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This experiment in building a narrowly focused online daily newspaper in Seattle is over. Why? The short answer is money. But there's more to it than that, and I'd like to take a few minutes to explain some of what I learned about publishing an online daily, so that others may succeed where I have not.
To fund a newsroom requires a pretty sizable chunk of money. My goal with the Courant was to have two to three reporters working full-time and making a living wage, as well as, a copy editor and a secretary. To do that, I estimated that I would need about $500,000 a year (gross sales would need to be more than that since sales people and support staff need to be paid too, but they essentially pay for themselves). I would work for free for the first year or so.
Seattle School Board member Cheryl Chow will not seek a second term. In her statement this morning, Chow said that "there comes a time to walk away from the public spotlight and focus my energy on other personal goals. Now is that time."
The former City Councilmember said that when she was elected to the school board the district was in "turmoil." While in office Chow said that she made a difference by helping to recruit Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson, creating a balanced budget and improving the relationship with the Legislature and the Governor.
She used to own an ice cream shop in Pike Place Market. During the mid-70s, she was a schoolteacher in New Jersey. And today, the 16-year Seattle City Council veteran, Jan Drago, announced that she will indeed be challenging her former political ally, two-term Mayor Greg Nickels, for his job. Drago said that Nickels has done "nothing" for the city.
She said that while she agrees with Nickels on nearly every major issue, she will be different.
Since 1970, consumer debt has increased by more than 1,808 percent, with revolving debt going up more than 18,000 percent.
Yes it's shocking, but here's how the numbers break down.
In 1970, the US population was about 203 million. According to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System's statistics, total consumer debt was $132 billion with just over $5 billion in revolving debt.
On Friday Gov. Chris Gregoire signed a payday loan reform bill into law which effectively lowers the astronomical interest rates charged for these loans to a somewhat less gargantuan rate, at least for some people, it all depends on when you get paid.
The new law lowers the interest rate payday lenders can charge by extending the length of the loan, for some borrowers.
For some reason I thought this week in Seattle politics would be interesting. I was wrong.
On Monday, the almost always non-partisan City Council unanimously passed all of the bills, resolutions and appointments brought before the full council.
Next year's budget is expected to be $70 million short, so the City Council passed a resolution defining the Council's budget priorities in terms of what to preserve and what to cut.
Last week labor negotiations between Seattle Public Schools and the teacher's union made headlines when the union accused Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson of firing more than three thousand schoolteachers and other certified employees.
According to the union, Goodloe-Johnson sent out letters to teachers which stated "there is probable cause to nonrenew your contract."
Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson informed 3,300 teachers that she was terminating their contracts and offered them a new one with one less day. By doing so, the teacher's union is accusing Goodloe-Johnson of firing the schoolteachers and probably breaking the law.
"Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson's decision to fire nearly all of Seattle's teachers is bizarre," said Olga Addae, Seattle Education Association president. "Her actions are a flagrant violation of state labor law. She can't do it, and even if she could, what she's doing is a slap in the face to every teacher in Seattle."
Former Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske is now President Barack Obama's drug czar. The 36-year law enforcement veteran ran the Seattle Police Department for eight years. His nomination to become the head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy was approved today by the U.S. Senate.
Kerlikowske's last day in charge of the S.P.D. was last Friday. Seattle Deputy Police Chief John Diaz is the city's interim chief, and according to a report in The Seattle Times, Diaz will seek to fill Kerlikowske's shoes permanently.
All four Democratic candidates running for King County Executive were present and accounted for tonight in Renton for the kick-off of the 2009 debate season.
In alphabetical order the candidates are King County Council Chair Dow Constantine, State Rep. Ross Hunter, State Sen. Fred Jarrett and King County Councilmember Larry Phillips. The two Republicans running didn't attend the debate, because, well, the King County Democrats Central Committee that sponsored the event didn't invite them.
Today is National Teacher Day and it got me to think about my career as a student. I've had the pleasure of being educated by many great teachers.
I grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota, on the 1300 block of Margaret Street, so I went to Harding Senior High School on the Eastside. One of my most memorable teachers was Mr. Cornell. Mr. Cornell was my homeroom and French teacher. He taught me that it's cool to be nerdy.
