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Washington State News Archive

Below are archived news items for the current month. To view a previous month, choose it from the list below.

"School's out in Bellevue as teachers hit picket lines"--Seattle Times
The first day of school was cancelled for about 16,000 students in Bellevue due to a teacher’s strike. The teacher’s union announced their intention to strike Monday night. The union and the school district, meanwhile, are negotiating into the afternoon on Tuesday in the hopes of coming to an agreement. At issue are pay raises for teachers and the desire for a more flexible curriculum. To help parents with the unexpected problem of child care for their school-aged children, the city of Bellevue and the Boys and Girls Club of Bellevue opened up a temporary day care center. - 09/02/2008

"Another long holiday weekend, another debit card scam"--Tacoma News Tribune - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The Fourth of July long weekend this year first brought to light a scam involving debit cards people had used to purchase gas at a Puyallup Arco station. The scammers were back in action this weekend, with over 50 people reporting fraud involving their checking account. Apparently the scammers attached a scanning device to debit card readers at the gas station which allowed them to obtain debit card numbers as well as PINs. Most of the fraudulent transactions originated in California and Texas. Police caution anyone who purchased gas with a card at the station in August 2007 to close their accounts and get new debit cards. The scammers seem to be targeting Arco stations up and down the West coast. - 09/03/2008

"Fire damage closes rail wheat shipping route"--Moses Lake Columbia Basin Herald - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
A wildfire cut a major wheat shipping artery in Eastern Washington when it burned down a wooden trestle on the Eastern Washington Gateway Railroad. Replacing the 48 foot trestle and 1,600 railroad ties is being done by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) since it is responsible for the facilties and regulatory management of this short line railroad. Whitman, Lincoln, and Grant Counties manage its business operations. The Eastern Washington Gateway Railroad is one of three short line railroads operated by the state in Eastern Washington. Why are WSDOT and three counties running a railroad? Because while this railroad itself is at best marginally profitable to its owners, it is vitally important to local economies. - 09/03/2008

"Yakama Nation is suing state"--Yakima Herald-Republic
The Yakama Nation is suing the state over cigarette taxes and treaty rights. The state recently decided to do away with a compact that would allow the tribe to keep tax revenue on cigarettes sold to non-Indians. As part of the compact, the tribe was retaining that money for its own use. However, the state Department of Revenue and Liquor Control Board say that they could not reach an agreement with the tribe regarding terms of the compact. Allegedly, the state has threatened legal action against retailers on the Yakama Reservation who sell cigarettes without collecting the appropriate taxes. The tribe is suing because they do not believe tribal retailers should have to collect state taxes. - 09/04/2008

"Tortoise found at Idaho rest stop needs ride to desert"--Seattle Times
Sadie is a rare desert tortoise, which is a threatened species in the U.S. She was found by herself at a rest stop along U.S. 95 in Idaho and was taken to Spokane for the summer, but now that fall is approaching the cold-blooded reptile needs a more suitable home. A couple living in the Mojave Desert heard about the stranded tortoise and is willing to adopt her, but they can’t make the long drive up to Washington. Sadie desperately needs some wheels, because conventional delivery services don’t want to deal with a protected species. - 09/07/2008

"County, city want $10M for onset of prison costs"--Pasco Tri-City Herald - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Prisons bring jobs and growth to rural communities. The problem is that somebody has to pay for the infrastructure to support that growth. The Coyote Ridge Corrections Center in Connell is is undergoing a major expansion. Now Connell and Franklin County are asking the Department of Corrections for $10 million to help pay for expanded law enforcement and social services. Other costs include a mandatory stormwater plan to go with Connell's population growth. - 09/08/2008

"State weighs shoreline plan intervention"--Spokane Spokesman-Review
The Department of Ecology is so unimpressed by Spokane County's attempt to write a shoreline managment plan that it's talking about writing parts of the plan itself. The plan is required under the Shorelines Management Act. The Department of Ecology gave Spokane County a grant of over $200,000 to help it have a plan in place by January 2007. The Department of Ecology feels the plan submitted by the county is incomplete because it doesn't adequately deal with building setbacks from shorelines nor does it cover all the lakes in the county. - 09/09/2008

"Impact of Machinists' strike starts to spread beyond Boeing"--Everett Herald
Although the Machinists strike at Boeing is only 4 days old, businesses in Snohomish County are already starting to feel it. High aerospace industry wages are a major driver in the local economy. Businesses that supply parts and services to Boeing are also watching the situation carefully. The strike could have implications for the national economy as well. A related story in the Everett Herald, "Long strike at Boeing may hurt U.S. exports", points out that Boeing is one of the nation's largest exporters, and exports are one of the highlights in a slow economy. America's trade gap would be worse without the civilian aircraft industry (see table 7 under Capital Goods). It's even more so for a trade-oriented state like Washington where the the aerospace industry is Washington's largest exporter. - 09/09/2008

