Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Archive for May, 2012

Seattle Community Colleges seek help to improve image

by Matt Rosenberg May 31st, 2012

Last winter in the wake of contentious anti-corporate protests led on its Capitol Hill central campus by Occupy Seattle, Seattle Community College District officials were beginning to grapple with proposed legislation from its teachers union that was introduced in sympathy with Occupy’s goals.

A “Resolution In Support of Business Practices Congruent with The Message of the Occupy Movement” was raised for preliminary consideration by Seattle Central Community College instructor and teachers union leader Karen Strickland at the board’s January meeting and then discussed in a February board study session. It called for the district to adopt an ethical purchasing policy and also condemned district vendors such as the Bank of America, and the Georgia Pacific paper company owned by the controversial conservatives, The Koch Brothers.

RFP for banking services could result in replacement of B of A
The resolution authored by the American Federation of Teachers, and the board’s preliminary discussions, have’t yet resulted in a district purchasing policy emphasizing corporate responsibility, but the district did quietly serve notice – in a staff memo on page 86 of its May meeting agenda packet – that it will be issuing a request for proposals for banking services and appointing a related evaluation committee. This could pave the way for replacement of Bank of America as the district’s banking services vendor. The company is reviled by Occupy protestors for what they characterize as B of A’s evasion of corporate taxes.

Contractor currently being sought to help the district re-brand
But at the same time it tries to respond to student and faculty concerns about ethical business practices, the district also wants to repaint the face it presents to potential enrollees and donors. lt is looking for a public relations advisor to do three months work for up to $50,000 this summer – to lay the groundwork for burnishing its brand image.

In anticipation of a major fundraising drive approaching in 2017, one that will surely depend on corporate and philanthropic largesse to compensate for declining government funding, the three-school district of two-year community colleges within Seattle’s city limits has issued a request for proposals from prospective bidders titled, “Positioning, Visibility and Brand Development.”

Seattle firm wins $30M fuel contract with U.S. military

by Matt Rosenberg May 29th, 2012

Seattle-based Troy Company, Inc. has won a contract worth up to $30 million to supply various types of fuel to the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force. The announcement came late last week for the bulk distributor of petroleum products. The award ceiling is $30,109,079. The black-owned business beat out 41 other bidders who responded to the request for proposals from the Defense Logistics Agency’s Fort Belvoir, Va. office. The agreement runs through June 2015; it follows a $36.6 million DOD fuel contract which Troy won in May, 2009 and which expires this June 30.

The award to Troy, located at 603 Stewart Street in downtown Seattle, was just one of three major military contracts won last week by Washington state firms. A day later, U.S. Oil Trading LLC of Tacoma bested nine competitors to win from the Defense Logistics Agency a fuel supply contract worth up to $97 million and ending January 30, 2013.

As well, in the same contracts announcement carrying news about Troy’s winning bid, the Department of Defense also revealed it had just selected the joint venture partnerships of Macnak-Sabyr from Lakewood, Wash. and Newton-Severson of Bremerton, Wash. plus Pacific Tech Construction, Inc., Kelso, Wash. to share in up to $75 million worth of building projects for U.S. Navy facilities in the Northwest.

The three Washington enterprises and three others from other states are in a pool of six that will bid on a wide assortment of projects overseen by the Naval Facilities Engineering Command of Silverdale, Wash. These will include new construction, remodeling, repair and demolition of warehouses, industrial, manufacturing, administrative and institutional properties; housing and housing offices; child care facilities; lodges, fitness and recreation centers; community centers; retail hubs and commercial properties.

Public Data Ferret’s Military Contracting archive

State seeks bids on more probes for geothermal energy

by Henry Apfel May 25th, 2012

The State of Washington’s Department of Natural Resources is seeking bidders for drilling exploratory geothermal boreholes in Skamania and Klickitat counties at up to five of six targeted sites that have passed environmental muster: Swift Creek, Northwood and Wind River in Skamania County; and Laurel, Outlet Creek, and Box Canyon Quarry in Klickitat County. (Coordinates table; map.) Each borehole would be six inches in diameter and reach a depth of 700 feet, although the drilling would not require construction of new roads or other major infrastructure alterations. Their purpose would be to determine the extent of geothermal energy at the sites, rather than to generate power. The winning bid will likely be selected the week of June 4th, and drilling of the new probes is scheduled to begin as soon as the first or second week of July, said DNR Procurement Coordinator Melanie Williams.

Regional public utility districts and private energy companies produce energy in Washington, but the state regulates the industry and in the case of geothermal, helps take stock of resource potential. Higher-temperature sites are the most preferable. Following is a mapped visualization of geothermal energy exploration to date in Washington, created by Public Data Ferret.

Seattle NGOs echo concerns of USAID Haiti audit

by Zachariah Bryan May 23rd, 2012

A program aimed at improving watersheds and water quality in Haiti and funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development hasn’t made inroads against major environmental risks and could be facing potentially expensive setbacks, according to an audit by the agency’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG). Discussing the audit’s concerns, representatives of two NGOs in the Seattle region which track Haiti respectively accented ongoing cholera risk from unsafe water; and the need for a deeper level of personal investment from citizens to augment external aid for environmental and public health problems. But underlying these challenges is a staggering unemployment rate which defies easy answers.

