended Seattle Referendum 1 in court, unsuccessfully tried to have Middaugh removed from the case, noting that she was married to tunnel-supporter Kline.

Middaugh kept the case and gave a lengthy disclaimer in court that she and her husband observed a strict separation of powers when it came to discussing political issues.

Her ruling went against those supporting the tunnel. In what's now widely seen as a referendum on what people think of the megaproject, the city will vote on one section of the ordinance that details how the city council will give notice to the state to proceed on tunnel construction.

Kline said he got a good laugh over the challenge to his wife based on his theoretical ability to influence her ruling.

"She doesn't listen to me about anything," he said.

He said that like many professional couples, they tell each other war stories, but only talk about her cases after she's ruled.

"I've never advised her about the facts of a case, what questions she should ask or how she should rule."

As it turns out, though, Kline won't be primarily debating the tunnel with Tim Eyman, who makes his living promoting initiatives.

The two are to debate the initiative process, how initiatives and referenda are affecting governments' ability to budget and pass cohesive policy, and whether they are really a reflection of the people's will, given that many campaigns now use paid signature gatherers.

Referendum 1 will also be debated. Kate Joncas, president of the Downtown Seattle Association, which supports the tunnel, and Seattle City Councilmember Mike O'Brien, who opposes it, will argue over the meaning of the referendum and whether a vote will have any affect on the future of the viaduct replacement project.

Staff from PubliCola will moderate. The event is scheduled for 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the downtown Seattle Public Library auditorium, 1000 Fourth Ave.

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July 27, 2011 12:02 PM

Kucinich back in state next week to speak at union confab

Posted by Jim Brunner

Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich will return to Washington state again next week to speak at the Washington State Labor Council's annual convention.

Kucinich, a Democrat, has been mulling whether to run for a seat here in 2012 because his own Cleveland district may be redrawn in redistricting. While saying he hasn't made any decision to run in Washington, Kucinich has been a frequent visitor here of late

The prospect of a Kucinich candidacy hasn't sat well with state Democratic Party Chairman Dwight Pelz, who has been increasingly cranky in his statements that Kucinich should stay home.

But Kucinich definitely has his fans in the Democratic base -- especially among unions and anti-war activists.

He's been more vocal than most Washington politicians in his defense of the National Labor Relations Board's charge against Boeing for moving jobs to South Carolina in retaliation for strikes here.

Jeff Johnson, president of the labor council, said he invited Kucinich to speak at the convention after he shared a stage with him at a February rally in support of public workers in Wisconsin.

"He is one of the leading politicians in the country defending the rights of working people to collectively bargain," Johnson said.

Kucinich won't be the only prospective Democratic congressional candidate to speak at the labor gathering. State Reps. Roger Goodman and Marko Liias and former state Rep. Laura Ruderman, are also on the schedule, said Johnson. They're all candidates for the 1st District congressional seat being vacated by Jay Inslee.

Denny Heck, a possible candidate for the new 10th Congressional District, also will speak, Johnson said.

Inslee and U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell also have been invited.

The three-day convention runs Aug. 4-6 at the SeaTac DoubleTree. Kucinich is scheduled to speak on the first day, Johnson said.

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July 26, 2011 7:42 PM

UW task force calls attention to human trafficking

Posted by Lynn Thompson

The University of Washington's Task Force on Human Trafficking announced it would hold a news conference Wednesday on the controversy over the Village Voice Media's escort advertising.

On Tuesday, news of the press conference immediately fueled speculation that the group would join Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn's call for a boycott by advertisers of the Seattle Weekly, which is owned by Village Voice, whose backpages.com backpage.com has been linked to child prostitution.

But organizers of the UW press conference say that while they appreciate the attention the mayor has brought to the issue of the sexual exploitation of minors, the UW Women's Center and other advocates have been involved for years in the fight to combat human trafficking.

"The purpose of the press conference is to discuss the (Village Voice) issue in the context of what's already being done to stop human trafficking. We will not be taking a position on the Village Voice issue," said Becca Kenna-Schenk, a legislative aide to state Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, who is a member of the task force.

Kohl-Welles noted that the Legislature has addressed human trafficking and child prostitution for almost a decade, including authorizing the nation's first Task Force Against Trafficking of Persons in 2002.

In the past session, she said, the Legislature passed a bill to allow police to conduct surveillance operations on suspected human-trafficking and child prostitution activities, including undercover recordings, with the consent of the victim. The 2011 Legislature also amended the crime of of human trafficking to include people caught transporting someone intended to be forced into prostitution or manual labor.

While many members of the UW task force have been working on issues of juvenile prostitution for years, Kohl-Welles said it's only recently that "the nexus between juvenile prostitution and human trafficking" has been recognized.

She said she "very much welcomed" the focus put on the issue by McGinn. "He's really gone after it strongly," she said.

On July 8, McGinn ordered the city to suspend its advertising in the Seattle Weekly until the newspapaper developed stronger procedures to ensure it wasn't accepting ads linked to child prostitution. The following week, he asked the newspaper to stop all of its escort ads until it required persons placing escort services ads to appear in person and present photo ID to verify their age.

In a related development, Trevor Neilson, president of Global Philanthropy and adviser to Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore, Tuesday withdrew his call for a boycott of Weekly advertisers.

Neilson said that in discussion with Village Voice Media over the past week he has "come to believe they are serious about working diligently to prevent their...website from being used by those seeking to exploit children or others."

It was Neilson who first contacted McGinn about the link between backpages.com, the Seattle Weekly, and underaged prostitution.

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July 26, 2011 5:14 PM

Licata endorses Forch over Godden for Seattle City Council

Posted by Lynn Thompson

Seattle City Councilmember Nick Licata has endorsed Bobby Forch for the City Council seat now held by Jean Godden. Licata praised Forch's progressive values and outreach to neighborhoods, in a press release sent out by the Forch campaign.

The endorsement comes a day after Godden received a "good" rating from the Municipal League of King County, while Forch and another Godden opponent, Maurice Classen, were both rated "very good." A third challenger, Michael Taylor-Judd was rated "adequate."

Licata is the only incumbent council member to endorse a challenger in the upcoming City Council races. The other council members have endorsed Godden, except Mike O'Brien, the council's one tunnel opponent, who is not making endorsements in any of the races.

Forch and Classen have been waging a pitched battle to collect endorsements. The King County Young Democrats and 36th District Democrats have endorsed both Forch and Classen.

Forch picked up the lone endosement of the 37th District Democrats, while Classen won the support of the 43rd District Democrats. Godden and Forch were both endorsed by the 34th District Democrats and the 46th District Democrats.

The 11th District and the King County Democrats endorsed all three.

Forch has also picked up endorsements from prominent politicians including King County Councilmember Larry Gossett, State Rep. Eric Pettigrew and Seattle Port Commissioner Rob Holland.

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July 26, 2011 3:19 PM

Anti-tunnel campaign wants tunnel contractors to return pro-tunnel donations

Posted by Lynn Thompson


Updated at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday by Mike Lindblom

The anti-tunnel Protect Seattle Now campaign brought five people and a few jars of pennies to a Seattle office tower Wednesday morning, to protest $60,000 in campaign donations that tunnel contractors made to promote the project.

