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On Other Blogs Today: Challengers, Bus Drivers, Pot, and Failure.

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By Erica C. Barnett September 4, 2013


1. KOMO News has the story about a new report which concludes that Seattle's traffic signal system is "trending towards failure," with the biggest problem being light synchronization.

Although traffic signals are supposed to be re-timed every three years, the report found, they're actually resynchronized only once every seven years—and the system to control them was built in 1985. The city's department of transportation, which has seen repeated budget cuts, says it needs $5.7 million to repair the existing sign operation system. 

2. Legislators in Clark County are already yawning at Gov. Jay Inslee's announcement yesterday that he hopes to hold a special session to pass a transportation package in November.

According to the Columbian, Reps. Brandon Vick (R-18, Vancouver) and Ed Orcutt (R-20, Kalama) say they don't see the urgency for a special session and would just as soon wait until next year's regular session to discuss new transportation funding.

Seattle's traffic signal system is "trending towards failure."Vancouver-area Republicans in the senate opposed a $10.5 billion transportation package passed by the house because it included the controversial Columbia River Crossing bridge between Vancouver and Portland—not because they didn't want a new bridge, but because the bridge that was proposed would have included light rail.

3. State Sen. Michael Baumgartner (R-6, Spokane) has a Democratic opponent. The Spokesman-Review reports that Rich Cowan, head of the North by Northwest movie production company, will challenge Baumgartner. Cowan says the Republican incumbent, who ran unsuccessfully against U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) last year, is too extreme for Spokane's 6th legislative district.  (He's got a bad temper, anyway.)

As for Cowan, he supports the $10.5 billion transportation package that failed in the senate last year, which included nearly half a billion dollars for the North Spokane Corridor, a proposed new highway through Spokane; Baumgartner said he joined his fellow senate Republicans in opposing the package because it didn't include enough for the new highway.

King County could have up to 61 pot stores, with up to 21 of those in Seattle.

4. The AP reports that under new rules proposed today by the state Liquor Control Board, a maximum of 334 pot stores will be allowed in the state when Initiative 502, the ballot measure that legalized the production, sale, and use of recreational marijuana goes into effect next year. King County, the state's largest county, could have up to 61 pot stores, with up to 21 of those in Seattle.

The board also set a cap of 40 tons a year for marijuana growers.

5. In a Bremerton campaign forum, state Sen. Nathan Schlicher (D-26), who's in a tough reelection battle against current 26th District state Rep. Jan Angel (R-26), went "on the offensive," the Olympian reports, attacking Angel for opposing Obamacare mandates for state health care coverage and criticizing her for advocating for a bill that would have exempted many wealth Washington state families from the estate tax. Angel has also proposed allowing the government to administer drug tests to recipients of state benefits, including food stamps, who can't pass a drug test. 

Metro drivers often have to pee in bags, deal with uncooperative or belligerent customers, and go without breaks.

6. As King County Metro faces potential service cuts of up to 17 percent, Real Change reports that drivers often have to pee in bags, deal with uncooperative or belligerent customers, and go without breaks thanks to tight schedule timing. The result is worse customer service and a demoralizing work environment for the drives. Forty drivers sent a letter and petition to Metro management asking for improved working conditions, the paper reports.

The letter went out two weeks after a rider shot a Metro driver in the face and arm before attempting to hijack another bus and being shot by police.

7. Amazon leader Jeff Bezos, who bought the Washington Post for $250 million last month, met with Post employees for the first time today, the Seattle Times reports. Bezos told employees that their number-one rule going forward has to be "Don't be boring," and that their top two problems were the fact that news aggregators like the Huffington Post could instantly rewrite stories on which reporters spent weeks or a month, and that the internet has "debundled" news so that people can look at one story and immediately move off to another site. 

“We can’t have people swooping in to read one article,” he said, adding that the paper should not be seeking to bolster hits from such one-time casual readers. “What you can’t do is go for the lowest common denominator, because then what you have is mediocrity.”

It's hardly an earth-shattering revelation that newspapers are in trouble because of the Internet, or that they won't survive by being mediocre. Bezos, who has no newspaper experience, has said he won't be involved in the day-to-day editorial operations of the Post.

Given his rather pedestrian observations about the news business so far, it may be best if he keeps his promise. 

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