EFR, firefighters union start contract talks

April 12, 2011

As Eastside Fire & Rescue union representatives and board members sit down to hammer out a new labor deal, firefighters point to the numerous concessions they’ve made in recent years in response to the economic recession.

Board members, beholden to their own city and fire district budgets and wary of the increasing costs of fire service, say their agencies are still feeling the effect of the recession.

Neither side will comment publicly on the specifics of ongoing negotiations, but the talks are sure to be important to both sides in an agency that has seen contentious budget battles in the past.

“I’m hopeful that we can get a contract that is satisfactory (to firefighters) but still recognizes that economic conditions haven’t really improved,” said Sammamish Mayor Don Gerend, a representative to the EFR board. “Everyone is cinching up their belts across the board and public safety is a major expense at the city level.”

EFR Deputy Chief Wes Collins said the union and board hope to decide this month whether they’ll extend the current labor contract, renegotiate certain parts of the current contract or start from scratch on a new agreement.

A full-scale renegotiation would likely start in June or July and could last through the end of the year, he said, possibly leaving the board responsible for setting up 2012’s budget without knowing what they’ll have to spend on wages.

Craig Hooper, president of IAFF 2878, the union that represents EFR firefighters, said union members have gone out of their way to help the board balance the agency’s budget when revenues fell in recent years.

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Starbucks chief Howard Schultz greets fans, heckler in Issaquah

April 12, 2011

Howard Schultz (left), Starbucks CEO, meets a young reader of 'Onward,' Matthew Snodgrass, 7, and his mother Mary, of Renton, as Schultz signs books April 8 at Costco. By Greg Farrar

Starbucks chief Howard Schultz and a disgruntled Seattle Sonics fan came face to face in Issaquah last week, as the coffee company president and CEO — and former basketball team owner — inscribed books at Costco.

The heckler cursed at Schultz and shouted, “You betrayed the whole city of Seattle!” before Costco employees and a police officer whisked the man out of the store during the otherwise-quiet event. Schultz smiled and signed “Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life Without Losing Its Soul” — a bestselling account of Starbucks’ turnaround — for other patrons.

Schultz, a former Sonics owner, sold the team to Oklahoma City investors in 2006. Feelings about the decision remain raw among some Seattle-area basketball fans.

Costco employees and off-duty Issaquah police officers steered people in Sonics regalia away from the signing table. Overall, about 200 people turned out for the early afternoon appearance.

“Sonicsgate” producer Adam Brown showed up in a Sonics ball cap and filmed the book signing on a handheld camera, before security intervened.

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Surprising spring snow dusts city in white

April 12, 2011

Snowfall blanketed the Overdale Park neighborhood in Issaquah late April 7. By Larry Lohrman

Sure, spring started last month, but Old Man Winter returned last week.

Snowfall blanketed Issaquah and surrounding areas — especially neighborhoods in the Issaquah Highlands and on Cougar, Squak and Tiger mountains — late April 6 and early April 7. Surprised residents reported about 1 inch of snow accumulation in some places.

“We’re disappointed by the weather every April — and that can actually last into June, our disappointment with the weather,” said Chris Burke, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Seattle.

Roads remained clear for the April 7 morning commute, although the rain-soaked ground resulting from the increased precipitation snarled Issaquah-area traffic.

Crews cleared a fallen tree from Issaquah-Hobart Road Southeast near Issaquah at about 8 a.m., after the large maple clogged traffic and forced motorists to detour.

King County Sheriff’s Office deputies directed traffic. Crews cleared enough of the tree to reopen the road just after 9 a.m. and then remained on the scene to continue the cleanup Read more

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Stacy Goodman, City Council appointee, launches campaign

April 12, 2011

Stacy Goodman

Stacy Goodman, a former journalist and attorney appointed to the City Council last month, announced plans April 8 to run for the seat in the November election.

“In just a short time, I see so many issues important to Issaquah and the region where I can represent people and make a difference,” she said in a statement.

Goodman, a past reporter and editor for The Issaquah Press, joined the council after a monthslong search to select a successor to Councilwoman Maureen McCarry.

Because Goodman joined the council a little more than a year into McCarry’s unfilled term, she is running to serve until December 2013, rather than a regular, four-year term.

The novice candidate settled in the Issaquah area in 1989, and moved to Issaquah Highlands in 2006. Before attending law school and joining Issaquah firm Carson & Noel, Goodman covered Issaquah City Hall as a reporter, and later editor, for nine years.

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Join city leaders to plant Ruth Kees Grove

April 12, 2011

Ruth Kees

Help city and state leaders dedicate the Ruth Kees Grove, and commemorate Arbor Day and the 20th anniversary of the state Department of Natural Resource Urban Forestry Program, at Squak Valley Park South.

Join city officials April 16 to plant 10 native conifers to honor the 10 recipients of the Ruth Kees Environmental Award for a Sustainable Community. The city has invited past recipients to the celebration.

Plans also call for the grove to include a trail, decorative rock features and a small patio or courtyard, featuring recipients’ names engraved on paver stones.