They were outnumbered by about 20 union carpenters who showed up, at the Wells Fargo Center, 999 Third Avenue. The Washington State Department of Transportation shares office space there with lead contractors Dragados and Tutor-Perini, which has already signed a $1.4 billion contract to deliver the tunnel by the end of 2015.

"These large corporations have way too much influence on a public vote like this," said Esther Handy, anti-tunnel campaign manager.

John Littel, political director for Northwest Carpenters, said the tunnel will provide 400 to 500 jobs for local crafts workers, despite opponents' slant that DOT is shipping local tax dollars to out-of state firms.

In the past, contractors and would-be contractors have made similar donations to ballot measures supporting Sound Transit, the defunct Seattle Monorail Project, the Seattle "Bridging the Gap" levy, and state highway taxes.

****************************************

The anti-tunnel campaign, Protect Seattle Now, plans to rally Wednesday outside the offices of two tunnel-contracting firms to demand they return $50,000 in donations to the pro-tunnel campaign.

"Today we are calling on tunnel supporters to return this money from the tunnel contractors and instead run a campaign based on the interest of Seattle taxpayers," said Tim Harris, director of Real Change News, part of the leadership coaltion of Protect Seattle Now.

On Monday, the pro-tunnel campaign, Let's Move Forward, announced donations of $25,000 each from Dragados USA and Tutor Perini Corp, members of Seattle Tunnel Partners, which won a $1.3 billion bid to construct the Highway 99 viaduct-replacement tunnel.

An engineering firm with a tunnel contract, HNTB, contributed $10,000 to the pro-tunnel cause.

Seattle Tunnel Partners is a joint venture of New York-based Dragados USA, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Dragados S.A., the construction division of ACS Group of Spain; and Tutor Perini Corp., based in Sylmar, Calif.

Donations from foreign corporations or their U.S. subsidiaries, are not prohibited under Seattle election laws, according to Wayne Barnett, director of the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission.

But there are restrictions on donations to candidates under federal election laws. Subsidiaries of foreign companies may make donations, but only if the funding is coming from the subsidary and not the parent company, according to Federal Elections Commission rules.

Protect Seattle Now, the "Reject" Referendum 1 campaign, denounced the donations and said they amount to taxpayer money being spent to lobby for a taxpayer-funded project.

"We don't think it's ethical for them to spend $60,000 to reap $1.3 billion in taxpayer money," said Esther Handy, campaign manager for Protect Seattle Now.

Pro-tunnel spokesman Alex Fryer asked whether the group was also going to protest outside the Microsoft headquarters, too. Microsoft also donated $25,000 Monday to the "Approve" Referendum 1 campaign.

Fryer said many business and community organizations have contributed to the pro-tunnel effort.

Seattle Tunnel Partners, he said, "are corporate partners and community partners...it's appropriate for them to join the campaign."

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July 25, 2011 1:11 PM

Muni League ratings released

Posted by Lynn Thompson

Three incumbent Seattle City Council members received "outstanding" ratings from the Municipal League of King County. Tom Rasmussen, Tim Burgess and Sally Clark all were given the highest ranking by the group based on interviews with volunteers who evaluate how good of a job the candidates are likely to do.

Rasmussen's challenger, Dale Pusey, received a "not qualified." Burgess' opponent, David Schraer, was rated "good" and Clark's opponent, Dian Ferguson, also was rated "good."

Of two other council incumbents up for reelection, Bruce Harrell received a "very good" rating compared with his opponent, Brad Meacham, who was rated "good." Jean Godden was the lowest ranked of the incumbents with a "good" rating while two of her opponents, Maurice Classen and Bobby Forch, recieved "very good" ratings. A fourth candidate, Michael Taylor-Judd also was rated "adequate."

Godden also received a "good" rating four years ago and went on to win the general election. Her campaign manager, Carlo Caldirola-Davis, said that some of Godden's strengths -- listening, building consensus and taking a fair and balanced approach to issues -- might not translate well to the Muni League's "out-of-the-box" questions.

In the King County Council races, incumbents Larry Gossett and Larry Phillips were ranked "outstanding." One of incumbent Jane Hague's challengers, Richard Mitchell, also received an "outstanding" while two others, John Creighton and Patsy Bonincontri, both were rated "good." Hague was rated "good."

In the race for Position 8, Joe McDermott received a "very good" while Diana Toledo was ranked "good."

For complete ratings, including Seattle Port Commission, Seattle School Board and Bellevue City Council, click here.

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July 22, 2011 11:58 AM

Anti-tunnel campaign apologizes for attack on pro-tunnel environmentalists

Posted by Lynn Thompson

During a debate on KUOW's Weekday program Wednesday, anti-tunnel activist Ben Schiendelman accused the pro-tunnel referendum campaign of enlisting bogus environmentalists to endorse their cause.

He called the half-dozen environmentalists who appeared at a press conference in support of the tunnel last week "a few downtown business interests who call themselves environmentalists....They are not part of the environmental community....Those names came out of no where."

That promped apologies from the anti-tunnel campaign to Kathy Fletcher, founder and 20-year executive director of People for Puget Sound, and Peter Goldman, director of the Washington Forest Law Center, who both spoke in favor of the tunnel last week and signed an op-ed piece in the online journal Crosscut.

Esther Handy, campaign manager for the "Reject" Referendum 1 measure on the August primary ballot, phoned both to apologize for Schiendelman's remarks.

"That wasn't the campaign we're trying to run. We want it to be about the facts," Handy said Thursday. City Council member Mike O'Brien also called Goldman to apologize and left a message for Fletcher.

Goldman, a big contributor to progressive political candidates, including former Sierra Club activists Mayor Mike McGinn and O'Brien, chalked up the comments to "this kid" who "made a mistake."

Still, Goldman said, it was "totally inappropriate" to challenge the credentials and environmental experience of tunnel backers because they disagreed about the project.

The environmental community has been sharply divided over the $2 billion tunnel. The Sierra Club, Sightline Institute and Earth Day co-founder Denis Hayes have all blasted the project for encouraging driving, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and squandering transportation dollars that could be better spent on less-polluting alternatives.

But other environmentalists, including Fletcher and Goldman, argue that removal of the viaduct allows for the creation of an appealing green space along the waterfront, restoration of shoreline habitat, reduction of auto emissions and storm-water runoff, and the elimination of a huge source of noise pollution.

"There's an honest difference of opinion whether this is the best environmental solution," said Goldman.

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July 22, 2011 10:04 AM

State Patrol to investigate fraudulent petition signatures

Posted by Andrew Garber

The State Patrol has been asked to investigate Initiative 1163 petition signatures that appear to be fraudulent.

The Secretary of State's office says none of the signatures were included in the estimated 340,000 signatures turned in by the campaign on July 8.

I-1163 would require background checks and training for long-term-care workers and providers. It essentially would reinstate a measure approved by voters in 2008 that was delayed by the state Legislature because of budget shortfalls. The measure is sponsored and financially backed by the Service Employees International Union.

The I-1163 campaign alerted the Secretary of State that there could be an issue with some of the signatures.

