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News, factoids, and insights from KUOW's newsroom. And maybe some peeks behind the scenes. Check back daily for updates.

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  • Will Gov. Jay Inslee run for reelection?: Today So Far

    KUOW Blog
    caption: Washington Gov. Jay Inslee speaks before signing a measure that puts the state on track to create the first 'public option' health insurance in the US, Monday, May 13, 2019, in Olympia, Wash.
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    Washington Gov. Jay Inslee speaks before signing a measure that puts the state on track to create the first 'public option' health insurance in the US, Monday, May 13, 2019, in Olympia, Wash.
    Credit: AP Photo/Rachel La Corte
    • Will Gov. Jay Inslee run for reelection?
    • Washington's capital gains tax is upheld.
    • Seattle has lost more housing units than it has produced in recent years. Landlords argue they know why.
    • Seattle Public Schools faces a shortage of $131 million next year. It's making cuts now.

    This post originally appeared in KUOW's Today So Far newsletter for March 24, 2023.

    Washington's next gubernatorial race is months and months away, yet folks are starting to ask questions about who will run. Leading those questions is a big one: Will Gov. Jay Inslee run for reelection?

    The short answer is: He's thinking about it.

    "We’ll make the decision at the right moment, and it’ll be the right decision,” Inslee said at a press conference Thursday.

    Which is not what I expected Inslee to say. I mean, most Inslee quotes start or end with "by golly!" I think I once heard him say "by gob!" Whatever that means. In any case, a lot of folks are waiting for the answer to this question before even thinking further.

    It came as somewhat of a surprise when Inslee opted to run for a third term, which is uncommon. Most governors stick to two. If he runs again, it would be for a fourth time in office, probably to the chagrin of Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz. Both are names that have been put forth as potential Democrat candidates to replace Inslee. Franz told KUOW that she is considering such a run. Ferguson says he's serious about it too. But again, it all comes down to what the current governor decides. KUOW's David Hyde has the full story here.

    Breaking news this morning: Washington's capital gains tax is upheld.

    After it was passed in 2021, a lawsuit challenging the state's capital gains tax was filed within days. A lower court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, stating that capital gains are income, and income cannot be taxed in this way in the state of Washington. Today, the state Supreme Court overturned the lower court's decision. In short, the state's stance on the matter is that the capital gains tax is an excise tax, which means it falls under different rules. The decision was highly anticipated as lawmakers in Olympia are crafting the state budget. The capital gains tax is slated to fund education in the state, and Democrats have already factored it into their budget plans. Read more here.

    Seattle's small landlords say that the city's renter regulations are making it harder to provide housing. Over the past three years, Seattle and Washington state have passed about a dozen such regulations. This is one fact that landlords point to as a reason why Seattle lost more apartment units than it produced between 2018 and 2022. During that time, small landlords (between one and 20 units) were taking their apartments off the market. “Every small landlord that we know in Seattle has an exit strategy to divest and leave the city,” said MariLyn Yim, a co-founder of Seattle Grassroots Landlords.

    As KUOW's Joshua McNichols points out, there are other economic factors at play in Seattle that have contributed to the poor apartment market, such as the lack of affordable homes for people to buy. Check out the full story here.

    Seattle Public Schools faces a shortage of $131 million next year. It's making cuts now.

    Continue reading »
  • Capital gains tax upheld in Washington, state Supreme Court rules

    KUOW Blog
    caption: The Temple of Justice in Olympia is home to the Washington State Supreme Court.
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    The Temple of Justice in Olympia is home to the Washington State Supreme Court.
    Credit: NW News Network

    In a 7-2 decision, the Washington State Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the state's capital gains tax.

    The arguments around Washington's capital gains tax have focused on one key question: Is a capital gains tax a tax on income? The court's assessment is that capital gains (the sale of assets like stocks and bonds) are not income, and the tax in question is an excise tax.

