Follow Up on Editorial: Should We Take Susan Hutchison Seriously

September 28th, 2009 Ricardo Posted in boulevard park, development, Economy, Election, Government, housing, Jail Sites, Jobs, King County, safety, sustainability, Traffic, Transportation, white center 19 Comments »

For those who missed it, KUOW today broadcast an interview with, King County Executive, Susan Hutchison.  You can find the interview at KUOW Weekday.  In a prior post I had made the following observation which sparked a fair amount of discussion:

Ms. Hutchison has never held public office.  She has never had to struggle with the political realities of governing a complex political entity whose ambits include not only roads and sewers but social services, neighborhoods and law enforcement.  It is difficult to see how her experience on the board of the Seattle Symphony prepared her, in the slightest way, for such a weighty role.

If anyone had any doubt about Ms. Hutchison’s lack of specificity on issues, policies or even advisors, it is worth a listen (available on podcast).  Pressed by the moderator to name a single advisor who she consults, or who she would bring to her administration, she flatly resisted naming anyone, except to say bus drivers.  Her conclusion was “trust me” they will be great people.  I have nothing against bus drivers, but maybe she could have named a couple of the guys that she intends to bring to the Hutchison administration that will “bring people together.”  I’m sorry but calling Hutchison a “lightweight” does not begin to describe the chasm that is her lack of qualification to hold such an important post.  Listen for yourself.

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Seattle Mayoral Candidate Mike McGinn A One Song Bird: Gut the Viaduct Plan – Editorial by Ricardo A. Guarnero

September 16th, 2009 Ricardo Posted in alaskan way viaduct, development, Election, Government, Politics, Traffic, Transportation, white center 11 Comments »

It appears that Seattle Mayoral Candidate, Mike McGinn has staked his campaign on one issue, gutting the viaduct tunnel plan carefully negotiated by all the relevant players.  If he wins, he has stated, he will view his victory as a mandate to undo the viaduct replacement plan.  In its stead, McGinn has promised more busses, sidewalks and bike paths.  As someone who regularly commutes on the viaduct it’s hard for me to see how more sidewalks and bikepaths is going to make my commute any easier.  Oh, yeah, and McGinn says he wants to use light rail to replace the viaduct.  Geez, I didn’t know that Sound Transit was planning a light rail leg for West Seattle and White Center.  Wait, there is no light rail leg for West Seattle.  So if McGinn is elected we can expect protracted delays on replacing the viaduct, procuring boatloads of money and the decade’s long process of what:  extending the light rail line to West Seattle.  No problema.  I’ll take the tunnel.  It’s clear that McGinn does not live in West Seattle nor does he use the viaduct to commute.

What is particularly disingenuous, is McGinn’s claim that the tunnel option was voted down by Seattle voters.  This is simply not true.  A tunnel option which would have meant tearing down the viaduct and digging up a tunnel was rejected.  The deep bore tunnel that is currently planned would leave the viaduct in place while the tunnel gets built, saving West Seattleites years of aggravating surface detours.  This option was negotiated because it provides the most mobility and least interference while it is getting built.  What McGinn is proposing would set us back a decade and have us revisit the viaduct replacement options once again.  Recall how all this useless process killed the monorail (we had to vote on it three times).  And in the meantime, we have to hope that a seismic event doesn’t make the whole thing hollow by bringing down the decrepit structure.  Busses, bikes and sidewalks, Oh My!

McGinn’s ill-defined plans for the viaduct are enough to nix the guy in my book.  Add to that, the fact that he has never held electoral office, that most of his policy positions lack any specificity and you have a feel-good kind of guy that you might pick for your soccer team, but not a mayor for a major city.  Seattle needs better.  I’m not crazy about Joe Mallahan, but he at least seems considerably more grounded on policies.  We have already had a couple of amateurs embarrass the City.  It’s time to let the grown ups proceed with real policies grounded in reality.

