Progress Update on the 520 Project

The construction effort on 520 is about to move to the West side, after a long, long slog of a project. The last pontoons will be on the lake by November (if the creek don’t rise) and the details of the Eastside project will get finalized. The communication below is from Julie Meredith, the Program Administrator for the entire project (and one of my favorite engineers.)

If you check out some of the links you’ll see that the part of the new bridge that connects to the existing 520 is mostly temporary. it’s a complicated dance to keep the project moving forward without totally disrupting

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Every year we get the same scam

Central WA Fire

One of many fires in Central Washington this summer.

Somebody has a problem with the Ellensburg Rodeo and Kittitas County Fair. Every year he (she?) sends a similar “notice of cancellation” of the Ellensburg Rodeo and Fair with some goofy excuse. Every year it’s not true. It’s not true this year either. Sometimes you can’t make this stuff up.

(The photo is a random shot I took of one of the many fires ravaging central Washington this summer. The view North is from the outlook on the way to Yakima a couple of weeks ago. It’s “near” Ellensburg, but isn’t causing the fair to be cancelled.) Continue reading

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Visiting Bertha (Many Photos)

One of the perks of the State Rep gig is that I get some cool tours. I’ve been inside pontoons on the 520 bridge, an aircraft carrier, Sound Transit tunnel construction, and last week the orifice the Bertha is creating. I took some photos that illustrate some aspects of the visit, though it’s hard to capture the sense of the project from a single walk-through.

The entry to the tunnel

The entry to the tunnel

The entrance to the actual tunnel is a large pit that I believe will eventually form the floor of the lower level of the tunnel. Right where the red erector set-like construction is in the back the level drops down and you’re below the level of the driving surface.

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No More Boarding the Mentally Ill in Emergency Rooms

The WA State Supreme Court released a decision this morning on psychiatric boarding in hospitals that basically prohibits the state from doing this. Judge Gonzales’ summary is quite pithy.

GONZALEZ, I.-Washington State’s involuntary treatment act (ITA), chapter 71.05 RCW, authorizes counties to briefly detain those who, “as the result of a mental disorder,” present an imminent risk of harm to themselves or others, or are gravely disabled. RCW 71.05.153(1), .230. The initial brief detention is for the limited purpose of evaluation, stabilization, and treatment, and once someone is detained under the IT A, he or she is entitled to individualized treatment. RCW 71.05.153, .230, .360(2). Pierce County frequently lacks sufficient space in certified evaluation and treatment facilities for all those it involuntarily detains under the ITA. It regularly resorts to temporarily placing those it involuntarily detains in emergency rooms and acute care centers via “single bed certifications” to avoid overcrowding certified facilities. Such overcrowding-driven detentions are often described as “psychiatric boarding.”  Patients psychiatrically boarded in single bed certifications generally receive only emergent care. After 10 involuntarily detained patients moved to dismiss the county’s ITA petitions, a trial judge found that psychiatric boarding is unlawful. We agree and affirm.  (http://www.courts.wa.gov/opinions/pdf/901104.pdf)

There are hundreds of patients in this category statewide and we are going to have to take action to resolve the situation or the courts will release the involuntary commitment petitions on these folks. In general, people in this situation need immediate treatment. Not providing treatment, but keeping them strapped down on gurneys in the hallways of hospitals has always been inhumane, now it is clearly illegal.

During the recession the state budget made significant reductions in mental health spending. We are starting to see the outcomes of this. Yet another category where we most certainly cannot take reductions in order to fund other more visible state services.

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Ross and Cyrus Raising funds for Fred Hutch

WP_20140720_001Rep. Cyrus Habib and I are riding in Obliteride August 9th and 10th to raise money for the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center and the work they do to solve the problem of cancer. We’d love your support of the cause.

You may not know this, but both Cyrus and I are cancer survivors. He has a very rare childhood cancer that cost him his eyesight when he was in elementary school. I had stage 4 non-Hodgkins Lymphoma several years ago. In my case the Hutch saved me with a stem-cell transplant. This is a treatment that was pioneered here, and Seattle is still the best place in the world if you have the cancer I had.

Without the Hutch I wouldn’t be here, and neither would thousands of other survivors. You can contribute online here

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520 Progress – New Status Report from Chief Engineer

The SR 520 program is making lots of progress this summer – with 46 pontoons now on Lake Washington and a new Eastside transit stop open for transit riders! Today we also celebrated a new construction milestone on the floating bridge—installation of the first transition span. More details below.

Transition span installation on June 27Cool photo of transition span

Today crews began installing the first of four transition spans for the new SR 520 floating bridge. This first span will connect the new floating bridge with the stationary east approach, south segmental bridge near Medina. This section of the transition span is composed of five steel girders, each 190 feet long, over seven feet tall, and weighing about 45 tons.

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Major 520 Work in June

520 BridgeThe Eastside portion of the 520 project will reach a major milestone this summer – it’ll be mostly done by August/September. There will be punchlist work for some of the fall, but major disruptions should end. I know it’s been a bear of a project.

Over the next few weeks you’ll see some major changes in traffic flow. I am sure it will be seriously aggravating. Closing the entire corridor for a year would have been worse. Letting it sink in a storm worse still.

The attached email from the 520 project people details what you should expect over the next few weeks. It’ll be closed every weekend except June 16-18 to allow for the UW graduation.

SR 520 construction notification_ Upcoming weekend closures and construction activities.

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Fail: Congress Working on Toxics Policy

With the exception of education policy, there’s probably no other issue where states’ rights are paramount than when it comes to the health of its residents. Congress is currently considering a bill that would have devastating consequences to public health in Washington state if they don’t make major changes to the proposal. The federal Chemicals in Commerce Act (CICA), currently being considered by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, is an attempt to update the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act. The 1976 act is in dire need of updating – something both parties agree on.

Unfortunately, the CICA not only falls well short of improving the current law, it will actually put communities at greater risk of exposure to toxic chemicals. It will impose weak chemical testing standards, create faulty cost/benefit methods, and prohibit states from adopting their own toxic chemical protections. Continue reading

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Other Opinions on Common Core Standards

It’s not just me disagreeing with the people who want to get rid of the Common Core State Standards, it’s a host of thoughtful people. My favorite so far is from David Brooks, the conservative columnist from the New York Times. (I know this is an oxymoron, but he’s more conservative than everyone else there.)

A Circus Descends on Common Core – David Brooks (New York Times)

Common Core Spawns Widespread Political Fights – Bill Barrow (AP)

The sense you get from reading these articles is that the noise is about the noise, not about the substance of the standards.

Guest: Why students need the new Common Core education standards –  Katie Brown, Washington State 2014 Teacher of the Year

The Seattle Times supports it as well: Engage in new Common Core education standards.

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Common Core Education Standards

This week I got a campaign questionnaire from a group I hadn’t heard of before about the common core standards and a few other educational issues, wanting my answers to a set of questions they posed.

The group is Washington State Against Common Core so you can probably predict the direction they would like the answers to go. In general it’s better if I don’t answer questionnaires where I categorically disagree with the entire premise of the group as it doesn’t improve world harmony. In this case I thought it would be useful to talk about this topic as it has kicked up some dust lately.

Here are the questions:

  1. Please state your position on Race to the Top reforms, including the Common Core Standards, student data collection, and high-stakes testing.
  1. Please explain your support of or opposition to charter schools as established in Washington state by I-1240.
  1. If elected, would you sponsor or support legislation to withdraw Washington state from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and repeal the Common Core State Standards?

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