Tag Archives: Seattle

Opponents trash Seattle compost ordinance in suit

A Seattle ordinance that bars people from throwing their coffee grounds, pizza scraps and other potential compost into their trash cans is being challenged by critics who say the liberal city is turning garbage collectors into trash investigators.

A group of homeowners has sued the city over the tactic, claiming it violates privacy protections provided by the state Constitution.

The rule that went into effect early last year requires trash collectors to tag garbage cans that contain more than 10 percent compostable material with educational information.

The tactic is projected to divert as much as 38,000 tons of extra food waste from a landfill every year.

Several other cities have passed similar food waste laws, including Vancouver, B.C., San Francisco and Portland, Oregon.

Tad Seder, a lawyer for Seattle, said during a court hearing Friday on the lawsuit that garbage collectors are simply glancing at the trash to see if there is any obvious compost. They already look for dangerous items and a host of other banned materials such as paint cans, he said.

However, Ethan W. Blevins, an attorney with Pacific Legal Foundation, contends the ordinance requires collectors to make a deeper dive into the private waste of Seattleites.

The case is about “whether the city of Seattle can engage in widespread and frequent inspections of residents’ garbage cans without a warrant,” Blevins said.

He cited a case that was argued in front of the Washington Supreme Court in which Port Townsend police searched a man’s garbage for evidence that he was selling drugs after the trash was placed on a curb.

The court ruled police needed a warrant to search the rubbish, even if it was in plain view near the sidewalk.

Blevins also presented an affidavit from someone claiming they were tagged for compost violations twice when their trash had been secured in black plastic bags, suggesting collectors opened the bags to search for compost.

Seder said garbage collectors are not police and they’re not looking for criminal evidence. The ordinance is a good faith effort to bring people up to speed on the benefits of composting, he said.

Collectors are not supposed to open garbage bags or root around in open bags, but they are permitted to report flagrant violations of the ordinance, he added.

“If you have half of your garbage can filled with pizza crusts, they’re going to put a tag on it,” he said.

The city initially intended to fine violators a dollar for each offense _ a tactic that has been indefinitely delayed, according to Andy Ryan, a spokesman for Seattle Public Utilities.

Blevins hopes Judge Beth M. Andrus will invalidate the law entirely. She is expected to rule before April 30.

Washington man sentenced to prison for attacking gay men with knife

A 34-year-old Bremerton man has been sentenced to two and a half years in prison after admitting he attacked three gay men in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood with a knife.

Troy Deacon Burns pleaded guilty to a federal hate crime in August.

The attack occurred last January when Burns came up behind the men and shouted homophobic slurs. He was holding a knife and raised it over his head in a stabbing position.

The men began running, but Burns caught up to one and tried to stab him. Another man pulled the friend away and Burns was arrested.

Burns said at his plea hearing that he was under the influence of drugs and alcohol and didn’t remember what happened.

Judge James L. Robart sentenced Burns earlier this week.

Seattle mayor, kayaktivists protest oil drilling fleet

Royal Dutch Shell wants to park two massive Arctic oil drilling rigs in Seattle’s waterfront, but the petroleum giant will have to get around protesters in kayaks and a mayor determined to take on climate change.

The fast-approaching battle with so-called kayaktivists is unfolding in a city well-known for embracing environmental causes, laying bare the high-stakes feud over oil exploration in the icy waters off Alaska.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray took up the cause earlier this week, choosing a renewable-energy group’s gathering to announce that the Port of Seattle – a public agency that operates one of the nation’s busiest seaports – must get a new permit before it can host Shell’s drilling fleet.

That could potentially thwart the company’s plans here, although Shell says it is closely watching events and did not expect delays.

The mayor urged the port to reconsider its two-year, $13 million lease with Foss Maritime, a company that has been in Seattle for more than a century and whose client is Shell.

“This is an opportunity for the port and all of us to make a bold statement about how oil companies contribute to climate change, oil spills and other environmental disasters – and reject this short-term lease,” Murray said in a statement.

Shell wants to drill this summer in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska’s northwest coast to determine whether there are commercial quantities of oil and gas. Arctic offshore reserves are estimated at 26 billion barrels of recoverable oil and 130 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, according to U.S. Geological Survey estimates.

Efforts to block Shell sent chills through the business community, prompting warnings that such regulatory uncertainty could threaten Seattle’s working port and jobs.

The local maritime sector, including ship builders, cargo vessels and tug companies, provides more than 22,000 jobs and contributes $2.1 billion to the local economy, according to city figures.

