Collaboration in Civic Spheres

U.S. State Department: 2010 Trafficking In Persons Report

by June 14th, 2010

BACKGROUND: Ten years ago the United Nations negotiated international standards to help identify and combat trafficking in persons. This term applies to practices such as forced labor, bonded labor and forced prostitution. At the time, the United States adopted the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, under which the annual Trafficking In Persons global report is issued annually to raise awareness of and encourage global action against modern-day slavery.

KEY LINK: 2010 “Trafficking In Persons Report,” U.S. Department of State, June 14, 2010.

SELECTED KEY FINDINGS:

1) There are 12.3 million adults and children around the world in forced labor, bonded labor or forced prostitution. Traffickers do an annual trade of $32 billion. There were 4,166 successful trafficking prosecutions in 2009, the highest number since tracking began in 2004.

2) The report ranks 177 nations in several “tiers” by their efforts to combat human trafficking based on criteria including legal deterrents, vigorous prosecution and criminal penalties; implementation of prevention strategies; provision of victim services, and safe and humane repatriation; and collaboration with non-governmental organizations. The lowest ranked (or “Tier Three”) countries are Iran, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, North Korea, Sudan, Zimbabwe, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burma, Mauritania, Papau New Guinea and the Dominican Republic. Tier Three countries are subject to sanctions such as the withholding of certain types of U.S. foreign aid, and U.S. lobbying against certain types of aid to them from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. Another 48 countries – spread across Africa, the East Asia-Pacific region, South and Central Asia, the Near East, Europe and Central America – fall into the second lowest rank (“Tier Two Watch List”).

3) One of several “troubling governmental practices” identified in the report is “lack of education available to women, girls, and other populations, which blocks them from mainstream economic advancement and leaves them vulnerable to trafficking.”

4) The report also urges increased vigilance in purchasing decisions by consumers and governments. “…it is impossible to get dressed, drive to work, talk on the phone, or eat a meal without touching products tainted by forced labor….Consumer spending and corporate investment in business are leverage points that can turn around a system that has for too long allowed traffickers and economies to operate with impunity….A new paradigm of corporate accountability is emerging demanding companies cast their attentions beyond the places where their products are produced or processed – such as apparel factories and seafood processing shops – to places where the raw materials are collected, harvested, or mined.”

Many additional details and coverage of special topic reports are in the report. Sections reporting on activity in each country can be directly accessed from alphabetical “country narratives” found in the hyper-linked table of contents at the “start” page of the report. A video featuring Sec. of State Hillary Clinton and other State Department officials discussing the new report is also provided.

VICTIMS’ STORIES:

The report includes many examples of trafficking in persons. Here are several.

“Vipul was born into extreme poverty in a village in Bihar, the poorest state in India. His mother was desperate to keep him and his five brothers from starving, so she accepted $15 as an advance from a local trafficker, who promised more money once 9-year-old Vipul started working many miles away in a carpet factory.

Microsoft Seeks To Unite Top Washington Companies On Public Policy Agenda

by June 11th, 2010

Seattle PI.com blogger Nick Eaton has a noteworthy report on Microsoft coming out of the closet, politically. A turning point of sorts was a high-profile campaign by the company earlier this year urging lawmakers to keep moving ahead on the politically thorny planned replacement of the State Route 520 floating bridge. The push included a full-page ad in the Seattle Times.

For the global software giant headquartered in Redmond on Seattle’s booming Eastside, there’s just too much at stake to not try to take the lead in collaborating with other major businesses headquartered in Washington to improve the economy and business climate on the home turf. But they’re not singing the usual song about business regulation. Instead, the priorities are things that affect their bottom line but also matter to us all: transportation, infrastructure, education, and growth and opportunity in an increasingly competitive global economy.

Eaton reports that according to Brad Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel and senior vice president for legal and corporate affairs:

To remain a good place for businesses..and to become a more attractive place for corporations, Washington needs to focus and invest in three major areas: innovation, transportation infrastructure and education. Moreover, as Asia becomes the world’s biggest economic power, as Microsoft expects, the Seattle area – with its large Asian community, proximity to Asia and history of trade with Asia – has a golden opportunity to become those Asian companies’ landing point for expansion into the United States.

Microsoft wants to take a leadership role in getting Washington businesses to get the state to where it needs to be. Of course it’s selfish, Smith said, but it should also help the state economy as a whole. “We’re very committed to collaborative efforts,” he said. “We can be counted on to do our share, or even a little more than our share, but we also can be counted on to be collaborative.”