    The court ruled that "because the capital gains tax is an excise tax under Washington law," it rejected the arguments against it. The 7% tax applies to profits from the sale of assets like stocks and bonds that are above $250,000. Supporters, including the state of Washington, promote it as an “excise” tax on transactions.

    The Supreme Court's conclusion Friday overturns a previous ruling by the Douglas County Superior Court, which invalidated the capital gains tax under the argument that it is an income tax. According to the court's conclusion:

    "The capital gains tax is a valid excise tax under Washington law. Because it is not a property tax, it is not subject to the uniformity and levy requirements of article VII, sections 1 and 2 of the Washington Constitution. In light of this holding, we decline to interpret article VII or to reconsider our decision in Culliton. We further hold the tax is consistent with our state constitution’s privileges and immunities clause and the federal dormant commerce clause. We reverse the superior court order invalidating the capital gains tax and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion."

    Continue reading »
  • It's early, but prominent Dems are eyeing a run for governor in 2024

    KUOW Newsroom
    caption: Washington Gov. Jay Inslee speaks to a crowd gathered for a pro-choice rally and press conference on Tuesday, May 3, 2022, at Kerry Park in Seattle.
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    Washington Gov. Jay Inslee speaks to a crowd gathered for a pro-choice rally and press conference on Tuesday, May 3, 2022, at Kerry Park in Seattle.
    Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

    The Washington state governor's race is over a year away, but it is already starting to generate some buzz.

    So far, Gov. Jay Inslee has not publicly stated his intentions to seek reelection. Meanwhile, two prominent Washington Democrats — Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz — both say they’re weighing a run for the state’s highest office.

    Ferguson told KUOW he is “seriously considering” a gubernatorial bid, but only if Inslee decides not to seek reelection.

    “It depends on what our current governor decides to do about a potential fourth term,” Ferguson said.

    Ferguson is best known for fighting former President Trump, bringing dozens of lawsuits against the federal government over issues including immigration. He told KUOW he is proud of his record as attorney general, which includes taking the office in new directions compared to his predecessors.

    “Before I was attorney general, we did no civil rights work, we did no direct environmental enforcement, criminal or civil. Now we lead the nation,” Ferguson said. Before Ferguson, a Republican, Rob McKenna, served as the state attorney general.

    These days Ferguson said he is focused on protecting abortion rights, among other issues.

    Meanwhile, Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz also spoke with KUOW about her intentions to pursue higher office.

    “A lot of people are asking me to run for governor, which I'm truly humbled by, and I'm strongly considering it,” she said.

    Asked about her record, Franz pointed to her work on issues like wildfires and climate change that has generated some bipartisan support. But Franz said she considers herself a “proud progressive.”

    “Winning support from across the aisle on key legislative priorities doesn't mean compromising on principles,” Franz said. “I've worked throughout the state in improving economic outcomes. Everything from growing our rural economies in forestry and agriculture, clean energy, and our shellfish to being able to expand broadband.”

    The race is still a long way off — the primary is next August. At a press conference Thursday, Gov. Inslee said he’s still undecided.

    Continue reading »
  • What's brewing up at Starbucks?: Today So Far

    KUOW Blog
    caption: Brandon Hersey pauses to be photographed during a picket Wednesday, March 22, 2023, outside Starbucks' Seattle headquarters.
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    Brandon Hersey pauses to be photographed during a picket Wednesday, March 22, 2023, outside Starbucks' Seattle headquarters.
    Credit: Monica Nickelsburg
    • A lot of news around Starbucks this week.
    • Should Washington state buy out-of-state ferries?
    • This ski spot in Washington state only costs $10 a day.

    This post originally appeared in KUOW's Today So Far newsletter for March 23, 2023.

    There is a lot brewing up over at Starbucks. For starters, CEO Howard Schultz has stepped down, again, and has provided a farewell message, again.

