City of the future “leap frogs” light rail as a transit option, wins national Smart City Challenge

The city of Columbus, Ohio has won the national Smart City Challenge. They will receive up to $40 million from the United States Department of Transportation and up to $10 million from Paul G. Allen’s Vulcan Inc. This will supplement the $90 million they have already raised from other public-private partnerships.

Columbus won because their vision was holistic, focusing not just on new technology, but on widespread accessibility as well as closing poverty and age gaps. In their application, the city included a proposal to deploy electric self-driving shuttles that link a bus rapid transit center to a retail district to connect people to jobs, and used data analytics to expand transportation options for those in need of prenatal care. What they did not include was fixed rail, as other cities who have rail still battle congestion.

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Where WEA union money is going this election season
Jul 21, 2016

In recent years executives at Washington’s powerful teachers union, the WEA, have made the influence of the courts a central part of advancing their political agenda.  To this end WEA executives have been particularly focused on the election of supreme court justices.  In many ways the campaign strategy has worked.  Washington now has one of the most left-leaning supreme courts in the country.  In recent court decisions the justices have sought to close the state’s charter schools, strong-arm the legislature for larger school district budgets and enforce mandatory union membership for public school teachers.

The WEA’s impact appears to extend beyond the court’s final rulings.  For example, five pages of the court’s ruling to close charter schools were copied word-for-word from papers given to the court by WEA lawyers. The opinion was written by Chief Justice Barbara Madsen and signed by Justices Charles Johnson, Susan Owens, Debra Stephens, Charles Wiggins and Mary Yu. 

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State’s top education official wants to stop school districts from paying teachers more
Jul 19, 2016

Washington’s highest education official, Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn, says he plans to file a lawsuit against school districts, such as Seattle, Spokane and Everett, for paying teachers too much.  He says school leaders should not be allowed to use voter-approved local funding to pay teachers beyond the limits provided by the state.

Superintendent Dorn’s latest legal action comes after last month he urged the state’s highest court to close public schools over a funding dispute.  His new lawsuit adds to the swirling political conflict surrounding public education, as prompted by earlier court rulings to close the state’s charter schools and in the controversial McCleary decision.

Superintendent Dorn says his aim is to get the legislature to add billions of dollars to the state’s complex salary grid, a bureaucratic system that blindly pays teachers based on seniority and paper credentials, rather than actual on-the-job performance in the classroom.

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