If you're interested in who's running for the City Council this year, and you should be, stop by the Metropolitan Democratic Club tomorrow at 5:30 p.m.
The jam-packed race for City Council position eight just got a little more so today as Bobby Forch, 53, announced his intention to run.
City Council position eight is currently filled by Richard McIver, but he's not going to run for re-election. Forch isn't yet listed on the Seattle Election's Web site, but his candidacy makes him the sixth contender for McIver's open seat.
Thanks to a bill signed into law today by Gov. Chris Gregoire, homeowners and renters will have a bit more time to before the bank foreclosures on their home. The new law requires that banks give owners 30 days notice before foreclosing. If there are renters in the building, the new owners must give tenants a written notice and 60 days to move out.
This is not the time to panic. Seriously folks. So far 13 people in Washington might have swine flu. No one in the state has been diagnosed with swine flu. However, as a precautionary measure, Seattle Public Schools have shutdown three of the city's schools: Madrona K-8, Aki Kurose Middle School and Stevens Elementary for a week at least.
And then there were five. This week, Eastside Democrat State Rep. Ross Hunter announced that he's running for county executive.
The retired Microsoft executive and current state representative is now the fifth candidate to join the race to fill Ron Sims' open position. President Obama tapped Sims to be the deputy secretary of the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development.
It's the conversation that seems will never end.
I guess it started in 2001 when the Nisqually earthquake rattled our cage and the Alaskan Way viaduct wheezed and sagged. Perhaps it should have started back in 1989 when 42 people were crushed under the Cypress Viaduct in San Francisco's Loma Prieta quake. But here we are, eight years into this discussion and debate over what to do with the Alaskan Way Viaduct and who should pay for it.
There's a public forum scheduled for 5:30 p.m. this Wed. at City Hall to discuss Mayor Greg Nickels' proposed budget cuts.
Facing a worsening recession, Nickels has had to find more $13 million in budget cuts this year. While the 2009 budget cuts are up to the mayor's discretion, next year's budget - already projected to be $40 million short - Nickels will need to work with the City Council on what to cut.
The Seattle City Council chamber was unusually crowded this morning. More than a dozen people signed up to speak about Mayor Greg Nickels' $13 million in budget cuts, most were concerned about the impact on the library system.
Under Nickels' proposal all of the Seattle libraries will be shut down for a week this summer to save about $650,000.
A handful of reporters gathered on the seventh floor of City Hall this morning to hear how Mayor Greg Nickels plans to balance the budget now that forecasters are predicting that the city's revenue will drop another $29 million this year.
But the process this morning was a little backwards. The way it worked was that first Nickels held a press conference, then afterwards, reporters were told what the mayor plans to cut from the budget.
Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels' staffed briefed the City Council today on about $6 million in budget cuts to make up for a drop in projected real estate excise tax revenue this year.
There is no source of money to cover this loss, said Dwight Dively, the city's budget director. The 2009 budget was passed during much more prosperous times -- last year. While REET revenue has been averaging about $40 million annually, it's now at about $20 million.
Well the Seattle City Council is back to where they were two months ago regarding the Mercer Corridor project money, well, sort of.
If you remember, in late February the City Council voted to lift the spending restriction, called a proviso, on the Mercer project funding, even though the city didn't have enough cash to complete the South Lake Union transportation, or depending on who you talk to, beautification project.
The purpose of the proviso is to prevent the city from starting a project that it can't complete.
In a special meeting today, the Seattle City Council Transportation committee approved a measure to reverse a council vote last month to release the money to get started on the Mercer Corridor project.
Yesterday, the Seattle City Council unanimously approved an additional $150 fee for anyone busted hiring a prostitute. The money will go to pay for a "john school," a program aimed at educating patrons of prostitutes about the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases and other negative consequences of engaging in the sex trade.
City Attorney Tom Carr is credited with recommending the new john school, but Councilmember Nick Licata said that he's been working on setting up a program to counsel offenders in Seattle for years and that Carr opposed the idea in 2005.
Washington state Attorney General Robert McKenna sent out a consumer alert today about a company selling magazine subscriptions door-to-door and pretending to be a charity.