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The Barber and the Hospital: Opinion piece by Ricardo A. Guarnero

July 20th, 2009 Ricardo Posted in Economy, Government, Health, Politics 2 Comments »

This story is not unique but it is entirely true.  A friend of mine recommended his barber and offered to pay for my haircut if I would get a buzzcut.  I took him up on his offer.  The barber found out that I had a legal background and started querying me about some financial difficulties he was having.

The barber had a small business that had always provided him with a decent living.  He had a large number of customers and therefore had few expenses beyond the rent, the lights and such incidentals.  He ran a lean operation. He owns a home, a  modest car and an otherwise unremarkable life.  He pays his bills on time and has excellent credit.  He appears to be in good health, not overweight, eats right and works hard.  To all appearances, he is an upstanding member of our community.

After finishing a haircut about a year ago, he felt a crushing pain in his chest.  He fell to the floor and a concerned customer immediately called 911. Mr. Barber was having an acute myocardial infarction, commonly referred to as a heart attack.  After being rushed to Harborview Medical Center, doctors performed a quadruple bypass surgery and nursed him back to health.

This episode of medical need cost the Barber over $50,000.00; money which he did not have and which his business could not generate.   Being uninsured, as are most business people in his position, the barber was liable for the full cost of this care.   Adding to his stress level, was the fact that the hospital kept calling him, demanding payment.  They implored him to put the payment on credit cards, as they well knew that he had credit.  What they failed to tell him, and of which I informed him, was that credit card debt was virtually nondischargeable in a bankruptcy filing.   The medical costs, all $50,000, however could easily be discharged in bankruptcy.  As with so many elements of our health care system this meant that the cost of his care would be socialized, that is , passed on to consumers, taxpayers and others in higher medical costs.

Now the barber could go on making incremental payments for the better part of his life.  This had the same effect as a bankruptcy filing or a mere refusal to pay, the costs of his care would be socialized.  In fact, outside of winning the lottery there is no conceivable way that a man in his position and age, given the skill-sets that he possessed, would be able to pay off the cost of his care following the heart attack.

There is absolutely nothing unique about this situation.  It is the story of millions of such small businesses.  Nearly one-third of the uninsured – 13 million people – are employees of firms with less than 100 workers.  That is to say, no health insurance of any kind.  Of those insured, the coverage is often reserved for catastrophic events with cavernous gaps in coverage.  And this is the plight of the small business person.  Never mind the unemployed, underemployed or just plain down on your luck types, such as the half-million who are being laid off every month and losing their employer-provided insurance.

The current delivery of health care in this country is nothing short of scandalous.  Take a look at some eye-popping statistics in this piece.   Health care reform is imperative.  As articulated by Dr. Howard Dean:

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean said Thursday that without a public health insurance option – a federally-run program that would be offered in addition to private plans — the health care reform effort now being debated in Washington would not be worth supporting.

“There is no point in doing health care reform unless you have a public option people can choose from,” Dean said. “I think it is a waste of time and money to do it.”

The desired reduction in the cost of health care will not happen without such an option, he added.

“Cost containment is not going to be successful without a public option” he said.

Without a strong public option, all the tweaks to our health care system will be for naught.  We have operated under a system that divides health care costs between employers and those with government coverage such as Medicare.   The rest of us are screwed.  So, if you care about real health care reform contact your legislator in Congress and urge them to pass real health care reform, a bill with strong public option component.  Contact for Washington’s two Senators is as follows:

The Honorable Patty Murray
United States Senate
173 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-4701
DC Phone: 202-224-2621
DC Fax: 202-224-0238
Electronic Correspondence: http://murray.senate.gov/email/index.cfm
WWW Homepage: http://murray.senate.gov/
The Honorable Maria Cantwell
United States Senate
511 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-4
704
DC Phone: 202-224-3441
DC Fax: 202-228-0514
Electronic Correspondence: http://cantwell.senate.gov/contact/index.cfm
WWW Homepage: http://cantwell.senate.gov/
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Seattle Times: Snow Response Driven by Politics

March 19th, 2009 Ricardo Posted in Government, Politics, safety, snow, Traffic, Transportation 1 Comment »

The Seattle Times is reporting that the road clearing during December’s snow storms was driven by political decisions rather than the clearing of critical arterials.