Eaton notes that other corporate heavyweights headquartered in Washington state include Costco, Amazon, Starbucks, Paccar, Weyerhauser and Expeditors International.

The question that remains is exactly what sorts of broader policies would Microsoft and its collaborators advance to improve transportation, for instance, and education? Widespread electronic tolling in Central Puget Sound, keyed to real-time congestion levels? More incentives for telecommuting? Charter schools, which have been shot down time and again in the state? Greater per-pupil funding, enabled by the proposed new state income tax that’s being championed by Bill Gates Sr.? What really works, and what doesn’t?

Moving from the general to the specific is tricky. Not to mention fraught with political peril. The zeitgeist is a piquant stew right now. A few ingredients to keep in mind. Government budget deficits. Tax fatigue. User fees. Public-private partnerships. Empowered consumers.

So Microsoft sharing the weight is good strategy. There are already numerous business advocacy groups in the state and Central Puget Sound. But somehow, none of them have been able to generate enough momentum on the big issues Smith identifies. The success of any business coalition such as that envisioned by Smith will depend in part on its ability to motivate its employees to participate, as well. Microsoft has already shown it can do that. It will be interesting to see how the specifics of the policy agenda develop.

RELATED: “Public Data Ferret On KOMO 1000″ Transportation 2040‘”

Public Data Ferret On KOMO 1000: State Disciplinary Actions Against Professionals

by June 9th, 2010

Yesterday on our regular weekly Public Data Ferret segment on KOMO 1000 radio in Seattle, the subject was how to check out businesses and professionals with state licensing authorities to ensure their legitimacy. Here’s the original Ferret write-up on the Washington State Department of Licensing’s disciplinary actions database. And here’s the audio of the radio segment. The transcript follows.

Brian Calvert: “Before you choose your next realtor, your next driving school, your next notary, you just may just want to do some homework. Matt Rosenberg of communityforums.org joins us, that’s where you can use their feature The Public Data Ferret, and it sounds like the Public Data Ferret came across a link to help us check out some key backgrounds.”

Matt Rosenberg: “That’s right. Good morning Brian and Nancy. Most professional service providers are honest and hard-working, but you want to sidestep the bad eggs. And the State of Washington makes that easier to do. The Department of Licensing online compendium of disciplinary actions tells who’s had their license revoked, or who’s had their license application shelved, for how long and why. They cover several dozen speciality professions, and real estate salespeople, it seems, do the darndest things. I’ll give you some examples here. One in Bellevue concealed convictions for residential burglary and attempted theft. One in Edmonds failed twice to deliver earnest money as required. One in Federal Way sold a property with a history of mold. One in Arlington forged documents and failed to run commissions through her broker. Uh, it goes on and on, and licenses were revoked anywhere from nine months to ten years in these cases. Then we’ve got driving instructors.”

City of Renton: Moratorium On Adult Entertainment Businesses

by June 8th, 2010

BACKGROUND: The current adult entertainment ordinance in place in the City of Renton is over 25 years old and has not been updated. The ordinance allows adult entertainment venues in the “Valley” area of the city. With more adult entertainment venues set to open, the city has deemed it appropriate to assess the impact of these establishments on the community and to consider changes to its guidelines for permitting new entrants. The Community and Economic Development Department has recommended the existing ordinance be studied to determine: what negative effects adult entertainment businesses have on the community, ways to mitigate the negative effects, and to find alternative locations within the city for adult entertainment businesses. After passing an initial moratorium (Resoultion 4037) on March 1, 2010, and holding a public hearing on March 22, 2010, it was suggested that the issue be revisited. The Planning and Development Committee of the Council expressed interest in including additional areas in the moratorium as well as exploring whether taverns near adult entertainment businesses create additional negative effects.

On April 12, 2010, the City Council rescinded Resolution 4037 and adopted Resolution 4041, declaring a six-month moratorium on business licenses or other permits for any new tavern or new adult entertainment venue near any established adult entertainment venues.

Washington State Department of Licensing: Disciplinary Actions Database

by June 7th, 2010

The state of Washington licenses many professions. The Department of Licensing’s online information services for consumers and businesses include a regularly updated compendium of disciplinary actions against business licensees in specialty professions. Professions covered include appraisers, architects, bail bondsmen, cemeteries and funeral directors, real estate brokers and sales people, vehicle dealers, travel agents, limousine drivers and cars for hire, cosmetologists and martial arts instructors, private investigators, notary publics, landscape architects, security guards and collection agencies. Names and locales of businesses and operators are provided, along with month of violation, and the nature and length of the disciplinary action. Supplemental databases – at bottom, here, under “Related” – allow for checking of license status in other professions such as contractors and financial services.

