Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Archive for September, 2012

Puyallup council likely to ban electric dog leashes

by September 30th, 2012

Following several months of investigation, the Puyallup City Council Tuesday night is poised to give approval to an ordinance that electronic dog leashes and collars don’t meet its code requirements to keep dogs under control in public. A city staff memo to the council explains explains the backdrop. Earlier this year, as The Tacoma News Tribune reported, resident Terry Nelson asked the city for clarification after he was fined for not using a leash on his two dogs in Wildwood Park, although he was using an electronic leash. The fines of more than $500 per dog, were later dropped, and the city agreed to dig into possible code revisions. The ordinance Tuesday is a “first reading” of the proposed final policy, which with majority backing could then immediately advance to a second reading and final approval – or be held for a final vote at a following meeting, depending on the council’s inclination.

North Sounder low ridership, high costs “not acceptable,” says oversight body

by September 27th, 2012

In a report aired publicly today at the board meeting of the Seattle region’s three-county regional transit agency Sound Transit, its Citizen Oversight Panel said at half of original projected passenger levels, North Sounder commuter rail service running between downtown Seattle and the City of Everett in Snohomish County via Edmonds and Mukilteo isn’t drawing enough ridership now to justify its continued existence. “The status quo of low ridership and high costs on North Sounder is not acceptable,” a special working group of the COP stated to Sound Transit Board Chairman Pat McCarthy in a cover letter to the report. The COP said the markedly higher per-boarding costs for North Sounder are especially troubling when Sound Transit’s “Sound Express” buses to and from Snohomish County are often standing room only. COP’s North Sounder Alternatives Task Force in the report urged Sound Transit to work with Mukilteo and Edmonds on the difficult challenge of improving parking capacity near those stations; also to confront another big but more long-term challenge of adding a North Seattle stop; and to set a 2020 deadline for bringing average daily ridership to originally projected levels of 2,400 per weekday.

Video: UW info school aids SF Zen Center in digital archiving

by September 27th, 2012

Information and library science experts from the University of Washington feature in a new video segment for UWTV’s UW/360 magazine show. It’s about their work helping the San Francisco Zen Center archive 50 years worth of historical materials. UW Assistant Professor of Library and Information Science Joe Tennis says that to deal with the daily pressures of life he found himself drawn to Buddhism and then to the Zen Center, where when he mentioned his vocation, a staff member’s eyes lit up. They needed help, not knowing how best to preserve and organize decades worth of important historical materials including documents, photos, art and textiles, and cassettes. The video segment describes how Tennis and six UW students in the Master of Library and Information Science program at UW’s Information School have volunteered over the three past summers to help the 50-year-old center organize its materials for analog and digital storage. The UW team lived on site at the center and awoke each morning at 5:00 a.m. for 40 minutes of meditation. Tennis says the meditation underscored the relevance to their archiving work of the Buddhist saying, “Use both hands,” or doing one thing at a time, with mindfulness and intention.

In an email interview, Tennis said it’s not precisely clear when the first digitally archived materials will appear at the Center’s related gateway. “We are discussing ways that more of the currently digitized material can go live. We want to have quality meta-deta associated with it, so it is part of a process.” Meta-data, or data descriptors including key words incorporated by Web masters into items published online, help both information providers and information seekers find what they are looking for.

A valuable lesson for the UW students who participated in the project, says Tennis in the video, was that library and information science studies need not result in work only in traditional public library or university settings, because non-profits and a wide range of other organizations have growing information management needs.

RELATED: Public Data Ferret’s Education+Technology archive; and our Video archive.

Public Data Ferret is a news knowledge base program of the 501c3 public charity, Public Eye Northwest. Ferret In The News. Donate; subscribe (free)/volunteer.

