Noah Centineo Wants You to Vote
A week before Election Day, the actor opened a pop-up in Los Angeles aimed at getting influencers and their audiences to vote.
Trump Wants to Pick Off Nevada. But Biden Is Holding a Lead, Our Poll Shows.
Joe Biden has a six-point advantage in the latest New York Times/Siena College poll of Nevada, where unemployment has soared amid the coronavirus pandemic.
A Week Before the Election, Time Is Running Out to Vote by Mail
Persistent delays and limited data have increased concerns that the Postal Service may be unable to reliably get ballots still outstanding delivered by Election Day.
Law enforcement unions push Washington ballot initiative to regulate protests, protect police jobs
Contending public officials in Seattle and elsewhere have failed to keep all citizens safe during ongoing racial injustice protests, a group of law enforcement unions announced Monday they’re pushing a statewide ballot initiative that would require Washington cities and counties to create and enforce detailed plans for regulating free-speech demonstrations.
Calling themselves Team Blue — Washington, the group — made up of executives from the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG), the King County Corrections Guild and the Washington Council of Police & Sheriffs (WACOPS) — said the proposed measure also permits citizens harmed by demonstrations to quickly seek damages from local governments that fail to enforce those plans.
“This will work to restore order to our communities and allow people to have a robust say as to how their communities function,” Ryan Lufkin, a former deputy district attorney in Multnomah County in Oregon and the group’s chair, said during a virtual news conference announcing the campaign on Monday.
SPOG President Mike Solan, one of the campaign’s vice chairs, added that because the initiative offers what he views as a “sensical approach” toward public safety, it also follows that its approval by voters would help indirectly to protect police jobs amid calls to defund the police.
“Clearly, police officers protect the public and this effort protects the public,” Solan said. “When you look at politicians trying to defund the police, where you remove officers from communities — particularly in Seattle, at a time when 911 response times are through the roof — having less officers on the street will cause only more problems.”
Response times, particularly at the East Precinct, rose during the height of the protests, but have since come back down, according to recent SPD data. The SPD’s target response time for the highest-priority calls is 7 minutes, and three of the five precincts meet that goal. Median response times for the two other precincts range between 7 and 9 minutes.
Representatives of Decriminalize Seattle and King County Equity Now — two local advocacy groups supporting police defunding efforts — did not immediately respond to requests for comment Monday, nor did a spokeswoman for the Seattle City Council.
In a statement late Monday, the ACLU of Washington said: “This unnecessary initiative duplicates existing permitting processes, exposes cities to lawsuits, and distracts the government and its agents from their number one priority, which should be protecting people’s constitutional rights — including the freedoms of speech and assembly.”
The campaign group has drafted what it calls the “Protect Free Speech and Safe Streets Act,” and the act is posted at teamblue-wa.com. It contends that the proposed measure protects First Amendment rights and peaceful protests, but will require each community to create a comprehensive plan that clearly lays out how demonstrations will be regulated.
Under the act, each jurisdiction would be free to adopt its own rules but must have a list of minimum standards. They include banning loud demonstrations after 10 p.m. in residential neighborhoods, or between midnight and 7 a.m. in any neighborhood; prohibiting possession of “riot agents,” such as fireworks, flammable explosives and laser pointers at gatherings that have been deemed unlawful; and outlawing street blockades, property destruction and the setting of fires.
Each community’s plan also must require officers to wear observable identification, describe what types of force and crowd-control devices they could use and provide details for when police could declare that an event was a riot or unlawful.
Already, Seattle and other communities have rules and laws that address most of the issues, Lufkin said. “The problem is, they haven’t been enforced in any meaningful way and certainly not consistently,” he said.
If a community fails to enforce its plan, the measure would allow a streamlined process for citizens or businesses that are harmed by a demonstration to sue for actual damages or a minimum of $1,000.
Beginning in late May, large-scale demonstrations against racial injustice and other causes erupted in cities nationwide in the wake of the death of George Floyd and other Black men and women.
Protests in Seattle have drawn national attention and become a political football reflecting the nation’s deep ideological chasm. Some demonstrations here have been marred by episodic vandalism, looting and property destruction, as well as heavy-handed police responses that have spurred multiple misconduct complaints, legal claims and lawsuits.
Seattle police largely abandoned the East Precinct on Capitol Hill in June while protesters occupied and declared a six-block autonomous zone. At least four shootings occurred before police reoccupied the precinct and the city disbanded the zone. Amid the protests, the City Council also adopted budget cuts to the police department and Chief Carmen Best suddenly retired.
Team Blue — Washington recently filed paperwork as an initiative campaign committee with the state’s Public Disclosure Commission, records show.
