A new car ferry terminal on the State of Washington’s busiest vehicle run – from Mukilteo in Snohomish County to Clinton on south Whidbey Island – is currently $38.7 million shy of a needed $140.9 million for construction, according to a new report to the legislature from the Washington State Department of Transportation. The current terminal has been a big headache for commuters for years due to poor design which contributes to long backups for vehicles and complications in trying to load cars and foot passengers at the same time. WSDOT says future usage of the terminal is expected to grow 73 percent by 2030. In Washington, car ferries are considered part of the state highway system, particularly where bridges haven’t been built, across scenic Puget Sound. Earlier replacement plans for the strained regional transportation hub were shelved in 2007 due to “funding and constructability” challenges, but then re-started in 2010.
Collaboration in Civic Spheres
Archive for December, 2012
by Matt Rosenberg December 28th, 2012
by Matt Rosenberg December 26th, 2012
The City of Lynwood has in effect permanently diverted funds from its utility account to prop up its money-losing city golf course, in violation of state law, according to a newly-released accountability audit from the State of Washington. The city says in response it will stop raiding the utility fund to keep the golf course solvent – and in 2013 will decide whether to sell the facility, contract its operations out to the private sector, or keep it afloat through General Fund loans or transfers.
by Matt Rosenberg December 20th, 2012
The Sunlight Foundation reports that the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is seeking public comment until December 31 on the possibility of loosening regulations stemming from a 1986 federal amendment which restricts the use of armor-piercing bullets in handguns. Body armor such as bullet-proof vests is typically worn by law enforcement personnel. The current law allows an exemption to the ban if the U.S. Attorney General finds the use of particular armor-piercing bullets in a handgun is “primarily intended” for recreational purposes.
The issue had arisen prior to the December 14 mass murder in Newtown, Connecticut, which has propelled a new and urgent national dialog about gun control, semi-automatic weapons, and mental illness. At issue here is that as the firepower of handguns has increased, more are now able to use such ammunition, which is already legally used in rifles if deemed for sport shooting.
An alert to members from the National Rifle Association advances arguments in favor of firming up the “sporting purposes” exemption, to allow for use of “rifle-caliber projectiles made of metals harder than lead” in high-caliber handguns.
The request for comment was published on ATF’s website. An ATF backgrounder found there explains the issue has actually been under review since at least August, 2011. ATF has been holding meetings with law enforcement groups, gun owners and others on the potential exemption.
RELATED: Sunlight Foundation Reporting Group
by Matt Rosenberg December 19th, 2012
Violating the terms of its own contract with the King County Sheriff’s Office for security services, the regional transit agency serving King, Snohomish and Pierce counties failed to secure documentation to assure the validity of more than $17 million in related charges which it has paid since mid-2008. The finding comes in a a just-released draft accountability audit of Sound Transit by Washington State that will be presented at a meeting this Thursday of ST’s Audit and Reporting Committee.
In August, a Sound Transit internal audit found that King County Metro over-billed ST for more than $700,000 in para-transit services in the ST Link Light Rail footprint in and around Seattle, mainly by charging based on passenger bookings made – rather than actual rides provided. ST sought a billing credit and corrective steps were taken. In late October, a blistering performance audit by the state zeroed in on Sound Transit’s Citizens Oversight Committee, highlighting a series of ethical lapses and apparent conflicts of interest.
by Matt Rosenberg December 18th, 2012
As public concern begins to crest after the latest U.S. mass murders involving high-capacity semi-automatic weapons, pressure is growing on Congress to take more decisive action to help prevent such tragedies in the future. Exactly one month before the heinous killings on December 14 of 26 school children and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, a 118-page study from the Congressional Research Service was released that is likely to play a large role in framing the accelerating debate. It reported the rates of U.S. murders and firearms murders have declined markedly in the last 18 years, even as the national stock of firearms held by citizens has grown by half or more. But at the same time, according to the policy research arm of Congress, data reporting failures have continued to undermine background checks of gun-buyers mandated under the Brady Act; while a large loophole remains in requirements for background checks; and a federal ban on semiautomatic weapons and high-capacity ammo feeders which expired in 2004 still hasn’t been renewed.
by Matt Rosenberg December 14th, 2012
Even in the most pro-union U.S. states, where payment of basic union dues for negotiating work is compulsory for represented members of a collective bargaining unit, the actual percentage of all employees covered under contracts between organized labor and management in 2011 was just 17 percent. But only 15.8 percent of workers in such “union security” states in 2011 were actually union members; because under federal law they can still decline that classification and decline to be charged additional dues for political lobbying. In so-called right-to-work states, where payment of basic union dues by represented workers isn’t mandatory, the drop-off was the exact same in 2011, 1.2 percent. Some 6.9 percent of workers were covered by union contracts in RTW states and 5.7 percent were union members. Across all 50 states, union membership has declined from 20.1 percent in 1983 to 11.8 percent in 2011. In union security states the decline was from 24.3 percent to 15.8 percent over the same 28-year stretch, and in right-to-work states it dropped from 11.6 percent to 5.7 percent. All this and more is highlighted in a new report from the Congressional Research Service titled “Right to Work Laws: Legislative Background and Empirical Research.”
by Matt Rosenberg December 13th, 2012
A public hearing will be held Thursday at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle to seek comment on how best to assess environmental impacts of a proposed freight train route to a terminal at Cherry Point north of Bellingham that would facilitate a range of international exports including coal to China. The Dec. 13 Seattle hearing will run from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at 800 Convention Place, Ballroom 6F, with doors opening at 3 p.m. There will be 150 two-minute slots for comment at the hearing, and other opportunities online.
by Matt Rosenberg December 12th, 2012
Just this Monday night, the Washington State Department of Transportation’s tolling division director Craig Stone briefed the City Council of Bellevue on an environmental assessment and community outreach effort that’s to come alive in early 2013, paving the way for I-90 Seattle region tolling by 2016. State lawmakers see that as a cash cow for the underfunded SR 520 replacement bridge. But along the way Stone got a polite earful from some council members about the need to spread the tolling burden more broadly across the region, including to Interstate 5 in and around Seattle. Others including stakeholders involved in looming tolling on the new SR 99 tunnel in Seattle, also favor tolling on adjacent I-5 to keep traffic flows in balance. Meanwhile, far from the spotlight, a state committee is taking an early look at a long-term plan to charge for all miles traveled on all streets and roads.