Repeat nomination in Seattle for ‘America’s Stupidest Charities’

BCRSF logoOn Memorial Day, I got a call from Darlene Lewis asking for money. It’s not the first time she has contacted me.

Darlene Lewis is a poor excuse for a human being. I can state this without any fear whatsoever of a libel suit from her.

Why?  Because she isn’t a human being at all. Darlene Lewis is an interactive computer, and computers can’t sue.

She plies her telemarketing trade on behalf of something called Breast Cancer Research and Support Fund, a trade name used by another something called Community Charity Advancement. Sound familiar? That could be because in February I nominated Community Charity/BCRSF for my fledgling list of America’s Stupidest Charities.

The criteria for a nomination is simple. Representatives for a dubious charity call the New To Seattle world headquarters seeking a contribution even though this very same charity had been criticized in this very same space.

In the case of Community Charity/BCRSF, multiple times going back a year (see here and especially here, which references Darlene Lewis). Repeat nominations for the list are accepted. So hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s off again we go. Continue reading

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Are Seattle pedestrians really that safe?

Dangerous by design coverWhen it comes to pedestrian safety from vehicles, a new national study says the Seattle metropolitan area is the third least dangerous among the country’s 51 largest. Given the recklessness I have seen displayed by people crossing Seattle streets, I am rather surprised by this.

The study is called “Dangerous by Design.”  It was put together by Smart Growth America, an advocacy group for better municipal planning that developed something called a “pedestrian danger index.” The report used per-capita pedestrian fatalities over five years through 2012 adjusted for the percentage of the local population commuting to work on foot.

By this methodology, only Pittsburgh and Boston were safer for pedestrians that the Seattle area, which includes Bellevue and Tacoma. The highest danger was calculated in Florida: Orlando, followed by Tampa/St. Petersburg/Clearwater, followed by Jacksonville, followed by Miami/Fort Lauderdale/Pompano Beach. If the danger index numbers are directly comparable, Orlando was calculated as being nine times more dangerous than Seattle. Continue reading

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Bad public signage continues to plague Seattle

NE Campus Parkway at the University Bridge, Seattle (via Google Maps)

NE Campus Parkway at the University Bridge, Seattle (via Google Maps)

One of the first things I noticed after becoming New To Seattle in 2011 was the terribly bad public signage around town. Everything from street signs so weathered they couldn’t be read, to missing signs, to inaccurate signs. It’s a topic I revisited a year later, and again last year when I managed, for $5, to buy my my own name–W. Barrett Street–in the form of a discarded street marker at the City of Seattle’s surplus warehouse in the SoDo district.

Things are still iffy on the sign front.

For instance, driving west on NE Campus Parkway away from the University of Washington, as I did last week, I came to a fork in the road just after going under the University Bridge. An unmarked, blind and rather counter-intuitive fork in the road. You can see it in the picture above, courtesy of Google Maps. The left fork goes up to the southbound lanes of the bridge. That’s great if one wants to cross the Lake Washington Ship Canal heading to Capitol Hill or downtown. Not so great for a motorist trying to stay north of the canal en route to Wallingford, Fremont, Ballard or even Interstate 5.

A driver has maybe three seconds to figure this out, and if necessary ignore the solid white do-not-cross line on the street. A well-positioned sign sure would help.  Continue reading

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Is the USPS still exaggerating in new Seattle dog bite count?

USPS logoThe U.S. Postal Service is out today with its annual list of the cities with the highest number of dog attacks upon letter-carriers. Seattle has improved from a two-way tie for No. 2 last year to a three-way tie for No. 15. An interesting question, though, is whether Seattle dogs are better behaved, or the post office is doing a more accurate job of counting Seattle dog attacks.

As visitors to this space might recall, the PO really screwed it up last year, counting a large number of attacks that took place outside Seattle proper. That had the effect of exaggerating the Seattle count by 17%. The truth emerged only a half-year later when I (1) filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to get the underlying records and (2) after getting blown off, submitted a formal appeal full of ridicule that was granted.  In addition to the records, I obtained a large number of apologies from various Postal Service officials for the ridiculous delay, which seemed to value canine privacy.

