Press "Enter" to skip to content

Posts published in “Reading”

It’s this smoky in eastern Washington

carlson
NW Reading

How smoky is it in eastern Washington? Very, the Department of Ecology said today in this statement.

Smoke is filling up the low-lying areas of Eastern Washington with weather patterns keeping a lid on most of the region with no relief in sight, according to the Washington Department of Ecology.

"Unfortunately, areas around Wenatchee remain in the worst shape," said Sean Hopkins, Ecology air quality specialist in Yakima. "At the same time, other areas are experiencing unhealthy air anywhere smoke lingers from the hundreds of wildfires that are burning."

Specifically, Ecology and Forest Service air-quality monitors in Chelan County are reading in the hazardous and unhealthy ranges. Poorer conditions are trending in the Quincy area and conditions could worsen around Spokane, Pullman and Clarkston.

Monitor measurements in Ellensburg are in the unhealthy range, but is trending better than earlier hazardous readings. Cle Elum readings by the Forest Service are moderate, showing some improvement.

All residents in the Wenatchee area should stay indoors and curtail their physical activities both indoors and out. Doors and windows should remain closed. In the remainder of the Yakima and Columbia basins common sense precautions should be taken by everyone, but sensitive groups -- such as children, the elderly and heart patients -- are particularly vulnerable.

The biggest health threat comes from the fine particles in smoke. These can cause burning eyes, runny nose, bronchitis and other illnesses. Smoky air also can aggravate pre-existing heart and lung diseases, and even lead to death.

Follow air quality online at the Washington Department of Ecology wildfire/smoke Web page: Go to Ecology's home page at http://www.ecy.wa.gov/ and click on "Wildfire smoke updates" on the right side under "Spotlight."

OR poverty rises again

carlson
NW Reading

From a statement by the Oregon Center for Public Policy released today.

Poverty in Oregon increased yet again last year, and poverty levels are particularly alarming among children and communities of color. It's time for Governor Kitzhaber and state lawmakers to develop a plan to reduce poverty.

The U.S. Census Bureau reported that the share of Oregonians living in poverty increased to 17.5 percent in 2011 -- up from 15.8 percent in 2010 and 12.9 percent in 2007, prior to the start of the recession.

Child poverty increased as well. Last year 23.6 percent of children in Oregon (almost 1 in 4) lived in poverty. This was up from 21.6 percent in 2010 and 16.9 percent in 2007.

Poverty levels are worse for communities of color compared to non-Hispanic whites. In 2011, the poverty rate for non-Hispanic whites in Oregon was 14.8 percent (1 in 7). By contrast, the poverty rate was 19.2 percent (1 in 5) for Asians, almost 1 in 3 for African Americans (29.7 percent), Native Americans (29.8 percent) and Latinos (29.8 percent), and more than 1 in 3 (36.2 percent) for Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders.

The rise in poverty has a direct and immediate cost to Oregon. Last year about 662,000 Oregonians were living in poverty -- 66,000 more than the year before. The increase in the total number of people in poverty adds to the demand for public services.

Washington’s job picture

carlson
NW Reading

From a report out today from the Washington Employment Security Department.

Washington’s construction industry led all sectors in employment gains in August, with a seasonally adjusted estimate of 1,900 jobs, contributing to a net gain of 3,900 construction jobs since August 2011.
These and other job estimates are detailed in the latest report from the state’s Employment Security Department. The preliminary, seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for August was 8.6 percent.

For the second year in a row, the employment estimates for the leisure-and-hospitality industry and the wholesale-trade industry showed unusually large losses for August. They contributed to an estimated net loss of 1,100 nonfarm jobs across the state.

“Based on the raw data, jobs in these sectors didn’t change significantly,” said Joe Elling, chief labor economist for the state’s Employment Security Department. “The reported losses show up when the seasonal adjustments are applied.”

Economists seasonally adjust monthly job numbers and the unemployment rate to remove or discount normal seasonal variations, such as holiday hiring. If an industry adds more jobs or doesn’t eliminate as many jobs as expected based on past history, it shows up as a seasonally adjusted gain. Similarly, when jobs are cut deeper than expected in a given month, or if normal hiring doesn’t occur, that shows up as a job loss.
“It can take up to two or three years to determine when deviations from the seasonal norms are temporary or longer term,” said Elling.

In addition to construction, the industries with the most seasonally adjusted job gains in August were manufacturing, up 1,500 jobs; financial activities, up 1,200; education and health services, up 500; and government, with an estimated net gain of 300.

On the loss side, wholesale trade dropped an estimated 2,600 jobs; leisure and hospitality lost 2,300; retail trade shed 1,600 jobs; and professional and business services lost 200.

Within the government sector, federal employment in Washington grew by 1,800 jobs, state agencies lost an estimated 900 jobs, public higher education declined by 100 jobs, K-12 schools added 500, and local government lost 1,400.

In August, an estimated 301,700 people (seasonally adjusted) in Washington were unemployed and looking for work. That includes 129,676 who claimed unemployment benefits last month.

Also in August, 3,429 unemployed workers ran out of unemployment benefits, bringing the total to 108,669 since extended benefits were activated in July 2008.