Fresh Start Opportunities claims that money from the subscriptions will go to help young people get a "fresh start on life," but according to the attorney general, Fresh Start Opportunities is not a registered charity.
Prostitution and the Mercer Corridor project will be up for debate this week in the Seattle City Council.
Councilmember Tim Burgess wants anyone busted for patronizing a prostitute charged an additional $150 fee to cover the cost of john school to educate johns on the evils of prostitution.
No matter how you slice or dice the numbers Washington's economy is going to get worse before it gets better, according to a report today by the state's Economic and Revenue Forecast Council.
"We are witnessing an unprecedented economic crisis the likes of which, arguably, we have not seen since the Great Depression," ERFC Executive Director Arun Raha said during the quarterly revenue review in Olympia with legislators and the press. "That's not to say we're heading there, not by a long shot, but number two is not great either," he said while explaining his latest economic forecast showing a much weaker state economy than was predicted just a few weeks ago.
After the abrupt closing of the Crocodile back in Dec. 2007, the remodeled Belltown club will be back in business on Thursday with a free 21-and-over show featuring local bands.
Nearly 300,000 of the 3.5 million workers in Washington are now officially unemployed. Now at 8.4 percent, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is the highest since 1985.
Since the recession began in Dec. 2007, Washington has lagged behind other parts of the country in terms of feeling economic pain, but not anymore. Last month, 28,200 workers lost their jobs and the number of unemployed in January has been adjusted up 8,700. Nationally the unemployment rate - 7.8 percent - is the same as the Seattle-area.
It seemed like the longest 60 days ever, but it's official, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer will publish its last newspaper tomorrow.
"Tonight we'll be putting the paper to bed for the last time," P-I Publisher Roger Oglesby told employees this morning. "But the bloodline will live on."
Wall Street jumped to life on Tuesday with the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing up nearly 380 points. The 5.8 percent bump in the Dow is a sparkle of hope in a seemingly endless sea of bad news that has dominated headlines since the recession began in December 2007, but economists aren't saying the markets have hit bottom yet.
At a press conference this morning in Olympia, Gov. Chris Gregoire announced Washington's new $5 million online sex offender database to track the whereabouts of the 18,136 sex offenders living here. Well, the system actually knows the location of 13,254 convicted sex offenders, leaving 4,882 unaccounted for.
It's time for another exciting week in Seattle politics. The most interesting developments will be on Wednesday when a special full City Council session is scheduled for 2 p.m. to discuss a bond issue, and at 9:30 a.m. Sally Clark's Planning, Land Use and Neighborhoods Committee will meet to hear recommendations from Mayor Greg Nickels' office on proposed changes to the multi-family zoning code.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics released its unemployment figures for February. It's not good news.
Last month, employers handed out 651,000 pink slips, taking the national unemployment rate from 7.6 to 8.1 percent. Washington state's unemployment rate was 7.8 in January - the data for February is not yet available.
In Olympia, the state Senate passed a bill Wednesday to move forward on securing state funding to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct with a deep bore tunnel that Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels proposed this past January.
"We have a plan and it's time to move forward," said the bill's sponsor Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle.
Seattle City Light has issued a warning that telephone con artists appear to be targeting customers with Asian surnames.
Evidently several people reported that in the last few days someone contacted them by phone, said they worked for City Light and that they needed a credit card number to solve a billing issue.
The University of Washington announced today that it will cut 34 full-time fundraisers from its Advancement office and reduce 16 full-time employees to part-time.
Washington state Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Bellevue, wants to start taxing streaming online videos.
Hunter told the Seattle Times that watching a video online should be no different than renting a video at a video store, therefore, it should be taxed.
So what's happening this week in Seattle politics? Apparently not much. Aside from the full City Council meeting today, which may or may not involve changing the noise ordinance, almost all of the City Council committee meetings have been canceled.
They opened last night at New City Theater in a Shoebox on Capitol Hill. Billed as "Two Haunting Plays," directed by Seattle filmmaker Janice Findley, "Rockaby" and "Footfalls" were written by the late Samuel Beckett and they're about death, or life, depending on your perspective.