In last year’s press release for the fiscal year ended September 30, 2012, the Postal Service said there were 42 dog attacks in Seattle. I counted just 36; the others were in suburbs. Today’s press release, for the year ending September 30, 2013, listed 28 incidents in Seattle.

By the Postal Service’s math, that’s a 33% drop. By my math, who knows? There’s no new footnote on the press release to suggest the Postal Service is just counting events within a city’s limits. So it’s a fair bet the feds again are exaggerating the numbers to make the problem–a long-time USPS bête noire–seem a lot worse than it is. Continue reading

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Seattle liberals choose pocketbook in rideshare debate

Lyft rideshare vehicle in Seattle

Lyft rideshare vehicle in Seattle

As I understand political theory, liberals generally favor more governmental regulation, while conservatives do not. But this is being turned on its head in ultra-liberal Seattle, a city that voted overwhelmingly for Barack Obama in 2012 and still seems to back him. The ultra-liberal masses are rising up against a City Council move to impose rules and requirements on free-wheeling ridesharing services like Lyft (known for the fuzzy pink mustaches affixed to vehicle grills) and Sidecar.

The high and mighty guiding principle here seems to be the pocketbook. The unregulated rideshare services–essentially, drivers using their personal vehicles to ferry passengers who call for service using cell-phone apps–are cheaper than traditional taxis.

So much for political theory. Continue reading

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Government agencies in Seattle yuk it up on social media

Seattle's Space Needle (via Wikipedia)

Humorous look at Seattle’s Space Needle (with apologies to Wikipedia)

Since becoming New To Seattle, I’ve written about what strikes me as a general lack of humor here. Not everyone agrees. A recent University of Colorado study of the U.S.’s “funniest cities” ranked Seattle No. 10 among the country’s 50 largest. I should note, however, that only those 50 cities were examined, as opposed to, say, all 729 cities with populations above 50,000, or even the 285 cities with populations above 100,000. So the CU list quickly became a “least funniest cities” roster, too, and probably not too many clicks after Seattle.

Still, I do find regular pockets of humor in Seattle. But they’re in the most unlikely places: government agencies operating on social media.

When its officers aren’t beating up jaywalkers, the Seattle Police Department has been in the vanguard of this movement, especially on its lively blog, SPD Blotter. The agency posted a guide to the state’s recent legalization of recreational marijuana use under the headline, “Marijwhatnow?” Accompanying a summary of law: a pot-smoking clip from the movie “Lord of the Rings.”

The Washington State Department of Transportation opened a first-person Twitter account in the name of Bertha, the world’s largest tunneling machine working on constructing an underground replacement along the Seattle waterfront to the Alaskan Way Viaduct. The posts have been a riot for their deadpan humor, especially since the machine in December hit a pipe that should have been removed and hasn’t dug another inch. “I get that people are bummed/skeptical,” BerthaDigsSR99 tweeted nearly a half-year later on May 1, “but Seattle Tunnel Partners is working hard to fix me and I’m eager to dig again.”

WSDOT has a regular Twitter feed to update traffic conditions, and the agency is not above applying cheeky labels. This morning, it called two stalled vehicles blocking a freeway lane the “Box Truck Twins,” with a photo thrown in for good measure.

Earlier this week, the Seattle Department of Transportation got grief for posting on Twitter in real time a picture of a traffic jam on the West Seattle Bridge supposedly caused by looky-loos gawking at an accident. The shot was Photoshopped to put a “scumbag hat”–a meme used to signify stupidity, venality or incompetence–atop many of the stopped vehicles. With this text: “You get a scumbag hat … everyone gets a scumbag hat! haha I’m mean #sorry.

Hey, Babe Ruth sometimes led the majors in both home runs and strikeouts. The same could be said of official Seattle attempts at mirth. #LookingForSeattleHumorInGovernment.

Follow William P. Barrett’s work on Twitter by clicking here.

