This GeekWire interview with Mayor McGinn indicates that blazing-fast internet may not be arriving in Seattle as promised:
Financing problems are forcing Gigabit Squared to delay plans to implement a high-speed Internet network in 12 Seattle neighborhoods using the city’s dormant “dark fiber” network.
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn — a longtime champion of the project who will leave office at the end of the year — acknowledged the setback in an interview with GeekWire this afternoon. He said Gigabit Squared, the company behind the project, is having problems securing financing to install the network, and he raised questions about the project’s future.
“We’re now a year into it and the question is, will it work or not?” McGinn said inside his office at City Hall. He acknowledged that he’s ”very concerned it’s not going to work.”
GeekWire contacted Gigabit Squared for comment, but a company representative said executives were unavailable for comment this afternoon.
It's an interesting piece and you should read the whole thing. In the article, McGinn says that if public financing won't work, "it’s time for Seattle to consider using tax dollars for a city-run network." That decision, of course, will be up to incoming Mayor Murray, who received thousands upon thousands of dollars from Comcast in the run-up to the election.
Originally posted at 11:27 am and moved up.
Bertha, the world's widest tunnel-boring machine at 58 feet in diameter, is lodged beneath downtown Seattle after encountering a mysterious obstruction, says KaDeena Yerkan at the Washington State Department of Transportation. The fact that Bertha is "stuck" was first brought to my attention on Twitter by KING 5's Linda Brill. So I followed up with the state to ask long she's been stuck, how long it will take to get her dislodged, and whether the object in her path is in fact Mayor Mike McGinn. "I'm trying to gather information now," says Yerkan. "We know that Bertha has hit some kind of obstruction—don't know if it's manmade or natural. I should have more info very soon." Stay tuned. In the meantime, a deep thought: A tunneling machine that can't tunnel through an obstruction may not be the greatest tunneling machine.
UPDATE at 12:20 PM: Bertha herself has commented to say she's fine—she's just kinda, um, not fine?
Seeing some reports that I’m stuck. I’m working fine, but have encountered an obstruction. I’ll keep you posted.
— Bertha (@BerthaDigsSR99) December 9, 2013
The tunneling machine encountered an obstruction in the ground that slowed its progress on Friday evening. Experts from Seattle Tunnel Partners and WSDOT are still gathering information to determine the nature of the obstruction. The machine is operating well, but crews have stopped mining as a precautionary measure. They will determine a path forward after more is known about the obstruction.
The machine is about 60 feet deep and is halfway between South Jackson and South Main. It recently passed the 1,000' mark. We don't yet know when the machine will be moving again—we will provide additional information as we learn more about the obstruction.
Seattle's mayor-elect, Ed Murray, will announce his senior staff positions and department heads this week, according to Murray spokesman Jeff Reading. Reading says Murray may hold a press conference on Wednesday.
Will it actually happen? Last Friday Murray announced a press conference for this morning with Bernard Melekian, his advisor on law-enforcement issues, but Murray canceled that event Friday night without explanation. Which is too bad: After running a campaign long on gauzy promises of togetherness and short on specific plans, I'm guessing lots of reporters wanted to see how Murray talks about policy now that he's won. Can he pick a side—sometimes a side that will turn off dissenters—and still be a paragon of unity?
Murray's staff roll-out puts him a couple weeks behind Mayor Mke McGinn who named his staff—two real estate men and a political strategist—in late November of 2009. However, McGinn didn't have a formal transition team, whereas Murray has focused on hosting a massive transitional loya jirga.
Here in Seattle, the city has identified a half dozen potential replacement models for its fleet of around 300 cop cars, tested them for more than a year, and said it will announce a winner in the next few months.
But while city spokespeople say the process is going smoothly—and it's partly on hold now while the mayor's office changes hands—the union representing roughly 1,200 Seattle cops seems to feel otherwise, claiming that a decision was already made by officers and then rejected at city hall.
In the November issue of the Guardian, the newspaper of the Seattle Police Officers' Guild (SPOG), vice president Sergeant Ty Elster complains that the city ignored cops' recommendation. He writes that "after many months of SPOG members testing, evaluating, and researching vehicles," when the cops announced their pick, "City Hall didn't like our selection."
What was that winning vehicle? A Ford Interceptor SUV.
Just picture it: A brand-new fleet of hulking police SUVs cruising the city while the department tries to soften its image. The department is currently under a federal consent decree that contends police have used excessive force and racially biased tactics. Not to mention the city is also trying to meet new climate goals.
And Rick Anderson at the Seattle Weekly has a great story in this issue on that shooting, which occurred this past spring when Bellevue police came to serve a warrant on a suspect in Seattle.
After Russell Lydell Smith was shot to death in his car outside his Columbia City home in March by a Bellevue SWAT team, Seattle Police, who were also on the scene, said the officers were forced to shoot because Smith seemed determined to “drive them over rather than surrender.”
But as a King County inquest jury is likely to hear next week, Smith, a 51-year-old Seattle laborer and ex-con sought for questioning in five robberies, was killed in a 21-shot fusillade even though his car had nowhere to go. The gold 2000 Mercedes, having sped backward out of Smith’s driveway and crashed into a pickup truck, faced in the direction of a street dead end. The only way out was blocked by the pickup. A police armored vehicle had also moved in behind it.