KEY LINK: Washington State Department of Licensing Disciplinary Actions Database.

FINDINGS: Some examples of recent findings follow.

Recent Disciplinary Actions Against Real Estate Brokers and Salespeople. All are named. One in Bellevue failed to advise the department he had been convicted of residential burglary and attempted theft; his license was revoked for 10 years. One in Edmonds failed twice to deliver earnest money as stipulated in a purchase agreement; her license was revoked for nine months. One in Federal Way failed to disclose to a buyer that property he sold had history of mold; his license suspended for 1 year. One in Arlington forged documents and failed to run commissions through her broker; her license was revoked for 10 years. One in Burien failed to disclose a prior conviction for wire fraud and aiding and abetting, and falsified mortgage documents and defrauded mortgage lenders; his license was revoked for 10 years.

Disciplinary Actions Against Driving Schools. All are named. In 2010 to date and in 2009, disciplinary actions included the following. A driving instructor in Vancouver had a suspended driver’s license; his driving instructor’s license renewal was denied for 20 months. One in Port Orchard had a suspended driver’s license; his instructor’s license was suspended for two years. One in Mount Vernon exceed the number of acceptable moving violations in a two-year period and had his instructor’s license suspended for 14 months.

One in Spokane had his driving school owner’s license suspended for five years for operating without a license, and failure to provide the minimum six hours of behind-the-wheel instruction to students. Another in Battleground had his instructor’s and school owner’s licenses revoked for 10 years for fraudulent practices, unreasonable risk, and failure to provide the minimum six hours of behind-the-wheel instruction to students. One in Auburn had his instructor’s and school owner’s licenses revoked for 10 years for operating without adequate vehicle insurance, instructing without an approved curriculum, failing to provide the minimum six hours of behind-the-wheel instruction to students, and unprofessional conduct.

Recent Disciplinary Actions Against Notaries Public. All are named. In 2010 so far, six different notaries public – in Tukwila, Seattle, Tacoma, Bothel, Vancouver, and Longview – had their licenses revoked for periods ranging from one to nine years for being convicted of a serious crime. In 2010 so far, another 16 notaries public in the state have had their licenses revoked or application approvals deferred for actions including violations of professional standards, failure to meet licensing requirements, or failure to cooperate in an investigation.

Recent Disciplinary Actions Against Cosmetologists (hair and nail salons). All are named. So far in 2010, seven different hair or nail salons were fined for violations of safety and sanitation rules. One each was in Vancouver, Bremerton and Seattle and two each were in Burien and Snoqualmie.

RELATED:

Licensing Query System. Professional license searches for many specialty professions. WA Dept. Licensing. provides an information on whether a business or professional has a license, whether it is a city or state license, if it is active, and when it expires.

Look Up A Contractor, Electrician or Plumber, WA Dept. Labor & Industries. Information on license status, complaints, warrants, bonding and insurance.

Health Systems Quality Assurance, WA Dept. of Health. Licensing, complaint and citation information on health care providers and facilities, hotels and motels, farmworker housing and construction projects.

Financial Services Licensee Database, WA Dept. Financial Institutions. Covers mortgage brokers, loan originators, investment companies, business franchises, escrow agents, other financial services.

Corporations Registration Data Search. WA Sec. of State.

Public Data Ferret: Archive of Live Radio Segments

by June 2nd, 2010

Public Data Ferret began its life as an independent initiative of Countywide Community Forums. As of November, 2010 it is a program of a planned new non-profit organization called Public Eye Northwest. Public Data Ferret is a database searchable by topic and/or jurisdiction, composed of neutral, blogged synopses of important public documents, and tutorials on user-friendly government databases. Shortly after Public Data Ferret’s launch, we began a regular weekly live segment on the “Nine To Noon” show KOMO 1000 AM, Seattle, which lasted until the show was cancelled in mid-September 2010. The Ferret project continues. Following are the Ferret radio segments, each in the form of a blog article with an audio link to and a full transcript of the radio conversation, plus a link to the original Ferret write-up.

Public Data Ferret On KOMO 1000: Washington State Race Horse Fatalities

by June 2nd, 2010

Today during the weekly Public Data Ferret radio installment on KOMO 1000 news radio Seattle, we talked about a recent report released on race horse fatalities in Washington state. The original Ferret write up of the report is here.

