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Bill to create independent prosecutor for police deadly force cases fails in Washington state
A top priority for police accountability groups has died in the Washington State Legislature.
It was the second attempt to launch an independent prosecutor’s office, to pursue cases against police officers accused of misusing deadly force.
Police and county prosecutors opposed the proposal, while families of people who have died during police encounters supported the measure, saying the office would be free from the “inherent” conflicts of interest they say affect local jurisdictions.
The most recent iteration of HB 1579 failed to advance from the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Monday. It would have established an Office of Independent Prosecutions as a separate division within the state Attorney General’s Office.
The state prosecutor would have shared authority with county prosecuting attorneys to charge police officers with misuse of deadly force. In the event of both offices seeking jurisdiction in the same case, the bill instructed the courts to determine “whose prosecution will best promote the interests of justice.”
The Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys argued the bill was unconstitutional because legislators lack the authority to diminish the role of elected local prosecutors.
“They were trying to transfer the power ... or role of the [local] prosecutor to have first review of the situation, and divest the prosecutor of that and transfer it to the independent prosecutor,” said Jon Tunheim, Thurston County prosecutor and a member of the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys.
The bill also said county prosecutors would face a presumption that they have an inherent conflict of interest.
“We disagree that there’s an inherent conflict of interest in every case,” Tunheim added.
But he would support launching the independent prosecutor's office if local prosecutors could refer cases to the office voluntarily, he said.
“I think we could come together around this idea, build it, and then see what happens, right? And if it’s not working the way everybody thought it might work, we talk again and we figure it out.”Continue reading »
Seattle Steelheads: The city's short-lived, but not forgotten, Black baseball team
There was something different about the Mariners when they went up against the Kansas City Royals in 1995. Seattle's uniforms were still blue with green and silver, but just not the same as the traditional game attire.
The Royals weren't wearing their usual jerseys either. This day was the 75th anniversary of the Negro National League, an organization originally founded in 1920, when baseball was segregated. In honor of the Kansas City Monarchs, the Royals donned their historic jerseys. The Mariners represented the Seattle Steelheads.
Except, these weren't actually the Steelheads' jerseys. Turns out, nobody knew what they looked like.
The Seattle Steelheads emerged during baseball's segregated times. The Negro National League was founded in 1920 and included Midwest teams, like Chicago, Detroit, and Kansas City. The Negro American League emerged in the South in the 1930s.
"Black populations in a lot of the West Coast cities were a lot larger and everything was starting up again," said sports historian David Eskenazi. "This was also a period when there were more minor leagues around than anytime in history.”Continue reading »
The (economic) force is strong with Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle
Emerald City Comic Con 2024 arrives Thursday, much to the glee (and bustle) of downtown Seattle restaurants and shops.
“We are anticipating a rush," said Stephanie Rodrigues, store manager at Homegrown, a sustainable sandwich shop just up the street from the Seattle Convention Center, on Melrose Avenue. It's one of a few shops in the area that offers takeout options.
Rodrigues said the anticipated rush for conventions like this runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (so it's probably a good idea to place an online order en route to the shop, just to speed things up).
"What we typically do is we prep more — we make sure we have meats prepped, cheeses prepped. We make sure we have enough staff," Rodrigues said. "We just think of long lines, long rushes. We are a local business so we do anticipate trying to cover that business."
Rodrigues added that the shop also considers how much business might be lost, as Homegrown is a cozy space when contrasted against the 85,000 attendees that Emerald City Comic Con expects to arrive in downtown this week.
Those comic con fans will likely visit restaurants, shops, and other attractions around the convention center between Thursday and Sunday. That adds up to roughly $26.5 million in estimated local economic impacts, just from Emerald City Comic Con, according to Visit Seattle.
“Emerald City Comic Con has been a staple of our city for years,” Visit Seattle Senior Vice President Kelly Saling said. “It’s a weekend we circle on our calendars as an opportunity to celebrate the region’s spirit of creativity, innovation, and storytelling. This is a weekend filled with color, curiosity, and comradery. At Visit Seattle, our team loves working alongside ReedPop, Emerald City Comic Con’s producers, to make this an enriching event for both attendees and Seattle at-large.”
