Collaboration in Civic Spheres

State ethics sanctions for four DSHS workers

by November 22nd, 2011

The Washington State Executive Ethics Board has finalized disciplinary sanctions in four cases involving employees of the state’s Department of Health and Social Services who broke state law by conducting private business at work, or in one case, by using their official state employee and agency status in a political TV ad without a necessary disclaimer. At its meeting last Friday the board signed four so-called “stipulation” documents – essentially settlements in place of civil court proceedings – which had already been signed by the employees, setting fine amounts or taking other steps.

Seattle region scores poorly on HIV risk behaviors

by November 16th, 2011

The Seattle area is tied for first among 21 major U.S. metro regions in casual and unprotected anal intercourse between men who have sex with men, or MSM, and that is “the sexual behavior that carries the highest risk” among this group for HIV – the virus which can lead to AIDS. These findings come in a new report by the National HIV Behavorial Surveillance System published October 28 in a prominent medical journal of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Review. Seattle respondents in the national survey of MSM also reported a higher and often pace-setting prevalence of certain types of drug and alcohol use compared to their counterparts in other regions.

For self-reported use of amyl nitrate and marijuana, Seattle respondents in the study ranked first nationally, on a percentage basis. They tied for first place in self-reported use of both methamphetamine and binge drinking; and tied for second place in use of Ecstasy and cocaine. Use of alcohol and drugs, particularly meth, have been correlated by health experts with unprotected anal intercourse between casual male partners that increases risk of HIV.

Washington state near top in U.S. home Internet use

by November 15th, 2011

Washington state is outranked only by New Hampshire and Utah in percentage of households that are connected to the Internet, according to a new report from the U.S. Commerce Department titled, “Exploring The Digital Nation: Computer and Internet Use At Home.” Washington also ranked fourth highest among 43 states for which information was available on rural household broadband penetration. Nationally, home Internet penetration in the U.S. – the lion’s share now coming via broadband services such as cable modem and DSL – is up from 19 percent in 1997 to 71 percent in 2010. However, it varies by income, age and race, as well as geography.

Almost 80 percent of Washington homes have Internet
Drawing on the U.S. Census Bureau’s October 2010 Current Population Survey, the report finds 76.7 percent of Washington state’s households are connected to the Internet through broadband services (primarily cable modem and DSL) and another three percent use dial-up, for a total of 79.7 percent wired to the Net. Washington’s household Internet connectivity rate is exceeded only by that of New Hampshire (77.8 percent with broadband plus 3.2 percent with dial-up for a total of 81 percent) and Utah (79.7 percent broadband plus 2.6 percent dial-up, for 82.3 percent).

North Creek Forest conservation gets big boost from Bothell

by November 14th, 2011

A community-driven and grant-funded effort to preserve a forest for recreation, conservation and environmental learning in the heart of suburban Puget Sound has received a big boost with the City of Bothell okaying a purchase from the Boy Scouts of America for 35 acres of the North Creek Forest, straddling the border of King and Snohomish counties on the side of Maywood Hill just west of Interstate 405. The sylvan swath is within walking distance of 9,000 students at eight different schools, including the University of Washington-Bothell, Cascadia Community College, and public and private elementary, junior high, and high schools.

North Creek Forest includes another 29 acres held by other owners, which conservationists also hope can be acquired, and is home to 34 nesting bird and nine mammal species, nine wetlands, seven streams and an uplands coniferous forest. Pending an environmental assessment of the property to be completed by December 15, and with a land sale closing deadline of December 31, the initial purchase can now proceed following the unanimous approval of Agenda Bill 11-210 last week by the Bothell City Council at a regularly scheduled meeting.

The bill authorizes the city to complete a $450,000 purchase and sale agreement with the Boy Scouts plus $10,351 in closing and acquisition costs for 35.66 acres comprising the northern portion of North Creek Forest. The land buy is funded by a series of grants the city was awarded with much of the legwork done by two local groups, Friends of North Creek Forest, formed only last February, and the longer-standing Help Our Woods. Awarded to the city were a Snohomish County Conservation Futures grant of $200,000, a Washington State Department of Commerce grant of $193,987, a King County Conservation Futures grant of $33,182, and another $33,182 from the King County Proposition 2 Park Expansion Levy.

