Morning Fizz: Trying to Understand How It Impacts the Process
Caffeinated News and Gossip featuring Whole Foods donations, hipster donations, and charts.
THIS POST HAS BEEN UPDATED TO INCLUDE INFORMATION ON A PRO-MCGINN INDEPENDENT EXPENDITURE BY THE NATIONAL HOTEL WORKERS' UNION, AND THE LATEST ON SEATTLE CITY COUNCIL MEMBER RICHARD CONLIN'S BIKE ACCIDENT LAST WEEKEND. - Eds.
1. Last week we pointed to city law that called Mayor Mike McGinn's Whole Foods memo into question; his office has said that sending his No-Go recommendation to Seattle Department of Transportation director Peter Hahn was standard operating procedure in the street vacation process. Their reasoning: SDOT, the department that evaluates street vacation petitions, is an executive branch department under the purview of the executive, Mayor McGinn.
The language we found, though, said explicitly that SDOT works for the council when it comes to street vacations (as opposed to other similar zoning issues when the council is not explicitly called out). A street vacation is when the city turns over a public right of way to a private party.
McGinn's office dismissed Fizz's legal scholarship and stuck to its line: SDOT works for the mayor.
Yesterday, we talked to the SDOT point person on this issue, SDOT strategic adviser Beverly Barnett, along with SDOT spokesman Rick Sheridan. They were grappling with the issue as well, but here's what they said: State law delegates street vacation decisions to the legislative branch (as opposed to the executive branch which oversees regulatory guidelines over private property zoning); the mayor has not, to their memory, weighed in on an alley vacation before; and they are still analyzing the mayor's directive and trying to understand how it would impact the process.
2. As we enter the home stretch (one week, as of today) before the deadline for mailing in ballots in the mayor's (and Port, and school board, and King County Parks Levy) race, here's a snapshot of the latest numbers from the past week of mayoral fundraising.
As he did last week, state Sen. Ed Murray (D-43, Capitol Hill) continued to out-raise the competition, bringing in $41,105 (he raised $46,000 last week).
Notable contributions (and there are a lot) include: donations from a crew of former McGinn supporters and Seattle nightlife and Capitol Hill business owners (likely a reward for Murray's success getting the "dance tax" repealed this year), including David Meinert (Big Mario's, Lost Lake) ($700), Steve Severin (Neumos) ($250), Marcus Charles ($700) and Jerry Everard ($250); pro-pot campaigner and ACLU attorney Alison Holcomb ($100), former judge and police accountability oversight director Terry Carroll ($250); Downtown Seattle Association VP Jon Scholes ($350) (earlier this year he gave $350 to McGinn); green state Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (D-34, W. Seattle, Burien) ($50); Ivar's owner Bob Donegan; former WSDOT director Paula Hammond ($100); city business lobbyist Joe Quintana ($700); City Attorney Pete Holmes ($500) ...
And the most newsworthy of all: $300 this week from Jessica Clawson, a land use attorney at McCullough Hill, the firm that's representing Whole Foods on its application for the controversial alley vacation in West Seattle. The lead partner at the firm, John McCullough, gave $300 to Murray two weeks ago (he also gave $500 to Bruce Harrell in May).
However, both McCullough and Clawson gave to incumbent Mayor McGinn ($500 each) in May as well.
All of this week's Murray money is on top of two pro-Murray independent expenditures totaling about $20,000—a mailer by the IE campaign People for Ed Murray (funded by everyone from the chamber of commerce to realtors to the Washington Conservation Voters) and a "voter information" phone call by Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest.
City council member Bruce Harrell had another relatively good week, raising $9,668 (compared to last week's $10,250).
Incumbent Mike McGinn reported raising a relatively paltry $5,604, compared to $7,290 last week, including another $100 from ex-deputy mayor Phil Fujii, now at Vulcan (bringing Fujii's total to $600), $300 from McGinn's deputy finance director Hall Walker (who has nearly maxed out at $650 total), and $100 from former city council member Heidi Wills.
That's on top of a nearly $45,000 IE from New York City-based UNITE Here, the hotel workers' union, which hired a Sacramento, CA-based firm to produce an unusual cloth-printed mailer in which a group of five Seattle maids endorse McGinn. They say in the mailer, "We paid to send this letter from our paychecks. We couldn't mail enough. Maybe if you hang our small gift where you work more people will see it and think of us."