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In L.A., a total stranger asks about the Seattle suicide rate

Aurora Bridge, Seattle

Aurora Bridge, Seattle (via WADOT)

Over the past several months, I’ve spent a fair amount of time in the Los Angeles area, my home for seven years before becoming New To Seattle. Staying on one trip near LAX in a hotel with a very slow elevator, I struck up a conversation with a young couple from San Diego also waiting to ride.

After I said I live in Seattle, the woman said she had never been there but heard it has the nation’s highest suicide rate.

The lift arrived at their floor and the couple got out. The comment stunned me. A total stranger, prompted about Seattle, could only think of one thing–suicide. Not scenic beauty, Super Bowl XLVIII, legal recreational marijuana, or even the rain.

Talk about an image issue.

The conversation also prompted me to dig into the data. Did Seattle really have the country’s highest suicide rate?

The answer, I am happy to report, is no. But the rate isn’t all that low, either. Continue reading

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For Indian charity soliciting around Seattle, the rest of the story

SIRC logoThe cold caller to the New To Seattle world headquarters said she was soliciting funds for Southwest Indian Relief Council, which she described as providing needed food and other goods to the Navajo Indian reservation in Arizona and New Mexico. I asked if the organization was a stand-alone charity in its own right or just a trade name used by another nonprofit.

Stand-alone, she replied.

I asked her for the charity’s tax identification number, which makes it easier to track down information. After a long wait, she provided the number. Meanwhile, the telephone connection was so bad I asked where on the sprawling reservation she was calling from.

“Manila,” she replied.

Having lived near the reservation for 12 years, I told her I was not familiar with that place within the Navajo Nation.

The caller said she was in The Philippines.

“Oh,” I said.

Given that revelation, I was not surprised to learn after subsequent research that the Southwest Indian Research Council is not a stand-alone organization. Or that the parent charity has been enmeshed in a lingering scandal.  Or that most of the cash raised didn’t seem to reach needy Indians in the form of tangible aid.

As the now-deceased radio legend Paul Harvey used to say, here’s the rest of the story. Continue reading

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Charity telemarketer plaguing Seattle files for bankruptcy

ACS logoBack in January, I started identifying candidates for possible inclusion on my new list of “America’s Stupidest Charities.” The criteria was pretty basic: charities that called the New To Seattle world headquarters asking for money even though they already were the subject of a critical write-up here. That generally was for spending very little on the stated charitable mission thanks to use of outside paid telemarketers.

I quickly garnered three contenders: American Veterans Support Foundation, a trade name of the National Vietnam Veterans FoundationCancer Support Services; and Community Charity Advancement, doing business as Breast Cancer Support and Research Fund.

Then the hunt went cold. The calls stopped coming in. Was it possible charities and their telemarketers were getting a little smarter about who they do and don’t contact?

Maybe. But I’m starting to think the reason also might be the fact that one of the country’s most notorious charity telemarketers filed for bankruptcy-court protection from what seems to be a growing array of debts, liabilities and overall trouble.

Four weeks ago on March 13, Associated Community Services Inc., of Southfield, Mich., sought refuge in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. It filed papers listing assets of $10 million and liabilities of $21 million. That’s what’s known as being seriously upside-down.

ACS, as the firm is called, was a frequent and repeat visitor to Seattle. Readers of this space might recall some of the company’s, ah, memorable clients (none of which is eligible–yet–for the stupidest charities list, since they haven’t called me since its inauguration). Here’s the quick list: Continue reading

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Seattle quietly becomes clear No. 1 in big-city sales tax

Sales tax signSee update at end of story.

As the traditional fireworks display burst around the fog-shrouded Space Needle in Seattle three months ago to ring in 2014, something explosive took place two time zones away. Cook County, Ill., lowered its portion of the local sales tax by 0.25%. So the total rate in Chicago fell from 9.5% to 9.25%. That broke a tie and left Seattle’s 9.5% rate all by itself as the nation’s highest among big cities.

