With Wary Eye on Big Trucks, Bike Riders Seek Safe Space on City Streets


A protected bike lane on Second Ave. in downtown Seattle. Photo: Flickr/Seattle Department of Transportation

On a July afternoon in New Orleans last year, Philip Geeck was riding his bicycle in a marked bike lane on a busy street. Approaching an intersection, he came up alongside a tractor-trailer truck hauling a tank of chemicals. Geeck, 52, was at the 18-wheeler's midpoint when suddenly, without signaling, the truck began to turn right, witnesses say.

Victor Pizarro was driving nearby and watched in horror as the scene unfolded. He saw a look of confusion on Geeck's face as the trailer came toward him. Geeck, an experienced cyclist known to his friends as “Geric,” tried to get away from the truck but couldn't make it. First his wheel went beneath the semi's enormous rolling tires, then his foot, then his entire body was dragged under. "It just kind of sucked him in," Pizarro said in an interview.

Geeck's head was crushed and part of his leg was severed from his body. "He was just a mound of flesh on the ground with blood oozing out," Pizarro said. Geeck died at the scene; the truck driver was not cited by police.

Heavy trucks like 18-wheelers and box trucks, along with garbage and dump trucks, make up a fraction of the vehicles on the road, but they are involved in a disproportionate share of accidents that kill bicyclists and pedestrians, according to federal data. The problem is worst in cities, where most bike and pedestrian fatalities occur.


Washington budget boosts funding for most environmental agencies

Washington environmental agencies are set to receive at least a modest budget boost the next two years despite earlier concerns that court-mandated education spending would require cuts to environmental priorities. Among the major environmental agencies, only the Puget Sound Partnership is set to lose operational dollars, largely due to a federal funding reduction, while several agencies will see substantial increases in operational funding to make up for past years’ cutbacks.

Even Republicans are recommending increases — just smaller increases than Democrats — in the operating budget, which simply keeps the lights on and basic government functions running. For now, decisions about larger ambitions such as reining in Puget Sound’s largest pollution source and funding new transportation projects are taking a back seat. It remains to be seen whether the Legislature will pass a capital budget and a transportation budget.

Exact operating budget figures remain a moving target. Republicans in charge of the Senate and House Democrats are trying to reach agreement on an overall budget by July 1 to avoid a state government shutdown. Despite the remaining differences, there is enough agreement in the spending plans to begin to rough out a picture of what the state’s operating budget for environmental agencies will look like when the dust settles in Olympia:

Department of Agriculture: This agency, which is responsible for protecting and promoting the state’s agricultural industry, will have an extra $4.8 million to $6.1 million to work with compared to the last two years. The House budget includes $164.9 million for the department, while the Senate’s includes $163.6 million.


Your Oregon Forests Questions Answered by Experts

At our May 27 public symposium in Portland — Forests and the Economy 2015 — we invited you to ask questions that we would pose to the panelists, recording their responses. So many great questions came in, so thank you!

This is what our expert panelists had in the way of answers for you.


Watch Clips from Forests and the Economy 2015

In May, InvestigateWest and the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication held a pair of special events with more than a dozen experts on the challenges and opportunities posed by Oregon's forests.

Watch video clips from the Portland symposium below.


On Death and Campaign Finance

Oregon State Seal. Photo: Janet Lackey/Flickr

Tracking money in state politics is good. That seems to be the one thing everybody in Oregon can agree on when it comes to campaign finance. Even opponents of campaign finance reform proudly tout how ORESTAR, Oregon’s public-facing campaign finance database, tracks everything. Who needs reform, they say, in a state where the money is transparent?

Except there’s one thing ORESTAR doesn’t track, we now know: pro bono actors who insert themselves into state politics but fail to leave fingerprints.


For all we know, there are lots of them. The volunteer most publicly in view at the moment is Patricia McCaig — former Gov. Kitzhaber’s campaign advisor — who failed to disclose her role in Kitzhaber’s 2014 re-election campaign until the media called her on it. Then-Secretary of State Kate Brown’s Elections Division, in examining whether McCaig legally donated her time to the campaign, found it was all perfectly legal.


June 25: Sixth Anniversary Celebration in Seattle


Mark your calendars now! Please join us as our guest from 5:30 to 8 p.m. on June 25 for great conversation, wine, beer, hors d'oeuvres and a provocative and timely program: money, politics and journalism.

RSVP (Tickets are Free!)







LIVE: Forests and the Economy Symposium 2015


We're excited that the 2015 Forests & Economy Symposium in Portland is today! Walk-ins are welcome at 70 NW Couch St. Doors open at 9:15 a.m.

See the final program here.

Want to participate in the discussions? Bring your laptop or tablet and join us here, where we'll be hosting a live blog during the event. Tell us what you think about the issues raised on stage, or submit questions for us to ask the panelists in a special "web-extra" segment to be filmed after the show. You can also submit thoughts/questions via our Twitter hashtag: #ORForests.

Your host for the live blog is John Strieder (@johnstrie).


Democrats Resurrect $1.2 Billion Version of Inslee Climate-Pollution Tax

Gov. Jay Inslee heard from energy and utilities executives during a "Climate Tour" in 2014.
Photo: Flickr/Gov. Jay Inslee.

With Supreme Court sanctions and a possible shutdown of state government looming, Democrats in the Legislature have resurrected Gov. Jay Inslee’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas pollution and added a tax rebate to appease critics in their own party and the GOP.

Taxing greenhouse-gas pollution could make a budget deal possible, Democratic leaders argue. But with a special legislative session ending Thursday and another almost certain, Republicans who control the Senate aren’t budging. GOP leaders say they still are figuring out how to reduce emissions of climate-warming pollution with a “carrots not sticks” plan that is more industry-friendly.

Inslee’s plan to cut carbon emissions and tax Washington’s biggest polluters flopped early this session, with insufficient support even from his own party. With the Legislature under orders from the Supreme Court to boost education spending, and a new state budget needed by July 1 to keep the government operating, Democratic leaders in the House are trying again with House Bill 1314.

At issue is a plan to make utilities and others pay for the privilege of emitting carbon dioxide, the most prevalent greenhouse gas. Every factory and power plant would pay for tradeable credits to emit a certain amount. Each year, the allowable amount of emissions would be ratcheted down. The idea is that the market would drive those facilities that can most readily reduce pollution to do so and sell their excess pollution credits to facilities that cannot or will not reduce their own pollution.