Sandeep Kaushik, a spokesman for the Yes on I-1163 campaign, said in a statement: "At no point did the I-1163 campaign either receive or pay for the petitions in question, and the person suspected of committing the fraud was a subcontractor hired by the signature gathering firm and has no affiliation with either the campaign or SEIU Healthcare 775NW, which supports I-1163. All of the suspect petition sheets have been forwarded to the Elections Office for their consideration."

You can read the press release from Dave Ammons at the Secretary of State's office on the jump.

Continue reading this post ...


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July 22, 2011 9:58 AM

Weekly editor: backpage.com helps police by attracting predators

Posted by Emily Heffter

I just listened to Thursday's KUOW interview with Mayor Mike McGinn and Seattle Weekly Editor Mike Seely.

The two were discussing McGinn's recent order to suspend all city advertising in the Weekly until it institutes stricter policies about ads promoting child prostitution on its website.

At the 15-minute mark, Seely argues that his company's classifieds site, backpage.com, is performing a public service by making it easier for police to find pimps and child prostitutes.

Here's a quick transcript of the exchange:

SEELY: I believe that if you got rid of backpage.com, you'd make law enforcement's job that much harder.
It's kind of like if you've got fruit flies in your house. Are you more effective running around the house clapping? Clapping at them and trying to get rid of them? Or putting out a bowl of fruit and attracting them? That's kind of what it boils down to.

HOST STEVE SCHER: You see backpage.com as a place that's attracting predators or exploited young women, and therefore they can be more easily arrested?

SEELY: That's absolutely accurate. It's not like we want those type of people on backpage.com but we acknowledge that some criminals are determined enough to break any type of system.

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July 22, 2011 8:45 AM

Pro- and anti-tunnel groups disagree on all aspects of Ref. 1

Posted by Emily Heffter

Pro- and anti- Referendum 1 campaign representatives met at a forum Thursday night. What do they disagree on? Everything.

-- What the referendum is really about:

"In reality, as I think this discussion will show, this is a referendum on the tunnel itself." -- Gary Manca, an attorney for the Reject Referendum 1 (anti-tunnel) campaign.

"The referendum sponsors would like us to think that this stops the tunnel, when in fact the tunnel is a state project. It's funded with $2 billion already, and that project will proceed." -- Vlad Oustimovitch, an architect and representative for Approve Referendum 1 (pro-tunnel) campaign.

-- Which option is safer:

"What we know is that the tunnels tend to do better in earthquakes ... What happens in San Francisco when there's a major earthquake? The viaducts fall down, the highways fall down, hundreds of people are killed." City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, from the pro-tunnel side.

"If you care about safety, the tunnel is the worst possible option." -- Manca

-- Which option is better for traffic:

"There's going to be a huge 14-lane interchange just south of Pioneer Square and there's going to be so much backup on Highway 99... access to downtown for West Seattleites is going to be much, much worse." -- Manca

"There are a lot of scaremongers who are going, 'oh, you're going to go downtown, no exits, you're going to have to pay tolls.' Well, the fact is, you're going to exit the tunnel just before you hit Pioneer Square. ... On the issue of tolls, when you exit and you go downtown, you will not pay any tolls. The tolls are for people who are continuing through to the north." -- Oustimovitch

-- Which option improves the waterfront:

The net impact of the viaduct coming down on the downtown is going to be just incredibly beneficial for the whole downtown." - Oustimovitch.

"Building a deep-bore tunnel is in no way required to beautify the waterfront." -- Jeff Upthegrove, on the anti-tunnel side

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July 21, 2011 3:28 PM

Seattle City Council candidate calls on organizations to retract his opponent's endorsements

Posted by Emily Heffter

Seattle City Council candidate Bobby Forch says he will write letters to other organizations asking them to un-endorse his opponent for City Council. He's upset because Maurice Classen, who also is running against Councilmember Jean Godden, got the endorsement of the Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy, or CASE, which replaced the Alki Foundation as the political arm of the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce.

Forch says Classen got the business community endorsement by opposing a proposal the council is currently considering to require some businesses to offer employees paid sick leave. According to a news release from Forch, Classen got the endorsement because he was the only candidate to "agree to obstructing and delaying action on paid sick leave if he was elected."

He said he would write letters to other progressive organizations and Democratic organizations and candidates to ask them to retract their endorsements.

Classen, who supports the paid-sick-leave ordinance, said Forch's characterization of his position on sick leave is "a complete and total fabrication."

He thinks the paid sick leave requirement is a great idea, he said, but he supports an economic impact study to help persuade more councilmembers to vote for it.

Besides Classen, CASE endorsed incumbent councilmembers Sally Clark, Tim Burgess, Bruce Harrell and Tom Rasmussen. Godden was the only incumbent who did not earn the group's endorsement.

According to a CASE news release, "endorsements are based on three criteria: support for job growth, economic development and regional competitiveness. In addition, candidates were evaluated on their support for moving forward with the bored tunnel, investing in transit and transportation infrastructure, and taking a balanced approach to tax and regulation."

George Allen, executive director of CASE, said Classen got the endorsement because he is a business owner and understands the needs of businesses. The chamber hasn't taken a stance against the paid sick leave proposal but has "some difficulties with particulars in the legislation" it is working on with the council.

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July 21, 2011 3:17 PM

City director retires following investigation into handling of fraud allegations

Posted by Lynn Thompson

This story has has been updated.

The director of Seattle's Aging and Disability Services Division retired Thursday, following a city investigation into the handling of fraud allegations at a city-funded nonprofit agency.

Pam Piering, 62, who has led the division for 15 years, was placed on paid administrative leave in May after a preliminary inquiry by the city Human Services Department questioned whether she adequately responded to a whistle-blower complaint alleging that city funds were being misappropriated in a program run by Senior Services of Seattle-King County.

Senior Services, a nonprofit social-services agency with more than $4.2 million in city contracts, fired a program manager in March and forwarded to Seattle police evidence it said suggested that $89,000 in city funds had been misappropriated. The King County Prosecutor's office is continuing to investigate the case and no charges have been filed.

Piering said she wasn't retiring over the investigation, but rather the leadership of the Human Services department under Dannette Smith, who was appointed director by Mayor Mike McGinn last year. The Aging and Disability division is part of the Human Services department.

"I'm not confident that I can work effectively under the department's current leadership," Piering said. She had worked for the city for 30 years.

The city had planned this week to release an independent investigation report into the handling of the fraud allegations. But the Human Services Department released a statement Thursday afternoon saying some department staff named in the report had filed a restraining order to prevent its release until a court hearing.

Several employees also were told of proposed disciplinary actions, the statement said.

Piering declined to comment on the investigation or the report.

Piering was in Washington, D.C., earlier this week to accept a national award for a city-led program that provides case management to Medicaid clients with chronic health-care needs.

Several of Piering's colleague's said her retirement would deprive the city of an outstanding administrator.

"When I talk to people doing this work nationally, they say that Pam is their idol. She is who they want to be when they grow up. She is one of those rare individuals who is a visionary in the field of aging," said Don Moreland, a member of the Seattle-King County Advisory Council for Aging and Disability Services.

