Lawsuit Update: Answer at Last

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It has been a long time since I have posted any information about my mothers lawsuit, largely because there has been nothing to report. However, about two weeks ago my mother’s lawsuit finally began to wrap up. Here is what happened in the last few months:

Offered a choice between judge, jury, or deal my mother chose the less-risky deal as a way to simply get it over with and avoid the risks of an unpredictable jury. Since her lawyer agreed with me that the judge might be a good option, and since Mom really hated taking the deal, the lawyer’s looked into the likelihood that the deal would still be available after going to see the judge. Well, perhaps I should say they were supposed to look into it. My mom’s main lawyer apparently did not do a damn thing, and the second lawyer who had been helping new nothing about the arrangement. Needless to say, we were quite upset. Thank you for treating her case with zero interest because it wasn’t making you the big bucks. And the lawyer reputation continues…

Fast forward over a month to two weeks ago. Mom signs the papers to accept the deal. We celebrate this success despite the fact that we are both disappointed in the outcome. She is innocent and she should not have to pay. $5,000 in lawyers fees and very little to show for it. Work missed, stress induced, and emotions out the wazoo. Plus, the deal is basically admitting guilt without really doing so. It says a lot that we are happy at this point. Happy just to know it is over. No more worry, no more speculation!

To the details:

  • 6 months probation beginning July 2, 2014
  • Approximately $5,300 in reparations to be paid by January 2, 2015.

Yep, that’s it. All that hassle and fuss for such a simple result. Pay back the money and don’t get into more trouble for 6 months. This is what $5,000 in lawyers fees buys? We would have been better off trying to settle out of court for the reparations and a little extra.

At least the saga is coming to an end. Thank you everyone who lent support, financial or otherwise. My Fundly campaign raised over $950 which, while being only a fraction of the total expenses, was invaluable in getting the lawyer paid during the worst of our financial crunch. We could not have done it without you.

Freewheel’s Carbon-Free Cargo: Good for Seattle Cycling

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It is 8:45 and I am riding up Pine Street like any other morning, having safely navigated all the traffic on my route from Lower Queen Anne. As I approach the Central Co-Op my groggy eyes notice something unfamiliar coming towards me: a giant blue box on wheels. A second glance reveal this box is actually piloted by a guy pedaling away on what appears to be a very sophisticated cargo bike. He must be lost…this is not Europe. Heck, it is not even Portland. Silly guy, bikes are for Portlandia.

The cargo bike I saw belongs to Freewheel, a new start-up providing “carbon-free cargo” for “last-mile delivery.” A passion for cycling and sustainability inspired CEO Dan Kohler to start Freewheel as a way to address the counter-intuitive nature of many urban delivery systems. While delivery drivers sit in traffic Dan zooms by using a combination of bike lanes and side-streets too narrow for large delivery vehicles. While drivers search for parking or block traffic and risk parking tickets to find a nearby space, Dan pulls right up to the door and starts unloading. While those delivery trucks consume gallons of fuel everyday, Dan just needs some food and water. Freewheel is not just delivering time-sensitive packages or picking up lunch like other bicycle delivery companies; it is providing a high-quality delivery service that reduces pollution and contributes less to congestion and parking shortages. Simply put, Freewheel is redefining urban business delivery in Seattle.

So if sensibility is what makes Freewheel a successful business, what makes it good for Seattle cycling? Well, to answer that I think about the lessons I learned from a semester studying in Copenhagen, Denmark. In Denmark bikes outnumber people and cargo bikes are just as common as minivans in the U.S. Hundreds of miles of bike lanes, bike “superhighways,” and aggressive bike policy contribute to the nearly one-third of Copenhagen citizens commuting by bike, but the real factor of success is culture. Bikes outnumber cars in Copenhagen 5:1 and make up about a third of all commuter travel (CPH Bicycle Account). In Copenhagen cycling is not a niche activity but rather something everyone enjoys as a way to get to work, school, the store, and just about everywhere else. And by everyone, I really mean everyone:

– Photos courtesy of Cycle Chic. I LOVE this site, but you will see the same thing if you Google image search  “Copenhagen bicycle”

By comparison, 40% of Seattleites lack access to a working bicycle. Two-thirds of people who ride at least a few times a year do so primarily for recreation. And less than 10% of Seattleites ride daily (SDOT). The difference in culture is clear:

– Photos from Google Images. 

