City Hall

Both Unfortunate and Unnecessary

By Morning Fizz February 11, 2010

1. Olympic Security—the company that hired the three security guards who stood by as a 15-year-old girl was brutally beaten in the downtown transit tunnel in January—also provides the security for City Hall, where the mayor, city attorney, and city council members have their offices.

This week, King County Metro announced it would be directing Olympic guards to intervene in violent incidents when possible, a change from the company's current standard of "observe and report." It's unclear whether city officials will be asking Olympic to change its security practices at City Hall as well.

2. We've been pretty hard on the Democrats in Olympia lately for bailing on a couple of bills—one in the House and one in the Senate—that tried to put restrictions on a bank's ability to foreclose on homeowners. The stronger House bill, which would have put a temporary moratorium on banks' ability to foreclose on unemployed people, was turned into a study.

House Judiciary Chair Jamie Pedersen (D-43), who ushered the bill through his committee (and gutted it),  got back to us yesterday to explain his side of the story. He said the technical problems with the bill—how does a bank know who's unemployed? how long should the moratorium last?—became obvious during the public hearing, and so he sent the parties (big banks, credit unions and community banks, and consumer advocacy lefties) back to the drawing board to come up with a compromise.

But the compromise, Pedersen says, was problematic: The moratorium would apply to the big commercial banks (because they could withstand the losses), but it not to the credit unions and community banks (because they would be devastated). "What are we saying—that you lose if you got your loan from a credit union, but you're rewarded for going to a big bank?" Pedersen asked rhetorically.

By moving the bill forward (even in its neutered form), Pedersen says he's kept it alive so that if it passes and goes to the Senate, they might be able to revive the moratorium there. However, given that the Senate killed a weaker foreclosure reform bill—one that would have put a speed bump in the foreclosure process by setting up mediation first—it doesn't seem likely.

3. City Council member Sally Clark wrote a supportive letter last week to the folks behind WorkingSeattle, a web site created by city employees whose jobs are threatened by Mayor Mike McGinn's announcement that he would eliminate 200 strategic advisor and "senior-level management" positions—positions he characterized, during his campaign and his announcement, as "political appointees" by his predecessor Greg Nickels.

In the letter, Clark said she was "in agreement" with the group's primary complaint, that McGinn had "target[ed] strategic advisors without much regard for what they do for the City, or how well they do it" and used senior city employees as "the punch line of [his] campaign speech."McGinn has since put the planned layoffs "on pause" until the midyear budget reconciliation process.

McGinn's announcement, Clark continued, had "demoralized hundreds of people who come to work for the public every day wanting to do a good job. The past month of stress has been both unfortunate and unnecessary."

4. The text message of the week also came from Clark. In response to a phone call seeking information about finance director Dwight Dively's then-rumored departure from the city Wednesday night, Clark wrote, "Sorry I missed your call. I'm around this morning. Don't have Ph.D, if that's the question"—a snarky reference to former McGinn senior advisor Chris Bushnell, who resigned last week after admitting he had falsely claimed to have a doctorate in economics.

5. It was a Republican, state Sen. Curtis King (R-14), who offered the two amendments to the education reform bill yesterday afternoon in Olympia that Democratic President Barack Obama and his poster boy for reform, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, would have liked best.

King's amendments directed the state school superintendent's office—rather than each school district—to establish a uniform evaluation system for teachers, including the use of "comparable and objective" data on student achievement.

The feds are currently awarding "Race to the Top" grants to states who get in line with Duncan's reform agenda, which demands the type of consistent and measurable teacher evaluation standards that King's amendments outlined.

The bill, which already included other "Race to the Top" prerequisites—like allowing alternative routes to teacher certification and direct means of dealing with failing schools—passed 41-5. But King's amendments failed.

"It will definitely jeopardize our chance," Shannon Campion, State Director of Stand for Children, a Portland-based national education reform group, said after the vote, referring to the $250 million in "Race to the Top" money that could come Washington state's way.

Duncan aid Brad Jupp echoed this theme when he visited Olympia earlier in the session.

6. Josh will be on KING-5's "Up Front" this Sunday (on KING and its affiliates, KONG and NW Cable News) to talk about the latest news from Olympia.

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