In previous storms, plow drivers had discretion over how best to clear their assigned routes, said plow driver Chris Stuker. City drivers would traverse main routes in tandem, allowing main roads to be cleared and plows to clear feeder streets as they were able to, Stuker and three other drivers said.

But that system was replaced by top-down decision-making that resulted in trucks being pulled from major streets for special assignments and to help less-experienced drivers, most of them working in the south end of the city, according to two drivers who asked to remain anonymous out of a concern for their jobs.

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Random thoughts on blogging

December 2nd, 2008 Ricardo Posted in Government, People, White Center news 5 Comments »

Back in the day when the only news was the old media (traditional newspapers, TV, news wire services), everything was filtered by arbiters of acceptable opinion.  Many was the time when I pulled my hair reading nonsense in some newspaper, wanting to call the reporter and ask, “what the f*ck were you thinking?”  I wrote letters to the editor and some of them got published.  I remember the New York Times calling me to confirm stuff about my background that only the FBI would know.  Even then they polished my comments and turned them into digestible sound bites.

The internet and the blogosphere has completely changed the rules of the game.  The “trad” media has yet to catch up, never mind comprehend the changes which have taken place.  Our sister site, the West Seattle Blog, is an example of people who not only comprehend the new medium but are doing an end run on the trad media.  Today, there are literally millions of blogs, accessible to anyone with an internet connection.  And the highest rated internet sites are themselves blogs:  yes blogs draw more readers than the New York Times or the Washington Post.  It is hardly an understatement to state that we are in an information revolution, perhaps as profound as the invention of the Gutenberg Press.

So what does this have to do with White Center?  Plenty.  News, events, anything that happens in our community is immediately communicated and it is communicated without the establishment media deciding what is or is not “newsworthy.”   Personally, I think this is a great development.  Democracy actually returning to its roots.

Which brings me to my critics.  I have been posting on various topics of concern to the White Center community.  In the process of doing so, I state, frankly and openly, what I believe.  I am not asking anybody to like what I have to say.  People have certainly expressed their chagrin over various political positions that I have taken.  To them, I say, in the spirit of democracy, raise your voice and dissent.  But don’t tell me to shut up!  Wrong man.  Really wrong.  If you really feel that strongly, then start your own blog.  I certainly hope that people will see this as the commons in which all can express (reasoned) views.

So now that I’ve said my piece, have at it.  Just try and be civil and smart when posting, which is more than I can say for my own views.  Peace.

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Greenbridge and its Critics

November 23rd, 2008 Ricardo Posted in development, Economy, Government, Neighborhoods, safety, white center, White Center Early Learning Initiative 9 Comments »

You have to hand it to Bush & Company, they were spot on when they proclaimed that the free market would most assuredly take care of such problems as affordable housing.  Who could have known, a mere three years ago, with housing prices skyrocketing and rents pricing out most renters, that a social revolution was brewing.  Social reformers and liberals cried out for government aid to build low income housing.  Who knew that the mind behind Bush had a smashing plan for bringing down the cost of housing across the board and across the nation?  Genius, pure genius!   Drive the economy into the ditch and pretty soon you are picking up quarter-million dollar homes for $100K in Florida and California.  Here in Seattle, rents have dropped dramatically and landlords are offering incentives to get their units occupied.  Problem is no one has the money to snatch the cheap real estate.  Ah, the magic of the free market at work.

What, you may well ask, does this have to do with the Greenbridge development?   Greenbridge is more than a housing project, it is a master plan for the community.  Greenbridge, and High Point, were developed with certain assumptions in mind.

