As Chuck Parrish Sees It

Talking about politics, government and the Tukwila community.

Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and Part-Time Work

April 14th, 2014 at 1:44 pm by chuckparrish
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Today I visited a national chain to pick up some office supplies. I chatted with the supervisor and, somehow, we started talking about what he called “LCM” or low cost model. He said that most national retail chains are doing it. It seems that they are reducing employee hours to 30 hrs in order to avoid having to provide healthcare insurance. He said that the consequence is that they have been losing their better employees who need full time work.

I am a supporter of the Affordable Healthcare law. I had heard that the LCM was a possibility but had hoped that major companies would not do this. I guess that one can understand the economics of it. If competitors do it, then you have to do it so that costs remain competitive. I hope that the regulations can be tweaked in such a manner that there is no economic incentive to reducing employee hours.

I am very enthusiastic about the number of healthcare sign-ups, the number of low income individuals that have become eligible for Medicaid, the elimination of the pre-existing condition eligibility concern and the elimination of lifetime caps. The phase-out out of the donut hole in medication coverage is a very positive development too.

I expect that things will get better and better over time.

Say Hello to Saar’s Super Saver Foods

November 28th, 2013 at 11:34 am by chuckparrish
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Recently I met with the store director (manager) Patrick Senn. Pat has been with the Saar organization 19 years. The owner is Greg Saar. The phone number is 206-737-9540. The grand opening is next Wednesday, December 4. More events are scheduled for the following Saturday. They will have prize wheels, etc. I am interested in hearing about the lease arrangement. Long term, month to month, all or just part of the total square footage of the facility. Hopefully more on that at a later date.

Patrick said that Saar stores do not take a cookie cutter approach but, instead, adapt to the communities they serve. They specialize in the international market as well as the traditional market. You will find very familiar brands common to most grocery stores. Most products are purchased through wholesale Unified Grocers in Tukwila. One of the most common brand names from the Unified product line is Western Family. You will see Western Family throughout the store. Saars also purchases from wholesale importers that specialize in Asian and other markets.

Patrick said that he would be happy to work with Tukwila Pantry. This is a big positive in my book. Pantry representatives will be contacting him soon.

I am not the shopper in the family. I don’t have a feel for price points. However, the inventory looks very diverse and should serve most customers whatever their preferences. Checkout the photos at Tukwila Talk.

Vegetables and fruits – huge inventory of the vegetables that we would expect to see at any grocery store and some that one might not expect.

Sodas, candies, chips, beers, wines, alcohols, milk, half and half, cheeses, deli items, soaps, pet foods, canned goods, salsas, laundry detergents, baby and other paper products – all familiar brands that you will find at any other store.

Frozen goods – familiar brands for the most part. Pizza, ice creams, frozen entrees…

Many of the pastas, sauces, drinks, and packaged carbohydrates are unfamiliar to me. I imagine that these products make many of our friends and neighbors in Tukwila feel happy and supported. I am all for that.

The meat and seafood sections are fascinating. There are products with which I am totally unfamiliar and have to no desire to try. However, the typical steaks, chops, hot dogs and others too many to name are there. Something for everyone.

You will see large bags of rice, flour and laundry detergent. Evidently this is a popular way to purchase these items for some families.

It is a bit unusual to see items under lock and key. It appears to be mostly cosmetic and medicinal products.

We did not shop at Tukwila Trading Company. Anecdotally, I know that we were not alone in choosing Safeway in Sea Tac or Fred Meyer in Burien. I think Tukwila residents should give it a try. Make your next shopping trip to Saars. It will take a little longer because the layout will be different. Who knows? One might want to get adventurous and experiment which some unfamiliar products. Say hello to Patrick.

Say What? How Federal Lawmakers Voted on Natural Gas Pipeline Permits and Fracking

November 25th, 2013 at 7:07 am by chuckparrish
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The Sunday Seattle Times has a feature entitled “How Your US Lawmaker Voted”. It highlights certain votes in which citizens may have particular interest.

