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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.

"DOE to begin work on historic landfills"--Pasco/Kennewick/Richland Tri-City Herald
Archaelogists love garbage dumps--everday items people throw away can tell more about their daily lives than jewels and statues. The newest archaelogical sites in Washington are the garbage dumps used by workers during the construction of the Hanford site during World War II. These dumps can be listed on the National Register of Historic Places since these garbage dumps were undisturbed for more than half a century and cover the period and place where America entered the atomic age. The Tri-City Herald also has a great photo collection of what life was like for the Hanford construction workers in 1944. - 09/01/2009

"Metro savings potential: $31 million"
An audit completed by the King County’s Auditor’s Office and an independent consultant have outlined ways in which the county’s Metro Transit Authority can save millions of dollars. Money-saving suggestions include increasing fares, eliminating the zone system and transfer stubs, increasing route lengths, eliminating the trolley buses, and ending dead-head buses that require bus drivers to drive home an empty bus at the end of their shift. The audit recommended that the transit agency make use of scheduling software to reduce idling time and consolidate routes. If changes in the report are implemented, officials say the agency could begin to see results within two years. Some service changes are already scheduled for September and February, but the transit authority does not yet know whether all the recommendations in the report will be adopted. - 09/01/2009

"Walgreens hopes special safes suppress OxyContin robberies"--Spokane Spokesman-Review
OxyContin is one of the most dangerous and sought after prescription drugs. It is a favorite target of people who rob pharmacies. The Walgreens chain of drug stores is dealing with this problem by storing OxyContin in time release safes. Robbers now have to wait several minutes for the safe to unlock itself. Robbery, instead of being an act of immediate gratification, now becomes a waiting game to see which shows up first--the oxycontin or the police. At the same time brick and mortar pharmacies are taking such measures to discourage theft of drugs like OxyContin, the federal government has cracked down on that were another major source of misused OxyContin. - 09/02/2009

"County smoking rate rises as statewide rate drops"--Longview Daily News
"But nicotine slaves are all the same/At a pettin' party or a poker game/Everything gotta stop while they have a cigarette."--Merle Travis & Tex Williams. They'd feel at home in Cowlitz County. According to the Department of Health over 24% of the adult population of Cowlitz County smoke compared to 15.3% of adults statewide. (Tobacco use rates in other counties can be found here.) The Cowlitz County Health Department has an uphill struggle in trying to lower the smoking rate. Smoking is associated with unemployment, and Cowlitz county has one of the one of the highest unemployment rates in the state. - 09/03/2009

"KRKO radio towers toppled; ecoterrorism feared"--Everett Herald
Two radio towers belonging to an Everett radio station were bulldozed this morning. A sign was left at the scene with the letters ELF written on it, which seems to imply that the ecoterrorism group Earth Liberation Front was involved. However, police are not yet naming suspects. The radio towers have been the subject of several lawsuits over the years, the most recent of which was decided in King County Superior Court in August. The lawsuit was an appeal filed by groups unhappy with the Snohomish County Council for allowing the radio towers to be built; the judge overruled the appeal and upheld the council’s decision. Opponents of the radio towers have cited health concerns and interference with telephone lines as arguments against allowing the towers. - 09/04/2009

"County takes another crack at revising urban livestock rules"--Vancouver Columbian - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
As Clark County's population grows, housing developments are built in what were once rural areas. Housing development spring up around small farms. New residents discover that farm animals can be smelly, noisy, and disrespectful of fences. In order to minimize conflicts the Clark County Commissioners are proposing that urban farms write their own managment plans for urban livestock. The rules will vary depending on whether or not the livestock is being kept inside or outside of city limits. - 09/08/2009

"28 have sought life-ending prescriptions"--Seattle Times
Since the Death with Dignity Act took effect one year ago, 28 people have received the prescriptions for the drugs that will end their lives. However, the Department of Health, which monitors the program, says only 16 people have died since receiving the drugs. DOH doesn’t track whether those people died from natural causes or from using the prescription, but supporters of the act say out of those 16, 11 chose to take their own lives. Before anyone can receive the lethal doses of drugs allowed under the act, they must first meet a number of requirements to prove that they are terminally ill, are of sound mind, and are not being pressured by family members or heirs. Officials at DOH say that Washington is about on pace with Oregon’s numbers for the first year of implementation. - 09/09/2009

"‘Smart grid’ to get test: Led by Battelle, utilities will incorporate tools to better manage electricity use"--Spokane Spokesman-Review
The American power grid that carries electricity within and among regions is old and reaching its maximum capacity. The proposed solution is the smart grid, a combination of management tools, real time pricing for consumers, and improved technologies. A regional test of smart grid technology is being led by Battelle's operation at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and is building on earlier demonstration projects. The Department of Energy is looking at smart grid technology on a national level. - 09/09/2009

