Morning Fizz: Sticking-Point Status
Caffeinated News & Gossip featuring political will, Richard Sherman, and oil explosions.
1. We usually leave our critique of other media outlets to our cranky On Other Blogs Today column, but the Seattle Times Sunday editorial on the state transportation package was so ill-informed, we need to fillet it in Fizz.
The Times wants the house Democrats to move closer to the GOP plan—which, the last time the Republican transportation package was being discussed, included redirecting money from the general fund to transportation (no way, say the Democrats, with an eye on education funding), raiding the toxic cleanup fund (a voter-approved fund, specifically created for environmental cleanup, not roads construction), and making reforms to streamline road construction permitting (something the Democratic house already did to placate the GOP).
"The failure to reach a compromise is frustrating," the Times writes in an editorial titled "Political Will Needed to Pass Transportation Package," "because the House and Senate leaders are surprisingly close, with general agreement on funding methods, including a gas-tax increase of at least 10 cents per gallon,"
What that remarkably naive sentence fails to recognize is that while the GOP leaders might support a gas tax, there is no evidence that the GOP members do. In fact, while the Democratic house has passed their version, the senate hasn't passed a thing—precisely because the GOP, thanks to an inflexible anti-tax ideology, lacks the political will.
Why should the Democrats bargain away any more? (The Times, by the way rolls its eyes at the Democrats' insistence on more bike and ped money, obliviously noting that the line item is so small it's not worth sticking-point status.)
Asking the Democrats to accept the GOP wish list while pontificating about political will is a flawed editorial position when it's actually the GOP that hasn't shown the political will to get anything done.
The Times is naively giving the GOP a pass. I suggest the editorial board go to Olympia and count some votes on the Republican side and get back to us.
2. Erica will be on KUOW's The Record (from noon to 2) today to talk about city hall, namely, some big deal proposed changes to land-use code, of course, along with news about City Council member Kshama Sawant.
3. In the wake of a report by ex-state auditor Brian Sonntag for the libertarian-leaning Washington Policy Center condemning the city of Seattle’s pension system (the report concluded that the system had $1 billion in unfunded liabilities as of 2010), the city council is getting an update this morning on the current state of the pension system's health.
"Free-market" advocates like the WPC won a victory on the pensions issue recently, when Boeing switched from a “defined-benefit” pension system (in which employees have some certainty about how much they’ll receive in retirement benefits) to a “defined-contribution” system (a 401(k)-style system where benefits are dependent on the stock market). Sonntag believes cities should move in the same direction, writing that “defined-contribution accounts would help solve the pension system’s financial problems.”
Council member Nick Licata, who will head up the city’s retirement system oversight board, says that although the city’s pension fund did take some hits during the recession and “probably didn’t make some of the best investments in the past,” the city has hired a new investment officer to put the system on “the right path.”
“There are some adjustments we need to make it more secure for the future, but it’s nothing that is going to threaten the pension plans of city employees, and there is no movement to go toward a defined-contribution plan,” Licata says.
4. There were two excellent articles in yesterday's Sunday NYT about next Sunday's big game: a detailed profile of Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman and a thoughtful screed that, due to the rush of revelations about head injuries in the bread-and-circuses NFL, asked the question: "Is it immoral to watch the Super Bowl?"
We certainly question the anti-Super Bowl essay's sweeping "underclass" analysis (a recent study of the NBA, anyway, found that most NBA players don't fit the stereotype, and actually come from middle class homes). We could also do without the clunky, over-broad Iraq and Afghanistan analogies. (Uggh. Is this guy a college freshman?)
However: Three cheers to the NYT for running this editorial. It's always irked Fizz that a progressive city like Seattle is so overjoyed with the success of the Seahawks that the disgraceful aspects of the NFL haven't given more people pause.
5. Speaking of yesterday's NYT, they had another story that was relevant to Seattle. Last week, we noted state Rep. Jessyn Farrell's (D-46, N. Seattle) bill to regulate oil trains.
Opponents of the bill should take the time to read yeseterday's frontpage story: "Accidents Surge as Oil Industry Takes the Train."