Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Archive for the ‘King County’ Category

Citizen Panel: Sound Transit Needs To Tighten It Up

by Matt Rosenberg March 1st, 2013

In its year-end 2012 Performance Report, presented Thursday at the monthly Sound Transit board meeting in Seattle, ST’s Citizen Oversight Panel took the regional transit agency to task for poor operating cost controls and questionable resource allocation choices, while revenues are 30 percent lower than expected. The COP says in its report that with the Great Recession having smacked down projected ST 2 revenues by nearly a third, Sound Transit needs to clamp down on growth in day-to-day costs such as a planned 9 percent bump in transit operations spending in 2013, and what has been an ongoing five percent average growth rate for agency operating costs. That includes overhead and a particular sore point, security.

King County pays $10.5 mil in 4th quarter negligence cases

by Matt Rosenberg February 5th, 2013

A woman run over by a bus in West Seattle. A man who had already won a large settlement for police excessive force but whose attorney was denied key records in the process. A woman attacked and injured by a neighbor’s two pit bulls, about which she had already made complaints. Three different people injured by the same King County bus that rounded a bend on Interstate 5 and smacked into stalled traffic, at 30 miles per hour. These are a few of the 13 “tort,” or negligence lawsuits King County settled before trial with claimants for $100,000 or more in the fourth quarter of 2012, for a total of $10,535,500. The information comes in a new report to the King County Council from Jennifer Hillis, Director of the Office of Risk Management, Department of Executive Services.

The last quarter results bring to $15,785,500 the total of $100,000-plus tort claim settlements by the county in 2012, compared to $23.1 million in 2011 and $10.3 million in 2010, according to earlier county records reported on by Public Data Ferret. The percentage of dollars paid out in such settlements that stemmed from errors attributed to King County Metro transit employees was almost 73 percent in 2012 versus 27 percent in 2011 and 64 percent in 2010.

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

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.

Metro’s share of King County’s big tort payouts spikes in Q3

by Matt Rosenberg November 8th, 2012

King County Metro Transit was responsible for 71 percent of third quarter 2012 large negligence claim settlements paid by the county, according to a newly issued report. Metro’s share of those payouts is up from 50 percent for the first two quarters of the year, and just more than one-quarter of the total last year. A county ordinance requires quarterly online disclosure of large tort settlements, but that hasn’t happened and there’s no related public database. The data, when issued, can be found through a somewhat obscure county information portal including links to legislation and reports.

As it does every quarter of the year, King County this summer settled a series of what it classifies as major negligence, or tort, claims – those of $100,000 or more. The county is self-insured and pays all claims from a special fund of its own, except those over $7.5 million, for which it has outside insurance. County tort payouts in the third quarter of this year totaled more than $1.4 million dollars. Exactly $1 million or 71 percent of that amount stemmed from mishaps involving the county’s Metro bus system, according to a new Q1 through Q3 2012 tort payouts report to the King County Council from Jennifer Hills, the Director of the Office of Risk Management. The 71 percent share for Metro of the county’s large negligence claim payouts in Q3 compares to 50 percent for Metro in the first two quarters of the year combined; versus just more than one quarter of the county total for Metro in 2011; and nearly two-thirds in 2010, as we reported earlier this year.

South King County votes to decide on new schools, more

by Matt Rosenberg November 6th, 2012

Among local ballot measures likely to be decided tonight in suburban King County are a major annexation proposal in Renton, funding for new high schools in Federal Way and Auburn, a new fire station for Mercer Island, and a possibly a new form of governance for Black Diamond, where a development-related feud has grown between the current mayor and city council.

UPDATE, 11/6/12, 8:30 p.m.: Systemic change didn’t fare well in our five tracked local ballot measures, with proposals for a new form of governance in Black Diamond, and a major annexation to Renton both losing, with unofficial final numbers in. But more routine proposals for increased spending to build new schools or other civic structures appear to have won with broad support in Auburn, Federal Way, and Mercer Island. Update, 9:57 p.m. 11/7/12: Three-quarters of King County ballots overall are counted now. Latest numbers below, courtesy of King County elections.

Proposition 1 in Renton would have led to annexation to the city of the 1,857-acre West Hill region currently part of unincorporated King County. 11/6/12, 8:30 p.m. update – 55% No, 45 % Yes. 11/6/12, 9:22 p.m. update: Paul Berry, a 43-year West Hill resident who co-wrote the Voter’s Pamphlet statement in opposition to annexation said of the results, “People of the community didn’t buy the general and vague promises” annexation would bring improvements. For any future measure annexing West Hill to Renton to pass, several things would have to happen, Berry said. Strong, smart regional approaches to providing police and fire service would need to implemented; plans for upscale development, more sidewalks and urban density softened, and city codes tweaked to be less restrictive on allowing chickens and multiple pets. West Hill contains six neighborhoods, and would have comprised about 15 percent of Renton’s population if annexed. (Map of annexation area).