To put some of these numbers in perspective, the expected 85,000 attendees come as Emerald City Comic Con rebuilds from pandemic slowdowns. Before 2020, attendance reportedly reached 98,000. The average attendance at a Seahawks game at Lumen Field in 2023 was 68,735, and the average attendance of a Mariners game at T-Mobile Park was 33,215.
While Visit Seattle can estimate the convention's economic impact this year will be around $26.5 million, it doesn't have data available on the economic impacts of standard sports games. It does, however, look at other special events in the city, such as the NHL Winter Classic that was held on New Year's Day at T-Mobile Part (Kraken vs Vegas Golden Knights). That special sports event had an estimated local economic impact of $30 million.Continue reading »
6 protesters arrested after descending on Seattle City Hall to demand support for refugees
Protesters banged on windows outside Seattle City Hall on Tuesday afternoon, rattling the council members inside.
The demonstrators were activists and asylum-seekers, many of whom recently found their way to King County. Struggling to secure housing, hundreds of these new arrivals have moved into tents on muddy church grounds in Tukwila; those slightly more fortunate have moved into hotels, but even that is a dicey proposition, with only days or weeks guaranteed at a time.
Every day is a question mark for these asylum-seekers. Recently, Save the Kids, a national nonprofit, put down a credit card for a hotel in Kent, but that maxed out, and the hotel manager said he would have to kick out the refugees.
The City of Seattle paid the bill at the eleventh hour, even though the hotel was outside city limits.
The demonstrators said they believed the money for ShotSpotter, police technology that helps cops detect gunshots, should be spent on housing instead.
In a twist of irony, City Council was meeting to honor the late George Fleming, the first Black state senator and a champion of low-income housing. The council had asked that the chamber be cleared, with the exception of Fleming’s family.
Ultimately, six protesters were arrested for criminal trespass, according to the Seattle Police Department news blotter. They were booked into the King County Jail.
“Those who were part of the disruption were told to leave the chambers, but they refused and were told they would be arrested if they continued,” the police blotter read.Continue reading »
Symbolic or pointless? Measure against nonexistent local income taxes could appear on Washington ballots
The first of three voter initiatives that will get hearings in the Washington Legislature took center stage Tuesday. A joint committee of Senate and House lawmakers held a public hearing on Initiative 2111, which would prohibit the state or local governments from creating an income tax.
Nearly two dozen people offered public testimony on the measure. A small crowd attended the one-hour hearing, but several people who signed up to testify online didn't show up.
Overall, proponents of the measure said they don’t want more taxes, while opponents of the initiative said it would be pointless to enact. Washington does not currently have a personal income tax (even though it briefly did during the Great Depression), and a state analysis has shown I-2111 would not affect existing taxes or programs.
So lawmakers started the meeting Tuesday by asking questions about what impact the initiative could have. The initiative as written would ban income taxes from being created at the state and local levels, under the federal government's definition of "income."
Kai Smith, a lawyer at Pacifica Law Group, told lawmakers he worries voters might think the initiative would change something now.
"This measure, if enacted, would have no impact on our tax code or taxpayers today," he said.
Meanwhile, supporters of I-2111 say the measure is an opportunity to send a message to the Legislature that income taxes aren't welcome. Several attempts to create a type of income tax in the past have failed, and they say the initiative would also act as a barrier to any possible pitches to create income taxes in the future, as Democrats consider ways to make the state's tax structure more equitable.
"The people who have signed up in support of this initiative…have sent a clear message: Don't tax our income," said Amanda McKinney, a Yakima County Commissioner.
