Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Weak job growth triggers frustration for Washington’s unemployed

by September 22nd, 2011

When Tommy Lamoth lost her job in 2009, she didn’t envision a job hunt that would include eight months of collecting unemployment benefits, ping-ponging between temp jobs across Seattle, and still being unable to find work in her field after a year.

The 32-year-old Capitol Hill resident was one of millions of unemployed workers throughout the nation during a year when unemployment rates in the U.S. reached a height not seen in more than 25 years.

The latest unemployment figures for Washington show the state had a 9.3 percent rate for August 2011 – a marginal change from the 9.4 unemployment rate the year before. The Seattle metro region’s 8.9 percent unemployment rate last month was little better than the 9.1 percent rate last year.

Public Data Ferret Economy archive

The state’s job growth of 46,600 seasonally-adjusted new jobs from August 2010 to 2011 comes in stark contrast against the 321,600 currently unemployed in Washington. Lamoth’s chronic unemployment has been a sobering reminder of the difficult realities many face.

“It makes me feel like a total loser,” Lamoth said. “It definitely takes a toll on your self-esteem when you’ve gone so long without working.” Despite having earned a bachelor’s degree and later enrolling at Columbia University ‘s film and creative writing program, Lamoth has only been able to find work in temporary clerical positions.

Having previous experience as a midwife’s assistant, she has also kept her eyes open for opportunities in the field but has been able to find openings. Lamoth isn’t alone in her inability to find work in the state.

Unemployment rates ballooned in all 39 Washington counties since 2007 with jobs in construction and finance activities being the hardest hit, according to the 2010 Washington State Labor Market and Economic Report

Data from the Washington State Employment Security Department show half of the state had unemployment rates at least double since 2007, including the state’s three largest labor markets – King, Pierce and Snohomish Counties – which make up over half of the state’s job force with roughly 1.9 million workers.


Washington’s unemployment rate has consistently ranked in the middle nationally. Other states have fared worse during the Great Recession, such as California, Michigan and Nevada – with unemployment rates that reached over 12 percent in 2010. However, certain counties in Washington experience worse.

The northeastern and southwestern areas of Washington have consistently experienced the highest unemployment rates in the state since 2000: Ferry County currently tops the state’s highest annual unemployment rate at 14.7, percent with Pend Oreille, Clark and Wahkiakum Counties all tying for second at 13.7 percent. Whitman County held the lowest unemployment rate for 2010 at 6.1 percent.

The counties have been hit particularly hard due to the lack of economic investment and large labor shares in industries that were affected most – like manufacturing, mining and timber industries, according to state Employment Security Department economists.

Washington state unemployment rates by county, 2007 to 2010.
But where jobs in certain industries have been significantly shed, others are expected to grow.

Jobs in education, health services and business are projected to increase significantly by 2018 for Washington, according to state labor reports.

However, the job growth may not be fast enough, or in the right industry, for Lamoth. She said the lack of opportunities in her field can get frustrating. She has sent roughly 480 resumes since last September, mainly for writing and editing positions in Seattle, a profession that has continually shrunk its work force and is projected to further decline.

Lamoth has been considering looking for work outside the Seattle area despite being limited to public transportation. She said she takes things a day at a time. “There are days that I’m too depressed to look for work,” Lamoth said. “But I’m not ready to give up.”

FOR VISUALIZATIONS:
Data set: Washington unemployment rates by county, 2000 to 2010.
Date set: Comprehensive state labor market data, 2009


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New UW study assesses “net benefits” in African malaria fight

by September 21st, 2011

SUMMARY: Working with U.S. and African colleagues, researchers from the University of Washington’s Institute For Health Metrics and Evaluation, in Seattle, integrated data from several dozen qualifiying health surveys in malaria-prone Sub-Saharan Africa and found that the use of Insecticide-Treated Nets helped actually reduce parasitemia and death in young children to a significantly greater degree than previously estimated in clinical trials. Their research, recently published in a peer-reviewed “open access” (online, free) medical journal and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, concludes that the use of the treated nets should be continued and expanded in Sub-Saharan Africa, where the bulk of the world’s one million annual deaths from the parasitic disease of malaria occur.

Mercer Island Council might sock adults with civil fines for covert teen drinking

by September 19th, 2011

The Mercer Island City Council Monday night will consider whether to approve the drafting of an ordinance that could levy civil fines on adults responsible for premises where underage alcohol consumption has occurred, even if the drinking occurred without their knowledge. The ordinance would be intended to fill a hole in state law, which punishes adults who knowingly permit drinking on their premises by individuals less than 21 years of age, but gives them an “out” if they claim ignorance.

State worker sexually abused vulnerable patient at Shoreline facility

by September 16th, 2011

With his signature on a state health department disciplinary document, a former nursing assistant at a group home operated in Shoreline by the Washington Department of Social and Health Services admitted he sexually abused a developmentally-delayed 57-year-old female patient in his care, and agreed to surrender his license for 10 years for unprofessional conduct.

According to the “Stipulated Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Agreed Order” that he recently signed, Bart Finkbiner, of Shoreline, from about November 2009 until late January 2010 “sexually abused Patient A on multiple occasions” without consent, including vaginal and anal intercourse, and forcing her to perform oral sex on him. The order states that a strong administrative penalty is justified because of the vulnerability of the victim and because the sexual contact was non-consensual.

According to the King County Prosecutor’s Office, Finkbiner worked at Densmore House in Shoreline. The address was 18814 Densmore Ave. N., according to a police report. The site was operated by the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, which also employed Finkbiner. The Agreed Order describes it as “a semi-private, residential living environment for developmentally-delayed and/or mentally ill individuals.” DSHS records appear to indicate it is no longer in operation.

