Posts tagged as:

Seattle

  • At least twelve Baltimore cops sought workers’ comp for stress after using deadly force on citizens [Luke Broadwater, Baltimore Sun/Carroll County Times]
  • “D.C. Council votes to overhaul asset forfeiture, give property owners new rights” [Washington Post]
  • A different view on Ferguson: Richard Epstein defends grand jury outcome [Hoover]
  • “The House GOP leadership is blocking a police militarization reform bill from even getting a vote.” [Zach Carter, HuffPo, via @radleybalko]
  • Will potential cost of citizen public records requests sink police body-camera schemes? [Seattle Times, ABA Journal]
  • Marissa Alexander case, cited by critics of mandatory minimum sentencing, ends in plea deal [Brian Doherty, earlier, CBS Sunday Morning on mandatory minimum sentencing]
  • Forensics guy hired by Michael Brown’s family: “If they want to think I’m a physician, then more power to them.” [Radley Balko]
  • St. Louis County fines/fees: “Municipal courts charge $100 for Christmas gift of fake amnesty” [St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial]

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“Detroit had the highest property tax rates of all 50 [largest U.S.] cities” [Chris Edwards/Cato, Alex Tabarrok] Some of the city’s weaknesses go back far enough that Jane Jacobs was pointing them out in 1961 [Urbanophile] How other cities avoided Detroit’s fate, and why, as Boeing shrank, “Will the last person to leave Seattle please turn out the lights?” turned out to be such a misplaced joke [Ed Glaeser, 2011 via Amy Alkon] And in two Cato podcasts on the city’s plight, Caleb Brown interviews Megan McArdle (Daily Beast, Bloomberg) and Emily Washington (Mercatus Center). Plus: Some reasons Baltimore is not Detroit [Frank DeFilippo, Splice Today] And Stephen Eide on the pension-negotiating strategies of emergency manager Kevyn Orr [Public Sector Inc.]

Did you know that the Affordable Care Act creates an enormous, multi-billion-dollar slush fund — in the out years, it will raise $2 billion a year in perpetuity — for the federal government to spend on more or less anything that might “improve health and help restrain the rate of growth” of health-care costs? That the spending can bypass the Congressional appropriations process, and is rife with expenditures for the purposes of lobbying government itself, which is supposed to be an unlawful use of federal funds?

Somehow it didn’t sink in until I read this excellent investigation in Forbes by Stuart Taylor, Jr., the distinguished commentator and journalist now associated with the Brookings Institution. Because almost any cause arguably advances health, the administrators end up with close to unlimited discretion as to how to spend the money, which results in the usual array of goofy-sounding grant activities ranging “from ‘pickleball’ (a racquet sport) in Carteret County, N.C. to Zumba (a dance fitness program), kayaking and kickboxing in Waco, TX.”

It’s tailor-made for log-rolling and rewarding local friends, but the dangers go beyond that. In particular, as outraged Republicans from Fred Upton (R-Mich.) in the House to Susan Collins (R-Me.) in the Senate have been documenting, large sums from the program have been devoted to the purpose of lobbying for the passage of legislation at the local and state level — notwithstanding specific statutory language making that an unlawful way of spending money raised from federal taxpayers.

To quote Taylor:

* In Washington state, the Prevention Alliance, a coalition of health-focused groups, reported in notes of a June 22, 2012 meeting that the funding for its initial work came from a $3.3 million Obamacare grant to the state Department of Health. It listed a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB), “tobacco taxes,” and increasing “types of outdoor venues where tobacco use is prohibited” as among “the areas of greatest interest and potential for progress.”

* The Sierra Health Foundation, in Sacramento, which received a $500,000 grant. in March 2013, described its plans to “seek local zoning changes to disallow fast food establishments within 1,000 feet of a school and to limit the number of fast food outlets,” along with restrictions on fast food advertising. A $3 million grant to New York City was used to “educate leaders and decision makers about, and promote the effective implementation of. . . a tax to substantially increase the price of beverages containing caloric sweetener.”