Even without the initiative, a statewide personal income tax likely wouldn't be able to address the inequity issue under current law anyway – an income tax in Washington would be subject to uniformity rules that disallow higher rates for wealthier people. That was a key issue weighed by the Washington Supreme Court after the state imposed the new capital gains tax, which is a 7% tax on profits from the sale of assets, like stocks and bonds, that exceed $250,000.Continue reading »
Seattle School Board vacancies draw more than a dozen applicants
Fifteen people have thrown their hats in the ring for the two open spots on the Seattle School Board.
The vacancies were created earlier this month, when board members Vivian Song and Lisa Rivera both suddenly stepped down amid concerns they were violating state residency requirements.
The school board shakeup comes amid looming budget cuts in Seattle Public Schools. Washington’s largest public school system faces a nearly $105-million budget deficit next year — and continued financial woes for the next several years.
This spring, the school board is expected to not only review plans for next school year but also an overall plan for closing schools and other longer-term cost-saving measures.
Given those issues — and others, like academic recovery in the wake of the pandemic, escalating concerns about school safety, and a growing youth mental health crisis — the board wants to fill the open seats as soon as possible.
Candidates had until Sunday to submit their applications. The board plans to appoint the new members by the beginning of April.
All Together for Seattle Schools, a new citywide parent advocacy organization, called on the board to appoint diverse board members, and to “acknowledge the resignation of two women of color board members as a call for internal organizational repair.”
The open letter, which has been signed by more than 130 people, also pushes the board to involve the public in the appointment process.
"We were hearing from a lot of families out of concern, once we learned that two board members are resigning, that their voices might not be a part of the conversation," said Erin MacDougall, one of All Together for Seattle Schools' leaders.
MacDougall says the group heard from many parents who believed the departing board members represented their community well and had "lived and work experience that were very well aligned with the needs of the board and of all of the students in the district."
And they want to see the new board members have those same qualities — especially amid such difficult financial times in the district.Continue reading »
Seattle tech workers brace for more layoffs, this time at Expedia
About 200 Expedia employees in Seattle will be out of a job come May, according to a filing with the Washington Employment Security Department.
They’re among nearly 1,500 employees across the globe the Seattle-based travel tech company now plans to cut. That’s a little over 8% of Expedia’s workforce. GeekWire reported the layoffs will come primarily from the product and technology division of the company.
This is just the latest round of layoffs Expedia Group has made since 2020, when it slowly began reducing its workforce.
“Given the recent completion of many significant technical milestones in Expedia Group’s transformation, the business continues to evaluate the appropriate allocation of resources to ensure the most important work continues to be prioritized,” an Expedia Group spokesperson said in a statement to KUOW. “While this review will result in the elimination of some roles, it also allows the company to invest in core strategic areas for growth.”
CEO Peter Kern announced to employees in an internal memo Monday; Kern himself will be leaving his role in May, though he’ll remain the company’s vice chairman and stay on its board.
The Expedia layoffs are just the latest in a series of tech cuts in Seattle and around the globe.
San Franciso-based analyst Roger Lee, of Layoffs.fyi, said this post-pandemic tech-downsizing has been driven by a market shift toward “efficiency.” In other words, tech companies over-hired during the pandemic, and now, they’re cutting back; more than 260,000 jobs were cut in 2023.
“With Amazon and Microsoft continuing to make cuts as well, Seattle's tech employment faces challenges,” Lee said. though AI presents a promising opportunity.”Continue reading »
Why do I declare a party on my Washington presidential primary ballot? (And other things you should know)
Ballots for Washington's 2024 presidential primary election are now arriving in mailboxes across the state. But to make their votes count, voters must declare that they prefer one party over the other. There are also plenty of candidates listed who are no longer running. What does this all mean? KUOW's presidential primary primer is here to help.
Who: Democrats and Republicans present a handful of presidential candidates voters can choose from.
What: The winners of the primary election will represent their respective political parties on the November general election ballot. (Note: There will be some candidates listed on the primary ballot who have already backed out of the race. You can still vote for them, but they are not running for president anymore.)