Encircled by heavily armed SWAT officers commanding him to stop and surrender, Smith put the car in drive and accelerated, police claim. Within seconds, bursts of gunfire from three officers—two with automatic weapons—riddled his car doors and windows. Smith, within almost point-blank range of some officers, was hit eight times in his dead-end drive, the apparent fatal shot being a bullet to the side of his head. No officers or neighbors were hurt.
I wrote about this story at the time, but there was frustratingly little information forthcoming from either Bellevue or Seattle Police Department on the shooting itself, because of the active, ongoing investigation. Now that the inquest hearing is finally happening, the city and Smith's neighbors are starting to get some of the answers they so desperately wanted back in March.
A few important details Anderson writes about: police "did not report finding a gun on Smith," and they "gave conflicting impressions of his motives for the apparent attempt to escape without an exit route." Also, as to how the inquest will likely turn out: "Unanimous 'justified' verdicts have been the outcome of almost all of the more than 200 countywide cop-related deaths reviewed in the past 65 years."
Read the whole thing. The hearing before the inquest jury begins on Monday.
The search for a new police chief will begin in earnest next year, and the city council is proposing a rule change designed to attract stronger candidates. A bill from Council Member Bruce Harrell first heard in his public safety committee today would allow a new chief to hire some of his senior command staff from outside the Seattle Police Department.
Which makes sense, right? The federal police monitor overseeing SPD's compliance with a consent decree has said that at least some of the current command staff is actually contributing to the department's problems.
But the move doesn't come without controversy—among cops and council members.
Thanks to a rule passed by the council in the 1970s, anyone hired for a position above captain in the Seattle Police Department is currently required to be promoted from within. Which means that a new police chief hired from outside SPD can't bring any command staff with him or her, or hire any from another police force, and must instead promote people for roles like assistant chief from within SPD.
The restriction is doubly unappealing to potential chief candidates: First, it's attractive for chiefs considering a move to be allowed to bring along someone they know and trust to be part of a new command staff in a new city. Second, it seems odd to ask someone to come in to help reform a department—a department whose structural and cultural problems extend all the way up through the current command staff—and then say, oh, yeah, you have to hire your entire six-person command staff from our troubled department. According to Council Member Tim Burgess, this restriction has been "a big roadblock in the past" that has actually "stopped us form getting the kinds of candidates we want."
But this can't be taken well by the police unions, right? And indeed, in the public safety committee meeting today, chair Bruce Harrell mentioned that there's already been at least a preliminary objection by the police officers' union that they see this as a problem since it affects their hiring pipeline. No word yet from the police managers' union, which represents these higher-ranking officers.
That's where the claws came out:
Here's a first sentence that sounds deceptively boring: Earlier this week, the city council announced the agenda for this afternoon's meeting of the public safety committee.
One item in particular jumped out:
4. C.B. 117996 (PDF Version)
Relating to security from terrorism; authorizing the City to partner with the State of Washington and King County to receive financial assistance from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Office for State and Local Government Coordination and Preparedness under the Urban Areas Secuirty Initiative Grant for Federal Fiscal Year 2012; authorizing an application for allocation of funds under that agreement; amending the 2013 Adopted Budget Ordinance 124058 by increasing appropriations to the Seattle Police Department and Seattle Fire Department and accepting revenues; and, ratifying and confirming prior acts, all by a three-fourths vote of the City Council.
BRIEFING, DISCUSSION, AND POSSIBLE VOTE (10 minutes)
Presenters: Captain Ron Leavell, Lt. Mark Mount, and Chris Steel, SPD
Hm. The council's public safety committee breezing through a 10-minute review of what the SPD might do with money from the Department of Homeland Security? Sound familiar?
It's how Seattle got its surveillance surprises over the past year: the drones, waterfront cameras, and mesh network that the SPD quietly bought and installed without going out of their way to share the details with the rest of us. (To be fair, the council didn't exactly go out of their way to dig up any.)
And it's why the SPD has had to go on mea culpa tours of community meetings to explain to baffled (and sometimes hostile) crowds what these things were, how we got them, and whether we need them.
That pattern didn't work out so well: the drones have been grounded, the cameras are supposedly off (or at least not being actively used), and the mesh network has been disabled.
So what DHS-funded projects were on today's agenda?
Some of them look innocuous enough—training for first responders, safeguards against catastrophe in the event of "structural collapse," and improving ways to warn "vulnerable populations" about emergencies.
But project number nine on the list raises some questions—it funds facial-recognition technology that would allow the SPD to cross-check photos of unknown "suspects" with a large database. Which could be fine, if used properly.
But why repeat the mistakes of the past by rubber-stamping another DHS-funded technology that might have some surveillance implications that we should think about first?
Goldy has a great analysis below of the future city council District 3, which Kshama Sawant won handily. These precinct-by-precint analyses are what I've been waiting for since election day—and since Charter Amendment 19 passed, I've had this scene from Milk, about how districts can change elections, running on a loop in my head.