The project, launched in 2001 with a grant from the federal Hope VI program — the same program that has contributed to the redevelopment of High Point and Holly Park — is supposed to include 1,025 living units. That’s a lot more housing than Park Lake held, but a lot less of it will be subsidized for the poor. The mix is supposed to include 300 rent-subsidized units, 353 workforce rental units, and 372 homes for sale at market rates. This represents a net loss of 269 rent-subsidized units. Instead of maintaining a large pocket of low-income housing in White Center, the county decided to disperse.

As well, the project was developed before the economy hit the squids and before the current real estate meltdown.  Hence, the criticism that some of the economic assumptions underlying the project were wrong.

The King County Housing Authority built the first part of Greenbridge at the height of the real estate boom, when prices for everything were sky-high. The sale of lots for market-rate housing was supposed to reimburse the county some of the cost. By the time the housing authority offered its first relatively small group of market-rate lots for sale, the market had plunged. Only one developer bid on the land, at a price way lower than expected. Having bought high, the county felt it couldn’t afford to sell low. It retracted its request for proposals. For now, the single-family portion of Greenbridge is on hold until the market picks up.

As well, some readers of this blog have expressed concern that the early learning center is a lot of wasted money, destined more for monuments than for education.   Needless to say, Greenbridge and its constituent parts have no shortage of critics.  This is so, despite the very involved political process used to  formulate its goals.  Unlike private developments, the development Greenbridge required input from a great many constituent groups.  As well, the philosophy behind Greenbridge incorporates the revolution in urban planning that did away with such government-manufactured ghettos such as Chicago’s infamous Cabrini Green towers.  When all is said and done, Greenbridge is supposed to be a place that is safe, pleasant and attractive.  And it will be organically connected to the larger White Center Community.

More to come, but feel free to jump in with your observations and comments.    (As always, be civil, or your comment will be deleted.)  In the interim, here are some pictures taken on November 23rd, showing the current progress.

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Sheriff Rahr to hold town hall meeting Wednesday at 7 p.m.

October 28th, 2008 Ricardo Posted in Crime, Government, King County, safety, Steve Cox Memorial Park, white center, white center community safety coalition 1 Comment »

The third in a series of four town hall meetings held by King County Sheriff She Rahr and Prosecutor Dan Satterberg is Wednesday in White Center.

Rahr has said proposed county budget cuts will put the public at risk, and is holding the meetings to hear from the public. For more on the previous meetings, click here.

The meeting is scheduled from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the log cabin at Steve Cox Memorial Park, at 1321 S.W. 102nd St. in White Center.

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Burnt House a Nuisance: Why is it not being cleaned up?

October 22nd, 2008 Ricardo Posted in Crime, development, Environment, Government, Graffiti, Real estate, safety, white center 5 Comments »

This house is located at the intersection of Delridge and 16th Avenue SW.  The house burnt down in December of 2007.   Sometime thereafter, some vagrants started using the basement as their home and so the owner boarded up the windows.  Word is that the house was to be torn down and a mixed use residential-commercial project was to take its place.   Nothing good has happened since.

As you can see from the attached pictures the place is a complete nuisance.  No steps have been taken to mitigate the damage caused by the fire and the subsequent abandonment.  The grass and weeds are overgrown.  The charred appliances and furniture are still lying outside where they were dumped by the fire department.  And the place is conspicuous to just about everyone visiting the White Center commercial area.  Clearly, the owner does not care what kind of a nuisance this creates for the community.  Anybody got some ideas on how to get this negligent owner to clean up his mess?

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Vote, Vote, Vote!!!

October 20th, 2008 Ricardo Posted in Election, Government, King County, Politics, white center 2 Comments »

I just got my ballot in the mail and I am going to fill it out and send it out, just as soon as I find out where they sell those things called stamps. Seriously folks, the last governor’s election was decided by just 130 votes, so your vote makes a difference. And it looks like this governor’s race is going to be a squeaker as well. So get your ballot, vote and then tell everyone you know to do the same. By the way if you are not registered to vote, TODAY is your last chance! You have to do it in person at King County Elections HQ, which is in Renton; here’s directions – they’re open late today, till 6.