Joining the cause with Solan and Lufkin, whose Portland law firm, the Public Safety Labor Group, specializes in representing law enforcement labor unions, are WACOPS President Chris Tracy and King County Corrections Guild President Dennis Folk. Both are vice chairs of the group.
As of Oct. 19, the committee had reported contributions totaling $100, records show.
Lufkin said the group plans to collect and submit to the state the more than 250,000 signatures required by July to put the measure on the general election ballot next year. The group believes that task is attainable, he said, noting unions backing the effort collectively have more than 6,000 members. He also cited results from two recent polls suggesting public support for the cause.
A poll taken Sept. 8-14 by Seattle-based political consultants Strategies 360 found 50% of respondents view the recent demonstrations in downtown Seattle as “more violent than peaceful,” with 39% seeing them as more peaceful. A Crosscut-Elway poll taken Sept. 26-Oct. 1 also found that 87% of respondents who lived in Seattle or King County wanted at least the same amount, or more, of police presence in their neighborhoods.
Despite such viewpoints, a recent study by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project found that nationwide, more than 93% of all demonstrations connected to the Black Lives Matter movement have been peaceful. In many urban areas with sustained unrest, such as Seattle and Portland, violent or destructive demonstrations largely have been confined to specific blocks rather than dispersed throughout cities, the study also found.
Restoration work aims to improve salmon habitat in lower Columbia
The final piece of a three-part effort to improve salmon passage and habitat in the lower Columbia River is underway at Washington state’s Hungry Harbor not far from Astoria.
The project, led by the Columbia River Estuary Study Taskforce, will remove a failing culvert and reopen the habitat beyond to tidal influence and — importantly — salmon.
The project involves partnerships and cooperation between local, state and federal groups and took several years to launch. Funding for the estimated $1.4 million project is secured, but the work begins at a time when there is some uncertainty for how such projects will be funded in the future as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
The Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, funded in part by Oregon Lottery dollars, saw a significant hit to video lottery revenue after bars and restaurants closed or were forced to change operations due to the pandemic. The board is a major resource for grants for habitat restoration work of all kinds. In June, the board approved a $2.1 million grant to the North Coast Land Conservancy for the Rainforest Reserve project.
But with an anticipated decline in lottery revenue because of the coronavirus, the board proposed a 20% reduction for its 2021-2023 budget and has delayed acceptance of the next round of grant applications until the spring.
Some organizations could experience funding gaps as a result and the future of some work may be on shaky ground.
The dip in lottery money also impacts the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department which faces a $22 million budget deficit between now and next June. The deficit is tied in part to the decline in lottery funds, but also the revenue parks lost when they closed in early spring due to the pandemic. Many popular park sites on the coast did not reopen until June.
The department held off hiring some of the seasonal workers usually employed during the busy summer months and was forced to cut staff and programs. Some species monitoring and other work was left undone as remaining staff shouldered a wide range of duties when parks reopened.
All in all, Jason Smith, the habitat restoration project manager with the Columbia River Estuary Study Taskforce, is grateful the project at Hungry Harbor was already guaranteed.
“The outlook for projects in the next couple years is not looking good,” he said.
Money for the Hungry Harbor project came from a variety of sources, including state and federal grants. Donations and support also came from the upstream landowners and the timber company GreenWood Resources, which owns large acreages in Clatsop County.Shallow scoop
Washington’s Hungry Harbor, a shallow scoop along State Route 401, is best known now as the final resting place of the former U.S. Navy ship the USS Plainview, which rests — in plain view — on the mudflats.
In combination with other sites, including Fort Columbia and the Megler Creek area where the task force completed similar culvert replacement and habitat enhancement work, the Hungry Harbor area is an important spot for young ocean-bound salmon as well as a returning adults.
Research by state and federal agencies has shown that, on their journey down the Columbia River to the ocean, juvenile salmon cross the river when they reach Tongue Point in Astoria and head toward the Washington shoreline.
“Where they are greeted with around 8 miles of continuous highway,” Smith said.
Drivers can see hints of the habitat salmon would prefer to access on the north side of the Washington state highway: streams that cut down through the forested hillsides. But on the river side of the highway, there are narrow culverts, rock armoring placed by the road department years ago.
The estuary is an important place for salmon of all ages, providing forage and shelter. But this portion of the river is also where young salmon undergo key physical changes that prepare them for the years they will spend at sea. Their ability to access good habitat here can have a direct impact on their ability to survive in the much rougher environment of the Pacific Ocean, Smith said.
Work began on the roadway above the harbor on Oct. 19. Travelers will encounter lane closures in the area through mid-December as crews remove a failed culvert and replace it with a box culvert.
The old culvert at Hungry Harbor — crumpled, silted in and undersized for fish passage — created a barrier to fish and disrupted the natural flow of the tides to the habitat on the other side of the highway, affecting the distribution of sediment, nutrients and natural debris.
