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Eye On Olympia

Archive for June 2007

One of these things is not like the others…

A few headlines from the latest edition of the state Department of Corrections in-house newsletter:

-“Todd Wiggs Receives WSU Criminal Justice Award”
-“DOC Wastewater Facilities Earn Perfect Scores from the Department of Ecology”
-and “Littlerock Elementary School Kids Send Big Thanks to CCCC”

Then comes this item:

-“Inmate’s Badly Broken Leg Splinted with Chainsaw Blades”

which recounts the wince-inducing tale of an unnamed inmate who ended up with his foot pinned between two pieces of wood and a resulting compound fracture. An excerpt:

“Department of Natural Resources crew supervisor Eric Steffen used the only resource available to splint the broken leg — two chainsaw blades. The ride out of the woods was extremely painful and bumpy for the injured inmate, but Correctional Officer Oly Archibald drove him to the Forks Community Hospital as fast as he could.”

And now, for something completely different…

Here’s the tale of John Malito, a Chattaroy gardener facing deportation to his native Italy after more than five decades as a legal permanent resident here…

TACOMA – Johnny Malito spends his days among the white walls and steel doors of an immigration detention center here, waiting for a letter that he hopes never comes.

Convicted on drug and gun charges nearly two decades ago, Malito was allowed to remain in the United States. But convicted of two more counts of the same gun charge last year – and having already served his sentence in state prison – the Chattaroy gardener is now being held indefinitely in a federal immigration detention center. The government is trying to deport Italian-born Malito to the country he left as a young boy more than half a century ago.

Such cases – foreign criminals, living illegally or legally in the United States, are a growing priority for federal immigration officials, who are expanding their efforts to remove them. Since 2005, for example, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has quadrupled the number of federal prisons where it looks for criminal aliens.“Like everyone else, we have our priorities, and criminals are our No. 1 priority,” said Bryan Wilcox, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement’s deputy field office director for detention and removal in Seattle.

Malito’s case “is unusual in the sense that the guy’s been here such a long time, but it’s not unusual in the increased sense of scrutiny for cases like these,” said Pedro Rios, a San Diego immigration expert who works for the Quaker group the American Friends Service Committee.

If Italian officials sign the paperwork authorizing his return, Malito, at 60, will be trying to start over in a country and language he barely remembers.

Click here to read the full story, or

click here to watch a two-minute video in which he describes his case and life in the immigration detention center.

As Hawaii is to Nigeria, so South Dakota is to…

Yes! Croatia. That’s right.

So we discover in this latest offering from Strange Maps : a comparison of U.S. states to nations with similar-sized economies. (As the authors note, it can be a misleading statistic, since the map doesn’t account for population, and Ecuador has lots more people than its seeming peer, North Dakota.)

Still, it’s an interesting map. California’s economy is akin to France’s, Arizona’s on par with Belarus, and Maine with Morocco.

Locally?

Washington: Turkey.
Idaho: Ukraine.
Montana: Tunisia.
Oregon: Israel.

Straight outta Spokompton…

There’s some interesting speculation about candidate pros and cons in a future potential Chris Marr-Cathy McMorris faceoff in the Spokane-area 5th congressional district on the Spokompton blog.

Meanwhile, in the other Washington…

Poo in the Senate, perhaps as a protest…

Witnesses said they couldn’t believe that a single culprit could have produced the volume of poo present or that a person could have, well, deposited it the normal way without attracting attention. Several witnesses speculated it had been brought in from elsewhere.

More beans to count…

State revenue forecaster Chang Mook Sohn now predicts that an extra $484 million will roll into state coffers over the next two years.

The state’s economy “continues to outperform the U.S. economy” particularly in construction and real estate, Sohn said. And despite his repeated cautions that the run-up in real estate prices cannot continue forever, Washington’s market is holding up well so far, he said. (He still expects a slowdown.)

Other big factors: Boeing and Microsoft, both of which are doing well and benefitting from a relatively weak U.S. dollar, which makes their products cheaper overseas. Remarkably, Washington exports have increased 40 percent from 2005, to $53 billion a year.

Also healthy: job growth (2.1 percent here versus 1.4 percent nationally). The state’s April unemployment rate of 4.4 percent, Sohn said, was the lowest in state history.

In a press release accompanying Sohn’s forecast, Gov. Chris Gregoire said she’s pleased, but cautioned that high fuel prices and national real estate weakness could hurt the state in the future.

