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Watch out while driving this stretch south of Seattle: Today So Far

  • While Seattle has millions to make structural updates to Highway 99, and make it safer, nearby communities can only afford to pay for two weeks of increased police patrols.
  • Seattle's payroll tax on big businesses is up for debate in the courts.
  • More allegations about Washington State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler have emerged, accusing him of making transphobic and racist comments.

This post originally appeared in KUOW's Today So Far newsletter for April 18, 2022.

The city of Seattle got $50 million from the state to improve Highway 99 and make it safer for pedestrians and cyclists, etc., such as the speedy stretches of Aurora Avenue that could use more visible crosswalks and other structural fixes. But conflicts between cars and non-motorists still exist beyond the boundaries of Seattle. So the state gave communities south of the city ... $120,000.

While that money sounds like a lottery winner to me, it is basically only enough to pay for a few more cops to patrol the highway. And that's exactly the plan, at least, temporarily. The money will cover two weeks for police to patrol the area with an emphasis on educating unsafe drivers. It is hoped that their visible presence will prompt drivers to slow down and pay more attention to others on, and around, the road.

If that doesn't sound like the greatest of plans, well, you're not alone. Sara Wood with the Kent Police Department tells KUOW that "we can’t enforce our way out of this .... It may change a behavior of some drivers that see the officers out there for a temporary time, but not forever.”

The five police departments along Highway 99 south of Seattle are basically working with what they've got for the time being. Read more here.

The city of Seattle generally has one plan for passing taxes — pass a tax and see if it sticks. Because new taxes almost always get challenged in court, and they either get knocked down or modified to be more legal. But one of Seattle's recently passed payroll taxes seems to have a chance of surviving despite legal challenges brought forth by the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. The general vibe in a recent appeals court hearing was that at least one judge was not buying arguments brought forth by Chamber lawyers.

“This is about employee compensation, no matter how you look at it,” the Chamber’s attorney James Williams said.

“It’s not a tax on employees, and that’s a fundamental difference," Judge James Mann countered.

That's a key point to understand. According to Seattle's approach, the tax cannot be passed down for the employee's wages to cover. That is an attempt to skirt around the state's income tax laws. The tax is targeted at large businesses earning more than $7 million annually, and on employees after they earn $150,000. The funds are largely dedicated to pay for affordable housing. If the Chamber doesn't succeed this time, it will have the option to send this further up to the state's Supreme Court. Read the full story here.

You may recall Austin Jenkins' reporting on Washington State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler in March, which covered allegations that Kreidler mistreated staff. Now, more information has come to light, bringing more damning allegations against the insurance commissioner.

Jenkins' latest story (produced with help from The Seattle Times) reveals six former or potential employees who alleged Kreidler used derogatory terms while focusing on transgender people and race, specifically people of Chinese, Italian, Mexican, and Spanish descent. To put it in my non-journalistic speak: He's accused of saying to pretty transphobic and racist stuff. The kind of stuff that is covered in those cheesy corporate sensitivity videos that new hires often have to watch.

Kreidler told Northwest News Network that he is often curious about people’s histories, and conceded to “every once in a while” using outdated or derogatory language. However, that response doesn't seem to cover all the accounts from people speaking up. Read the full story here.

AS SEEN ON KUOW

caption: Seattle Police officers watch the removal of a homeless tent encampment in Crown Hill on Thursday, April 14, 2022.
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Seattle Police officers watch the removal of a homeless tent encampment in Crown Hill on Thursday, April 14, 2022.
Credit: KUOW Photo/ Casey Martin

Seattle Police officers watch the removal of a homeless tent encampment in Crown Hill on Thursday, April 14, 2022. Tent encampment sweeps have picked up around the city heading into summer, despite insufficient housing or shelters available. (Casey Martin / KUOW)

DID YOU KNOW

In Washington state, Highway 99 is nicknamed the "Pacific Highway." In 2016, Washington's lawmakers voted to officially name it the William P. Stewart Memorial Highway, named after a Black Civil War veteran and settler in Snohomish County in 1899. He was also an active member of the Grand Army of the Republic, which was a fraternal organization of Union military members.

But before Stewart's name was officially assigned to the highway, parts of SR 99 in Washington were unofficially named after Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy. This is because Washington once had a pretty active arm of the Daughters of the Confederacy who erected monuments and other public markers around here. There was an attempt to officially name SR 99 after Davis in 1939, but that failed. Instead, various unofficial markers were placed near the highway from Vancouver to Blaine, referring to it in Davis' name. An effort to remove those markers began a few decades ago. But the stain remained on the road, which prompted lawmakers to highlight a new name, after a more inspiring figure.

ALSO ON OUR MINDS

caption: Firefighters work to extinguish fire at an apartments building after a Russian attack in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Sunday, April 17, 2022.
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Firefighters work to extinguish fire at an apartments building after a Russian attack in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Sunday, April 17, 2022.
Credit: Andrew Marienko / Associated Press

Missile strikes in western Ukraine kill 6 as country braces for new assault in east

Multiple explosions apparently caused by missiles struck the western Ukrainian city of Lviv early Monday as the country was bracing for an all-out Russian assault in the east. At least six people were killed in the city, which has been spared much of the worst violence in almost two months of war.

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