Last year, there were 16 racing-related fatalities among 6,058 starts reported in 815 races on 91 race days at the state’s sole for-profit horse racing facility, Emerald Downs in Auburn, WA.

The audio of today’s radio discussion is here. The transcript follows.

Brian Calvert: “The state has just released an interesting report on racing injuries and deaths, and how to prevent them. Matt Rosenberg of communityforums.org is with us, where you can use their feature, the Public Data Ferret. And Matt, the Public Data Ferret actually came across a report that deals with horse racing injuries.”

Matt Rosenberg: “We did. Everyone loves a day at the horse races, but if you’ve ever seen a horse take a tumble, and the trailer come to haul them away, you’ve gotta wonder if the horse will survive. So, how often do racing-related horse fatalities occur in our state, and how can they be prevented? It turns out that the Washington Horse Racing Commission monitors that, and they’ve recently released their ‘Equine Safety And Health Report for 2009.’ Now, on the upside, more than 997 out of every 1,000 starts by a racehorse last year in Washington state, at our pre-eminent track, Emerald Downs in Auburn, did not result in a fatality. But on the down side, the racing-related fatality rate per 1000 starts at Emerald Downs reached its highest level yet in 2009, of 2.64.”

Nancy Barrick: “And as you look at these figures, what are you seeing as far as the main problems, the biggest risks for these horses?”

Matt Rosenberg: “Well, they say that muscolo-skeletal injuries are really the big thing. Over eight years that they’ve been keeping track of the data, there’ve been 268 race horse fatalities in Washington state, and seven out of every ten have been caused by injuries to the musculoskeletal system, which includes muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints and bones.”

Brian Calvert: “So Matt, did the report also issue some recommendations perhaps , to prevent these serious injuries or the deaths to the racehorses?”

Washington Horse Racing Commission: Equine Health And Safety Report 2009

by May 31st, 2010

The Washington Horse Racing Commission reported in April 2010 that the state’s racing fatality rate per 1,000 starts reached its highest level yet in 2009, of 2.64, since the commission began compiling data on annual racehorse fatalities in Washington State in 2001. Last year, there were 16 racing-related fatalities among 6,058 starts reported in 815 races on 91 race days at the state’s sole for-profit horse racing facility, Emerald Downs in Auburn, WA. The 2.64 per thousand racing fatality rate in 2009 compares to an annual average of 1.88 per thousand at Emerald Downs over the eight previous years. Total race horse fatalities in Washington in 2009 were 35, one less than the previous high of 36 in 2008.

KEY LINK: Equine Health And Safety Report, 2009, Washington Horse Racing Commission, April 9, 2010. The report is found in the right hand column under “Reports” at this page.

BACKGROUND: Under state law, the Washington Horse Racing Commission promotes and oversees the industry, including tracking the health and safety of race horses which perform in the state. The commission’s postmortem program began in 2001. According to the commission’s Annual Report For 2009, pari-mutuel wagering in the state last year totaled $114 million; $91.6 million was returned to the public and $22.8 million retained. The vast bulk of racing occurred at Emerald Downs. Other racing was at Sun Downs, Walla Walla, Dayton, and Waitsburg.

KEY FINDINGS:

  • Since it began tracking annual racehorse fatalities in Washington State in 2001, the Washington Horse Racing Commission reports that the state’s racing fatality rate per 1,000 starts reached its highest level yet in 2009, of 2.64, with 16 racing-related fatalities among 6,058 starts in 815 races on 91 race days at Emerald Downs in Auburn, WA.
  • Total race horse fatalities in Washington in 2009 were 35, one less than the previous high of 36 in 2008. 16 occurred as a direct result of injuries suffered while horses were racing, eight while training, one in the paddock, and 10 in the barn. There were 238 training days in 2009.
  • Of the 268 total race horse fatalities in Washington state from 2001 through 2009, 71.3 percent, or 191, were caused by injuries to the musculoskeletal system, which includes muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints and bones. The organ systems next most frequently linked to race horse deaths in the same period in the state were respiratory (29 deaths) and gastrointestinal (27 deaths).
  • There were a total of only 17 stewards’ rulings finding that medication violations occurred at Washington racetracks in 2009. Twelve were overages on permitted medications (phenlybutazone and furosemide), three were for the presence of a Class 4 substance prohibited on race days (methocarbamol), and two were for improper administration of medication.

RELATED:

Why Are Broken Legs So Dangerous For Horses?,” Wise Geek

Putting The Horse First,” white paper, American Association Of Equine Practitioners, 2/18/09.