Natural Gas Pipeline Permits – HR 1900. This Republican bill was passed in the House and is now before the Senate. This bill requires the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and other agencies to approve or deny applications within one year or face legal consequences. The Bureau of Land Management and Corps of Engineers would have ninety days to complete environmental reviews.
Voting yes: Doc Hastings, R; Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R; Dave Reichert, R
Voting no: Suzan Del-Bene, D; Ric Larson, D; Derek Kilmer, D; Jim McDermott, D; Adam Smith, D

Now consider that Democrats offered an amendment to this bill that was voted down by Republicans.
This amendment delayed implementation of the above HR 1900 until FERC certifies that the bill will not result in the construction of unsafe pipelines or (very importantly) deny communities a voice in determining the location of pipelines within their boundaries.
Voting no: Doc Hastings, R; Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R; Dave Reichert, R
Voting yes: Suzan Del-Bene, D; Ric Larson, D; Derek Kilmer, D; Jim McDermott, D; Adam Smith, D

Let’s see: Republicans want to fast track applications for the pipelines without considering whether or not FERC thinks that it compromises public safety and community input. Does this make sense to you?

Regulation of Hydraulic Fracturing HB 2728:
This Republican bill was passed in the House and is now before the Senate. This bill prohibits federal regulation of fracking on federal and tribal lands; instead, that regulation authority is given to the states. This process includes injecting chemical fluids deep into the earth. Anyone concerned about drinking water?
Current law includes this from the EPA website:
“While the Safe Water Drinking Act” (SDWA) specifically excludes hydraulic fracturing from UIC regulation under SDWA § 1421 (d)(1), the use of diesel fuel during hydraulic fracturing is still regulated by the UIC program. Any service company that performs hydraulic fracturing using diesel fuel must receive prior authorization through the applicable UIC program. For more information on how the UIC regulations apply to hydraulic fracturing using diesel fuels please see EPA’s Guidance issued for public comment. The UIC regulations can be found in Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations Parts 144-148.
State oil and gas agencies may have additional regulations for hydraulic fracturing. In addition, states or EPA have authority under the Clean Water Act to regulate discharge of produced waters from hydraulic fracturing operations. “
Same vote as last time: Voting yes: Doc Hastings, R; Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R; Dave Reichert, RVoting no: Suzan Del-Bene, D; Ric Larson, D; Derek Kilmer, D; Jim McDermott, D; Adam Smith, D

On the same HB 2728, the Republicans defeated a motion by the Democrats to require public disclosures about fracking operations including listing the chemicals being used in the process, disposal of chemicals returning to the surface and other details.

Anyone see a problem with this?

Marijuana: Des Moines City Council Respects the Will of the People

November 23rd, 2013 at 3:35 pm by chuckparrish
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The Nov 22 issue of the Westside Weekly includes a piece by Shakira Ericksen that reports on the new marijuana rules for Des Moines.  What caught my attention was that Des Moines Mayor Dave Kaplan was quoted:
“The voters have spoken, the State has set the regulations, and what we want to do is to make sure that we’re minimizing the impact on the surrounding communities. We obviously didn’t want it in the residential neighborhoods” said Mayor Dave Kaplan. “We are doing our best to comply with the will of the voters as well as public safety.”

A quick review of their packet on the allowed locations revealed that Des Moines policy is much more in line with the initiative and the vote of the people than the Tukwila ordinance.  When I spoke before the Tukwila council, I made this very point that Mayor Dave Kaplan of Des Moines spoke about. The people of Tukwila have spoken. While I agree with the desire to keep producers, processors and retailers out of residential neighborhoods, there is no evidence that our voters wanted the council to go much beyond what the initiative and the state law indicates. Council member Ekberg seemed to understand this point. The other council members did not really take it to heart. The council voted for a very restrictive ordinance understanding that state rules will change. They know that they will have to revisit the ordinance and open up other areas for the production, processing and retailing of marijuana.

When the time comes to reconsider the existing ordinance,  I say to the council once again: The people have spoken on this issue. Do not allow your own preferences or beliefs to supercede that of those who elected you.

Board of Architectural Review Regarding Tukwila Village and Library, Nov 14, 2013

November 16th, 2013 at 8:18 am by chuckparrish
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This past Thursday night, Marie and I attended the Board of Architectural Review or BAR in the city council chambers. Tom McLeod chaired the meeting which consumed almost  4 1/2 hours. Tukwila Village plans were on the agenda as well as the KCLS Tukwila library to be built at the same location.