“For Seattle to remain a thriving and viable maritime city, it cannot continue to set a hostile tone and environment toward our port and maritime sector,” Joshua Berger, coordinator of the Washington Maritime Federation, said in a statement.

Jordan Royer, vice president for external affairs of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, added: “They’re not drilling in Elliott Bay. They’re just parking there.”

Shell spokesman Curtis Smith said the company used Seattle’s private shipyards in 2012 to refurbish a drill rig and do other work.

He cited the city’s deep-water port, loading spaces and workforce, and noted the Puget Sound has long been a major staging ground for the Alaska oil industry.

Environmental activists say they relish the chance to make a public statement against fossil fuels dependence and global warming. And they’ll have an enormous visual aid to drive home their point: the 400-foot long Polar Pioneer parked against Seattle’s picturesque skyline.

The rig is now in Port Angeles, Washington, but will head to Seattle sometime in the coming weeks.

“The rigs have become a proxy for everything that is wrong with the recklessness of fossil fuel companies,” said Emily Johnston, with 350 Seattle, a group helping to organize events to protest Shell. “If I were them, I would never have tried to bring that monstrous thing to Seattle.”

Less than a mile from Terminal 5, where Shell’s drilling fleet will be moored, kayakers have been practicing flips and rescues, in case the water-based protest turns dangerous.

They plan to converge by land and in kayaks during a three-day “festival of resistance” starting May 16.

The demonstration has been dubbed the “Paddle in Seattle.” It’s reminiscent of the 1999 World Trade Organization meetings in Seattle, where thousands of protesters converged and rioting became known as the “Battle in Seattle.”

Once the rigs are here, some say they will do what they can to prevent the fleet from leaving to explore for oil this summer.

“We’re going to be there shaking our paddles at Shell,” said Carlo Voli, 49, a kayaker who has been training in recent weeks. “When they try and depart, that’s when we will put our kayaks and bodies on the line and not allow them to leave.”

Poo prints: DNA testing for dog poop on the rise in Seattle area

Frustrated with dog owners who refuse to clean up after their pets, an increasing number of apartments in Seattle are opting to use DNA testing to identify the culprits.

The Seattle Times reports that a company called BioPet Vet Lab from Knoxville, Tennessee, is providing its PooPrints testing kits to 26 apartment and condo complexes and homeowners associations in the region.

Erin Atkinson, property manager at Potala Village Apartments in Everett says the messes are all over.

“There was poop inside the elevators, in the carpeted hallways, up on the roof,” Atkinson said. “They’re lazy, I guess.”

That’s why, since February 2014, tenants have been paying a “one-time fee of $29.95 for DNA testing.”

BioPet says in the past five years, the DNA test has been used in nearly 1,000 places around the U.S., and it’s especially popular in Miami, Dallas, Los Angeles and other large cities.

The marketing took a little longer to reach the Northwest, but King-Snohomish-Pierce counties are opportune sites. They are home to about 811,000 dogs. Seattle has 50 percent more dogs than kids, the Times said. One study said dogs in that three-county region are responsible for about 268,000 pounds (121,600 kilograms) of droppings a day.

Atkinson says that after some initial fines, DNA testing is working at her complex, with two dozen or so dogs.

“One person was fined five times in one week,” she said. “That’s over $500. Now people clean up after their dogs.”

The fines added up this way: $59.95 to have the poop tested, and $50 to the complex for the hassle of collecting the sample.

Atkinson says that residents at the complex are “mostly on board” for having their dogs’ DNA tested.

Game on: Where to cheer for the Packers on Sunday

The Green Bay Packers are heading to Seattle this Sunday. And where are Packer fans headed to watch the game?

Travel Wisconsin has some ideas. The state boasts some of the largest and liveliest sports bars in the country. And whatever part of the state you find yourself in this Sunday, you can bet the Packers game will be on, the fans will be cheering and the bloody marys and beer will be flowing.

A few of the TW team’s favorite spots to catch the game:

Pooley’s Sports Bar — Madison

Madison’s largest and most interactive sports bar is the place to watch the big game. If you like sports memorabilia, this is your place. Pooley’s has an impressive collection of sports memorabilia that will blow away the biggest sports fan, including signed jerseys, pennants, photos and helmets of some of Wisconsin’s greatest sports stars.

Stadium View — Green Bay

Forbes magazine named Stadium View the “No. 1 Sports Bar in the Nation.” Just steps away from Lambeau Field, this bar has 12 massive, 10-foot tall TVs to catch the game on… how can you go wrong?

Champs Sports Bar & Grill — Lake Geneva

When the game is on, Champs is a rowdy yet relaxed retreat for fans. The collection of signed sports memorabilia will impress even the most ardent sports enthusiast and the beer list will satisfy domestic and craft beer lovers alike, but the 14 high-def TVs make it perfect for cheering on the Green and Gold.