As far as I can tell, this was a sub silentio event in Seattle, with no local recognition.  Of course, that’s not surprising. There are some things you just don’t want to brag about being No. 1 in.

Since becoming New To Seattle, I have become quite aware of the stiff local levy. Two years ago in this space I was one of the first in Seattle to note the 9.5% top-sales-tax tie between Seattle and Chicago. That was the result of recent sales tax reductions in Chicago and Los Angeles, which at one point both had 9.75% rates. The rate in the City of Angels fell by a full percentage point and in the Windy City by a quarter-percent.

I learned of the Emerald City’s sole front-runner status only this week when I did some quick research after receiving a mail ballot (the way elections are conducted across most of Washington State). Voters in King County, which includes Seattle, are being asked to raise the collective sales tax by 0.1% to 9.6% mainly to stave off what are described as crippling cuts to area mass transit. (In case you wonder, the nation’s highest combined sales tax for cities of any size is the 12.725%–more than one penny out of every eight–that tiny Tuba City, Ariz., levies on unknowing tourists motoring through en route to the Grand Canyon.)

Seattle prides itself as a liberal city in so many ways (especially when it comes to such issues as legalized recreational pot and gay marriage). Why, voters even just elected a socialist to the City Council. But to my thinking it’s tough to square that image with its regressive tax structure, which really sticks it to the poor and disadvantaged. Regressive here means that taxes take a larger percentage from lower-income people than they do from higher-income people. Continue reading

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Seattle’s love-hate relationship with rain

A sign inside a Seattle supermarket

Long-standing sign inside a Seattle supermarket

Here in Seattle we’re finishing up what is the wettest March in the history of city record-keeping. It’s dry and even sunny today. But for the previous 30 days we’ve had 9.44 inches, more than 2½ times the March average of 3.72 inches. And that was after a February with 6.11 inches, nearly double that month’s norm of 3.70 inches, and something like the seventh-wettest February on record.

The way Seattle tries to minimize its rain as a way of attracting visitors is rather amusing. VisitSeattle, a nonprofit marketing group that used to be called Seattle’s Convention and Visitors Bureau, still has this rather defensive language on its web site below a headline reading “Rain or Sun, Seattle Shines”:

It’s been said that Seattleites will exaggerate about how much it rains in order to deter visitors from moving to their enchanting city. In reality, Seattle gets less rain than New York, Miami and dozens of other U.S. cities.

Left unsaid, of course, is the fact that Seattle gets more rain than thousands of other U.S. cities. That may be why the “Seattle Annual Rainfall Comparison Table” on compares Seattle with just five other cities–tellingly, none on the West Coast, like, say, hated rival San Francisco (which, for the record, gets only 20.78 inches annually).

I think it fair to say that VisitSeattle is numerically challenged, at least when it comes to measuring rain. There’s a month-by-month table showing “average monthly maximum rainfall.”  (I have no idea what the word “maximum” means in this context.) By my math, the sum of the 12 entries is 36.194 inches. But the total at the bottom of the table is 36.16 inches–a different number, and one that is less. Moreover, both are more than 1.2 inches less than the 37.4 inches listed on that separate “rainfall comparison” table.

I guess you can take your pick. Continue reading

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Seattle is no stranger to landslides, either

Official City of Seattle landslide map

Official City of Seattle landslide map

The awful landslide tragedy near Oso, about an hour’s drive north of Seattle, is getting the far-flung attention it should. The loss of life is horrendous–25 known to be dead at this writing with as many as 90 still missing and presumed deceased.

But almost as bad is the fact that various government agencies have known for decades this scenic stretch of Washington State along State Highway 530 on the edge of the North Cascades was particularly susceptible to a traumatic landslide off Skaglund Hill. Written reports detailed the danger to a clutch of homes from unusual shifting soil and a meandering Stillaguamish River that cut into the bottom of the face of the hill. Yet officials approved building permits for new housing and did little to warn the residents. Some survivors now say they had no idea of their documented peril.

