Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Archive for the ‘pierce county’ Category

Troubles for most Pierce County school districts in 8th grade

by Matt Rosenberg March 3rd, 2013

By a rate of more than two-to-one, public school districts in Pierce County last year underperformed the statewide average for percentage of eighth-graders who could pass Washington’s math achievement test. A majority of districts also lagged the statewide average in percent of eighth-graders who passed Washington’s reading achievement test. Using the Google Public Data Explorer tool and an interface developed by the Center for Education Research and Data of the University of Washington-Bothell, we run two related visualizations incorporating recently-released 2012 data and corollary outcomes dating back to 2006, in math and reading for all 17 Pierce County school districts.

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.

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.

Puyallup council likely to ban electric dog leashes

by Matt Rosenberg September 30th, 2012

Following several months of investigation, the Puyallup City Council Tuesday night is poised to give approval to an ordinance that electronic dog leashes and collars don’t meet its code requirements to keep dogs under control in public. A city staff memo to the council explains explains the backdrop. Earlier this year, as The Tacoma News Tribune reported, resident Terry Nelson asked the city for clarification after he was fined for not using a leash on his two dogs in Wildwood Park, although he was using an electronic leash. The fines of more than $500 per dog, were later dropped, and the city agreed to dig into possible code revisions. The ordinance Tuesday is a “first reading” of the proposed final policy, which with majority backing could then immediately advance to a second reading and final approval – or be held for a final vote at a following meeting, depending on the council’s inclination.

WSDOT survey: If there’s more freight delay, you will pay

by Matt Rosenberg June 19th, 2012

If traffic congestion on Washington’s interstate and state highways were to grow by a far-from-impossible 20 percent, 56 percent of freight-dependent businesses would pass the added costs on to consumers, more than a third would reroute or eat the costs, and one in ten would either shut down or relocate. The projected impact on freight-dependent businesses would result in a net one-time loss to Washington of 27,250 jobs, and a $3.3 billion decline in direct, indirect and induced economic output. All that is according to a new survey of more than 1,000 Washington freight-dependent employers, done for the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) by Washington State University’s Social and Economic Sciences Research Center and WSU’s Freight Policy Transportation Institute. A central piece of how the state defines traffic congestion is that it occurs when average speeds on interstates and state highways fall below 45 miles per hour.

Whether highway congestion in Washington would actually rise by one-fifth at any point in coming years is hard to say, but as the economy recovers, the odds grow stronger. Gov. Chris Gregoire’s “Connecting Washington” task force report issued in January 2012 does forecast tripling of freight volume in the state by 2035, plus 28 percent population growth in the next decade, and 60 billion vehicle miles traveled in Washington by 2020 – up from 57.2 billion in 2010. The bulk of traffic congestion statewide occurs in Central Puget Sound and the theoretical drops in employment and economic output from a congestion spike would be greatest there as well, according to the new survey report from WSDOT and WSU. But that report emphasizes that many freight-dependent employers elsewhere in the state have a big stake in Puget Sound roadways snarls because they depend on the ports of Seattle and Tacoma for shipping of goods to their final destination.

Weak job growth triggers frustration for Washington’s unemployed

by Kyle Kim September 22nd, 2011

When Tommy Lamoth lost her job in 2009, she didn’t envision a job hunt that would include eight months of collecting unemployment benefits, ping-ponging between temp jobs across Seattle, and still being unable to find work in her field after a year.

The 32-year-old Capitol Hill resident was one of millions of unemployed workers throughout the nation during a year when unemployment rates in the U.S. reached a height not seen in more than 25 years.

The latest unemployment figures for Washington show the state had a 9.3 percent rate for August 2011 – a marginal change from the 9.4 unemployment rate the year before. The Seattle metro region’s 8.9 percent unemployment rate last month was little better than the 9.1 percent rate last year.

Public Data Ferret Economy archive

The state’s job growth of 46,600 seasonally-adjusted new jobs from August 2010 to 2011 comes in stark contrast against the 321,600 currently unemployed in Washington. Lamoth’s chronic unemployment has been a sobering reminder of the difficult realities many face.

“It makes me feel like a total loser,” Lamoth said. “It definitely takes a toll on your self-esteem when you’ve gone so long without working.” Despite having earned a bachelor’s degree and later enrolling at Columbia University ’s film and creative writing program, Lamoth has only been able to find work in temporary clerical positions.

Having previous experience as a midwife’s assistant, she has also kept her eyes open for opportunities in the field but has been able to find openings. Lamoth isn’t alone in her inability to find work in the state.

