King County, Port of Seattle leaders pledge cooperation

June 23, 2012

NEW — 6 a.m. June 23, 2012

King County and Port of Seattle leaders sat down for a rare joint meeting Monday and proclaimed “an opening act” to a period of increased cooperation between the organizations.

King County Council members and Port of Seattle commissioners discussed the need for regional collaboration to bolster the economy in the Puget Sound region. In the meeting — the only joint meeting between the groups in recent memory — officials received briefings on long-term plans for both organizations, economic development and international trade.

“Today is an historic occasion for which I say: ‘it’s about time,’” council Vice Chairwoman Jane Hague said in a statement. “In our increasingly complex economy and society, I think it’s more important than ever that our bodies talk together and coordinate our efforts.” Read more

Washington’s average annual wage climbed 3.6 percent in 2011

June 22, 2012

NEW — 8 a.m. June 22, 2012

Washington’s average annual wage grew by 3.6 percent in 2011, outpacing Seattle-area inflation by 0.9 percentage points, state Employment Security Department officials reported June 19.

The annual average rose from $48,162 in 2010 to $49,894 in 2011. The average weekly wage rose from $926 to $959.

The figures include only wages covered by unemployment insurance.

Officials attributed the increase in large part to a 7.5 percent increase in the number of insured workers earning more than $75,000. Overall, the number of workers in Washington covered by unemployment insurance increased by 37,764 last year, and earnings grew by $6.6 billion.

“Month to month, we’ve been seeing strong growth in industries that tend to offer above-average pay, and that seems to be reflected in last year’s earnings,” Employment Security Commissioner Paul Trause said in statement.

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King County councilman calls for vote on arena proposal

June 22, 2012

NEW — 8 a.m. June 22, 2012

King County Councilman Pete von Reichbauer called for the Seattle arena proposal to go before voters as the $490 million project proceeds.

The announcement came Tuesday as arena investor Chris Hansen answered questions for the Budget and Fiscal Management Committee. Members asked about the proposed arena size, why the arena plan must be agreed to before a basketball or hockey team is purchased, ticket costs for county residents, and — if public financing is needed — Hansen’s willingness to put the proposal to King County voters.

“Chris Hansen’s personal passion for basketball and his commitment to bringing back the Sonics makes him the best advocate for this arena proposal,” von Reichbauer said in a statement issued after the meeting. “My job is to be the best advocate for the taxpayers of South King County and enable them to express their views on the matter by providing the opportunity to vote on the proposal to build this third arena in the Sodo area.”

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King County permitting system to go offline during software upgrade

June 22, 2012

NEW — 6 a.m. June 22, 2012

Landowners should prepare for a weeklong shutdown at the King County permitting agency, as officials roll out a software upgrade from July 2-8.

The planned upgrade coincides with the Independence Day holiday, a slow period for the Department of Development and Environmental Services. The agency’s Renton office is open except for July 4, but during the week, staffers cannot accept, create or issue permit applications. Cashiers also cannot process financial transactions of any kind.

Staffers can continue to work on existing permitting applications during the shutdown. Then, after the software installation, the agency can enter additional information.

Once the software is installed, customers can access enhanced online services, such as permit applications, building inspections and other services. Read more

Governor endorses former Issaquah legislator for secretary of state

June 22, 2012

NEW — 6 a.m. June 22, 2012

Gov. Chris Gregoire on Wednesday endorsed Kathleen Drew, a onetime Issaquah state senator and a former aide to the governor, for secretary of state.

The governor announced the endorsement of Drew, a fellow Democrat, less than a month after Drew earned the state Democrats’ endorsement in the race to succeed retiring Secretary of State Sam Reed.

“Kathleen’s experience in the Legislature and in the Governor’s Office make her well suited to be secretary of state,” Gregoire said in a statement. “She has my support and my vote.”