About Grandpa’s days as an anarchist…

Open-records activists have set up a free do-it-yourself records-request site through which you can easily request FBI records on yourself or deceased relatives. It’s called…www.getgrandpasfbifile.com.

(Thx to boingboing for the heads-up.)

Idea Bank: A Transportation czar, senior-citizen apprentices, no driver’s licenses for dropouts…

For the past couple of weeks, former gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi’s “Forward Washington Foundation” has been soliciting ideas for improving life in the state. It’s on the Web — see below — and the group is also hosting a series of idea-soliciting meetings around the state, starting with one tonight at the Wenatchee Public Library. (Spokane’s is at the Argonne branch library at 6 p.m. on June 26th; Pullman’s is at noon the same day at the Hill Top Restaurant.)

Some of the results so far:

-Two men proposed offering tax incentives for businesses with flexible employee hours so that everyone isn’t on the road at the same time.

-A Maple Valley man suggested naming a new “Transportation Tzar” to coordinate all aspects of buses, rail, ferries and highways.

-A woman proposed allowing people to pay $500 a year for flourescent orange license plates that would allow them — solo, if desired — to zip along in the high-occupancy vehicle lanes.

-A Kenmore man and two others from Seattle suggested privatizing the state liquor business.

-A Lynnwood man suggested creating a state “Senior Citizen Apprenticeship Program” in which seniors would teach people skills like gardening or carpentry.

-A Lynnwood man named Brian said there are too many laws, so many that neither he nor anyone he knows knows how many there are. It’s time for a full review and revocation of those that are outdated, he said.

For instance, according to Brian, it is still against the law in Washington State to cross a bridge in a horse-pulled wagon without getting off the wagon and waving the lantern from side to side a few times before proceeding!

(NOTE: Regrettably, this appears not to be true. A quick search of the state laws under the terms “wagon” and “lantern” was unable to locate any law similar to the one described above. If you find one, please let me know.)

-A Poulsbo woman named Kim suggested yanking the driver’s licenses of anyone who drops out of school. In a strikingly-apt typo, Kim said that “our young people need to have every opportunity to accel in life.”

The suggestions website is at www.washingtonideabank.com.

Smith plays it straight on Colbert Report…

In an often-terse interview, 9th District Democratic Congressman Adam Smith meets Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert.

Perhaps Smith — who is visibly tense in the video — had seen the unfortunate sausage incident in Colbert’s meet-up with fellow Washington Congressman Brian Baird.

“FPB moves closer to long-term apps for SFLO”

Is the subject line on a press release this evening from the state Department of Natural Resources (that would be DNR, BTW.)

Also discussed: a revised rule about DFCs, and approval of a new CMER member.

Thought you should know.

Deadlock broken on moving presidential primary earlier?

In what’s becoming a day of linking to other people’s work (I’m putting together a filing-week database of many, many, many local candidates), here’s another good story: The Olympian’s Brad Shannon’s enterprising preview
of a presidential primary-date meeting Monday.

As I reported in March, a state panel at the time deadlocked on an earlier date for Washington’s presidential primary, which is becoming laughingly late as more and more states try to become players with ever-earlier primaries. As I wrote at the time:

Five Republicans, including Secretary of State Sam Reed, held out for Feb. 5 or maybe 12. Four Democrats, thought March 18 made more sense. And since approval required six votes, nothing was decided.

The 12th or 19th now look likely, according to the Olympian. Locals on the panel include Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, and Rep. David Buri, R-Colfax.

Now, Shannon reports, Reed thinks that one or more of the Democrats may have changed his or her mind.

Reed said he’s talked to a couple of Democrats who might be willing to move to a February election date. He declined to identify them.

State Democratic Party chairman Dwight Pelz did not return a telephone call seeking comment Monday, but Rep. Hunt said he thinks House Speaker Frank Chopp, who also could not be reached to comment, has been open to an earlier date.

“Frank was wavering back and forth. I told Frank we ought to stay with March. He has not told me specifically what he’s going to do,” Hunt said.


Also worth a read…

…is the Tri-City Herald’s Chris Mulick’s take on Eastern Washington being ignored by campaigning presidential candidates. Mulick takes particular umbrage at “campaign kickoff” non-events for campaigns that the print media’s been covering for months:

Of course, the candidates themselves play along as if it were fresh news, as if they were surprising the jubilant masses by unleashing a torrent of hope and whatnot.

Gregoire on juvenile justice…

On Friday, the MacArthur Foundation announced that it plans to pour $10 million into Washington to try to spur effective juvenile justice reforms. Among the group’s goals: less reliance on incarcerating kids and more on reforming them.