    "Starbucks truly has been my life‘s work – but more than that, it’s always been about the lives of the millions of partners over the years who have proudly worn the green apron and it’s about the hundreds of thousands more who will join Starbucks in the years to come. It’s about every customer who comes through our doors. It’s about the communities our stores call home. Our company is like a river – the stewards of it will change over time, but it’s always growing and changing, carving a new path and moving forward to something better."

    This is the second time Schultz has left the company. He returned last year as the company searched for a new CEO. Then, he stayed on a bit longer to phase in the newly hired leader. As of this week, Laxman Narasimhan is Starbucks' full-time top official.

    “I am humbled to officially step into my role as Starbucks chief executive officer, leading our incredible team of more than 450,000 green apron partners around the world...” Narasimhan said in a statement. “As a human connection business, we have limitless possibilities to deliver for our partners, our customers, our investors and our communities through every cup and every connection. I am excited to work alongside our partners worldwide to unlock the limitless future of Starbucks.”

    Also this week, many of those green apron partners (Starbucks' term for baristas) went on strike. Starbucks Workers United alleges that the company has fired workers for engaging in union activities. The company denies this and says it has closed stores due to safety concerns. Despite stepping down, Schultz is slated to testify in front of a Senate committee in D.C. about the allegations next week.

    If you want to take some time to ponder the issues facing Seattle's coffee giant, consider sipping on Starbucks' virgin olive oil infused coffee line, Oleato. It has finally arrived in Seattle. Oleato is currently at the Starbucks Reserve Roasteries in town (Capitol Hill and SoDo). The "original" location at Pike Place Market is also serving it up.

    If you don't want to make a trip to those spots, Oleato will show up at Starbucks shops across Seattle on March 27. At that point, I think we can all start having the discussion over whether this is an intriguing addition to coffee culture, or if it's the next innovation akin to Crystal Pepsi.

    If you're riding on a ferry around Puget Sound, that boat was homegrown. For 50 years, the ferries in Washington's fleet have all been built in local shipyards. That could change, however. It appears there is bipartisan support among lawmakers in Olympia to allow new ferries to come from shipyards outside of the state. Washington's fleet is aging, and it wants to get more boats, fast. Specifically, it wants to get five new plug-in hybrid electric ferries.

    The idea to nix the "Build in Washington" mandate for ferries is providing a boatload of debate in Olympia. On one hand, you have the immediate need for ferries, and the demand from commuters, and the price tag. On the other hand, you have local labor groups who are eager for the ferry jobs.

    "The Build in Washington mandate has and will increase the cost per boat by about 50% while being little if any long-term benefit to our state," Port Townsend resident Tom Thiersch said at a recent hearing at the state Capitol. Thiersch chairs his county's ferry advisory committee. "Subsidizing shipbuilders in Washington is simply not worth it."

    Continue reading »
  • Seattle Public Schools lays off more staff, but spares teachers for now

    KUOW Newsroom
    caption: An empty classroom is shown on the first day of school at Mount View Elementary school on Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021, in Seattle.
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    An empty classroom is shown on the first day of school at Mount View Elementary school on Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021, in Seattle.
    Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

    Seattle Public Schools officials say they’ve slashed 74 central office positions for next school year, yet most teachers’ jobs will be safe.

    The layoffs mark the district’s latest cost-cutting measure as a budget crisis looms. Washington’s largest school district is facing a projected $131 million budget shortfall next year due to declining enrollment, rising labor costs, and heightened student needs in the wake of the pandemic.

    During an online community meeting earlier this week, officials stressed their intentions to keep the majority of budget cuts out of the classroom and away from students and teachers.

    “We know this is disruptive, when shifts occur. Our goal is to minimize these disruptions,” said Superintendent Brent Jones. “The combinations of cuts and funding requests to the state will help us balance our budget for '23-'24.”

    Jones said the district is focused on making the largest cuts in the central office through layoffs and a hiring freeze. In total, the district is aiming to make about $33 million of cuts in the central office as compared to $11 million of school-based reductions.

