Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Archive for July, 2012

After Kennewick teacher’s series of sexual emails: a salary hike, retirement, then a state reprimand

by Matt Rosenberg July 31st, 2012

A teacher at Kamiakin High School in the Kennewick, Wash. school district is finally getting a penalty from the state for using his school email account to receive, view and forward pictures of nude and partially nude women; and for using it to receive and view images of sexually explicit conduct. Among the classes he taught was “principles of technology.” One individual to whom he forwarded sexual content was the district’s Maintenance and Operations Supervisor Ken Smith. But the 45-day teaching certificate suspension conditionally accepted last week by Emil J. “Jerry” Carlson in an agreed order with the state’s Office of the Superintendent of Pubic Instruction comes after Carlson reaped an $11,000 annual increase in pay and benefits while the district knew of his actions; and finally, after his recent retirement noted by the Tri-City Herald. The state disciplinary action against him also comes a full 32 months after the state was informed of the problems by the Kennewick district. No students were involved.

Report: Asia prime turf for American wood pellets

by John Stang July 30th, 2012

The Asian wood pellet market is growing, and the the United States and Canada are poised to be a prime source for it, according to a second-quarter 2012 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Pacific Northwest Research Station. “The West Coast is in a strong position to supply Asia with wood pellets, drawing on both timber supply and proximity to Asian markets,” the report said.

China, Japan and South Korea have large demands for wood pellets for home heating and for mixing with coal in power plants. The primary use for wood pellets in Asia is co-firing at coal-power plants. “Therefore, business development should include….coal power plants that have an interest in increasing their renewable energy output,” the report said. This demand meshes with the Obama administration’s goal of doubling exports from $1 trillion to $2 trillion by 2015 – enough to create a cabinet level post to pursue that target, the report said.

WA audit: fiscally, City of Sunnyside skating on thin ice

by John Stang July 26th, 2012

The City of Sunnyside in Yakima County improperly juggled its internal funds in the past two years, so its general fund landed in the red just five months into 2012, according to a state audit report released this week. That red ink in the general fund totaled $613,516 as of May 31, although the city has slightly more than $1 million in cash reserves to bail it out. But this is the first time – at least in recent years – that Sunnyside’s general fund is in negative territory and the cash reserves will have to be used, and it’s no mere technicality. The report from the office of State Auditor Brian Sonntag says, “The city is at risk of not being able to meet financial obligations or maintain services at current levels. This could result in the city needing to take out bank loans or to find alternate funding sources, which could be an additional cost to its ratepayers and taxpayers.”

Perp’s appeal fails, in Capitol Hill hate crime at LGBT club

by Matt Rosenberg July 24th, 2012

A ruling from a Washington State appeals court Monday upheld the conviction of a Seattle man for other charges related to an anti-gay hate crime for which he was also convicted, near a Capitol Hill LGBT nightclub. Muhamet M. Sumaj was convicted in 2011 of felony and malicious harassment of a female-to-male transsexual named A.M. and felony harassment of a security guard named Donald Tidd after Sumaj conveyed racially and sexually-tinged verbal abuse and death threats outside Neighbours, a club popular with LGBT patrons. King County prosecutors noted at the time that malicious harassment is the legal term used in the state’s “hate crime” law. Sumaj was sentenced by King County Judge Steven C. Gonzales in February 2011 to six months of Work Education Release, on a King County work crew. Sumaj’s attorney in early October 2011 filed an appeal with the state seeking to overturn the felony harassment convictions, arguing prosecutors failed to properly spell out in their case that he had made a “true threat,” and also asserting there wasn’t enough evidence to convict Sumaj on the second one, involving Tidd. King County filed a response and after deliberation Sumaj’s appeal was rejected July 23 by the Washington State Court of Appeals Division One.

WSU-Vancouver’s $130K promo blitz aims to up enrollment

by Matt Rosenberg July 24th, 2012

Washington State University’s Vancouver, Wash. campus is seeking requests for proposals from marketing firms to help the school boost its overall campus population an ambitious seven to nine percent yearly through a direct campaign targeting prospective freshman. WSU classes in “America’s Vancouver” across the Columbia River from Portland, Ore. began in 1983 and WSU-Vancouver’s full facility opened in 1989 as “the urban research campus” of the WSU system. It had been focused on courses mainly for upperclassmen and a smaller cohort of graduate students until the 2005-06 school year.

Then it started admitting freshmen and sophomores, and began buying the first of 254,000 student names to date for marketing campaigns to prospective enrollees. Typically such lists are bought from companies offering standardized college admissions tests such as as the SAT and ACT to high-schoolers. Total spring 2012 enrollment at the Vancouver campus was 3,006 students, up gradually from 1,977 in spring 2006, according to online data from WSU.

Pertussis in WA hit Hispanics at double the rate of others

by Matt Rosenberg July 23rd, 2012

The headline-grabbing outbreak of whooping cough, or Pertussis, in Washington state this year affected Hispanics at a rate more than twice that of non-Hispanics, according to a new report from the Washington State Department of Health and U.S. researchers that was published late last week by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in the CDC’s journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The report “Pertussis Epidemic – Washington 2012″ found that in the large percentage of cases where ethnicity and race were known, that “statewide cumulative incidence was higher in Hispanics than non-Hispanics (53.1 versus 24.6 cases per 100,000 population).”

Airport concessionaire underpays Port of Seattle by $250K

by John Stang July 20th, 2012

A major SeaTac Airport concessionaire owes the Port of Seattle $256,269 because of confusion on how to report revenues, according to a June port audit. The concessionaire’s umbrella company, American Management Services, agreed with the audit results and will pay the additional monies owed, said the audit report and a port spokesman. Airport Management Services is a joint venture of the Hudson News Group and two other local retail firms. The airport has three food-and-beverage concessionaires, plus other tenants. The June 12 audit report focused on the Hudson News Group, which operates 15 news stands, two bookstores, two bakeries and four speciality stores – Made in Washington, Discover Puget Sound, Life is Good and Kids Works – at the airport.

WA eyes new U.S. transpo bill funds, but with questions

by John Stang July 18th, 2012

The passage of a new two-year $100 billion-plus federal transportation funding bill by Congress June 29 is expected to bring roughly $652 million to Washington state in 2013 and $657 million in 2014, compared to roughly $652 million for 2012, according to federal Department of Transportation estimates. But the new law is an authorization bill – meaning Congress still has to actually appropriate the money later when each fiscal year rolls around. Most telling, that $1.309 billion in the next two years is a tiny drop in the bucket, compared to the $50 billion that a blue ribbon panel appointed by Gov. Christine Gregoire said in January that the state needs to raise to maintain and strategically improve surface transportation infrastructure in the next ten years (Page 3, here ). That’s so, even compared to the “lowered expectations” scenario in the task force report, which urges raising at least $21 billion in the next decade for the state’s road and transit systems. A poster child for Washington’s transportation funding shortfall is the new State Route 520 bridge, now under construction. It is still about $2 billion short of the needed funding, which totals more than $4 billion.