Major Goolsby’s — Milwaukee

Sports Illustrated cited this hot spot as “America’s 4th Best Sports Bar.” While it’s most famous for being a convenient stop for a cheeseburger before Milwaukee Bucks games, it also boasts food and drink specials for Packers games and 54 TVs to catch the action on.

Iron Horse Saloon — Hurley

The crown jewel of Hurley’s famous Silver Street is a great place to catch the game, have a beer, and bite into one of the best burgers around. Make it a long weekend and catch the legendary live music on Saturday, and then stick around for the game on Sunday. Plus, with Packers specials, you can’t go wrong.

Brat Stop — Kenosha

Brats. Beer. Cheese. These football-friendly staples are what make the Brat Stop famous. When you’re not cheering on the Pack, play pool, darts and video games. The friendly atmosphere will make you feel like you’ve stepped into Cheers (if Cheers was filled with flat screens).

Rookie’s — Mazomanie

You could spend an hour or two scouting out the sports memorabilia that don all of the walls and even the ceilings of this bar — but we know you’ll be more focused on what’s going on in the game than what’s on the walls. The staff is notoriously friendly, so bargain for a seat at the bar.

Rusty’s Backwater Saloon — Stevens Point

If a Bloody Mary is what you’re after, try Rusty’s Backwater Saloon. Making what the bar calls “the best Bloody Mary you’ve ever had,” Rusty’s presents a hard-nosed drink for a hard-nosed drinker. Made in a glass mug with pickle and pepper garnishes, Rusty’s tasty beverage is a must-have for any central-Wisconsin Packers fan.

Sobelman’s Pub & Grill — Milwaukee

Known for their bloodies and their burgers, Sobelman’s combines both of these favorites to create “The Bloody Masterpiece.” Featured in the UK’s Daily Mail, the Huffington Post and Good Morning America, Sobelman’s gigantic jar of tomato and vodka goodness features sprouts, celery, onions, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, lemons, pickles, shrimp, sausage, cheese, olives, green onions, asparagus and of course a bacon cheeseburger slider. Plus with Packers game-day specials, this is not a place to be missed.

The Wisconsin Gazette would like to hear where you plan to watch the game. Share your recommendations with us here, on our Facebook page or on Twitter @wigazette.

Seattle mayor pardons tofu turkeys

As Thanksgiving approaches, Tofurkys in Seattle can breathe easy, even if real turkeys can’t.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has pardoned a soybean-based roast, The Seattle Times reported this week.

Spokesman Jason Kelly says Murray posed with the tofu turkey at City Hall to draw attention to hunger in the community.

The Tofurky was donated to Rainier Valley Food Bank.

Kelly acknowledged that Seattle’s reputation in the rest of the country is “a little bit ‘granola'” and that Murray was poking fun at himself.

Communications director Jeff Reading said that the mayor has no plan to pardon any of Seattle’s urban turkeys “either the literal or figurative variety.”

The maker of Tofurky, Turtle Island Foods, is based in Hood River, Oregon, and produces several tofu or tempeh-based products.

On the Web…


Legal marijuana in Washington state: How it works

Washington state’s first recreational marijuana stores began opening for business earlier this week, more than a year and a half after voters decided to legalize, tax and regulate pot. Some questions and answers about the industry:


The state’s Liquor Control Board issued the first 24 licenses to shops seeking to sell recreational marijuana — 14 stores in western Washington and 10 in eastern Washington.

But only a handful of stores opened Tuesday, one each in Bellingham, Seattle, Prosser and Spokane, with one in Kelso set to open Tuesday night.

Some stores said they will open later this week or next, while others said they were unsure when they would obtain marijuana to sell. Liquor Control Board list: https://lcb.app.box.com/retail-7-7.


Yes. Although some stores say they plan to sell some of their supply for as little as $10 or $12 a gram — comparable to what it costs at the state’s unregulated medical dispensaries — others expect it to go for $25 or more.

The issue is mainly supply. More than 2,600 people applied to become licensed marijuana growers, but fewer than 100 have been approved. And only about a dozen producers in the state were ready to harvest by early this month.

According to the two labs certified to check the pot for mold and other impurities, the samples they had tested by last Thursday represent a maximum initial statewide harvest of about 440 pounds.

Some growers are asking $4,000 per pound wholesale. The marijuana is heavily taxed: 25 percent at wholesale and 25 percent at retail, at least, plus additional sales taxes. Officials don’t expect prices to stabilize until after many more growers begin harvesting.


