Inside City Hall Fizz: Turnover, Bike Lanes, Broadband, and More
Extra fizz featuring turnover at City Hall and the Seattle Times, bike lanes, and more.
1. Two more city council central staffers, Peter Harris and Norm Schwab, will reportedly be leaving in the coming months—although, unlike former central staff director Ben Noble and central staffer Mike Fong (plus council staffers Kathy Nyland and Carlo Caldirola-Davis), they won't be leaving to head upstairs to new mayor Ed Murray's office, but retiring after many years at the city.
More upheavals on the second floor—including more potential defections to the mayor's office—are reportedly on the horizon.[Editorial comment: Josh, here: While you'd think the brain drain would make the city council mad at Mayor Murray, my sense is that having longtime council talent like Noble and Fong upstairs actually brings the floors closer together. Erica says I'm wrong and that Murray's move soured relations with the council. I don't buy it.]
2. The group suing to overturn Seattle's Bike Master Plan because they oppose a planned new cycle track on Westlake (we first reported on the opposition to the plan, which would take out link the Ship Canal Trail with South Lake Union but would also remove some parking, back in October) are being represented by the same attorney who has represented opponents of completing the Burke-Gilman "Missing Link" in Ballard.
The attorney, Josh Brower, is a member of the city's planning commission.
Brower is representing the Westlake Stakeholders Group, which opposes the cycle track on the west side of Westlake and have filed an appeal to stop the Bike Master Plan, arguing against the city's finding that it does not have a significant environmental impact (the same argument that has held up the completion of the Burke-Gilman Trail for the past seven years).
The group has also hired former Sound Transit and Fearey Group representative Sierra Hansen as its PR consultant; Hansen's wife, Barb Wilson, is the former head of the city's planning commission.3. As we noted in Fizz this morning, Gigabit Squared—the Cincinnati-based startup former mayor Mike McGinn picked to provide fast broadband to 12 Seattle neighborhoods—now says it can't deliver on its promise, because it failed to secure investor funding. (Gigabit has also failed to pay 52,000 it owes to the city.)
This morning, CenturyLink, one of the companies hoping to provide high-speed Internet service in Seattle, sent PubliCola a statement from Puget Sound VP Sue Anderson:
CenturyLink understands the challenges faced by Seattle residents who are demanding next generation broadband. We urge the City of Seattle to ease restrictive rules, such as those involving telecom cabinets in the public right of way or limiting market trials, that are impeding CenturyLink’s deployment of ultra high speed broadband to Seattle’s underserved neighborhoods.
The "restrictive rule" about telecom cabinets that Anderson's referring to is a city rule that allows any nearby property owner to veto the installation of a utility box linking up CenturyLink's (or any other telecom's) high-speed internet networks.
McGinn opposed changing the rule because, he said, overturning it would allow "really big boxes in the right-of-way."
4. Longtime Seattle Times columnist Joni Balter is reportedly on indefinite "leave" from the paper, after a lengthy sabbatical last year during which she traveled to Europe and stopped writing a short-lived morning politics roundup column for the Times' Politics Northwest blog.
Times spokeswoman Jill Mackie would not provide specifics about when, or if, Balter will return to the Times.
Balter still appears on 94.9 KUOW's Friday "Week In Review" show; KUOW now identifies her as an unaffiliated "news analyst."