Seattle wants takeover of mismanaged Indian commission

by September 25th, 2012

A Seattle City Council committee Wednesday will hold a public hearing and then likely approve for a full council vote soon afterward a resolution to take over the floundering Seattle Indian Services Commission. A city public development authority formed in 1972 to help facilitate delivery of social services to the city’s Native American population, the Commission has suffered a major meltdown in the last several years. Its Pearl Warren Building at 606 12th Ave. S. at the eastern edge of Seattle’s International District has $2.5 million in unmitigated water damage. Its main tenant, whose monthly rent is key to paying for those repairs and retiring $6.7 million in outstanding debt tied to bonds which got the structure and a neighboring facility built, is the non-profit Seattle Indian Health Board. The board occupies space in both the Warren building and the commission’s adjacent Leschi Center at 611 12th Ave. S., and had been threatening to move out unless it could take over the properties and fix the problem. But the pending resolution leaves open for now the exact specifics of future control. Meanwhile the city has spent upwards of $120,000 on emergency repairs and studies on solving the water infiltration problem; and the commission, which has no staff of its own at present, owes more than $75,000 in back rent.

Local governments fight new state storm water permits

by September 25th, 2012

Many Puget Sound and Western Washington local governments are appealing the state permits requiring them to upgrade how they deal with storm water pollution. At least 12 cities, King County, Pierce County, Snohomish County, Clark County and Cowlitz County filed appeals by an Aug. 31 deadline to change the state’s permits’ new requirements due to go into effect on Aug. 1, 2013. Among their contentions: the proposed new permitting plan is inflexible, overly broad, carries insufficient cost-benefit requirements and doesn’t sufficiently articulate how related fees will be used.

This Is Your Land: On Lummi Mountain – The Video

by September 24th, 2012

Lummi Island is the northeastern-most of the San Juan islands in Washington State, and is reached via a small car ferry operated by Whatcom County. It’s a lovely, quiet place and public lands to visit include numerous shorelines and beaches plus several nature reserves overseen by the Lummi Island Heritage Trust. One such excursion, not to be missed, is the 1.6 mile hike – with a 1,056 foot elevation gain – on Lummi Mountain in the Baker Preserve. It goes to the scenic lookout over Rosario Strait and the San Juans. I had a chance to do that this summer. Here’s the video.

More from the Lummi island Heritage Trust on the Baker Preserve’s history.

In 2007, Lummi Island Heritage Trust, the San Juan Preservation Trust, and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife succeeded in permanently protecting the 435 acre Baker Ranch on the west side of Lummi Island. This conservation partnership raised the $3.67 million necessary to complete the project with the help of Heritage Trust and Preservation Trust members, state and federal grants, and a league of private donors.

The Baker Ranch was one of the largest and most visible unprotected shoreline properties in the San Juan Islands. The Ranch includes a diverse mix of old growth and mature forest, grassy balds, wetlands, farmland, and over one mile of saltwater shoreline. Today, conservation easements limit development of the 435 acre property and ensure permanent protection of the land’s natural values. The San Juan Preservation Trust holds conservation easements on 355 acres and the Department of Fish and Wildlife holds a conservation easement on the remainder of the property.

The entrance for hikers is on Seacrest Drive on Lummi island, about one-third of a mile south of Sunrise Road. No dogs allowed on the trail.

For a meadowlands walk on Lummi Island with views of Mount Baker some sixty miles east on the mainland in the North Cascades, explore the Heritage Trust’s Curry Preserve.


Map/directions to Lummi Island Ferry; ferry schedule.

This Is Your Land: Melakwa Lake – The video,” Public Data Ferret.

Public Data Ferret is a news knowledge base program of the 501c3 public charity, Public Eye Northwest. Ferret In The News. Donate; subscribe (free)/volunteer.

WA gas tax, license fee hikes eyed; local MVET option seen

by September 23rd, 2012

Around Washington state this fall city councils, regional associations of cities and regional transportation planning boards are trying to find common ground on what sort of transportation revenue measures to push in the Winter 2013 session of the state legislature to address worn-out and crowded roads and highways and transit system preservation. High-profile electronic tolling in Central Puget Sound will cover only a modest portion of that region’s funding needs. Statewide, a governor’s task force early this year identified $50 billion worth of necessary surface transportation work in the next decade. But a recently approved Congressional transportation spending bill funnels only $1.3 billion here in the next two years. So cities are working to develop a consensus position to advance in Olympia. Several key possibilities, according to a staff memo to be discussed by the Bellevue City Council Monday night are:

* an increase of eight cents in statewide gas tax;
* a local option hike of baseline countywide vehicle license fee from $20 to $40;
* and perhaps even allowing counties to implement a one percent motor vehicle excise tax (MVET).