Former city council member Peter Steinbrueck reported another $9,293, including $700 from the BNSF railroad, which would benefit from the controversial proposed Cherry Point coal terminal near Bellingham (Steinbrueck is also in sync with BNSF on the SoDo arena: He has also been the only vocal opponent of the SoDo arena, which BNSF opposes on the grounds that it would limit freight mobility).
3. Speaking of Murray's independent expenditure: Yesterday, we reported on the first mailer, but there's another one in the queue that we got a hold of.
It's similar to yesterday's, with the tagline "Ed Murray gets our values ... Ed Murray has got our votes," hyping Murray's prominent supporters.
The latest one features former King County Executive and former Obama administration HUD Deputy Director Ron Sims, Washington Conservation Voters leader Brendon Cechovic, along with some of the people behind the committee—former Washington Bus Director and founder Thomas Goldstein, FUSE director Aaron Ostrom, Seattle Chamber leader Maud Daudon, and gay rights activist Charlene Strong.
4.The number of voters who don't have an opinion of the mayor is surprisingly high. Over the course of numerous polls since 2010, the percentage of people who say they can't rate McGinn has gone up and down but is currently at around 20 percent—far more than former mayor Greg Nickels at the same time in his 2009 reelection campaign.
Although both mayors' approval ratings over time have been all over the map, Nickels' disapproval rating was consistently higher—a potential bright spot in what has otherwise been a pretty dismal poll season for McGinn. (Charts provided by an anonymous tech-savvy ElectionNerd.)
5. Seattle City Council member Richard Conlin—who, as we reported yesterday, was hit by a car while riding his bike over the weekend—tells Fizz this morning that the driver who hit him has been cited by police for making an illegal U-turn. He says the officer who responded to the call didn't appear to be aware he was a city council member. Conlin's shoulder blade was broken in the collision; Fizz wishes him a speedy recovery.
6. Since we ran this last week on a sunny Friday morning, we're re-posting an item we had in last week's Fizz just in case you missed it:
According to an SPU email sent to the mayor's staff this week, and obtained by PubliCola, titled "A brief history of Bored Tunnel construction impacts to SPU facilities," STP construction dating back to 2012 and running up through spring of 2013 has caused, among other things: "excessive settlement from dewatering," "red-alert level" water main "leaking," "failure to notify SPU of illicit discharge ... into Elliott Bay," "unusual readings in overflow monitoring system" resulting in a "third discharge violation," and "knock[ing] the the top off of a combined sewer maintenance hole and fail[ure] to notify SPU causing a dry weather overflow."
The email also documents STP's petulant and delinquent responses to warnings. The email notes:
SPU isolates zone and requests replacement, or temporary main, so zone can be re-opened before Safe Have 3 cut & Cap; STP refuses. SPU refuses to send crews out for Safe Haven 3 work until the replacement is complete. STP backs down and constructs a temporary 8” and WSDOT verbally promises to provide a permanent 12-inch replacement after tunneling. ... STP indicates they will not proactively replace the Alaskan Way 12” [water main] from Main to Yesler before tunneling. SPU points out the risk to the Port and requests WSDOT to enforce their contract and WSDOT does so. STP has started construction of the replacement. ... Failure to timely replace temporary sewer constriction in Alaskan Way at King St. ... After a protracted battle starting in August 2012, STP replaces a temporary 12” flex pipe sewer constriction at downstream end of Alaskan Way 21-inch sewer at King Street in March 2013.
There definitely seems to be some Existential angst about the tunnel project.
The final item in SPU's email documents the sewer line collision we wrote about, comically noting "see a pattern here?" and adding details we didn't have about near misses with electrical conductors, sewer backups, and reporting that "Workers are exposed to sewerage and require medical treatment."
With notes about Notices of Violation (NOV), and cynical commentary of STP's "Root Cause Analysis" (which STP was asked to prepare for WSDOT in response to all the problems), SPU concludes its email with a summary of the contentious relationship:
Currently WSDOT has shut down STP’s work on the west side of the north portal pit. WSDOT sounds like they are serious about getting STP in line. SPU, SCL [Seattle City Light] and SDOT are working with WSDOT to respond the STP’s root cause analysis. WSDOT wants the City to be satisfied with STP’s response. Attached is a DRAFT response from SPU to the RCA (XXXX is editing the SPU response as our legal Catcher in the Rye)
I'm not sure I get the Catcher in the Rye reference, but there definitely seems to be some existential angst at City Hall about the tunnel project.