Why am I, New To Seattle, writing about this? Take a look at this 16-year-old map of Seattle, produced for a municipal agency. Each tiny colored dot represents a documented landslide within the city limits back to 1890.

There are more than 1,500 tiny colored dots.

Continue reading

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Seattle’s newest tourist attraction–which can’t be seen

Above-ground site of stuck below-ground tunneling machine along the Seattle waterfront

Above-ground site of the stuck-below-ground tunneling machine along the Seattle waterfront

See update at end of post

In a few months, after the rains end, clouds part and sustained sun finally re-appears, the summer tourism season in Seattle will start percolating. Millions of folks from around the world will become New To Seattle to savor exquisite scenery, food, culture and, maybe, pot (although, thanks to bureaucracy and red tape, none of the legal marijuana stores that Washington State voters authorized in November 2012 has opened yet).

This summer’s collection of tourist attractions will have a temporary addition. Quite an unusual one, too, since it can’t actually be seen.

The world’s largest tunnel boring machine. Stuck dead 60 feet beneath the ground along the waterfront in downtown Seattle. With no reverse gear. Going nowhere before September at the earliest.

The picture here, which I took, is about a clear a view as you’re going to get now unless you’re a mole. It looks like a construction site–which, technically, it is. (That’s Seattle’s 175-foot-high Great Wheel amusement ride in the background.) The location, off Alaskan Way between S. Jackson and S. Main Streets, is but a few blocks from the popular, bar-festooned Pioneer Square area, and the popular, fish-throwing Pike Place Market. However, this corner of Seattle is rather grim and grimy, with homeless folks sleeping under tarps and lots of uncollected litter. It’s not a nice area at night, or during the day, either.

Yet it’s already drawing visitors lured by the specter of a $80 million machine nearly 60 feet wide nicknamed Bertha making scant progress since December 7–appropriately enough, the anniversary of Pearl Harbor, another great debacle.  Strolling recently around this street scene, I saw several sets of casually clad bag-toting pedestrians using cell-phone cameras on Alaskan Way under the Alaskan Way Viaduct aiming in the general direction of the dig. One person appeared to be orienting himself using what looked to me from a distance like a downloaded Seattle Times map showing the exact spot. Continue reading

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Seattle’s incredibly shrinking jaywalking tickets

Seattle Police badgeWho ya gonna believe?

In annual editions of its Seattle Traffic Report, the Seattle Department of Transportation officially stated that a total of 4,479 jaywalking tickets, officially each classified as a pedestrian infraction, were issued in the city during the three years 2009 to 2011. The agency sourced that seemingly high number–a rising average of 1,493 each year, peaking at 1,635 in 2011–to the Seattle Police Department.

But the cops, famous in some quarters–most notably the U.S. Department of Justice–for beating up jaywalkers, officially told me they don’t collect that data at all and have no idea how many jaywalking tickets they issue. They swore only the Seattle Municipal Court compiles those statistics.

And what sayeth that honorable court? For the same three-year period, its records officially showed processing only 1,341 jaywalking tickets–a declining average of 447 per year and less than one-third the total listed in those SDOT-tables-sourced-to-the-SPD. Court records for 2012 and 2013–SDOT stopped published pedestrian infraction stats after 2011–showed even fewer jaywalking tickets, an average of 215 processed each year.

Now, even allowing that different agencies may be using different definitions for jaywalking, it’s pretty hard for me, New To Seattle, to square these numbers. Or, for that matter, to understand how in this City Of Big Data the police don’t have detailed data on exactly what offenses its own officers are detecting. This police department reform stuff in Seattle ain’t going to be easy. Continue reading

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Seattle cops don’t know how many jaywalking tickets they write

Seattle Police badgeThe Seattle Police Department is under all kinds of pressure to clean up the way it treats the citizenry. The feds are after it for brutality, often after jaywalking violations.  City Council members have grilled Harry Bailey, the interim police chief, over decisions to punish errant officers with wrist slaps.

But I’d tell you the department’s problems are a lot more basic than that. For instance, the SPD has absolutely no idea whatsoever from its own records how many traffic tickets are written for specific offenses, especially but hardly limited to jaywalking.

