Sole survivor. Jonah Spangenthal-Lee

Court

Political fundraiser Colby Underwood's ongoing lawsuit against his former employee McKenna Hartman ["Fund Fight," Erica C. Barnett, Jan 25] just got uglier.

Earlier this year, Underwood sued Hartman for allegedly stealing his donor lists and client information. In August, he filed a motion to bar Hartman from viewing that information—or, at the very least, to require that any information she viewed be redacted to exclude his personal information.

Exhibit "P" to Underwood's request? A massive stack of personal information about Hartman, including her driver's license number, Social Security number, partial bank-account and credit-card numbers, date of birth, and home address.

In a motion allowing Hartman to review the documents, King County Municipal Court judge Jeffrey M. Ramsdell called Underwood's public disclosure of Hartman's personal information "a veritable treasure trove for an identity theft." He added: "Why Plaintiff would include these unredacted documents in its court submission after contending that such information should be protected from discovery [in Underwood's case] is baffling." Only two possible explanations were possible, Judge Ramsdell concluded: "lack of attention to detail" or spite. "The judge said pretty clearly that there are only two scenarios here—incompetence or malice," Hartman attorney Roger Townsend says. Underwood's attorney Janyce Fink did not respond to a request for comment. ERICA C. BARNETT

Citation

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) has told Ben Gant he has until August 27 to apply for permits so he can continue operating his small blue news kiosk at Third Avenue and Pike Street—the last freestanding newsstand in Seattle.

In November 2007, SDOT cited Gant for failing to maintain and regularly operate the newsstand. Gant filed an appeal with the city's hearing examiner, who told him he'd need to get the stand repermitted before he could renovate it and officially reopen.

If the city does not receive an application from Gant in the next nine days, SDOT spokesman Rick Sheridan says, the city will refer the matter to the city attorney's office, which would likely get a court order to remove the stand. "At this juncture, it's been several months since the hearing examiner ruled against Mr. Gant," Sheridan says. "We feel we've been patient with him."

Gant says he turned in his permit application on Tuesday, August 19, but still needs about $22,000 to revamp the newsstand. JONAH SPANGENTHAL-LEE

Crisis

King County's budget crisis—a projected shortfall that grew this year from an estimated $45 million, to $68 million, to $87 million or higher—can be blamed on many factors: declining sales-tax revenues, inflation, turmoil in the housing market.

One factor in the shortfall that hasn't been widely discussed is rising gas prices, which contribute substantially to King County employees' annual cost-of-living raises. Those raises are linked directly to the Consumer Price Index, which tracks inflation.

In an ordinary year, inflation rises by about 3 percent, give or take a point or two. This year, however, inflation is expected to rise nearly 6 percent, thanks largely to gas prices that rose more than 35 percent. Although gas accounts for just a little more than 5 percent of the CPI—which King County budget director Bob Cowan calls "a market basket of goods"—a spike of the kind that happened last year can throw everything out of whack. So while King County employees are getting impressive raises, the county's budget is going further in the hole, where it will continue to sit until gas prices fall or King County residents start shopping again. ERICA C. BARNETT

Construction

On August 14, the city auditor's office reported that—to no one's surprise—construction projects around Seattle have been blocking sidewalks. However, the city council may defer to the Seattle Department of Transportation when deciding whether to tighten regulations on sidewalk closures.

Current rules are geared to expedite sidewalk-closure permits for developers, but often fail to provide alternative walkways on the same side of the street, and some construction sites, lacking coordination, block both sides of the street. The report recommends fixing that problem, emphasizing cyclist and pedestrian mobility, improving inspection and enforcement, and communicating with the public.

"We realize we have room for improvement," says Rick Sheridan, spokesman for SDOT. The question, however, is whether SDOT will adopt all the recommendations.

Nick Licata, one of three council members who requested the audit, says the department may not have been that diligent in the past because it gets money for street-use permits. The city council could pass a law to require the changes. But, Licata says, if SDOT "opposes legislation, the council may decide not to go there." DOMINIC HOLDEN