Seattle City Council’s tone argument

I’m not delusional enough to think Sawant’s fellow council members are only now realizing they don’t like her, but a switch has flipped—maybe it’s as simple as the fact that it’s an election year—and now they’re willing to air their unhappiness in public.

I for one am glad that the era of false collegiality at the Seattle City Council is over. I think too much of our American culture is based on a false niceness. I want us to be a culture where we can openly disagree, sometimes vehemently, and still work together for the common good. What the rest of the city council members are using is essentially the tone argument: we’d listen to you if only you said things nicely. Not only does Ms. Sawant bring different ideas to the table, she brings a different political process.

And I say that as someone who disagrees with her position on rent control. I’d much rather have a discussion with her over how to make housing affordable in Seattle than with the rest of the council, because she values the issue and policy over being nice. She’s not going to take her ball and go home if she’s not shown deference. Most of the rest of them, I think are too worried about keeping everyone happy instead of solving a problem.

Subject line is a link.

Seattle Police Department fails the city again

Walking While Black

Compare the Seattle Police Department’s spinning of the William Wingate case from the SPD with the reporting from the Stranger.

  • The officer who made the arrest received counseling from her supervisor, a course of action that the department believes to be an appropriate resolution.

    A talking-to is an appropriate course of action for causing a man to spend the night in jail and theft of his property for months?

  • “I believe that it’s in everyone’s best interest to also highlight the things that go right. That’s what happened here – this one is a win.”

    I fail to see how this is a win compared with the alternate solution of not bothering the man in the first place.

  • Video of the man’s arrest was just released to a media outlet as a result of a public disclosure request. It is being published on the SPD Blotter in the interest of fostering better police transparency.

    Fostering better transparency would be to publicly release information about these incidents when they are resolved, rather than wait until a news outlet is about to publish a story. For instance, about 18 months ago then interim Chief Jim Pugel pro-actively released a very old “training” video where he’d lampooned the homeless. There was no impending story, but Pugel did the right thing.

Seattle Citizen Petition No. 1 – Again With The Monorail

Citizen Petition No. 1 establishes a new city transportation authority to study another monorail proposal.

Disney Monorail Lime at MK Station
Photo by Joe Penniston (CC By-Nc-Nd)

I was all in favor of the previous monorail proposal that got started and then later shot down at the polls due to a concern over how much it would cost. I am not in favor of this. Here are my reasons.

  • We had a shot at a monorail, and this proposal doesn’t bring a new idea to the table. It focuses on West Seattle to Ballard, which is already being studied by Sound Transit, and it doesn’t include other possible corridors.
  • Sound Transit Light Rail is up and running, soI’d rather we focus on expanding light rail to new neighborhoods. Sound Transit itself is an organization with a track record of completing new segments early and under budget, though with a long time frame and large budget.
  • The proposition is the brainchild of Elizabeth Campbell, who has a history of half-baked activism. The organization that put this on the ballot couldn’t get it’s ballot statement submitted on time. Putting them in charge of a new transportation authority is a recipe for failure.
  • The folks at Seattle Transit Blog are public transportation wonks, and Seattle Transit Blog opposes the monorail measure. These are the most extreme pro-transit people with a platform in Seattle, with knowledge to back that up, not some conservative road-happy developers.

Seattle Propositions 1A and 1B – Early Childhood Education

The history of this one is a little convoluted. Labor unions ran an initiative to do a number of things regarding childcare, chief among them raise the childcare worker minimum wage to $15 per hour and require training and certification. They got enough signatures. The city council worked on a universal preschool pilot program. The propositions aren’t exactly one or the other like initiatives 591 and 594 are, but they both concern how to help preschool age children. So the city made it an either-or proposition.

My assumptive goal is to provide children with the resources to be functioning members of society.

So, if either of these measure does that, I’m going to vote yes on part 1. So on to checking both proposals:

Preschool Colors
Photo by Barnaby Wasson (CC By-Nc-Sa)

Proposition 1A

1A does a few things:

  • It sets the minimum wage for child care workers at $15 per hour with a phase-in of three years. The city council passed a $15 minimum wage that can phase in for up to 7 years. I see no reason to make that more complicated. It was a hard negotiated compromise, and I opposed businesses messing with it and I oppose labor messing with it.
  • 1A mandates that the city adopt goals, timelines and milestones to institute a policy that no family pay more than 10% of their income for early education and child care. While that’s a laudable goal, I think a hard limit of 10% is misguided as it doesn’t factor in number of children, their needs, or their families’ circumstances. I think a sliding scale based on family income and adjusted for other factors is a better target. That’s what 1B does.
  • 1A states that violent felons cannot provide child care in a licensed or unlicensed facility. This is perfectly reasonable, though I’d be surprised if the state doesn’t already prohibit violent felons from working in child care facilities.
  • 1A requires the city hire a Provider Organization to facilitate communication between childcare workers and the city. As far as I can tell from the requirements in the initiative, that organization would need to be one of the unions that is sponsoring the measure. I’m all for unionization, but this seems a bit like making the city talk to the union and pay for the privilege.
  • 1A would establish a training institute to be run by the Provider Organization from the last bullet point that would train and certify all childcare workers. Requiring training and licensing seems fine with me, but requiring the program to be run by a union seems a big loss of independence. I’d rather it be run by another organization, or the city itself.
  • 1A creates a Workforce Board to oversee the measure, including the training institute and standards. Half the board is nominated by the mayor, half by the Provider Organization. That seems like too large amount of influence to give to a union.
  • 1A creates a fund to assist small child care providers to meet city standards. That seems like a great idea.

One thing not listed in this is where the funding for it comes from. That isn’t a definitive reason to vote against it in my view, but it does mean I’m gonna look hard at it. The city would have one more priority to work into an existing budget and it’s not like we have a lot of extra money floating around. I’d prefer if we had an explicit ordered priority for our budget so new things like this could be slotted in at some spot in the priority. We don’t, and so the city is going to have to do it, and going to have to cut something or raise taxes for it (and we don’t have much room to raise with current legislative limits). We could raise property taxes similarly to how 1B does it, but will require another vote. I’d much rather it be included in this vote.

All in all, I’m leaning against this, primarily for the reason that it puts too much control into the hands of the industry to regulate and manage itself on the city’s dime. It seems like a way to restrain trade rather than improve education and child care.

Proposition 1B

Proposition 1B creates a four year pilot early learning (i.e., preschool) program with the goal of making it permanent and covering all preschool age children in the city. It will have free or sliding scale tuition based on income. The oversight board includes 12 members of the Families and Education Oversight Committee, which is (I believe) an existing committee that oversees a previous levy. 4 additional members would be part of the oversight board, and they would be Seattle residents with interest and experience with the growth and development of children. Only one of them can be from an organization that receives funding through the measure.

The proposition enacts a property tax that raises $14 million to fund the pilot program. The city won’t need to prioritize other programs out of the budget.

Proposition 1B seems to be a good faith attempt to provide education to young children, which is my goal, rather than provide a large amount of control to a union. I’m all for unions, and even giving them seats at the table. But they should not be in charge, as their interests are with their members, not with children. I don’t think they are opposed to children’s interests, but they aren’t synonymous.

Upshot is, I’ll be voting yes for part 1 of proposition 1, and for 1B for part 2.

2013 Seattle Mayoral Race: Against Kate Martin

Kate Martin’s top priority for transportation is the following: Decongest bus and street car routes to improve reliability. The following blog post talks about how she intends to do that: Congestion Rx

Kate Martin
(Credit: King County voters’ pamphlet)

Do you see any solutions in that? I don’t. What I see is a cranky neighbor who’s mad that bus drivers are getting overtime. Please explain to me how reducing overtime will materially improve bus service.

She’s got a few other blog posts on transportation as well.

Less Road Rage, More Comprehensive Transportation Planning

Her solution to road rage? Take bikes off the roads and put them on “Greenways.” I love the idea in theory. In practice, this isn’t going to work for a number of reasons. First, Seattle’s geography means that there are number of choke points where bicycles and vehicles will have to share space. Second, given the realities of cranky car people, bicycle roads are going to be shunted to corridors that are a pain in the ass for bicyclists. Is she going to push to turn Roosevelt way or 15th Northwest from a car through-way to a bicycle through-way? I doubt it. Is she going to make it so that bicycle crossings have equal or higher priority at crossings with cars, or will it be like the Burke Gilman trail where every crossing means bicycles have to stop and wait for a cross-walk light? It’s going to be the latter, and that will make it impractical for bicyclists to commute on a greenway.

Regarding Sound Transit Planning for Lightrail to Ballard

Rather than extend Link to Ballard, Kate Martin wants to add a Sounder Commuter stop in West Ballard. Where those tracks go is nowhere near the population centers of Ballard, and people aren’t going to walk that far. This would mean that the station would need a large garage for Park-n-Riders. The train ride would also put commuters at the Amtrak station at the very south end of downtown. That makes sense for people commuting a long distance (the nearest stations are Longacres and Edmonds) where the distance to offices from the station, while a chunky amount, are but a fraction of the total commute. But for commuters from Ballard who need to get to Belltown or north downtown? They’re not going to want a walk that is as long as their train ride to downtown in the first place. A Link route with stops in Interbay, Ballard proper, Loyal Heights and Crown Hill is going to serve commuters a lot better than a Sounder stop.