The library project is extraordinarly exciting in design and very much reflective of community input.  In my eyes, it may be an award winning design for a small library of 10,000 square feet. The one issue that really required some discussion was over the fact that staff recommended that the building permit be subject to agreement on a process to determine what the art project will be. This art piece will be at the very southwest corner of the parcel or, put another way, the northeast corner of S 144th St and TIB.  The KCLS resisted this recommendation because they have a very robust process of their own which has been very successful in their libraries. Their process already includes input from local players.  The BAR wisely decided not to condition the permit on the agreement to a process. In other words, they accepted the KCLS process as sufficient. I agree with their decision. So the library project will move along.

The Tukwila Village project was fascinating and took up the bulk of the evening. Many, many details are discussed in these kinds of applications. Most are not of particular interest to the average citizen who place their trust in elected or appointed officials to review the plans. Things like signage, location of garbage bins and covering, landscaping and vegetation, ingress and egress, modulation, lighting during the evening, security, public bathrooms, parking, on and on. However, there were a substantial number of details to deliberate over and time was running short. The BAR decided to reconvene in the very near future for the deliberations and a decision.

These kinds of decisions are not advisory to the council. They are actual decisions and considered quasi-judicial. They are important.  I think that staff did a great job of presentation and the BAR commissioners did a really good job of asking questions and thinking out loud.

For Your Consideration in the Nov 2013 General Election

October 24th, 2013 at 10:55 am by chuckparrish
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Initiative Measure No. 517 – no
Initiative Measure No. 522 – yes

Advisory Vote No. 3, Substitute Senate Bill 5444 – Maintained
Advisory Vote No. 4, Senate Bill 5627 – Maintained
Advisory Vote No. 5, Engrossed Substitute House Bill 1846 – Maintained
Advisory Vote No. 6, Second Engrossed Second Substitute House Bill 1971 – Maintained
Advisory Vote No. 7, Engrossed House Bill 2075 – Maintained

King County Charter Amendment No. 1 County Department of Public Defense – yes
King County Proposition No. 1, Medic One – Emergency Medical Services Renewal of Existing Levy – Approved
Executive – Dow Constantine

Port of Seattle Commissioner Position No. 1 – John Creighton
Port of Seattle Commissioner Position No. 2 – Courtney Gregoire
Port of Seattle Commissioner Position No. 3 – Michael Wolfe
Port of Seattle Commissioner Position No. 4 – Tom Albro

Tukwila School District No. 406 Director District No. 1 – Mary Fertakis
Tukwila School District No. 406 Director District No. 3 – Alicia Waterton

Did You Notice?

October 15th, 2013 at 3:25 pm by chuckparrish
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Did you notice? According to October 15 Seattle Times, about 25,000 Washington residents have enrolled in healthcare plans. They did this in the first two weeks of the state online insurance exchange. Another 37,000 have completed applications with first payment due in December. Coverage starts around the nation in January, 2014.  Some applying for Medicaid will be eligible sooner.

So far then, about 62,000 Washington residents do not believe that the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) is socialism, tyranny, a  government takeover, or the end of liberty and the beginning of tyranny.

School Board: I Have Changed My Mind

October 10th, 2013 at 4:51 pm by chuckparrish
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I have changed my mind. I will vote for Mary Fertakis and Alicia Waterton as school board directors. Why the change? It is important that the school board reflects the diversity of our community and students. Currently, we have an all white school board. Not optimal.

This year we have moved a step forward towards that goal by having persons of color run as candidates. It is a good start. I admire anyone who subjects themselves to the scrutiny that the election process requires.

A challenger has to campaign vigorously to win. It is the nature of the process. Incumbents have the advantage. Campaign signs, mailers, support teams making phone calls, walking lists, pounding on doors, facebook / web pages, communication channels with immediate followup habits. Most of these things are required in successful small off-year or down-ballot election campaigns. Consistent presence at school board meetings during a campaign reflects the seriousness of purpose and the desire to be prepared when assuming office. The challengers have simply neglected to do what is necessary.

Both challengers are good people with positive intent. If the voters should turn them away this time, I hope that they will quickly begin their next campaign by showing up and discovering what needs to be learned.

