Legislators’ priorities reflect education, transportation needs

January 15, 2013

Lawmakers confronted a familiar scenario as the Legislature convened Jan. 14 — a budget shortfall, opposing pressures to preserve essential services and rein in government spending, and a court mandate to spend more money on education.

Mark Mullet

Mark Mullet

Chad Magendanz

Chad Magendanz

Observers expect education and transportation to rank as the dominant issues in the 105-day session. The state faces a $900 million budget shortfall for 2013-15 and, in the meantime, faces a court order to increase education funding by 2018.

In addition to the statewide issues on legislators’ docket, a lobbyist hired by city leaders to represent Issaquah is in search of support for local projects, including dollars to upgrade transportation infrastructure and Lake Sammamish State Park.

Issaquah is also focused on securing state dollars for a transportation improvement district in North Issaquah near Costco headquarters and high-traffic retail centers.

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Liquor sales rebound in months after privatization

January 1, 2013

Consumers stockpiled spirits in May, leading to a June sales slump, but in the months since private liquor sales started, spirit sales rebounded, state revenue officials reported Dec. 4.

The state Department of Revenue said spirit sales by volume increased 2.9 percent between June and September from the same period a year earlier.

Retailers sold almost 13.6 million liters of spirits from June through September, compared to the 13.2 million liters sold at state-run liquor stores during the same period a year earlier.

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Leaders call for 8-cent gas tax hike to fund ailing roads

January 1, 2013

NEW — 6 a.m. Jan. 1, 2013

King County leaders asked state legislators for a gas tax increase and for the ability for counties to collect a vehicle tab fee for road maintenance.

In a letter to lawmakers last month, Eastside elected leaders joined King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn asked legislators to raise the gas tax by 8 cents to fund ailing roads.

The proposal offered from Constantine, McGinn and the Sound Cities Association calls for 65 percent of gas tax revenue to go to the state and 35 percent to go to local transportation projects.

(Issaquah a member city in the Sound Cities Association, a regional advocacy group once called the Suburban Cities Association.)

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Issaquah memorable moments from 2012 entertain, educate

December 25, 2012

The cast of the national tour of the jukebox musical ‘Million Dollar Quartet’ performs a song in the Tony Award-winning show. File

Entertainment came to Issaquah in some surprising forms throughout 2012.

Besides the usual retinue on the page, stage and screen, a documentary peeled back the layers at Costco and big-name authors signed books for local readers.

The city hosted celebrities, spotlighted residents on the national stage and celebrated big debuts in recent months. The boldface names earned cred through stints on reality TV, titles on bestseller lists and hardware aplenty — a Tony Award, a National Book Award.

Reality TV plugs in local contestants

Lindzi Cox pursued “The Bachelor” and Lizzie Parker competed for the title “Fashion Star” as local women added grace to reality TV contests.

Cox, a 2003 Liberty High School grad, competed against 24 other bachelorettes to win a rose from the titular bachelor, Ben Flajnik, and reached the final round on the ABC dating game.

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Liquor sales rebound in months after privatization

December 6, 2012

NEW — 6 p.m. Dec. 6, 2012

Consumers stockpiled spirits in May, leading to a Junes sales slump, but in the months since private liquor sales started, spirit sales rebounded, state revenue officials reported Tuesday.

The state Department of Revenue said spirit sales by volume increased 2.9 percent between June and September from the same period a year earlier.

Retailers sold almost 13.6 million liters of spirits from June through September, compared to the 13.2 million liters sold at state-run liquor stores during the same period a year earlier.

Sales spiked in May as consumers prepared for the transition from state stores to private retailers, and then declined in June, presumably due to the inventories built up in May.

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Costco fights Quebec’s language requirement

December 4, 2012

Issaquah-based Costco and other major retailers have challenged the Quebec government in court over the Canadian province’s strict language laws.

The laws require retailers to post signs and serve customers in French, the predominant language in Quebec. The province’s French language office called for retailers to add French phrases or slogans to signs, or face fines and legal action.

The plaintiffs’ suit, filed in October, asked the Quebec Superior Court to assess the French language office’s policy change.

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Author plates Evergreen State in ‘Dishing Up Washington’

December 4, 2012

Photo illustration by Warren Kagarise

Evergreen State cuisine is not all Neah Bay salmon, Seattle coffee, Walla Walla onions and Wenatchee apples.

“Dishing Up Washington” author Jess Thomson said the ingredient-driven cuisine indigenous to the Pacific Northwest is not so easy to pigeonhole.

“In general, what defines the Northwest is a willingness to experiment,” she said in a recent interview. “I think that you can see that in the willingness of chefs to combine traditional technique with the ingredients that we have — that weren’t necessarily used with those traditional techniques.”

Take, for instance, foraging — a common foodie pastime in Washington’s chanterelle- and fiddlehead-packed forests.

“Using things that are foraged that aren’t used in traditional French food, but using those ingredients in traditional French applications,” she said.

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Costco CEO tells president not to raise middle-class taxes

November 27, 2012

Costco CEO Craig Jelinek told President Barack Obama not to raise taxes on the middle class, after the president called Jelinek to discuss the looming “fiscal cliff” — tax hikes and spending cuts poised to go into effect Jan. 1.

Jelinek, Issaquah-based Costco’s CEO since January and a longtime company executive, offered support for a compromise between Obama and Congress to avoid a tax increase for middle-class taxpayers. The president called Jelinek on Nov. 17, in a broad effort to reach out to the business community.

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Puget Sound Energy offers LED bulbs to Black Friday shoppers

November 21, 2012

NEW — 10 a.m. Nov. 21, 2012

Puget Sound Energy residential electric customers planning to hit Issaquah stores early for Black Friday shopping can receive a free LED bulb from the utility provider.

The first 50 people in line at Best Buy and Fred Meyer can receive a 40-watt equivalent LED bulb. The energy-efficient bulb uses less energy than incandescent or compact fluorescent light bulbs, lasts years longer and is dimmable.

Best Buy shoppers receive a free Insignia 9-watt LED bulb, a $14 value. Fred Meyer shoppers receive a free Tulip LED bulb, a $17 value.

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Issaquah retailers prepare for Black Friday rush

November 20, 2012

The day after Thanksgiving, long before the sun rises, open season for bargains starts at retailers throughout Issaquah and beyond.

Black Friday sends shoppers pinging from store to store like a pinball in search of deals — a 32-inch LCD television for $147 at Target, perhaps, or a Blu-ray player for $39.99 at Best Buy. Consumers brave predawn darkness, long lines and sharp elbows to score early-bird bargains.

The boost to retailers’ bottom lines could also offer a jolt to city coffers. Popular Black Friday destinations — including Bed Bath & Beyond, Best Buy, Fred Meyer, Target and, of course, Issaquah-based Costco — lure consumers from throughout the region.

Issaquah is a retail hub on the Eastside, and city officials hope the holiday rush resuscitates a flat year for spending. Overall, sales tax revenue forms a key piece in the city budget — a larger share than property tax revenue and permit fees, other main sources of dollars.

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