Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Archive for the ‘King County’ Category

Local governments fight new state storm water permits

by John Stang September 25th, 2012

Many Puget Sound and Western Washington local governments are appealing the state permits requiring them to upgrade how they deal with storm water pollution. At least 12 cities, King County, Pierce County, Snohomish County, Clark County and Cowlitz County filed appeals by an Aug. 31 deadline to change the state’s permits’ new requirements due to go into effect on Aug. 1, 2013. Among their contentions: the proposed new permitting plan is inflexible, overly broad, carries insufficient cost-benefit requirements and doesn’t sufficiently articulate how related fees will be used.

WA gas tax, license fee hikes eyed; local MVET option seen

by Matt Rosenberg September 23rd, 2012

Around Washington state this fall city councils, regional associations of cities and regional transportation planning boards are trying to find common ground on what sort of transportation revenue measures to push in the Winter 2013 session of the state legislature to address worn-out and crowded roads and highways and transit system preservation. High-profile electronic tolling in Central Puget Sound will cover only a modest portion of that region’s funding needs. Statewide, a governor’s task force early this year identified $50 billion worth of necessary surface transportation work in the next decade. But a recently approved Congressional transportation spending bill funnels only $1.3 billion here in the next two years. So cities are working to develop a consensus position to advance in Olympia. Several key possibilities, according to a staff memo to be discussed by the Bellevue City Council Monday night are:

* an increase of eight cents in statewide gas tax;
* a local option hike of baseline countywide vehicle license fee from $20 to $40;
* and perhaps even allowing counties to implement a one percent motor vehicle excise tax (MVET).

Though local option measures could advance this year, a statewide gas tax hike might have to wait until 2014. The one percent MVET could be a local option only, not imposed statewide. A city or county council would be able to approve it, or could choose to let local voters decide. Counties which adopted an MVET would get two-thirds of revenues for transit and roads, and cities would get the rest to repair and build arterial streets.

For King County, the Bellevue memo says, a one percent MVET would yield about $75 million annually. Likewise, as outlined in the Bellevue staff memo, an increase in local vehicle license fees from $20 to $40 would not be imposed but could be approved by an elected city or county council or a local transportation benefit district. Another idea being considered is an annual electric vehicle fee of $200.

Bellevue staff say a local option MVET is attractive because it can be used for all surface transportation purposes including transit whereas the gas tax is for roads only; and that the MVET is progressive, based on the value of the vehicle, rather than the same for all regardless of income or vehicle value, like the gas tax. Similarly, a City of Shoreline staff memo also dated September 24, on legislative priorities, says the progressive MVET is preferable to the flat vehicle license fee. However part of the political baggage carried by the MVET is a fair play problem, as some vehicle owners loudly voiced concerns over inaccurate value assessments and overcharging when it was previously in effect in Washington. There’s a thorny backstory, though. In a ballot initiative led by anti-tax activist Tim Eyman in 1999, Washington voters opted to end the oft-reviled MVET, and despite a later court ruling invalidating the measure, legislators chose to let it lie.

King County’s Metro bus service has a lot riding on extension and growth of the vehicle license fee. Following passage of enabling state legislation, the county council in August 2011 approved a temporary 2012-13 license fee of $20 to help maintain bus service and control congestion, with the proviso that a broader funding approach would be implemented in the future.

A gas tax hike of eight cents wouldn’t actually do much good, at least in the state’s most populous and traveled sectors, where mega-project tabs easily run into the billions. According to the Bellevue staff memo, a gas tax hike of eight cents would generate $2.56 billion in a decade with two thirds to the state and a third, or $896 million altogether, to local governments. But the memo notes, “this part of the proposal represents a very modest level of revenue when you consider that the cost of expanding I-405 south of Bellevue through SR 167 is $1.7 billion. the gas tax is attractive in so far as it is a user fee, a principle supported by the Council over the years. However, to address major corridors like I-405, the statewide gas tax level would have to be much higher.”

Although not mentioned in the memo, other unfunded or underfunded mega-projects dot the Seattle regional landscape. Completion of the replacement bridge across SR 520 on Lake Washington requires a missing $2 billion. High priority work on I-5 in Seattle to repair pavement and ease bottlenecks is estimated in the several billions. Crucial safety fixes to U.S. Route 2 in Snohomish County have been pegged at more than $1 billion. Likewise the extension of SR 509 to I-5 just south of SeaTac Airport, a key freight mobility and congestion relief project. Between 2010 and 2040 in the Central Puget Sound region of King, Pierce, Snohomish and Kitsap counties, $64 billion more than anticipated revenue will needed to keep roads, bridges, and transit in decent shape, according to the Transportation 2040 report released by the Puget Sound Regional Council.

That’s why the state is moving ahead with first-stage exploration of a more sweeping approach to tax vehicles by the mile using on-board devices or other high-tech solutions. The Bellevue staff memo does mention this option, but says it “appears to be significantly difficult to implement and may be years away from widespread acceptance.”

RELATED: “How To Get Involved In The WA Vehicle Mileage Tax Study,” Public Data Ferret.

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.

Federal Way R.N. surrenders license in wake of rape charge

by Matt Rosenberg September 20th, 2012

In an order made public today by the Washington State Department of Health, a former registered nurse named Konstantin V. Kurkov who worked in the emergency room of St. Francis Hospital in Federal Way has agreed to permanently surrender his license, following criminal charges of second degree rape of a patient, and administrative proceedings alleging unprofessional conduct.