But how'd Sawant win citywide? Well, PubliCola has another precinct-by-precinct piece by political consultant Benjamin Anderstone, who divides Seattle's voters into two clearly defined camps: "the wealthy, older center-left establishment (the 'conservative bloc') versus the younger, more urban set (the 'progressive bloc')." So:
How did a socialist like Sawant win alongside Murray, the “conservative” mayoral candidate?
McGinn’s loss reflects both his weaknesses and Murray’s strengths. McGinn saw fairly big losses in middle-class areas dominated by single-family homes, especially in West Seattle, where he fell from 48 percent to 42 percent. This wasn’t what doomed McGinn, though: It was progressive bloc areas that were his death knell. McGinn’s support in Capitol Hill’s Broadway neighborhood, for instance, cratered from 70 percent in 2009 to 59 percent this year. McGinn lost because Murray was able to draw away progressive bloc voters.
Viewed in this light, Conlin’s loss is pretty simple. Sawant held the progressive bloc together ably. As the maps show, Sawant struggled more than McGinn—predictably—in wealthy areas of the conservative bloc. However, her margins in the progressive bloc were very strong: She received 71 percent in Broadway, essentially the same showing as 2009 McGinn. Sawant won because she held together the progressive bloc in a way that McGinn couldn’t.
UPDATE: If you'd like to see how universally popular Charter Amendment 19 was, check out the electoral map right here. Looks like Seattle was ready for districts, huh?
Vulcan spokeswoman Lori Mason Curran said at the time that leaning harder on their neighborhood than adjacent downtown was "disappointing" and "shortsighted."
Well, now Vulcan can stop whining: In the next couple of weeks, the council is set to vote on applying the same housing rules downtown, establishing parity for both neighborhoods.
A bill introduced by Council Member Mike O'Brien would extend South Lake Union's rules, which say residential developers can access extra height for their towers—in some places they could be up to 10 stories higher—if they include some modestly affordable units. (Modestly affordable means affordable to those making around $48,000 per year.) But there's a catch: If developers don't want to build that housing themselves, or if they are building commercial office towers, they can simply pay into a low-income housing fund. Currently, downtown developers must pay $15.15 per square foot of new floor space to access that bonus height, and developers have been routinely paying it instead of building cheaper units themselves. O'Brien's bill would raise the fee to $21.68 per square foot, the same as South Lake Union.
But the council is not stopping there.
On Thursday, November 21, a social media fanatic named Nick Starr entered Lost Lake wearing Google Glass, only to be asked by a manager to remove the nonprescriptive glasses or leave the restaurant. At which point, Starr writes on Facebook, he “asked to see where it was policy for Glass to be disallowed at Lost Lake. [The manager] said she couldn't provide any.” As Starr was leaving the restaurant, he noted that the Lost Lake menu encourages customers to “Post photos on our website via Instagram by using #LostLake.” Starr asks rhetorically: “So how is an establishment which is REQUESTING photos be taken, not allow me to bring a device which takes photos and can post to Instagram?”
At this point, you're probably asking yourself, who's the bigger asshole in this situation? Let me clear that up for you: Starr is the bigger asshole. Not only do restaurants reserve the right to refuse service to anyone, but Starr's request that the manager be fired for daring to ask him to remove his stupid Glass(es) pretty much cinches it: “I would love an explanation, apology, clarification, and if the staff member was in the wrong and lost the owner money last night and also future income as well, that this income be deducted from her pay or her termination,” he writes on Facebook.
That's exactly the kind of asshole response you'd expect from someone wearing Google Glass.
But wait! The story doesn't end there! Today Lost Lake sent out a Facebook message and corresponding tweet clarifying its stance on Google Glass:
We kindly ask our customers to refrain from wearing and operating Google Glasses inside Lost Lake. We also ask that you not videotape anyone using any other sort of technology. If you do wear your Google Glasses inside, or film or photograph people without their permission, you will be asked to stop, or leave. And if we ask you to leave, for God's sake, don't start yelling about your "rights". Just shut up and get out before you make things worse.
And it's not over. It'll never be over.
@NickStarr We like you, just not when you wear Glass inside. We thought it was understood wearing them inside is uncomfortable for others.
— David Meinert (@davidmeinert) November 26, 2013
It's fall, and that means it's the season of beautiful crimson leaves spiraling downward from trees all poetic-like, then the season of a zillion pounds of grody brown leaf mush covering every sidewalk, and somewhere in between, the season of waking up at 7 in the morning to the sound of somebody riding a lawn mower through the middle of your brain—or at least, that's what a 7 a.m. leaf blower right outside your window sounds like.
Now the city appears to be getting involved in this epic urban battle: Capitol Hill Seattle wrote last week of a little-noticed line item in the city's budget asking the Department of Planning and Development to "provide recommendations describing options for regulations and incentives to reduce or eliminate leaf blower noise and emissions in Seattle."