Other Democrats in the race for secretary of state include former Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels and Puyallup state Sen. Jim Kastama. Though the candidates all appear on the August primary ballot, only Drew earned the party’s nod. Read more

Child injury deaths in King County drop by 62 percent

June 20, 2012

NEW — 10 a.m. June 20, 2012

King County public health officials attributed a drop in child injury deaths to better education, policies, research and law enforcement.

The rate of death from injuries for children 19 and younger declined by 62 percent from 2000 to 2009, Public Health – Seattle & King County announced Monday.

Countywide, 22 children died from injuries in 2009, down from 55 in 2000. The improvements in King County surpassed a national trend of fewer child injury deaths. Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said child deaths from injuries declined 29 percent from 2000 to 2009.

“In King County, child injury rates have fallen twice as fast as national injury rates,” Dr. Beth Ebel, director of the Harborview Injury Prevention & Research Center, University of Washington, said in a statement. “We led the nation in strong bicycle helmet legislation, passed the first booster seat law in the country and have innovative programs to prevent childhood drowning. These programs make a difference.” Read more

Ditch $4-per-gallon gas on Dump the Pump Day

June 20, 2012

NEW — 10 a.m. June 20, 2012

Regional public transit agencies joined forces to encourage commuters to forgo $4-per-gallon gasoline Thursday for Dump the Pump Day.

Sound Transit, King County Metro Transit and other agencies asked commuters to board buses, trains and ferries for the national event. Organizers said more than 560,000 riders already use regional public transportation services.

Metro is reaching out to riders on Facebook to ask how they plan to dump the pump. In addition, 10 people can win a Dump the Pump T-shirt and a regional ORCA card loaded with $10. Organizers plan to select participants in a random drawing June 25.

Commuters can use the American Public Transportation Association’s monthly transit savings calculator to determine the costs of driving versus using public transit. Read more

Issaquah plastic bag ban could go to voters for decision

June 19, 2012

Issaquah voters could decide on the plastic bag ban enacted by the City Council if a repeal measure launched by a Seattle resident qualifies for the ballot.

The campaign, called Save Our Choice, is modeled on a recent failed effort to repeal the Seattle plastic bag ban. Save Our Choice organizer Craig Keller is in the process of collecting signatures to put a repeal measure for the Issaquah ordinance on the November ballot.

In a 5-2 decision, Issaquah council members passed a plastic bag ban June 4. The decision came after a series of public meetings and a flurry of emails to elected officials.

The local business community offered a tepid response to the proposal, even as statewide environmental groups and regional plastic manufacturers sprung into action to defend and oppose the legislation. Read more

Nationwide child porn sting led agents to former bus driver

June 19, 2012

Federal agents learned about a former Issaquah School District bus driver trading child pornography online in a nationwide sting, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials announced June 8, about a month after federal agents arrested the driver on school district grounds.

The agency’s Homeland Security Investigations directorate arrested the former bus driver and former Eastside Catholic High School teacher Andrew Bernard Rekdahl, 29, and 189 other suspects in the effort, dubbed Operation Orion. The sting targeted the possession, receipt, transportation, distribution, advertisement or production of explicit images or videos.

Rekdahl, 29, faces child pornography charges after federal prosecutors said the Carnation resident shared images and videos of boys online from his home computer. Homeland Security Investigations agents arrested Rekdahl at a school district facility May 10 after a monthslong sting operation.

Operation Orion occurred last month, although the agency started recording evidence of Rekdahl sharing child pornography in January. Read more

Issaquah Food & Clothing Bank program keeps children fed through summer

June 19, 2012

Thanks to the National School Lunch Program, while school is in session, parents can be sure that their children are kept fed.

But during the summer months, the important resource is no longer available, placing an added burden on families.

Nearly 1,700 children in the Issaquah School District receive free or reduced-price meals during the school year, according to the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction’s website.

But thanks to the Issaquah Food & Clothing Bank’s Summer Lunch Program, children in its service area can receive free snacks and food, ensuring adequate nutrition during the summertime. Read more

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