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.
Collaboration in Civic Spheres
Archive for October, 2010
by Matt Rosenberg October 25th, 2010
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.
Burgers, Shakes And Budget Decisions: Come To Douglass-Truth Library Oct. 16 For A Countywide Community Forum
by Matt Rosenberg October 12th, 2010
King County has a $5 billion annual budget, but to many people who live within its boundaries, it’s all but invisible. It shouldn’t be. The county provides courts, jails, law enforcement, tax collection, public health and human services; and runs elections, wastewater treatment and transit, to name just a few things. Part of the sales and property taxes we pay goes to King County. If you live, work, or go to school in King County you’re invited to the Douglass-Truth Library at 2300 E. Yesler Way in Seattle this Saturday Oct. 16 from 4:15 to 5:45 p.m. to join in discussion with others about resolving King County’s $63 million budget deficit. Free burgers and milkshakes from Dick’s Drive-Ins will be provided. (RSVP info. below).
The program is called Countywide Community Forums, or CCF. It’s privately funded by the Spady family of Dick’s. The forums work like this: There will be an informational video, small group discussions, and a written survey. The results are gathered into a final report that is closely considered by the King County Council, County Executive and county staff, and is promoted widely to the public, media and CCF participants. This event is being hosted by African-American community activist and journalist Charlie James. Here’s a column Mr. James had published recently in several Seattle newspapers about why to tune into King County government, and attend the forum at Douglass-Truth. He writes:
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).
- 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.
by Matt Rosenberg October 7th, 2010
In late 2007, after more than 80,000 signatures were collected on petitions for the Easy Citizen Involvement Initiative (I-24), the King County Council approved a privately-funded engagement program called Countywide Community Forums (CCF). The big idea was that while large public hearings are useful and necessary, there are other important – and more collaborative – ways to harvest public sentiment for the benefit of public officials and all of us. Right now, through Oct. 23, CCF is conducting it’s sixth public outreach campaign and the topic this time around is how King County should deal with its near- and long-term budget problems. Here’s our Seattle Times op-ed last week, on the topic and why participation matters. There’s a $60 million deficit for 2011 and a continuing imbalance between costs and revenues. To join and schedule or attend a forum, or to take the online survey, go to our Web site. The events page gives an idea of what’s been going on and where. Some forums are public, such as Oct. 14 at Freedom Church in West Seattle or Oct. 16 at Douglas Truth library in Seattle, and you’re welcome to attend. Another public forum was earlier this week at the Central Area Chamber of Commerce. Forty people attended – from all over Seattle and King County – enjoyed some Dick’s burgers and shakes (The Spady Family of Dick’s Drive-Ins is the main funder of the program) and participated in a lively conversation before completing their surveys.
Consider organizing your own forum, with your neighbors. Make it a potluck. You watch an informative video, talk about the topic, then take a survey. We provide all the materials and a stamped envelope to send the surveys back to the county auditor’s office, which tabulates the results into a final report for the county, the public and the media. We’ll also come to workplaces, organization meetings and high school or college classes to run a public or private forum. We’ve been running forums with classes at Seattle Pacific University, University of Washington, Seattle University and Bellevue College; at senior care facilities and elsewhere. Feel free to contact me directly at oudist (at) comcast (dot) net.
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.