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In-person voter registration deadline is October 20

October 19th, 2008 Ricardo Posted in Election, Government, Politics, white center Comments Off

If you aren’t currently registered to vote in Washington and want to vote in this November’s election, you have until the October 20 deadline to do so in person at your county elections office.

Secretary of State Sam Reed is urging eligible residents to register in person to vote by Monday’s deadline so they can take part in the highly anticipated November 4 General Election.

“The upcoming election will be extremely important for Washington voters,” Reed said. “Several interesting initiatives and key races will be on the ballot, including president, governor, most legislative seats and many local government offices. If you aren’t registered to vote and want to vote this year, you need to register by October 20.”

Reed said young adults in particular should not miss the opportunity to have their voices heard in the upcoming election.

“Whether you are 18 or 81, your vote counts,” Secretary of State Reed said. “If you have never voted before, this would be the perfect election to vote in for the first time. Your vote can make a difference.”

Registered voters in the state of Washington are required to be citizens of the United States; have lived in Washington State for at least 30 days; be at least 18 years old by Election Day; and have had their voting rights restored if they were ever convicted of a felony. Federal and state law requires citizens to provide identification to vote, such as a Washington driver’s license or Social Security number. Other ID forms are valid under the law.

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Say goodbye to Deputy Hancock – Another casualty of King County financial crisis?

October 14th, 2008 Ricardo Posted in Annexation, Government, King County, safety, white center 3 Comments »

Word is that the King County financial crisis is worse than has been represented by Ron Sims. Cuts to the King County Sheriff’s Office will be much more severe than represented. One of the casualties may be Deputy Jeff Hancock, who took over after the death of Steve Cox. The White Center Sheriff’s store-front and Deputy Hancock’s beat may well be on the chopping block. Expect to hear conflicting accounts from the Sims Office and the Sheriff’s Department.

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Follow up on $700,000,000,000 taxpayer bailout – Conversation Cafe at Cafe Rozella

September 27th, 2008 Ricardo Posted in Election, Government, Politics, white center Comments Off

Brother can you spare $700,000,000,000????

The Conversation Cafe had a very productive discussion regarding the proposed Wall Street Bailout.  In the course of discussing the financial crisis that is animating the proposal to write out a Treasury check for $700 billion to Henry Paulson, someone brought to the group’s attention the recent book, “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism” by Naomi Klein.  Klein posits that crises are manufactured in order to push through unpalatable economic and political measures.  You can read her post regarding the current crisis here

The group agreed that any taxpayer bailout should, at a minimum, include the following conditions.

1. Reinstatement of the provisions of Glass-Steagall, which forbade speculation
2. Re-regulation of the finance, insurance, and real estate industries
3. Accountability on the part of those who took the companies down:
a) resignations of management
b) givebacks of executive compensation packages
c) limitations on executive compensation
d) admission by CEO’s of what went wrong and how, prior to any government bailout
4. Demands for transparencey
a) with respect to analyzing the transactions which took the companies down
b) with respect to Treasury’s dealings with the companies pre and post-bailout
5. An equity position for the taxpayers
a) some form of ownership of assets
6. Some credible formula for evaluating the price of the assets that the government is buying.
7. A sunset clause on the legislation
8. Full public disclosure by members of Congress of assets held, with possible conflicts put in blind trust.
9. A ban on political campaign contributions from officers of corporations receiving bailouts
10. A requirement that 2008 cycle candidates return political contributions to officers and representatives of corporations receiving bailouts.

Join us next Saturday at 2 p.m. as we continue the conversation.

