Friday, July 31, 2009

The continuing saga of Washington's aerospace industry

Recent news about Boeing's purchase of a 787 supplier in South Carolina and rumors that the company is considering a second assembly line there for the 787 Dreamliner has sparked worried whispers about the future of the aerospace industry in Washington.
Stop the hand-wringing, say Reps. Jeff Morris and Phyllis Gutierrez in a recent Seattle Times op-ed.
They point out that we've worked hard to make Washington an international hub of the aerospace industry and state leaders are anything but complacent when it comes to ensuring we keep our strong standing.

This year, at the bill signing creating the new Aerospace Council to help bolster our industry, Gov. Gregoire stated:
"Washington is the best place in the world to build airplanes, primarily due to the robust aerospace infrastructure we have in place and our highly skilled, productive work force. Our advantages also include a competitive aerospace tax environment, strong aerospace research and development capacity, and this state's unparalleled quality of life… But in today's challenging times and with our faltering economy, we need to do more to stay ahead. The aerospace council is designed to ensure we are doing all we can in a sustained way to be even more competitive."
Gov. Gregoire also created a subcabinet position in her administration that will help guide us towards a long partnership with our state’s aerospace industry.
On our end at the Legislature, our state has collaborated with aerospace businesses, both big and small, to foster a new generation of highly skilled workers, invest in a state infrastructure that keeps our commerce moving, reduce the tax burden on their products, and streamline the permitting process.
House Democrats have pushed for and supported policies that help ensure Washington's aerospace industry remains strong and competitive.

The hard work has paid off. Despite some naysayers and critics, several business publications, academic studies, and public policy organizations have ranked Washington as a one of the best states to open and operate a business for several years now consistently.
Washington state has a proud history of building the world's best airplanes, whether it was the bombers that won World War II, the jetfighters defending America today, or the airplanes moving millions of people from every corner of the planet. Our aerospace workers are the best in the business, without a doubt. But they, and the businesses that depend on these highly skilled workers, rely on our state’s support to remain the best.
And while Boeing is certainly the flagship airplane manufacturer that’s shaped our region, it's not alone. There are myriad other aerospace businesses in Washington that have been attracted to our region, making our state the hub when it comes to parts suppliers, crafts persons, importers, exporters – all of the businesses it takes to keep the industry flying high, as they say.
But anyone in the business will tell you, it’s a tough one. Despite what one might think, studies show that the commercial airline industry is not a big moneymaker. On the contrary, over the history of commercial flight, it’s just barely in the black. That adds a lot of volatility to the market for airplanes, which is a reality our state has had to live with through Boeing’s boom times and busts.
In addition, Boeing and other local manufacturers are facing stiffer competition from foreign manufacturers than ever before, most notably Airbus headquartered in France.
We must remember that fortunes can shift quickly and that sometimes the grass can seem greener elsewhere. That is why we remain steadfastly devoted to ensuring our aerospace industry’s legacy as the world’s best.

(Photo from markjhandel)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Tolling, light rail and the declining gas tax

Today, the Joint Transportation Committee is meeting in Seattle to discuss two reports (one on SR 520 tolling and one on I-90's center lanes designated for light rail), chat about the first week of light rail operations in Seattle, and look ahead to studying alternative road funding models in the wake of declining gas tax revenues.

For a critical and thoughtful look at the I-90 issue, check out what Ben Schiendelman at Seattle Transit Blog has to say.

UPDATE: Transportation Choices Coalition live-blogged the meeting and has a nice recap of the I-90 discussion.

Teenager's death inspired bill to empower victims and their families

Going into effect on Aug. 1, House Bill 1076 will require the Department of Corrections to consider feedback from crime victims when determining work-release placements for offenders. Rep. Christine Rolfes introduced the bill after learning that offenders and victims could end up nearby each other, leading to uncomfortable situations.

Rolfes notes that HB 1076 would not have happened without the passion and involvement of constituent Nora Sizemore, whose teenage son Kyle was killed in an automobile accident in 2005. The offender was eventually offered work release nearby in Sizemore’s community, which resulted in uncomfortable, tense situations for Sizemore and her family.

“For us, having the person who killed our son serving his prison sentence a mile from our home was a nightmare. It was like nobody cared at all about our condition or how we felt as we dealt with our tragedy,” Sizemore said. “With this bill, families will have a good amount of time to prepare and say what they want to say. And in some cases, this could be a matter of being kept safe and protected.”

Under current law, DOC is required only to inform the victim that the work release is happening. Now that feedback must be considered, DOC could change its preliminary decision based on the input.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Rep. White's virtual town hall coming Tuesday night

Residents of the North Seattle neighborhoods of the 46th Legislative District will have the opportunity to talk directly with their state representative, Scott White, via a virtual town hall Tuesday night, July 28th.

Here's Rep. White on the event:
New state budgets–including many severe budget reductions—took effect on July 1st and dozens of new state laws officially took effect on July 26.

As your state representative, I respect your right to ask questions about how these new laws and budgets might impact you and our Seattle neighborhoods—including our local schools and economy.

That’s why I’ve scheduled a special 46th District Tele-Town Hall for Tuesday, July 28, from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Here is how it will work:

I’ll send a very brief phone message to you and other 46th District residents to invite you to the Tele-Town Hall. If you want to listen in, simply stay on the line. If you want to ask a question or make a comment about a new law—or any state issue you wish—you’ll only need to press *3 (star then 3) to have your voice heard. It’s that easy!

If there are more questions or comments than we can cover in an hour (which often happens), you’ll be able to leave a message for me directly, so you’re guaranteed that I’ll hear your question or comment.

Importantly, this special Tele-Town Hall event is only for you and others in our 46th District Seattle neighborhoods.

Virtual town halls - also known as "tele town halls" - aren't a replacement for traditional in-person meetings. But they offer elected officials another method to communicate with constituents, and make it easier for people to have a chance to speak directly with their state representative without having to drive anywhere or arrange for child care.