The Human Services Department received an anonymous complaint last November alleging that city funds going to a Senior Services program were being misappropriated.

Piering directed a follow-up visit to Senior Services in December, but did not uncover any instances of fraud.

The complainant wasn't satisfied with the investigation and reported the concerns to a state agency, which notified Senior Services and the city in March. Senior Services' administrators found evidence that a program manager for the Kinship Caregiver Support Program was authorizing checks to a vendor for whom no documentation could be found. Some clients contacted by the agency said they never received services.

Smith's leadership of the Human Services Department previously came under fire in December when she merged the division of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Prevention with other programs. When she was hired, Smith described herself as a "change agent" who was looking for ways for the city to deliver services more effectively.

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July 19, 2011 5:23 PM

Ethics concerns nix brown bag on tunnel tolling

Posted by Lynn Thompson

Seattle City Councilmember Mike O'Brien has canceled a planned brown-bag hearing on the effects of tolling the Highway 99 tunnel after he was advised it would run afoul of city ethics rules.

O'Brien, the council's lone tunnel opponent, proposed hosting a special meeting of his Seattle Public Utilities and Neighborhoods Committee on July 28. O'Brien said he wanted the council briefed on the Nelson/Nygaard report, which estimates that 40,000 cars a day will avoid the tunnel and use city streets if the tunnel is tolled. The state has proposed tolling as a way to help pay for the $2 billion tunnel.

But when O'Brien announced his plans at a council briefing Monday, several of his colleagues including Richard Conlin, Bruce Harrell and Tim Burgess, suggested it was too close to the primary election. They asked O'Brien to get advice from the Seattle Ethics and Elections office before proceeding.

In an emailed reply this morning, Ethics and Elections Executive Director Wayne Barnett told O'Brien it would be "difficult to impossible" to limit the scope of the hearing so it didn't appear to be in support or opposition to the Aug. 16 tunnel referendum.

Barnett said had O'Brien held the hearing shortly after the report was released in April, the conflict might not have existed.

Barnett concluded that the city ethics code says clearly that an elected official may not promote a ballot measure and that a reasonable person could conclude that his hearing, scheduled just days before primary ballots are to be mailed, could be seen as an attempt to influence the outcome of an election.

"A reasonable person would interpret a brown bag focused on tolling as primarily intended to promote opposition to the Referendum," Barnett wrote.

O'Brien said his goal "wasn't to have a one-sided propaganda machine, but a discussion with Nelson/Nygaard and the state about the facts and our differences in how we interpret them."

O'Brien said he repeatedly tried to schedule a briefing on the report earlier in the spring. He said he e-mailed Tom Rasmussen, chairman of the council Transportation Committee, other committee members and council central staff, but a hearing was never scheduled. He was on vacation through most of June and said the July 28 date was the earliest he could schedule his own committee.

O'Brien said he was concerned that the comment period on the final environmental review for the tunnel closes Aug. 15 and that the council still hasn't had a briefing on the potential impact of tolling.

The Nelson/Nygaard report itself reviewed hundreds of pages of transportation data and analysis, O'Brien said. He had also invited city transportation Director Peter Hahn and the state's tunnel project adminstrator, Ron Paananen, to participate.

"There should be a mechanism to debate the facts in a way that is fair to both sides," O'Brien said. He said he's now hoping to hold the hearing Aug. 18, after both the election and the final environmental report comment period.

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July 19, 2011 4:40 PM

Coalition forms to fight Eyman tolling initiative

Posted by Andrew Garber

A coalition including business, labor and environmental groups has formed to take on Tim Eyman's Initiative 1125, which seeks to ban potential I-90 tolls from being applied to the Highway 520 bridge project and forbid Sound Transit light rail from running on the I-90 floating bridge.

The coalition calls itself Keep Washington Rolling, which is the same name a similar coalition used back in 2005 to fight an initiative that would have repealed a 9.5 cent gas tax increase. That initiative failed.

The group has registered a political action committee with the state Public Disclosure Commission called No on I-1125. State records show no campaign contributions so far.

Eyman's group, on the other hand has raised nearly $1.3 million, with most of the money coming from Bellevue real estate developer Kemper Freeman.

I-1125 would require that the Legislature, not the state Transportation Commission, set tolls and mandate that a toll on a particular road or bridge be used only for construction, operation or maintenance of that project.

It also would bar the state from allowing highway lanes built with any gas-tax money to be used for mass transit. Eyman says that would effectively block Sound Transit's plans to put light rail on the I-90 bridge.

"I-1125 is a new attack on transportation and transit projects in Washington state," Steve Mullin, president of the Washington Roundtable, said in a statement released by the opposition. "That business, labor, environmentalists and community leaders from around the state are standing together to oppose this effort in a nearly unprecedented coalition speaks volumes about just how much harm I-1125 would do to our economy and quality of life in Washington state."

Freeman released his own statement in response to the no campaign, saying in part that "Tolls aren't taxes and I-1125 keeps it that way. I'm firmly committed to helping the campaign get its message out to the voters over the next few months."

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July 18, 2011 4:45 PM

Ferguson restriction for pretrial defendants appears to have the votes

Posted by Bob Young

After some legislative maneuvering, a controversial proposal by Metropolitan King County Council member Bob Ferguson to restrict alternatives to incarceration for some pretrial defendants appears on a path to approval.

Ferguson's proposal would prohibit defendants with a record of violent crime from being released into jail alternatives that often include daily monitoring, work training and substance-abuse programs.

King County Superior Court judges strongly oppose the proposal because they would lose discretion in individual cases. Judges argue it would also increase jail populations and have a "disparate" impact on economic and racial minorities.

Judges weren't the only obstacle facing Ferguson. He didn't have the votes needed to get the proposal out of the council's law and justice committee, which he chairs. Ferguson and fellow committee member Reagan Dunn support the legislation; they are both running for state attorney general next year. Larry Gossett, Kathy Lambert and Joe McDermott have spoken against it.

So Ferguson asked the full nine-member council on Monday to "relieve" the committee of the legislation and send it directly to the full council.

Gossett, Lambert and McDermott voted against the move, arguing the legislation was flawed and unnecessary. But Ferguson, Dunn, Jane Hague, Julia Patterson and Pete von Reichbauer voted to have the full council take up the issue next week. Councilmember Larry Phillips stepped out during the vote, but when he returned to chambers said he would have voted with the majority.

The five votes to send the proposal to the full council could be seen as a proxy vote to pass the legislation itself. It remains to be seen if a robust debate will occur next week or if the seemingly outnumbered opponents (and judges) will quietly object.

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July 18, 2011 2:57 PM

Seattle council approves food trucks on the street

Posted by Beth Kaiman

From Staff reporter J.B. Wogan:

Food trucks will be able to set up shop on Seattle streets, instead of just on private lots, under a bill approved Monday afternoon by the City Council.

Trucks will not be allowed in residential neighborhoods, near high schools or within 50 feet of an existing food business. Some restaurant owners had expressed concern about competition from the trucks, which can do business more cheaply, in part, because they don't pay rent or property taxes.

Food-truck owners will pay the city a parking fee of $2.25 per hour for four-hour time slots, amounting to $9 per day.

