Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Archive for July, 2013

U.S. report: global energy use to rise 56 percent by 2040

by Matt Rosenberg July 30th, 2013

Fueled by growth in emerging economies led by China and India, global energy usage between 2010 and 2040 will jump 56 percent while carbon dioxide emissions from energy use will rise 46 percent, according to the “reference case” 2013 International Energy Outlook released in full today by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Fossil fuels will continue to 2040 to provide almost four-fifths of global energy used, according to the outlook.

Ethics board hits ex-DNR buyer with $7.5K fine

by Matt Rosenberg July 22nd, 2013

A former vehicle parts buyer for the Washington Department of Natural Resources used his position to exchange special favors with suppliers and has agreed to pay a fine to a state oversight board of $7,500 for violating state ethics laws, according to an agreement he signed that was approved July 12. Longtime DNR employee Randy Sweet worked as a parts specialist for the state agency since 1991, in later years at the Tumwater compound just south of the Olympia Airport where he shared responsibilities for buying, billing and taking delivery of materials and parts used to keep running DNR’s boats, heavy equipment, cars and trucks. But during 2007 and 2008 he skirted purchasing guidelines meant to save taxpayer monies, to instead fatten the wallets of or to favor certain suppliers and was rewarded in return with cut rate deals on personal merchandise or other favors. This according to the findings of fact in the Washington Executive Ethics Board agreement, or “stipulation” document he signed to settle the case and which the board approved just 10 days ago.

A 2010 state audit which led to the ethics board probe noted two others at the facility were fired along with Sweet, one resigned, and eight more were reprimanded. The agency then said it put new safeguards in place. There were no criminal prosecutions. The ethics board is still investigating the role of two men above Sweet who may also face civil sanctions. The problems were first identified in a 2001 state audit.

King County DUI plea deal with Renton driver accents recent U.S. high court constraints on blood alcohol tests

by Matt Rosenberg July 16th, 2013

Because of an April U.S. Supreme Court ruling normally barring consideration of blood alcohol tests done without search warrants, says a King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office official, a 20-year-old Renton woman who ran into a man in a wheelchair at a crosswalk and who had levels of alcohol and marijuana in her blood that exceeded legal limits, got off last Friday with misdemeanor convictions and related sentences rather than facing the original felony charges. On July 12 at the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent, King County Superior Court Judge Andrea Darvas finalized a plea deal between the county and attorneys for defendant Emily Sue Falkenstein resulting in her conviction on misdemeanor charges of driving under the influence and reckless endangerment rather than the original felony charges of vehicular assault and felony reckless endangerment. That’s directly because prosecutors were unable to use blood tests taken shortly afterward due to the April high court ruling in the case of Missouri v. McNeely, said Ian Goodhew, Deputy Chief of Staff to King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg.

Wedgwood man sentenced; sought sex with “girl,” 13

by Matt Rosenberg July 12th, 2013

A 55-year-old lawn service owner from Seattle’s Wedgwood neighborhood this week in King County Superior Court pled guilty to a felony sex offense and was sentenced to nearly a year in jail. After police noticed his online post in the “Casual Encounters” section of Craigslist seeking sex with a mother and daughter, a detective responded, posing as the father of a 13-year-old girl “who wants to experience sex with older men.” A series of email exchanges ensued in which the age of the fictitious girl was underscored and the suspect made clear that he understood that, and wanted have regular, oral and anal sex with her. A meet-up was arranged at the Edgewater Hotel, 2411 Alaskan Way on Seattle’s downtown waterfront.

KIng County audit hastens fix pledges on accident pay-outs

by Matt Rosenberg July 9th, 2013

King County could do far better controlling public risk and related liability pay-outs in negligence cases, especially those related to Metro Transit and other transportation functions, according to a recent and wholly overlooked report from the King County Auditor’s Office. It accents “critical weaknesses” in current risk control strategies. These include baked-in lowballing of the real risk bill to county taxpayers due to ignoring workers compensation costs in taxpayer-funded tort liability settlements; and lack of an overall risk control system including thorough accident data tracking and related performance standards. Another shortcoming is insufficient driver safety training, the audit finds.

Outside of transportation, the audit says the county “will continue to face compliance and claims risks” because of its sub-par system for responding to public records requests, and that it must speed efforts to implement risk controls around incidences of excessive force by the King County Sheriff’s office, and cyber-secuirty vulnerabilities. Top officials say they’re implementing some changes already, and more are to come.

“Smart guns” with user ID coming; Washington state reactions mixed

by Peggie Duggan July 3rd, 2013

In January of this year a month after the murder of 26 students and staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut by a disturbed shooter using his mother’s weapons, President Obama issued 23 executive actions to address gun violence – including commissioning a report that would assess the state and availability of new gun safety technologies to limit unauthorized use. On June 17 came the assessment from the National Institute of Justice. “A Review of Gun Safety Technologies” says two different types of what some term “smart guns” – keyed to authorized users only – are coming to market this year and advance orders are already being taken for one, the Kodiak Intelligun.

But reactions to the report were mixed among Washington state law enforcement officials, legislators and gun rights supporters. Some saw potential benefits in improved safe storage and could foresee continuing progress in performance and acceptance. Others worried about reliability or said the emphasis instead should be on illegal possession, a more robust system of background checks, and more educational outreach to at-risk teens about added penalties for using a gun in a crime.