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700,000,000,000 for Wall Street – Conversation Cafe Returns Saturday at 2 p.m. – Cafe Rozella

September 23rd, 2008 Ricardo Posted in Election, Government, Politics, white center Comments Off

Are you concerned about giving away $700,000,000,000 to Wall Street?  Feel a need to understand what this means?  Perhaps just getting your mind around the mind-blowing amount of $$$ that 700,000,000,000 represents?  Well, join us for a conversation cafe on the Wall Street Bailout this Saturday at 2 p.m. at Cafe Rozella.  We will pull together some materials and discuss just what the hell is this all about?  If you would like to contribute – materials, ideas or resources please contact Ricardo at email: guarnero@caferozella.com.  The conversation cafe on the Wall Street bailout will be held this Saturday at 2 p.m. at Cafe Rozella.  Cafe Rozella is located at 9434 Delridge Way SW, Seattle 98106.  Directions at www.caferozella.com.

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Sims goes public with Metro fare increase recommendation

August 25th, 2008 Tracy Posted in Government, Metro Comments Off

County Executive Ron Sims just announced this on his blog: He’s recommending a 25-cent increase this year, 25 cents more in 2010. Read his full explanation here. 6:16 PM UPDATE: Our area’s County Councilmember Dow Constantine, who also is closely involved in this issue as chair of the council’s Transportation Committee, has issued a statement about Sims’ proposal – read on: Read the rest of this entry »

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Your thoughts sought on “Neighborhood Revitalization”

August 24th, 2008 Tracy Posted in Economy, Government 2 Comments »

On first glance, it sounds dry as a grassy parking strip in August: The county is seeking comments right now on Amendments to the Consolidated Housing & Community Development Plan for 2005-2009. However, if you peek inside those documents, you will find the newest document about the proposal for creating a White Center Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy Area. This document describes its potential boundaries as follows:

North: From 18th Avenue SW east along SW Roxbury to 2nd Avenue SW, east along the City of Seattle borderline to SR 509;

South: From S124th Street and SR 509 to SW 126th Street to 112th SW;

East: State Route 509 from S 99th Street to S 124th Street;

West: North from SW 126th SW along 12th Avenue SW then west on SW 116th Street to 16th Avenue SW, north to SW 112th Street, west to 19th Avenue SW and north to SW Roxbury.

Once you’ve read the proposal, you can use this online form to comment on it; the deadline is September 15.

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Margarita Prentice to face off against Juan Martinez

August 21st, 2008 Ricardo Posted in Government, Politics 27 Comments »

Margarita Prentice will face off against fellow Democrat, Juan Martinez in the general election.  Although many are aware of the annexation issue regarding the unincorporated parts of White Center, few readers are likely aware of the critical role that Margarita Prentice played in the political machinations regarding whether Seattle would continue to vie for annexation of White Center.  Senator Prentice was responsible for legislation which basically made it unfeasible for Seattle to annex White Center.  Subsequent legislation, House Bill 1139 was introduced to allow Seattle the same access to annexation incentive funds as other cities.  Prentice was also at the heart of Seattle negotiations with the Sonics and controversy regarding predatory lenders.  “Juan Martinez, is an affable working-class guy from the South Bronx who’s pounding the pavement in an effort to make up the fundraising gap between his campaign and the Prentice juggernaut.” (The Stranger, August 6, 2008 – endorsement below).   For more information regarding Prentice and her challenger, Juan Martinez I invite readers to check out the following sites (and please feel free to suggest others):  Prentice, Martinez in Legislative District 11, Senator MoneyTree, Sen. Margarita Prentice website, Senate Democratic Caucus and Municipal League of Seattle Guide.  Information on candidate, Juan Martinez can be found at:  Juan Martinez website, State Sen. Margarita Prentice Likely to Face Challenger, Juan Martinez, Municipal League rating, The Bottom One Primary, The Stranger Endorsements.   While much attention is being paid to upper reach races, this is an important race and deserves our attention.

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Our county executive, on day laborers

August 15th, 2008 Tracy Posted in Government, Online Comments Off

As the mercury rises, lots of people – maybe even you, if you read this hours after we write it – are out doing hard work in the heat. While adding links to White Center Now sidebars this past week, we noticed County Executive Ron Sims has a blog (it’s in our Your Government links). He’s got a new entry today, about day laborers, and how he believes they should be treated. Read it here.

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