    RELATED: Seattle Public Schools notifies employees of potential layoffs

    The district is also lobbying state lawmakers to increase education funding — especially in high-cost areas like special education, transportation, and multilingual services.

    Associate Superintendent Concie Pedroza said teachers, instructional assistants, and other school staff may be shifted around depending on enrollment at individual schools through the district’s displacement process with the teachers union. But most will have jobs within SPS if they want one.

    On average, Pedroza said, around 400 teachers leave the district every year. That churn, she said, is expected to help prevent further layoffs.

    RELATED: WA teacher turnover hits new high as students struggle to recover from pandemic disruptions

    “If there is a reduction in force, it would be limited, especially in our schools,” Pedroza said. “Our goal is to ensure that every student has a qualified teacher at the start of the school year. Keeping our staff in our district is our priority.”

    Continue reading »
  • Washington hospitals continue to report financial losses

    KUOW Blog
    caption: Seattle Children's Hospital is shown on Thursday, November 14, 2019, in Seattle.
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    Seattle Children's Hospital is shown on Thursday, November 14, 2019, in Seattle.
    Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

    Hospitals across Washington state continue to see steep financial losses, according to the Washington State Hospital Association (WSHA).

    Last year it amounted to a $2.1 billion operating loss across the board, following hundreds of millions in losses in 2021.

    “2021 was not a great year,” said Association CEO Cassie Sauer during a media briefing Tuesday. “It was a pretty rough year for health care, so the fact that 2022 is worse is quite alarming.”

    Sauer said these losses are unsustainable.

    “Hospitals are resorting to extraordinary means to close the gaps in their budgets," she said. "We're already seeing loss of services around our state."

    According to WSHA staff, those losses include the closure of some beds in some hospitals, the closure of cardiac services at a hospital in Sunnyside, and the closure of labor and delivery services at a hospital in Toppenish.

    Hospital leaders say increases in costs for staffing, drugs, energy, and supplies are part of the problem.

    They also point to stagnant Medicaid reimbursements as a source of financial pain.

    “Most urban hospitals, nearly all of whom are nonprofits, haven’t had a Medicaid rate increase in more than 20 years,” said Chelene Whiteaker, senior vice president for government affairs with WSHA.

    The hospital association is hoping state legislators will help push through a solution this session.

    The organization is working to bring a bill in front of lawmakers that would significantly increase Medicaid payments.

    Whiteaker said the proposal would not draw from the state's general fund.

    Continue reading »
  • How 'xtreme' is the XFL?: Today So Far

    KUOW Blog
    caption: A detailed view of official XFL footballs during the first half of an XFL football game between the DC Defenders and the Seattle Dragons, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020, in Washington.
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    A detailed view of official XFL footballs during the first half of an XFL football game between the DC Defenders and the Seattle Dragons, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020, in Washington.
    Credit: AP Photo/Will Newton
    • Are you going to check out a Seattle XFL game?
    • Seattle has a bit of an economic chicken-or-the-egg situation developing downtown and at city hall.

    This post originally appeared in KUOW's Today So Far newsletter for March 22, 2023.

    Now that the XFL season is underway, the Seattle Sea Dragons have been hitting the field. Are you going to catch a game?

    This is the third attempt at the XFL. The second attempt made headlines in the Before Times, but the pandemic shut it down. The few games from that second attempt produced Seattle audiences up to 30,000 people. Since then, new owners, including Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, have taken over. Recent games have garnered about 10,000 people.

    "It was a fairly successful market (before), so it was a no-brainer for them to come back here," Seattle Times reporter Scott Hanson told Soundside. "....For this league to be successful, it has to be good football. If it's not good football, people are not going to come."

    Success is not guaranteed for the XFL. In fact, there is not a good track record for going up against the NFL. The last attempt was the USFL in the 1980s, which managed to last three seasons.

    "The fact that it lasted three years, in my opinion is kind of a miracle," sports historian Paul Reeths told Soundside. "....there hasn't been a real attempt to challenge a major league since then. When I look at it, I look at it very fondly, because it was almost miraculous that it made it three seasons."

