« December 2007 | Main | February 2008 »

January 21, 2008

Disgusting, Racist Clark Country Republicans

Shame on the Clark County Republican Party website for publishing a hateful, racist attack on Barack Obama.  I am waiting for Dino Rossi to disavow this kind of gutter politics.  Goldy is also pissed.

Posted by Jon Stahl on January 21, 2008 at 08:49 PM in Candidate Races | Permalink | Comments (1)

January 18, 2008

Help Fix Washington Health Care System

Really.  The Washington State Senate wants your input.  They have scheduled a 2-day online Town Hall-type meeting on health care reform with an emphasis on how to improve the delivery of health care in our state.   Sign-up online.  Participate online.  Pretty simple.

The meeting will be held next Tuesday and Wednesday, January 22nd and 23rd.  Discussion topics include, but are not limited to, affordability, choice and availability.  Tell your stories.  Make suggestions. 

Panelists include Senator Karen Keiser and Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler, as well as members of the Senate's Health & Long Term Care Committee and health care professionals.

And, remember to thank them for doing this.  It's a huge step forward in including the public.  Yeah Senate Democrats!

Posted by Lynn Allen on January 18, 2008 at 08:09 AM in Policy, Strategery, Taking Action | Permalink | Comments (1)

January 13, 2008

Washingtonians Can Now Register To Vote Online

Great news for fans of, um, voting: Washingtonians can now register to vote online.  Washington is only the second state, after Arizona (Arizona?!?!) to allow online voter registration. 

Kudos to Secretary of State Sam Reed for recognizing the importance of knocking down barriers to participation in our electoral system.

I hope to see some innovative online voter registration from Washington state prorgressive groups over the next year.

In the unlikely event that you, dear reader, are not registered to vote.  You no longer have an excuse.

Posted by Jon Stahl on January 13, 2008 at 07:42 PM in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (1)

Judge Hollenbeck Gets Award for Biggest Creep of 2008

I may just have to copy honor Keith Olbermann by starting my own version of his "Worst Person in the World" segment. Considering what this creepy Richland judge did to cancer patient Bev Williams, who wears a cap to cover her bald head (from chemotherapy treatments), I name him as 2008's first recipient:

"I was embarrassed. It made me cry," said Williams, who recently underwent six months of chemotherapy for cancer.

Williams said she wouldn't remove the cap as Hollenbeck instructed and left the courtroom, but she believes he could have made an exception when he learned why she wears a cap in public.

<snip>

Hollenbeck said, "I am very understanding with people who battle with cancer. My own mother died from cancer. I've had hundreds of cancer victims come through my court, and I've never had one not remove their hat, ever."

He added, "Refusal to remove shows contempt for the court and for the judge."

If this jerk wants to see contempt I'll be glad to show him some. Besides the fact that I think he's a liar for saying he's understanding of people with cancer, his stupid "rule" about ordering people to either remove their hats or be ejected from the courtroom is only that -- his stupid rule. It's not a rule of The Court and it's not a rule of the other judges. It's manipulation by an authoritarian control freak. I wouldn't be surprised if this guy got his start in life as the Boys Vice-Principal of a junior high school somewhere.

I have three words for Judge Hollenbeck:

Suck My Hat.

Update: Blogger Darkblack does some impressive investigative work of his own and comes up with a dilly on the judge's lack of attention to what goes on in his own courtroom.

Update 2: Two excellent letters in the Seattle Times express readers' disgust over Hollenbeck's so-called "compassion" for cancer patients. Here's the great closing line to one of them:

I wonder if Hollenbeck's late mother routinely sat in public baldheaded. I doubt it. It's a shame she didn't instill better manners in her son, or explain that in order to garner respect, even a judge must earn it, rather than demand it.

Posted by shoephone on January 13, 2008 at 01:51 AM in Washington Culture | Permalink | Comments (8)

January 10, 2008

Port's Reputation in Tatters; Its Taxing Authority in Doubt

A quickening pace of accusations and recriminations has hit the Port of Seattle since the release of a blistering audit performance report last month. Public hearings have been held over the past two days, squeezing 200 people into the chambers. While David Cotton, one of the auditing consultants, reiterated his concerns over the uncooperative behavior of Port staff, and Auditor Sonntag expressed doubts about the Port's ability to investigate or police itself, Port Commissioner Pat Davis, already in hot water with citizens, didn't do her case any good:

Davis said that contractor was "not unintelligent" because it knew that as sole bidder it could inflate its cost, which was negotiated between TTI and then-port chief Mic Dinsmore at a steakhouse. "I think you call it market forces and gripe and complain about the contractor, but you can't do anything about it because that is the marketplace."