The city plans to use a lottery system when more than one vendor applies for the same location and time.

Under current law, truck owners do business on private lots. In most cases, they pay rent to the land owners.

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July 13, 2011 3:54 PM

National Urban League committed to help local chapter

Posted by Bob Young

The Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle is too important to fail, said National Urban League President Marc Morial in a statement Wednesday.

Morial, former mayor of New Orleans, said the National Urban League is committed to maintaining an active affiliate in Seattle and will continue to help stabilize the local chapter, which has lost leaders, laid off staff, cuts programs and put its headquarters up for sale. Some of the local chapter's problems stem from criticism leveled at it by a scathing state audit of wasteful spending by Seattle Public Schools.

The local chapter is an important asset "whose presence must be maintained within the community," Morial said.

Morial said he is confident the Seattle affiliate could regain stability with support from a strong local board, the National Urban League, and local community leaders.

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July 13, 2011 11:53 AM

Three initiatives raise more than $1 million each in contributions

Posted by Andrew Garber

The latest campaign finance reports show that Costco, Bellevue developer Kemper Freeman and the Service Employees International Union have each put more than $1 million into initiatives that will likely appear on the November ballot.

State reports show I-1183, which would privatize the state liquor system, has raised $1.86 million in cash and in-kind contributions, largely from Costco. The initiative would close state liquor stores and sell their assets, including the liquor-distribution center. It would allow private stores to sell liquor and create licensing fees for sale and distribution of liquor based on sales revenue.

I-1125, which would make it harder to toll highways, has raised almost $1.3 million with nearly $1.1 million of that coming from Freeman. The measure, sponsored by long-time initiative promoter Tim Eyman, would require the Legislature, not the state Transportation Commission, to set tolls, and mandate that a toll on a particular road or bridge be used only for construction, operation or maintenance of that project.

I-1163, aimed at reinstating training requirements for home health-care workers, has raised $1.38 million, all of it coming from SEIU. The measure would require background checks and training for long-term-care workers and providers. It essentially would reinstate a measure approved by voters in 2008 that was delayed by the Legislature because of budget shortfalls.

Sponsors of I-1183, estimate they turned in more than 350,000 signatures to the Secretary of State's office last week; I-1125 turned in a projected 327,000 signatures and I-1163 backers say they delivered more than 340,000 signatures.

The state requires at least 241,153 valid signatures of registered voters.

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July 12, 2011 6:25 PM

Activists want three majority-minority King County Council districts

Posted by Bob Young

Minority activists are arguing that King County Council districts should be re-drawn so three districts have a majority of people of color in them.

The county is in the midst of redistricting, which it is required to do using 2010 census data. The idea is that districts should be realigned every 10 years to reflect changing populations. A five-member committee must complete that work by January 2012.

Before a public hearing Tuesday night on redistricting, a coalition called United for Fair Representation announced it would advocate for three majority-minority districts. The coalition includes the Latino PAC of Washington, the Win Win Network, OneAmerica and other groups.

In a statement, the coalition said none of the committee's four redistricting proposals would create a majority-minority district. People of color "will feel that their vote is not diluted and will matter" in majority-minority districts, according to the coalition.

"Each of the four proposals dilutes the voting strength of communities of color, which comprises one third of King County's population," stated George Cheung, executive director of the Win Win Network in the coalition's announcement.

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July 11, 2011 4:12 PM

Gregoire names new chief of staff

Posted by Andrew Garber

Marty Loesch will be Gov. Chris Gregoire's new chief of staff, starting July 18.

Loesch has been the governor's director of external affairs and senior counsel since January 2009. He'll replace Jay Manning, who announced last month that he's stepping down as chief of staff.

Before joining Gregoire's staff, Loesch worked as inter-governmental affairs director and tribal attorney for the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community and practiced law for three private firms. The governor's office says he's also worked as an international election monitor in South Africa, Bosnia and Republika Srpska and an international law consultant with Catholic Relief Services.

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July 11, 2011 3:09 PM

Seattle City Council welcomes seagulls, supports ending wars

Posted by Emily Heffter

The Seattle City Council voted Monday to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan "as soon as possible."

Led by Councilmember Nick Licata, members passed the not-so-controversial resolution 9-0.

In the resolution, the council points out its past support for employees who served in the wars but says the billions of dollars being spent on the wars would better be used on domestic priorities, some in Seattle.

"Seattle is hurting in this recession," Licata said. "We need federal dollars spent here, not abroad, to create jobs get our economy growing again."

In other news Monday out of Seattle City Hall, three seagulls were born on the City Hall green roof. The City Council's Twitter feed featured the news.

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July 8, 2011 7:05 PM

Paid sick leave in Seattle: a gay-rights issue?

Posted by Beth Kaiman

From Staff Reporter J.B. Wogan:

Since Seattle City Councilmember Nick Licata introduced his proposal for paid sick days two weeks ago, political advocates have framed the debate as a public-health issue, a low-income workers issue, a quality-of-life issue, an immigrant-rights issue, and more broadly, a labor issue.

And now, it's being cast as a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issue.

"Many LGBT workers are concentrated in industries where paid sick leave is not typical," said Mike Andrew, from the King County chapter of Pride At Work, an AFL-CIO constituency group.

The proposal would require all businesses in Seattle to provide a minimum number of paid sick days to their workers. The number of days required would be on a sliding scale, with larger businesses providing more paid sick days. There are some exceptions, for instance, for shift-swapping and for businesses that operate under collective-bargaining agreements.

Workers could use days if they or a family member were injured, ill, or scheduled for a medical appointment, among other reasons.

Seattle would be one of the first cities in the country to pass such a law.

Andrew said he knows paid sick leave is important to his membership, which he estimated to be about 450, based on anecdotal information. He doesn't know how many or what percentage of gay, bisexual and transgender Seattle workers do not receive paid sick days, he said.

"Nobody knows for sure how many LGBT workers there are because no one counts us," Andrew said.

So why are LGBT advocates so sure that their members have a stake in this fight?

Debbie Carlsen, from the LGBTQ Allyship said she's spoken to group members at the Pride Parade and other LGBT events. Like Andrew, she's also spoken to union members who say a high percentage of workers in industries that do not typically provide paid sick days, such as restaurant and retail, are gay, bisexual, or transgender

The proposal would allow workers to use the paid sick days to care for family members. That would include domestic partners, not just spouses, Andrew said.

"If the proposed ordinance had said 'spouse,' that would have been problematic. Same sex couples are forbidden to marry in this state," Andrew said. "That doesn't mean that we don't have partners or other family members."

Another reason the LGBT community is backing the proposal is that two local prominent gay businesses owners -- Jody Hall of Cupcake Royale and Risa Blythe of Girlie Press -- support it, Carlsen said.

"I haven't thought about it from that perspective. That's interesting," Hall said. "I don't necessarily segment it out for that gay population."

"My take on it comes more from workers' rights," Blythe said. "I try to follow the principles in the same way unions try to think of their people's rights."

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July 8, 2011 5:15 PM

Democrats knock McKenna for asking camera to be turned off

Posted by Andrew Garber

The state Democratic Party has posted a video showing Attorney General Rob McKenna asking a videographer for the Democrats to turn off his camera at a Bellevue event on Thursday night.

