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Posts published in “Day: May 29, 2007”

Will a Sonics-less Seattle be different?

Okay, sometimes we wonder if we're being a little blase about the possibility of the Seattle Sonics blowing town for (as so many now expect) either Oklahoma City or at least some place well to the south and east of Puget Sound. Might the loss, in fact, be a real blow to Seattle?

Our core thought has been that, while the Sonics are an asset to Seattle, their departure would not likely hurt much. So we were more than a little hooked by the headline in today's Seattle Post-Intelligencer: "A city with no Sonics: How life will change if NBA leaves Seattle," by reporter Mike Lewis.

How life will change . . . okay, let's discuss that. How would life change?

Conclusion: Not much, except that there wouldn't be the Sonics to talk about around the water cooler. Maybe some marginal loss of civic pride, though even that point is uncertain, Seattle having, shall we say, a variety of other components of civic pride as well. But read the piece for yourself. (And check out the wonderful graphic with the deflated basketball and the keeled-over Space Needle, even though it doesn't quite match the article's conclusions.)

A purchase in Boise

Washington Group InternationalAnother headquarters move making Boise the location of another division of a corporation: The purchase of Washington Group International (formerly, roughly, Morrison-Knudsen) by URS Corporation of San Francisco, for $2.6 billion.

URS describes itself as "the largest global engineering design firm and a leading U.S. federal government contractor". It has said there's little overlap between itself and Washington Group (URS is apparently much more heavily invested in Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security projects), but presumably there's not a lot of distance either between their operations. One statement said "there may be some duplication in corporate operations such as in the two companies information technology departments, but he said they company hasn’t yet identified where any additional duplication may be occurring." Boiseans may want to watch that territory closely.

Washington Group's CEO, Steve Hanks, was quoted as saying that "the sale isn’t expected to have much of an impact on the company’s Boise headquarters." Maybe. Headquarters for what has been WGI are slated to remain in Boise, at least for now.

But so, Boiseans might bear in mind, are some of the central offices for what remains of Albertsons.

Release ’em all

Pierce annex

Pierce elections

Those involved deeply in politics, professionally and otherwise, will pay attention next year to Pierce County's county races, not so much because of their inherent interest - which may be substantial anyway, Pierce being an important swing county - as because of the way the votes are counted.

For its county offices - only those offices - Pierce will be using the "instant runoff" or candidate ranking method of vote-counting. If you think there's only one way to count votes in political races, welcome to the new world: There are in fact many possible ways to vote and to count. Pierce (and are there any other jurisdictions in the Northwest doing this? We've not seen reports of any, though San Francisco has some experience with it) will be trying out one of the more heavily touted in recent years.

Roughly, here's how it works (in this variation on the theme).

All candidates who file for the county offices up for election - executive, council (four seats), assessor/treasurer and sheriff - will be on the November general election ballot; there will be no primary for them. So might someone win the office with a plurality of 15%? No: This system requires a simple majority to win. Here's how you get to 50% + 1 in a field of, say, eight candidates:

Voters can vote for more than one candidate - a first choice, a second and a third. (Or, if they want, just one or two.) You start by looking at the first-place votes. If you have eight candidates and the leader gets 30% of the first-place votes, then the last-place candidate drops out. Election officials then look at the ballots on which he was picked for first place, and extract the choices for second-place and add them to the totals for those candidates. If this still yields no candidate with 50% +1 of the vote, the new lowest-total candidate is booted, his voters' second-place choices distributed, and so on.