This morning, council president Sally Clark asked on her Facebook page:
Ok, leafblowers. Subject has risen again. Ban them? Regulate hours of use? Spend time on this at all?Everyone, of course, has an opinion—comments range from "they are indispensable" to "not only ban them, put a bounty on them" to "the city has bigger fish to fry." Dan weighed in years ago—he's con, at least in Cal Anderson. Erica C. Barnett at PubliCola weighed in last week, also con, calling them "filthy" and "noisy as hell." Sightline, meanwhile, isn't exactly pro, but they happily myth-bust the claim that leaf blowers have anything to do with climate change.
What's a city council president to do? Well, as we all know, there's "democracy," whatever the hell that means, and then there's a good old-fashioned legally binding Slog poll. So, to the polls!
When the Seattle City Council adopts a $4.4 billion dollar 2014 budget on November 25, one item will stand out: a $750,000 funding bump for Seattle's next mayor, Ed Murray. "This would be in addition to the [mayor's] base budget of roughly $3.75 million," explained Ben Noble, director of the city council's central staff, at the council's November 8 budget committee meeting.
Why is this line item so unusual? Four years ago, Mike McGinn was elected mayor. That same week, the council cut $524,891 in staff funding for the new mayor's office. Another $500,000 in staff funding could not "be spent until... the Mayor submits a plan for how policy functions will be organized in the Mayor's office," according to the 2010 budget.
Now it's the opposite story.
On November 8, three days after voters passed a new district model for future Seattle City Council elections, council transportation chair Tom Rasmussen put forth a funding plan for a project in West Seattle, where he lives, that would turn Fauntleroy Way Southwest into a "green boulevard." That caught the attention of some city hall staff: If Rasmussen seeks reelection in 2015, he may well seek it in the newly drawn 1st District of West Seattle, and the project in question looked like a generous gift to that district. By all accounts, this is a great project, one that's been a long time in the making, and the kind of pedestrian-friendly infrastructure the neighborhood needs. But when he proposed funding it by pulling $500,000 from an equally pedestrian-friendly project in Northgate—a half million to help plan pedestrian connections, including a footbridge, from the west side of I-5 to the future light-rail station to the east—neighbors got pissed.
And with good reason.
Today's three-hour meeting was a "work period" for the team, so they could start the process of brainstorming ideas for the new administration and offering input on how the city can best serve the communities each member is there to represent.
And for all the jokes about the team's size, it's diverse and full of smart, interesting people. I chatted up Mohamed Hassan, director of Afrique Services Center and a commissioner of the Office of Immigrant & Refugee Affairs, to ask what it really meant to be on the transition team. "It means a lot to us," he said of representing immigrant communities, especially East Africans. "People are realizing we're here, and we're contributing members of society." Being on the transition team, he said, allows him to communicate to city departments that "this community has a stake in this administration."
In head-coach-in-a-baseball-movie style, Ed Murray gave the team a speech, in which he called himself a "quote queen," then quoted former presidents. He talked a lot about JFK, his working-class background, "bridging what divides us," and how Seattle should be a "model of government effectiveness." He used the phrase "my friends," which no one should do because it makes you sound like John McCain or Mitt Romney.
After his speech, when the transitioners were sitting in circles, nibbling cookies and journaling about their feelings, Murray told the press he was soon going to mayor school—like, real, literal mayor school at the Kennedy School, proving once and for all that Mayor Mike McGinn's campaign quip "There is no mayor's school" was tragically untrue, after all.
I asked Murray about the $15 minimum wage, an issue he ended up campaigning on and which has a lot of traction in the city, with Kshama Sawant's win and the win in SeaTac. On the trail he didn't give a real timeline for how to get there, but today he said, "We'll begin our process immediately... We're having our discussions in the transition team already." He wants to "bring people to the table" (a politician? Who knew?!), and says "if we end up in a labor-business war, it won't happen." He also wants to be "especially sensitive to our small neighborhood businesses—like the Pike/Pine corridor," he laughed.
City Budget Office Director Beth Goldberg, the woman responsible for stabilizing our depressing, recession-era city budget under the McGinn administration—a budget with virtually no new revenue that nevertheless managed to preserve much-needed social services—is resigning, according to everyone.
Here is a nice quote about her from mayor Mike McGinn:
"When I entered office, we were experiencing the longest, deepest recession since the Great Depression. Beth quickly stabilized our city budget in the face of dramatically reduced revenues. She crafted policies to rebuild our Rainy Day Fund to record levels, including proactively restoring depleted reserve funds. Beth worked hard to make the City budget more accessible to the general public and won an award for municipal budget transparency last year. And she was instrumental in securing an innovative, long-term jail contract with King County that provides financial and operational security to both of our governments. I am grateful for her service in my administration and strongly believe that she is leaving City government in better shape than when she arrived.”
She may be resigning but, according to sources, Goldberg is only doing so because she was pressured by Ed Murray's camp. "It's the prerogative of the Mayor-elect's to hand-pick department heads and he's exercising that prerogative for the Budget Office, among others," confirms Murray spokesman Jeff Reading, who adds: "I think there will be a greater opportunity to articulate the answer to the inevitable next question — 'well, then why that department?' — when he names his selection for the job."
