Tunnel-digger "Bertha" finally moves


No single Washington highway project better signified the state’s gridlock on transportation improvements than the Seattle tunnel-boring machine known as Bertha. But this machine, immobilized below grade near Seattle’s waterfront for more than a year, managed to move late last week to a repair vault. There is talk of resumed tunnel digging in the late summer. Perhaps this is a harbinger of political success on transportation, too?


John Kitzhaber, Oregon’s fourth-term governor resigned in an influence-peddling scandal Wednesday. He could place blame on his fiancée, Cylvia Hayes, whose alleged use of her position to secure at least $220,000 in contracts for her clean-energy consulting business is under investigation by the FBI. But Kitzhaber failed his duty, as an elected official, to avoid even an appearance of conflicts. His downfall is another reminder of the value of enforcing Washington’s 20-year-old ethics laws.


The state Economic and Revenue Forecast Council reported Friday that the continuing economic recovery is generating more jobs than previously forecast over the past few months. Revenues also are predicted to rise – by an estimated $134 million for the budget period ending June 30 and by another $140 million for the following two-year period. That’s good news but not enough to solve the budget mess that could keep the Legislature in town well past April 26, their scheduled adjournment date.


Democratic Rep. Reuven Carlyle championed efforts a few years back to boost online learning options in lieu of costly college textbooks. But students still face high book costs, and several Republican lawmakers offered follow-up ideas this year. Republican Rep. Hans Zeiger‘s House Bill 1958 sought to cap prices at $100 per book, but House Bill 1958’s caps died at Friday’s bill deadline. Rep. Melanie Stambaugh’s HB 1973, which proposes a pilot program for online materials and videos at Eastern Washington University, is alive.


Black Lake Elementary student Fiona Cowell has won a Prudential Spirit of Community Award for community service. Cowell, 12, is an active 4-H volunteer and has collected food bank donations, visited the elderly at an assisted living center, aided Salvation Army’s toy drive, cleaned enclosures at a wildlife refuge and made dog toys for a local shelter.


We’re puzzled that the city of Olympia gave in to union demands and scuttled the remaining exercise using troops from Joint Base Lewis McChord to demolish two decrepit city buildings on the isthmus – at no city cost. The city said two unions, International Union of Operating Engineers Local 612 and Laborers Union Local 252, complained that the no-cost project deprived union members of work. Work now goes out to bid, and the city has more explaining to do.


Quixote Village has offered a new option for chronically homeless adults since December 2013 with its 30 cottages in west Olympia. The innovative project is now a finalist for the 2015 Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence; medal awards are due in June. Being a finalist comes wiht a $10,000 award; if the village is the final winner it will receive $50,000.