"State ordered to restore services to disabled adults"--Everett Herald
A federal judge ruled that the more than 900 disabled adults who were cut off from adult day services throughout the state should have their benefits immediately reinstated. The judge said that the state acted illegally in cutting off services. Adult day services, which include nursing and physical therapy services for people who’ve had strokes, brain injuries, and other disabilities, were cut as part of widespread money-saving efforts by the state. However, the federal judge ruled that the state must figure out care plans for clients before cutting off all care. People who were receiving adult day services through DSHS should call their local Long Term Care Ombudsman for reinstatement information. - 09/10/2009

"Kent strike ends: Teachers overwhelmingly accept deal"--Seattle Times
After a 17-day strike, the Kent teacher’s union voted to accept the latest contract offer from the school district. Ninety-four percent of the union voted to accept the new offer and go back to work. An injunction from a judge in the King County Superior Court ordered the Kent teachers back to work on September 8, and slapped strikers with a fee of $200 per day for each day the strike continued, retroactive to September 1. However, 74 percent of teachers voted to remain on strike until a better deal could be worked out. According to state law, it is illegal for public employees to go on strike, although there have been dozens of teacher strikes in state history. Kent teachers wanted smaller class sizes, fewer meetings, and salary increases. - 09/14/2009

"Plan calls for efficiency, conservation for Northwest's future power needs"--Pasco/Kennewick/Richland Tri-City Herald
The Northwest Power and Conservation Council, consisting of representatives from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana, has issued a draft of its 5 year power plan. The plan is placing its faith in renewable energy sources, clean power plants, and, most of all, conservation and energy efficiency. The advantages of megawatt hours saved by of conservation and greater efficiency is that they place less stress on the environment while costing half of what it takes to build a new power plant. Some nuclear and coal-fired plants could be in the mix as well. These recommendations have weight since they will shape the Bonneville Power Administration's plans and strategy for the next 5 years. The Council was formed as a result of the Northwest Power Act of 1980 which was written in response to rising energy prices and declining salmon runs (a detailed background to the Act can be found in the Council's briefing book). - 09/14/2009

"‘High-test’ beer targeted: Council asks stores to restrict sales"--Spokane Spokesman-Review
One tool cities have to control chronic public inebriation is to create alcohol impact areas. The Spokane has had an alcohol impact area ordinance on the books since 2007 and now the City Council decided to widen the area in its September 14, 2009 meeting. Stores in the area are being asked to limit the sales of cheap beer and malt beverages with high alcoholic content to quantities no smaller than a 12-pack. The idea is make the purchase price more than what a panhandler can make in a day. Local businesses are welcoming the ordinance as a way limit public drunkeness on their doorsteps. - 09/15/2009

"University Place driver licensing office to close"--Tacoma News Tribune
The Tacoma area’s most popular DOL office is set to close on September 26 as part of the state’s budget cuts. Statistics show that the University Place office was more popular than the South Tacoma DOL office, with almost nine thousand more transactions occurring there last year. The Dept. of Licensing is closing ten offices statewide in order to save money, and is encouraging residents to utilize online and mail services rather than coming to an office in person. Three Puget Sound licensing offices in Puyallup, south Tacoma, and the east side of King County will eventually become “super centers” with longer hours and more services available, in order to offset the office closures. The licensing department originally planned on closing 25 offices, but realized that people living in rural areas would have to drive an inordinate length to use the next nearest office. - 09/16/2009

"Dams could be breached as a 'last resort' "--Pasco/Kennewick/Richland Tri-City Herald
The Obama administration has submitted a revised recovery plan for Columbia River salmon stocks. The plan was sent to Judge Redden of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals who is overseeing the litigation surrounding this issue. By all accounts, 2009's revised plan resembles the plan put forth by the Bush administration in 2008 with one very controversial difference. The new plan calls for the breaching of 4 dams on the lower Snake River as a last resort to save Snake River salmon runs(see page 23 of the plan)--something never brought up in the 2008 plan. The dams are seen as a major cause of the decline of Snake River salmon stocks. Conservationists criticize the new plan for being too timid when it comes to breaching the dams. Dam supporters criticize the fact that dam breaching was ever mentioned. - 09/16/2009

"Road still bumpy for area banks, leader says: Loan losses may put recovery years off"--Spokane Spokesman-Review
The worst of the recession may be over, but bankers with headquarters in the Inland Northwest don't feel like they're on easy street yet. The banks, based in Spokane and Walla Walla, have laid off 370 employees while losing $750 million in the last 3 years. Some of these banks have taken part in the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP)--indeed, U.S. Bank has repaid its TARP funds (a list of banks receiving and, in some cases repaying, TARP funds can be found here). Nonetheless bad loans made in the past are making banks are cautious about issuing new loans. The Washington State Department of Financial Institutions has some advice for people trying to get business loans from banks. - 09/17/2009

