Nepotism: Bringing the Family to Work

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Courtesy of Mpls55408

Can the parks director hire his brother as a lifeguard at the municipal pool? Is it all right for the county treasurer to hire her spouse as an administrative assistant?  The answer to each of these questions requires a review of the practice of nepotism, as well as conflict of interest law. Continue reading

Posted in Legal, Personnel | Leave a comment

A Surge in Oil and Coal Transportation in the Northwest Raises Environmental Concerns

Oil Train Wisconsin

Pipeline on rails with oil from North Dakota. Courtesy of Roy Luck.

The development of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” has led to a surge in oil production in the U.S. Because the expansion of oil production has outpaced the expansion of the nation’s pipeline system, much of the new oil is moved by train. According to a recent Seattle magazine article, railroads in the U.S. transported more crude oil in 2013 than in the past 30 years combined. This is reflected in our region by greatly increased rail traffic as oil from the Bakken oilfields in North Dakota and Montana is transported to terminals in the Northwest for export to China.

Northwest communities have already seen a major increase in rail traffic carrying coal from Idaho and Montana for export, and the oil trains just heighten the public concern about the environmental and public health impacts associated with the transportation of these potentially hazardous commodities. The coal transportation issue has been on the radar in Washington communities for a while now (see my December 2012 blog post, Coal Train Crossings – Considering Facilities with Regional Impacts).

So what role do local governments play in addressing the impacts of this increased rail transportation and responding to public pressure? Continue reading

Posted in Energy and Environment, Transportation and Infrastructure | Leave a comment

Second Superior Court Ruling Upholds City Pot Ban, and Other Pot News

Marijuana plant courtesy of  Rusty Blazenhoff

Marijuana plant courtesy of Rusty Blazenhoff

A Chelan County Superior Court judge issued a ruling last week that upheld the City of Wenatchee’s moratorium on the issuance of permits for the production and sale of marijuana and its business licensing provision, as applied to marijuana businesses, that licenses may not be issued for activities that are unlawful under federal law. Continue reading

Posted in Land Use and Zoning, Legal, Recreational/Medical Marijuana | Leave a comment

Top Picks from MRSC News and Blog Posts

Red round 3D pin with "top picks" isolatedEach week I  scan the Web for interesting and useful news, blog posts, articles, and reports from a variety of local government related sources and post them to the “In Focus” section of MRSC’s homepage. Here are the top picks from my most recent “In Focus” scans: Continue reading

Posted in Best Practices, Finance, Governance, Management, Planning, Public Safety | 2 Comments

Pipeline Safety Reminder

Courtesy of Consumers Energy.

Courtesy of Consumers Energy.

Twenty-eight of Washington’s 39 counties have large-diameter transmission pipelines within their jurisdiction. Over 110 cities and towns in Washington have major transmission pipelines either within their jurisdiction or within one mile of their boundaries. See our webpage on Washington Counties, Cities and Towns with Interstate Pipelines. These major pipelines are transporting either natural gas or hazardous liquids (such as crude oil, gasoline, or jet fuel) at high pressure. This post is intended as a reminder about safety issues involved with these pipelines. Continue reading

Posted in Best Practices, Energy and Environment, Legal, Planning, Public Safety | 1 Comment

Emerging Issue: Police Body Cameras in Washington State

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Police body cameras have surged in popularity. Photo courtesy of West Midlands Police.

The recent fatal shooting of the unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, has greatly accelerated an already growing interest in the use of police body-worn cameras across the country and in several Washington communities.

These officer-activated cameras, which are small enough to clip to the officer’s uniform or sunglasses, can record audio and video of police interactions with the public, providing a record of events that goes well beyond the limited view provided by the more familiar dash-mounted vehicle cameras. But what are the benefits, and what have police departments done in Washington?

Continue reading

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After 41 Years, Senior Research Consultant Lynne De Merritt Is Retiring

LynneExecutive Director’s note: This month marks the retirement of Lynne De Merritt, Senior Research Consultant at MRSC. Lynne is the quintessential researcher – she’s tracked down the answers to the most mind-bending and complicated questions ever posed by local governments. We will sorely miss her tenacity, her outstanding work, her enduring dedication to MRSC, and her inimitable style. The following are her reflections on a remarkable career. – Tracy Burrows

Forty-one years, four months, and 15 days – where did the time go? I first arrived at MRSC in June 1973, four years after it succeeded the University of Washington Bureau of Governmental Research. Armed with master’s degrees in political science and library science, it was my job to reorganize the library, develop the collection, and provide reference services. Continue reading

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