Don’t believe me? Well, I now have that in writing from the department itself.

“The Seattle Police Department does not currently compile the type of records you have requested,” the agency’s Public Disclosure Unit said in an email to me yesterday. The note was in the name of Bailey and the person in the unit who actually wrote and sent it. In a follow-up note this morning, she wrote, “We could find out how many citations were issued by SPD … but we do not keep stats as to how many were issued for each type of violation.” I’m going to spare some professional embarrassment and not identify her here.

As someone who remains New To Seattle, I am still trying to figure out the way city government works. My quest to ascertain some rather elementary information has not been very fruitful, but it certainly has given me insight into the way the wheels grind here. Continue reading

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Usual suspects around Seattle unusually rich, as usual

Forbes logoForbes is out today with with its new semi-annual list of billionaires. The March list consists of billionaires around the world–all 1,645 of them this time around–while the September list is just the richest 400 billionaires in the U.S. Yes, it’s been possible for a few years to be a American billionaire but not on the U.S.-only list. As it happens, one even lives in Seattle.

Quickly scanning the new list, it appears that Western Washington in general has the same 10 swells that it had six months ago. You’ll undoubtedly be happy to know that none is poorer than last year, although for a few, their increase in net worth hasn’t kept up with stock market performance.

Here’s the rundown:

Bill Gates, age 58, No. 1 in the entire world (back on top for the first time in four years). $76 billion, up from $72 billion last fall.

Jeff Bezos, age 50, No. 18. $32 billion, up a robust 18% from six months ago.

Steve Ballmer, age 57, No. 36 (tied with one other). $19.3 billion, up from $18 billion.

Paul Allen, age 61, No. 56. $15.9 billion, up just $100 million despite his team’s winning of the Super Bowl.

James Jannard,  age 64. No. 520 (tied with 30 others). $3.1 billion, up $100 million. He made his fortune with Oakley sunglasses and lives in the San Juan Islands.

Howard Schultz, age 60. No. 828 (tied with 39 others). $2.1 billion, a $100 million increase over last year.

Craig McCaw, age 64. No. 988  (tied with 47 others). $1.8 billion, unchanged.

Anne Gittinger, age 78. No. 1270 (tied with 13 others). $1.35 billion, up $50 million. Younger sibling of Bruce Nordstrom.

Bruce Nordstrom, age 80. No 1284 (tied with 72  others). $1.3 billion, unchanged. Older sibling of Anne Gittinger.

Gabe Newell, age 51. No. 1372 (tied with 69  others). $1.2 billion, up $100 million from last year. Video game developer. He was one of those unfortunately “poor” billionaires who made last March’s world-wide list but missed the cut-off on for last fall’s U.S.-only list. Even for those not New To Seattle, life can be so unfair.

Follow William P. Barrett’s work on Twitter by clicking here.

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Fresh proof of ‘Seattle Freeze’ and ‘Seattle Nice’

CenturyLink Field in Seattle (via Wikipedia)

CenturyLink Field in Seattle (via Wikipedia)

From time to time in this space I have written of my belief in the existence of the “Seattle Freeze,” as well as the related passive-aggressive condition known as “Seattle Nice.” The former is the notion that Seattleites are not especially hospitable to newcomers or those from out of town. The topic has been debated for so long it now has its own Wikipedia entry. The latter is the perception that Seattleites tend to hide disagreements and even anger with others they encounter behind a deceptively false show of friendliness that often gets in the way of conflict resolution.

To me, still New To Seattle, it is abundantly clear these phenomenons exist. Re Seattle Freeze, most newcomers I encounter–say, people who have been in Seattle five years or less–agree with me. Most folks I discuss this with who have been here longer than that do not (but see the first comment posted below). Re Seattle Nice, a surprising number of people I ask don’t understand that the concept connotes a dark psychological undertone.

