Collaboration in Civic Spheres

June 10 screening accents video storytelling, healthy communities

by June 1st, 2011

Get an in-person look 6 p.m. June 10th in the Chinatown Community Center at grassroots videos by South Seattle residents on nutrition and health, which are featured in an innovative digital storytelling public health campaign that will utilize online mapping and collaboration with Seattle neighborhood groups. The videos feature stakeholders from The International District, Georgetown, West Seattle, White Center, South Park, and other South Seattle neighborhoods telling their own stories about starting community gardens, finding youth sports programs for low-income families, green space and exercise, smoking and other prevention and health topics. The June 10 screening coincides with an open house at the center, and refreshments will be provided. There will be Q & A with the video producers and organizers welcome suggestions from attendees on how and where to use the videos in their community outreach effort. Some of the videos are already posted to an interim Vimeo channel and in October 2011 will be available via an online map at the Mapping Our Voices for Equality (MOVE) web page. (It currently re-directs to the interim Vimeo channel).

MOVE is a digital media and health initiative staffed by several Seattle-area non-profits with funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and Public Health Seattle and King County. It’s part of a program in King County and 54 other locales nationwide called Communities Putting Prevention To Work, designed by the U.S. Centers For Disease Control, and aimed at obesity and tobacco use among low-income and minority populations. Following are several of the videos.

U.S.: Washington’s child, family services fall short

by June 1st, 2011

SUMMARY: A recently released U.S. government assessment found that as in the last federal review, dated 2003, Washington state is still failing to meet baseline standards in seven of seven key outcome areas for its child and family services – centered around safety, permanency and well-being. The assessment, called a Child and Family Service Review, was based on a review of foster and in-home child welfare cases in King, Spokane and Whatcom counties. It accents the responsibilities of the Washington Department of Social and Health Services, and parents, in ensuring the health and welfare of children. The report also evaluated organizational strengths and weaknesses, and found the state meeting standards in five of seven areas.

Washington company wins $83 million contract for unmanned U.S. spy plane support services

by May 27th, 2011

SUMMARY: Insitu, Inc. of Bingen, Wash. yesterday won an $83.7 million contract to provide operations and maintenance support for the U.S. military’s ScanEagle unmanned aerial surveillance systems used by the Navy and Marines to support troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and against Somali pirates. Earlier, Insitu and its parent company Boeing also developed ScanEagle. Civilian applications of the system may ensue in coming years, if a safety rules framework is adopted by the Federal Aviation Administration. Early tests and research have shown ScanEagle can be used to count whale populations, monitor river flooding and aid in back country rescue.

Audit: Bureau of Indian Affairs Jails Still Mismanaged

by May 26th, 2011

SUMMARY: Seven years after the problem was highlighted in a government report, a 2011 follow-up investigation reveals that despite a nearly 50 percent increase in funding, understaffing remains a problem at detention facilities in Indian Country because of poor working conditions, low pay, use of funds for other purposes, and failure by Bureau of Indian Affairs management to focus on the problem. Attrition, low morale and increased security risks are among the results. In addition, the physical condition of many of the detention facilities visited is poor.

U.S. warns consumers of unsafe cribs

by May 25th, 2011

SUMMARY: A U.S. government agency yesterday issued a warning to purchasers of about 22,000 Chinese-made Dram On Me brand drop-side and portable drop-side cribs sold nationwide at major U.S. retailers and online. Consumers should stop using the products right away because of safety hazards including possible strangulation or suffocation. Free repair kits or replacements will be made available by Dream On Me in July.

Gig Harbor Bans Roadside Panhandling

by May 24th, 2011

SUMMARY: The Gig Harbor City Council last night approved an ordinance making it a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and up to 90 days in jail for panhandlers to solicit drivers on public roadways. City officials believe there’s a safety hazard posed by the presence of panhandlers and their signage alongside freeway exit ramps and when they approach or interact with drivers or passengers. Several community-based non-profit organizations in Pierce County and Gig Harbor area minister to the needs of the homeless and hungry.

Washington firm wins $66 million military food supply contract

by May 23rd, 2011

SUMMARY: Numerous Washington state companies other than Boeing continue to win sizable U.S. defense contracts, which can be tracked through a Department of Defense Web page which is updated Monday through Friday, and a related database of announcements. Last week, a Mount Vernon company won a $66 million contract for military food distribution. Among others, in March, Seattle firms won a $30 million contract for infrastructure work at Northwest military facilities, and $6.7 million contract for inflatable mattresses. Other military contracts worth more than $5 million were awarded in the last six months to Washington state firms for aviation fuel, helicopter refurbishment, additional food distribution work, and wirelesss services and devices.

Talking Transparency With Visitors From Ukraine

by May 18th, 2011

“Connecting People, Creating Understanding” is the motto of the U.S.¬†Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program, and it’s an apt one. I was asked to lead a discussion for the program with a delegation of political, media and business officials from Ukraine visiting Seattle yesterday, on the topics of government transparency and the evolving news and information ecosphere. We met at the World Affairs Council in Seattle. The visitors group represented different Ukraine organizations concerned, variously, with property rights, freedom of association and civil society, censorship, business climate and government corruption, and youth political engagement.

We talked about the Washington state-based government transparency project I founded called Public Data Ferret and its parent non-profit Public Eye Northwest; also about civic apps and Open 311 – including See Click Fix as used in New Haven, where it’s conveniently embedded in the go-to online newspaper. We also delved into best practices around open meetings of government bodies, and advance online disclosure of meeting business by local governments, a topic which seemed to interest the group a lot. We finished by watching a rap video on dueling economic theories: the Keynes-Hayek Throwdown, Round 2.

You can get a good glimpse of some of the current concerns in Ukraine from the work of the visitors as described in their bios, provided to me from the U.S. State Department.

  • Ganna Dorzhenko is Director of The Agency For Sustainable Development, Luhansk Region. It’s “an advocacy NGO that provides legal services and free legal aid to underprivileged groups” particularly around “land and real estate property rights protection; it provides legal consultations to local authorities on those issues as well. The Agency is also actively involved with USAID-funded initiatives, specifically ACTION, the Access To Justice and Legal Empowerment Project, and the Ukraine National Initiatives to Enhance Reforms (UNITER).”
  • Vasyl Gatsko “heads the All-Ukranian Youth Democratic Alliance, a rapidly developing youth NGO with wide national reach. He is responsible for overseeing all of the organization’s activities, coordinating regional networks and ensuring its continued growth.”
  • Anastasia Krasnosilska is the Project Coordinator of the Ukranian Center For Independent Political Research. She is “heavily involved in projects aimed at reforming legislation on freedom of association, and development of civil society organizations.”
  • Viacheslav Pavlov is Vice-President of the Ukranian Association of Furniture Manufacturers and “one of the leaders of an initiative group of SME (small and medium enterprises) association from various fields” focused on improving the business climate in Ukraine by “working on tax codes, constituency building and fighting government corruption.”
  • Natalia Sokolenko, a news reporter for STB Television company, “is the newly elected chairperson of the independent Ukranian national media trade union ‘Mediafront,’ which protects journalists’ rights. Ms. Sokolenko is also one of the leaders of the national Stop Censorship media movement, which fights against government and business censorship and interference with the media.”
  • A hat-tip to the two very capable translators, Matilda Kuklish and Svitlana Budzhak-Jones, and to Rachel Moshier of the World Affairs Council in Seattle for coordinating the event.