State law allows the sale of up to an ounce of dried marijuana, 16 ounces of pot-infused solids, 72 ounces of pot-infused liquids or 7 grams of concentrated marijuana, like hashish, to adults over 21, whether you’re a Washington resident or not.

But there isn’t expected to be any infused food or drink available right away: As of last week, the Liquor Control Board had issued no licenses to processors of those products, and approved no edibles for sale. Some stores are talking about limiting customers to one 2-gram package apiece to make sure there’s enough for everyone to buy some.


Colorado already had a regulated medical marijuana system, making for a smoother transition when it allowed those dispensaries to start selling to recreational pot shops on Jan. 1.

Washington’s medical system is unregulated, so officials here were starting from scratch as they immersed themselves in the pot world and tried to come up with regulations. The rules include protocols for testing marijuana, requirements for child-resistant packaging, and guidelines for what types of edibles should be allowed and what types of security systems pot shops and growers should have.

Ultimately, though, much of the delay can be attributed to overwhelming interest. The liquor board received nearly 7,000 applications from people who wanted to grow, process or sell marijuana.

Each of them needs to be vetted, with criminal and financial background checks, reviews to ensure they’re not too close to a school or daycare, and approval of their business and security plans. It’s time-consuming work, and the board’s 18 licensing investigators have been swamped.


The measure voters passed in 2012 directs 40 percent of the new revenues to the state general fund and local budgets, with the rest dedicated to substance-abuse prevention, research, education and health care. But tax revenue hasn’t come in yet. With sales about to start, the state Health Department scraped together $400,000 for a new radio and online advertisement campaign urging parents to talk to their kids about marijuana and visit www.learnaboutmarijuanawa.org.

Franchise group sues to overturn Seattle’s minimum wage ordinance

Hundreds of franchisees are learning they’re not small businesses, at least in the eyes of city government.

A new law that will raise Seattle’s minimum wage to $15 from the current $9.32 gives small businesses more time to phase in the 61 percent increase — seven years versus three for large companies. But franchisees, which have ties to bigger corporations (like restaurant chain Denny’s, Dunkin’ Donuts and Merry Maids) won’t get the reprieve even if they have just a handful of workers.

It’s an issue that could affect thousands more businesses in cities where campaigns for a higher minimum wage are underway. In Chicago, lawmakers have proposed a similar measure that would exempt small businesses but not franchise restaurants. Franchise owners say the laws will sharply increase their payroll costs, and threaten to make them less competitive with independent businesses that won’t have to comply — and that they could be forced to raise prices and cut jobs.

“It’s unfair, arbitrary and discriminatory against franchise owners,” says Steve Caldeira, CEO of the trade group International Franchise Association.

The IFA has filed a federal lawsuit seeking to overturn the Seattle law, arguing it violates the U.S. Constitution by treating franchises and other small businesses unequally. The IFA also opposes the law proposed for Chicago and efforts to pass similar laws in other major cities including Boston, Philadelphia and San Francisco.

In the eyes of the U.S. Small Business Administration, franchises are small businesses. Many franchises are owned by people who have at most a few locations. Some owners are corporations that own dozens or even hundreds of restaurants like McDonald’s or Pizza Hut.

It’s the ties to bigger companies – known as franchisors – that supporters of the laws cite as a reason why individual franchise owners shouldn’t get a break.

Franchise owners have advantages the independent owners don’t have – for example, menus and advertising supplied by the franchisor, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said in a statement responding to the lawsuit filed June 11, a week after he signed the minimum wage bill into law. His office did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

Franchisees counter that they have to pay for the privilege of owning a franchise, and for the services franchisors provide. Chuck Stempler, a plaintiff in the IFA lawsuit, says he pays $400,000 a year in fees to AlphaGraphics for the six printing and marketing businesses he operates in Washington and California. Seattle’s Mayor Murray says franchisees and franchisors should renegotiate those fees so business owners have more money to pay their workers.

Stempler, who has 69 employees at two Seattle franchises, says he’ll have to cut jobs to afford the higher wage. The law will increase his payroll costs between $68,000 and $100,000 a year. His competitors will find it easier to adapt because of how officials have structured the law, he says.

“They are discriminating against a class of independent businesses, legally recognized by the federal government and the state,” says Stempler.

In Chicago, restaurant franchisees are included under the proposed minimum wage law although other businesses with revenue under $50 million would be exempt. Franchisees would have to raise employees’ wages from the current minimum of $8.25 to $15 within two years.