It's also fairly common knowledge that Goldberg didn't work well with folks on the second floor—or rather, they didn't work well with her (the council's budget committee chair, Tim Burgess, banned her from attending his budget meetings earlier this year).
Peter Hahn, the director of the Seattle Department of Transportation is also, ahem, "resigning," as is Office of Intergovernmental Relations Director Marco Lowe, Personnel Director Dave Stewart, and Rick Hooper, Director of the Office of Housing.
Within a few minutes of Richard Conlin conceding defeat last Friday, his socialist challenger, Kshama Sawant, issued a statement. First she politely acknowledged Conlin's 16 years of service on the Seattle City Council, and then she twisted the knife: "These exciting results show a majority of voters are fed up with the corporate politicians."
She's right, of course.
Sawant's refreshingly blunt rhetoric about "corporate politicians" (career incumbents backed by wealthy donors)—combined with specific proposals to raise wages, lower rents, and tax millionaires—was exactly what catapulted her to a surprising victory. Agitprop yard signs, communistic red T-shirts, and even her Twitter avatar all blazed with Sawant's ubiquitous theme: Pass a $15-minimum-wage law now. She was also brash. When announcing her campaign in March, Sawant called Paul Allen's Vulcan a "shark devouring real estate," and her spokesperson recently wrote that Conlin is "a cancer on the council." Then last week, as late vote tallies showed Sawant eking out a lead, she responded to mayor-elect Ed Murray's support for a $15 minimum wage by saying, "We were calling for that before it became cool."
She's right again—sorta.
But the same cutting language a candidate uses on the campaign trail can come back and cut the candidate off at the knees once she's elected. Those "corporate politicians" she's talking about? They are Sawant's future council colleagues. And uncool Murray? Sawant now needs him to sign that wage bill into law. As a lawmaker, Sawant's statements don't exactly scream, "Let's work together." Some of them actually seem kinda shitty. Especially when dealing with politicians in Seattle, whose egos bruise like pears.
A few offensive statements from Sawant may be enough for critics to brand her as divisive and ideological, the sort of tarring and feathering that helped sink Mayor Mike McGinn. And being painted with that reputation would not only burden her as a council member, it would be used by critics to sink wage-reform legislation.
This outraged—outraged—email that was sent to the Seattle city council...
Recently I was in Seattle and when I visited the MOHAI Museum, I received a parking ticket because I didn't "back in" to the parking space. I think the $45 fine is an excessive and obvious scam by the city to fund the MOHAI museum on the backs of the visitors. Shame on the city of Seattle for this! The museum is expensive enough, and the "back in" parking fine is insult to injury. There is no good reason for the back in parking at that lot. (Or any lot!) I for one refuse to pay this fine and I don't care if it does go to collection and does affect my credit rating. It's a slap in the face to visitors who are enjoying your city. You can bet I won't visit that museum ever again.
...has me wondering: Has anyone ever visited MOHAI twice?
This afternoon, Seattle Police officers entered the Horace Mann building, a Central District property owned by the Seattle School District, and arrested four people that the district says have been illegally using the property since this past summer. The four were led out in handcuffs past a large banner that read, "Help us stop the school to prison pipeline now."
Ansel is reporting from the school; he says there's a large police presence and Cherry Street, between 24th and 25th Avenue, has been blocked off. "They're pulling out individuals in handcuffs," Ansel says. He asked one arrestee, a man named Greg, what the scene was like inside the building and "he shouted that the SPD has been very professional in how they've been handling him." With roughly 20 cops milling about the area, it's unclear if more arrests are forthcoming.
The Seattle Police Department apparently decided this morning that the arrests would take place after receiving notice that there were no children in the building. However, the arrests come as no surprise to those familiar with the protracted fight over the Horace Mann building. Central District News has the backstory:
The Nova Alternative High School is set to open in the E Cherry Mann building next year, but groups operating under the More 4 Mann coalition have been using the space for various activities, including outdoor movie events, mentoring programs, vocational training, and other programs.
The groups were told to vacate by Aug. 15, then Aug. 30, and most recently by Sept. 18 so renovations could begin to stay on track for a Nova return next fall. More 4 Mann continues to operate out of the building, which has raised the hackles of some in the community.
More 4 Mann has been essentially occupying the building, calling on the Seattle School district to do more to address racial inequities in our public school system. Most recently, on November 7, Seattle Public Schools superintendent José Banda informed the group that they were trespassing.
"This is bullshit," a bystander and More 4 Mann supporter named Charlie Mitchell said on the scene. "We were standing up trying to do something for the kids. They were putting up an antenna radio. These are just peaceful folks trying to make a stand for the kids."
"I don't support any eviction," says Malakhi Kaine, a parent of Seattle public schools students and member of the Africatown Center for Education and Innovation Task Force, which operated out of the Mann building, when reached by phone. That group left the building on the district's schedule and is still negotiating with the district to get a new space. "I don't think that was necessary," he adds. "The negotiations are still underway... We have a lot more support than we first started. We've never been on hostile terms with the district. And we're moving forward."
The four people arrested today will be charged with criminal trespass, says SPD spokeswoman Detective Renee Witt.
More photos after the jump.