Allow me to present two pieces of evidence to support my view, one high-brow, the other a little lower. Continue reading

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The most prescient billboard in Seattle

Eddie Bauer billboard in Seattle

Eddie Bauer billboard in Seattle

Take a look at this picture I just shot. The billboard sits in Seattle’s population-free Interbay section on 15th Avenue W at the eastern foot of the Magnolia Bridge. Depicting a dude going off a snow-covered mountain wearing Eddie Bauer garb, it proclaims,”EDDIE.SET.GO.”

I’ll say.

It was announced yesterday that Bauer, founded in Seattle in 1920 and one of the area’s oldest companies, is in a deal to sell itself for $825 million to Jos. A. Bank Clothiers. Owned by a private equity firm, Bauer, with 370 outlets selling outdoor wear and accessories, has an estimated 500 employees at its headquarters in suburban Bellevue. Publicly listed Bank runs a chain of 600 upscale men’s clothing stores out of offices in far-away Maryland, which also just happens to have a far-cheaper cost of living.

Acquisitions like this have a funny way of evaporating or at least boiling down the top infrastructure of the acquired company–which would be Bauer. That’s why the billboard, not far from the New To Seattle world headquarters, is so ironic–even startling.

Now, there’s still a chance the deal could be aborted–and Bauer left alone and intact for the time being–if Men’s Wearhouse, another clothier, bumps up its current $1.6 billion hostile takeover bid for Banks. Still, to me this means Bauer–as well as its employees–is in play, and I don’t mean like the guy on the billboard.

Follow William P. Barrett’s work on Twitter by clicking here.

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Third candidate in Seattle for ‘America’s Stupidest Charities’

BCRSF logoThe candidates are lining right up for inclusion on my two-week-old list of “America’s Stupidest Charities.” The criteria is ridiculously simple. A sketchy charity actually nominates itself when its representatives cold-call the New To Seattle world headquarters asking for a donation even though that very same charity had been the subject of a disparaging post in this very same space.

I mean, is it even possible to be stupider than that?

The first entry was the American Veterans Support Foundation, a trade name of the National Vietnam Veterans Foundation. As I recounted here on January 29, a computer-controlled interactive voice called just 11 days after I wrote up a previous call, pointing out only 11 cents of each donated cash dollar went to anything remotely resembling charity and even raising questions about its location and veracity.

A few days later, the second candidate materialized. It was Cancer Support Services, a Dearborn, Mich., affiliate of the oft-criticized Knoxville, Tenn.-based Cancer Fund of America. I wrote here on January 30 that the combined organization raised $14 million in cash gifts but only spent $21,000–that’s 1/5 of 1%–on things I considered charity, with most of the rest going to the fundraisers.  That was even worse than when I ripped up the organization two years.

And now, let me introduce the third candidate. Drum roll again. It’s Community Charity Advancement, doing business as the Breast Cancer Research and Support Fund. The charity–and I use that term loosely here–is based in Pompano Beach, Fla. Continue reading

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New ‘View of the World from 9th Avenue’ would include Seattle

View of the WorldToo bad illustrator Saul Steinberg died in 1999. He was the creator of what is arguably the most famous magazine cover ever: “View of the World from 9th Avenue,” which graced the March 29, 1976, issue of The New Yorker. Its careful distortion of diminishing detail and distance–still studied in art schools–perfectly captured the notion that elite New York City residents are haughty folks full of hubris wrapped up in their own surroundings and barely able to distinguish much of anything west of the Hudson River.

Take a close look at the cover, which, as a New To Seattle service, I have reproduced to the right. Past the thin band across the middle of “Jersey,” you can see Chicago, Texas, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, something representing the Rockies, and in the far distance beyond the Pacific Ocean, China, Japan (as one island) and Russia. Even Kansas City and Utah are marked.

But where Canada and the Pacific come together on the right side upper of a rectangular United States, there’s–nothing.

I have to think if Steinberg were around today to update his 38-year-old masterpiece, Seattle would make an appearance. That’s what meting out a 43-8 Super Bowl thrashing in that Jersey strip can do for a city. Continue reading

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