Or take for instance her priority of “Rebuild the Seattle Police Department”. Here’s how she would do that: SPD: A Path Forward.

Yup, her main idea is to get a strong leader. Duh. Nothing about body cameras, or tracking race to see if the SPD is biased, or getting people who live in Seattle to be officers, or new training programs. Those are ideas from other candidates. They may or may not work, but they are pro-active ideas at least. Kate Martin? In her other blog post on crime wants to target “incivility”: Crime and public safety. What that amounts to is that she wants all the people that annoy and scare her out of downtown, the poor people, the homeless people, the crazy people. Then women will come downtown again!

Sorry Kate Martin, you are a no go for me. A good portion of your policy ideas are dog-whistle items for NIMBYists, not forward-thinking prescriptions for an urban city.

Repeat offenders, real estate edition

I wish I had caught on sooner. Just a word to unsuspecting home sellers in the Seattle area to hopefully save you some trouble.

My grandparent’s place is on the market. We’ve had 4 offers on it, all of which fell through. It’s a tough market right now. I get that. But I’m a little peeved at the behavior of one Ms. Marilyn Scott.

Offer one was from Marilyn Scott. Got the offer, sent it to the lawyer, incorporated some technical changes into a counter offer, but accepted her price. Before we sent it over to her though, she withdrew the offer. I didn’t pay attention to the name at the time though.

Got a second offer from someone else. It wasn’t a great offer. I was about to counter offer when a second offer came in for a lot more money. It was from Marilyn Scott. So we pursued that offer, only to have her back out again. And by the time we figured out she wasn’t serious, the first offer was gone.

Here’s the key, I didn’t associate the second offer from Ms. Scott with the first. Thought they were from two different people.

A fourth offer came in. This one also from Ms. Marilyn Scott. This time I recognized her as the buyer from the second go around. I countered with the same technical changes again, but I suspected there was something wonky going on. I didn’t even bother letting the family know this time. I figured I would as soon as we had come to an agreement on the terms of the P&S, because I suspected she’d back out like the second time. Which she did.

Only just now did I look at the first offer again and realize it was the same woman in three different cases. If she comes back with yet another offer, I won’t even bother. Something screwy with the woman.

You’d think her real estate agents wouldn’t keep making offering for the same place on her behalf. And they probably wouldn’t. All three offers use different agents. Our listing agent has talked with two of them. Neither of them knew she was working with another agent. Now that I’ve pointed out the third, we’ll talk with that one too.

Anyhoo, the whole point of this is to get it all into Google. I’m betting there are other agents around Seattle who have Ms. Marilyn Scott as a client too. If you do, you might want to have a talk with her. If you are a seller, be aware that Marilyn Scott is likely not serious.

Having not sold a place in the Seattle area before, I have no idea if players like this are common. Just weird.

R.I.P. Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Seattle Intelligencer Building (1874)
Seattle Intelligencer Building (1874)

The Seattle P-I announced today that it will publish it’s last print edition tomorrow, March 17th. After that it will go online only. What the online version will look like, how Hearst will staff it, and what kinds of news they will cover in the online incarnation have not been announced.

On one hand, I am sad to see the newspaper disappear. The P-I has been a part of Seattle for years, longer than the surviving Seattle Times in fact. I delivered the P-I for approximately three years in the 1980s, spanning the standalone time and the beginning of the Joint Operating Agreement with the Times, when their biggest rival took over all aspects of the paper except editorial. My grandparents to this day only pick up the P-I on their morning walks. I always considered it the better newspaper of the two Seattle dailies.

That written, I think the city news is in dire need of a shake-up and this might be the needed catalyst. Both dailies are as bland and mediocre as local TV news. They appeared to be in a fight for the most milquetoast middle of Seattle’s culture. When I moved back to Seattle after a decade in Idaho, I did not subscribe to either paper. I continued my subscription to the New York Times. In Idaho it was necessity because the Idaho papers and the Spokane papers are so provincial that the only way to get any kind of non-wire-service coverage of the world was to get newspapers from outside the confines of the Palouse.

