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U.S. Senate hopeful Dino Rossi spoke this week at a Bellevue Rotary Club luncheon, delivering his standard doomsday America message in hopes of persuading voters to unseat Democrat Patty Murray. "America is in trouble," he said. "If we don't change things in this election, we're going to wake up 24 months from now in a country you don't even recognize." Rossi focused on the economy and jobs, blaming Democrats for lingering stagnation on both fronts.
Today, I clean out my desk, leaving one great place for another. Stanford offered me a full-tuition scholarship. Some things you don't refuse.
A former Bellevue attorney entered a plea agreement last week over alleged connections with the state's largest mortgage-fraud scheme. Jacob A. Korn, of Seattle, pleaded guilty to charges of willful failure to file a tax return and willful failure to supply information to the IRS. Federal prosecutors say Korn did not report real-estate transactions that he helped close, and also did not file an income tax return for 2008. He faces up to one year in prison or five years probation, and a $25,000 fine. Korn was the founder of Bellevue-based Emerald City Escrow, which played a central role in a scheme to siphon money from multi-million dollar home loans. The plot relied on a system of "straw buyers" and falsified mortgages. Prosecutors say Korn was responsible for closing real-estate transactions and for holding money in trust accounts.
Dick's Drive-In has named Bellevue as one of several possible homes for its first expansion in 36 years. The iconic fast-food chain announced this week that it would select a location for a new restaurant with help from an online poll.
Final designs are in place for a new $6-million facility that would house the Bellevue Youth Theatre organization and all its shows at Crossroads International Park. The goal is to insert a 150-seat, eco-friendly theater into an existing hillside, avoiding significant loss of green space and allowing park users to picnic on the roof if they like. The project is a wrap in terms of planning. All that's left to do is pin down the last bit of funding – just under $2 million.
Coca-Cola employees in Bellevue and Western Washington returned to work Tuesday, ending a week-long strike over stalled contract negotiations. Teamsters Local 117 accused the beverage maker of trying to raise workers' health-insurance rates and terminating the company's retiree health benefits. Coca-Cola quickly canceled the picketers' health insurance after the strike began August 23. Teamsters Local 117 spokesman Paul Zilli said the move played a major role in nudging employees back to work after a week. "That was putting a lot of our members in a precarious position," he said. "Some are facing chronic conditions.
Taxing food is one of those third-rail issues that politicians rarely want to touch. But in a time when lawmakers have already tread through the daunting realm of health-care reform, government bailouts, and raising taxes to fill massive deficits, why not go there? That’s what the state legislature did this year. Initiative 1107 would eliminate all the new taxes on food manufacturing, candy, soda, and bottled water.
El Zacatecano is one of the oldest and best-selling mezcal brands in Mexico, but few Americans recognize the name, let alone what type of liquor it is. Hairstyling legend Gene Juarez and former Mariner great Edgar Martinez are out to change that with a bit of their own widespread popularity. The two Bellevue residents, both former all-stars in their respective professions, have brought the label stateside. Mezcal, a stronger, smokier cousin of Tequila, is traditionally made from an agave plant known as maguey. Production of the liquor starts with removing the heart of the agave.
Picketing Coca-Cola workers have virtually halted production at the company's Bellevue bottling and distribution center with less than two weeks to go before the soda-friendly Labor Day weekend. Around 500 employees from six Western Washington locations have been on strike over stalled contract negotiations since Monday. Teamsters Local 117 says the beverage maker wants to raise workers' health-insurance rates and stop retirees from buying into the health-care program. Around 300 of the Coca-Cola employees striking in Western Washington work at company's Bellevue facility, located at the corner of 124th Avenue NE and Bel-Red Road.
John Robertson, who owns the commercial real-estate firm Robertson Capital, has spent over a year making plans for the Bellevue Brewing Company, a new brew pub that Bellevue could call its own. Those plans hit the fast track on August 12, when Robertson signed a six-year lease on a 12,000 square-foot space at the Evergreen Center, located off 130th Ave. NE near the Bel-Red corridor.
Results from Tuesday's top-two primary showed little in the way of an anti-establishment mood among Eastsiders, as all but one incumbent from the region was in first place at the Reporter deadline Wednesday. However, the election did come with slight signs for concern, particularly in the federal races.
Cancer survivor Jacob Sears, 16, of Lynnwood, meets with The Blue Genie for a "dream day" starting with a ride in a 2010 Dodge Challenger at the Chrysler Jeep Dodge dealership in Bellevue on Monday morning.
