Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Archive for the ‘Research & Reports’ Category

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.

73 percent of commutes in Washington by solo drivers

by Matt Rosenberg 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.

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

by Matt Rosenberg 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 Mike Klaczynski 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.

Smaller classes no panacea, Washington report finds

by Matt Rosenberg January 13th, 2013

In a new report for Washington state lawmakers pressed to meet a state Supreme Court mandate to better fund K-12 public education, the state’s own policy analysis unit has found that 10 percent class size reductions provide only a very modest gain in key student performance measures in early grades and nearly none in middle- and high-school. This comes not long after similar news from the same source that 10 percent bumps in K-12 spending also have limited bang-for-buck. A broader, related state study will report later this year on whether pinpointing new K-12 money to teacher effectiveness training gets better results.

South Bend court clerk raided cookie jar for $15K, state says

by Matt Rosenberg January 9th, 2013

A fraud investigation report issued yesterday by the Washington State Auditor’s Office says that the court clerk for the City of South Bend in Pacific County misappropriated $15,690 in traffic and criminal fines from May, 2008 through May, 2012. She allegedly did this by skimming cash and checks meant for public coffers and hiding her tracks by issuing handwritten receipts but not entering data into official records. The auditor’s office identified the court clerk as Trisha Belcher, who according to public records lives in the adjoining city of Raymond, and is 44 years old.

OIG report: ignored reforms could save HHS $23B yearly

by Matt Rosenberg January 7th, 2013

The federal government could save more than $23 billion per year and hundreds of billions in the next decade if its Medicare and Medicaid programs and lawmakers acted on ignored audit and efficiency recommendations, some of them now decades old, according to a December 2012 summary report from the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services. The report is titled “Compendium of Unimplemented Recommendations.”