Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Archive for May, 2011

Feds warn of hazardous hoodies sold at Pike Place Market

by Matt Rosenberg May 12th, 2011

SUMMARY: According to a recently-issued recall notice from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, any purchasers of one of an estimated 300 hand-knit, hooded wool sweaters with drawstrings made in Ecuador and sold at the El Gringo Imports stall in the North Arcade of Pike Place Market in Seattle between November 2009 and August 2010 for between $20 and $25, should immediately remove the hood drawstring because it poses a strangulation hazard. The multi-colored sweaters have a front zipper and a black neck tag with the words “El Gringo Imports.” No injuries have been reported. Through a toll-free number, consumers can get instructions on drawstring removal or information on how to receive a full refund.

Court restores engineering license of convicted child molester

by Matt Rosenberg May 11th, 2011

SUMMARY: A Washington state appeals court in Tacoma today overturned the five-year license suspension meted out in 2009 by a state oversight board to professional engineer Dennis E. Ritter, the former Public Works Director of Lacey, Wash., who was convicted in 2007 on three counts of first-degree child molestation. The court found state law required a specific nexus between Ritter’s “crime of moral turpitude” and his professional work, and that none could be demonstrated.

State agency overpaid $13.7 million for drugs in ‘09-’10

by Matt Rosenberg May 10th, 2011

SUMMARY: According to a performance audit released last week, Washington state’s Department of Labor and Industries through 2010 paid an overly generous reimbursement rate to pharmacists for prescriptions of generic drugs to injured workers covered under its Workers’Compensation program. The audit finds that if L&I had paid for generics at a rate similar to other state health care agencies, it could have saved at least $13.7 million in 2009 and 2010 combined, and as much as $15.4 million. L&I lowered its generics reimbursement rate to a more comparable level in 2011; saving nearly $5 million compared to 2009. But by bringing that and its reimbursement rate for brand-name drug prescriptions into more complete alignment with the standard-setting state Health Care Authority, L&I could achieve another $1.5 million to $2.3 million in annual savings, going forward.

Keynes And Hayek Throwing Down – Round Two

by Matt Rosenberg May 4th, 2011

Econstories.tv has done it again. Experience this new rap video starring the theories of “prime the pump” government stimulus theorist John Maynard Keynes versus the laissez-faire free market views of Frederick Hayek. The staging in what looks like a U.S. Senate or House committee hearing room is perfect, and the extras play their parts to a T. The intro is pretty funny, as Keynes gets a hero’s welcome from the security guard and is waved through the metal detector even though he sets it off. Hayek gets a very different welcome but is finally let into the ring. The econo-rappers state their opening arguments well, but it’s at 4:26 – after a brief joust over the lessons of WW II U.S. stimulus spending – that the flow really emanates. Here’s the whole thing.

One set of money verses:

Keynes: “My solution is simple and easy to handle. It’s spending that matters, why is that such a scandal? The money sloshes trough the pipes and the sluices, revitalizing the economy’s juices. It’s just like an engine that’s stalled and done dark. To bring it to life, we need a quick spark.”

Hayek: “Spending’s not free, that’s the heart of the matter. Too much is wasted as cronies get fatter…. The economy’s not a car; there’s no engine to stall. No expert can fix it, there’s no ‘ít’ at all. The economy’s us, we don’t need a mechanic. Put away the wrenches, the economy’s organic.”

And another.

Keynes: “So what would you do to help those unemployed? This is the question you seem to avoid. When we’re in a mess, would you have us just wait? Doing nothing, until markets equil-i-brate?”

Hayek: “Ï don’t want to do nothing, there’s plenty to do. The question I ponder is who plans for who? Do I plan for myself, or leave it to you? I want plans by the many, not by the few.”

They take it deeper, but never lose the Plain English thread. What a teaching tool. High school and college teachers of economics, political science and communications will find this a great addition to the curriculum.

Props to creators John Papola and Russ Roberts, and to Billy Scafoli as Keynes and Adam Lustick as Hayek.