* A Cook County, Ill. report says that part of a $16 million grant “educated policymakers on link between SSBs [sugar-sweetened beverages] and obesity, economic impact of an SSB tax, and importance of investing revenue into prevention.” More than $12 million in similar grants went to groups in King County, Wash. to push for changes in “zoning policies to locate fast-food retailers farther from . . . schools.” And Jefferson County, Ala., spent part of a $7 million federal grant promoting the passage of a tobacco excise tax by the state legislature.

These aren’t isolated flukes: they look very much like the normal and planned operation of the program. A $7 million grant to activists in the St. Louis area went in part toward lobbying for the repeal of a state law barring municipal tobacco taxes. The Pennsylvania Department of Health reported on how it used a $1.5 million federal grant: “210 policy makers were contacted . . . 31 ordinances were passed . . . there were 26 community presentations made to local governments .. . and 16 additional ordinances were passed this quarter, for a cumulative total of 47.”

This is outrageous. Congress has enacted and reiterated the ban on lobbying with federal funds because of the obvious unfairness of requiring taxpaying citizens to support political efforts of which they disapprove. Now a combination of the most politicized sector of public health activism (which likes to dictate how people live) and a cross-section of the local political class (which likes to find new ways of raising taxes) is getting massive federal subsidies to pursue such lobbying, often on a scale that can bulldoze disorganized local opposition. If you were wondering why some bad new ideas for local legislation (e.g., zoning to keep fast-food restaurants out of big-city neighborhoods) seem to be everywhere despite a tepid level of voter enthusiasm, now you know. You’re paying for them to be everywhere.

I joined host Ray Dunaway on Hartford’s WTIC this morning to talk about the issue.

P.S. Thanks to commenter gitarcarver for pointing out this April report on the problem by the investigative group Cause of Action. (& David Catron, American Spectator)

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Guns roundup

by Walter Olson on February 5, 2013

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  • Judge rules in first California “suitable seating at work” trial [The Recorder; earlier here, here]
  • On business travel: “Injury During Sex is Work-Related and Compensable, Aussie Court Holds” [Workplace Prof]
  • On the other hand: “Running in High Heels Was Probably Enough to Defeat This Workers’ Comp Claim” [Lowering the Bar]
  • Illinois federal court rules that unpaid volunteers may be covered by Title VII discrimination law [Eric Sigda, GTLE Blog]
  • Seattle to pay drama teacher $750K for not accommodating wishes re: renovation of building [Seattle Times, meanwhile]
  • Recalling AP v. NLRB, 1937, in which SCOTUS rejected First Amendment defense to Wagner Act, over Sutherland dissent [Gerard Magliocca, ConcurOp]
  • House Oversight Committee blasts NLRB for pro-union bias [press release and staff report PDF, Goldberg Segalla]

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In Clyde Hill, Wash., a retired Seattle Mariners baseball player has won a ruling from the town that his neighbors must remove two trees that block what would otherwise be an “amazing view of Seattle’s skyline” from his property. “An appraiser hired by John and Kelly Olerud said their $4 million home would be worth $255,000 more if the rare Chinese pine and the Colorado spruce across the street were cut down and replaced with smaller plants. The Chinese pine’s value is estimated at more than $18,000.” [Seattle Times, Ilya Somin] In other tree removal news, an Ontario mother “is fighting to have oak trees removed near her child’s school, fearing that acorns could pose a deadly threat to students with severe allergies.” Local officials say it is unlikely the acorns would prove allergenic to a child unless eaten, which rarely happens given their extreme bitterness. The mother also says acorns “can also be used to bully and torment children.” [Toronto Star via Lenore Skenazy]

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“Rain delays kept postponing the game” — this was Seattle — and eventually authorities disqualified both teams. Court action resulted: “‘I asked my daughter, she asked us to fight, so we fought,’ said Patrick Jones, one player’s father.” Because of course parents are supposed to be guided by their kids’ wishes as to whether to set loose the lawyers in such matters. [KING 5]

