Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Cities may seek more delays on green fleet conversion

by November 9th, 2012

Does the lobbying organization for Washington’s cities want to push against a 2018 deadline to convert municipal vehicles to use alternative fuels? The Association of Washington Cities is pondering that question, and expects to be making a decision in early December, said Dave Williams, the organization’s director of state and federal relations. The next legislative session starts in early January, with education funding and another multi-billion-dollar budget shortfall both front and center. But a recent AWC draft memo to members stresses local concerns about rising fiscal pressures on cities, infrastructure and jobs concerns, and state mandates. It says a possible priority in the 2013 legislative session starting in January is to “further delay the deadline or modify the mandate for conversion of local government fleets to alternative fuel vehicles” past 2018.

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

by 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 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.

UW study: tattoo snags may mimic diseases, but don’t panic

by November 6th, 2012

In a new study published in a medical journal, a University of Washington dermatologist warns tattoo seekers to beware of possible bacterial complications which can result from variances in types of tattoo inks and practices used, and worrisome-looking symptoms that mimic non-Hodgkins lymphoma, or non-melanoma skin cancer and lupus. But despite these more dire appearances, writes Dr. Michi M. Shinohara, typically the problem is an infection that can be successfully treated with antibiotics. Meanwhile, there are definitely some questions you need to ask your tattoo artist before going under the needle.

Seattle region ranks 2nd of 33 in U.S. suicide attempts

by November 4th, 2012

The Seattle metro region is a hotspot for suicide attempts, according to a newly released federal report drawn from data in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The report, titled “Suicidal Thoughts and Behavior in 33 Metropolitan Statistical Areas: 2008 to 2010,” was released just last week by a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It finds that among the 33 regions assessed, only Dallas ranked higher than Seattle in the rate of actual annual suicide attempts for those 18 and older.

Auditor: state-funded EMS council bilked of $389K by boss

by November 4th, 2012

The longtime Executive Director of a state-funded non-profit emergency medical services and trauma care council in Western Washington over six years bilked the agency out of almost $400,000 by writing herself extra paychecks, plus “operations and planning” stipends, and other unauthorized payments and excessive reimbursements. So asserts Washington State auditor Brian Sonntag in a fraud investigation report released November 1. It details the actions of Anice J. Grant while she worked for the Northwest Region Emergency Medical Services and Trauma Care Council. The council is one of eight statewide which coordinate first response to accidents, and related public and professional education programs. Its members include representatives of emergency medical and trauma care providers in Kitsap, Mason, Jefferson and Clallam counties.

According to Sonntag’s report, the Inspector General’s Office of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is now probing the case and it has also been forwarded to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. U.S. authorities have been notified because federal funds, passed through the Washington State Department of Health, helped fund the council. Though Grant is not named in the fraud investigation report, board meeting minutes and an interview with the council board chairman reveal her as the subject.

Youth, meth play big role in Washington substance abuse

by November 1st, 2012

Federal data on alcohol and drug abuse admissions to Washington state-regulated treatment facilities in 2011 show that the prototypical patient is a male either 12 to 17 tears old or 21 to 30 years old, and has been abusing alcohol and marijuana. In addition, substance abusers in Washington are also twice more likely to be 12-17 than nationally, and twice as likely to have been abusing amphetamines.

These are two snapshots from the 2011 Treatment Episode Datasets for Washington State, and corollary national data, published online by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The TEDs data, as it is called, is available for all 50 states, from 2000 to 2011, and aggregated nationally, currrently up to 2010. TEDs doesn’t cover all patients in treatment, just those treated at facilities overseen and/or funded by state authorities.

The TEDs 2011 Washington state dataset shows that of the 36,837 admittances for alcohol or substance abuse, 62.4 percent were men, and 37.6 percent were women.

Age-wise, the largest group admitted was males age 12 to 17, followed by males 21 to 25 and males 26 to 30.

The most frequent reason for admittance was abuse of alcohol and a secondary drug, followed by abuse of marijuana, amphetamines and heroin.

Women who were admitted were more likely than men on a percentage basis to have abused inhalants, tranquilizers and non-heroin opiates, and almost as likely to have abused amphetamines or hallucinogens. Men were more likely to have been abusing alcohol only, alcohol and a secondary drug, cocaine, and marijuana.

There were some notable contrasts between the 2011 Washington state data and the most recent nationwide data currently available, for 2010. Amphetamine abuse played double the role in Washington state admissions compared to nationally, on a percentage basis (12.6 percent versus 6.1 percent). And Washington state had more than double the percentage of admissions involving 12 to 17 year olds (15.8 percent versus 7.2 percent). And in Washington a higher percentage of TEDs-tracked admissions were for women compared to U.S.-wide (37.6 percent versus 32.6 percent).

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 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.