    Reeths says that the USFL failed because the business model didn't work quite right at the time. Also, it couldn't secure any contracts to broadcast games on TV, which is a big moneymaker for sports.

    "Media today is so different. You have all these streaming options ... you have broadcasters who are shelling out billions of dollars in rights' payments to the National Football League alone," Reeths said, adding that those broadcasters might welcome an alternative to the NFL to get ratings without paying large fees.

    Regular TSF listeners are probably aware that I'm not the most sportsy person around. When anybody asks me anything about the Seahawks, I usually say something like, "I don't really watch baseball" (by the way, don't make that joke in line at a grocery store on the day the Seahawks are playing in the big game — it doesn't go over well). So I don't know how this new football league is supposed to be "alternative." Apparently, kickoffs work differently, and there are no extra points in the XFL. Instead, teams have options to score 1, 2, or 3 points after a touchdown. And ticket prices are a lot nicer, too.

    "When I look at the XFL style of play, I see something that is different, but it doesn't really come across as gimmicky to me ... I think what the XFL is really trying to do is sell something more, sell opportunity, sell entertainment. I think there is everything right with that. Sometimes with sports, we get so wrapped up with how our team is doing, or if somebody has money on it, we've kind of lost our way with looking at sports as entertainment."

    The part I'm hung up on is the "XFL" part. Clearly, this is an attempt to offer an alternative to the NFL and provide some football entertainment outside of the usual season. But to use "X" in the title? I haven't found a clear answer on what that implies, other than maybe "xtra" or "xtreme." In which case, you really have to live up to that "X." It's like the "X-Files" or the X-Men, you know you're going to get something beyond belief from that "X." So far, as an outsider, all I've observed is just more football from the XFL. So if The Rock is reading, I have a couple suggestions to help fill in this X issue.

    Continue reading »
  • Black-led farming program in Seattle is being asked to uproot

    KUOW Blog
    caption: Nyema Clark, urban farmer and founder of Nurturing Roots, feeds chickens on Sunday, September 27, 2020, at Nurturing Roots in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Seattle.
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    Nyema Clark, urban farmer and founder of Nurturing Roots, feeds chickens on Sunday, September 27, 2020, at Nurturing Roots in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Seattle.
    Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

    Nurturing Roots is a Black-led community farm based in Seattle’s Beacon Hill neighborhood. It started in 2016. Now it’s being asked to leave the land they’re on by the end of the month.

    Nurturing Roots is a group that’s often urged city leaders to put more land in the hands of Black farmers. Nyema Clark founded the farm, where she says they hold regular volunteer days and educational programs. The farm also provided food for people during the pandemic.

    “Nurturing roots really succeeded because of community because of the bodies that showed up. And because of the hard work that was put in,” she said.

    RELATED: What Black liberation looks like — 40 acres in Auburn

    Nurturing Roots sits on land that’s leased out to the program by the Bethany United Church of Christ. The church says the lease isn’t being renewed because the farm didn’t give them enough notice to continue their contract before it expired. They say three other nonprofits that previously co-signed with Nurturing Roots have also declined to renew their lease with the farm. The letter to vacate says Nurturing Roots needed to give a heads up 90 days before the current lease expires.

    Clark says she wants to stay.

    In previous years, she says the process was much more informal and was settled often with verbal agreements. A signed lease was sometimes made months after the old one expired. Over a five year period the Church says they’ve rented the land to the program at a reduced rate. Their estimates put it at a little over 300 hundred thousand dollars that they’ve subsidized for the farm program.

    Clark had previously offered to buy the land from the church with a city grant multiple times, but was told it’s not for sale.

    In an email to KUOW the church wrote, “We have put a tremendous amount of effort into helping Nurturing Roots. Church and community leaders we partner with have indicated, in good faith, they are willing to help Nurturing Roots find land to purchase.”

