1. The council's public safety committee will get a briefing today on the city's parking scofflaw program, which allows city parking enforcement officers to place an immobilizing "boot" on vehicles owned by people with more than four outstanding parking tickets.
The upshot: The program appears to be working. Since it was implemented last year, there has been about a five percent reduction in the number of parking "scofflaws," and more than 3,400 vehicle owners have been removed from the scofflaw list because they've paid their tickets. Over the course of 2011, the program has yielded the city nearly $1.2 million in revenues.
The only potential downside? As predicted, a substantial number of people are not returning the boots themselves (boots must be returned to one of five specific locations): 35 percent of all boot returns were "assisted returns," including cars that were towed away.
2. A new city report documenting the state of homeless Seattle residents finds that the region has made little progress toward its Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness, which was intended to eradicate homelessness in King County by 2015.
In the last One Night Count of unsheltered homeless people, the report says, there were 2,442 people sleeping outdoors or in their cars. Sleeping in vehicles was especially common in north King County and White Center, where 80 percent and 89 percent of homeless people, respectively, were living in their cars. Meanwhile, the number of available shelter beds remained inadequate to meet the need, with just 2,465 beds in all of King County to serve an estimated 11,000-plus individuals who used shelter services in King County at some point in the past year.
Overall, the report concludes, "the demand has been far greater than was anticipated at the start of the Ten-Year Plan. With housing and social services funding being cut at every level, the efforts to end homelessness will have to be opportunistic, taking advantage of funding opportunities as they become available; and within the context of diminishing resources, system change remains a key strategy to increase effectiveness in preventing and ending homelessness."
3. The special session came to a close yesterday.
As was expected, the state legislature did not act on Gov. Chris Gregoire's proposal for $2 billion in cuts along with a temporary 0.5 percent sales tax increase for $494 million through 2014 to buy back some of the cuts.
Instead, lawmakers passed a bipartisan first-bite budget that includes about $320 million in actual cuts—such as delaying dispersal of electronic benefits transfer (food stamp) cards, releasing nonviolent juvenile offenders early, leaving water quality and other environmental positions vacant, and putting off new school bus purchases—plus another $100 million in fund transfers (including federal program money) and money that state agencies kept in reserve.
Gregoire issued a statement:
Facing a $2 billion deficit, state lawmakers had a formidable challenge heading into this special session. The Legislature has been working in a bipartisan fashion to approve a package that provides a down payment toward closing our budget hole. For that, I thank them.
With that said, this is not the time to rest. I am well aware of the difficult decisions required to solve this budget crisis, and the amount of work still ahead. I urge lawmakers to continue negotiations and discussions to ensure a full budget is passed early in the regular session.
Fizz hears, however, that lawmakers may wait until late February, after the new revenue forecast.
4. After Gov. Chris Gregoire released her education reform proposal this week—one that walked the fine line between controversial Arne Duncan-style reforms and union concenrs—I asked US Rep. Jay Inlsee (D-WA, 1) and Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna, the Democrat and Republican, respectively, who are duking it out to be her successor, what they thought of her plan.
We did not hear back from McKenna, who is pretty much running on an Arne Duncan style platform (Obama's secretary of education is pushing tough evaluations standards for teachers that are tied to student test scores and charter schools).
Inslee's campaign pointed us to his Washington Education Association questionnaire. (Inslee was endorsed by the WEA earlier this month. McKenna, complaining that the endorsement process was a prefab Inslee "coronation," bailed.)
In a statement that sounded much like Gregoire's proposal, Inslee told the WEA:
In addition to supporting a statewide evaluation process for teachers and principals, I also believe, we can no longer make excuses for poor teachers and underperforming schools and we can no longer wait two to three years before removing substandard teachers from our classrooms.
I recently met with teachers and WEA members that helped write some of the teacher and principal evaluation pilot (TPEP) programs. I found their results encouraging and am looking forward to statewide implementation of the evaluation system for teachers and principals. I fundamentally believe in one’s right to collectively bargain and work collaboratively. I also believe that our 295 districts have diverse needs and we need to allow for local flexibility in state policies.
One area where I would like to see a clearly defined statewide standard is in the establishment of a compressed timeline to get the small fraction of truly underperforming teachers the mentoring they need to succeed, or remove them from the classroom. We can’t let underperforming teachers stay in the schools for 2-3 years.
As for charters, Inslee said:
I strongly support innovation in our schools that improves student performance and prepares kids for college and careers. Regardless of what these schools are called, for me three basic criteria must be met:
I oppose diversion of funds from existing public schools without working with local school districts; If applied as broad policy, these schools must be open and accessible to all students; The basic rights of teachers and classified staff must be honored.