Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Archive for January, 2013

House bill would ease high school graduation requirements

by January 31st, 2013

The Washington State House Education Committee this week took initial testimony on a bill that would lighten the state academic assessment testing load for students, and ease related high school graduation requirements. Since 2008, to graduate from a public high school Washington state students have had to pass High School Proficiency Exams, or HSPEs, in reading and writing, with a math End-of-Course (EOC) state assessment to be added to the mix for 2013. By 2015, under current state law, they will also have to pass a second state math EOC each year and a biology EOC to qualify for graduation. But the sponsor of House Bill 1015, Rep. John McCoy, (D-38), and array of educators who testified in support of it this week, believe all this gobbles up too much time and money, provokes too much anxiety for students, and accomplishes little else.

73 percent of commutes in Washington by solo drivers

by January 29th, 2013

Each weekday about three million Washingtonians travel to work. A detailed performance metrics report presented last week to the Washington State Senate’s Transportation Committee finds that nearly three-quarters of those trips are by solo drivers. About 2.2 million or 73 percent drove alone to work in 2010, up slightly in percentage terms though not in raw numbers from 2008. More than 10 percent of Washington work trips were via carpool in 2010. Another 5.4 percent were by transit; 5.6 percent were classified as taxi/motorcycle/bike/walk/other; and 5.3 percent of workers, or telecommuters, travelled only down the hall to their home office to start the work day.

The report says that one objective for the state is to “reduce the percentage of commuters who drive alone to work.” That measure has become an increasingly central baseline indicator of transportation impact on the environment. Compared to solo commutes, carpooling, biking, walking and transit use are considered greener alternatives because there are typically fewer greenhouse gas emissions per passenger. As more and more jobs move away from downtown cores, it becomes more difficult for regions to reduce solo work commutes. However, improving vehicle mileage and continued market penetration of electric vehicles can also help limit the environmental effects of solo work commuting, as can increased telecommuting.

The “mode split” data on commuting are among a range of indicators on mobility, safety, and environmental impacts in the “2012 Biennial Transportation Attainment Report” from the Washington State Office of Financial Management.

Figures are for Washington state. Via 2012 Biennial Transportation Attainment Report, Washington State Office of Financial Management - from American Community Survey data, U.S. Census Bureau

According to the OFM report, walking accounted for 3.49 percent of trips to work by Washingtonians in 2010 and biking for 0.91 percent. This is versus 3.42 percent and 0.69 percent, respectively, in 2007.

Figures are for Washington state. Via 2012 Biennial Transportation Attainment Report, Washington State Office of Financial Management

The report also looks at transit ridership in the four counties of Central Puget Sound, King, Pierce, Kitsap and Snohomish. The overall five year-trend is a 13.3 percent increase, but “with job losses and depressed economic activity between 2008 and 2010, transit ridership dropped 3.3 percent,” the report says.

Via 2012 Biennial Transportation Attainment Report, Washington State Office of Financial Management

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 state jobs database lists 500-plus open positions

by January 25th, 2013

Maybe you’d like to be the new media director for Washington’s new Governor Jay Inslee. Or his speechwriter, a state tolling auditor, or to serve on the Helitack crew fighting forest fires out of Ellensburg. Riding in whirlybirds rattle you? Maybe you can drive the Helitack fuel support truck instead. These are just a few of the 629 openings listed now in a state of Washington public database which can be searched by job type, salary level, job location, or employing agency or office. Several dozen of the listed jobs are actually to be internal transfers.

If you’re an under-employed ex-journalist and fancy yourself expert on public education, the Washington Student Achievement Council is looking for a communications director at $80,000 to $95,000 per year. But beware – like some other state positions, especially communications posts – it’s “exempt” from civil service hiring regulations. So getting hired is as much about who you know as how qualified you are.

A wide range of other state jobs are available in fields including nursing, corrections, social services, information technology, human resources, administration, epidemiology, and law. The state needs mechanics, psychiatrists, psychologists and a good man or woman to pull dents from Washington State Patrol vehicles. Maybe you see yourself as a gambling special agent in training or an auditor trainee.

From just click on “Look For Jobs” to get to the Washington state government jobs customizable search tool.

Happy hunting.

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.

