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On Other Blogs Today: Coal, Charter Schools, and Encampments

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By Erica C. Barnett May 30, 2013



1. Rich Wood of the Washington Education Association, the statewide teachers' union, tells the Everett Herald his group plans to sue the state (after unsuccessfully filing a legal demand with the state attorney general's office) to block I-1240, the charter-school measure voters passed last year.

The measure allows public funding of privately operated schools; currently, the state's public school system faces an approximately $1 billion education funding shortfall through 2015. 

2. The National Journal (via Grist) reports that a handful of obscure Whatcom County Council races could determine the future of a proposed coal-port terminal near Bellingham. That's because the seven-member council controls the fate of two permits that Gateway Pacific needs to build its $600 million terminal, which would be the Northwest hub of coal-train traffic between Wyoming and Montana and Asia.

Noting that coal usage is on the rise in China even as its popularity in the U.S. is decreasing, the Journal writes, "The industry needs Whatcom County voters: If the council rejects the Gateway permits, the company will have a tough time finding another West Coast site." 

The story doesn't make it clear where the candidates for the four seats on the county council stand on the coal terminal permits; because the permits are a "semi-judicial" matter—meaning that the council serves as a kind of court when deciding whether to grant them—they aren't allowed to state a position. 

3. Acknowledging that it's a bit "macabre" to discuss the political implications of the death of Republican Washington state Sen. Mike Carrell (R-28, Lakewood) less than a day after it was announced, Portland Transport notes that the loss of Carrell could have major implications for the proposed Columbia River Crossing bridge between Vancouver and Portland, which Carrell, along with his Republican colleagues, opposed because it includes light rail and a lower bridge than they would like. 

Until the Pierce County Council can appoint a Republican to replace Carrell—which isn't likely to happen until after the special legislative session that's currently underway—the state senate will be effectively tied 24 to 24, with two Democrats joining the minority Republicans to vote against the CRC.

Democratic Lt. Gov. Brad Owen is charged with breaking any tie vote in the senate. 

4. Drivers, rejoice, I guess?: The Puget Sound Business Journal reports that in addition to a new six-story garage the University Village is also builiding new two-story parking structure to serve a larger new QFC, for a total of 1,270 square feet of new parking space.

Interestingly, the PSBJ story quotes a retail strategist who worries that an expanded megamall connected by a sea of parking may actually be counterproductive, encouraging people to shop at their neighborhood stores rather than braving the retail maelstrom.  

5. Q13 Fox reports that the I-5 bridge that collapsed last week is far from the only structurally obsolete bridge in the state; down in Tacoma, for example, the city has been trying to replace a bridge that's more than 80 years old, and carries more than 15,000 cars a day, for years; the bridge, Q13 reports, is rusted "all over" and shows visible signs of damage from cars and trucks that have hit it over the years. 

6. Real Change director Tim Harris has a compelling editorial touting legislation that would legalize Tent City-style homeless encampments in nonresidential parts of the city—legislation that, he writes, is "unfortunately ... opposed from two directions." One contingent against the proposal? Homeless advocates who think tent cities should be allowed everywhere, including the 65 percent of the city that's zoned residential. The other contingent? Homeless advocates who say tents aren't "good enough" and that homeless people should have access to permanent housing. 

"Those who dismiss tents as a solution because they’re “not good enough” should consider the difference between living in community or in relative isolation," Harris writes. "Between having access to blankets, supplies, food and warmth — and not. Between relative safety and daily vulnerability to street predators. Those are the real choices being made here."

Interesting political footnote: The legislation is touted as a Nick Licata/Mike Mcginn propsal. Harris is supporting McGinn's rival in the mayor's race, former City Council member Peter Steinbrueck.


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