OR: Min wage pay raise for 128,000

From a release today by the Oregon Center for Public Policy.

About 128,000 Oregon workers are due for a raise, following today's announcement that Oregon's hourly minimum wage will go up 15 cents in 2013.

"A rise in the minimum wage is good news for workers and Oregon's economy," said Jason Gettel, policy analyst with the Oregon Center for Public Policy. "It helps the lowest-paid workers make ends meet, and helps the Oregon economy when the workers spend those extra dollars in local businesses."

Oregon's minimum wage will rise from $8.80 to $8.95 on January 1 of next year, the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) announced today. The adjustment, mandated by a ballot measure approved by voters in 2002, reflects the increase in the cost of living as defined by the August Consumer Price Index (CPI), which increased 1.7 percent from a year ago.

OCPP calculated that the increase means an additional $312 a year for a family with one full-time minimum wage worker.

According to OCPP, about 128,000 Oregon jobs -- about 1 out of every 13 jobs in the state -- will pay more due to the minimum wage increase set to take effect next year. That estimate comes from Oregon Employment Department analysis of Unemployment Insurance wage records showing the number of jobs paying less than $8.95 in the first quarter of 2012, the most recent data available.

The 128,000 estimate is probably low because jobs paying just above the minimum wage may also have wage increases, as employers adjust their overall pay structures to reflect the new minimum wage, Gettel said. (more…)

A look into Seattle school purchasing

From a Washington state auditor's release about an audit of Seattle Public Schools.

The Washington State Auditor concluded an investigation into Seattle Public Schools construction program small contracts from 2006 to 2009 and found a lack of employee oversight, operation outside normal accountability channels, failure of internal controls, and lack of an adequate means for employees to raise their concerns.

The District asked the State Auditor last fall to conduct an investigation after the King County Prosecutor’s office advised the District of additional potential illegal activity by a former employee. District adopted corrective measures to address the issues in this new report, so no new procedures or corrective measures will need to be adopted as a result of this review

“The School District asked the State Auditor’s Office for this investigation, and we respect the findings,” said Sherry Carr, School Board Director of Chair of the Audit and Finance Committee. “In the past 18 months, the School Board has worked hard to strengthen internal controls and oversight. Through governance measures and partnerships, we are raising the bar with respect to ethical behavior at the District and are creating strong checks and balances for accounting.

In the summer of 2010, SPS asked the Washington State Auditor to investigate issues surrounding the Regional Small Business Development Program. The District paid for that investigation, which resulted in audit findings released in the State Auditor’s Office Special Investigation Report on Feb. 23, 2011. The School Board also asked for an independent investigation, and that report by Patricia Eakes was released on Feb. 25, 2011.

The original investigation was primarily focused on the Regional Small Business Development Program itself and the recruiters and trainers and did not examine the small construction contracts prior to 2009. Once it became apparent that there may have been issues with the construction contracts, the District asked for a second investigation. This second investigation focused on small works construction contracts – those contracts that do not exceed $200,000 - issued from 2006 to 2009.

The Regional Small Business Development Program was eliminated in Spring 2010. All of the management leaders to whom former employee Silas Potter reported are no longer employed by Seattle Public Schools.

Rainey: Diplomacy saves lies, ignorance kills

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

From poorly-informed presidential candidates to bar flies an hour before “last call,” voices are heaping ill-deserved criticism on the Obama folks for the fires and murders in the Middle East. A lot of ignorance is showing.
Shortly after Eve and Adam lost their lease on the Garden for lying, son number one killed son number two and the Middle East has been carrying on the murderous tradition since that time. If it’s not one of them killing the other, it’s one of them killing somebody living somewhere else. Or killing the damned fools from outside who think they can bring “lasting peace” to countries that have never known it.

And for those who think some terribly produced, short hate film made in California directed at Muslims is at the bottom of the current binge, tain’t so, McGee. In nearly every instance of violence there is ample evidence this is terrorist-sponsored. What may have started as legitimate outrage – in the eyes of a very few Muslims over deliberate mocking of their religion – has been quickly turned into nationalist outrage sponsored by those who’ve been sitting in the bushes just waiting for the right fuse to light.

Little groups of haters of this-that-and-all-other-things Western long ago learned how to manipulate large crowds with just a few well-placed voices. They can take an argument between two used camel dealers and turn it into a building-burning horde in 10 minutes. It’s masterful crowd control in the wrong hands. It also goes back centuries.

Evidence of this is plentiful. Black flags of the hate groups hoisted or waived conspicuously in protests across North African countries. Local Taliban or other anti-western groups identified prominently in crowds and taking credit on the I-Net while urging more people into the streets. Some of the participants – in more countries than Libya – showing up with grenade launchers and automatic weapons. Some religiously pissed Muslim locals showing off for the cameras? I don’t think so.

The previous administration got us into two “wars of choice” in the Middle East. The current folks are trying to get us out and have already pulled the plug on one of them. But neither president – and none before them – could have cured the anti-American fever. It’s just the latest outbreak of the continuing sickness that is directed at all things not Western. And a few things that are Muslim but not the kind that’s “pure” enough. (more…)