Mary Fertakis has run an excellent campaign and deserves one more term. Assuming that Mary is successful, I hope that she will consider the anger and the resentment expressed last year in the push for her resignation. What can be learned from that?

The school board would do a service to the community by considering how a path to leadership (as a friend mentioned to me) could be designed to support people considering public service as a board member. For that matter, the city council might consider the same thing. Four council races this year…no challengers. Really? REALLY?

Open Enrollment for the Affordable Care Act Starts Oct 1, 2013

September 25th, 2013 at 5:15 pm by chuckparrish
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The other day, I watched a television interview of Pres Obama by President Clinton. This took place just a day or two ago as part of the Clinton Global Initiative. The focus was on the ACA (affordable care act). Here are some of my notes:

For the last three years, health care premiums have been increasing at 4% a year. This is the first time in 50 years that this has happened. Prior to this, premium increases have been averaging three times the rate of inflation.

What is in place now?

Patient’s Bill of Rights – You get a fair deal. Prohibited lifetime limits. Must apply at least 80% of premiums to health care costs. If they do not, the difference must be refunded to the consumer. Many have already received rebates. Any young person can stay on their parent’s insurance until 26 years old. This is really great right now when good jobs are tough to get and often do not have health care benefits. Additional discounts on medications for seniors have resulted on great savings. Remember the Medicare Part D donut hole?

Open enrollment starts Oct 1, 2013 and lasts six months. The actual policies begin in 2014. Health care exchanges are created and customers will be able to purchase from a variety of plans depending on their needs. Right now the pricing varies greatly from state to state. Insurers put in their bids. In New York state, the premiums are up to fifty per cent less than existing policies. In California, about 33% lower. Illinois, about 25% lower. On top of that, if you cannot afford it, tax credits are available. These new policies are required to include free preventive care and free contraceptive care.

When this effort was started, 80% of the states had one company which handled 80% of the their health care business and had no real price competition. Now, if evey one does not participate, we get what is called “adverse selection”. If the risks are not spread broadly enough across the population, then premiums go up. Only sick people are participating. This is why big companies get better rates than small companies.

Currently, the average family pays about $1000 extra in premiums to cover the costs of the uninsured.

Hospitals are required to provide service and they charge higher prices to the insured to cover the costs of the uninsured. Part of what will help reduce that increase in health care costs is making sure that the hidden subsidy no longer exists.

Businesses that have fifty or more employees are required to provide health insurance for employees that work 30 hours and more. Up to 35% subsidies in the form of tax credits will be available to these businesses. It has been suggested that employers would start hiring more part time employees…less than 30 hours a week. So far, that has not happened. The majority of hiring that has been going on has been, although at lower wages, full time. Employers who do not provide the required health care will have to pay a penalty because otherwise taxpayers are having to bear the costs of healthcare for the company employees.

The individual mandate is required for this reason. Suppose you don’t think that you need health care insurance. Then you get hit by a bus or a family member that you did not cover becomes ill. What happens? Taxpayers will have to pick up the costs and that is not fair. We cannot say, as a society, that an individual has no responsibility whatsoever but has guaranteed health care coverage. Everyone needs healthcare insurance. Starting in 2014, the new policies can no longer disqualify a client because of preexisting conditions. This is a big deal! The only way it works is if everyone is insured.

Note: According the the CBO (Congressional Budget Office), the ACA will reduce deficit by $210 billion in this decade and more than $1 trillion over the following 10 years.

The bottom line is….do we want to continue to live a society with the most inefficient healthcare system leaving millions exposed to the possibility of losing everything because they get sick; where families have to go to the emergency room for conditions that could be handled much less expensively through prevention and routine care; where the cost to businesses in the form of reduced productivity is high…is this what we aspire to?

Those who oppose this system would perpetuate the status quo and actually increase the deficit.

There will have to be adjustments along the way. No doubt about it. That is how programs get better.

Healthcare.gov – Check it out. You can sign up for email updates.

 

Tukwila and Marijuana Uses – Production, Processing, and Retailing

September 2nd, 2013 at 10:36 pm by chuckparrish
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These are my comments presented to the city council on August 26, 2013, Committee of the Whole.  The audio is available and the video will be available shortly.  Below my comments are some additional thoughts.
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From Chuck Parrish
August 26, 2013
Re: public hearing on marijuana uses in Tukwila

The frame for my comments is that: 1) the voters of Tukwila have already decided what is acceptable to them and 2) When thinking about the marijuana issue, we should remind ourselves of the manner in which we deal with alcohol.