CDC: flu vaccine has 38% failure rate this season

by January 22nd, 2013

In little more than six out of ten instances – or 62 percent of the time – has flu vaccine actually prevented patients from getting the influenza virus, according to early results for this winter reported from sampling in five U.S. regions including Seattle. The news comes in a recently-released brief from the U.S. Flu Vaccination Effectiveness Network, that was published in the U.S. Centers For Disease Control open access journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The good news for the Seattle area is that it had the highest “influenza-negative rate,” of 76 percent, among the five sampled regional health systems.

Trees a life-saver? Portland expert, UW dean discuss

by January 16th, 2013

Trees aren’t just a nice-to-have, their widespread removal due to pest infestations can actually be associated with higher rates of mortality, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine by Geoffrey Donovan and a team of researchers. He’s an economist of forestry for the Portland-based Pacific Northwest Research Station of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Donovan probed changes in mortality rates from cardiovascular disease and lower respiratory tract diseases such as pneumonia and bronchitis in 15 U.S. states where the spread of a beetle called the Emerald Ash Borer wiped out roughly 100 million ash trees since its appearances in Detroit in 2002. He found that controlling for a range of other factors, and compared to uninfected areas, the pest’s presence and resulting loss of tree canopy was associated with increased mortality of an additional 6.8 deaths per year per 100,000 adults (or 6,113 total) due to lower respiratory system illnesses; and another 16.7 deaths per year per 100,000 adults (or 15,080 total) connected to cardiovascular malfunction. The infected and uninfected areas were within 1,296 counties in the 15 states.

However, Donovan warned against jumping to conclusions based on the study. In an accompanying commentary. The Dean of the University of Washington’s School of Public Health Howard Frumkin also urged caution but said the study was important as part of a growing wholistic approach in the public health field, to try to quantify the benefits of nature.

Data viz: WA fertility up, abortion down, 1997 to 2011

by January 15th, 2013

From 1997 through 2011 in Washington, abortions are down and fertility is up. Drawn from state Department of Health data, an interactive visualization below that was prepared for Public Data Ferret by Tableau Software of Seattle reveals that within Washington over the 15 years the abortion ratio has been highest in five western counties and lowest in five eastern counties. From 1997 through 2011 the abortion ratio – or abortions per 1,000 live births – was greatest in the counties of King, Pierce, San Juan, Thurston and Jefferson; and lowest in the counties of Garfield, Adams, Grant, Lincoln and Douglas. The state geographic data on abortions is based on county of residence of the woman, not location of the procedure.

Factoring in all 39 Washington counties and all abortions for which the home county of the patient was known (nearly all), the abortion ratio declined markedly from 346.16 abortions per 1,000 live births in 1997 to 230 abortions per 1,000 live births in 2011. On the other hand, the fertility rate, or live births per 1,000 women aged 15-44, grew slightly when counting all 39 Washington counties together, from 61.47 in 1997 to 64.17 in 2011. Across the 15 years in Washington, fertility rates were highest in the eastern or central counties of Adams, Franklin, Grant, Yakima and Okanagan; and lowest in a mix of eastern, central, and western counties. Those were Whitman, Kittitas, San Juan, Garfield and Whatcom.

You can use the data visualization below to reveal abortion ratios, abortion rates and fertility rates for any and all Washington counties in any year from 1997 to 2011 and for all years combined. Using the pull-down menus on the right, below the state map, select the year and statistic to display. For any year and statistic selected, you can scan the comparative results by county in a ranked table under the pull-down menus. You can also hover over a county on the map above for requested data. Additionally, you can single-click on any county on the map for a 15-year line chart below on the left, which will show the general trend and, when hovering directly over the large pinpoints, specific yearly data. Click on that same county once more, on the map above, to go back to the previous view. To get embed code for the viz, click on “share” at bottom left.

The most recent nationwide abortion ratio available is 227 for 2009, according to a Centers For Disease Control report in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly. That compares to a statewide total of 253.7 in 2009 for Washington. Though Washington’s fertility rate has bumped up slightly overall since 1997, it nonetheless tracks closely with the U.S. rate, which is in record decline. According to a National Vital Statistics Report issued by the CDC, the preliminary 2011 U.S. fertility rate of 63.2 is the “lowest rate ever reported for the United States.”

Additional reporting contributed by Matt Rosenberg. 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.