"Space in Pasco schools 'becoming a challenge'"--Pasco Tri-City Herald - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The good news is that the growing number of students in the Pasco School District means the district will get more money from the state. However the reality check has already arrived. The district is scrambling to find the staff and space to support the students. Enough students have entered the district to fill another school. With a current growth rate in student numbers at 5.7% the district may have to build a new school--and planning and siting a new school is no easy task. Also the legislature has created a Joint Task Force on Basic Education Finance to review and revise the current system of state support for school districts. The results of this Task Force will undoubtedly have an effect on funding for the Pasco School District, one of the fastest growing school districts in the state. - 09/10/2008

"State seeks bids on two new ferries for Port Townsend run"--Peninsula Daily News
Bids are opening in mid-November for contracts on building two new ferries for the Port-Townsend-Keystone run. The ferries will be modeled after the Island Home ferry, which operates in Massachusetts, but the new Washington ferries will most likely be modified to do away with two bow doors and air conditioning. The Island Home-model ferries will be 64-car ferries, as opposed to Steilacoom II type ferries (the current ferry), which can only handle 50 cars. The new ferries should also be able to handle commercial trucks and cargo. - 09/10/2008

"State says Conconully failed to comply with open-meetings law"--Wenatchee World - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Closed door meetings block transparency in government--that why Washington state has an open public meetings law. The Washington State Auditor's Office released a report criticizing the town of Conconully for having a couple of closed meetings including one on the town's budget. Records of other meetings and workshops were not properly kept. After the city became aware of the problem, city officials received open meeting training from the Association of Washington Cities. The Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington also has a very good resource page on the Open Public Meeting Act. - 09/11/2008

"Sound Transit's light rail plan may cut traffic 30%, says study"--Seattle Post-Intelligencer
A new study released this week by consultants to Sound Transit says that the light rail plan the transit agency is putting forward could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 100,000 tons a year and reduce traffic by 5 to 30 percent. Subject to voter approval, the plan would cost $22 billion and would add 36 miles of light rail, expanding the system to Northgate, Lynnwood, Redmond, and Federal Way by 2023. Opponents of the expansion plan argue that carbon dioxide emitted during the construction process would cancel out emissions saved by decreased traffic, and that improvements in automobile technology could reduce emissions better than public transit. - 09/11/2008

"4-day work week seen as '21st century' schedule"--Olympia Olympian - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
A few small state agencies will begin using an alternative work schedule in Governor Gregoire’s experiment to see if the new schedule makes sense for other state workers. The Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, the Department of Veterans Affairs headquarters, and the Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development’s headquarters, among other offices and agencies, will start working four 10 hour days, and will come to work Monday through Thursday. The buildings for those departments will be closed on Fridays, in an effort to save energy costs for the state and to save on fuel consumption. A total of about 650 state employees will participate in the pilot project, which will result in only a small savings for the state but will allow the governor to see if employees and customers can handle the new schedule. Utah has already implemented the four ten hour days for most if its state employees. - 09/12/2008

"State settles with auto dealers"--Spokane Spokesman-Review
It's not a good idea for a car dealer to sell somebody a "new" car that turns out to be a used car. For one thing, it attracts the Attorney General's attention. The ensuing investigation turned up more questionable business practices by the Kane Automotive Group that operates dealerships in Wenatchee and Spokane. The business reached a settlement with the Attorney General in which it denied wrongdoing, but promised to clean up its act. Among other things it agreed to pay off liens on trade-ins promptly, cease engaging in bushing or yo-yo sales, and submit honest credit applications. The Revised Code of Washington covers unlawful acts and practices for motor vehicle dealers in RCW 46.70.180. - 09/12/2008

"Brain test could be next polygraph"--Seattle Post-Intelligencer
A Seattle scientist has developed a new test that can read a subject’s electronic brain pulses to determine their guilt or innocence. Larry Farwell and his partner will present their device in a contest called the Global Security Challenge in Washington, D.C. Their device tracks what is known as a P300 wave, which is stimulated in the brain when the subject has knowledge of something mentioned to them, as well as another wave they call MerMer, which is attached to memory. The team calls this process “brain fingerprinting,” and says it can help intelligence agencies and criminal justice departments prove when someone is lying. The team claims their technology is more dependable than a polygraph test, but so far it has yet to be embraced as a polygraph replacement. - 09/14/2008

