Extra Fizz: SPD Gets Religion, Metro Service, a Brief Council Absence, and Oil Train Verification

Extra Fizz featuring SPD, Metro low-income fares, oil trains, and Tim Burgess' brief health-related council hiatus.

By Erica C. Barnett July 25, 2014

This morning's Fizz was commandeered by former city council member Richard Conlin, who gave us his "Fifty Shades of Grey"-tinted "Likes and Dislikes."

Here's some extra Fizz of our own: 

1. Seattle City Council president Tim Burgess was out of commission for several days last week undergoing surgery for thyroid cancer that involved removing half of his thyroid gland.

Burgess, who says "they basically slit my throat" open, says thyroid cancer is highly treatable, and adds that although he could have stayed home longer (doctor's orders), he was bored at the idea of sitting around while there was council work to do.

"Surgery is not fun, but you recover," he says. "I'm doing great. My energy is back. I have to go back every six months" to make sure the cancer hasn't returned, but "you technically don't need your thyroid."

We wish the council president a speedy and thorough recovery. 

2. As we reported in Fizz yesterday, a BNSF oil-tanker train derailed early on Thursday morning. No oil was spilled in the derailment, a fact BNSF spokespeople attributed to the fact that the cars were a newer model than the older DOT-111 model that has derailed and spilled oil in North Dakota and other North American communities. About two of every three oil rail cars are DOT-111 cars, and council members were concerned about the fact that the cars that derailed in Seattle (which, again, BNSF says are newer models) were clearly labeled "DOT 111 (see below)."

Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad spokeswoman Courtney Wallace says the oil train cars that derailed in Interbay yesterday were the newer "CP-1232" model cars, despite the fact that they are labeled as "DOT-111," the out-of-date oil transport cars that are prone to puncture and spill oil during derailings.

Wallace says the oil cars "are all DOT-111s—that's the designation"—but that all BNSF tank cars since 2011 have been built to higher standards, including thicker hulls, extra protective head shields at both ends of the car, additional protection for top fittings, and a higher flow capacity pressure release valves. In any case, yesterday's derailment, which involved three oil tank cars headed for a refinery in Anacortes, WA, did not spill any oil.

3. Seattle Police Department Captain John Hayes, a former South Seattle precinct captain who now works downtown on community outreach said last week, at the end of SPD's latest "Find It, Fix It" walk in Rainier Beach, that SPD has been hooking up with local churches—specifically, "the black clergy"—to hold religious vigils at the sites of fatal shootings in the South End.

And I said, 'I have an idea. Would you be open to having a member of the black clergy down here?'

At a recent (2012) shooting at a South End Jack In the Box, for example, SPD officers called Pastor Joe Phillips, of the Holly Park Community Church, to oversee the vigil in the fast-food restaurant's parking lot. 

Asked whether the SPD/clergy vigils violated the constitional separation of church and state, Hayes told PubliCola that while SPD officers do participate in such vigils while on the clock, it counts as outreach to the community.

SPD spokesman Sean Whitcomb says the outreach to clergy is SPD "practice," not "policy," meaning that the police don't have an official policy of engaging with religious groups when crimes happen in Seattle communities.

"We've tried to get community members involved, and we have tried to get the clergy involved. ... We were trying to help find ways to deal with the issues of violence," Hayes says.

On the night of the Jack In the Box shooting, Hayes says, "There was a lot of chaos that night, and one of the folks in this group of youth said, 'Look  at that—they don't even respect the fact that there is still blood on the ground. They don't respect the fact that this brother died. And I said, 'I have an idea. Would you be open to having a member of the black clergy down here?'

"He said, 'That would be great is somebody did something instead of just taking the person away.' So I made the call and one call led to another and pretty soon we had a pretty substantial group of members of the black clergy that showed up."

4. King County Metro, which plans to implement a new low-income fare for people making up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level (or about $23,000 for an individual) starting in 2015, remains unclear on how it plans to confirm eligibility for the program, according to King County Transportation Department spokeswoman Rochelle Ogershok, who says the income-verification plan is "still being worked out," but says that it will be implemented by a nonprofit social-services agency within the county. 

"We're talking with other agencies and other parties to find out what sorts of protocls and policies are already in place to find out what works," Ogershok says. "Agencies do different things based on what their mission is."

Ogershok says a task force appointed by the King County Council will make comments on Metro's recommendations for implementing the plan by mid-August. 




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