Facebook34Tweet0Pin0 Submitted by Jessica JensenI usually write about law but occasionally you’ll find me writing about other topics (like my house fire this winter). This is the first installment in a series I am calling the EV Journal, “EV” meaning my electric vehicle.I waited over a year for my 2011 Nissan Leaf. If the truth be told I hung on to my 1997 Honda CR/V for 4 years longer than I intended to because I wanted my next car to be all electric and it wasn’t until the Leaf that there was a viable, affordable option.Buying my Leaf felt a little like getting a mail order husband. I made a reservation and a $99 deposit on line and waited almost a year before I actually received a tentative delivery date (also on line). About six months before my car arrived, I was notified (guess how?) that I could test drive a Leaf up in Tukwila. I and about a thousand other prospective Leaf buyers got about 10 minutes each to test drive and check out a Leaf. I was sold anyway, but it was fun to see the car in the flesh. It absolutely exceeded my expectations.My shiny red Leaf arrived on one of the few sunny days we had last August. So here’s a recap of the pros and cons of an EV. I haven’t pumped gas since last August and it costs me about $1.58 to fully charge my Leaf (smile). The Leaf was billed as having a 100-mile range, but the range is closer to 70 miles because accessories like headlights and the heater suck up electricity.The Leaf has the usual creature comforts like comfortable seats and legroom (even in the back), back seats that fold down, GPS, hands-free Bluetooth, and a nifty program that locates EV stations along your route and directs you to them if needed. There’s also a small solar panel on the roof to charge accessories.The biggest surprise was how peppy and quiet the Leaf is. It goes from 0-60 almost immediately and it’s so quiet they include a beep-beep back-up sound so pedestrians and bikers can hear me back up. What’s missing is a decent place to stash a trash bag and a sunroof option (heck, I’d take a moonroof).My biggest challenge so far is traveling south beyond Centralia. I can go roundtrip to Tacoma, Shelton and Centralia no problem without stopping for a charge. Seattle is a one-way trip unless I charge up for the journey home. This used to be a major issue unless I was going overnight (because of the time it took to charge), but Seattle just installed a fast-charge station where I can charge in 20 minutes! I can check my email on my iPhone while charging and be on the road again in no time. I’ve done the trip to Seattle only once when my partner Mark and I spent last New Year’s Eve in Seattle and plugged into a regular outlet at the hotel garage to charge up overnight. I’m looking forward to my next trip to Seattle soon so I can report how it goes finding and using the fast-charge station!My Leaf turns 1 this month. Overall, I LOVE my Leaf and would do it again in a heartbeat. The Leaf is quiet, fun to drive and I enjoy being an EV pioneer. Stay tuned for EV adventures where I’ll be discussing longer trips, range, charging stations and the long-anticipated EV Highway.Read the next article here.
South Puget Sound Community College’s newest Board of Trustees appointee will be a familiar face to Olympia and Thurston County residents: former Olympia Mayor Doug Mah. Mah, appointed March 10 by Gov. Jay Inslee, replaces Trustee Brian Vance. Vance, CEO and President of Heritage Bank, served more than 10 years on the SPSCC Board of Trustees.Mah is excited to join the Board of Trustees at SPSCC, citing his ongoing commitment to positive change within the community. He looks forward to expanding community connections to complement the ongoing work of the college and current Board. His first meeting will be April 5.“I believe that community colleges are the cornerstone for building community and I am honored to be a small part of that work,” Mah said.Mah owns Doug Mah & Associates, a full-service professional consulting firm based in Olympia. He serves on the boards of the Washington State Employees Credit Union, the Thurston County Food Bank, and is currently Board of Trustees Chair for Capital Medical Center. Mah is also a member of the Thurston Chamber of Commerce, Gateway Rotary Club, Bloodworks Northwest – Thurston Mason Advisory Council, and volunteers with the Olympia School District Education Foundation. Mah served as Olympia Mayor from January 2008 through December 2011.Vance was appointed to the SPSCC Board of Trustees in October 2005 by former Gov. Christine Gregoire. The college saw some of its most significant expansions during Vance’s tenure. He is most proud of the development and establishment of the college’s Lacey campus. Vance was instrumental in creating Heritage Bank’s naming sponsorship for the Heritage Bank Center for Corporate and Continuing Education at the Lacey campus. Joining the Board of Trustees was an easy decision for Vance.“I wanted to give back to the community and ensure access for others,” he said.Before joining the SPSCC Board of Trustees, Vance served on the SPSCC Foundation Board of Directors. Vance will continue to be a SPSCC champion.“It is my desire to continue to support the mission and vision of the college in whatever capacity I can,” Vance said. Facebook23Tweet0Pin0Submitted by South Puget Sound Community College