Though local option measures could advance this year, a statewide gas tax hike might have to wait until 2014. The one percent MVET could be a local option only, not imposed statewide. A city or county council would be able to approve it, or could choose to let local voters decide. Counties which adopted an MVET would get two-thirds of revenues for transit and roads, and cities would get the rest to repair and build arterial streets.

For King County, the Bellevue memo says, a one percent MVET would yield about $75 million annually. Likewise, as outlined in the Bellevue staff memo, an increase in local vehicle license fees from $20 to $40 would not be imposed but could be approved by an elected city or county council or a local transportation benefit district. Another idea being considered is an annual electric vehicle fee of $200.

Bellevue staff say a local option MVET is attractive because it can be used for all surface transportation purposes including transit whereas the gas tax is for roads only; and that the MVET is progressive, based on the value of the vehicle, rather than the same for all regardless of income or vehicle value, like the gas tax. Similarly, a City of Shoreline staff memo also dated September 24, on legislative priorities, says the progressive MVET is preferable to the flat vehicle license fee. However part of the political baggage carried by the MVET is a fair play problem, as some vehicle owners loudly voiced concerns over inaccurate value assessments and overcharging when it was previously in effect in Washington. There’s a thorny backstory, though. In a ballot initiative led by anti-tax activist Tim Eyman in 1999, Washington voters opted to end the oft-reviled MVET, and despite a later court ruling invalidating the measure, legislators chose to let it lie.

King County’s Metro bus service has a lot riding on extension and growth of the vehicle license fee. Following passage of enabling state legislation, the county council in August 2011 approved a temporary 2012-13 license fee of $20 to help maintain bus service and control congestion, with the proviso that a broader funding approach would be implemented in the future.

A gas tax hike of eight cents wouldn’t actually do much good, at least in the state’s most populous and traveled sectors, where mega-project tabs easily run into the billions. According to the Bellevue staff memo, a gas tax hike of eight cents would generate $2.56 billion in a decade with two thirds to the state and a third, or $896 million altogether, to local governments. But the memo notes, “this part of the proposal represents a very modest level of revenue when you consider that the cost of expanding I-405 south of Bellevue through SR 167 is $1.7 billion. the gas tax is attractive in so far as it is a user fee, a principle supported by the Council over the years. However, to address major corridors like I-405, the statewide gas tax level would have to be much higher.”

Although not mentioned in the memo, other unfunded or underfunded mega-projects dot the Seattle regional landscape. Completion of the replacement bridge across SR 520 on Lake Washington requires a missing $2 billion. High priority work on I-5 in Seattle to repair pavement and ease bottlenecks is estimated in the several billions. Crucial safety fixes to U.S. Route 2 in Snohomish County have been pegged at more than $1 billion. Likewise the extension of SR 509 to I-5 just south of SeaTac Airport, a key freight mobility and congestion relief project. Between 2010 and 2040 in the Central Puget Sound region of King, Pierce, Snohomish and Kitsap counties, $64 billion more than anticipated revenue will needed to keep roads, bridges, and transit in decent shape, according to the Transportation 2040 report released by the Puget Sound Regional Council.

That’s why the state is moving ahead with first-stage exploration of a more sweeping approach to tax vehicles by the mile using on-board devices or other high-tech solutions. The Bellevue staff memo does mention this option, but says it “appears to be significantly difficult to implement and may be years away from widespread acceptance.”

RELATED: “How To Get Involved In The WA Vehicle Mileage Tax Study,” Public Data Ferret.

Public Data Ferret is a news knowledge base program of the 501c3 public charity, Public Eye Northwest. Ferret In The News. Donate; subscribe (free)/volunteer.