"McKenna has a long track record ... about open public meetings but apparently it doesn't apply to the attorney general," state Democratic Party Chairman Dwight Pelz said Friday. "It really is an act of hypocrisy."

McKenna could not be reached for comment. His campaign manager and former chief of staff, Randy Pepple, said "Rob is busy and this is a non issue."

The encounter was first reported by the online news site Publicola.

A video posted by the state Democratic Party shows McKenna addressing a group and about a minute into the recording he notices the video cameraman and asks who he is.

When videographer says he's from the Washington state Democrats, McKenna asks him if he had permission to record the event, advertised by the King County Young Republicans. McKenna then asks someone off camera if the guy had permission. The answer was no.

Then McKenna turns to the videographer and says "we're going to ask you to put the camera away. You can stay or you can leave, but you need to put the camera away."

The scene escalates from there with members of the group asking the cameraman to leave. McKenna, after the initial encounter, keeps silent and eventually leaves the room.

Pepple said he wasn't at the event. He could only respond to the report he'd seen on Publicola describing what happened.

"It is Rob's feeling that that the group hosting the meeting should be able to say whether or not they want their members to be part of a recorded event to be used by Dwight Pelz in a hit piece," Pepple said.

He added that "if a group doesn't want themselves recorded they should have that right. It's common courtesy, if not law."

Watch the video on the jump.

Continue reading this post ...


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July 8, 2011 4:58 PM

Eyman initiative tosses sand into Highway 99 tunnel toll plans

Posted by Mike Lindblom

If Tim Eyman's Initiative 1125 becomes law, it might cause a funding gap for the Highway 99 tunnel, to replace the aging Alaskan Way Viaduct.

Eyman told The Seattle Times he turned in what he estimates to be 327,043 signatures Friday in Olympia, making it a "slam dunk" I-1125 will qualify for the ballot.

Among other clauses, it would allow only flat-rate tolling, similar to the $2.75 fee charged eastbound-only on the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge. But the Highway 520 floating bridge and the Highway 99 tunnel are supposed to use variable tolls -- so that on Highway 520 the rates range from zero overnight, to $3.50 each way in the peak commute hours. An environmental-impact statement released Thursday for Highway 99 examines tunnel tolls ranging from 84 cents to an average $2.44 to a peak of $4.21.

The tunnel needs enough toll revenue to support $400 million in construction bonds the state Legislature required, to supplement $2.4 billion in gas taxes and federal bridge grants to replace the old Alaskan Way Viaduct.

"A flat toll rate would not achieve our objective as far as financing the project," said Highway 99 administrator Ron Paananen, asked about I-1125 during a news conference Friday about a newly released environmental-impact statement. "We would have to work with legislators and the governor's office, as far as handling that difference."

There are many other variables that can affect the highway funds, not to mention traffic flows.

The state DOT has been studying a gradual evolution toward region-wide tolling on multiple highways, under both Secretary Paula Hammond and predecessor Doug MacDonald. Gov. Chris Gregoire and Senate Transportation Chairwoman Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, have called for a new round of transportation taxes in 2012.

Eyman's measure could win, lose, or be voided in part or whole by lawsuits. The state toll revenue projections could be way high or low.

One strategem that seems unavailable is for the state DOT to legally "lock in" variable tolls before I-1125, by writing those into a bond covenant. Paananen said toll-backed bonds won't be sold until 2014-15, toward the end of the deep drilling operation through downtown Seattle. (Courts allowed Sound Transit to keep collecting its car-tab tax until 2028 because 30-year bonds were already sold, despite a repeal clause in Eyman's winning I-776 nine years ago.)

Eyman said he's not singling out Highway 99, but flat tolls everywhere. He argues that variable tolls favor the rich, who can afford peak rates, and hurt the poor, who have less flexibility to commute at other times.

"Tolls have always been flat. That's the way it's been done for 100 years in our state. It's fair and it works," he said. Eyman had no specifics Friday as to how a tunnel funding gap should be closed, except he thinks flat tolls would be just as lucrative.

I-1125 also seeks to forbid Sound Transit light rail from running on the I-90 floating bridge, and to ban potential I-90 tolls from being applied to the underfunded Highway 520 project.

Bellevue developer Kemper Freeman, who has campaigned against Eastside light rail, has contributed $525,000 to Eyman's organization, which hires paid signature gatherers.

Eyman opponent Andrew Villeneuve, founder of the Northwest Progressive Insitute, points out that in Initiative 912 six years ago, voters defeated Eyman and upheld gas taxes, including those to replace the viaduct.

"If you wreck the corridor by dropping the ball, and not getting the facility built, that's bad for economy, and bad for trade with other countries," he said.

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July 8, 2011 11:40 AM

Pro-tunnel campaign leader: Ref. 1 is "proxy vote" on project

Posted by Emily Heffter

On Friday morning, Highway 99 tunnel supporter and head of the King County Labor Council Dave Freiboth told me that Referendum 1 is "a proxy vote on the tunnel."

That's a surprising thing to hear from him, given that he and other tunnel supporters have been adamant for months that the Seattle referendum -- brought by the Sierra Club and other tunnel opponents -- is meaningless.

Just last month, the Let's Move Forward campaign argued before the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission to allow the Voters' Guide to include an explicit statement that the Aug. 16 vote will neither approve or reject the tunnel.

(The ballot measure deals with how the Seattle City Council would give notice to the state to finalize tunnel agreements.)

The Let's Move Forward Voters' Guide statement -- signed by Freiboth and two others -- says: "The text of Ref. 1 is confusing and voters have a right to be angry and impatient. Legal experts and reporters acknowledge it's not an up-or-down vote on the tunnel."

But on Friday Freiboth said, "It is a proxy vote on the project, and so technically, it doesn't matter, politically, it matters. ...And so we're taking it seriously." He added: "If the public wants a say on the project, then let's get on with it."

In our conversation this morning, Freiboth went on to say that if the referendum fails, proponents of the tunnel will have to move forward anyway. "If we lose, we have to continue to say it doesn't stop the process."

The no on Referendum 1 campaign, Protect Seattle Now, has been arguing that the referendum, even if it doesn't technically compel the City Council to stop the tunnel, would show enough political opposition to force the council to withhold its support.

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July 8, 2011 10:13 AM

Initiative backers turn in signatures for I-1183 and I-1125

Posted by Andrew Garber

Updated

Sponsors for a liquor privatization initiative and a measure that would make it harder to toll state highways each turned in more than 300,000 signatures to the Secretary of State on Friday.

Sponsors of the liquor privatization initiative, I-1183, estimate they turned in more than 350,000 signatures. And anti-tax activist Tim Eyman says he turned in around 327,000 signatures for I-1125, which sets conditions on tolling.

In both cases, that should be more than enough to meet the state requirement for the valid signatures of at least 241,153 registered voters. The deadline is Friday to turn in petitions.

One other initiative is still expected to turn in signatures: I-1163 would reinstate training requirements for home health-care workers.

