Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Archive for December, 2012

Key state ferry terminal project at Mukilteo $38.7M short

by December 28th, 2012

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.

Lynnwood’s struggling city golf course might be offloaded

by 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.

Sound Transit Didn’t Validate $17M in Security Charges

by 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.

U.S. report: more guns, less murder; loopholes, laissez-faire

by 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.

Feds: unions keep losing ground even in pro-union states

by 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.”

Coal train EIS scoping hearing in Seattle Thurs. – speak out!

by 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.