Unemployment rates ballooned in all 39 Washington counties since 2007 with jobs in construction and finance activities being the hardest hit, according to the 2010 Washington State Labor Market and Economic Report

Data from the Washington State Employment Security Department show half of the state had unemployment rates at least double since 2007, including the state’s three largest labor markets – King, Pierce and Snohomish Counties – which make up over half of the state’s job force with roughly 1.9 million workers.


Washington’s unemployment rate has consistently ranked in the middle nationally. Other states have fared worse during the Great Recession, such as California, Michigan and Nevada – with unemployment rates that reached over 12 percent in 2010. However, certain counties in Washington experience worse.

The northeastern and southwestern areas of Washington have consistently experienced the highest unemployment rates in the state since 2000: Ferry County currently tops the state’s highest annual unemployment rate at 14.7, percent with Pend Oreille, Clark and Wahkiakum Counties all tying for second at 13.7 percent. Whitman County held the lowest unemployment rate for 2010 at 6.1 percent.

The counties have been hit particularly hard due to the lack of economic investment and large labor shares in industries that were affected most – like manufacturing, mining and timber industries, according to state Employment Security Department economists.

Washington state unemployment rates by county, 2007 to 2010.
But where jobs in certain industries have been significantly shed, others are expected to grow.

Jobs in education, health services and business are projected to increase significantly by 2018 for Washington, according to state labor reports.

However, the job growth may not be fast enough, or in the right industry, for Lamoth. She said the lack of opportunities in her field can get frustrating. She has sent roughly 480 resumes since last September, mainly for writing and editing positions in Seattle, a profession that has continually shrunk its work force and is projected to further decline.

Lamoth has been considering looking for work outside the Seattle area despite being limited to public transportation. She said she takes things a day at a time. “There are days that I’m too depressed to look for work,” Lamoth said. “But I’m not ready to give up.”

FOR VISUALIZATIONS:
Data set: Washington unemployment rates by county, 2000 to 2010.
Date set: Comprehensive state labor market data, 2009


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Nailed Lakewood merchant: “it was necessary to cheat on the taxes”

by Matt Rosenberg April 15th, 2011

SUMMARY: State documents released today show that a merchant in the Pierce County, Washington city of Lakewood admitted to cheating the state out of at least $92,543 in sales taxes at his cigarettes and beer store. Seeking leniency after being caught, he claimed in writing to officials that “ït was necessary to cheat on the taxes” to keep his business in operation. He later paid $146,768 to the state to cover the back taxes, penalties and interest. Nonetheless, today in Pierce County Superior Court, the state charged Jong S. Cheon with filing a false or fraudulent tax return, which upon conviction would carry a maximum penalty of up to five years imprisonment or a $10,000 fine, or both. According to state documents, Cheon used two cash registers in his store, Smoke and Beer and More, one for credit and debit cards, and one for cash. Taxes on many of the cash sales, especially for cigarettes, were not reported or conveyed to the state, authorities say.

BACKGROUND: Retailers and service providers in Washington state collect sales taxes, and are required to accurately report their sales totals and turn over their sales tax revenues to the state, which then keeps some and distributes the rest to counties, cities and other local taxing bodies, based on established rates.

Public Data Ferret – Courts archive

The Washington state sales tax rate is 6.5 percent and county and local sales taxes typically add another 2 to 2.5 percent. A state Revenue Department compendium lists the total sales tax rate for each city, by county.

KEY LINKS:

KEY FINDINGS:

  • The Washington Department of Revenue audited a convenience store in Lakewood Pierce, County named Smoke and Beer and More, covering 2006 through first quarter 2009, and found two cash registers were used. One was for credit and debit card purchases, for which sales tax were collected on-site and conveyed to the state as required; the other register was for cash purchases, for which sales tax were collected on-site and often not conveyed to the state. Many of those purchases were of cigarettes.
  • The audit found the store owed at least $92,543 to the state for sales taxes it had collected but not delivered, plus penalties and interest which brought the total amount owed to $146,768.
  • The store’s owner, Jong S. Cheon, appealed the assessment. His written appeal included his statement that, “tobacco shops only make a profit of $0.40 per pack of cigarettes sold. Due to the tough economic times, we did what we had to stay open. We needed to pay bills to remain open, and in order to do that, it was necessary to cheat on the taxes. It doesn’t justify what we did, and we recognize our fault, but we would like to request a reassessment of the fine..”
  • Cheon later paid the full amount after learning criminal charges might be filed against him.
  • Today, the Washington State Attorney General Office filed a complaint against Cheon in Pierce County Superior Court for filing a false or fraudulent tax return. The maximum penalty is five years in a corrections facility or a $10,000 fine, or both.
  • In a statement, Washington Department of Revenue Director Suzanne Delbene said, “These taxes are not the property of the business to be used to pay bills or make a profit. These are trust funds the business collects on behalf of state and local government.”