Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Archive for August, 2011

UW study probes factors in Washington animal-vehicle collisions

by Matt Rosenberg August 31st, 2011

SUMMARY: Collisions between vehicles and animals exact a large toll in injury and property damage every year in the U.S. and also have a significant impact in Washington state. A new study led by the director of a transportation research laboratory at the University of Washington in Seattle shows the probability of animal-vehicle collisions is increased on rural two-lane roads near white-tailed deer habitats, while the likelihood of such accidents is lowered if the road is wider, the animal is male rather than female, and the vehicle is a truck, not a car.

State Auditor: manager defrauded UW Med Center of $252,059

by Matt Rosenberg August 29th, 2011

SUMMARY: Echoing criminal charges already filed in King County Superior Court, a fraud investigation report issued today by the office of Washington State Auditor Brian Sontag and addressed to new UW President Michael Young says a former manager at the University of Washington Medical Center used his work credit card, work travel account and unearned paid leave to defraud his employer of more than $250,000. A police raid on his apartment turned up dozens of personal items paid for with the work credit card, including furniture, artwork and consumer electronics. The University’s policies allowed him to approve his own expenditures. In today’s auditor’s report, the University states it has since put new safeguards in place, and is in the process of recovering the money lost. The employee, Elisha Lang, had previously been terminated and later admitted to personal use of the work credit card. Criminal charges against him are already pending, as reported by The Seattle Times. According to information provided today by the King County Prosecutor’s Office, Lang’s attorneys appear in court Wednesday August 31 and are expected to either set a trial date or request a continuance for more time to negotiate a settlement. Lang pled not guilty at an April court appearance, after 19 charges of felony theft were filed against him.

WSDOT: Transportation funding needs to be fixed

by Matt Rosenberg August 25th, 2011

OVERVIEW: Last year the Puget Sound Regional Council issued a landmark report titled Transportation 2040 which found that baseline surface transportation needs in the four counties in and around Seattle would require $64 billion more in toll, tax and fee funding by 2040 than the $125 billion in transportation monies already anticipated in that timeframe. Major drivers are a 36 percent increase in population in the four counties by 2040 and a 51 percent increase in jobs, according to the report. Statewide population growth in Washington is also expected to be substantial, estimated at 1 percent annually through 2030.
At a two-day meeting earlier this month of the Washington state legislature’s Joint Transportation Committee held at Highline Community College in Des Moines, Wash., as part of a current study process on public-private partnerships, state transportation chief Paula J. Hammond sounded a warning about the limited effect and declining purchasing power of the state gas tax, versus sizable needs over coming decades for surface transportation maintenance, operations and preservation work, plus safety improvements and congestion relief projects. Hammond emphasized the important financial and policy roles she believes the federal and state governments will have to play, and identified additional current funding options as regional tolling, regional and local taxes, truck weight fees, and ferry and transit fare hikes. She concluded, “there is a risk to our transportation system performance by not investing.” However, the prospect of wider regional tolling in Central Puget Sound would be restricted significantly if voters approve Initiative 1125 in November.

UW doctors detail how to better care for hospitalized elderly

by Matt Rosenberg August 24th, 2011

SUMMARY: Doctors are seeing a growing percentage of elderly hospitalized patients, who often have special and potentially costly needs. The risks to elderly patients from hospitalization and related procedures are significant: surgical complications, surgical site and urinary tract infections, adverse drug reactions, pressure ulcers, fractures and falls. But most groups of “hospitalists” – typically internists, who care for hospitalized patients – don’t have programs or procedures addressing the special needs of elderly patients. In a paper recently published in The Journal of Hospital Medicine, three doctors from the University of Washington in Seattle reviewed 80 papers in the current literature and make recommendations for better, more attuned in-hospital care of the elderly.

Their recommendations include creating safer physical environments in the hospital rooms of elderly patients; using “Acute Care of The Elderly” unit strategies such as physical and occupational therapy, early mobility, regular exercise and early discharge planning; decreasing reliance on prescription drugs, where feasible; using a more thorough and holistic approach to screening and treating risk of falls; and screening patients for delirium and dementia and factoring those conditions into therapies and interventions.