A man who stole money from the Chinook Elementary PTSA during his time as the group's treasurer will spend 30 days of electronic home detention and 240 hours of community service. A King County Superior Court judge on Friday issued the sentence to John "David" Glass, 53, of Clyde Hill, who pleaded guilty in July to first-degree theft for embezzling over $63,000 from the PTSA organization.
The clock began ticking Wednesday for a Bellevue homebuilder who has six months to repay more than $600,000 in stolen sales-tax revenue before facing possible prison time. Grey T. Lundberg, 48, pleaded guilty in King County Superior Court Wednesday to 13 counts of first-degree theft for stealing $629,000 in sales tax he collected on construction work from July 2006 through December 2008. The state Department of Revenue has recommended a five-year prison sentence for the former owner of CMI Homes – currently the owner of Grey Lundberg Inc. Superior Court Judge Ronald Kessler delayed Lundberg's sentencing until Feb. 16, giving the builder time to pay back at least some of the money. Lundberg may be able to delay his sentencing a second time if he repays a substantial amount of the money he owes. An addendum to the plea agreement says that the sentence he faces can be reduced depending on how much money he returns.
Bellevue's hopes for an expensive downtown light-rail tunnel may be in jeopardy as Sound Transit tries to overcome a growing budget gap expected to reach $3.9 billion. The agency's board of directors is preparing to make cost-cutting decisions this fall, with the sputtering economy cutting into revenue projections for the voter-approved Sound Transit 2 package.
Bellevue-based Intelius has agreed to a $1.3 million settlement over allegations that it tricked customers into deceptive credit card charges, state Attorney General Rob McKenna said Tuesday. Intelius specializes in background checks and public-records searches through the internet. McKenna says the company trapped unwittingly customers into programs they didn't want – often with the simple click of a mouse. The alleged "post-transaction marketing" scheme worked by getting customers to buy services like background checks, and then forcing them to click through prompts that appeared to confirm their orders once Intelius had their credit card information. The problem is that some of those clicks would sign people up for additional services that included monthly fees. McKenna says Intelius swindled $62 million in one year with one such program called Identity Protect. "Post-transaction marketing plunges you into an online labyrinth where the only way out is to click and click and click," McKenna said. "One wrong turn and you're enrolled in a membership program that costs you $20 or more each month. And you'd never know until you scrutinize your credit card bill." Intelius admitted no wrongdoing in its settlement, but the company agreed not to do business with several companies it was involved with before. It also promised not to share credit card information with other organizations. In addition, customers must now give their express consent before Intelius can enroll them in membership programs. Consumers from Washington state are eligible for refunds if they were enrolled in the company's Identity Protect program before Aug. 12, 2009, have not received full refunds, and have not used any "member-enabled benefit." The Attorney General's Office has been monitoring several companies that it claims use "post-transaction marketing" schemes. "Investigations by our office suggest more than $50 million has been deceptively obtained from Washington consumers by a handful of businesses," McKenna said. Intelius CEO Naveen Jain was aware of thousands of consumer complaints about his company, but he did nothing about them, according to the Attorney General's Office. Jain, who lives in west Bellevue, settled a previous case over alleged trade-rules violations with InfoSpace, an internet-search company he founded in 1996.
The suicide of a former University of Florida football player last Thursday marked the third falling death at Lincoln Square since 2006. John Curtis IV jumped to his death from a fourth-floor railing at the downtown Bellevue complex on August 5. The King County Medical Examiner's Office said he died of injuries caused by suicide. In January 2009, newly hired Microsoft worker Jin Chen died at age 22 after falling from 28th floor of the Lincoln Square office complex.
The Kirkland woman who accused magician David Copperfield of raping her during a trip to his private island in 2007 has pleaded guilty in a separate case to obstructing a Bellevue police officer. Lacey Carroll entered the plea Monday in Bellevue District Court, after prosecutors agreed to drop charges of prostitution and filing a false police report. A judge ordered the aspiring model to pay a $953 fine, complete 30 hours of community service, and participate in an alcohol-awareness class. The court will eventually dismiss the obstruction charges against Carroll and clear her record if she stays out of trouble. The former Miss Washington USA runner-up allegedly asked a 31-year-old Mukilteo businessman to pay $2,000 for sex with her at a Bellevue hotel following a night of heavy drinking. The man said he refused, but Carroll told police an altogether different story, saying he had drugged and then tried to rape her. Prosecutors sided with the man based on surveillance from the hotel and witness accounts, including a concierge who said Carroll talked about wanting a threesome with her purported attacker that night. Carroll told police she didn't want to pursue the case because it could affect her lawsuit against Copperfield. She also refused to sign over the results from a rape test at Overlake Hospital. Federal prosecutors stopped investigating Copperfield for rape after learning of the alleged prostitution case, but they have not said whether that decision was linked with the Bellevue matter. Carroll dropped a lawsuit against Copperfield in April.