What's in the City Council's $4 Billion Budget? Funds for a Northgate pedestrian/bike bridge to connect the community college with the future light-rail station, a $750,000 bump in Murray's staffing budget, and the $130,000 needed to keep the young adult shelter open at the Orion Center.
A Win for Minimum Wage: It looks like certain SeaTac Airport and related workers have won the right to earn a $15 minimum wage, plus benefits.
Gut Over Mind: Scientists explore whether our guts rule our minds, and if probiotics or a gut transplant can help treat everything from autism and bipolar disorder to cowardice. (My gut mostly urges me to eat PopTarts in inappropriate settings, like at funerals, gun ranges, and teeth cleanings.)
Ladies, Can We Call a Truce? Science speculates that slut-shaming is a stigma "enforced mainly by women."
Seattle's First Bike Hotel: A local developer wants to build a boutique bike hotel along the Burke Gilman Trail in the U-District, featuring 26 hotel rooms, trail ride recommendations, on-site bike share, a restaurant and virtually no parking. In response, some neighboring businesses are clutching their pearls and guarding their parking spots.
Where's the Photo Opp of Barneys Kissing a Black Baby Swaddled in a Hermes Belt? Facing criticism for allegedly detaining black shoppers who'd purchased items from Barneys, the high-end retail store has announced that it will donate 100 percent of the sales from its collaboration with Jay Z to the Shawn Carter Foundation, which provides educational assistance to urban youths.
Look! A transit GIF!
Washington Needs Better Mental Health Laws: The parents of Joel Reuter, the young man struggling with mental health issues who was shot by Seattle police last summer, are in Olympia this week lobbying legislators to adopt mental health laws similar to those in Arizona.
The biggest difference they noticed was the time of treatment. In Arizona, Joel was ordered into a year of combined inpatient and outpatient care, with follow-up to make sure he took his medications. Washington judges can order 14 days of inpatient care or 90 days of outpatient treatment, that can be upped to a maximum 180 days. Doug Reuter said, "If the laws had been in place to keep Joel in the hospital until he was well and mandate a one-year follow-up where he is taking his medicine, none of the rest would have happened, none of it would have happened."
22 Dead in Beirut: Following a double suicide bombing outside the Iranian embassy in the Lebanese capital.
The Middle Class Is Still Disappearing: There are 700,000 fewer middle-income households now since the beginning of the economic crisis, despite our economic recovery.
Where'd the Middle Class Migrate To? Why, to Mexico! Ole!
Nobody's Perfect: Rob Ford, the Toronto mayor-in-name-only says he's not resigning, despite being stripped of everything but his pomp, circumstance, and pants. Ford says he deserves to still be mayor because he stopped drinking—and smoking crack, presumably—after finding Jesus. And he's working out more. Hell, one day he might even run for prime minister.
The Return of Monty Python: "We're getting together and putting on a show—it's real," Terry Jones told the BBC.
Your Body Is a Wonderland, Your Vagina, a Hoover Vacuum: Talk to your kids about sex or else cross-wielding strangers will be paid to come to their schools and tell them that condoms will give them cancer, and that vaginas are like greedy little Hoover vacuums and dicks are errant dust bunnies.
And finally, please enjoy this gentleman's disagreement about the art of trumpeting:
It looks like the funding to help plan a Northgate pedestrian/bike bridge, connecting the community college with the future light-rail station, is gonna stay in the city budget after all. And there'll still be some money for a "green boulevard" project on Fauntleroy Way in West Seattle, too.
I wrote last week about a budget maneuver by council transportation chair Tom Rasmussen, which would grab $500,000 originally aimed at Northgate bridge planning and funnel it toward the Fauntleroy project instead. Rasmussen thought he could do that and then fund the bridge next year; pedestrian advocates and frustrated neighbors thought losing this bridge money would compromise other funding.
More than $1 million was to come from sidewalk work that SDOT couldn’t start until 2015 anyway, and half a million was to be diverted from design work for a Northgate pedestrian project related to light-rail service that is still almost a decade away. Advocacy groups including Feet First pointed out that while the service is far away, the project involving an overpass needs to be designed ASAP or else some other parts of the project might be in jeopardy. So this morning, in response to our followup question, Councilmember Rasmussen said he plans to propose leaving the $500,000 in the Northgate budget, and downshifting the Fauntleroy request to $1.3 million, and that he is hopeful his fellow councilmembers will support that.
There's a lot more about the Fauntleroy project over at WSB. Some people involved have been looking at this funding fight as a neighborhood-vs.-neighborhood thing, with Rasmussen living in (and possibly running in) the West Seattle council district, and poor neglected North Seattle without a council member to call their own. And that's an interesting view. But for his part, Rasmussen says districts don't come into it at all; he supports both projects, and they're both neat new ped/bike/transit-oriented infrastructure.
I also talked to state representative Gerry Pollet (D-46) this morning, who confirmed that taking those city funds away from the bridge could make it more difficult to secure much-needed state funding, because it "would imply a lack of support, that it wasn't ready to go." Now, after talking to Rasmussen, he says, "I'm very pleased that he's not going to pull that funding."*
So: Congrats, both Northgaters and West Seattleites. Everybody wins! (Erm, except that most of that $1.3 million comes from funding for sidewalks, which is, as everyone knows, North Seattle's most serious gripe with the city since forever. But keep it cordial, Northies!)