Past recipients received the honor for efforts to establish the Mountains to Sound Greenway, blaze trails in the Issaquah Alps and protect Issaquah waterways.

Ruth Kees, a longtime environmental activist, fought for decades to protect Issaquah Creek, Tiger Mountain and the Lower Issaquah Valley Aquifer. The award namesake received the inaugural honor in 2003.

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Proposed Eastside transit overhaul includes Issaquah changes

April 12, 2011

King County Executive Dow Constantine proposed additional bus service to Issaquah in a plan to offer more and faster transit service on the Eastside.

Under the proposal, service is to be increased for Route 271. The route runs from from downtown Issaquah to Bellevue and Seattle’s University District. The proposed increase in service is recommended for the Eastgate-to-Seattle link.

The plan also calls for Route 211 to be extended to the Issaquah Highlands Park & Ride. Route 211 serves hospital-dense First Hill in Seattle.

In the proposal announced April 8, the executive called for additional Eastside transit service through the launch of RapidRide buses between Bellevue and Redmond.

“Rapid Ride will allow you to just show up to catch a bus between Bellevue and Redmond every 10 or 15 minutes, without having to check a schedule,” he said in a statement. “We heard from Eastside residents, businesses and public agencies, and this proposal reflects their wishes to consolidate resources and make Metro an easier alternative to driving a car.”

The plan aims to revise 24 King County Metro Transit bus routes at the same time the RapidRide B Line service launches between Bellevue and Redmond via Overlake and Crossroads. If the King County Council adopts the service changes, the updated routes should take effect Oct. 1.

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Honor veterans in Memorial Day section

April 12, 2011

Dave Waggoner said he is worried that people are forgetting about U.S. veterans.

He recalled a phrase — selective disengagement — that journalist Bob Woodward had used.

“He said people across the United States selectively disengage from war, whether it be Afghanistan or Iraq or Korea or Vietnam or World War II,” said Waggoner, quartermaster with the Issaquah Veterans of Foreign Wars post.

When society selectively disengages from wars, it loses focus on the people who fight them and their experiences.

“The cost of war is people, and the people of Issaquah paid that price for their service,” Waggoner said.

The Issaquah Press is working to reverse that trend. For the second consecutive year, in its Memorial Day issue, The Press will publish profiles of Issaquah men and women who served in the U.S. armed forces.

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State budget proposal outlines upgrades for Issaquah trails

April 12, 2011

Outdoor recreation and wildlife-protection projects in the Issaquah area received a boost in the proposed budget from the state House of Representatives, but hurdles remain before crews can break ground.

The proposed House budget includes a $500,000 Cougar Mountain Park-Precipice Trail grant, for King County to expand Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park, create a buffer and create a gateway from Issaquah to the park. (King County acquired additional land for the park late last year.)

Funds from the $500,000 East Lake Sammamish Trail grant could help King County expand and pave the trail along the lake from Redmond to Issaquah.

The proposal includes a $317,000 Duthie Hill Park trailhead development grant to enable the county to expand the trailhead at the popular mountain-biking destination.

Bridges along Tiger Mountain State Forest trails could also be replaced using the $247,870 proposed for trail upgrades in the forest.

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Call before digging to avoid utility lines

April 12, 2011

The state Utilities and Transportation Commission reminds people to call 811 before digging to build a fence or deck, plant trees and shrubs, or pull out a tree stump.

April is National Safe Digging Month.

Washington residents should call 811 and obtain a free utility locator service at least two business days before digging. Call the UTC Consumer Help Line at 888-333-9882 toll free if the utility locator is late, incomplete or inaccurate.

The state recorded almost 1,400 damage incidents last year due to individuals damaging gas pipelines. The proper marking of underground utilities can reduce the risk of striking a line, causing outages, damages and deaths.

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Press Editorial

April 12, 2011

Look, there’s hope in Olympia!

In an otherwise dismal legislative session where the gloom of drastic budget cuts rules the order of the day, there is an unexpected bright spot.

His name is Glenn Anderson, the 5th Legislative District representative from Fall City.

We’ve always known Anderson to be colorful, but this year he seems more inspired to make waves even if it’s just for the sake of discussion. He has been doing less finger pointing and sometimes more inclined to follow his heart than his political party.

Take, for example, Anderson’s proposal to increase business-and-occupation taxes on high-revenue corporations.

What, a Republican wanting to raise taxes ever — let alone in the year when all the talk is about sparking businesses by lowering the B&O tax? Anderson is following his passion and commitment to higher education. The temporary increase would have bumped the financial support for colleges and universities.

That proposed amendment to the state budget went nowhere, but he has introduced House Bill 2032 that would eliminate the onerous B&O tax, opting instead for a flat-rate corporate income tax. If approved as part of a proposed constitutional amendment, the voters would get their say in November.

More in line with his conservative roots, Anderson wants a 7 percent cap on state sales tax, and the total state and local government sales tax to be capped at 10 percent. The sales tax in Issaquah is 9.5 percent. We hope other legislators are listening.

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