State lowers bar for COVID-19 reopenings — Seattle can advance to Phase 2

(Image: Marmite)

The state’s key metrics — Regions must only meet three of the four thresholds after state officials decided to loosen requirements

The state has lowered the bar on its phased plan for regional reopening of businesses and loosened restrictions on gatherings. The result? Seattle and King County are eligible to move forward into Phase 2 starting Monday allowing restaurants to resume indoor service at reduced capacity and friends and loved ones to visit in their homes.

Gov. Jay Inslee announced the change Thursday that lowers the requirements set earlier this month for advancing from a reopening phase. Previously, a region needed to meet all four thresholds measured by the state health department. Now, a region advances if only three of four of the key metrics are met, qualifying King County and its Puget Sound region including Pierce and Snohomish Counties for the next phase of reopening.

The state’s West Region including Grays Harbor, Thurston, Lewis, and Pacific Counties also qualifies.

“The changes come after further conversations with public health partners and the state’s increasing vaccination rates,” the governor’s office said Thursday.

Under Phase 2, restaurants can offer indoor dining at 25% capacity. Gyms can also reopen at 25% capacity. Museums, aquariums, bowling alleys, and theaters, can also reopen at 25% capacity with no more than 200 people. Competitive sports can also resume games beyond the practices allowed in Phase 1. Continue reading

Insurrection in the Capitol: Huseman pleads not guilty in assaults on journalists, three more SPD cops investigated

Huseman

The Capitol Hill, Seattle man accused of assaulting and threatening media in Olympia the same day as the January 6th storming of the Capitol in Washington D.C. has pleaded not guilty to the charges brought against him.

Meanwhile, three more Seattle Police officers are being investigated for their part in the day’s chaos at the U.S. Capitol.

Damon Huseman pleaded not guilty Wednesday in Thurston County Superior Court.

CHS reported here on the pre-Inauguration Day arrest of the Summit Ave resident who had been charged with two counts of assault and a count of felony harassment in the days following the attempted storming of the Governor’s mansion in Olympia and was the subject of a search warrant and an “Extreme Risk Protection Order” barring Huseman from having access to firearms. Continue reading

WANTED ARRESTED: Capitol Hill man charged for assaults on media as crowd tried to storm Washington governor’s mansion

A Capitol Hill, Seattle man captured on video wearing paramilitary style clothing, carrying an “assault type rifle,” and threatening media — and other pro-Trump rioters — during an attempt to enter the Washington governor’s residence the same day as the deadly storming of the U.S. Capitol in D.C. earlier this month has been arrested on the eve of Inauguration Day and faces charges for threats and assaults against reporters during the day’s unrest.

The Washington State Patrol says Damon Huseman, 26, hit at least two members of media with bear spray and threatened to kill a third “within the next year” during his day of rage January 6th on the state’s Capitol campus grounds.

Huseman has been the subject of social media efforts attempting to identify people captured on video during the deadly D.C. actions and the attempted assault on Gov. Jay Inslee’s Olympia residence.

The Summit Ave resident faces charges of two counts of second degree assault for the alleged bear spray attacks and one count of felony harassment.

Charges were filed January 11th and a warrant was issued for his arrest but Huseman wasn’t taken into custody until Tuesday afternoon and was to be booked into jail in Thurston County.

It’s not clear what Huseman’s whereabouts were in the week and a half since the charges were filed and the warrant was issued.

According to the State Patrol report on the January 6th incident, Huseman threatened one media member as she struggled to keep him from taking her phone, telling the state government reporter and the crowd of media he was going to “shoot them dead” within the coming year. Continue reading

Insurrection in the Capitol: Seattle Police officers investigated, National Guard troops in Olympia

As reports emerge of police, firefighters, and active military personnel from across the country participating in the deadly storming of the U.S. Capitol in an unsuccessful bid to stop the certification of President-Elect Joe Biden, the Seattle Police Department announced it is placing at least two officers on leave as an investigation is launched into their participation in the deadly day of protest, riot, and sedition in Washington D.C.

Meanwhile, further SPD fallout from Wednesday’s deadly clashes includes a call for the head of the city’s police union to apologize or resign for his comments about the event. And, in Olympia, Washington National Guard troops have joined the State Patrol in barricading the state’s Capitol grounds over security concerns as legislators meet Monday to adopt rules that will allow them to meet virtually during the rest of the session.

In Seattle, SPD interim Chief Adrian Diaz said the city’s Office of Police Accountability is conducting a “full review of any SPD employee activities at the U.S. Capitol.” Continue reading

Washington Build Back Black Alliance forms to ‘speak with one voice’ in Olympia at Seattle City Hall

When Paula Sardinas moved to Washington, she noticed that despite lawmakers’ rhetoric, “Black Lives Matter” was not reflected in policy.

Sardinas, president of a government relations firm, said she’s been advocating for equity in Olympia, but has always come up against better-funded special interests, noting specific fights in the cannabis industry that activists have argued has kept out Black business owners. So she asked herself: “How can we create a concentric circle which centers around social and equitable racial justice in policy and bring all the members to the table?”