*A quick side note on the topic of the bridge's utility and importance: Pollet also explained that "the surveys show a lot of the users of the [current Northgate transit center] parking live within a mile as the crow flies, but to the west of Northgate, on the other side of I-5." So they drive cars over to the transit center, park, and then use transit. This project expects to cut out a lot of those car trips, since people will be able to just walk or bike over the bridge. Super-cool, right?
Having political smarts isn’t about brokering power. True political geniuses are bringing policy to the table and suturing it to the flesh and bones of our city. They’re working, usually behind the curtain, to change conversations about what’s possible.
Seattle is wealthy. It’s educated. And the voters are liberal. We’ve got everything it takes to become a national model for building mass transit, closing achievement gaps in schools, innovating environmental policy, and treating everyone equitably.
But way too often, the same cast of self-satisfied schmucks hogs the limelight while settling for a career of unmemorable civic housekeeping. For instance, the Seattle City Council lacks a vision for a citywide light-rail system while instead making noisy fanfare over largely inconsequential tweaks to the city budget. The politicians, consultants, and donors who keep city hall buzzing are not the geniuses in this town. Not that we are, either. Just like most of the brain-dead TV news shows and stenographers in the Seattle Times newsroom, The Stranger obsesses too much over pasty politicians and beats our head against the wall when they do stupid shit.
Here, we want to focus on the people who are making this city better—the people talking about substance. They’re the smartest people in town. The list includes: Rahwa Habte, Sahar Fathi, Marsha Botzer, Nick Hanauer, Dorli Rainey, Lisa Daugaard, Melissa Westbrook, Kate Joncas, and tons more.
Just as the 5 o' clock news began, a line of sepulchral-looking staffers stood outside the Seattle City Council offices for four-term councilman Richard Conlin. He emerged to greet his colleagues—passing an empty white coffee mug back and forth between his hands during handshakes—and then, mug in tow, approached a wall of reporters and brightly lit TV-camera rigs.
"Unfortunately," he said, Kshama Sawant had pulled ahead in the latest vote tallies. "We do not see a realistic path to success," Conlin added. "We are officially conceding defeat. We ran a strong campaign. She obviously ran a stronger one." He doesn't intend to run for office again, he said.
"I am surprised and disappointed," said Conlin, flanked by scores of city staff and Council Members Sally Bagshaw and Tim Burgess.
It's fair to say Sawant's victory—a socialist with few institutional backers—is as blindsidingly stunning as Conlin's defeat. In his 16 years on the council, Conlin had established a bedrock of support from donors and endorsing organizations. But today's vote batch gave Sawant 56.3 percent of the day's tally, thereby handing her a 1,640-vote lead, 50.3 percent to 49.4 percent.
Speculating on her upset as a lefty outsider, Sawant said in an interview earlier this afternoon, "He was blasé until the end almost."
She issued a statement this evening: "While I do not agree with Richard Conlin's political positions, I respect that he served on the city council for 16 years," adding, “These exciting results show a majority of voters are fed up with the corporate politicians who have presided over the widening chasm between the super-rich and the rest of us."
"I'm sure there are many things I could have done differently," Conlin told reporters. But, without naming specifics, Conlin said was proud that he "was not afraid to stand up" to support what he supported or oppose what he opposed. One reporter asked if he felt unfairly pilloried in the press. He declined to comment but said, graciously, "We did not get our message across."
Mayor-elect Ed Murray ran on a platform of bringing lots and lots of people together. And boy howdy, he's doing it. He named 43 people to his transition team today. His office says the team "looks like Seattle," though it looks mostly like folks who backed his campaign. The roster is posted after the jump.
Information beyond that in the subject line is scarce.
Here's the announcement on the Ace Hotel blog.
Here's a report from refinery29.com.
And here's a NYT profile of Calderwood from 2011.
Council Member Tom Rasmussen says he's trying to tweak the city budget to fund two different pedestrian/bike/transit improvements, both of which are important. As I wrote yesterday, while his plan removes $500,000 from planning for a Northgate pedestrian bridge so he can use that money to fund a green boulevard in West Seattle, he says he's quite certain that adding the same money back into next year's budget will be good enough to keep the bridge project on schedule.
But advocates for the bridge project strongly disagree. This morning, local pedestrian advocacy organization Feet First wrote a letter to Rasmussen asserting that his budget change "could jeopardize completion" of the Northgate ped/bike bridge, which would connect the future light-rail station with the communities on the other side of the highway. They say that his move to take away planning money could put the bridge behind schedule.
Here's why, says Feet First:
It is vital that this project move forward, particularly in 2014. Although the city and Sound Transit have committed a combined $10 million towards partial funding of the Northgate Pedestrian/Bicycle Bridge, this project still has an $8–$10 million funding gap. The agreement between the city and Sound Transit stipulates that this funding gap must be closed by the summer of 2015 or the Northgate Pedestrian/Bicycle Bridge project will be cancelled and the money reallocated. The city is currently pursuing grants to close the funding gap. However, any delays in project development will weaken efforts to secure these grants; the lack of a preferred alternative will make this project less competitive against other grant applications that are closer to construction.
