Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Group says tourism brought $484.5M to Bellevue in 2011

by Matt Rosenberg August 7th, 2012

At a study session prior to last night’s Bellevue City Council council meeting, Visit Bellevue Washington presented findings detailing that 1,253,000 overnight and day-trip visitors brought more than $484 million in spending to the growing Eastside community last year, plus $44 million in local and state taxes revenues, and directly supported another $263.7 million in salaries from 7,634 tourism-related jobs.

City to expand U District park, but overpaying for property?

by Matt Rosenberg August 5th, 2012

Under an ordinance set for approval Monday August 6, the Seattle City Council would authorize the spending of $967,617 in 2008 city parks levy funds to expand the tiny pocket park called Christie Park in the University District. Once the city completes the acquisition of a neighboring house at 4257 9th Ave. N.E. that is currently rented to University of Washington students and demolishes the structure to double the size of the 5,000 square foot park, Seattle’s government will be poised to receive a $500,000 reimbursement via a Conservation Futures grant tentatively approved by King County, according to a city staff fiscal note on the project. But the house that the city would buy for $795,000 as part of the project, is assessed for 2012 taxes at a value of just $480,000 by King County and has an estimated market value of not more than $600,000, according to a variety of informal estimates from real estate sources.

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.

Audit: oversight lax for alt. ed students in Yakima

by John Stang August 1st, 2012

A state audit said Yakima County’s East Valley school district improperly collected $66,717 in state money for an Alternative Learning Experience (ALE) program serving home-based students via computers, by failing to exercise required oversight ensuring the students were adequately participating. In violation of funding conditions, the district didn’t document that many students in ALE were actually making adequate progress, or putting in required hours of work. In some cases, ALE students failed to make contact with district staff for at least 20 days, also in violation of state funding rules. Some of those students had left the program but were still being counted as participants. Overall, full due diligence monitoring wasn’t performed for half the students in the district’s ALE program in 2010, nor for 70 percent in 2011, according to the audit.

After Kennewick teacher’s series of sexual emails: a salary hike, retirement, then a state reprimand

by Matt Rosenberg July 31st, 2012

A teacher at Kamiakin High School in the Kennewick, Wash. school district is finally getting a penalty from the state for using his school email account to receive, view and forward pictures of nude and partially nude women; and for using it to receive and view images of sexually explicit conduct. Among the classes he taught was “principles of technology.” One individual to whom he forwarded sexual content was the district’s Maintenance and Operations Supervisor Ken Smith. But the 45-day teaching certificate suspension conditionally accepted last week by Emil J. “Jerry” Carlson in an agreed order with the state’s Office of the Superintendent of Pubic Instruction comes after Carlson reaped an $11,000 annual increase in pay and benefits while the district knew of his actions; and finally, after his recent retirement noted by the Tri-City Herald. The state disciplinary action against him also comes a full 32 months after the state was informed of the problems by the Kennewick district. No students were involved.

Report: Asia prime turf for American wood pellets

by John Stang July 30th, 2012

The Asian wood pellet market is growing, and the the United States and Canada are poised to be a prime source for it, according to a second-quarter 2012 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Pacific Northwest Research Station. “The West Coast is in a strong position to supply Asia with wood pellets, drawing on both timber supply and proximity to Asian markets,” the report said.

China, Japan and South Korea have large demands for wood pellets for home heating and for mixing with coal in power plants. The primary use for wood pellets in Asia is co-firing at coal-power plants. “Therefore, business development should include….coal power plants that have an interest in increasing their renewable energy output,” the report said. This demand meshes with the Obama administration’s goal of doubling exports from $1 trillion to $2 trillion by 2015 – enough to create a cabinet level post to pursue that target, the report said.

WA audit: fiscally, City of Sunnyside skating on thin ice

by John Stang July 26th, 2012

The City of Sunnyside in Yakima County improperly juggled its internal funds in the past two years, so its general fund landed in the red just five months into 2012, according to a state audit report released this week. That red ink in the general fund totaled $613,516 as of May 31, although the city has slightly more than $1 million in cash reserves to bail it out. But this is the first time – at least in recent years – that Sunnyside’s general fund is in negative territory and the cash reserves will have to be used, and it’s no mere technicality. The report from the office of State Auditor Brian Sonntag says, “The city is at risk of not being able to meet financial obligations or maintain services at current levels. This could result in the city needing to take out bank loans or to find alternate funding sources, which could be an additional cost to its ratepayers and taxpayers.”