    The church said it has a need for space, adding it is “in need of our church buildings and property as we expand our youth and adult ministries." The church notes it has a diverse population in its congregation.

    A few years ago Clark was in talks with the Seattle Mayor Jenny Dukan, and other community leaders, to manage about 40 acres of farmland the city owns in Auburn, currently known as Red Barn Ranch. That effort has all but slowed down as new leadership has moved in. Clark says talks have begun again with the city of Seattle.

    A spokesperson for the city's Parks and Recreation Department says the conversation about what will happen at Red Barn Ranch is ongoing, but wouldn't give more details.

    Continue reading »
  • Will City Hall give downtown Seattle a tax break?

    KUOW Blog
    caption: An entrance to Seattle City Hall is shown, Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017, in downtown Seattle.
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    An entrance to Seattle City Hall is shown, Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017, in downtown Seattle.
    Credit: AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

    Downtown Seattle stakeholders are urging city leaders to provide some tax relief to help spur the neighborhood's recovery from pandemic slowdowns. But some at City Hall may not agree on the solutions to downtown's economic woes.

    "In conversation with the mayor's office, I think we all are very interested in revitalizing the downtown core," Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda told KUOW. "It's been a focus of this administration and the council has been very supportive."

    The approach to helping downtown is where some at City Hall may differ from business advocates. Mosqueda is the council's budget chair. While she is supportive of revitalizing downtown, she does not support the request for a tax holiday. Instead, she argues that the revenue from business taxes gets directed at public services, which in turn, supports the private market and helps local businesses weather economic downturns.

    "I think it's shortsighted and it's contradictory to what good economic policy tells us, that data supports, and the economic proof has shown us," Mosqueda said. "When we have revenue that supports keeping people employed, when we prevent layoffs in the public sector — which both the B&O tax and JumpStart have done — it actually buoys our local economy and it supports the private market as well."

    In a statement this week, Downtown Seattle Association CEO Jon Scholes differed from perspectives like Mosqueda's, arguing that, "The ability to fund basic services and priorities across the city will only become more challenging if downtown’s revitalization is impaired."

    Mayor Bruce Harrell has not yet provided specific details on his plans for downtown recovery. In a statement, a spokesperson for the mayor's office noted that Harrell's post-pandemic economic plan is expected next month. That plan should speak to many of the concerns being raised by downtown stakeholders.

    "Since day one of Mayor Harrell’s administration, we have been focused on supporting local businesses and job creation. Fluctuations of the post-pandemic economy are impacting employers across Seattle and the country, as well as the City’s ability to maintain and expand critical services. A focus of these programs are included in the mayor’s Downtown Activation Plan, which will be released in April, the result of extensive partnership with employers, residents, and other stakeholders. As we continue our work to revitalize downtown, hire more police officers, and deliver effective public safety, we will need to calibrate existing revenue sources with the cost of funding those efforts – and the overall price of other essential City services residents rely on, needed homelessness and affordable housing investments, and projected budget deficits in the coming years. We need transparency and dialogue to set priorities for both revenue and spending to weather these changes and best support all Seattle communities."

    Mayor Harrell delivered a similar message to the Downtown Seattle Association last week, when Scholes laid out four requests to heal downtown, including:

    • Make streets welcoming to all.
    • Bring employees back into offices.
    • Make it easy to open a business in downtown.
    • And "do no harm," which essentially meant "don't raise taxes."

    Seattle business taxes

    Continue reading »
  • This Seattle magazine is printing again: Today So Far

    KUOW Blog
    printing machine newspaper magazine generic
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    • The Stranger is back in print ... sort of.
    • Ciscoe Morris has some tips to kick off spring gardening.

    This post originally appeared in KUOW's Today So Far newsletter for March 21, 2023.

    The Stranger is back in print ... sort of.

    The Stranger ceased printing physical editions in March 2020, as pandemic shutdowns were kicking in. It's been published entirely online ever since. Until now. For the first time in nearly three years, The Stranger is printing a physical publication via its Art and Performance Spring 2023 magazine.