On returning I found my sanity still necessitated a New York Times subscription. Too many puff pieces. Too often getting the story wrong. What comes to mind is how the P-I blithely cast aspersions on a crane operator after his crane fell over in Bellevue several years ago. He’s a former drug addict! That must be a factor in the accident! Then when his drug tests turned up clean, nary a word from the P-I in apology. They didn’t even give the clean bill of health the same prominence that they did the drug accusations. Those got page 1 for several days. The exoneration got buried. That is typical television news style. Lurid tales of murder, sex, drugs, and anything that might shock and scare middle-brow Ballard. And lots of boring, bland stories about snow, or rain, and fawning Microsoft coverage. Bleah. I couldn’t pay for that.

Instead, I subscribed to the P-I’s local news coverage via feed syndication. If the headline indicated something of interest, I’d read the excerpt. If that indicated something worthwhile, then I’d click through to the story. In the last 30 days, I only read 13% of the excerpts. And almost never about local politics, which should be a local paper’s forté.

Where did this news junkie get his news? The Stranger. The sad fact is that the local free alt weekly Stranger has hands-down the best news in Seattle. That’s partially because they are willing to have a point of view in their news pages, where the dailies have tried to be objective (maybe I’ll write about objectivity another time). But it’s partially also because they have dedicated reporters who really dig into our urban politics. The Stranger more often covers stories I care about than our other papers.

In it’s current form, the Stranger isn’t a substitute for a good daily. For one, they are too focused on politics and arts from a hipster perspective (despite the fact that they denigrate hipsters at every step, they are tied at the hip to them). They are also only once a week. They don’t have the numbers of staff to cover breaking news. They can’t do investigative journalism properly either because of their staffing levels.

The word I am hearing is that the online P-I will have greatly reduced staffing levels and will become something like Huffington Post, partially an aggregator. If that’s the case, I won’t bother paying much attention.

There are some experiments in news in Seattle. I am hoping one of them takes off. Perhaps The Seattle Courant, Publicola (awful name), or Crosscut (although anyone who publishes Knute Berger needs to have a CAT scan). Maybe something else.

With two bland dailies sucking up 90% of the news space in Seattle, I don’t think their was much room for these experiments. But over the last year as it became increasingly apparent that one or both would shut down, these online sources germinated (and the Stranger increasingly began using Slog as the vehicle for stories that later appeared in the print edition). Now that the P-I will be really emasculated, these perhaps can really thrive. It’s going to be scary, and ugly, and it’s sad that the P-I went. But something needed to die in order for something new to live.

City of Seattle Proposition No. 2 Parks Levy

The City of Seattle’s Proposition 2 concerns increased property taxes for six years for parks purposes.

If approved, this proposition would fund acquiring, developing and restoring parks, recreation facilities, cultural facilities, green spaces, playfields, trails, community gardens, and shoreline areas; all as provided in Ordinance 122749. It would authorize regular property taxes higher than RCW 84.55 limits, allowing collection of up to $24,250,000 in additional taxes in 2009 (up to $145,500,000 over si years). Taxes collected in 2009 would be limited to $2.60 per $1,000 of assessed value, including approximately $0.19 of additional taxes.

Should this levy lid lift be approved?

It’s kinda pricey, but there’s a good argument for it. If Seattle is going to become a world-class city, it’s going to get a lot denser. The additional people will not have the single family home and yard that has been Seattle’s reason for being for a century. We’ll need open spaces and green spaces for people. That means parks. And we need to start developing them now, so that we will be ready when we are a bigger city.

I will vote yes.

City of Seattle Proposition No. 1 Pike Place Market Levy

The City of Seattle’s Proposition No. 1 concerns increased property taxes for six years for Pike Place Market.

If approved, this propsition would fund seismic, safety, energy-saving, and other basic infrastructure improvements at the publicly-owned Pike Place Market, last renovated in the 1970s; all as provided in Ordinance 122737. It would authorize regular property taxes higher than RCW 84.55 limits, allowing collection of up to $12,500,000 in additional taxes in 2009 (up to $73,000,000 over six years). Taxes collected in 2009 would be limited to $2.60 per $1,000 of assessed value, including approximately $0.10 of additional taxes.

Should this levy lid lift be approved?

I am torn on this one, but ultimately I think I will vote for it.

Mostly I just don’t know that the benefit to Seattle is worth the public cost. I don’t think Pike Place Market really brings in that many tourists. Sure they’ll go there once they get here. But I don’t think it brings additional tourists who wouldn’t have come otherwise. On the other hand, I like the market (I used to hang out there every day after high school) and I like the ability to buy fresh foods and handmade items. But I don’t go there that often anymore. I’d love to see businesses renting there put up more of the infrastructure money.

Count me for this one, but reluctantly.