Proposition 1 in Auburn authorizes School District 408 to levy excess property taxes to fund $110 million in borrowing via bonds over 20 years, to finance construction of a new Auburn High School, and improvements to the high school’s Performing Arts Center and Automotive Technology building. 8:30 p.m. update – 59% Yes, 41% No.

Proposition 1 in Federal Way School District 210 green-lights a six-year, $60 million capital levy to pay for replacing Federal Way High School, plus renovation of 19 elementary school playgrounds, and a new district-wide security camera system. The added cost in each of the six years for school district property owners would be 92 cents per $1,000 assessed valuation. 11/6/12, 8:30 p.m. update – 57% Yes, 43% No.

Proposition 1 in Black Diamond would have OKd a change in the way the city is governed, from the current Mayor-Council form of government to a Council-Manager system. If it had been approved, a new city manager reporting to the council, would have become the chief executive of the city and the office of the mayor, who currently serves as the city’s CEO, would have ben abolished. A planned Yarrow Bay Company development of 6,000 new homes planned for the small city of about 4,160 residents has contributed to a sharp political divide between some members of the current council and mayor Rebecca Olness. But the measure appears to have fallen far short. 11/6/12, 8:30 p.m. update – 59% No, 41% Yes. 11/6/12, 9:40 p.m. update: Olness said, “I’m elated the people of Black Diamond have voiced their support for growth. We need to grow in order to survive,” to boost the local tax base and attract retail essentials such as a major grocery store. The Yarrow Bay development will unfold gradually over the next 20 to 25 years Olness said, with the first several hundred homes built in 2014.

Proposition 1 in Mercer Island will finance a $5.2 million bond issue for a replacement fire station in the South End, through a lift of the state-mandated local tax levy increase lid of 1 percent per year. If the majority of “yes” votes holds, property owners will pay another 86 cents to $1.51 per $1,000 assessed valuation each year, with the rate differing by year, over nine years. 11/6/12, 8:30 p.m. update – 56% Yes, 44% No.


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.

Washington juvenile arrest rates highest in rural counties

by Matt Rosenberg October 30th, 2012

Overall 2011 juvenile arrest rates in Washington state were highest in rural counties while the state’s most populous and urbanized county, King, was among those with the lowest rates.

The data come from the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs and is processed by the state’s Statistical Analysis Center. The Center’s Crime Stats Online data hub provides the public with access to the information, which is used in the Office of Financial Management’s annual Washington State Criminal Justice Data Book.

Following are several maps retrieved from the Crime Stats Online data hub, showing juvenile arrest rates by Washington County in 2011, for various types of crimes.

Leading in juvenile arrests per 1,000 population aged 18-39 last year were Adams, Asotin, Benton, Cowlitz, Clark, Douglas, Franklin, Okanagan, Skagit and Walla Walla counties. The rates are calculated according to the metric preferred by law enforcement, which is the number of arrests of juveniles (under 18 years old) for every member of the general population in the same jurisdiction who is between 18 and 39 years old. Here’s that first map, and then four more.

Sound Transit’s ridership up, but big challenges loom

by Matt Rosenberg October 11th, 2012

Commuter volume through August of this year on the buses and trains of Seattle’s regional transit agency Sound Transit was 18.5 million, up 11.7 percent compared to the same time last year. Regional express buses have carried a majority of Sound Transit’s riders from January through August of 2012. That could shift as the starter light rail system is built out over the next decade and if commuter rail usage grows. But overall, as a proportion of all in-region passenger trips, transit use in Central Puget Sound is expected to grow only from 2.9 percent in 2006 to no more than 5.3 percent by 2040.

County in 10-year deal with popular dog wash at Marymoor

by Matt Rosenberg October 3rd, 2012

If you’ve been glad to give your muddy, happily exhausted canine a good sudsy hosing at Wash Spot Express in King County’s Marymoor Park in Redmond after a romp in the “Doggy Disneyland” off-leash area there, you’ll be pleased to learn the company and the county are likely to be inking a new 10-year concession agreement before the end of this year. The proposed pact and an accompanying letter of endorsement from County Executive Dow Constantine have been transmitted to the county council. The dog wash on park property is adjacent to the west parking lot and the popular 40-acre Marymoor off-leash facility. Because the partnership formed in 2007 has worked out well for the county and Bothell-based Wash Spot LLC, says the agreement, it should be extended until 2022. If expected approval is granted by the King County Council later this year, Wash Spot Express’ monthly rent under the new agreement will be $1,050 and the company will pay the county 10 percent of all monthly income above and beyond the first $8,000 earned per month.