They also get a jab in at the neighborhood angle, noting that "for years, north Seattle's pedestrian infrastructure has been neglected." North Seattle, you'll recall, is the only future city council district that can't count a single city council member as a resident. A PDF of the full letter is right here.
The West Seattle project is a great project, and Rasmussen has every reason to support it, even outside the framework of the new districts (he lives in West Seattle). But projects get prioritized for a reason, and while he doesn't seem concerned about how this will affect the bridge's funding, plenty of other people, including the often-overlooked neighborhoods the bridge will serve and regional organization Feet First, certainly are worried.
Congratulations, West Seattle! You should be proud! It's a brand-new day, thanks to the passage of Seattle City Council districting Amendment 19, and that means neighborhood-friendly projects proposed by members eager to win a district vote—or at least, that's how some folks in North Seattle seem to be viewing a budgetary move by Council Member Tom Rasmussen.
Here's the issue: One piece of the mayor's budget allocates a half-million dollars to plan pedestrian improvements near the future Northgate light-rail station, and $2.5 million for sidewalk development. But council transportation committee chair Rasmussen has put forth a plan to take that $500,000, plus $1.1 million of the sidewalk money, and spend it all on a completely different project—in West Seattle, the district where he lives (and a district in which he's the only incumbent council member). Now, for the first district-based elections in 2015, Rasmussen could prove that he brings home the bacon.
So why are North Seattleites—and pedestrian and transit activists—so pissed? Because that $500,000 is to help them plan an enormous project for their neighborhood: a pedestrian bridge crossing I-5 that would connect the future Northgate light-rail station with North Seattle Community College. "It's all about access," says Renee Staton, a Pinehurst neighborhood resident who's been fighting for that bridge for a long time.
See, because the Northgate transit center is jammed up next to the freeway, "it's really difficult for people west of I-5 to get to the center," she explains—especially on foot. If they don't build a bridge, you'd have to cross under the freeway on a piece of Northgate Way that is a total mess for pedestrians. As Staton puts it, "It's weirdly configured, it's highly congested, and there are a lot of accidents." The pedestrian bridge, on the other hand, will easily connect a college, a community clinic, and nearby low-income housing with the shiny new light-rail station. Her neighborhood fought hard to get the bridge instead of a hulking parking garage that would encourage more driving, and they won. Yay!
But while council staffers acknowledge in documents that the planning this $500,000 pays for "is work that will have to be done," they add that "it need not be done in 2014," making way for Rasmussen to siphon funding to the West Seattle project, a host of improvements to Fauntleroy Way SW.
That claim that the money isn't urgent does not sit well with the other players involved.
"Apoplectic," a city council staffer told an inside source when describing the atmosphere this evening inside many council offices after news broke that socialist Kshama Sawant has taken a narrow lead over 16-year incumbent Richard Conlin. Conlin losing would not only unravel a knot of plans for the new year, Sawant's victory would add some unpredictability to City Hall.
Council members had already jockeyed close to their committee chairmanships for 2014, but with Conlin possibly leaving the land-use committee, another member would take those reins (and the council is highly unlikely to toss Sawant into the arcane world of zoning in her freshman year). That would lead to Machiavellian jostling for their dream committees all over again. Next, there's a thorny question of who will be council president. Everyone had assumed it would be Tim Burgess. Now it's uncertain if he can get wrangle the votes. And finally, they wonder what Sawant will do if she actually disrupts their orderly universe, in which consensus has been a religion. They're afraid she'll be like a mountain lion set loose in a grocery store.
Still, the funds are a good start. “Each night over 700 youth and young adults are homeless in King County," said Council member Joe McDermott, Chair of the Budget and Fiscal Management Committee at this morning's budget presser held at the Orion Center. McDermott praised YouthCare and other nonprofits that cater to homeless youth populations as "worthy investments," noting that "despite being nervous when I came out to my family, I knew they would accept me and wouldn't reject me. Many kids in King County aren't as fortunate." About 40 percent of the homeless youth the Orion Center serves were kicked out of their homes because of their sexual orientation, according to Hedda McLendon, director of programs at the Orion Center.
Aside from the $120,000 earmarked for YouthCare, the county's budget sets aside funding for emergency youth centers in Redmond and Auburn, as well as a program that reunites runaways with their families. Another $250,000 from the county's general fund is being set aside for homeless youth employment training programs.
Other highlights of the county's $8.9 billion budget include funding to restore water quality monitoring across the county, which council member Larry Phillips explained will help officials use "data" and "science" to better monitor ocean acidification, toxins, and nitrogen levels in our water supplies. The budget also preserves between 147-200 units of section 8 housing, and adds two full Sheriff’s patrol units—six deputies and two sergeants—to cover unincorporated King County. "It doesn't bring us back to pre-recession levels but it's a good start," noted county council member Kathy Lambert. "It will make a noticeable difference."