Morning Fizz: An Odd Exchange
Caffeinated News & Gossip featuring tenants' rights, abortion rights, and ... the right to speed?
1. The Tenants' Union, which advocates for tenants' rights in Seattle, is asking renters to suggest questions they want the mayoral candidates to answer.
Tenants' rights haven't come up much yet in this mayor's race, which is odd both because density and affordable housing have been hot topics, and because of recent reports that the average rent for a one-bedroom in the city is expected to rise to $1,271 in September.
Submit your questions for Bruce Harrell, Kate Martin, Mary Martin, Mike McGinn, Ed Murray, Charlie Staadecker, and Peter Steinbrueck on the TU's Facebook page.
2. In an odd exchange at the city council's transportation committee meeting yesterday morning, council member Bruce Harrell suggested that a proposal to expand speed-monitoring cameras at school zones might be discriminatory because the fine for speeding in a school zone is $189—too steep, he suggested, for "hardship cases" who just couldn't afford to pay the fine.
"That's a lot of money," Harrell said. "I looked at the data to look at the people who could not pay, and almost a quarter of them contested [their tickets]. And I don’t know what the factual reason to contest is, but I would imagine most of them are just hardship cases."
Later, Harrell added, "I think we need to be careful of people who are just being careless. And it could be a grandmother taking their grandchild to school or something. So we also have to be sure that we aren’t overreaching."
Harrell suggested the city might let school-zone speeders off with a warning; lower the fine; or fund more crossing guards instead of adding cameras.
However, Greg Doss with SPD told Harrell the fine for speeding in the presence of a camera is the same as the fine for speeders who get caught by live officers.
And Nick Licata, who fought against a law allowing the city to impound cars owned by people driving without a valid license on the grounds that it hurt the poor (and often took away their only mode of transportation), pointed out that speeding tickets are only counted as parking infractions, not moving violations, so they don't put drivers at risk of losing their license or their insurance. And he pointed out that every speeding ticket includes information about setting up a payment plan.
Speeding is a factor in one in every three collisions in Seattle; a person hit at 30 mph has a 50 percent likelihood of dying, compared to a one-in-ten chance at 20 mph.
So far, a pilot project featuring four Seattle schools is on track to generate $5 million in annual revenue for the city, although officials cautioned that revenue numbers tend to fall as people get used to speed cameras (and let up on the gas pedal). Council members said they wanted to stipulate that at least half of the revenue from school cameras goes toward road improvements, so that, as Licata put it, drivers could "see that this money is going back into road safety."
Many more details on the proposal, including revenues, polling data, and information on how the cameras work, at the city's web site.
3. If you thought the special sessions in Olympia were dramatic, check out this public testimony from Austin, TX on Monday, where a pro-choice woman got hauled out by security because, in her words, the legislators couldn't handle a "performance review."
She was testifying against the same anti-abortion bill (it would ban abortions after 20 weeks) that state Sen. Wendy Davis (temporarily) stopped with her famous filibuster to close the regular session.
Apologies if you've seen this one already (it went viral yesterday), but it's candy for legislature nerds.