Morning Fizz

Allegations of Fraud, Overruns, and Racketeering

By Morning Fizz December 15, 2010

1. More scuttlebutt has turned up about the company chosen to build Seattle's deep-bore tunnel: Yesterday, in Erica's post about allegations of fraud, overruns, and racketeering against winning deep-bore tunnel bidder Tutor-Perini, a commenter pointed out that the company has been the subject of similar allegations in Las Vegas. Between 2006 and 2008, nine workers died on Perini projects in Las Vegas, including six at the $8 billion CityCenter development of casinos, condos, and stores. The deaths prompted union workers at the development to walk off the job in June 2008 to protest what they called dangerous working conditions.

The company was also investigated for problems with rebar at a building in the CityCenter development, which prompted MGM, the project's owner, to lower the height of the hotel from 49 to 28 stories. MGM and Perini sued and counter-sued each other, with Perini arguing that the construction defects weren't their fault, and MGM arguing that Perini failed to pay subcontractors $500 million in expenses.

2. Bad news for all former female-Microsoft-execs: Despite chatter that U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA, 8 ) may resign due to his brain injury, Reichert spokeswoman Amanda Halligan tells PubliCola there isn't any truth to the rumor.

3. At a city council committee meeting yesterday about the response to the snowstorm earlier this month, Kevin Desmond, general manager for King County Metro, defended Metro's use of long articulated buses, which tend to jackknife in snow. Desmond noted that not only are half of Metro's buses articulated, but the articulated buses make up fully 60 percent of Metro's entire capacity. "There is no way we would have been able to carry everybody home, not even close. We would have had to cancel bus routes," Desmond said. "We are extremely heavily reliant on articulated buses. There is no getting around that."

Desmond also defended Metro's decision to shut down its real-time bus tracking system, disabling popular apps like OneBusAway. Noting that Metro buses are not equipped with GPS (and won't be for another year to 15 months), Desmond said, "Our system was only tracking about 30 percent of the buses" at the height of the storm because of re-routing. "We don't want to put bad information out there," he said.

4. Big news day today: Facing an estimated $5 billion shortfall, Gov. Chris Gregoire is releasing her budget proposal for the 2011-13 biennium. (The governor already announced some proposed cuts earlier this week—stopping automatic increases in state worker pensions; a three percent salary cut to 90 percent of state employees (including herself); and consolidating state agencies, and eliminating dozens of boards and commissions. Fizz hears Medicaid funded home care workers are going to get hit particularly hard—a 10 percent cut in hours and wages (as opposed to the three percent cut for  state employees noted above).

Also on today's docket: Mayor Mike McGinn is announcing his big plans for Seattle Center, a subject of much debate this year, pitting a Chihuly exhibit against indie rock station KEXP. Here's hoping McGinn goes for something along the lines of the two-state solution that Dave Meinert proposed in this October PubliCola editorial.

5. City librarian Susan Hildreth promoted three assistant library services directors at a time when the library has been cutting permanent librarians' hours and cutting student and temporary employees. In a letter to library employees, Hildreth said, "Although it is natural to mourn our losses, we also need to focus on moving forward." The reclassification will cost the city about $25,000 a year in increased salaries and benefits.

Hildreth, who is leaving the city to become director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services in the Obama Administration, says the three new directors will jointly serve the role of a vacant position called library services director, which has been vacant for years. "In preparing the library for this interim period [during which Hildreth's position is vacant] ... I felt strongly that we needed to make this internal adjustment," Hildreth says. "None of our permanent [union-]represented staff are being laid off ... although some of our librarians are not working at the same level as they were."

6. Wondering why Sound Transit's light-rail elevators have been out of service so often lately? Well, Erica was.

According to Sound Transit spokeswoman Kimberly Reason, the culprit in the past month or so has been weather so cold it has frozen and broken the pipes that serve light rail's fire suppression system. Because those pipes are located below the base of the elevators, when they break, the elevators go out of service, Reason says.
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