"State Supreme Court makes it easier to sue for malpractice"
The Washington State Supreme Court issued a ruling today that says a current state regulation regarding medical malpractice lawsuits is unconstitutional. Seven of nine judges found that the requirement that people wishing to sue health care workers for malpractice need to have an affidavit from another health care professional unfairly stands as a barrier to citizens’ access to the courts. The requirement was put into place in order to make people demonstrate that their case had a proper basis and was not a frivolous lawsuit. The two dissenting judges felt that although the certificate of merit requirement did place some burden on the plaintiff, it was necessary in order to keep courts from being overwhelmed and to keep health care costs down. - 09/17/2009

"State expected to lose about $238M in tax revenue"--Seattle Times
The latest state revenue forecast came out yesterday from the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council, and the news is still not good. The state will lose another projected $238 million from slow business in the retail industry, a one-time change in business taxation, and an overall sluggish economy. However, legislators say that while the loss will mean further cuts to the state budget, no special session will be necessary this fall to deal with the shortfall. But some say the budget gap will be even bigger by the time the legislative session begins in January, with some estimates calling for a $1 billion shortfall due to a higher demand on state-funded services. - 09/18/2009

"Bridge's future rests with federal grant"
A disintegrating foundation and wobbly piers may mean that the South Park Bridge that connects South Park to the rest of Seattle will be closed. King County has applied for a federal grant to rescue the bridge, which sits in an industrial area and carries a heavy load of truck traffic every day. According to King County executive Kurt Triplett, the Duwamish industrial zone would suffer a burdensome economic hardship if the bridge cannot be rebuilt with federal funds. There is only one other route to the area, and the county is running out of quick-fix options to maintain the bridge. The county, the city of Tukwila, and the Port of Seattle have jointly applied for a federal transportation grant of $99 million to replace the bridge, but the project is competing with other local projects for the federal money. - 09/20/2009

"Environmental Reclamation Service busy 'mining' lead"--Yakima Herald-Republic
Environmental Reclamation Service is a company that's a good example of how green jobs work--it found a niche and now it's cleaning it out. This company uses a huge, unique machine to excavate lead shot left in the soil at shooting ranges. Lead shot can only be used at shooting ranges; hunters in Washington must use nontoxic shot. Lead shot is outlawed because of its link to lead poisoning and is a notable source of lead in the environment. The big problem faced by Environmental Reclamation Service is that the excavating the dirt and separating out the lead shot throws a lot of dust in the air. The Yakima Regional Clean Air Agency had to shut the job down for a few hours due to the amount of dust it was kicking up. - 09/21/2009

"County revenue source up only slightly: New construction slowdown weakens property tax growth"--Vancouver Columbian - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
As goes property taxes, so go funds for local government in Washington. Clark County is government is looking at some belt tightening since its property values grew by only 1.6% over the last year. The state average was 5.4% growth in property value. Money from property taxes support such services as schools and a host of local senior and junior taxing districts. - 09/22/2009

"Rules raise free speech worries"--The Olympian
The General Administration Department that oversees the state capitol grounds is in the process of developing new rules for displays and gatherings held on the capitol campus. Last year, the brouhaha over holiday displays in the capitol rotunda became national news after some citizens protested the presence of both nativity displays and atheist signs. Requests came pouring in for displays such as Festivus poles and deranged Santas. To alleviate the fuss, GA has decided to revamp their rules to limit displays to capitol grounds only, with the one exception being the holiday tree in the capitol rotunda. In addition, groups of more than 25 people would need to obtain a permit to gather on capitol grounds. Some think the new rules are too restrictive and would inhibit participation in state government. The GA is taking public comments on the proposed rules until October 1. - 09/23/2009

"State AG upholds limits on new wells: Opinion also says Ecology Department can't cut 5,000-gallon maximum withdrawal"--Yakima Herald-Republic
The Department of Ecology and Kittitas County turned to the Washington State Attorney General's office to settle their dispute over issuing well permits in part of the county. The Deptment of Ecology placed a moratorium on issuing new well permits for private or "exempt" wells. An exempt well can draw up to 5,000 gallons of water a day. The number of new wells in Kittitas County was seen as threatening the water supply of holders of older water rights. The Attorney General's opinion states the Department of Ecology can limit the number of wells in an area, but the Department and the local jurisdiction can't strike deals limiting the amount of water exempt wells can draw. This decision takes on new significance in light of a U.S. Geological Survey report on water use in Washington (hint: Washington uses a lot of water). - 09/23/2009

"Mental hospital’s CEO quits: Patient’s escape during fair outing prompts decision"--Spokane Spokesman-Review
It's a safe rule of thumb that when a state run institution makes the news it's not good news. Eastern State Hospital (ESH) got linked to the phrase "insane murderer" after a criminally insane patient escaped from a supervised outing to the Spokane Interstate Fair. The Governor was quoted in the national news asking why did it happen. It's not surprising that ESH's Chief Executive Officer retired within a few days of the escapee's capture. Apparently the man planned his escape after he was denied community treatment in a group home. - 09/24/2009