Last night, City Council members Jean Godden and Nick Licata sponsored a panel-discussion on the future of Seattle newspapers at City Hall. The Bertha Landes room was full of veteran journalists, and at times it was hard to watch so many of them still in denial, still clinging to the hope that some magic money will fall from the sky and save the Seattle P-I and the Seattle Times.
Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen has lots of friends in Seattle. Why wouldn't he, he's a billionaire? Council member Jan Drago has been Allen's point-person in the City Council, and Mayor Greg Nickels his goto-guy in the executive. To see the results, just look at South Lake Union, where Allen's Vulcan Inc is redeveloping 60 acres of commercial and residential real estate.
So what really happened? Did Mayor Greg Nickels and Seattle Councilmember Jan Drago know that the Mercer Project was not on the list to receive federal funding before the City Council voted on Monday to remove the spending restriction, releasing the available funds to get the two year project going? Or were Nickels and Drago as dumbfounded as everyone else when the Mercer Project didn't make the cut?
It's against the law to call someone a dumbass - at least if you're a debt collector it is. According to court documents filed last week by the Attorney General's office, Everett-based Topco Financial Services violated the Consumer Protection Act when they allegedly harassed Washingtonians, calling them "no good," "scum," "loser," "lowlife," and threatening to "bitch slap" them if they didn't pay.
On Monday, the City Council will discuss and possibly vote on modifications to the noise pollution ordinance that if passed will allow large construction projects, such as replacing the Alaska Way Viaduct and the Mercer Mess, to operate outside of the current noise restrictions.
The Seattle area is the 10th least affordable place to live in the U.S., according to a report released last week by the National Association of Home Builders.
Last year Washingtonians gave the state $65 million in unclaimed earned income tax credits.
To help raise awareness for the tax credit, Gov. Chris Gregoire last month said that January 30 is "Earned Income Tax Credit Day."
Publicly traded Seattle companies are taking a beating. Just look at Starbucks, Amazon and Boeing since Jan. 2, 2008, on average, their stocks have plummeted 47 percent.
In Olympia, Senate Democrats are working on a bill that its sponsor says will provide much needed transparency and accountability in Washington's Retrospective Rating program. Republicans claim the bill is an attempt by Democrats to silence the Building Industry Association of Washington which has used money from the program for partisan political advertising, rather than workers' safety.
It's a confusing issue. And according to Council President Richard Conlin, it's the oddest thing he's ever seen the council have to deal with.
The City Council voted today to pass a series of bills that will give Seattle water utility customers a refund, a refund that they will then have to give back over the next 21 months.
At the Rainier Vista Boys and Girls Club today, Mayor Greg Nickels said Seattle is "strong." In his annual state of the city speech Nickels said crime is down, massive public works projects will create thousands of jobs and the city is the envy of the world in terms of being green.
The mayor didn't mention the gaping budget deficit the city is staring at, nor the 40 percent increase in rape from 2007 to 2008. He did however mention the senseless youth murders, which claimed yet another life yesterday in the Central District.
Today is a federal holiday to honor the birthday of President George Washington. It's designated as "Washington's Birthday" in section 6103(a) of title 5 of the United States Code. You can call it President's Day if you want to, but let's be honest, are all presidents really worth celebrating? Mattress sale.
A Seattle City Council committee met this morning to move forward on a plan to increase your water bill.
In Olympia this morning the Senate voted 43 to 4 to temporarily increase weekly unemployment checks by $45 from May 3 to Jan. 3 next year. And for those currently collecting the minimum amount of $129 a week, they'll see a permanent $26 bump.
The Seattle City Council's Culture, Civil Rights, Health and Personnel committee voted today to move resolution 31111, supporting universal health care, out of committee for a vote by the full council.
Jordan Royer announced today that he will be running for Position 8 on the Seattle City Council.
In Olympia today the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony today on whether to abolish the death penalty. While committee chair Sen. Adam Kline said this is a contentious issue, no one testified in favor of keeping the death penalty.
In an effort to slash government spending, Gov. Chris Gregoire has recommended that more than 150 boards and commissions be eliminated, and she herself, through executive order has immediately axed more than 50 of them.