Surveillance Cameras Coming To King County Parks

by November 11th, 2011

Frustrated by years of continuing vandalism in the parks and natural areas it operates, King County has quietly announced it is seeking bids for surveillance cameras to watch over some of those facilities. Next Thursday November 17 is the revised deadline for formal responses to a request for bids to provide, install and train personnel in the operation of four new surveillance cameras per year for the next five years, at an estimated annual cost of about $28,000. Although the original bid request didn’t specify where the cameras would be used or what for, potential bidders wondered, and so in an addendum the County specified that “the security camera systems will be used primarily to monitor various King County Parks facilities to prevent theft and vandalism.”

More self-dealing alleged at Seattle Indian Services Commission

by November 9th, 2011

The troubled Seattle Indian Services Commission, already in the process of being stripped of ownership of its adjoining properties on 12th Ave. S. by the city in King County Superior Court, is now under fire in a newly-released state audit because former staffers reportedly diverted $73,943 for questionable purposes. This comes after previous state and city audits criticized the commission for awarding contracts to immediate family members of top staff, and for allowing a board member’s husband and son-in-law to also be appointed to the board.

Kent firm gets $64 million more in U.S. military contracts

by November 8th, 2011

Sysco Seattle, Inc. of Kent, Wash. yesterday was awarded two contracts totaling up to $64.6 million from the Philadelphia-based U.S. Defense Logistics Agency to provide food service for U.S. military troops at an assortment of facilities in Washington state through November 3, 2012. All the work will be performed from the Kent location, south of Seattle.

One contract is for $44 million to serve the Navy; this includes ships operating out of Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, as well as Coast Guard ships, plus “various submarines and afloat vessels and currently the USS Nimitz, Lincoln and Stennis,” according to Sysco Seattle Sales Manager Tim Tauscheck. The other contract is for up to $20.6 million more, to serve Joint Base Lewis McChord and other land-based military facilities in Washington state, Tauscheck said. The contracts bring to $144 million the face value of U.S. defense contracts won by the Kent-based employer since 2004.

Sysco Seattle, Inc. formerly did business as Sysco Food Services of Seattle, Inc. and has been awarded at least four previous U.S. military food service contracts totaling $80 million between 2004 and early 2011 to provide food and food services to the U.S. military, as this DOD database search shows. The Kent-based division of the global giant, Sysco Systems, provides food to restaurants, schools, health care facilities, hotels and other customers in the Pacific Northwest, as well as supplies and equipment to the foodservice and hospitality industries.

The contracts awarded to Sysco Seattle this week continue the stream of defense dollars to Washington state employers other than the longstanding defense powerhouse Boeing. Early last month within less than a week, four Washington businesses won medical and construction defense contracts worth a total of up to $53.9 million, and later in October two Seattle companies and an Anacortes firm were among those splitting a $74 million award to build a new oceanographic research vessel for the U.S. Navy.

A September 2010 state study reported Washington companies in 2009 were awarded $5.2 billion in military contracts; and with indirect and induced effects added in, total jobs and labor income from military spending here were 7 and 8 percent respectively of the state’s totals.

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U.S. report: transit use, car mileage gains stuck in low gear

by November 7th, 2011

According to a new U.S government report released in October, the “greening” of the nation’s transportation sector has a long way to go. Total passenger miles traveled on public transit are about one-eightieth those traveled in private vehicles. Solo driving accounts for three-quarters of daily work trips – just as in 1989 – while the corresponding carpooling, walking, biking, telecommuting, and transit work trip mode shares have essentially stagnated for two decades. There’s other transportation-related environmental news in the report that’s less than heartening: average fuel efficiency for passenger vehicles increased only eight miles per gallon in 48 years to 22.6 miles per gallon in 2008. Average mileage for light trucks, vans and pick-ups has progressed at a faster rate since tracking started in 1970 but is still only 18.1 mpg.