I want to congratulate staff for doing a very good job of detailing the background of the issue in the informational memo.  I agree with the recommendation to regulate. I do not agree with the recommendation to restrict the zoning for marijuana uses to the TVS and HI areas south of 180th St.  It is too restrictive.

As pointed out in the memo, statewide the support for I-502 was just over 55 per cent and, in Tukwila, even greater at just over 57 per cent with 17 of 18 precincts voting in favor and the last precinct against only by a margin of three votes. This means that the voters were comfortable with the 1000 foot buffers around various facilities. There is no evidence that Tukwila voters wanted a more restrictive environment than indicated in the initiative. In other words, the zones in  option 1 are fine for marijuana uses.  However, in order to respect the property concerns of  the minority, I do support excluding residential zones for marijuana uses. Adjacent zones are fine.

There is no evidence that security concerns cannot be addressed in other locations in the city. There is no evidence that there will be an odor problem at all or if there were, that it could not be addressed in other locations in the city. After all, it  is in the best interest of the business owners and the commercial property owners to deal with such concerns.

In the north end, I think that the Tukwila comprehensive plan and the Countywide Planning Policies can be addressed. I note that neither were cited or included as attachments.

The fact that the proposal has been vetted by the city attorney and the police department simply means that it would be legal to do what is proposed. Not that it is the best option for Tukwila residents and businesses.

As to unintended consequences, consider that the majority, if not all, of the property in the recommended area is owned by one party. This puts the future business owners in an untenable position. They cannot negotiate price because it is the only game in town and, if the property owner decided that he did not want to allow the marijuana uses, then they have no where to go in Tukwila at that time.

So, I recommend that you support local regulation but have it reflect, as much as possible, the will of the people in the vote on I 502.

Chuck Parrish
Tukwila, Wa
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After listening to the council discussion and then reviewing again later, it is evident that the council will restrict marijuana uses to the small area of Tukwila as proposed by staff. This area is  owned mostly by one corporation. Both Robertson and Ekberg expressed concern about that.  Hougardy said that she thought that the voters were thinking about the smoking of marijuana when they approved the initiative, not the production, processing or retailing. (This point of view bothers me a lot.) Quinn suggested that I had been emphasizing non-controversial aspects of the issue but did not elaborate on the controversial aspects to which he might have been referring. Kruller is relying on staff, the city attorney and the police department on this. I will touch on why that is a problem in a moment. Duffie said nothing of note. Ekberg appeared to be the most thoughtful. His comments reflected that he had read all of the material thoroughly and touched on several key points. I got the sense that he respects the “initiative process” and wanted to stay as close to the intent of the people as possible.

My conclusions about this particular deliberative process:  It is not a good idea to assume that the “people” do not really know what they were doing when they approve an initiative. The initiative has a very special role in our democracy. Unless there is something vague, ambiguous or confusing in an initiative, an elected representative should not second guess the citizens. While Hougardy said it out loud, the other council members did not really comment on the fact that the voters approved this initiative and what that should mean.

Sometimes it is obvious that a council member has not fully read or fully understands the reports in front of them. In such cases, a council member will over-rely on support staff and their recommendations. This is understandable because they are, in fact, professional support staff, very intelligent and informed. The problem is that it is not their job to determine public policy. It is to present the options as best they can.  If a policy maker defers then…why are you there?  In this case, our staff pointed out that the recommendation had been vetted by the city attorney and the police department. What does that mean? What was the thought process? Why were they not at the meeting to answer questions? Was that same process utilized to consider the other options and, if so, what were the conclusions? These are the kinds of questions that needed to be asked.

My conclusion is that the majority of the council is choosing to ignore the content of  initiatve 502 while recognizing that the law has now changed and to play it safe.  By starting small, the idea is that they can always expand the areas for marijuana uses (production, processing, retailing) if needed.  This does not reflect the will of the people as expressed in the initiative. It was not a particularly good deliberative process. However, it is not the end of world. It will be interesting to see how reasonable this one property owner will be.

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