"Shelton man defends using snake as service animal"--Tacoma News Tribune - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Not many people would want a boa constrictor slithering around their neck, but a Washington resident who suffers from epileptic seizures says he is going to fight to keep his boa’s right to squeeze. Daniel Greene says that his boa constrictor is trained to give him a light squeeze when the snake senses a seizure coming on, and Greene claims the snake has given him advanced warning on several seizures. The Department of Justice had previously been revising ADA laws to take unusual pets off the list of allowed service animals, but those revisions have since been tabled. Under current laws, businesses and other public places must allow people with disabilities to bring service animals on the premises, and cannot ask what disability the animal is used for. The laws are broad enough to encompass any type of animal that has been trained to be a service animal. - 09/24/2009

"State lifts limit on mercury preservative in swine-flu shots"--Seattle Times
Thimerosal, a mercury preservative used in vaccines, has been approved for use in swine flu vaccines for pregnant women and children under age three. Though scientific evidence has not shown that thimerosal causes adverse side effects, some people believe it causes autism in children. The compound has been banned from use in most vaccines, but the ban is being temporarily lifted in the case of the swine flu vaccine so that enough vaccine can be available in time for the expected high demand. The new vaccine will be ready in the first week of October, but only those in the highest risk categories will have access at that time. More doses will be available by mid-October. - 09/25/2009

"Washington state Indian tribes: hunters without borders"--Everett Herald
With the opening of hunting season, tempers often flare between Indian and non-Indian hunters. While tribes assert that treaties signed in the previous century give them hunting rights on all “open and unclaimed land,” state and federal wildlife officials maintain that tribes must follow state and federal laws regarding hunting. Aside from the conflict in treaty interpretation, tribes are allowed to hunt for traditional and cultural reasons. Though they must report their hunting activities to the state Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, Indians are allowed to hunt for enough food to feed tribal members attending funerals and other ceremonies, so it may look to outsiders as though they are killing more than their fair share of elk, moose, and deer. However, data show that they only take about eight percent of the total hunted animals in the state. Tribes have also been working with the state to protect endangered elk populations. - 09/27/2009

"Effects of growing up in poor households can be lifelong"--Spokane Spokesman-Review
Children raised in poverty can spend the rest of their lives trying to catch up. This worries Head Start administrators in Spokane where applications for Head Start services far exceed then umber of available openings. Numbers from Washington Kids Count show that 15% of children under the age of 18 live in poverty. The immediate effects of poverty include food insecurity. Long term effects can include fewer educational opportunities and higher rates of behavior problems. Efforts to improve the situation for children in low-income households include Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and the State Children's Health Insurance Program - 09/28/2009

"Summer fire season a light one"--Wenatchee World
Local residents, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Department of Natural Resources can all take a deep breath of smoke-free air and be thankful that 2009's fire season was easier than feared. Despite undergoing a drought, North Central Washington avoided major fires although there were more fire starts than usual. The outlook for the rest of the year is for normal fire potential. Now the Forest Service is doing controlled burns to reduce future fire hazards. The Department of Natural Resources is getting federal stimulus money to reduce wildfire danger - 09/29/2009

"High court to look at local gun control laws"--Tacoma News Tribune - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The U.S. Supreme Court has decided to hear an appeal on ordinances in the Chicago area that ban handguns. Their decision on the case will settle whether state and local governments can issue bans on guns, laws which some argue are unconstitutional according to the second amendment of the Bill of Rights. A judge in the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Chicago’s local ordinances, but said that only the Supreme Court could decide if that decision should apply to all other areas of the country. Generally, Supreme Court rulings on constitutionally protected rights apply to local governments. The Washington state attorney general has issued an opinion for this state that says state law preempts local laws regarding possession of firearms. - 09/30/2009

"State cuts programs from health district"--Pasco/Kennewick/Richland Tri-City Herald
It's not that the state dislikes kids. Cuts in the budgets of state agencies can lead to deep cuts in services offered by local agencies. The Department of Social and Health Service's Children's Administration has a budget shortfall so it's cutting funding to the Benton-Franklin Health District. When funding gets cut, staffing gets cut. The Health District has lost one public health nurse and two more will lose their jobs. The District has also laid off two environmental health educators. The District is cutting its Early Intervention Program and the Early Family Suppport Services Program. These programs work with families before they get to the point where they go in the Child Protective Services system. The District will also have to cut the Foster Care Public Health Nurse Services program which underlies the Passport Program. Evidence suggest programs such as these save the state money in the long run. The problem is that there isn't money in the short run. - 09/30/2009

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