Friday, December 7, 2012

What are your plans this evening?

No, we aren't asking you out for a candlelit dinner. We are, however, letting you know that tonight is the official lighting of the Capitol Christmas tree.

The Noble Fir arrived in the Capitol Rotunda on Monday and is decorated in a fashion that even Clark W. Griswold would approve of- 5,000 lights, red and green ornaments, silver bells and candy canes. The lower branches of the tree are the temporary home to stuffed animals and books that will be donated to needy families across the state. For the past 23 years, firefighters from Spokane all the way to Grays Harbor County have distributed the gifts to children who would otherwise go without.

The tree is sponsored by the Association of Washington Business, which has collected almost $300,000 in donations from members and friends since it began sponsoring the tree.

Festivities kick off at 6:00 PM with Governor Chris Gregoire and AWB Chair of the Board Doug Bayne sharing the honor of lighting the tree. Here's to hoping for no Griswold moments.

For more information, check out the AWB press release on the tree lighting.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Our schools just keep getting healthier

You may remember this HDC Advance post from a year ago reporting that 21 Washington schools had won the HealthierUS School Challenge. If you thought that was good, wait until you hear what happened this year.
The number of award-winning schools doubled.
No, not nearly doubled, not almost doubled. Exactly twice as many schools won awards this year. We must be doing something right!
Photo credit:  HUSSC
The HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC) is a voluntary certification initiative for schools participating in the National School Lunch Program. It supports First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign by recognizing schools that are creating healthier school environments through their promotion of good nutrition and exercise. Sponsored by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service, the initiative encourages all schools take a leadership role in helping students to make healthier eating and physical activity choices that will last a lifetime.
To receive any of the bronze, silver, gold and gold of distinction awards, the schools had to meet the 2012 HUSSC criteria to show that they have taken the necessary steps to improve the nutritional quality of the foods they serve, provide students with nutrition education and physical education, and opportunities for physical activity.
National recognition is great, of course, but each award also comes with a monetary prize: $500 for bronze; $1,000 for silver; $1,500 for gold; and $2,000 for gold of distinction.
Want to find out if your children's school made the mark? Here's the list of the 42 winning Washington schools.

To read this story in Spanish, click here.

Marriage equality is the law of the land today

Photo: Northwest News Network

Gov. Chris Gregoire and Secretary of State Sam Reed pose for a photo after certifying the results of Referendum 74.

To read this story in Spanish, click here.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The way of all sheetrock

General Administration Building
The term “white elephant,” according to Wikipedia, refers to “a valuable but burdensome possession of which its owner cannot dispose and whose cost (particularly cost of upkeep) is out of proportion to its usefulness or worth.”

That may describe the General Administration Building on the edge of the capitol campus in Olympia, a 56-year-old, 284,000-square-foot, state-owned structure now housing the State Patrol headquarters, the transition office for Gov.-elect Jay Inslee and some other state agencies. Its fate was considered at a recent meeting of the Capitol Campus Design Advisory Committee, which comprises Secretary of State Sam Reed, four design professionals and four legislators (including Rep. Sam Hunt).

Put simply, the building needs work: $125 million in work to bring it fully up to current standards, the committee was told. Demolition and replacement would run more than $160 million. And even just to fix leaks and keep the lights on for another year will cost $750,000, the state Department of Enterprise Services says.

The building was the subject of a recent news article in the hometown paper.

IBM Building
Meanwhile, another state-owned building of similar vintage nearby is headed for the elephant graveyard. But before it goes down for good, local firefighters will use it to practice their skills at forcing their way into buildings.

The IBM Building will then be demolished. It was most recently home to the state Employment Security Department, which moved out nearly two years ago.

The IBM Building rated a recent news article of its own.

To read this story in Spanish, click here.

I-502 legalized marijuana – so what does that mean for taxpayers?

Now that voters passed Initiative 502 to legalize marijuana, what happens next?

The details about how the new law will work aren't done yet. State officials will draft rules and regulations to figure out who will grow and sell marijuana.

The bigger question, for taxpayers and budget writers, is how much legalized marijuana might mean for Washington state's economy.

As this Seattle Times post explains, there's a lot of debate about the money side, too.
The non-partisan budget people at the Office of Financial Management (OFM) – the ones who crunch all the numbers for the state budget – have done a couple of different reports about the initiative, full of numbers and charts and possibilities.

The budget folks did a fiscal report on the initiative. Click here to read it. Bottom line: by 2015, the initiative might mean $532 million or more per year in tax revenues. Of course, there are caveats, and if the federal government shuts the whole thing down, the financial impact would be zero dollars.
A second OFM report show the estimated impact to different state agencies and such. Click here to read that report.

The Times cites two private sector sources, one of which uses the OFM report to estimate the size of a national marijuana market. One expert quoted is John Gettman, a marijuana researcher from Virginia, who says Washington state's marijuana market could potentially hit $1 billion a year, which would make pot the No. 2 agricultural crop in the state. (Apples are No. 1, milk would be No. 3 and wheat would be No. 4).

To read thos story in Spanish, click here.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Working together for victims of domestic violence

The Pierce County legislative delegation and county council members at the Crystal Judson Family Justice Center, packing flee bags and finding ways to work together. Flee bags are backpacks full of basic essentials that women fleeing domestic violence can grab and take with them. In the very front: Rep.-elect Dawn Morrell (D-Puyallup). In the back: Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist and Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy. Photo by Rep. Laurie Jinkins (D-Tacoma).

To read this story in Spanish, click here.

Matching skilled workers with aerospace employers

This started in 1916 with one small-aircraft business and has now grown to 740 companies, which currently employ 96,900 workers.
"What is the aerospace industry in Washington state?" is correct!
With almost 100 years of experience manufacturing and assembling the best planes on Earth, it is no wonder Washington is the aerospace capital of the United States.
As of 2011, all commercial aircraft over 100 seats built in the United States are assembled and delivered right here. Yes, even with Boeing's new plant in South Carolina, 90 percent of the company's production is in Washington.
But it's not easy being the best and the largest in the field; it takes lots of highly skilled workers to get the job done well and maintain our outstanding reputation. That's where it gets tricky because thousands of aerospace workers will be retiring in the next few years. Meanwhile, production will continue increasing, which means the demand for a qualified workforce will also be higher.
The Center of Excellence for Aerospace and Advanced Materials Manufacturing, a one-stop resource hub for the industry's education and training needs, created this nifty online tool that will make it easier for aerospace companies to find skilled workers.
The website lists graduates from 18 of Washington state's community colleges, in nine aerospace-related fields, so employers can search for graduates with specific skill sets.

There is plenty of work ahead to satisfy the industry's demand, but Washington is on it. In recent years, we have taken important steps to create and expand aerospace and manufacturing training programs. In fact, just a year ago, during the December special session, the Legislature passed three measures to shore up our aerospace industry.
Want to learn more? Back in April, Mary Kaye Bredeson, director of Everett Community College's Center of Excellence for Aerospace and Advanced Materials Manufacturing, wrote this op-ed on how community colleges are helping aerospace soar.

To read this story in Spanish, please click here.