Morning Fizz: A Good Sign
1. Here's a detail we left out of Carryn's story on a bill, sponsored by state Sen. Doug Ericksen (R-42, Ferndale) that passed out of the senate yesterday and has environmentalists nervous that private companies will have undue access to public money:
Ericksen's proposed new fund, the Environmental Legacy Stewardship Account, is an acronym that spells his daughter's name, Elsa.
Sen. Kevin Ranker (D-40, Orcas Island), the ranking Democrat on Ericksen's environmental committee who's fighting Ericksen's bill and pushing his own alternative, may have a personal interest in correcting the details of Erickesn's legislation. His daughter's name is Else.
2. For the first time since the recession, the city's budget is in the black. Seattle, which saw a 9 percent increase in sales tax revenue in 2012 and which saw 7.3 percent job growth (doubling the growth numbers in the rest of the state), ended last year with a $9 million surplus.
Some key factors: commercial real estate transactions doubled in 2012 over 2011 and Amazon.com is hiring.
Oh, and all those cranes you see out the window. It's a good sign.
3. A crew of local regional leaders including Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, City Council member Mike O'Brien, King County Council member Larry Phillips, Rep. Reuven Carlyle (D-36, Queen Anne) along with a crew of mayors and council members from places such as Marysville, Shoreline, Edmonds, and Bainbridge Island, announced a coalition to fight the controversial coal train proposal yesterday.
No surprise there: People like McGinn and Carlyle have been outspoken opponents of the proposal for months.
But in addition, the group, called the Leadership Alliance Against Coal, includes regional tribal leaders: Chairman Melvin Sheldon, Jr., Tulalip Tribes, Chairman Brian Cladoosby, Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, and councilm ember Jay Julius, Lummi Nation.
“The risks not only to our tribe can be devastating, but also to the entire region,” Tualip Chairman Sheldon said in a press statement. “Tulalip supports job creation. We are one of the largest employers in Snohomish County and contribute to economic solvency in the Northwest. However, we do not support an industry such as this one that we believe will damage our natural and cultural resources or diminish existing jobs in our region.”
The tribes have legal standing with the feds, which raises the ante on the opposition movement.
4. In the wake of a scandal in which an employee was accused last year of embezzling more than $1 million from water-main extension projects into his private bank account and the dismissal of several other agency employees, Seattle Public Utilities confirms that SPU director Ray Hoffman terminated SPU Project Management and Engineering Division director Liz Kelly, who had worked at SPU for more than 23 years. Kelly did not directly oversee the employee accused of embezzlement.
SPU spokesman Andy Ryan, citing SPU's policy of not commenting on personnel matters, declined to comment on Kelly's departure. In an email telling employees about Hoffman's decision, Kelly apologized "for letting you down" and said she had lost SPU director Hoffman's "confidence."
"As you all know this past year has been a particularly challenging one," Kelly wrote. "I've done the very best I could."
In addition to the embezzlement scandal—SPU project engineer Joseph Phan was charged with 70 counts of theft totaling $1.1 million and accused of buying a rental house, car, and other property with the money—SPU has been at the center of a series of other alleged financial misdeeds. In 2011, SPU fired several employees, including Phan, for lowering their own utility bills.
And last year, SPU launched an investigation into whether four of its underground water reservoirs were built strong enough to withstand a major earthquake—a study that, according to the Seattle Times, had cost almost $1 million as of late last year. The city discovered cracks in one of its reservoirs' waterproof coating in 2008, forcing SPU to reinstall the coating at two reservoirs.
We have a message out to Kelly.