Morning Fizz: "I Will Have to Pass on Your Offer."
Caffeinated News and Gossip featuring I Told You Sos and No Thank Yous.
1. The news last week that the tunnel contractor, Seattle Tunnel Partners, has asked the state to cover an estimated $125 million in overrun costs on the stalled Alaskan Way Viaduct tunnel project—the state said no way—has revived the question of Seattle's liability.
The Democratic legislature adopted an infamous "stick-it-to-Seattle" clause in order to make the megaproject palatable to parsimonious Republicans back in 2009; Seattle legislators who voted for the clause argued at the time that the amendment was not legally enforceable (it's a state project), and a subsequent ruling by then-Washington state attorney general, Republican Rob McKenna, appears to back up the claim.
However, the Republicans continue to insist that "a deal is a deal."
Check out state senate Republican leader Sen. Mark Schoesler's (R-9, Ritzville) official response to the news last week:
“Is anyone surprised that the tunnel-boring project is falling way behind schedule and racking up tens of millions in added costs? No one likes to see delays like this, but as I’ve said all along, the law makes it clear that Seattle is responsible for picking up any cost overruns. A deal is a deal."
(Today, the Seattle Times, which has been dogging the tunnel project on costs, went in-depth on a story we first started covering back in 2010—the fact that the tunnel bidder has a long history of lawsuits, cost overruns, and change orders, including a court case involving a subway at the Los Angeles airport that is still ongoing. More PubliCola coverage of the contractor's history of lawsuits and overruns here and here.)
2. In other former Mayor Mike McGinn-related news (McGinn famously warned that the tunnel project would end up saddling Seattle with extra bills to pay), the former mayor emerged on Friday, appearing with transit activist Ben Schiendelman, who was filing a property tax initiative to fund bus service in Seattle.
Schiendelman, a former writer for Seattle Transit Blog, was filing the initiative in response to last week's county-wide vote on Prop. 1, a King County measure to raise the sales tax (and institute a flat $60 vehicle license fee) that would have prevented 550,000 hours of bus service cuts. Prop. 1 lost (as of the most recent count; the final vote won't be certified until May 6) 54.01 to 45.99.
3. Republican state Rep. Jason Overstreet (R-42, Lynden) has called on Western Washington University President Bruce Shepard to resign in response to Shepard's comments about the need to make the Bellingham university more diverse. Shepard has asked in a blog questionairre: "How do we make sure that in future years 'we are not as white as we are today?'"
The comments stirred up the standard double-reverse backflip accusation from conservatives that Shepard was being racist. (Signs appeared on campus reading "Diversity = White Genocide").
Plenty of people are getting Shepard's back, though, including state Rep. Gerry Pollet (D-46, N. Settle), vice chair of the house higher education committee, and Rich Stolz, Executive Director of civil rights group OneAmerica.
However, Fizz's favorite response to Rep. Overstreet comes from Rep. Zack Hudgins (D-11, S. Seattle, Tukwila)—the sponsor of this year's banner legislation making children of undocumented immigrants eligible for college aid.
Based on his repeated and unflinching adherence to an archaic, intellectually void ideology of assessing people based on the color of their skin rather than on the content of their character, I have called on WWU President Bruce Shepard to apologize to the students, potential students and taxpayers that fund this public institution, resigning immediately.
This was not a one-time occurrence. This is repeated, unapologetic language used by both the president and the university itself, intended to be "provocative." This is behavior unbecoming a university president and the university itself.
If any of you would like to sign onto this effort, please contact me or my office immediately.
From: Hudgins, Rep. Zack
Sent: Friday, April 25, 2014 9:28 PM
To: Overstreet, Rep. Jason; @HRC Members; @HRC LA's; @HDC Members
Subject: RE: I've called for Western Washington University's President's resignation
I will have to pass on your offer to join you in this request. I very much appreciate that we as legislators can make these requests across party lines via email. It shows that we can dialog even when we may not agree.
I am reluctant to use my elected position to call on a university president to resign, especially when his remarks seem very much in line with his job of preparing the university for future demographic trends. I am also not sure I want to come across as the government trying to silence an individual's respectful free speech, especially in a university setting where we should be encouraging freedom of thought and ideas in the search for new knowledge.
I would like to invite you to come visit my district, or the 34th, 37th, 41st, 45th, 48th, 33rd and see what school districts are like that have over a hundred languages spoken in them. If we want to sell our apples, airplanes and software to the world it is probably helpful to first ask hard questions about the future, and secondly reflect the population of our state in our public universities. Washington isn't going to be as white as it is now, and that is a fact long in the past in my neighborhood, and my district. I am glad our universities are trying to figure out how to incorporate the best of our public in our public universities.
I also have to say that if we called on people to resign everytime we disagreed with something they said, half the legislature would be calling on the other half to resign on a regular basis. You pick which half is which, in which week.
I hope you are having a productive and enjoyable spring. I am serious about the invitation - I think Tukwila looks more like the future of America than Lynden, and that future America will only be great with both Tukwila and Lynden being successful.
4. Last year, advocates for a pedestrian bridge connecting the Northgate light rail station to North Seattle Community College across I-5—a bridge that would increase the station's "walkshed" (pedestrian-accessible area) to more than 150 new buildings and its "bikeshed" (bike-accessible area) to more than 3,000 new buildings—worried that the city wouldn't come up the money to fund it. If the various groups funding the project don't come up with funding by July of next year, Sound Transit plans to reallocate it to other projects.
(Those fears were exacerbated when then-candidate Ed Murray said, "It’s an unfortunate reality that Seattle cannot fund every beneficial project. We simply do not have the money. We need to get clear on our priorities, rather than relying on half measures.")
According to the latest estimates, the bridge will cost $25 million, of which $5 million will be funded by Seattle and $5 million by Sound Transit.
Earlier this month, the city council and Murray (whose comments on the campaign trail caused some bike and pedestrian advocates to worry that he didn't support the project) jointly signed a letter to the U.S. Secretary of Transportation expressing support for a federal TIGER grant of $15 million—which would fully fund the project.
"Ten lanes of I-5 bisect the neighborhood creating barriers between homes, jobs, schools, transit stops and vital community services," the letter says. "There are only two crossings of I-5 within the urban center, making it difficult to impossible for many people within the standard light rail station area walkshed/bikeshed to reach without a car or bus transfer."