Federal Reserve: mainly, we buy American

by Kyle Kim August 22nd, 2011

SUMMARY: China’s rising inflation and labor costs will have little effect in increasing American prices because, despite perceptions to the contrary, China has a small share of the U.S. consumer market, according to a recently-released economic report by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. Data from the report show that only 2.7 percent of American consumer spending is for “Made In China” goods and services versus 88.5 percent for U.S.-made items. Additionally, the majority of money that Americans spent on Chinese products went for U.S. marketing, transportation and sales of Chinese goods. As a percentage of 2010 U.S. Gross Domestic Product, U.S. spending on imports was only 16 percent, with China representing a 2.5 percent slice. The Federal Reserve Bank report says this suggests that “although globalization is widely recognized these days, the U.S. economy actually remains relatively closed.”

Results of Seattle Police watchdog agency’s 2010 excessive force probes: 120 allegations, but no smoking guns found

by Matt Rosenberg August 19th, 2011

According to information obtained by Public Data Ferret from the Seattle Police Department’s Office of Professional Accountability, OPA in 2010 completed 77 investigations into use of force complaints against SPD personnel, including 120 related allegations, and none of the cases or allegations resulted in a finding of “sustained,” meaning supported by a preponderance of evidence. Investigations of some high profile cases in 2010 such as the SPD shooting of the late John T. Williams, and the resulting determination of excessive force, weren’t resolved until 2011, and so are not included in the 2010 findings.

Overall, reported cases involving allegations of unnecessary force, or other force-related complaints such as failure to report use of force, are a tiny fraction of all police activity. SPD officials disclosed that department personnel had a total of 454,564 public contacts in 2010, including almost 200,000 dispatched calls, more than 140,000 “on view” interactions in communities, more than 90,000 traffic stops, and 22,883 arrests.

In response to an information request by Public Data Ferret on excessive force cases and allegations for which investigations were completed in 2010, the findings provided by OPA’s Civilian Director Kathryn Olsen were:

  • In 73 of the 120 allegations, police were exonerated (a preponderance of evidence suggests the conduct alleged did occur, but it was determined to be justified, lawful and proper);
  • 31 of the 120 allegations were unfounded (evidence suggests the alleged act did not occur as reported, or the report was false);
  • seven allegations were administratively exonerated or administratively unfounded (complaint is significantly flawed, i.e. recanted by complainant, wrong employee identified);
  • one was administratively inactivated (investigation can’t proceed due to insufficient information or another pending investigation);
  • one went to mediation (complainant and officer agree to resolution by credentialed third-party mediator);
  • two earned supervisory interventions (there may have been a violation of policy, but it wasn’t willful, and/or didn’t amount to misconduct);
  • five were classified as not sustained (allegation of misconduct is neither proved nor disproved by a preponderance of the evidence).

These results dovetail with data on the previous year of 2009, when 105 investigations into excessive use of force by Seattle Police, including 318 specific allegations, were completed, and no allegations were sustained.

ACT results: good news, bad news for Washington state

by Matt Rosenberg August 17th, 2011

Only 20 percent of Washington state Class of 2011 graduating high school seniors took the ACT test of college and career readiness, less than half the suggested threshold of 40 percent for state-by-state comparison purposes. Nonetheless, the results can be examined against national averages and prior performance.

ACT 2011 RESULTS IN BRIEF – WASHINGTON STATE

  • 2011 Washington ACT takers scored slightly better than the national average in all four subjects – English, math, reading and science, and in composite scores, and across all subjects also showed a higher degree of college readiness than the national average.
  • However:

  • Little more than one-third of the Washington test takers in 2011 met baseline college/career readiness benchmarks in all four subjects, with science a notable weak spot, while nationally just one quarter of test takers cleared all thresholds;
  • Washington’s average scores in all four subjects have remained flat or slightly lower since 2007;
  • Average scores exceeded college/career readiness benchmarks in all subjects except science for whites, Asians and mixed race students in the Washington 2011 results – while average scores were below those benchmarks in all four subjects for Washington state African-Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, and Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders;
  • In a special report on the Washington results, ACT officials recommend that to better prepare students for work or college, the state get more students to take the test, emphasize more courses in math and science, and pay more attention to rigor of courses.
  • New report: urban traffic pollutants can lower birth weight

    by Melissa Steffan August 16th, 2011

    According to a new study from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences polluted air from diesel and gasoline combustion and paved road dust increases the likelihood of low birth weight among infants by as much as five percent for every 25 percent increase in carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and can contribute to other fetal development problems. A research team from University of California Los Angeles, University of California Berkeley, and University of Southern California determined that low birth weight was more prevalent among pregnant mothers exposed to the higher levels of carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and other traffic pollutants found in urban environments. The study, titled “Traffic-Related Air Toxics and Term Low Birth Weight in Los Angeles County, California,” was also supported by the California Air Resources Board, and published last week in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.