    Stranger arts editor Megan Seling tells Seattle Now that this edition is going to stir something within readers, something they forgot about.

    "Once people pick up a copy and remember what print media feels like, especially an alt-weekly or an arts, creative publication," Seling said. "People are going to want to go to a coffee shop, get a cup of coffee, whatever, and flip through The Stranger. I used to love doing that ... I think people are going to realize they missed that."

    It took a staff-wide effort to get the print edition out for the spring quarter. But don't expect regular editions of the alt-weekly to start showing up at your local coffee shops and bars. Seling tells Seattle Now that, "We're taking it publication-by-publication." In this case, a quarterly arts magazine. The regular weekly won't be back as in the Before Times. The magazine was an experiment to see if there was a desire in the city for a printed publication to come back.

    "This one did well enough to where we are planning to do one in the summer as well, so look for that, and also one in the fall. We are not going to be back in weekly print, or even bi-weekly print at this point, financially that's just not feasible. We don't have the staff to maintain that kind of workload either. But if people read it, if they like it, if word gets out that people want it to stay, that will be very helpful to us in knowing whether or not it's worth it to keep going."

    A lot of people wonder if magazines, like the one The Stranger is publishing now, can hold up in our modern media era. That's a lot of what Seling was speaking to while chatting with Seattle Now. Full disclosure: I published my own indie magazine project over the past year, so I have a bit of a personal angle into all this. I too have had to answer similar questions around the relevance of print media. Here's my answer.

    Media is changing, but it's not really all that different. The same demand is still there. It's a matter of whether legacy media is providing content the way audiences have evolved. The demand for radio shows is still there, we just call it "podcasts." The demand for newspapers is still there, audiences just moved online. Just as the above-mentioned forms of media have learned, modern audiences are more engaged when you target a specific niche. Podcasts are not like radio shows that cast a wide advertising net to pull in as many people as possible. They likely focus on a core interest group (politics, drones, 1970s Ford vehicles, comic book collectors). Niches may be smaller, but audiences are often more engaged. Magazines can be similar in this regard. People still like magazines (folks are also still buying physical books after all), but it's not like the '90s when you could print massive numbers for wide, generic audiences.

    In the case of The Stranger's recent Arts and Performance edition, my Dyer prediction is that it will be successful. It's a niche publication for a targeted audience. That's my reasoning. You may think differently. Feel free to email me at And check out Seling's full conversation on Seattle Now here.

    Now is the time to start gardening, according to local gardening expert Ciscoe Morris.

    Continue reading »
  • Why Seattle traffic is lighter on Fridays: Today So Far

    KUOW Blog
    Seattle commute commuters traffic cars driver generic
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    • Traffic seems to be a lot better around Seattle on Fridays. Mondays too. There's a reason for that.
    • King County Executive Dow Constantine is not going to run for Washington state governor.
    • The train that derailed near Anacortes may have gone off the tracks because it was supposed to, according to one tribal leader.
    • What is the best thing to do with more daylight?

    This post originally appeared in KUOW's Today So Far newsletter for March 20, 2023.

    My wife Nina made an observation after many, many commutes into Seattle — traffic on Fridays is great. I have since made the same observation on my trips into the office. There seem to be far fewer cars on the road on Fridays. Our assumption has been that, with the option of hybrid and remote work, more folks are opting to work from home on the last day of the week.

    It seems our assumption may be correct. Commute Seattle recently released the results of its annual commuter survey, offering some insights into our region's travel habits. One observation is that workers are more often coming into the office on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, and sticking around home on Mondays and Fridays.

    Some other quick takeaways:

    • Remote work is still dominating Seattle with about 46% of workers engaging in hybrid or remote work. This is keeping many cars off the road. Remote work is more popular among higher-earning employees.
    • While work commutes have declined amid remote work, that doesn't mean traffic has gotten any better during certain times. People are still getting into their cars, only now, it's for non-work errands, such as the grocery store, school pickups, or the doctor's office.
    • Public transit has not entirely recovered from pandemic slowdowns. It's about half of what it was in 2019.