I-1183 would close state liquor stores and sell their assets, including the liquor-distribution center. It would allow private stores to sell liquor and create licensing fees for sale and distribution of liquor based on sales revenues. Costco is the main backer, providing most of the more than $950,000 in cash and in-kind contributions raised so far.

I-1125 would require the Legislature, not the state Transportation Commission, to set tolls, and mandate that a toll on a particular road or bridge be used only for construction, operation or maintenance of that project. Tim Eyman is the sponsor, and Bellevue developer Kemper Freeman the main financial supporter

I-1163 would require background checks and training for long-term-care workers and providers. It essentially would reinstate a measure approved by voters in 2008 that was delayed by the state Legislature because of budget shortfalls. The measure is sponsored and financially backed by the Service Employees International Union

The Secretary of State's office plans to being checking signatures on July 18.

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July 7, 2011 6:34 PM

DSCC blames 'staff error' for Murray fund-raising appeal to Koch exec

Posted by Jim Brunner

Update: Friday 12:32 p.m.: DSCC sent a response to the Koch executive, blaming the appeal for money on a "staff error" and rescinding it -- while getting in several digs at the Kochs and their involvement in "right-wing smear campaigns." (See bottom of post for full text.)

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, in her role as head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, tried to tap an odd donor recently while dialing for campaign dollars to retain the Democrats' Senate majority.

Koch Industries, and its owners, billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, have been favorite targets for Democrats' scorn for their massive financial support of conservative political causes. The brothers are the favorite moneyed villain of the left, much as George Soros is for the right.

Yet Murray apparently made a recent fundraising pitch to a Koch executive, seeking a five-figure contribution, Koch Industries said today in an open letter posted on its web site.

The letter, from Koch executive Philip Ellender, expresses surprise at the appeal coming after months of Democratic "disparagements and ad hominem attacks" on Koch.

"So you can imagine my chagrin when I got a letter from you on June 17 asking us to make five-figure contributions to the DSCC. You followed that up with a voicemail indicating that, if we contributed heavily enough, we would garner an invitation to join you and other Democratic leaders at a retreat in Kiawah Island this September."


"I'm hoping you can help me understand the intent of your request because it's hard not to conclude that DSCC politics have become so cynical that you actually expect people whom you routinely denounce to give DSCC money," Ellender wrote.

The company also posted Murray's voice message.

A call to a Murray spokesperson was not immediately returned Thursday. (It does appear that Ellender has given money to Democrats in the past, despite Koch's Republican leanings.)

But I guess it's safe to say this is one contribution Murray's DSCC won't be counting on.

Update: The DSCC's executive director released a response to Ellender Friday, saying staff error was to blame for Murray's fund-raising phone call and letter. The letter drips with sarcasm over Ellender's "genuine, heartfelt concern" regarding Murray's fund-raising appeal and bashes the Kochs for their anonymous contributions to "right-wing smear campaigns across the country."

Here is the full letter:

Continue reading this post ...


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July 7, 2011 5:29 PM

Tunnels, tolls and traffic: The environmental statement is out

Posted by Mike Lindblom

The state Department of Transportation is out with its final environmental impact statement for its proposed deep-bored Highway 99 tunnel, thousands of pages posted Thursday at www.alaskanwayviaduct.org.

Activists and political fans will be especially interested in Appendix V.

A few months ago, anti-tunnel Mayor Mike McGinn and the Nelson/Nygaard consulting firm released a study that proposes a wholesale change in Seattle travel patterns -- to dramatically reduce driving in favor of more transit, surface streets and commute-reduction programs, instead of a highway replacement. Appendix V includes this report, as well as blunt rebuttal comments by the state and Federal Highway Administration.

Among other points, the EIS contends the Puget Sound region "has not embraced" the idea of government programs to deter driving.

There are also updated sections on tolling and traffic. These mention possible toll rates that average more than $2 each way, and peak at just over $4. We haven't had time to examine Thursday's release yet, but earlier drafts predicted tolling could cause 40,000 or more cars to be diverted onto Interstate 5 or side streets each day.

Governments don't have a coherent plan yet to reduce diversion, or to protect Pioneer Square from overflow traffic near the Sodo interchange, though meetings and discussions are underway. It will be interesting to see what ideas (if any) are in the FEIS. Are there ways to lower the toll rate? Would parking spaces, road lanes, or traffic signals be changed to protect the Square?

The biggest news may be the timing of the document. Thursday's release moves the state DOT closer to getting a final "record of decision" in August from the feds, allowing a groundbreaking.

Meanwhile, Seattle voters will vote next month on Referendum 1, regarding the City Council's tunnel agreements with the state. An "approved" result endorses the agreements, while a "rejected" outcome would send a political message that voters oppose the tunnel.

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July 7, 2011 12:32 PM

Pro-tunnel campaign shows off environmental support

Posted by Emily Heffter

At a news conference Thursday morning, five longtime environmental activists said they support the Highway 99 tunnel. They're at odds with environmentalist Mayor Mike McGinn and the Sierra Club, which has financed Referendum 1, an effort to stop the tunnel.

The referendum is on the Aug. 16 ballot.

There's a divide among environmentalists, acknowledged Seattle Aquarium chief executive Bob Davidson, one of those on hand to show support for the tunnel. He said people who have been involved in the discussion for years believe in their side of the argument with a religious fervor.

"Rational discussion doesn't carry the day," he said.

The pro-tunnel campaign Let's Move Forward gathered together Davidson and four others, each of whom said they don't generally support highway projects and acknowledged the anti-tunnel crowd makes good points about global warming.

But they said they were won over by a belief the tunnel will take cars off the city streets and make them safer for pedestrians, and by the possibility of a redesigned waterfront without a viaduct in the middle of it.

"If you want to get people out of their cars and get them onto bikes ... the solution is not to turn it into Montlake Boulevard on the bay," said Russ Daggatt, a board member at Earthjustice, a national nonprofit public-interest law firm, and a conservation organization called American Rivers.

Several of them said supporting the tunnel was something of a compromise. "This is not easy, but I think at the end of the day it's the best alternative," said Peter Goldman, director of the Washington Forest Law Center.

Goldman says he voted for McGinn, the city's chief tunnel opponent. But he said he was giving $1,000 to the pro-tunnel campaign.

Kathy Fletcher, founder and former executive director of People for Puget Sound, also said she was an early opponent of a tunnel, but her views changed during the time she sat on a stakeholder committee.

"I cannot see the sense in taking it (the Alaskan Way Viaduct) down and putting all the cars that were on it back on the surface," said Maryanne Tagney-Jones, who serves on the Council of Advisors at the Cascade Land Conservancy.

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July 7, 2011 12:03 PM

Backers cancel initiative to give chickens better living conditions

Posted by Andrew Garber

The sponsors of an initiative to give chickens roomier accommodations decided to call it quits on Thursday, apparently after collecting what would likely be enough signatures to put it on the ballot.

Organizers said they have more than 350,000 signatures so far and the Secretary of State recommends collecting 320,000 to have enough valid voters to qualify for the ballot.

The measure was dropped after the Humane Society of the United States and the United Egg Producers reached an agreement to "work together toward the enactment of comprehensive new federal legislation for all 280 million hens involved in U.S. egg production," according to a press release sent out this morning.

