Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Archive for October, 2010

U.S. Postal Service: Declining Mail Volumes, Higher Rates

by Matt Rosenberg October 25th, 2010

SUMMARY: The continuing proliferation of electronic communications is having an effect on volume of traditional mail delivered by the U.S. Postal Service. A new report prepared for the Postal Service’s Inspector General’s Office by researchers at the George Mason University School of Public Policy suggests that significant rate hikes will prove necessary and that there is latitude to do so, so long as rates remain somewhat lower than those charged in other developed economies, such as many European nations and Japan. Rate hikes can be mitigated to some degree if Postal Service productivity increases, fixed and retail costs are reduced, and delivery is reduced from six days weekly to five. Lower postal rates for non-profit organizations may need to be re-evaluated, as well.

WSDOT: Southeast King County Commuter Rail Study

by Matt Rosenberg October 19th, 2010

SUMMARY: A proposed east-west spur commuter rail line in Southeast King County – connecting with the main north-south commuter rail line operated by Sound Transit, and with Amtrak Cascades service – would run every 33 minutes, and carry 1,140 daily passengers by 2030. It would cost $169 million to $190 million to build, and $4 million to $4.7 million to operate and maintain annually. Passenger fares would cover 16 percent of annual operating and maintenance costs, or as much as 30 percent if cost-sharing occured with Sound Transit. Due to relatively low ridership and high per-mile costs, the project would compete poorly for federal grants. No existing transit or rail agency would likely sponsor the project but a transportation benefit district could, particularly if state law were amended to clarify its role as a transit operator. A public vote would be required to grant taxing authority to such a body.

City of Kent: Amendments to Parking Restrictions

by Andrew Hart October 7th, 2010

OVERVIEW: Paid public parking is a scarce commodity and as a result, parking time limits and other parking regulations are usually strictly enforced by cities. On June 15th of this year the city council of Kent, Washington increased the penalty assessed for two-hour parking violations from approximately $20 to $50. But the Kent Police Department has voiced concerns that the larger penalty hurts downtown businesses, already struggling in the current economy. After further consideration, on September 21, 2010 the Kent City Council passed an ordinance rolling back two-hour parking violations from $50 to $30. However, in order to continue covering the cost of issuing tickets as necessary, the city council also authorized increasing fines from $20 to $50 for a variety of other parking offenses.

KEY DOCUMENT: Parking Restrictions Amendments, Ordinance. Kent City Council Agenda. September 21, 2010. (Pdf file of full meeting agenda packet; in directory on left, click on “Parking Restrictions Amendments, Ordinance” for instant access).

KEY FINDINGS:

  • The Police Department and Public Safety Commission have recommended lowering the penalty for two-hour parking violations from the current $50 to $30. But to offset revenues lost from reducing the two-hour parking penalty, the Police Department has advocated new parking restrictions and monetary penalties.
  • By incorporating certain parts of state law (RCWs 46.61.570 and 46.61.575) into the Kent City Code, the City will now charge $50, rather than $20, as previously, for: parking RVs, boats, and trailers on City streets for more than twenty-four hours; parking in multiple stalls; parking in a bicycle lane; performing repairs on a vehicle while parked on city streets; advertising a vehicle while parked on a City street; parking too close to a stop sign, crosswalk or fire hydrant, etc; and chain parking, or moving a car from time-limited street parking spot to another spot on the same side of the street in the same block.
  • The City Finance Department has determined that the cost of issuing a parking ticket is approximately $54.63. By enforcing the new higher fines, the City “recoups more of its actual costs incurred in enforcing” parking violations.

The ordinance passed on September 21, 2010 by unanimous vote by the Kent City Council. The ordinance is to take effect within 30 days of passage.

Washington State Commission On Judicial Conduct: Highlights Of 2010 Disciplinary Actions

by Matt Rosenberg October 3rd, 2010

BACKGROUND: The Washington State Commission On Judicial Conduct investigates allegations of impropriety by judges in local, county and state court systems. It issues disciplinary rulings in each case, ranging from dismissal to “admonishment” or “reprimand” all the way to recommendations to the state Supreme Court for “disqualification” or barring a judge from serving further on the bench. At its “Public Actions” page, the commission provides links to all disciplinary cases from 1982 to the present, by year, and provides another link to the most recent, or “open” complaints. Following are selected 2010 decisions by the Commission.