Saturday, October 22, 2011

Statement from Speaker Frank Chopp on the sudden passing of Sen. Scott White

"My family and I are shocked and saddened by Scott's death. He was a bright young leader and an intelligent, energetic public servant. But above all, he was a dedicated husband and father. The loss we feel at losing a friend and fine legislator is nothing compared to the loss felt by his wife and two children. All our thoughts and sympathies are with them."

Friday, October 21, 2011

You might call it the “See Willy” project

Look for these signs on Washington's ferries
Well, OK: Keiko, the killer whale who starred in the original "Free Willy" movie, is no longer with us, but fellow members of his orca species swim in the waters of Puget Sound – and the Washington State Ferries are making it easier for passengers to identify orcas and other marine mammals spotted on trips across the water.

In conjunction with The Whale Trail, a nonprofit organization, the state ferry system is posting signs on board its vessels and in ferry terminals that depict and describe the orca, the gray whale, the Dall's porpoise and the California sea lion, as well as some other species. It's a mobile extension of the organization's existing network of onshore marine mammal viewing sites scattered around Puget Sound.

The Whale Trail aims to build public appreciation for marine mammals to encourage stewardship of their habitat. To learn more about the ferry sign project, click here.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Spokane: Tonight's the night for critiquing draft 2012 State Energy Strategy

Folks in the Spokane area are encouraged to pop by the Washington State University Spokane campus
early this evening for an opportunity to get their two cents in on the draft 2012 State Energy Strategy. The Washington State Department of Commerce is hosting the public meeting, 5-7 p.m., to review the Energy Strategy. Doors open at 4:30 for the get-together in Academic Center Room 147 of the WSU Spokane facility, which you'll find at 600 N. Riverpoint Blvd.

An advisory committee is using contributions from key stakeholders and private citizens in developing the state's new energy plan of action. The final document will be submitted in December. Opportunities for public comment will close Sunday, Oct. 23. You can submit comments via email or postal mail. The email address is The snail-mail address is Roel Hammerschlag, Department of Commerce/PO Box 42525/Olympia WA 98504.

Smart traffic lights and live streaming cameras

The Alaskan Way Viaduct closes tomorrow (Friday, Oct. 21) for nine days. To help motorists get around during the construction work, the city of Seattle's Department of Transportation is trying two new innovations: live streaming traffic cameras and technology that not only senses traffic conditions, but automatically adjusts red lights to move things along.

This is an important innovation that other cities – and the state – should look at. Building new highways and bridges is incredibly expensive, both on the state and local level.

Because our state is growing, we need to keep working to serve more citizens trying to get to work or the grocery store – and businesses getting goods to market.

Yet building new highways and bridges is incredibly expensive. New technology and innovations like this, on the other hand, are relatively cheap solutions.

Here's a recent news story from KING 5 on the new live streaming cameras.

Click here for more information on the Viaduct project.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Shorter lines, faster service at DOL offices

The state Department of Licensing issued a press release last week that seems to confirm what was recently reported by KIRO FM: a trip to your local DOL office, "doesn't have to suck."

Once synonymous with excruciatingly long wait times, DOL offices are becoming more customer-friendly these days thanks to more online options. Things like changing your address, replacing a lost or stolen card, obtaining a copy of your driving record or even renewing your license can now be handled via the web, removing hundreds of thousands of people from DOL lines throughout the state. Yes, that's right: hundreds of thousands. This has already produced a noticeable drop in office wait times. 

And wait times are likely to keep right on decreasing as a result of House Bill 1635, which passed the Legislature this year. It authorizes driver training schools and public schools to administer both the written and driving portions of the driver licensing exam. This change frees up DOL staff to handle more customers at the counter, rather than be out on the roads administering driving tests. According to a DOL spokesperson, the driver training schools should be able to begin administering the exams in spring or summer of next year.

Shorter lines and faster service were exactly what Rep. Dave Upthegrove was going for when he sponsored HB 1635. The DOL office with the longest wait times in the state serves the Highline portion of his district, and he has personally experienced the agony of standing in line there. Now even the wait time at that location has decreased, according to the KIRO FM report.

At this rate, a trip to the DOL may soon be downright fun.

Third “mobile office” event is in Spokane’s Hillyard neighborhood today

The legislators from the 3rd Legislative District have been bringing their office to Spokane's neighborhoods over the past several weeks. Today, they'll be at the Northeast Community Center in the Hillyard neighborhood from 12:30 to 2:00 p.m. The address is 4001 North Cook Street.

Reps. Andy Billig and Timm Ormsby, together with their Senate counterpart Sen. Lisa Brown, have been making it easier for their constituents to meet with them this fall. Through a series of informal "mobile office" events around Spokane, people can simply show up and get some face time with the legislators – no prior appointment necessary. 

If you miss today's event, you have one more chance to catch the "mobile office" before the three legislators return to Olympia in late November for a special legislative session. On Tuesday, November 1, they will be at the East Central Community Center, located at 500 S. Stone, from 5:00 to 6:30 p.m.

Photo:  Last week's mobile office event at Indaba Coffee in Spokane's West Central Neighborhood.  You too can get this up close and personal with the 3rd LD legislators.  Photo by Ben Doornink.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

New website: Here's a great e-source for breast-cancer survivors

One in eight American women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. Also, according to a website called Breast cancer: Tips for families; facts, figures:
  • More than 230,400 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women here in 2011.
  • More than 2,100 American men will be diagnosed with breast cancer.
  • More than 39,900 women and more than 400 men will fall victim to this killer this year here in the United States.
People who've been diagnosed with breast cancer can tap into a big variety of educational links and other helpful details featured at another excellent website newly up and running. Sponsored by the Pink Lemonade Project, this new e-source covers information on a range of insurance rights and reconstruction options for breast-cancer survivors. All too often patients aren't provided with info about alternatives for breast reconstruction. They may not even be informed that their insurance provides coverage for reconstruction, for instance, as well as mastectomies.

Legislation was discussed in the 2011 session that would go a long way toward providing patients with information on options for breast reconstruction. The measure was sponsored by state Rep. Jim Moeller. Although the bill survived Republican objections to win House Health Care & Wellness Committee approval, it was stuck in the House Rules Committee when the legislative session adjourned.

Moeller has pointed out that, "Washington has one of the highest rates of breast cancer in our whole country. We need to be sensitive to the fact that having a mastectomy has both physical and psychological impacts on patients. Insurers are required to cover not only mastectomies, but also breast reconstruction."

A Vancouver newspaper item about the new website can be found here.

A high-five for the I-5 Partnership Project

Congratulations to the Washington State Department of Transportation for winning the coveted 2011 People’s Choice Award for the top transportation project in the entire USA!

Forty outstanding projects from 29 states were in the running for this year’s edition of America’s Transportation Awards, but none could top WSDOT’s I-5 Partnership to Relieve Congestion.
Working with federal, state, local and military leaders at Joint Base Lewis McCord, WSDOT slashed commuter snarls and nasty multi-mile backups by coordinating signals, streamlining interchanges and access points, and sharply reducing incident-response times. 
Washington qualified for the People’s Choice finals by winning top national honors in the Innovative Management for a Small Project category.  But the sweetest victory came this week when the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials presented the People’s Choice Award and a $10,000 prize.
Washington won in a landslide. Some 147,000 people cast votes for the 10 finalists in the national competition, and WSDOT netted an astounding 40 percent of the total, winning with 62,000 votes.
The $10,000 award for the top prize will go to the WSDOT Memorial Foundation, which is dedicated to preserving the memory of fallen transportation workers and helping the families of WSDOT employees and retirees.