"Crime on the rise in Vancouver, FBI says"--Vancouver Columbian - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Though a new FBI report shows that violent crime is dropping in Washington, the city of Vancouver saw an increase in six out of seven categories in 2007. Murders, manslaughter, forcible rape and robbery, and motor vehicle thefts all rose significantly, while the only category that saw a decrease was larceny and theft. The Vancouver Police Department says that new people moving in to the area with too few police officers for the size of the population is part of the problem. In the U.S. as a whole, violent crime went down 1.8 percent. - 09/16/2008

"Legislators eye ‘rainy day’ fund"--Tacoma News Tribune - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
State legislators and budget writers say that Washington may have to tap into its Rainy Day Fund, created in 2007, to insure a balanced budget in the coming years. Right now the state has a budget surplus, but thanks to a shaky economy, the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council is predicting a budget deficit of $2.7 billion by 2011. The Rainy Day Fund was passed by voters last November to use in case of emergency, or to use if job growth falls below 1 percent, in which case only a simple majority of votes in the House and Senate is needed to tap into the fund. So far, economists are predicting a growth of only .6 percent for jobs in the coming year. The fund currently contains about $728 million gained from tax revenue. - 09/17/2008

"Economy woes may mean local service cuts"--Wenatchee World - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
It's becoming harder for local governments to offer services to the public as the economy slows down. Places like Chelan and Douglas Counties in North Central Washington are facing hard decisions as they prepare next year's budgets. Much of the local funding for local government comes from sources such as sales tax. Cities are also looking at tighter budgets since they rely on sales tax for a significant part of their revenue. Revenues drop when people cut back on their spending. The Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development can supply some economic support to local government, but the state is also facing budgetary shortfalls. Federal sources of funding for local governments like the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination program may also be cancelled or curtailed. - 09/18/2008

"Lummi Tribe opens boarding school to support students, strengthen pride"--Seattle Times
The Lummi Tribe has opened up a 40-student boarding school, built to strengthen academic achievement and cultural ties. Traditionally, boarding schools for Native Americans meant an erasure of their tribal culture and community; they were places where students were forbidden to speak their native languages and were expected to assimilate into white culture. The Lummi Youth Academy, however, hopes to help students focus on academics while providing a place of stability and support within the native community. It will be open to students in grades 8-12, and is meant primarily for members of the Lummi tribe, although they will accept students from other tribes if space permits. Room and board is paid for by the tribe. - 09/19/2008

"FERC approves Bradwood LNG plant"--Longview Daily News
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has approved the construction of a liquid natural gas (LNG) port on the Columbia River at Bradwood Landing, Oregon. The state of Oregon is very unhappy with this decision. LNG safety is an issue. A pipeline will run under the Columbia from Bradwood Landing and link with an existing pipeline in Cowlitz County. While most of the needed permits would have to be approved by Oregon, the pipeline would be under the jurisdiction of Washington's Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC). The Citizens Committee on Pipeline Safety affiliated with UTC expressed some reservations about the plan. FERC doesn't share Oregon and Washington's concerns about the LNG port. - 09/19/2008

"Feds might ask states for money"--Tacoma News Tribune - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The Department of Homeland Security is saying that it might ask states and local governments to match 25 percent of the federal grants they have been given to operate emergency management programs. Officials for those emergency management offices, meanwhile, contend that they will simply not be able to find the matching funds. As a whole, Washington received at least $31 million last year from the five different grant programs managed through the Dept. of Homeland Security. Most of that funding goes towards training emergency responders and planning for natural and man-made disasters. - 09/22/2008

"Housing construction slowing down in Valley: New-home construction is down in the Yakima Valley, mirroring a nationwide problem"--Yakima Herald Republic
The Yakima area saw 23% fewer housing starts in August 2008 than it did in August 2007. It's still better than the national average for August 2008 housing starts which is 37% below what it was in August 2007. This decline in housing starts reflects a slowing of the state economy. - 09/22/2008

"Black bear killed after causing stir in Lacey"--Olympia Olympian - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Department of Fish and Wildlife officers shot and killed a bear in Lacey after it had climbed a tree on Monday. Officers said that relocation wasn’t an option because of public safety risks. They also pointed out that placing a tranquilized bear back into the woods in the middle of the hunting season would not have been a very good idea. The 300-pound black bear was shot with a dart that contained an agent that would interfere with the bear’s respiration. Two bears were killed last year in Thurston County, and Fish and Wildlife officers say that human-bear encounters will only increase as humans encroach more and more into bear habitat. - 09/23/2008

"Yakima's KOA Campground now belongs to the feds"--Yakima Herald Republic
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is now the proud owner of a KOA campground near Yakima. By the time the Bureau of Reclamation is done with it there won't be a campground left. As part of the Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project the Bureau will remove the levee protecting the campground from the Yakima River. Levee removal will let the river reclaim part of its traditional flood plain, thus providing the area more protection from floods and improve fish habitat. The purchase of the campground is part of an ambitious plan to improve water managment for irrigation and fish habitat. Another purchase in the project was the Naches Hydroelectric Project - 09/22/2008