Steve Rubel On “The Validation Era”

by Matt Rosenberg May 3rd, 2011

Steve Rubel, Executive VP for Global Strategy and Insights, Edleman, is that still-rare marketing expert who speaks in plain, insightful truths, with an anti-hype sensibility that resonates. His recent blog post on “The Validation Era” hit me smack upside my left and right brains simultaneously. His focus is on how businesses and individuals can maintain credibility in today’s ever-more-crowded, hyperactive networks; but his advice should be heard by government and media, too.

Start with some recent history. First, Rubel says, came the Commercialization Era of the Internet from 1994 to 2002, when then-deep-pocketed media such as Yahoo epitomized the new authoritative sources. Next came what he terms the Democratization Era of 2002 to 2010, ushered in by proliferation of blogs and Flickr, building to Twitter, You Tube and Facebook and finally reaching cacophony.

We have a new challenge: people overload. This is leaving us gasping for quality. In the Validation Era, quality is the new black…Businesses that activate domain-level experts to share their knowledge across several spheres of media, will likely see their ideas penetrate more private networks, either first-hand or through pass-alongs.

I’ll offer a value-add from my own recent experience. As local, regional, state and federal governments and agencies seek to gain and hold trust, they’re increasingly seeing the importance of sharing knowledge voluntarily through online reports, documents and databases. They’re responding quickly wherever really possible to meaty information requests by reporters without requiring open records act paperwork (thank you!). They’re making staff subject matter experts easily available, eschewing Byzantine old-school procedures.

This does not mean public bodies don’t still sometimes hoard information or proffer puffery or misdirection; they do. But for public agencies, communications is less and less a function confined in a silo; it’s more a cross-enterprise endeavor, and that’s yielding more openness and accountability than in the past. Which drives the quest for more and still-better transparency.

Partnerships are part of that. Legacy media is beginning to embrace new media not only in terms of tools and platforms, but content providers as well. The Seattle Times local news partners roster – which includes our Public Data Ferret project – is an example. You’ll see not only hyper-local blogs there – some headed by professional news veterans with serious video-producing, data analysis and breaking news chops – but also topic-specific chroniclers of the worlds of beer, hiking, biking, the maritime industry, local history, and more.

Wouldn’t it be great if an education expert, transportation policy analyst, lawyer, doctor, waitress, taxi-driver, filmmaker or musician had the goods – including objectivity- and the incentive to join that sort of daily mix as a producer of quality content? The “network effect” argues the benefits are greatest to consumers and producers if aggregation occurs at a heavily-trafficked portal. True, portals can seem so 2004. Newer but tarnished Twitter and Facebook remain good places to get and share information – thanks to validated content from networks and the “social” in social media. But for wide exposure to a validated audience, I’ve been seeing that partnerships with major news portals can still really pack a punch.

Yet what matters more than exposure in the end, although not disembodied from it, is engagement. This is where ROI really starts. But engagement around what? And to what end? We need to take a closer look at what engagement which starts online can mean. How about this: Engagement results from information or news which leads others to thought, knowledge or action. Sometimes that’s hugely evident, sometimes not, even when it’s happening. Another key definition of engagement: the development of some online relationships into offline connections as well.

Whew. Arriving at this juncture today has been mildly exhausting for me. But I hope not for you.

Now, it’s definitely Cheezburger time.

Seattle Owns Excess Properties Worth Roughly $81 Million

by Matt Rosenberg May 3rd, 2011

SUMMARY: A new annual report shows the City of Seattle owns 212 excess properties or groups of properties with a combined assessed value of $80.9 million. Officials stress that appraisals would be needed to better calculate market values. Twenty-two of the 212 excess properties are under review for re-use or disposal and three have been approved by the city council for sale, though none are currently on offer. The highest-valued is Seattle Public Utilities Eastside Reservoir in Bellevue, assessed at $10.8 million; the next highest is Seattle City Light’s Roy Street Shops at $9.8 million. Other high-valued excess city properties include assorted transportation facilities and electrical substations.