It looks like no one wants North Highline.
The cities of Seattle and Burien were supposed to work out a deal in which North Highline becomes part of Seattle, but there is no political will in the Seattle City Council to make that happen.
In today's open session the Seattle City Council members outnumbered the public attending the meeting when they gave the Seattle Storm a discounted 10-year lease at Key Arena and a promise of $300,000 annually.
Emotions ran wild last night as the Seattle School Board voted to approve a plan to close several schools and to relocate and eliminate a number of programs.
One day before the Seattle School Board is scheduled to vote on a plan to close schools and relocate, or eliminate, as many as 13 programs, several of the board members have recommended changes.
Days before the Seattle School Board is scheduled to vote on whether to close four Seattle public schools, hundreds of people gathered on Sunday afternoon at T. T. Minor Elementary School to march to Garfield Community Center to protest the plan.
Tomorrow night you can meet the artist commissioned to create an original artwork for Sound Transit's University district underground light rail station.
Barack Hussein Obama took the oath of office of the President of the United States today. With his left hand on President Lincoln's Bible, it was a few minutes past noon in Washington, D.C., Obama was uncharacteristically nervous as he fumbled through the oath, at one point just before saying the "office of the President of the United States" he froze as if he himself couldn't believe what he was about to say.
Thousands gathered at Garfield High School this morning to celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But this year Dr. King had to share the stage with President-elect Barack Obama.
The 61st Washington State Legislative session is scheduled to begin on Monday. The most pressing issues facing the legislators are the usual suspects such as education, health care, jobs, transportation and prisons, but underlying each of these agenda items will be the budget, more specifically the $6 billion deficit.
January 2009 is shaping up to be one of the most exciting political months in a long time. Putting aside for a moment that the first black president is set to take control of the government that faces the worst economic turmoil since The Depression, two wars, global warming and Israeli attacks in Gaza, but you don't have to look at the other Washington to see something's going on here, just look at our own situation right here in Washington state.
We're snowed in and the weather reports are predicting more snow is coming. As commonly happens when Seattle gets its annual snowstorm, the roads are covered in sheets of glare ice. Thusly, the buses, trucks, cars and scooters are all parked. Seattle is quiet.
After years of being vacant, the old QFC building on Broadway is gone. But if everything goes as planned, in the next 27 months, a six-story, 295-unit apartment building with 26,000 square feet of retail on the first floor will be erected in its place.
While there's been some scrutiny in the media and by the Seattle City Council regarding the dozen or so video cameras Mayor Nickels is planning to install in Seattle city parks, no one seems to have a problem with King County Metro installing more than 2,800 video cameras on select city buses.
If you're sick of ugly townhomes popping up in your neighborhood? There's a meeting tonight and one on Saturday in which builders will be meeting with councilmember Sally Clark to discuss how to build better looking townhomes.
The oil industry pulls in somewhere between $15 billion and $35 billion a year in government subsidies. At the gas station on 10th Avenue East and East Roy, the cheap gas is $4.11 a gallon. So-called energy industry experts are claiming that the $135 a barrel price is the result of a bubble, like the dot-com bubble and the housing market bubble. Paul Krugman, an economist who writes a column for the New York Times wrote that the high cost of oil is not the result of a mystical bubble in the market; it's simply basic economics in which the demand for oil is outpacing the supply.
Most people weren't paying attention in February when Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels had three video surveillance cameras installed at Cal Anderson Park. The mayor did so despite efforts by the Seattle City Council to stop the mayor from putting the cameras in the park. Now the mayor is asking the council to lift its ban on installing video cameras in parks because he wants to expand the surveillance program to three more parks.
On the corner of John and Summit there's a parking lot, some residents on the Hill would like to turn it into a community garden.
When you really need a pound of burrito that's at least nine inches long, you've got to go to Bimbos. The Bitchin' Burrito Kitchen makes the best burrito in Seattle.
Are you an artist? Do you want to get your art up? Many businesses on the Hill, even a national chain, will show your art.
Broadway News used to be located on the east side of the 200 block of Broadway but its lease was not renewed and last Friday it re-opened at its new location next to Galleria's.