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February 6 roundup

by Walter Olson on February 6, 2012

  • “A 4-Page Playdate Waiver? Is This the New Normal?” [Lenore Skenazy, Free-Range Kids; our 2000 post on "Rise of the High-School Sleepover Disclaimer"]
  • Spirit Airlines sets what it calls DOTUC fee, for “Dept. of Transportation Unintended Consequences” [Stoll]
  • How fairly are fathers treated in family court? [Nina Shapiro, Seattle Weekly via Alkon]
  • “‘Insider’ Trading by the Representative Plaintiff in Shareholder Litigation” [Bainbridge]
  • “Donation controversy focuses attention on Madison County asbestos litigation” [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Chamber-backed LNL]
  • Update: Appeals court reinstates Duluth doc’s defamation claims [DNT, earlier here, here, here; "bedside manner" criticism]
  • U.K.: “‘Psychic’ Sally Morgan Sues Critics for £150,000 After Refusing $1 Million to Prove Her Powers” [D.J. Grothe, HuffPo] “She’ll be calling witnesses such as ‘an uncle, or father, or a man… with a b in his first name’.” [@thegagthief]

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Updating our August 12 item: “A King County Superior Court judge refused Monday to vacate a nearly $13 million award to a Seattle firefighter who was injured at a fire station in 2003. The city of Seattle appealed the award after an investigator it hired captured Mark Jones on surveillance video dancing, chopping wood, playing horseshoes and bocce ball this past spring.” Judge Susan Craighead said the city should have developed its evidence earlier and that the standard for demonstrating fraud is an extremely high one in cases of this kind. [KOMO]

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September 17 roundup

by Walter Olson on September 17, 2010

  • International House of Pancakes (restaurant chain) vs. International House of Prayer (church) [CNN]
  • “Law Schools Now Require Applicants To Honestly State Whether They Want To Go To Law School” [The Onion, satire]
  • “As ENDA Lingers in Congress, a [million-dollar verdict] in Maine” [Michael Fox]
  • Fear: On advice of FBI, cartoonist who organized “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” drops out and changes name [Seattle Weekly, Welch, Moynihan]
  • University of Windsor lawprof asks Ontario Human Rights Tribunal to overturn school’s decision not to make her dean [National Post]
  • Prominent Seattle lawyer arrested, and do-you-know-who-I-am-ery allegedly ensues [Above the Law]
  • “Man rushed to hospital after finding tampon in his cereal” [Obscure Store, Macon Telegraph] Update: suit dropped.
  • Manufacture iPhones in the U.S.? “I worry America has too many lawyers. I don’t want to spend time having people sue me every day.” [Foxconn's Terry Gau, quoted in Business Week]

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“The city of Seattle is seeking to overturn a $12.8 million judgment awarded to a former firefighter, who claimed he was permanently disabled by an on-duty fall, after investigators secretly shot video of the man chopping wood, playing horseshoes and bocce ball, and even breaking into a victory dance.” [Jennifer Sullivan, Seattle Times]

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Bicycling and streetcar tracks can make for a hazardous mix because the “flange way gap” alongside the rail can entrap bicycle wheels. Now six cyclists who crashed while crossing the new Westlake Avenue streetcar project are suing the city of Seattle. They are citing the city’s failure to follow a consultant’s recommendation that it close the avenue to bicyclists. [SeattlePI.com]

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June 1 roundup

by Walter Olson on June 1, 2010

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My Toyota op-ed is going viral, with dozens of retweets, and listings on the front pages of Hot Air and reddit—not to mention an Instalink. And Alex Tabarrok tests my numbers at Marginal Revolution.

Update: Don’t miss Megan McArdle’s comprehensive take.

February 18 roundup

by Walter Olson on February 18, 2010

Mike Hipple took photos of Dance Steps on Broadway, a public art installation on sidewalks in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. The photos earned him $60 and now a lawsuit from sculptor Jack Mackie. [KOMO]

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“A Seattle civil-rights attorney who was disbarred earlier this month after the state Supreme Court unanimously found that he had gouged some clients and bullied others into unwanted settlements has sued the Washington State Bar Association, claiming its investigation was rife with errors and conflicts of interest.” [Seattle Times]

September 15 roundup

by Walter Olson on September 15, 2009

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