EYES IN THE SKY (AND EVERYWHERE ELSE)
Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart is postponing a vote on an ordinance aimed at regulating drone use in the city while he makes changes called for by the ACLU of Washington and others.
Stuckart’s original proposal required council approval before city departments purchased new surveillance technologies, including drones, but didn’t mention leased equipment or regulate a handful of other technologies police are already using. The ACLU of Washington criticized the original ordinance for not covering all activities “that pose a potential threat to privacy,” like red light cameras, cameras on public buildings, license-plate readers and handheld, body-worn or vehicle-mounted devices used by law enforcement.
Now, Stuckart is reworking the ordinance to include leased equipment and to require departments to write protocols for data-gathering technologies they’re using, outlining things like how the data will be used and how long it will be stored. Stuckart says the new ordinance will go before the full council for a vote Aug. 19.
— HEIDI GROOVER
Washington state is providing services and supports to less than half of all eligible people with developmental disabilities, according to a new report from the state auditor’s office.
Approximately 20,500 people currently receive services from the Developmental Disabilities Administration. The DDA provides individuals with intellectual disabilities and neurological disorders — such as autism, cerebral palsy and epilepsy — housing, medical care and job training.
However, more than 15,000 people with developmental disabilities have been waiting, on average, three and a half years for services from the state. Another 46,200 eligible individuals have never even asked for help, perhaps because “they believe the wait list is too long or because they do not know how to apply,” state auditor Troy Kelley says in a statement.
Although Washington spends more than $900 million a year on these programs, the report concludes that the Legislature “does not adequately fund services for people with developmental disabilities” nor are funds distributed equally. Washington ranks 36th in the nation in the number of developmentally disabled individuals it serves per capita.
— DEANNA PAN
Anticipating a $4 million shortfall, Spokane Mayor David Condon released on Tuesday the broad outlines of the city’s 2014 budget, promising to add 25 new police officers and raise property taxes 2 percent to pay for new squad cars.
The $2.3 million to pay for new officers comes in part from $800,000 in administrative cuts Chief Frank Straub is making in the police department. The city will also redirect $1.4 million originally budgeted to pay down other debts.
Along with public safety, the mayor says he’s emphasizing street maintenance and capital spending for things like police and fire equipment. The city plans to increase spending on street maintenance by 50 percent, funded in part by selling rights of way to the utilities department to use for storm water management.
Despite growing sales tax revenues, the expected shortfall comes in part from increasing employee health care and insurance costs.
Chief Financial Officer Gavin Cooley says cuts and savings across the city will close the gap, with the biggest chunk coming from $1 million in savings from a pension fund for fire department employees hired before 1977 (the city will pay less into the fund each year, but benefits will remain stable because the fund has accrued more than it’s paid out). Elsewhere, eight to 15 positions will be cut through layoffs or closing vacant positions, he says.
The administration will gather citizen input before sending a final, more detailed budget to the council in October for their consideration.
— HEIDI GROOVER