Where: All Washington voters get ballots in the mail, which can be returned to an official ballot box or mailed back (must be postmarked by March 12). Voters can also go to a voting center on election day. Check here for more information about where ballot boxes and voting centers are located.
- March 4: This is the deadline to register to vote online. If you mail in your voter registration, it must be received by an elections office by this date (note: not postmarked by this date).
- March 12: The official presidential primary election day. People can register to vote at county elections offices on this day. Ballots must be postmarked by this date, or ballots must be turned in to ballot boxes by 8 p.m.
- March 29: The final day the Secretary of State's Office will certify primary results.
Why do I have to check a box to declare a party?
Voters can only vote for one presidential candidate, in one party. You cannot vote for a candidate in each party. On the outside of the ballot, voters must check a box to declare they prefer Democrat or Republican. This means they are only participating in one party's primary selection. It does not mean they are registering for any political party. It also doesn't mean that the voter must vote for the party's candidate in the general election in November.Continue reading »
Puget Sound counties want modernized ferry fleets. Voters decide their fate this fall
Islanders and Peninsula residents who rely on ferries to get around Puget Sound will tell you: Aging boats and an unreliable system are squeezing their way of life.
Often, these boats are the only way of getting back to the mainland for doctors appointments, to see family, or to go to school. Increasingly, counties are stepping up to fill the gaps created by the beleaguered Washington State Ferries with their own ferry services.
The state plans to help fund that effort, including new electric boats for Skagit County’s Guemes Island ferry run, and Kitsap County’s Seattle-Bremerton run.
Many replacement ferries and infrastructure upgrades are currently budgeted for in Olympia, said reporter Tom Banse, who's been covering this story for the Salish Current. But that funding may disappear after Election Day if Initiative 2117 successfully repeals the state's Climate Commitment Act, commonly known as the cap-and-trade program.Continue reading »
Washington rent stabilization bill hits dead end in Senate — again
One of the most high profile bills in Olympia has apparently stalled for the final time in the Legislature this year.
The measure, which aimed to slow rising rents in Washington, would have capped the amount most landlords could raise current tenants' rent each year. But the Senate Ways and Means Committee did not vote on the legislation before a cutoff deadline Monday.
House Bill 2114 included a 7% cap on the amount most landlords could raise rent for existing tenants each year. It also capped fees and late fee charges for tenants, but the policy would not have applied to new buildings.
The policy has sparked fierce debate all session long – supporters say the policy is a crucial tool to help keep people in their homes, while opponents worry the legislation won't fix the problem of rising rental costs and could make the housing market even more challenging.
Lawmakers on the Senate Ways and Means Committee went to a closed-door meeting to discuss the legislation Monday morning, and once they returned, Chair June Robinson (D-Everett) said the bill would not be brought up for a vote. While there are legislative maneuvers that could possibly keep the bill in the mix, the committee's nonvote most likely means the policy will no longer be considered this session.
In a brief interview, Robinson said not enough Democrats and no Republicans on the committee would support the bill. She did not explain which aspects of the bill kept it from being voted on.
"I don't feel like I can comment on that," Robinson said.
The bill's sponsor, Rep. Emily Alvarado (D-Seattle) told reporters Monday afternoon it was unclear what, if any, changes might convince more senators to support the proposal.
"We did not hear specific feedback from senators about what it would have taken to get them to support this bill," Alvarado said.
Two Democrats on the committee, Sen. Kevin Van De Wege (D-Lake Sutherland) and Sen. Mark Mullet (D-Issaquah) were among those opposed to the legislation. A spokesperson for Van De Wege said he "isn't interested in commenting."
Meanwhile, Mullet did not pinpoint any one aspect of the policy as problematic, but worries that the bill could stifle efforts to build more housing by driving away home builders.
"If this bill were to pass, I think in three or four years we'd have substantially more people in a difficult spot," Mullet said, adding that the state should instead focus on ways to build housing more quickly.
But backers of the legislation say renters struggling with rising rent costs can't wait for the housing market to catch up with demand.