Besides, she said, the port does not use its $76 million annual King County property tax levy to pay for airport capital projects, "so it is not taxpayer money at the airport; it is grants, airport money" -- much of it from the federal government.

Her comments prompted shouts of "You just don't get it," from the audience.

Far be it from me to predict the future, but the effort to recall Davis may have been strengthened by that exchange. I'm not gloating here. It makes me sad to imagine the legacy that will be left by Davis' Port career. She started out as a reformer herself.

Recently elected Commissioners Bryant and Tarleton are already drawing up plans for reform, and the full commission enacted some important ones on Tuesday, beginning with punitive measures against Port staffers who don't relay critical contracts information up the food chain. The legislature is getting into the act as well -- a House appropriations subcommittee intends to deal with Port issues in two weeks. But the biggest bombshell came with this news:

And late Wednesday, Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Des Moines, announced she plans to introduce legislation to repeal the Port of Seattle's property tax authority.

Yikes.

Posted by shoephone on January 10, 2008 at 01:14 AM in Policy, Washington Culture | Permalink | Comments (1)

January 08, 2008

Federal Investigation Opened into Port of Seattle's Contracting Practices

Tay Yoshitani may have been hoping for inertia + short attention spans after a recent state performance audit indicated a pattern of corruption (and lawbreaking?) in the Port of Seattle's contracts and bidding practices. What he and the commission got instead is a federal investigation just opened by U.S. Attorney Jeff Sullivan. The prosecutor has written a letter to Auditor Sonntag, telling him not to divulge any names or details that weren't already made public in the report. And the FBI is on the case.

After originally agreeing with most of the audit's findings, promising changes and the hiring of an investigator, Yoshitani is now showing some desperation, pulling back on the reins and disputing the audit. He's got teammates on the commission:

The audit also found that the port had altered documents needed for the audit, patching holes in records, correcting its past mistakes and eliminating inconsistencies as it went along.

In his letter Monday, Yoshitani said port staff did not alter records but rather "did catch up on backlog filing and documentation."

Yoshitani, along with Commissioners John Creighton and Lloyd Hara, said the reason was that the port staff was unfamiliar with what was required of them during a performance audit and that the act was not duplicitous, but unintentional because the staff treated those records as they would information to be packaged into memos or presentations for review by the commissioners during their public meetings.

It's Circle the Wagons time.

In his "letter to the community", Yoshitani instructs us on the difference between an estimate and a bid:

The auditor states that we wasted $32 million because the construction contract for a portion of the third runway exceeded our initial cost estimate by $32 million. Bids often vary from estimates – particularly when the construction market is booming, as it was at the time. People involved in construction – whether public or private agencies or homeowners contemplating a remodel – understand that even thoroughly researched cost estimates can change as the project nears. Ultimately, the market dictates the cost to build something.

As a painting contractor, I know a little something about estimates vs. bids and I've worked on a number of remodels. Estimates are exactly that; bids are more of a fixed price. While I've never worked on any multi-million dollar contracts, I do know that costs exceeding original estimates should still be in the ballpark (mine are), and if they're not it's usually because of numerous change orders which may include materials costs. Yoshitani blames the cost differential solely on materials, rather than on labor. I'm willing to suspend cynicism for a brief moment. But why is the Port accepting estimates instead of bids in the first place, especially when the project in question only received one? Furthermore, I'd love to know the contractor's percentage mark-up on materials. I'm a pushover, still charging only 15%, while most other painters charge 20-25% -- and many general contractors charge more than that. If the Port only got one offer, if it was an estimate, and the mark-up on materials was hefty (a near certainty), that's a ripe scenario for getting hosed. But it's not the Port's money. It's ours. And that $32 million is about half the yearly tax levy.

Mic Dinsmore may have knee-capped every single rule during his tenure and the results are stunning: $97.2 million in taxpayer money wasted, secret bidding deals, contractors in bed with Port managers and the creation of "a breeding ground for fraud". Now that he's gone, it's up to the new guy to clean house. But instead of opening the windows and letting the daylight in, Yoshitani and some of the commisioners are hinting at battening down the hatches and shutting off the air supply. Who's zoomin' who?

Calling for accountabiltity isn't nearly enough. It has to be demanded because now that the proverbial cat's out of the bag the public isn't going to put up with any more magic tricks performed on its money. Sullivan and the FBI certainly aren't waiting around for those at Port headquarters to decide whether or not to pony up.

Posted by shoephone on January 8, 2008 at 04:25 AM in Policy, Washington Culture | Permalink | Comments (6)