Haiti’s troubled environment is compounded by a weak government and wanting infrastructure resulting in part from the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Trash pick-up, environmental regulation, and water systems are especially problematic. Haiti’s watersheds have been long in decline due to decades of unchecked logging and charcoal demand, leaving the island with an estimated two percent forestation today, according to the audit. This boosts susceptibility to tropical storms and hurricanes which can bring flash floods to communities from eroded watersheds, taking lives and damaging property.

USAID in response launched a partnership with Chemonics International Inc. named the Watershed Initiative for National Natural Environmental Resources program (WINNER). It has $128 million in authorized funding and is designed to reduce environmental and economic vulnerability by rehabilitating watersheds and reducing flood risk along rivers. It also aims to train farmers in agricultural practices. Haiti produces less than half the food it consumes.

State: $12M in yearly lottery ads not boosting ticket sales

by Matt Rosenberg May 21st, 2012

It’s the size of the jackpot and economic factors that really influence the volume of Washington Lottery ticket sales, not the $12 million per year the lottery spends on advertising, according to a newly-released report from Washington State’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee (JLARC). The report concludes, “JLARC found almost no statistically significant relationship between advertising expenditures and ticket sales.” The analysis looked at the period of 2009-11.

U.S. has diverse energy for electricity, but not transport

by Matt Rosenberg May 17th, 2012

A series of data visualizations accompanying the recent “Energy Security in the United States” report by the Congressional Budget Office shows the lion’s share of energy used in the United States still comes from fossil fuel sources such as oil, coal and natural gas. The three accounted for 84 percent of total energy use in the U.S. in 2010 with nuclear and renewable energy sources each providing eight percent of the mix. Looking at major energy-using sectors of the economy, CBO found that 94 percent of U.S. 2010 transportation energy spending was used for oil. In the electric sector, 21 percent of the energy spending was on nuclear power, 10 percent on renewables, 19 percent on natural gas and 48 percent on coal. The related data visualization – the first of three from the report that we reproduce here – also breaks down the sourcing of energy to the HVAC and industrial sectors.

Source: Energy Security In The United States, Congressional Budget Office

Different regions source their electricity differently. In percentage of 2009 electricity production by region, the West relied most heavily on wind power versus any of the seven other regions, while the North Central and Great Lakes regions leaned most on coal. Nuclear power to generate electricity was most prevalent in the Northeast, and natural gas was tops in Florida.

Source: Energy Security In The United States, Congressional Budget Office

Whereas U.S. consumers have some protection against sharp electricity price spikes because of diverse sources, the same is not true in the transportation sector, says the CBO report.

Source: Energy Security In The United States, Congressional Budget Office

The report says that among policy options elected leaders can examine more closely to limit consumer vulnerability to transportation energy price spikes, one is to increase transit in major metro regions and raise the gas tax. CBO warns that rail transit carries especially high infrastructure costs versus expanded bus service, and that in any event, broader transit adoption in metro regions depends heavily on door-to-door travel times and service reliability. CBO also suggests policymakers consider how to develop greater incentives for telecommuting and urban density although both have been slow to truly take hold in many U.S. metro regions.

The report also mentions further subsidies for research and development of alternative fuels to power passenger vehicles but says that whole endeavor involves “significant uncertainties” around economic feasibility and implementation. Reaching into the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve is also an option, but that would likely be counteracted by a tightening of oil supply to the U.S. from major producer nations, says CBO.

U.S. report: anti-”Pink Slime” campaign was misleading

by William McKee May 15th, 2012

The media’s portrayal this past March of the long-used lean finely textured beef (LFTB) ground beef additive as suspect “pink slime” has had far-reaching effects, according to a recent report on the controversy issued by the Congressional Research Service, the non-partisan research arm of the U.S. Congress. The CRS report suggests that benefits of the controversy have included increased emphasis on the labeling of ground beef that contains LFTB, and more informed choices for both consumers, and school districts enlisted in the National School Lunch Program, on whether or not to purchase ground beef containing the additive. Other results accented in the report may have a negative effect. These include the fall of 50% beef trimming prices and the rise of domestic beef market prices; retail grocery stores discontinuing products that contain LFTB; the loss of jobs and business as the producers of LFTB and similar products shut down operations due to withering demand; and the heightened possibility of future advances in food safety being stifled due to the negative press on the use of ammonium hydroxide as an antimicrobial agent during the preparation of LFTB.

Gold Bar man jailed for nest egg theft from mom, of Everett

by Matt Rosenberg May 14th, 2012

A Gold Bar, Wash. man named Michael Robert Downer is now serving a 45-day jail term for felony first degree theft after without authorization he spent at least $13,735 on himself from a larger nest egg account that he jointly administered with and for his 80-year-old mother. She lives in a senior citizen apartment complex in Everett, and he was serving as a state-licensed nursing assistant for her at the time. Judgement and sentencing documents show Downer, 60 – whose registered voter address is a Gold Bar camping park populated with mobile homes – pled guilty on the felony theft charge in March of this year and began serving the sentence in mid-April.