Seattle Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik preached patience and guaranteed future success as he spoke about team development at a Bellevue Chamber of Commerce luncheon Tuesday at the downtown Bellevue Westin. "I assure you that there is a commitment to this organization, a commitment to this community, and a commitment to this fanbase," Zduriencik said. "I give my word that we're going to get this thing right." The talk on Tuesday came in the midst of a disappointing season that has seen Ken Griffey Jr. brusquely retire, Cy Young lefty Cliff Lee barely touching the mound before signing with Texas, and the last-place Mariners falling short of expectations at nearly every turn. "This has been a year of disappointments, a year of setbacks, and a year of issues," Zduriencik said. The second-year GM promised that hope will spring from the Mariners' farm system as he rattled off statistics about its minor-league teams ranking number one in home runs and slugging percentage, number two in runs scored and winning percentage, and fourth in batting average.
Campaign signs are cropping up all over Bellevue – and disappearing in many cases – as election time nears. The signs may seem ubiquitous, but there are actually rules restricting where they can be, and for how long, on public or private property. Campaign signs are allowed on city rights-of-way with certain restrictions, but they are prohibited on state-highway property. The Washington Department of Transportation has a few clues to help distinguish the boundaries for state rights-of-way, since they're not always marked. For instance, utility poles can make for good delineators, since they generally exist just outside of state property. A safe bet is to consider the area between highways and utility polls off limits, according to WSDOT. Fence lines also serve as a separator between right-of-way and private property. Temporary political signs are allowed on private property that is visible from state highways, but the following rules apply: the signs must comply with Washington Administrative Code, they can't be larger than 32 square feet in area, and they must come down within 10 days of an election. Bellevue code requires signs to be removed sooner, within one week of an election. The city sends out three reminder letters to campaign organizations leading up to election day. Political signs are not allowed on utility poles, nor on public buildings or structures in Bellevue. Signs are allowed on city rights-of-way, so long as they do not obstruct traffic or create a hazard. Their size must be limited to 4 square feet and 5 feet in height. Responsibility for removing signs rests with campaign officers. Political signs on private property cannot be larger than 32 square feet, and the total of all signs on a given piece of private land cannot exceed 64 square feet. The penalty for violating sign rules in Bellevue is $100 per sign. The city handed out 34 citations in 2008, but there have been only four so far this year. The most common complaints about campaign signs are related to clutter and lines of sight in the rights of way, according Bellevue assistant development director Joe Guinasso. Knowing the guidelines for sign placement is only half the concern for most campaigns. Sign theft is widespread during the thick of an election cycle, and it causes more distress for some than others. State senator Rodney Tom of Medina said he's accustomed to losing around 75 percent of his signs during a campaign. "They disappear," he said. "It's kind of like socks in the dryer." Tom's opponent, political newcomer Gregg Bennett, is not so familiar with the game. He said he felt frustrated and helpless after losing around 100 signs in one night, followed by an incident in which he caught a man in the act of systematically stealing more. Campaign signs generally cost around $4 apiece. A police report shows that Bellevue resident Doug Stock took Bennett's signs and later returned them to police following an investigation. Bennett called Tom and left a message suggesting that the incumbent senator had encouraged the thefts. He also threatened to have a team of his teenage supporters retaliate with some sign removals of their own. Tom denies that he had anything to do with the thefts. "This is my fourth election," he said. "I have always told every campaign worker that you never touch an opponent's signs." Bennett explained his phone message to The Reporter, saying: "It was an emotional thing. I'd just been notified that a bunch of my signs were stolen, and then I caught some people red-handed. I was upset, and I called (Tom) not knowing what to do." Tom said Bennett's threats indicate a "lack of judgement that shows he does not have the values to be a state senator." As for any lingering resentment about the disappearance of his signs, Bennett said he's ready to move on. "I want to talk about the issues, not get distracted by this stuff," he said. Bennett also issued a statement to his campaign saying: "I need to make sure that I am clear that stealing yard signs is not something we do; it is against the law and it just isn't ethical."