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Posts published in February 2007

Blogging classes in Tacoma

Newspapers are moving at different rates in embracing the online world, and using different tactics. In the Northwest, the Spokane Spokesman-Review may have gone farther in integrating its staff with blogging than any other regional paper. Now the Tacoma News Tribune is trying something at a different angle.

It relates to some extent to the Oregonian's OregonLive neighborhood blogging, but the News Tribune seems to intend to integrate even more the staff and local writer connection. They have sought out local people to blog from and about their neighborhoods, and on Thursday held a "blogger class" to run through how this will work, what the standards are, and so on. (The class appears to be a prerequisite to blogging directly.) Credentials for logging in were passed out the next day.

Another step in the coming evolution.

Please lock me away

prisoner image from old bookIdaho Senator Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, was a little startled by the factoid, and he surely wasn't alone: In 2006, some 88 prisoners in the Idaho system said they weren't interested in parole, and would rather stay behind bars.

The item came up Thursday at the budget hearing for the Pardons & Parole Commission, as long-time Director Olivia Craven was delivering the facts and figure about her agency. As the Spokesman-Review's Betsy Russell quotes, Cameron, seemed a little baffled: “Explain that to me . . . Are they just enjoying their life in prison so much?”

We followed up and today asked Craven about the refusniks, and she had but limited explanations for what sounds a little odd. She said that over the next year, she plans to pull together more detailed information about this subgroup. But a rough early conclusion or two might be hazarded.

A little background here.

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When the levee breaks

We tend to think of levees in the context of Louisiana and the gulf states, barriers for low-lying land against high-rising water. But the western states have a lot of levees, and there are even a bunch of them in the Northwest. And it turns out that a bunch of them are in trouble.

Reaction to a Freedom of Information Act request from several news organizations, the Army Corps of Engineers has released a list of 122 levees around the country that fail in its maintnance ratings. More specifically, that means "An unacceptable maintenance rating means a levee has one or more deficient conditions that can reasonably be foreseen to prevent the project from functioning as designed. Examples of maintenance deficiencies include: animal burrows, erosion, tree growth, movement of floodwalls or faulty culvert conditions."

Overwhelmingly, they're in western states. California accounts for the single largest share. But Washington has a long list, concentrated between the Seattle/Bellevue area to the west and the Cascades to the east. From the looks of the Corps report, this is a serious hazard for parts of that country . . . parts of that fast-growing country.

As though that region didn't have enough infrastructure worries.

The levee issues in Oregon and Idaho, by contrast, are much lighter. But they should give a little pause to people in the Astoria area; several waterways are noted as endangered in that area.

LIST On the list below, the two names are for the overall Corps project, and the specific segment within it.

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Family definitions

What is a family, and who should be legally considered to be a part of it? The question reaches farther than we usually think.

Consider this description of a proposed rule change in an unlikely place, the Department of Consumer & Business Services, Building Codes Division:

"This proposed rule expands the exemption from electrical license requirements for electrical installations on a person’s residential or farm property. The rule adds 'spouse' and 'domestic partner' to the definition of an owner’s immediate family for the purpose of qualifying for the exemption."

A simple problem of logic

housesSeems odd that more people don't seem to spot the logical - economic - problem inherent in this bit of information, from a lead story in today's Seattle Times.

The nut graph, referring to King County: "A typical household would have had to bring in 46 percent more income in 2005 to afford a median house, a huge leap from 2004, according to an annual report released Wednesday."

Put another way. The median income in King County in 2005 was $60,500. Based on usual household economics (the normal rule of thumb that you can reasonably spend up to about 30% of your income on housing), that means the median affordable house would cost $228,100.

But in 2005, as it turns out, the median priced house in King County was tagged at $332,000.

Which would be affordable if the median income were $88,400, but, of course, it isn't - isn't close. How does this compute?

Once again we ask: How are people able to afford so many very high-priced houses? And isn't a housing price correction overdue?