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On Other Blogs Today: Condemnations and Cell-Phone Bills

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By Erica C. Barnett January 30, 2013



1. Republican state Senator Don Benton—who is, at last count, the prime sponsor of 46 senate bills—is sponsoring legislation that would bar public agencies, like Sound Transit, from condemning private property for the benefit of other private property owners, such as developers, according to the Olympia Report.

Under the power of eminent domain, government agencies can condemn private property for public purposes; however, recently, agencies (like Sound Transit) have been using their eminent domain powers to promote development goals (like transit-oriented development around light rail stations). Benton's bill would prohibit agencies from taking private property for anything other than public uses.

2. Speaking of Benton: The anti-tax Republican bills taxpayers $150 a month for his cell phone, the News Tribune reports. Benton's bill is hardly the state's highest, however; state Sen. Jerome Delvin, another Republican (R-8), was reimbursed $383 for a single month's cell phone bill. 

3. After voters declined to back a sales-tax increase that would have allowed the agency to preserve bus service, Pierce Transit cut service back by a third, eliminating service on weekends and cutting nighttime service dramatically. Now, Tacoma Tomorrow reports, the agency may have to cut service another 34 percent, unless they make dramatic changes. Tacoma Tomorrow's suggestions: Raise fares to $2.50, implement a license fee or a a small sales-tax increase, and "prune" routes that have low ridership.

Given that the highest-impact of those proposals (the fee or tax increase) would require approval from the same voters who rejected a tax increase for transit in the past, though, it seems safe to say that more cuts are in Pierce Transit's future.

4. Washington state is gearing up to implement its Health Benefit Exchange and expand access to Medicaid under Obamacare. What does that mean for the state's approximately one million uninsured? The Bellingham Herald has the answers. 

5. The Seattle Times reports that "at least" 100 of Boeing's Japanese-made lithium ion batteries failed in testing, losing so much power that they couldn't be recharged, well before problems with the batteries caused the FAA to ground the entire fleet. Instead of calling for an investigation or at least expressing alarm, Governor Jay Inslee, who was a vocal Boeing proponent in Congress, has repeatedly expressed confidence that Boeing engineers will be able to fix the problem—a somewhat limp response, given the growing scale of the debacle.

6. Mercer Island residents, who live in the wealthiest community in Washington state, compared themselves to inmates at Alcatraz in last night's public meeting on a proposal to toll I-90, the only route on or off the island, the Times reports. 

As we reported yesterday, Island residents want the state to abandon its plans to toll I-90 to help pay for the new 520 bridge, or at least exempt them from the toll, arguing that they have no other way on or off the island. (Buses, of course, serve Mercer Island frequently, and light rail will eventually run along I-90; carpooling is yet another free option.) Mercer Island residents are already allowed to drive alone in the I-90 HOV lanes under a 1976 agreement with the state.


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