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November 2018

News In Brief

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The city of Spokane is spending $450,000 in an effort to attract people and businesses from Seattle to move to the Lilac City. The campaign is called "Hacking Washington," and is intended to highlight the benefits of living in the state's second largest city. Julie Happy, who works for Spokane, says the city is ideal as a location for companies looking to establish branch offices. KREM-TV says the campaign is also targeting people who may have grown up or gone to school in Spokane, but moved away. The hope is they will return to Spokane, seeking shorter commute times and cheaper cost of living. The website boasts of Spokane's 19-minute average commute compared Seattle's average of 45 minutes. Funding for the Hacking Washington campaign came from the city's communications budget.





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A major project proposed for downtown Seattle would reclaim some of the land lost in the 1960s, when Interstate 5 divided the city. The proposal envisions putting a "lid" over I-5 downtown - that is, building a massive steel and concrete overpass on top of the freeway trench. The group called Lid I-5 says additional reclaimed land could be used for parks, schools and affordable housing. And the proposal is gaining momentum. A feasibility study for placing a lid on I-5 will begin in early 2019. At the same time, the state Department of Transportation is looking at ways to reduce seismic vulnerabilities on I-5 in downtown Seattle, which could dovetail with the lidding effort. The Lid I-5 campaign does not say how much it would cost to cover all of I-5 through downtown. It does estimate lidding the 12 acres between Denny Way and Madison would cost about $265 million.





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In August, consumers received more than 4.2 billion robocalls. Many came from scammers trying to trick you out of money. Scam robocalls usually offer some sort of product and want you to either wire money from a bank account into their account, or go to a store, pick up a pre-loaded credit card, and send them money that way. According to one study, scam calls will account for nearly half of all mobile calls by 2019. A lot of these calls come from the same area code as your phone, so you might assume it's a friend or someone you know and answer it. It's a common trick called "spoofing." That's when robocall scammers disguise their phone number to look like one that comes from your local area. New technology with called Shaken/Stir could help. Shaken/Stir technology is being developed by phone providers as a way to sift out spoofed calls. Still, it could be years before you see the benefits of this new technology. In the meantime, Consumer Reports editors say here are some of the best ways to fight robocalls: List your phone number with the national Do Not Call Registry to make sure legitimate telemarketers keep off their call lists. Remember, scammers don't care about the law, so don't waste your time asking a scammer to put your on the Do Not Call list. In fact, if you're already on the Do Not Call Registry and get a robocall pitching a product, service, vacation, or threat- that's a clear sign of a scam. Hang up! Ask your phone company whether it offers an advanced robocall-blocking service. Most major companies now offer some sort of blocking service for a fee of around $3 to $4 per month. Feedback on effectiveness is mixed, but for the most part the services appear to block a substantial number of unwanted calls. Also consider using a call-blocking app. Nomorobo, Hiya, and PrivacyStar, among others, offer call-protection options. Another way to fight back is to report illegal robocalls to the Federal Trade Commission. Just write down the number and report the unwanted call online at donotcall.gov.





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Officials in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia are in the very early stages of planning a bullet train that could travel between Portland, Oregon, and Vancouver, British Columbia, in about two hours. The Oregonian/OregonLive reports that the rail discussion is in its infancy, but the governments hope to make it a reality by 2035. Microsoft paid for a study of economic feasibility and found that the plan could create 38,000 construction jobs for a decade and create billions in labor income. If it were to happen, the train could theoretically connect Portland and Seattle in under an hour. No such trains operate in the U.S. The fastest train, Amtrak's Acela Express, hits maximum speeds of 154 miles per hour but averages about half that speed on its route between Washington D.C. and Boston. According to a report the Washington Department of Transportation released in February, the line could cost $25 billion to more than $40 billion to build.





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A new report is out on the 20 safest cities in Washington, and in what might be a surprising find, most of them are in the Puget Sound region. Online safety resource company Safewise says they used 2016 FBI crime statistics matched with population data to evaluate number of reported violent crimes per 1,000 people. Tie breakers went to number of property crimes per 1,000 people. The city found to be the safest in the state? Snoqualmie at just 0.22 violent crimes per 1,000 people. ("Violent crimes" described as aggravated assault, murder, rape and robbery.) Mercer Island wasn't too far behind at 0.24.
Here are the Top 20 with their listed violent crime per 1,000 ratio:

  1. Snoqualmie 0.22
  2. Mercer Island 0.24
  3. Sammamish 0.36
  4. Newcastle 0.43
  5. Lynden 0.65
  6. Camas 0.67
  7. Sedro-Woolley 0.74
  8. Lake Forest Park 0.75
  9. Liberty Lake 0.76
  10. Mill Creek 0.78
  11. Maple Valley 0.80
  12. West Richland 0.85
  13. Anacortes 0.91
  14. Kirkland 0.91
  15. Bellevue 0.98
  16. Kenmore 0.98
  17. Issaquah 0.99
  18. Bainbridge Island 1.08
  19. Mukilteo 1.12
  20. Bothell 1.14

Cities that fell below identified population thresholds or failed to submit a complete FBI crime report were excluded from the ranking system, SafeWise said. The agency says they were impressed that 18 cities managed violent crime rates under 1.00, especially for some of the larger cities on the list like Bellevue and Kirkland. But even if your city wasn't on the list, Washington as a state in general fared quite well in the rankings with a violent crime rate 23 percent lower than the national average. Similar to violent crime, property crime wasn't much of a concern among the state's 20 safest cities either, with an average property crime rate less than half the state's overall average.





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For those who are adhering to a vegetarian or vegan diet, living in Seattle isn't a bad spot to be. The Emerald City ranks high not only for being green, but eating green as it was rated the 4th best city in America for those on a vegetarian or vegan diet, according to a study by WalletHub. The research agency compared the 100 largest U.S. cities across 16 key indicators of vegan- and vegetarian-friendliness, using such criteria as the cost of groceries for vegetarians, the share of restaurants serving meatless options and salad shops per capita. No. 1 on the list was New York City, narrowly edging out Portland, Oregon which came in second. Orlando and San Francisco round out the top 5. The worst city for vegans and vegetarians? Baton Rouge, Louisiana.



More builders are outfitting newly constructed homes with smart-home technology, and many buyers say they'll pay extra for it, according to research from John Burns Real Estate Consulting. Sixty percent of home shoppers say they'd spend more on a home with a smart thermostat, the consulting firm's survey of more than 23,000 shows. Slightly more-67 percent-say they'd pay extra for an oversized kitchen. More than 60 percent of new-home buyers also say they'd pay more for an exterior security camera and smart locks. In a separate John Burns survey of more than 300 home builders, 53 percent say they incorporate smart-home technology into new construction. Even so, 42 percent of buyers say they would purchase additional technology. John Burns Real Estate Consulting found some differences among certain segments of buyers regarding which smart-home tech they find most attractive, including:
Young singles and couples: most likely to choose smart thermostats.
Families: most likely to choose a smart garage that is responsive to app controls and voice commands.
Older buyers: most likely to pay extra to have smart locks.