Caffeinated News & Gossip

1. This Sunday, U.S. Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), Chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee and author of the Republican alternative health care reform bill, is hosting a fundraiser at O'Donnell's restaurant in Everett for John Koster, the GOP candidate for the open house seat in the 1st Congressional District. 

Color Fizz conspiratorial, but you have to wonder why Price is coming all the way from Georgia—to the opposite corner of the country—to stump for Koster.

Price, it turns out, is in a race of his own that will start right after election day: He's trying to beat out Washington State U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA, 5), for the Republican Conference Chairmanship. McMorris Rodgers, currently the highest ranking woman in GOP leadership, is the Conference Vice Chairwoman.

Cantwell 2012 donated $25,000 to Washington United for Marriage this week.

In the most recent quarter, Price has donated about $370,000 to GOP congressional campaign activity, while McMorris Rodgers, who faces nominal opposition in her own house race this year, has donated only about $65,000. She has given $1,000 to Koster.

Paul Ryan supports Price in the race. If Price beats McMorris Rodgers, the GOP will have no women in leadership.

A good Cola "One Question" for Koster: Will he support Price or McMorris Rodgers? We'll tell you what we find out.

2. Speaking of candidates contributing to other campaigns: Bill and Melinda Gates aren't the only ones making big last-minute contributions (another $500,000 this week) to R-74, the pro-gay marriage campaign.

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell's campaign committee, Cantwell 2012, donated $25,000 to the Washington United for Marriage campaign this week.

Also coming in at the last-minute to R-74, Blue Moon Burgers kicked in $1,000 to support gay marriage this week. And the Seattle Times' $80,000 in-kind contribution for several (controversial) newspaper ads supporting gay marraige officially came in this week as well.

The Times' ads are controversial not because it's gay marriage (the measure is popular statewide and beyond popular in Seattle), but because everyone from Times staff to its readers are stunned by the supposedly objective newspaper's cross over into direct financial support for a ballot measure—and its accompanying $75,000 independent expenditure for GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna. 

3. At a City Council briefing yesterday, Seattle City Council members strongly implied that Mayor Mike McGinn's proposal to install gunshot-locating robots equipped with cameras around the city may be dead on arrival. 

In a tense exchange between council members, council central staffer Krista Valles, and city budget director Beth Goldberg, council members questioned whether the systems are worth the money ($750,000 the first year and $200,000 thereafter); whether putting cameras around the city is a good idea (the last time the city installed surveillance cameras, in a handful of parks near downtown, the response was instant and near-universally negative); and whether the machines actually do what their proponents claim—deter crime and improve police response times.

"If you're looking for effective policing, the better investment is probably in actual police officers."—City Council staffer

On that final point, the evidence seems pretty clear: According to the only peer-reviewed study of gunshot locators, comparing two high-crime areas of St. Louis (one with gunshot detectors, one without), the systems have "no appreciable effect" on gun crimes, may actually result in fewer citizen reports of gunshots, and is useful mostly for collecting data after a crime has been committed.

"It seems like if people know cameras are in place and they feel like shooting someone, they might just go someplace else where there aren’t cameras to do that," Valles said. "It's extremely expensive equipment that would only be applicable in some small area of the city"—about a two-mile radius. "If you're looking for effective policing, the better investment is probably in actual police officers."

Goldberg suggested that Valles was cherry-picking information from the St. Louis study, and that law-enforcement officials in that city considered the machines "absolutely essential" to their jobs.

And she claimed that one of the tools council member Tim Burgess suggested, adding crime data analysts to the police department, was rejected by the council during its last budget discussion, prompting Burgess to snap, "That's factually not true. The position that was recommended last year was not a crime analyst, it was a community liaison person ... that's why we rejected the position." 

Meanwhile, Goldberg didn't have a ready answer for civil-rights concerns about the cameras, which would record both sound and video in 52 public places. "You will remember a couple of years ago, parks had put cameras in a couple of parks, and neighbors came unglued, and with the right reasons," council member Sally Bagshaw said. 

4. Another high-tech plan that could be potentially on the chopping block: The city's pay-by-phone parking pilot project, which was funded for 2012 but never actually got off the ground.

The issue: After doing some analysis of the proposal (which would allow people to pay for parking or extend their parking time by phone from a remote location), the city concluded that the program will actually cost the city $1.26 million in its first year, and $845,000 the year after that, because it will take parking enforcement officers to enforce, resulting in fewer tickets overall.

Several council members seemed to be leaning toward getting rid of the system entirely. Jean Godden even said outright, "I made a wrong vote" in supporting the pay-by-phone program—and instead hiring more parking officers.

With the city budget eternally stressed, improving parkers' convenience may not be the city's top priority.