"Climate plan proposed for Western states, provinces"--Olympia Olympian - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
A consortium of western U.S. states and Canadian provinces has agreed on a plan of action to reduce greenhouse gases. The Western Climate Initiative aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 15 percent below those of 2005 by 2020. It also requires states and provinces to sell ten percent of their pollution credits now, and 25 percent by 2020. Some environmental groups disagree with the parts of the initiative, saying that businesses should have to buy all their own pollution credits in order to compel them to expel fewer gases. The initiative allows up to 49 percent of emission reductions to come from carbon offset projects, which, some argue, does not do enough to curb the sources of pollution. - 09/24/2008

"Man's best friend may be a pig"--Spokane Spokesman-Review
There are some interesting questions toward the end of this heartwarming story about a teenager training a Vietnamese potbellied pig to be a service animal. Service animals have a lot of protection under state and federal law. What are the differences between a service animal and a therapy animal? What species of animals are suitable to be service animals? The Department of Justice is considering tightening up the definition of service animal in such a way that various species, including wild animals and farm animals, would not be considered therapy animals (scroll down to the proposed definition of service animal). When do local ordinances come into play when regulating service animals? The Spokane City Code doesn't allow farm animals in residential neighborhoods. - 09/24/2008

"How to protect yourself in a down job market"--Vancouver Columbian - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Clark County's unemployment rate reached 8.2% in August, the worst level in 4 years. (This figure is not seasonally adjusted.) Washington's unemployment rate rose in August, but Clark County had one of the highest rates of unemployment. Jobs in the construction industry have been hard hit, reflecting the . Still it's not as bad as some of the other counties in Southeast Washington. Vancouver can take advantage of job opportunities in the Portland metropolitan area. - 09/25/2008

"County first in state to successfully use wetland banking"--Everett Herald
Two new wetlands in Snohomish County are proof that a concept called “wetland banking” can work. Instead of requiring developers to develop new wetlands after building over what’s already there, or requiring them to pay for someone else to do it, this approach requires developers to build a new wetland before they begin to destroy the old one. A 50-acre site and a 13-acre site were established by the owners of Paine Field, when they decided they needed to pave over wetlands near the airport for runway safety reasons. The newly-created wetlands have to be monitored for ten years to ensure they meet all the criteria to be an authentic wetland habitat. Both wetlands in Snohomish County received certification from government agencies. - 09/25/2008

"Fairchild copters staying put"--Spokane Spokesman-Review
Oh, what a little Congressional pressure can do! The Air Force reversed its decision to deactivate the 36th Rescue Flight based at Fairchild Air Force Base. This unit performs search and rescue work in Washington, Idaho, and Oregon. Senators and Representatives from Washington, Idaho, and Oregon mobilized against the deactivation. The Air Force had to answer detailed questions from individual members of Congress. Air Force officials also faced pressure from the House Committee on Armed Forces and the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee, committees that control its budget. - 09/26/2008

"Feds seize WaMu in nation's largest bank failure"--Seattle Times
The FDIC has closed Washington Mutual and sold its assets to banking giant JP Morgan Chase. Washington Mutual was the nation’s biggest thrift bank and was headquartered in Seattle. WaMu had been foundering due to risky mortgage lending and a faltering housing market. Chase will administer WaMu’s accounts and keep most branches and employees, at least until sometime next year. Because Chase took over all of Washington Mutual’s deposits, all customers will have access to their funds and will not need FDIC’s insurance. - 09/26/2008

"Bailout faces test in House: Vote today on 110-page plan"--Spokane Spokesman-Review - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The financial world is in a crisis of meltdown proportions, and nobody seems to like the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008. ( A summary of the bill can be found here.) This bill has undergone major changes since it was originally proposed. It's unclear how much it will cost. There's also a great deal of debate over whom the bill is protecting. (Congressional websites have been incredibly slow as I've been trying to create links for this entry. Apparently Congress' servers are overloaded by people trying to stay on top of developments regarding this bill--the effect is the same as a denial of service attack.) - 09/29/2008

"Asbestos dangers ignored at McNeil Island prison"--Tacoma News Tribune - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The Department of Labor and Industries has fined the state Department of Corrections $28,400 for failing to remove asbestos-contaminated tile and glue with the proper precautions. Materials with asbestos should be removed using either a vacuum with an air filter or water to keep the dust down. Neither of those things were done, which may have exposed 18 people, several of which were offenders helping with the removal, to cancer-causing toxic materials. Two supervisors on the job had had asbestos certifications and should have known better, according to L & I. DOC has launched its own investigation into the matter. - 09/29/2008

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