Seattle’s cycling scene is largely dominated by guys in $300 spandex suits and hipsters rocking interesting accessories. Where are the business people with their briefcases and shiny shoes? Where are the dads escorting their kids to school or moms hauling the twins to day care? Where are the grandparents riding to their local retiree group? Where are the people hauling groceries in their cargo bikes?

While I am still holding on to the hope that I will see the streets filled with these types of riders tomorrow, I know Seattle is not culturally prepared for this type of bicycling. However, Freewheel is a small but important piece in beginning a transition towards a more holistic cycling culture. Freewheel is extending biking into the business realm in a serious way. The bike itself brings significant visibility to cycling. Through advertising partnerships with local favorites like Molly’s Grown to Eat and Middle Fork Roasters, Freewheel is showcasing the importance of cycling in connecting businesses to build strong networks that support the local economy and pave the way for more sustainable futures.

Freewheel is already capitalizing on Seattle’s rich fascination with coffee and local/organic produce. As the company’s success grows and word spreads, I am confident we will see a wider range of business taking Freewheel seriously. Dan keeps the details of new partnerships under wraps, but he assures me he is working on new interesting and iconic delivery opportunities. More than anything, Freewheel’s focus on cargo bike deliveries is exactly what Seattle’s bicycle culture needs: a healthy dose of utilitarian functionality.

-Freewheel is bringing cycling functionality to Seattle.

Proposition 1 Fails, Metro Riders Lose

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On Tuesday Seattle’s Proposition 1 failed to receive a majority of votes, meaning King County Metro will face severe cutbacks (the count is not yet final but a reversal is unlikely). Many routes will be eliminated or consolidated, and overall service levels will be reduced when buses are already overcrowded. As a whole, this cut means fewer options, less accessibility, and longer travel times. According to figures from Commute Seattle’s 2012 Center City Commuter Mode Split Survey Results 2012 bus travel accounted for over 35% of work commutes to Center City Seattle (loosely contained by I-90, Broadway, the Sound, and stretching into Uptown & Capitol Hill). This 17% cut is bad for business.

Opponents of Proposition 1 shot down the ballot with short-sighted and single-minded intent that will ultimately bring negative consequences to all Seattleites, regardless of their perspectives on Metro.For transit riders, cuts mean fewer buses, longer waits, and more uncomfortable rides as resources are stretched to new limits. For drivers, fewer buses will likely mean more cars as a segment of transit riders substitute private vehicles for  now unavailable or untimely transit trips. The already bad and at times terrible congestion will only increase.

Of course, the populations that will suffer most are the low-income, disabled, and elderly populations in which many rely on buses for transportation to work, medical facilities, and other essential services. Yes, the proposed car tab and sales tax increase were regressive – but reducing or even eliminating mobility for at-risk populations is even worse. For those who cite inefficiency, poor service, rising costs, and drivers’ wages – yes, these are legitimate discussions to be had. But to vote for massive cuts – that is a privilege not everyone can enjoy.

The cuts will begin to go into effect shortly and are expected to last at least until the fall. Until the state legislature fulfills its responsibility to fund transportation (2015, maybe) there is little Metro can do to sustain its current service levels. Meanwhile, Friends of Transit has proposed a small property tax increase to be placed on the November ballot. Even if such a measure were to pass, as I hope it will, it is going to be a long summer.

Video: bus riders express concern

West Seattle Blog: Proposition 1 first results

Kirotv: new initiative announced

MyNorthwest.com update (April 24, 6:30am)

Seattle Transit Blog

Commute Seattle 2012 report

Walmart: Welfare Queen

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Fact: “In December 2006 the Tacoma News Tribune reported that new numbers from the state showed that Wal-Mart still accounted for the largest number of workers receiving benefits from the state’s Medicaid and Basic Health plan. The number for Wal-Mart was 3,194–far ahead of number two McDonald’s with 1,932.”

Fact: “In March 2006 the Philadelphia Inquirer published a report on data it obtained from the Department of Public Welfare on the percentage of workers enrolled in Medicaid at the ten largest employers in the state. Wal-Mart was at the top of the list, with 15.8 percent of its workforce (7,577 individuals) enrolled. Giant Food Stores was second with 11.8 percent (2,244 workers).”

