On Other Blogs Today
On Other Blogs Today: Wages, Walkability, and WSDOT
Our daily roundup.
1. Over the weekend, the Seattle Times' Danny Westneat anointed a poster child for struggling indie business owners who claim they'll have to shut down or drastically increase prices if they have to pay their workers $15 an hour—St. Clouds Restaurant owner John Platt, who is, Westneat assures us, a model citizen, a "liberal do-gooder" who makes meals for the homeless, volunteers for school auctions, and regularly holds fundraisers for charity.
Giving back is laudable, but charity is no substitute for policy.
And when it comes to policy, Platt is adamant: He doesn't want to pay his workers more than the current minimum of $9.32 an hour. He claims that the higher cost of doing business may put him under, or force him to raise prices. In a $15-an-hour world, customers like Westneat could end up paying as much as $40 for their roasted duck with hot toddy demiglace (up from $32)—or settle for a lower-priced item, like the $24 Parmigiano-crusted pork tenderloin, instead. Bottom line, though: Raising prices for people who can afford a $32 entree is not going to make a high-end restaurant like St. Clouds unaffordable for people who can afford to dine there.
And what about the folks who can't afford to drop half a day's wages on a roasted duck at a high-end restaurant in Madrona—folks like Platt's minimum-wage employees? Without higher wages, they'll continue to struggle, unable to do their part to feed the economic recovery by spending the extra dollars they earn—if not on $40 duck, then perhaps on a night out at a lower-end restaurant.
But hey: He gives to charity, so who cares if he pays his workers poverty wages?
2. The Seattle Times reports, the city of Seattle proper, for the first time in over 100 years, is growing faster than the surrounding suburbs. Between 2011 and 2012, Seattle's population grew 25 percent faster than the rest of King County's, an indication that people moving to the region are choosing to live in dense, walkable urban neighborhoods rather than car-dependent suburbs. The trend is showing up elsewhere, too: Since 2011, "most big cities across the country have outpaced their suburbs when it comes to population growth."
For years, climate researchers and urban planners have been saying that we need policies to curb sprawl. If the current trend holds, it just might curb itself.
3. WSDOT does something right!: Seattle Transit Blog reports that the state transportation agency has come up with the money to fulfill its promise to pay for "transit mitigation" while the deep-bore tunnel is under construction. The mitigation money, which funds 40,000 hours of Metro service to help mitigate the traffic impact of tunnel construction, was slated to run out in June of this year; now, WSDOT says, it will extend the funding through the end of 2015.
The tunnel is supposed to open in 2016, although with the tunnel-boring machine still stuck underground with "months" of work needed to get it unstuck, that open date could be a moving target.
4. The Spokesman-Review has an angry editorial denouncing the state senate's—and specifically, Majority Caucus Coalition leader Rodney Tom's—failure to pass a bill that would have shed some light on campaign contributions from nonprofit organizations.
The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Andy Billig (D-3, Spokane) which Josh mooned about here, would have required groups that contribute to campaigns to disclose their biggest donors—closing a Citizens United loophole that allowed the Grocery Manufacturers Association, for example, to write big checks to the anti-GMO labeling campaign without disclosing where that money came from. It had bipartisan support but died when Tom let the bill die on cutoff day.
The Spokesman-Review writes:
Dark money is a plague in politics, and nonprofit status is its most effective cloak. In Idaho, for example, you have the Idaho Freedom Foundation – a group that lobbies, writes legislation, advocates for and against bills, and makes no bones about its desire to be the most influential political organization in the state.
And yet, for tax and disclosure purposes, it’s considered a charity.
Washington’s examples are so far not as brazen. But if we support transparency in political spending – and everyone says they do – then shouldn’t we close this Chunnel of a loophole? Shouldn’t we at least know why Rodney Tom doesn’t want to close this Chunnel of a loophole?
Billig tells the paper he plans to prefile the bill again "the first day of next session."