At the restaurant chain Firehouse Subs, the Chicago proposal could lead to customers paying more and getting less service because staffs will be smaller, says Steve Szalinski, a franchisee who also helps new owners get started.

“You could see 10 to 20 percent increases in price,” Szalinski says. “Levels of service plausibly won’t be as good. It would be an enormous challenge.”

The laws could end up costing cities some franchises, says franchising consultant Charlie Magee. Several of his clients decided not to buy franchises in Seattle, and instead are looking in the suburbs or Bellingham, 90 miles north of Seattle, even Oregon, says Magee, who works for the consulting company FranNet.

Some franchisors are also wary about Seattle. The shorter phase-in period is just part of the problem, says Jerrod Sessler, CEO of HomeTask, which has six franchise brands including lawn, handyman and pet grooming services. He won’t encourage prospective buyers to seek Seattle locations.

“If you have a city that is willing to pass this sort of legislation, it erodes a trust that they’re going to make decisions to help businesses grow and prosper,” he says.

Breaking today: Milwaukee and Dane county boards were expected to vote on resolutions regarding asking voters in November about minimum wage in Wisconsin.

Seattle could set highest minimum wage in nation

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray this week proposed a phased-in increase of the minimum wage to $15 an hour over the next seven years — a compromise endorsed by both business and labor that would make the city’s pay baseline the highest in the nation.

A group called 15 Now, led by socialist City Council member Kshama Sawant, wanted to see an immediate wage hike for large businesses and a three-year phase-in for organizations with fewer than 250 full-time employees. They are gathering signatures to get their competing $15 wage initiative on the November ballot.

The mayor’s proposal is the latest by cities and states nationwide to raise minimum wages. Last month, Minnesota raised the state’s guaranteed wage by more than $3, to $9.50, by 2016. California, Connecticut and Maryland also have passed laws increasing their respective wages to $10 or more in coming years, and other states are going well above the federal minimum of $7.25 per hour.

If Seattle’s plan is approved, the city would move toward having the highest wage of any U.S. city. San Francisco, at $10.55 an hour, has that distinction now.

The mayor’s proposal gives businesses with more than 500 employees nationally at least three years to phase in the increase. Those providing health insurance will have four years to complete the move.

Smaller organizations will be given seven years, with the new wage including a consideration for tips and health care costs over the first five years.

Once the $15 wage is reached, future annual increases will be tied to the consumer price index.

Murray said 21 of 24 members of his minimum wage task force, which included representatives of business, labor and community groups, voted in favor of the plan.

“I think that this is an historic moment for the city of Seattle,” Murray said. “We’re going to decrease the poverty rate.”

Howard Wright, CEO of the Seattle Hospitality Group and a co-chairman of the task force, said he thought the plan would have support from the business community.

“While I know not everyone in the employer community will be satisfied, I believe it is the best outcome given the political environment,” he said.

The measure now goes to the City Council for discussion. Council member Nick Licata, a member of the task force, said he would work to get the proposal approved with minimal tinkering.

Washington state already has the nation’s highest minimum wage among states at $9.32 an hour. According to a chart prepared by the mayor’s office, many Seattle workers will reach $11 an hour by 2015. The state’s minimum wage is scheduled to be $9.54 at that time.

Business leaders had pushed for the phase-in and wage credits for tips and health care benefits.

Fewer than 1 percent of the businesses in Seattle have more than 500 workers in Washington state, according to a study for the city by the University of Washington. Those businesses have a total of about 30,000 employees, representing about a third of those earning under $15 an hour in Seattle.

Murray called the plan a compromise and dismissed concerns that he would face opposition at the city’s May Day events, which include a “15 Now” theme.

“I wanted 15, but I wanted to do 15 smart,” he said.

Labor leaders congratulated the mayor for starting a national conversation, which many credit to Sawant, the socialist City Council member.

“Raising Seattle’s minimum wage to $15 reaches far beyond the 100,000 workers who will benefit with the city limits,” said David Rolf, president of SEIU Healthcare 775NW and co-chair of the task force. “Today, Seattle workers send a clarion call to all working people in America.”

Campaign to preserve Kurt Cobain home in Aberdeen

A Portland woman has started an online campaign to save the childhood home of Kurt Cobain in Aberdeen, Wash., as a museum to the Nirvana grunge rock icon.

KXRO reports Jaime Dunkle hopes to raise $700,000 through gofundme.com. She says the house will not be fixed or updated but will remain as it is because “it’s real.”

Cobain’s mother put the bungalow on the market last September for $500,000. It was last assessed at less than $67,000.

The house is a short walk from a riverfront park dedicated to Cobain’s memory, and the family said it would welcome a partnership to make the home into a museum.