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Seattle Emergency: One Million Without Power December 15, 2006

Posted by publicpolitics in Seattle Politics.
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King County Executive Ron Sims issued an emergency proclamation this morning after supercharged winds of up to 70 miles an hour overnight knocked out power to about one million people in greater Seattle.

Seattle Times

A typical Seattle storm, if there is such an animal, downs two or three power feeder lines. As the public schools closed today all over the city, Seattle City Light said that as many as 65 lines were cut last night, and this morning 58 were still not working. To make matters worse, Sprint Nextel said that their networks in Seattle and Portland were disrupted. The downtown area remains unaffected.

Tags: winds | supercharged | Storm | SEWAGE | roads | proclamation | overnight | MILES | knocked | issued | greater | Emergency | damage | causes | Sims | Seattle | ROUTE | executive | county

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Another hand recount of votes in Washington : Reichert -Burner race refuses to die December 4, 2006

Posted by publicpolitics in Political Technology, Seattle Politics, U.S. Congress.
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King County Elections officials today [MON] are scheduled to start preparations for a hand recount in the congressional race between Congressman Dave Reichert and Democratic challenger Darcy Burner. And as KUOW’s Derek Wang reports, the results will not change the outcome.

kuow

The last election for governor in Washington state occasioned an historic vote recount involving hundreds of ballots and it reversed the outcome of the race, giving the nod to Christine Gregoire over Republican Dino Rossi. The Nov 7th election has brought about another recount, this time in the close race between incumbent (and victor) Dave Reichert and his surprisingly effective Democratic challenger, Darcy Burner

The ballots to be recounted come from two precincts from the King County municipality of Issaquah. The Seattle group, Voters for Democracy in America, is requesting a hand recount of some 925 votes because they don’t trust the transparency of the electoral process, and believe that the computers and software that’s used to count and tabulate the votes, is secret, according to Hannah McFarland, the group’s director. King County maintains that a rigorous internal audit failed to reveal any irregularities. The audit was performed the day after the election. Since Reichert won the election by over 7,000 votes, the recount cannot change the election outcome. As of this writing, the citizen’s group is willing to pay for staff costs, but disputes a $10,000.00 fee for security costs, which the county says is mandatory.

Tags: Reichert | Kuow | Darcy | software | scheduled | results | Reports | Recount | Preparations | officials | CONGRESSIONAL | Challenger | Wang | Vote | Seattle | McFarland | elections | derek | DEMOCRATIC | dave | county | congressman | burner

Seattle’s racial tiebreaker case: U.S Supreme Court will hear arguments tomorrow December 4, 2006

Posted by publicpolitics in Butter and Guns, Seattle Politics, Supreme Court.
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Seattle Public Schools will be under a constitutional microscope Monday when the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments on whether the district acted properly when it used race to assign students to its most popular schools.

Seattle Times

Attorneys representing the Seattle Public School System will argue an important case tomorrow before the Supreme Court, a case that constitutional law experts believe is the most important to be heard in the coming term. The essentials of the case are that Seattle Public Schools used race as tiebreaker when students, under an open admission policy for places in the public schools, competed for places at their favorite locations and there were an insufficient number of places for them The first tiebreaker was whether a prospective student had a sibling already in the school, and race was the second. The plantiffs argue that denial of a place based on race is discrimination, but the school system notes that each prospective student would be placed somewhere, even if not at the school of first choice. The policy has been suspended since 2001 , when the aggrieved parents filed the first suit. The original plantiffs are now in college.But the case is expected to set or augment mportant precedents about whether a racially diverse student body is a compelling government interest..

As controversial as this case remains, the decision, expected to come down sometime in the spring, is not likely to make anyone happy, even the winning side.

Tags: racial-tiebreaker | Students | properly | MICROSCOPE | involved | District | CONSTITUTIONAL | assign | Arguments | acted | supreme | Seattle | Monday | douglas | court

The High Cost of Jailing the Mentally Ill November 27, 2006

Posted by publicpolitics in Health and Science Policy, Seattle Politics.
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Keith Ervin of The Seattle Times reports today that someone booked into the King County Jail will usually stay an average of 9-35 days, but if the offender is mentally ill , the stay is usually about 158 days. And the cost to the county is $15,000 , or much more for the severely ill, based on a daily cost of $98.00 and a booking charge of $180.00. The Metropolitan King County Council, understandably alarmed by these numbers, is mounting a campaign to establish more treatment programs, get inmates out of jail faster, and ideally, prevent them from going there in the first place. The first order of business is to establish a funding mechanism for the effort, and to this end the council is studying the feasability of a one-tenth of one percent increase in the sales tax.

If approved, this tax would raise about 50 million dollars per year, an amount that would be used to provide housing and treatment, as well as to expand the services of the Drug Court and the Mental Health Court.

Of course, these estimates do not include the deleterious effects of jail on the mental state of patient-inmates. County Councilman Bob Ferguson (D-Seattle) has rightly noted that this argument from efficiency is not the only dimension to the problem He calls the “warehousing” of the mentally ill in jails a “moral wrong”. The jail as become the second largest (after Western State Hospital) mental-health facility in the state. Larry Gossett ( D- Seattle) also supports the measure, but Kathy Lambert (R- Seattle) is cautious. She is afraid that the additional tax burden , coming right after a new bus tax, might jeopardize Sound Transit’s plans for a new tax package on the November 7th ballot and endanger funding of a regional highway tax.

Ferguson introduced a motion requesting Sheriff Sue Rahar, County Executive Ron Sims, Prosecutor Norm Maleng, judges, and public defenders to submit a plan by next May to improve services and reduce jailings and visits to emergency rooms. No action will be taken until the report is received.

So the process is underway, but ever so slowly- and why does “voter fatigue” always come up when human services are involved?

Seattle Solution: Mayor Advised to Take Charge of Schools November 20, 2006

Posted by publicpolitics in Seattle Politics.
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“It’s an idea only a few cities have dared to try.

But advisers to Mayor Greg Nickels are urging him to take at least partial control over Seattle schools.

The conditions, they say, are dire.”

Bob Young

Seattle is consistently rated one of the most literate cities in the United States, and recently its population was listed as one of the most educated. But you wouldn’t know that by looking at the situation in the public schools. A school closure plan has divided the city, and at a recent board meeting the air filled with ethnic slurs and an arrest was made. The school superintendent has resigned, and the voters are probably not inclined to approve some $900,000,000 dollars in education funding measures.

The solution , according to some community activists, is to imitate Boston, Chicago, and Philadelphia, where mayors were given power to appoint some or all new board members. Reports have been positive and while Washington State law does not permit appointments, state Representative Ed Murray , D-Seattle, will sponsor a bill in the upcoming legislative session to give both the mayor and the governor such powers.

The problem is that the mayor has excluded both Seattle School District and teacher’s union leaders from meetings on the subject. They oppose any measure to replace elected boards. They claim that elected leaders represent the concerns of students and parents better than appointees.

Nickels is reportedly moving very cautiously on this topic, and declined to be interviewed by the Seattle Times for the story. Before he does takes steps toward this more authoritarian solution to a divisive issue, he would be well advised to open his meetings to all of the relevant stakeholders.

Tags: urged | mayor | Education | Community | advisers | Activist | superintendent | Seattle | NICKELS