Chair of the Housing Committee in the House, Rep. Strom Peterson (D-Edmonds), criticized senators for not working more proactively on the legislation. The proposal was a top priority for House Democrats this session.
"There was one single amendment drafted to the bill," Peterson said. "They did not do the work and that is deeply upsetting."
The House bill's demise comes after it passed the House mostly along party lines, and weeks after a similar version stalled in a different Senate committee. Alvarado says she plans to bring the bill back again during the 2025 legislative session, and in an emailed statement, Robinson also promised to work on the issue of housing affordability more next year.
This post has been updated with new information throughout.
[Copyright 2024 Northwest News Network]Continue reading »
One guide to rule them all: Where to eat, hang, and party around Emerald City Comic Con 2024
While Emerald City Comic Con takes over the Seattle Convention Center each year, there are even more festivities to be found in the surrounding area, outside the con.
Convention organizers are anticipating 85,000 attendees will flood into downtown Seattle for the 2024 event. That's a lot of fans. From food to transportation, afterparties, and more, here are a few ideas for navigating Seattle during Emerald City Comic Con 2024.
Emerald City Comic Con afterparties
Emerald City Comic Con has two of its own afterparties, including a big band concert and an "Under the Stars Prom." Outside of the con ...
Sonic Boom Box at Spin (1511 6th Avenue): Saturday, March 2, 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. Sonic Boom Box specializes in comicon afterparties. $25 at the door, but cheaper tickets online. Expect cosplay, a live DJ, dancing, and ping pong since this is at Spin after all. 21+
Tokyo Tonight at Q Nightclub (1426 Broadway): Sunday, March 3, 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. $20. Japanese DJ's playing J-pop and anime. 21+
The Rolling Bones party at The Whisky Bar (2122 2nd Avenue): Saturday, March 2, 6 p.m. until late. $10. Rolling Bones is a local club for gamers and geeks. They're hosting this party with DJs, comic-themed cocktails, and more. Club membership not required. 21+ (Warning: Organizers say they've already reached capacity based on RSVPs. Expect a line outdoors if you want to try this spot)
Where to hang around Emerald City Comic Con
Just because Emerald City Comicon closes for the night, doesn't mean the festivities end. There are a few spots con goers can easily get to from the convention center, and a few events happening outside the con.Continue reading »
Washington vs China: Why the NW could have the next generation of battery tech
China makes most of the world's car batteries. Washington could play a big role in helping the U.S. surpass China.
As the auto industry advances toward an electric vehicle future, China is currently the world leader when it comes to manufacturing car batteries. That means U.S. carmakers have to ask China for EV batteries, and they're not always at the front of the line.
Senator Maria Cantwell from Washington says U.S. companies and scientists are gaining ground in this industry, however. And her state is poised to lead.
“We are kind of … becoming the epicenter on next generation battery technology, even for the international players,” she said at a Friday event in Seattle's South Lake Union neighborhood, the city's tech hub.
Whereas current lithium ion batteries use graphite anodes (in very simple terms, this is the part of the battery where the energy comes out), silicon anodes are viewed as the next big advancement in battery tech. Federal investments in Washington state have focused on these silicon batteries.
Silicon anodes have advantages and disadvantages. On the pro side, they charge much faster and hold far more energy. On the con side, they swell-up when charging, making the manufacture of a physically stable batteries difficult.
But local companies like Group14 in Woodinville say they've overcome that problem using brand new technologies that suspend the silicon in a sponge-like flexible matrix contained within a rigid shell. Like when rum is absorbed into a rum cake, the rum doesn't increase the cake's size.
Plus, Washington has cheap, green hydropower, a highly skilled workforce that's good at making things, and A.I. companies that nudge research along faster.
For example, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory — a government funded, non-profit research organization — has partnered with Microsoft to conduct virtual scientific experiments using A.I. in order to more quickly find breakthroughs in battery design. One problem with this approach concerns the state's cheap energy — it's not unlimited. And A.I. consumes massive amounts of power.Continue reading »