Initiative 1130 would have prohibited keeping egg-laying hens in stacked cages, or in cages that prevent them from moving freely and fully extending their wings. It also would have barred the sale of eggs from businesses that didn't comply with the law.

The sponsors raised more than $560,000 in cash and in-kind contributions, spending much of it on paid signature gathering.

Initiative backers say the proposed federal legislation, among other things, would require conventional cages to be replaced with new housing that provide each hen nearly double the amount of space they currently have.

Three other initiatives still have appointments to turn in signatures on Friday: Initiative 1183 would privatize the state liquor business; Initiative 1125 would make it harder to toll state highways and I-1163 would reinstate training requirements for home health-care workers.

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July 7, 2011 10:33 AM

Seattle candidates can now rip opponents in Voters' Guide

Posted by Bob Young

The Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission has ditched a long-standing rule that prohibited candidates from discussing their opponents in the taxpayer-funded Voters' Guide.

In a 7-0 vote Wednesday, commissioners cleared the way for possible incivility in the 400-word statements candidates can submit to the guide.

The new policy will be in play for the Nov. 8 general election Voters' Guide.

Candidates will not be allowed to use defamatory, libelous, profane or obscene language under city rules. City Councilmember Bruce Harrell, who's running for re-election this year, asked the commission to bar statements that are false or materially misleading.

But Wayne Barnett, executive director of the commission, said such a ban was beyond the watchdog group's authority; it would require the council to change city law. "That's where the media comes in and calls it out. Hopefully there's a penalty to be paid at the ballot box for lying on your voters' pamphlet statement," Barnett said.

The commission's decision has been brewing for years. Back in 2001, City Council candidate Grant Cogswell wanted to criticize the record of his opponent, then-incumbent Richard McIver.

City rules didn't allow that so Cogswell challenged them in federal court, where ultimately the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that city government provided the voters' guide forum so it could set non-discriminatory rules.

In 2004, the City Council pushed the issue to the commission, saying it was important for the commission's independence that it have the final say. At the time, Councilmember Jean Godden said the ban was "almost an incumbent-protection clause."

Why now? Seven years later? "The commission had routine revisions of the rules on the agenda and took the opportunity to look at the rule, which has long divided the commission," Barnett said.

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July 5, 2011 7:08 AM

Brian Sonntag will not run for governor

Posted by Andrew Garber


State Auditor Brian Sonntag, a Democrat, sent out an email late Monday night saying he will not run for governor.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee previously announced he's running for governor. So did Republican state Attorney General Rob McKenna.

Here's Sonntag's email:

I truly appreciate all the encouragement from a variety of people and organizations about a possible candidacy for Governor. This support has caused me to give this serious consideration. However, I will not be a candidate for Governor in 2012.

The Office of State Auditor continues to be a good fit and the place where I can best contribute and focus on my values.

*Advocating for Open and Accessible Government
*Holding Government Accountable to Citizens and
*Valuing Public Employees as a Primary Resource

In addition, I believe every candidate for state office must address today's foremost issues:

*Getting the State's financial house in order;
*Sustainability of State Funds and Programs
*Right sizing the footprint of state government and
*Engaging citizens in a real priority setting effort

I wish all candidates the best and offer whatever help this office can provide to whoever is elected.


Brian Sonntag

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July 1, 2011 3:06 PM

Ashton Kutcher helps Mike McGinn fight prostitution

Posted by Lynn Thompson

UPDATED 5:06 P.M to correct the title of Seattle Weekly Managing Editor Caleb Hannan. The original post said he was the editor.

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn Friday jumped into the controversy over ads Village Voice Media runs for adult services that have been linked to child prostitution.

Village Voice Media owns the Seattle Weekly, which this week features a cover story on Ashton Kutcher and his wife Demi Moore, criticizing them as distorting the extent of the problem of sex-trafficking of minors.

In a letter Friday to Village Voice Media CEO Jim Larkin, McGinn said the Seattle Police Department has identified Backpage ads as an "accelerant" of underage prostitution.

"I understand that you have existing policies aimed at preventing the trafficking of minors. But the problem remains. It's time to rexamine your policies. We must do better," McGinn's letter said, in part.

McGinn's letter and a memo from Police Chief John Diaz accusing Backpage.com and the Village Voice of not doing enough to combat child prostitution, were forwarded to Trevor Neilson, philanthropy adviser to celebrities including Kutcher and Moore.

Kutcher tweeted a link to the mayor's webpage, which caused some of his 7 million Twitter followers to flood the city's servers, temporarily knocking out the site for city blogs, said McGinn spokesman Aaron Pickus.

Kutcher praised McGinn in his tweet and said, "I think every mayor should take human trafficking as serious as mayormcginn in seattle."

The managing editor of the Seattle Weekly, Caleb Hannan, responded to a Neilson tweet with his own: "For the last time, Trevor, seattleweekly doesn't sell that ad. That ad is sold by villagevoice, our parent company."

Kutcher and Moore created a foundation to end child sex slavery and have spoken out about the Backpage.com ads as contributing to the problem.

In March, a Seattle man was the first person in King County convicted of promoting the commercial sex abuse of a minor.

Seattle police arrested the man after Bellevue police alerted them to a photo of a 15-year-old girl posted on Backpage.com. The judge who presided over the trial characterized the site as "free speech to prostitute young girls."

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July 1, 2011 1:52 PM

Real Change defends donation to anti-tunnel effort

Posted by Emily Heffter

Among the biggest contributors to a referendum effort to stop the Highway 99 tunnel is Real Change newspaper, a non-profit street newspaper distributed by homeless people.

The paper gave $3,000 on June 17, a significant chunk for the Protect Seattle Now campaign, which has raised just over $65,000 (and had just $1,100 on hand at the end of May, according to election-finance reports).

Referendum 1 is on the Aug. 16 ballot.

Alex Fryer, spokesman for the pro-tunnel effort, Let's Move Forward, called the contribution "jawdropping."

Real Change Executive Director Tim Harris said his non-profit organization budgets $3,000 for political organizing. This year, they gave all of it to the anti-tunnel effort.

"I'm proud to be able to support the campaign," he said. "I think it's well within our advocacy role and I wish we could do more."

Real Change has a $950,000 annual budget and sells a weekly paper for $1 an issue.
Fryer said opposing the tunnel in print is one thing, but supporting the campaign financially crosses a line.

Harris scoffed and pointed to the "downtown business interests" contributing money to the pro-tunnel effort.

"Oh good God," he said, "I mean, look at who funds them. ... Talk about the pot calling the kettle black."

Let's Move Forward has raised about $50,000. More than $20,000 of that is from the Downtown Seattle Association.

Real Change is by no means the biggest contributor to Protect Seattle Now. The Sierra Club has given $12,000.

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Contributors

Andrew Garber
Covers politics and state government from Olympia.

Jennifer Sullivan
Covers the state Legislature from Olympia.

Chantal Anderson
Covers the state Legislature from Olympia.

Emily Heffter
Writes about the city of Seattle and local politics.

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Covers transportation.

Jim Brunner
Writes about money and power from Seattle.