– full list of states from goodjobsfirst.org

Claim: “Paying Wal-Mart workers a living wage more would kill jobs and/or raise prices unsustainably.”

Video: What if Wal-Mart paid employees enough to avoid food stamps?

More information: Food Politics blog

Lawsuit Update: The Dubious Deal

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The last update posted about my mother’s lawsuit was a little while ago. The reason is it is a slow process, potentially taking over half a year from accusation to verdict. That is a seriously long time to have the associated financial insecurity and uncertain future to hang over you. Jail time for a crime I did not commit? Just the thought of that possibility, however minute, would keep me up at night. I do not know how she does it. She is a real life Wonder Woman.

About few weeks ago Mom was presented with three options. I chose not to immediately post them because I wanted her to be make a decision with my only input being private counsel (rather than the blog and any responses). However, the decision is over and it is time to update everyone. Here are the three options:

Option 1: The Dubious Deal

The first option is an offer (meaning it could be revoked) by the prosecuting attorney that settles the case quickly. Mom officially admits no guilt but must pay restitution of the amount she was accused of stealing. She also pays fees of presently unknown magnitude but no major lawyer fees are added, except perhaps something for processing/paperwork (not sure about this). Half the restitution and fees would be due within a very short time frame with the rest spread out over a longer period. Finally, the judge decides a probation sentence. Once all obligations are fulfilled my mother’s record will be expunged.

Option 2: Yes Your Honor

The second option is to file for another preliminary hearing with a new judge. Rather than the small room and informal setting, this hearing would be at the county courthouse. If you remember, at the last hearing only the woman testified – this time Mom would testify as would any witnesses. The judge would either dismiss the case or refer it to trial by jury. The hearing would cost about $1,200 in lawyer’s fees.

Option 3: Trial by Jury

The final option skips the judge and moves directly to trial by jury. Trials typically last anywhere from two days to a week. At the conclusion the jury gives a verdict and the judge deals a final sentence. There is a considerable range in potential sentences, from a minimum of 2-5 years probation to a maximum of 8 years in jail. A trial by jury starts at $2,5000 and increases with the length of the trial. If found guilty Mom would also be responsible court costs and restitution.

This is a difficult decision, made easier by looking at it in two parts. First, take the deal or continue to fight. Then, if the decision is to fight, which is better: judge or jury?. Mom and I both weigh the risks and rewards of each option and come to our separate conclusions considering cost, risk, and justice.

From my somewhat distanced moral perspective, the decision is simple.

Fight.

strongly feel that Mom should keep fighting. Logically, I doubt that the prosecutor could prove beyond a reasonable doubt that my mother is guilty. The stenographer recorded the woman’s contradictory and suspect testimony at the first hearing, providing additional leverage for the defense lawyer to use in a second trial. Moreover, from Mom’s description of the first hearing and the fact that Mom never even testified I am confident the first judge simply passed the case upwards so as not to dismiss it too hastily with an at-risk population in the courtroom (the woman is a senior in her 80’s, making her a traditional example of at-risk).

Morally, I perceive accepting the offer to be submitting to and reinforcing the oppression of working people everywhere. Just like flood, snow, injury, personal health, family health, home robbery, recession, automotive failure, and many more have knocked my mom down, this lawsuit is trampling her in a way it would not affect someone with more time, money, resources, and connections. Mom could be a poster-child for the ‘working poor,’ always struggling to find stability in an oppressive world where the odds are set against her. Whereas folks of higher socio-economic status could more easily weather this lawsuit, my mother is being dashed against the rocks. It is not fair. She should fight back because she deserves to prove her innocence. She deserves justice.

Once choosing to fight the decision between judge and jury is simple. On one hand a failed hearing with the judge adds about $1,200 in lawyer’s fees but simply pushes the trial to the jury. On the other hand choosing the jury outright definitely costs $2,500+ and eliminates the possibility of a quick dismissal. The expected value of the judge is clearly higher than that of the jury, so the choice is a no-brainer:

Mom, keep fighting. Go to the judge, tell your story, and let the truth save you.