    Commute Seattle's survey reflects habits from late 2022, but there is reason to believe that there could be a shift in habits in the months ahead. There is a chorus of downtown voices urging the city and local employers to get workers back into offices. In other words, "Go back to the way things were before." Downtown Seattle is still suffering from the pandemic hit and many long for pre-pandemic life — commute into Seattle, and leave some money behind.

    Many in the business community have already discovered that remote workers can be more productive than in-office employees. On top of that, there is evidence that employees will take lower pay in exchange for remote-work jobs. There are also cities throughout the USA actually paying remote workers to relocate there. My amateur expectation would be that these business and cities will reap future economic benefits, over businesses and cities who want to pick up the basket that previously held all their eggs, and start filling it back up the exact same way they had it in 2019.

    In the more immediate future, it seems that some major Seattle companies will get a portion of their employees back into the city more often. Starbucks and Amazon have both started new policies to get employees back in the office three days a week.

    King County Executive Dow Constantine is not going to run for Washington state governor. At least, not for the next election. Constantine's name has been thrown around as one potential Democrat who could compete for the job, should Gov. Inslee opt not to run again. But in a recent letter to supporters, Constantine says that is not going to happen. Instead, he says that the county has a lot of goals and challenges that need to be addressed, and he is too busy working on them. Read more here.

    The train that derailed near Anacortes may have gone off the tracks because it was supposed to. That's according to one account from Samish Indian Nation chair Tom Wooten. KUOW hasn't been able to confirm with BNSF, state or federal agencies about how the train derailed, exactly, but Wooten says he already got a briefing on the incident from officials at the scene. He reports that the train tracks are designed to intentionally push a train off the tracks when a bridge ahead is not in service. In this case, there is a rotating bridge over the Swinomish Channel. It is often in the open position to allow for boat traffic to pass. It was likely open when the train approached last week, which meant a derailer device was activated.

    “It did what it was supposed to and spilled the train off the tracks so it wouldn't continue on into the Swinomish Slough, into the water, which wouldn't have been good at all," Wooten told KUOW.

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  • Amazon is cutting another 9,000 jobs as tech industry keeps shrinking

    KUOW Blog
    caption: Amazon CEO Andy Jassy said the company is slashing 9,000 more jobs, bringing the total cuts since Nov. 2021 to 27,000.
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    Amazon CEO Andy Jassy said the company is slashing 9,000 more jobs, bringing the total cuts since Nov. 2021 to 27,000.
    Credit: AP

    Amazon is cutting another 9,000 workers, adding to the massive downsizing happening across an embattled tech sector that is uncertain about the economic future.

    The layoffs will happen "in the next few weeks," according to CEO Andy Jassy, who announced the cuts in a memo shared with staff and uploaded in a blog post on Monday.

    "This was a difficult decision, but one that we think is best for the company long term," Jassy wrote in the memo. He said the layoffs will mostly hit employees in its cloud platform, people's experience department that works with employees, advertising, and the Twitch video service.

    Earlier this year, Jassy announced the company would lay off 18,000 workers, a deeper cut than it had planned last November, when it announced it would slash 10,000 jobs.

    The company has also paused construction on its headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, a space that was expected to bring more than 25,000 jobs to the region.

    Like other Big Tech companies, Amazon's workforce ballooned during the pandemic, reaching a peak of 1.6 million employees in 2021.

    The rapid hiring "made sense given what was happening in our businesses and the economy as a whole," said Jassy on Monday. "However, given the uncertain economy in which we reside, and the uncertainty that exists in the near future, we have chosen to be more streamlined in our costs and headcount."

    Jassy said the company aims to make final decisions on impacted roles by "mid to late April." [Copyright 2023 NPR]

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