DSHS in December 2010 issued a finding against Finkbiner of abuse or neglect of a vulnerable adult, and an agency spokesperson said he resigned effective June 25, 2011. In a related but separate proceeding, the Washington State Department of Health – which oversees health care workers – filed administrative charges of unprofessional conduct against Finkbiner in early August of 2011, leading to the Agreed Order signed by Finkbiner and dated August 30, in which he surrendered his nursing assistant license for 10 years. The health department posted the document online and announced the action against Finkbiner on Sept. 13.

According to Deputy Chief of Staff Ian Goodhew, the King County Prosecutor’s Office is still reviewing the case but it may be difficult to charge and try Finkbiner for rape because his signed agreed order with the health department, technically termed “an adopted admission,” is by itself not enough to support a legal claim of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and in addition the developmentally-delayed victim, who reported the case to the department, gave inconsistent statements in later interviews about which days sexual contact occurred, and which acts on which days. No other witnesses were located, Goodhew added.

In response to a reporter’s message left at his Shoreline residence, Finkbiner left a message that he was “very depressed” about the case, that he “didn’t want this to be drawn out” and that he does “not want to work with this population” any more – a reference to developmentally challenged and/or mentally ill individuals.

Finkbiner’s year of birth is listed as 1955 in state records online.

UPDATE, 10:36 a.m.: In a phone interview this morning, Finkbiner denied committing the acts described in the health department Agreed Order he signed. He added that he signed the document because he could not afford an attorney and did not want co-workers to have to be involved in an attempt by him to contest the charges at the health department level. Finkbiner declined to answer further questions.

OTHER RECENT CASES WE’VE REPORTED:

Everett-based counselor loses license for sex with patient

Foreign lottery fixation leads to license revocation for Yakima optometrist

State: nurse at Auburn facility took patients’ opiates, worked under influence

State: patient abandoned by home nursing aide, found on floor

Federal Way hospital nurse charged with rape of patient

Matt Rosenberg is founder and editor of Public Data Ferret, a project of the non-profit Public Eye Northwest.


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CDC report: U.S. adult smoking isn’t fading away

by September 13th, 2011

SUMMARY: U.S. adults made only slight progress quitting smoking between 2005 and 2010, and are not on track to meet the nation’s formal 2020 goal of only 12 percent of adults smoking, according to a new report released by the U.S. Centers For Disease Control. Almost one in five still meet the definition of “current smoker,” down only 1.6 percent over the last five full calendar years. U.S. adult smoking prevalence rates varied by age, income, race and geography, with California and Utah showing the lowest percentages. Washington state was in the second lowest cohort. Because smoking poses annual medical and productivity costs of nearly $200 billion in the U.S., and because quitting has slowed, the CDC report urges consideration of stronger deterrents including higher tobacco taxes, wider smoke-free policies for public places and workplaces, broader restrictions on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, expanded media campaigns, and better access to affordable and effective smoking cessation programs.

Inspector General: national parks climate initiative weak, ineffective

by September 12th, 2011

SUMMARY: According to a report by the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Inspector General, a voluntary climate change initiative of the U.S. National Park Service called Climate Friendly Parks is mainly window dressing because it has no consistent accountability and performance measures, and suffers from poor data inputs at the front end. With tough new greenhouse gas reduction goals coming for the U.S. government under an executive order, the initiative might be best consolidated with a broader, and mandatory type of environmental protection program that the parks service and each other federal agency will have to develop and implement, in their own way, to meet those goals.

Bellevue man, Kirkland firm charged with securities fraud

by September 8th, 2011

SUMMARY: Attorneys for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed a legal complaint today in U.S. District Court in Seattle against Richard A. Finger, 32, of Bellevue, Wash. for defrauding investors in the Kirkland, Wash. securities trading firm he ran of about $4 million over a seven-month period in 2011, through a high-volume, high-risk trading scheme. SEC attorneys allege in the complaint that Finger’s investors, mainly family and friends, lost $1.9 million due to his “improper trading” and that he took another $2.1 million in commissions to help fund a lavish lifestyle – while falsifying account balances, underreporting commissions, and forging documentation to a suspicious trading partner. Federal criminal charges of wire fraud were also filed against Finger today, punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Finger’s attorneys say in a statement issued today to Public Data Ferret that he’s admitted deceiving customers, apologized to them and will reimburse them as best he can.

Seattle Police memo: body cameras easier said than done, now

by September 7th, 2011

SUMMARY: In a report to be presented Sept. 8 to a Seattle City Council committee, Seattle Police say they haven’t begun to test four body-mounted cameras on police officers as directed but that the SPD training unit has done preliminary testing of one camera. Police verified that today. The cameras would record images and sound of police interactions with the public. Police say that in the one-camera test to date, serious problems are evident with the usefulness of the video footage if officers are moving. Police also stress in their report advice from city lawyers on the need to change state law to allow audio recording of citizens without their express consent. That’s not allowed currently. Police note community concerns are another issue, reporting that various stakeholders say citizens should be asked for their consent to recordings regardless of what state law says. Field testing is planned for body cameras on motorcycle traffic officers, with prior consent of citizens required before recording. Funding of a wide-scale Seattle Police body camera pilot program also poses major challenges, police say. A sought-after federal grant has failed to materialize due to U.S. budget constraints. Additionally, the police officers labor union would have to approve widespread use of body cameras, in a new contract now being negotiated.