Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Pertussis in WA hit Hispanics at double the rate of others

by July 23rd, 2012

The headline-grabbing outbreak of whooping cough, or Pertussis, in Washington state this year affected Hispanics at a rate more than twice that of non-Hispanics, according to a new report from the Washington State Department of Health and U.S. researchers that was published late last week by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in the CDC’s journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The report “Pertussis Epidemic – Washington 2012” found that in the large percentage of cases where ethnicity and race were known, that “statewide cumulative incidence was higher in Hispanics than non-Hispanics (53.1 versus 24.6 cases per 100,000 population).”

Airport concessionaire underpays Port of Seattle by $250K

by July 20th, 2012

A major SeaTac Airport concessionaire owes the Port of Seattle $256,269 because of confusion on how to report revenues, according to a June port audit. The concessionaire’s umbrella company, American Management Services, agreed with the audit results and will pay the additional monies owed, said the audit report and a port spokesman. Airport Management Services is a joint venture of the Hudson News Group and two other local retail firms. The airport has three food-and-beverage concessionaires, plus other tenants. The June 12 audit report focused on the Hudson News Group, which operates 15 news stands, two bookstores, two bakeries and four speciality stores – Made in Washington, Discover Puget Sound, Life is Good and Kids Works – at the airport.

WA eyes new U.S. transpo bill funds, but with questions

by July 18th, 2012

The passage of a new two-year $100 billion-plus federal transportation funding bill by Congress June 29 is expected to bring roughly $652 million to Washington state in 2013 and $657 million in 2014, compared to roughly $652 million for 2012, according to federal Department of Transportation estimates. But the new law is an authorization bill – meaning Congress still has to actually appropriate the money later when each fiscal year rolls around. Most telling, that $1.309 billion in the next two years is a tiny drop in the bucket, compared to the $50 billion that a blue ribbon panel appointed by Gov. Christine Gregoire said in January that the state needs to raise to maintain and strategically improve surface transportation infrastructure in the next ten years (Page 3, here ). That’s so, even compared to the “lowered expectations” scenario in the task force report, which urges raising at least $21 billion in the next decade for the state’s road and transit systems. A poster child for Washington’s transportation funding shortfall is the new State Route 520 bridge, now under construction. It is still about $2 billion short of the needed funding, which totals more than $4 billion.

Port OKs $475,000 to Kent man’s widow in asbestos case

by July 17th, 2012

The Port of Seattle Board of Commissioners last week approved by unanimous vote a $475,000 settlement its attorneys recommended with the widow of a union electrician who worked for a construction firm at the Port’s SeaTac Airport in the early 1970s and contracted a fatal disease that was alleged to have been related to on-the-job exposure to asbestos. In a staff memo to the board, Port General Counsel Craig Watts and Senior Counsel Annie Purcell state the settlement with Lorena Jo Potts and the estate of the worker, Donald Lee Potts, will likely save the Port money. They cite ongoing litigation costs from a trial that began May 31, 2012, as well as the Port’s “liability exposure and the likelihood that a judgement endered in the event of continued litigation would likely be in the amount claimed or higher…”

Green tourism campaign eyes fewer cars to San Juans

by July 16th, 2012

It’s a Pacific Northwest ritual endured by visitors, newcomers and even old-timers who should know better. Book a trip to one of the idyllic San Juan Islands served by the Washington State Ferries’ stolid vehicle-bearing vessels. Then wait for hours in line at the mainland dock in Anacortes, and plot a better strategy for next time. Rinse, and repeat a few summers later. A consortium of San Juans government, tourism, and non-profit officials say there’s a better way, or at least some painless alternatives that warrant stronger promotion. So at a presentation to the Friday Harbor, Wash. Town Council July 19, leaders of the San Juan Islands Scenic Byways Partnership will discuss their plans to accent car-free travel to the popular vacation spots of San Juan Island and Orcas Island, aided by a new, two-year $171,000 alternative transportation grant from the America’s Byways office of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Atop Mount Constitution, Orcas Island/San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau

The new grant to promote transportation alternatives comes at a timely juncture.

Older, overweight? Not really a health issue, UW study says

by July 12th, 2012

Obesity remains a significant health problem. But the next classification down, being overweight, is no worse for older adults than being of average weight, based on more than a dozen indicators. That’s the conclusion of a study that was recently published online by researchers from the University of Washington, Group Health research Institute, and the Puget Sound Veterans Administration Medical Center. The findings are considered significant because previous research has found that while being overweight does not generally decrease longevity for senior citizens, it does worsen their health, day-to-day functionality and quality of life. The new study says, no it doesn’t – not really.

WA Revenue Dept. unveils sales tax-rate app for businesses

by July 12th, 2012

The Washington State Department of Revenue has released an iPhone app, soon to appear for Andriod as well, that lets businesses doing transactions in different areas look up the local sales and use tax rates, which vary according to city and county. The department calls it “an ideal tool if you make deliveries to your customers in multiple locations.” It’s available at the iTunes store, where early reviews are positive.

Users first look up their location of sale by address, using GPS, or enter the zip code. Then they tap the “calculate;” key in the sale amount; and tap “done.” The app provides the local sales tax rate, and total amount due. The user can save the data for each transaction to a list. The list can be viewed, and also sent via text or email from iPhone.

“We are using the latest technologies to constantly adapt to the changing needs of taxpayers,” said Janet Shimabukuro, assistant director of the Department’s Taxpayer Services division, in a written statement. “The new app should help businesses get the right rate and location code quickly.”

The DOR statement continued, “The app will be particularly useful to mobile businesses such as contractors who need to code sales tax to the location where a service is performed. It also will help retailers who ship products from one location to another. Under Washington law, the sales tax must be coded to the destination of a shipped or delivered product.”

The department recommends users save the confirmation code for each transaction, in case of an audit.


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 jail revenues seen falling at least $10M short

by July 10th, 2012

A shortage of prisoners and a decline in paid services provided to them will blow a hole of at least $10 million this year in the budgeted revenue projections of the King County Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention. Revenues collected by the department in 2012 for housing and servicing detainees from contracting cities and the state Department of Corrections could decline even more than that because of further reductions in jail-eligible populations by DOC, according to a June 28 letter from County Executive Dow Constantine to the county council.