Kurkov, now 24, and registered to vote at an address on 146th Avenue E. in the town of Graham in Pierce County, settled the criminal charges earlier by entering a so-called Alford Plea to a lesser charge of second degree assault. An Alford Plea indicates no admission of guilt but acknowledging the evidence was substantial. He was sentenced on that charge to 90 days home detention earlier this month by King County Superior Court Judge Mike Heavey, but had already served 95 days in jail, so was released. The sentence also included a $1,000 fine, 12 months probation and a requirement Kurkov get a professional evaluation for sexual deviancy and follow the recommendations.

In the meantime, the surrender of his registered nursing license to DOH’s Nursing Care Quality Assurance Commission also means he will never be able to hold any kind of health care license in Washington State for the rest of his life. In March, 2011, just 14 months after being granted his state R.N. license, Kurkov sexually abused a female patient by inappropriately probing her genital area after she came in to the ER for back pain. She initially believed he was a doctor based on his words and actions at the time.

Further details of the DOH allegations and a link to the original criminal charges were reported by Public Data Ferret in late April, 2011, shortly after the state’s inquiry was made public.

Public Data Ferret’s Ethics+Health Care archive

King County’s big tort claims: $37.3M in last 2.5 years

by Matt Rosenberg August 29th, 2012

Court verdicts or settlements of $100,000 or more in government negligence claims against King County from January 2010 through June 2012 have totaled $37.3 million and 40 percent of that has resulted from actions by transit employees at King County Metro, according to records obtained by Public Data Ferret. The large tort claim payouts by King County more than doubled from 2010 to 2011 but so far are occurring at a slower pace this year. In 2010, total large tort claims (over $100,000) were $10.3 million and $6.65 million or 64 percent were due to King County Metro transit operations. In 2011, large tort claims were $23.1 million and $6.32 million or 27 percent were tied to Metro transit. In 2012 through June, King County has paid out $3.85 million in negligence claims of $100,000 or more, with $1.92 million or 50 percent involving Metro transit.

27 years of data: Seattle crime rate sharply declining

by Nathan Brown August 24th, 2012

Annual rates of reported crime in Seattle have continued a steady and overall, sharp decline from 1985 through 2011, paralleling a trend seen in all other King County cities and nationwide, according to local police department data provided to Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs. A spread sheet (Excel download) prepared for Public Data Ferret using the WASPC data, shows the overall per capita crime rate in Seattle (or reported crimes per 1,000 residents) went from 129.15 in 1985 to 58.06 in 2011. The spreadsheet also has annual per capita crime rate data for all other King County cities over the 27-year period.

Data viz: crime-specific rates, King County cities, 2007-2011

by Nathan Brown August 21st, 2012

Recently, we published an original data visualization showing the overall crime rate per capita for each King County city, from 1985 through 2011. Below we zero in on crime rate data for King County cities during the years 2007- 2011, broken down and ranked by crime subtypes including the violent crimes of murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault; and the property crimes burglary, larceny, arson and vehicle theft. Simply shift the horizontal year-slider one or more years to the right to view a new year. (Please wait momentarily for each new year’s data to display). The map atop the visualization will shift – showing the overall crime rate for each town, color-coded and with mouse-over details (map operation details); but at the same time the bar charts below will display for the same year the crime sub-type rates for each King County city. Rates are expressed per capita, or incidences per 1,000 residents. Source: The maps and bar charts display data as reported from each city’s police department within King County by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs.

RELATED: Public Data Ferret’s Data Visualization archive

Public Data Ferret is a news knowledge base program of the Seattle-based 501c3 public charity, Public Eye Northwest. Ferret In The News. Donate; subscribe (free)/volunteer.

King County labor pacts eye four-year, 6.5 percent COLAs

by Matt Rosenberg August 3rd, 2012

A proposed 2011-2012 labor pact for 750 workers in the King County Department of Public Health and the Department of Community and Human Services that entered the county council’s legislative pipeline this week would initiate a projected four-year Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) hike of 6.5 percent, according to a fiscal note prepared by county staff. It is one of four similar pending agreements with county labor unions. The proposed contract with King County Professional and Technical Employees Local 17 shows that the 2011 base expenditures of $41.18 million on salaries, overtime, pension and withholding included no COLA for 2011. But the agreement would mandate a COLA of 1.63 percent for 2012 and it also projects expected COLAs in a subsequent pact of 2.75 percent in 2013 and 2.04 percent in 2014. Based on those assumptions, the fiscal note projects that the 2011 base costs of paying the bargaining unit would grow by $2.7 million by year-end 2014, or 6.5 percent. The COLA hikes are pegged to annual increases in the Seattle-Tacoma-Bremerton Consumer Price Index (CPI). Health care costs are negotiated outside the proposed labor pact.

84 percent of King County animal fines in 2012 uncollected

by Matt Rosenberg August 2nd, 2012

More than four out of every five dollars owed to King County for violations of animal control regulations in the first six months of this year have yet to be collected, according to a violations summary report from the county’s animal control division, Regional Animal Services of King County. The report was forwarded to the King County Council as an informational item last week by King County Executive Dow Constantine. It says that from January 2nd of this year through June 30th, 375 violations covering 1,029 offenses were issued outside of Seattle in King County, mainly by county animal control officers in the field. The total value of fines issued was $158,640 but only $25,315, or 16 percent, is reported as having been collected. Total violations outstanding carry a cash value of $133,325.