From Mom’s front-line perspective, the decision was difficult. 

Stability.

Mom knew my firm decision even before we spoke about it, but knowing what was best for her was not easy. Everything came back to what if? Jail is only a risk, but it is serious. Sure, the offer’s borderline admission of guilt (at least how we see it) feels like a betrayal of everything she believes in. But whether she chooses the offer or is found guilty by the jury she would ask the same question: what if? And when looking at it like that she knew what she had to do.

“What if I fought back, was declared innocent, and avoided all that money and probation?” is a whole lot better of a question to ask in retrospect than “What if I took the offer and was not in jail right now?”

Hard as it was for me to watch as the system beat my mom into submission, I support her decision to take the offer. It makes sense for her, and at least now she can stop worrying and rest. Well, that is as soon as she figures out how to pay her restitution and fees. Oh, and that $800 bill she just got to fix her vehicle so she can continue to get to work.

It is the sad fact of life that for people like her, this is really the only option. It makes me mad…

Why should Mom roll over and accept probation and deal with a huge financial burden for a crime she did not commit? Well, that’s just the way it is for people like us. The truth is not always enough.

*I should note my anger is at the system, not my mom. I am happy she made the decision that was best for her and she has my full support in all things.

At this point the combination of lawyer’s fees, restitution, and court-imposed fees (once they are levied) will sum to over $10,000. As you all know, this is money we do not have – we already emptied our savings to pay the lawyer. Without your help it is going to be a difficult road ahead. Donate online via Fundly or contact me using the box below to donate by check (and avoid Fundly’s cut of the donation).

Thank you everyone for all your support.

Breakdown: What the key players are saying about Seattle’s ride-sharing cap | GeekWire

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Seattle City Council just voted to cap each of the three ridesharing services, UberX, Lyft, and Sidecar, to a maximum of 150 drivers on the road at any given time. The legislation has been debated and withstood strong controversy and criticism for some time. Will this kill the success of the industry and force old-school taxi systems under heavier regulations to adapt to a modern, technology-driven world? Or will it just kill innovation entirely? I am just glad Car2Go is unaffected!

Here is a simple overview of the decision and its implications: Breakdown: What the key players are saying about Seattle’s ride-sharing cap – GeekWire.

Finding Hope in Human Connection | Faith & Family Homelessness Project

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A friend of mine wrote this piece about finding Hope in Humanity. There is something to this:

…that’s the real problem of homelessness, more than anything else. It’s that we don’t know how to look at what is happening right in front of us. We use our privilege as an excuse to be blind, to be numb, and we ignore the fact that we’re losing our own ability to be human. We convince ourselves that homelessness is someone else’s problem, that we do not have the tools or the knowledge or the means to change anything.

It is amazing what we can to see, or not see.

Guest Post: Finding Hope in Human Connection | Faith & Family Homelessness Project.

Seattle Local News: Major Development in West Seattle

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West Seattle is facing a large development proposal in the “West Seattle Triangle,” the gateway into West Seattle from the West Seattle Bridge. The project, at the intersection of Alaska Way and Fauntleroy Way SW, seeks to build a number of apartment units and a few small shops in addition to its primary aim, to create a large Whole Foods store. Some community groups disapprove of the proposed plans citing pedestrian/cyclist safety and traffic congestion as major concerns (among others).

Design overview as presented in a report to the Seattle Design Commission.

Design overview as presented in a report to the Seattle Design Commission.

Some opposition is based on the idea of responsible development that clearly benefits the community, something they say developer Weingarten Realty is not doing with its current plan. And the whole concept of Whole Foods is another concern – bringing in large corporations with less-than-ideal employment conditions. Read more about this from one opposing organization, Getting It Right For West Seattle. Here is a sample of its perspective:

Weingarten is proposing to bring to West Seattle a national chain grocer, Whole Foods, which is notoriously anti-union and undermines the good union-scale jobs currently in the area with 6 of the 7 existing grocers within 1.5 miles offering union wage scales, health care benefits and retirement security. On top of that, their
proposal packages Whole Foods in the largest mixed-use retail development in the history of West Seattle with a mega-development inviting multiple, dangerous intersections of pedestrians, cars, and multiple delivery and
garbage trucks…

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