The much larger and wider box culvert will allow the unnamed creek that flows through the area to reestablish along historic lines. Though complicated to organize and design, this type of project is the cheapest and most effective option to reopen the habitat to salmon, Smith said.‘Muddy mess’
The task force completed similar restoration work near Fort Columbia State Park farther to the west in 2010 and at Megler Creek near the Dismal Nitch rest area in 2017, both on the same highway. At Fort Columbia, allowing natural systems to reassert themselves helped alleviate some flooding issues nearby residents had experienced for years.
The change on the land was dramatic. Pushed and pulled with the tides, a stream at Fort Columbia twisted and twined.
Crews will help some of these changes along at Hungry Harbor and plant native species that thrive in a mixed salt and freshwater environment. The site will look like a “muddy mess” for a bit, Smith said, but the simple reintroduction of tides and full stream flow will begin to have an impact almost immediately, reshaping the environment.
At the other restoration sites, salmon returned quickly — the icing on the cake for people who monitored the areas afterward. Also, Smith noted, an unimpeded creek and a more natural system will benefit other creatures in the estuary, both on the land and in the water.
Wind a risk as California fires keep tens of thousands away
LOS ANGELES — Crews tried to beat back two out-of-control wildfires in Southern California on Tuesday that have kept tens of thousands of people out of their homes even as another round of dangerous fire weather raises the risk for flames erupting across the state.
Fierce winds that drove twin fires through brushy hills near cities in Orange County a day earlier were expected to pick back up, although not to the earlier extremes, according to the National Weather Service.
Southern California Edison reported to regulators that it was investigating whether its equipment might have sparked the Silverado Fire near the city of Irvine. With utility equipment blamed for several destructive fires in recent years, Edison was among the utilities in California that deliberately cut power to customers to prevent equipment from being knocked down or hit with debris in the winds and sparking wildfires.
Irvine residents had to evacuate after a fire broke out early Monday, while later and a few miles away, another blaze, the Blue Ridge Fire, sent people fleeing from the Yorba Linda area. More than 90,000 people were under evacuation orders.
One home was damaged and crews protected hundreds more as winds pushed flames down ridges toward neighborhoods. There was little containment of the fires.
Forecasts call for Santa Ana winds to keep blowing over much of Southern California, with some of the strongest gusts howling through Orange County, where the major blazes are. The winds were expected to be lighter than a day earlier and die down by nighttime.
The gusts were so strong Monday that they toppled several semitrucks on highways and forced firefighters to ground their aircraft, though they got back up by late afternoon and were expected to fly Tuesday.
Two firefighters, one 26 and the other 31, were critically injured while battling the larger blaze near Irvine, according to the county’s Fire Authority, which didn’t provide details on how the injuries occurred. They each suffered second- and third-degree burns over large portions of their bodies and were getting help breathing at a hospital, officials said.
Omar Zaman smelled smoke as he left his Irvine home for work Monday. He spent the day at his office refreshing online news reports about the fire.
“I’m just like, freaking out as I’m reading all of this,” he said. Zaman obsessively checked security camera footage from his house, which is in the evacuation zone.
“When I initially looked at it, it was just filled with smoke. I couldn’t even see to the other side of the yard,” he said.
Southern California Edison cut power to about 38,000 homes and businesses, although it restored some power by Monday night.
In Northern California, easing winds allowed Pacific Gas & Electric to begin restoring power after the largest of five safety shutoffs this year.
At its peak, PG&E cut power to about 345,000 customers — an estimated 1 million people — in 34 counties. The nation’s largest utility said it has restored power to more than 156,000 customers. Electricity is expected to come back at the remaining homes and buildings by Tuesday night after crews do inspections to make repairs and ensure equipment is safe.
A dozen reports of damage had been received, PG&E said.
Nearly two dozen wildfires were reported in Northern California on Sunday night and Monday but all were rapidly contained without serious damage.
The threat, however, was far from over in many parts of PG&E’s vast service area. A red-flag warning of extreme fire danger was in place Tuesday in the Santa Cruz Mountains near the San Francisco Bay Area and some coastal and valley areas, with warnings extending into Tuesday evening for some higher elevations in the Bay Area.
“Bone-dry” humidity could dry out vegetation, which can contribute to “catastrophic” fires, PG&E meteorology chief Scott Strenfel said.
“The conditions are very, very unsafe,” said Mark Quinlan, the utility’s incident commander.
However, once the winds ease, the weather should remain calm through the weekend, Quinlan said.
Scientists have said climate change has made California much drier, meaning trees and other plants are more flammable. October and November are traditionally the worst months for fires, but already this year 8,600 wildfires in the state have scorched a record 6,400 square miles (16,600 square kilometers) and destroyed about 9,200 homes, businesses and other buildings. There have been 31 deaths.