AS LOCAL MUNICIPALITIES introduce their budgets for 2012, they all seem to be facing the same headache: the ever-increasing cost of health insurance premiums for government employees.LIke individuals and businesses, local towns must find a way of meeting those obligations, and that ultimately becomes the responsibility of property taxpayers.When the Red Bank Borough Council introduced its budget (a work still in progress, officials stressed) last month, it contained a whopping 21 percent increase for insurance premiums.Borough Councilman and Finance Committee Chairman Michael DuPont explained that the borough obtains its coverage from the Municipal Reinsurance Health Insurance Fund, referred to as HIF. The HIF is a coalition of municipalities that have banded together to jointly purchase insurance coverage as a means of saving money.Why have premiums increased so dramatically?“They gave me no explanation,” Dupont said. “They gave me nothing.”“They’re saying it’s due to an increase in claims,” said Colleen Lapp, Red Bank’s chief financial officer. “We’re asking for the actual hard data to back that up,” she added. But so far, “They don’t have all of it yet.”As he talks to colleagues serving in other municipalities, DuPont found, “They’re all juggling this.”“Yes, everybody is facing an increase,” Lapp observed.“We’re all in the same boat,” said Eatontown Mayor Gerald Tarantolo. Along with his responsibilities in Eatontown, Tarantolo is the chairman of the Two River Council of Mayors, a group of about 13 communities in the Two River area. From his conversations with the council’s mayors, Tarantolo said, the increases appear to be happening across the board.Eatontown’s insurance premiums are rising about eight percent, “It’s a significant jump,” Tarantolo said.That amounts to roughly a $243,000 increase in medical insurance premiums. And that equals an increase of 1.5 cents on the municipal tax rate.“It’s a serious problem,” which has Eatontown officials, “looking, shopping, trying to reduce those costs.”Lou Neely is East Brunswick’s CFO and chairman of the NJ League of Municipalities’ pensions and health benefit committees. He said that, yes, costs are rising throughout the state. “Of course, it’s seen across the board,” Neely said. “Not only here but across the United States.”Towns, in general, have four ways to purchase their coverage: through the HIF, via participation in the state plan, through the purchase of a private sector policy, or by self-insuring.The state plan, Neely said, is seeing about a 20 percent rise in premiums.“We’re going out and giving all our information to the private sector to determine if the HIF is giving us the best service possible,” DuPont said of Red Bank.“All I can say is this is a reccurring theme that we’ve had over the last couple of years,” observed William Dressel Jr. executive director of the League of Municipalities, an advocacy, education and lobbying organization for towns. “It’s definitely a major cost driver.”The state Legislature, supported by Gov. Chris Christie, had placed caps on municipal and public school budget increases, capping the increases at either two or 2.5 percent, depending on the type of spending. The intent of the law was to rein in escalating property taxes. However, health insurance premiums, as well as pension costs, are excluded from the cap. And of course, it is the taxpayers who foot the bill.“Those reforms,” endorsed by Trenton, “really did not address these costs,” Dressel charged.“And it’s not the folks under the gold dome on State Street taking political heat,” he said. “It’s the folks on Main Street, the mayors and governing bodies, who are taking the political heat.”“It’s a very hard sell,” to explain this to the public, Dressel said.Dressel also criticized the Christie Administration for pushing the reforms before getting the so called “toolkit” (a series of bills that would give towns the tools to cut costs), creating additional mandates, and burdens for towns.“If they made that an exception to the cap,” Neely added, “wouldn’t you think they knew this thing was increasing dramatically?”Neely also pointed to the health care costs for younger government retirees, who remain covered by work plans and are too young for federal Medicare—what Neely called “legacy costs.”The number of early retirees has risen, with employees trying to stay ahead of legislation that might curtail their ability to get pensions. Those people “are the most expensive people,” to insure as some of them have children young enough to continue on the plans, he said.Neely blamed the rising costs squarely on the federal Affordable Health Care Act, or what is often called “Obamacare.” “It’s anything but affordable,” which he alleges forced plans to increase premiums four to eight percent, “As a result of federal action.”“It’s driven the rate up,” he charged.DuPont disagrees.“I’m not buying that. I don’t see it,” being the causation of cost increases, DuPont countered. The reasons, he’s hearing, is increased claims, “your plans are too generous. You have to increase your deductible, that type of stuff,” he said.Whatever the reasons, “It’s not going to be resolved locally. It’s not going to be resolved on the state level,” Tarantolo said. “It has to be resolved on the national level.”The Affordable Healthcare Act may not be the fix-all, Tarantolo said, “But let’s get something in place and fix the things that are broken,” he suggested.Legislation passed in the last couple of years will require government employees to make a larger contribution to their healthcare plans to offset costs.Red Bank has gone even further, asking for concessions from local unions to pay for increases, DuPont said. And unions might have to realize that more may be required from their membership in the future .