Sardinas and colleagues hope they have answered this question by forming the Washington Build Back Black Alliance this fall, which includes members from Tacoma to the Tri-Cities, to both develop policies and give feedback on existing legislation that could affect the wellbeing of Black people.

“Every piece of policy we draft we need to ask ourselves one simple question: Does this hurt or advance the cause of Black lives and if it does, how is it helping us to create generational wealth and equity,” Sardinas told CHS this week. “If a bill or piece of legislation doesn’t answer those two questions, then why are we hearing the bill?”

Some elements of the group’s 2021 agenda are already taking shape. Monday, Gov. Jay Inslee unveiled his equity plan for the state’s next budget including “$365M for equity-related decision packages and budget items.”

Continue reading

Politics through a pandemic: How the race to represent Capitol Hill in Olympia is shaping up in the summer of COVID-19

(Image: Elect Jessi Murray)

Jessi Murray was ready to start door-knocking.

The candidate for the 43rd Legislative District’s Position 2, representing the areas of Capitol Hill, Madison Park, and Montlake, had ordered her nametag and was prepared for the campaign’s first day of action with canvassing in late March.

But with social distancing restrictions and stay-at-home orders quickly levied in the state to stunt the COVID-19 pandemic, Murray and the rest of the field have had to recalibrate their campaigns on the fly to unprecedented circumstances as attention has partially turned away from politics to a global pandemic that has left hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians unemployed and killed over 1,400.

Murray first pushed the kick-off a couple weeks thinking maybe “this will blow over.”

“A week later, we were like ‘This is not gonna happen.’”

Murray’s first move was a big push toward digital campaigning, with weekly town halls on Thursday nights on various topics and some text-banking. The campaign has also invested more in targeted mailing campaigns, focusing on areas where voters may be more interested in a new candidate who fashions herself as running to the left of the longtime incumbent, Rep. Frank Chopp. Continue reading

Frank Chopp is ready to defend his 25-year ‘strong, progressive record’

Chopp began his first term in the state legislature in 1995

Frank Chopp, one of the longest serving members of the Washington State House of Representatives, officially filed for reelection of the 43rd district this week. Rep. Chopp, whose district includes Capitol Hill, Fremont, and Madison Park, has been serving since 1995 and was Speaker of the House for 20 years before stepping down last year.

“We have a more progressive legislature now than we had in the two previous ones, so a big part of my effort will be working on solving the budget dilemma,” Rep. Chopp tells CHS, “which is obviously caused in large part by the COVID virus.” Continue reading

At height of Seattle’s surge in pandemic booze sales, Capitol Hill Safeway nailed for selling to minors

A sign tells part of the story at the 15th and John Safeway

A sign tells part of the story at the 15th and John Safeway (Image: CHS)

Just when the neighborhoods around 15th and John apparently needed it most, the liquor aisle inside this Capitol Hill Safeway is off-limits.

How does a major grocery chain lose its license to sell booze in the middle of Seattle’s pandemic-driven surge in alcohol sales?

The grocery store has had its alcohol retailer license temporarily suspended from May 7 through 22. To keep customers away from the alcohol aisle, the shop has barricaded the entrances with stacks of chips and other goods.

According to Julie Graham of the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, the temporary suspension resulted from sales violation, the store’s third reported violation in sales to minors over a two-year period.

“If there were further violations in the future, the consequences would likely be more severe because certainly with increased violations comes increased sanctions,” Graham said.  Continue reading

Washington extends COVID-19 restrictions through May, readies ‘four phase’ plan for reopening with limits on groups, restaurant capacity, and travel

(Image: Sea Turtle via Flickr)

Washington’s COVID-19 restrictions will be extended through the end of May and a plan to open the state will roll out across four phases and at least the next two months, Gov. Jay Inslee announced Friday.

The announcement of the extended “stay home” order through May 31st included the introduction of a four-phase plan for reopening the state including step by step changes like gradually increasing the number of people allowed to gather and limiting restaurant and bar capacities.

Each phase would require at least three weeks for health officials to evaluate before determining whether it was safe to proceed with the next steps, Inslee said Friday, pushing anything like a full reopening of the state beyond early June.

“I would like to tell you June 1st you can start making reservations,” Inslee said. “But I cannot.”

“The new normal is not here yet.”

UPDATE: When does Phase 1 begin? It’s generally understood that you can start counting the days from May 5th but most of the first phase thresholds aren’t much different than what has been in place. Will Phase 1 be in place for the next three or more weeks? Stay tuned.

Continue reading

Western Washington city leaders call for special session in Olympia over rent and mortgage cancellation and health care

South Seattle’s representative on the City Council Tammy Morales joined a group of western Washington officials this week calling on Gov. Jay Inslee and the state’s legislative leaders to call a special session in Olympia  in support of rent and mortgage cancellation and accessible health care as the COVID-19 crisis continues.

“I know I’m not alone in losing sleep over this,” Morales said in the online conference. “All of us who are here today have called for the same thing in our communities because we’ve been hearing the same stories across Washington state. This movement gets to the root of the problem that eviction moratoriums, forbearance, and payment plans just can’t solve. You can’t pay rent during the mortgage crisis or mortgage during a crisis if you don’t have money and mortgage rent and cancellation will ensure that people stay housed during this pandemic.” Continue reading