Gov. Chris Gregoire, backed by Supreme Court Justice Bobbe Bridge, gave a short spiel to a group of juvenile justice officials from across the state.

Afterwards, Gregoire fielded a couple of questions from a reporter. Among them: How do you respond to fears that such approaches are soft on crime?

“I can tell you if we ever want to turn a life around…we need to get that child as young as we possibly can — the day they begin to get engaged in the juvenile justice system — and find out why, get them the help they need and turn them into productive members of society.

“It is a waste of human capital and it’s a waste of taxpayers money…and those in the juvenile justice system, Whether we like it or not, if we don’t intervene and we don’t help them, are headed for our adult criminal justice system.

“We owe it to these kids to find out what it is. They didn’t get there on their own. There is something wrong. Is it mental health? Is it drug and alchol? Is it a broken family? Is it domestic violence? What is it that’s happening in that child’s life that made that child turn to a life of crime? And whatever it is, let’s get to it. Let’s help that kid turn his or her life around.

“I’ll tell you one thing I have learned throughout my career: every child who’s been headed down that path, whose life has been turned around will invariably say to you it’s because someone reached out and said `I care. I believe in you. You can turn this around. You can have a great life.’ That’s touched that child, that child’s life has been turned around, they’ve gone on and been productive members of society, raised their own families and had a great life.

“That’s what we need to do. Not give up. Not just assume lock-em-up-and-throw-away-the-key is gonna turn a life around. It won’t. They’re going to get out with the exact same problems they had going in, and all they’re going to do is graduate to the adult criminal justice system. So let’s get it early, let’s get it right. Let’s save these kids lives.”

Supreme Court Justice Bridge to step down at end of the year…

Washington State Supreme Court Justice Bobbe Bridge said a few minutes ago that she’ll step down from the state Supreme Court at the end of the year to serve as president of the Center for Children and Youth Justice, a non-profit group.

The Seattle-based center, founded by Bridge in February 2006, has been chosen to lead juvenile justice reform projects backed by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The foundation said Friday that it plans to spend $10 million in pilot programs in six Washington counties — including Spokane — over the next 5 years.

“There’s lots of stuff to do, and I’m not getting any younger,” Bridge, 62, said in an interview.

The governor will appoint a replacement, who would then have to run for election to continue serving. Bridges was elected to a 6-year term in November 2002.

In a possible preview of the re-election campaign that Bridge would have faced, the Building Industry Association of Washington last September bankrolled a hard-hitting TV ad that blasted Chief Justice Gerry Alexander for not repudiating Bridge after she was arrested in 2003 for drunken driving.

“Alexander backs Bridge, despite her driving drunk with a blood-alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit,” intoned the radio ad’s announcer, over a picture of a repentant-looking chief justice. “Gary Alexander: Justice for whom?” (In an expensive race for both sides, Alexander beat property-rights attorney John Groen.)

“My personal opinion on that is that she should have resigned after that occurred,” said BIAW executive vice president Tom McCabe. “She was massively drunk. We’re not talking about somebody who had a cocktail.”

The builders’ group feels that Bridge is out of touch with most Washingtonians on open government and property-rights cases, particularly eminent domain cases, McCabe said.

Had Bridge run again, he said, he’s not sure if the incident would have drawn ads again. News coverage of the race would likely raise the issue anyway, he said.

“Certainly that should have been on her mind,” McCabe said.

Bridge, who entered a two-year counseling program and had an ignition interlock installed in her car in a deferred prosecution agreement, said that the ad played no role in her decision not to run again.

“No, it didn’t,” she said during a break in a juvenile justice meeting Friday. “You know, it saddens me that that sort of thing has injected itself into judicial campaigns…But no, it has nothing to do with it. It has everything to do with this center and the time for me to really work on what has been a passion of mine for many, many years now and try and do that full-bore in the last act.”

After a decade as a superior court judge in King County, Bridge was appointed to the high court in 1999 by then-Gov. Gary Locke. She’s served on a long list of groups involved with children and families, including a Supreme Court commission on foster car, a domestic violence project, and the state Becca Task Force, which deals with truancy prevention.

“For juvenile justice, the kids who end up breaking the law, we’re supposed to be rehabilitating them,” she said. “We have really special responsibilities for these kids, and we need to do it right.”


NOTE: This post has been updated several times over the past hour.

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Richard Roesler covers Washington state news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Olympia.

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