Morning Fizz: I Wanted to Crawl Under My Chair
Caffeinated News & Gossip featuring more on the $15 minimum wage standoff, bike lanes, and public disclosure.
1. Between 2008 and 2014, a public disclosure request by PubliCola reveals, the city of Seattle has paid out almost $1 million to litigants or potential litigants in public-disclosure claims—$710,000 in individual lawsuit payments, plus $77,000 in pre-lawsuit settlements and another $197,000 in settlements as part of larger tort or other lawsuit claims.
The city, council member Tom Rasmussen says, is so renowned for its poor record on public records that "I wanted to crawl under my chair" at a recent seminar on public disclosure. "The challenge that we have right now is that individual departments decide how they should comply with these public disclosure requests, and it varies. There needs to be some kind of system to comply in a timely and effective way."
2. Mayor Ed Murray had asked the competing factions on his minimum wage task force—business and labor—to show up at yesterday's meeting with proposals that specifically addressed the other side's concerns. The central disagreement between the two sides is about "total compensation"—that is, whether things like tips, health care, commissions, and bonuses should be counted when calculating a worker's wage.
Labor say restaurants shouldn't be able to have a business model that allows them to get out of paying their workers a mandated minimum wage. Fizz hears the meeting was going well until the specific issue of tips came up. "It started out great, but got rougher as tips came up," one task force member said.
We also heard City Council member Kshama Sawant gave a passionate speech at the meeting against including tips as part of the wage.
Restaurants, which say they're open to guaranteeing $15 an hour for all employees—dishwashers to front-of-the-house servers—if tips are counted, argue that if they can't count tips as part of a $15 minimum wage, they'd be forced to do things like put a service charge on the check (unlike tips, a service charge would go to the restaurant, not the worker) and use that (and higher prices, they say) to cover costs, taking tips out of their business model and thus hitting many servers with an overall wage decrease.
Labor say restaurants shouldn't be able to have a business model that allows them to get out of paying their workers the same mandatory minimum wage as all other businesses.
3. We understand what it's like to be frustrated with botched light rail station design; Josh recently wrote a Pedestrian Chronicles, for example, about how sloppy it was that despite their mega footprints in the SoDo neighborhood, there was only one path between the Stadium light rail stop and Safeco, with zero access points to the station coming south of Royal Brougham. (The entire stadium is south of Royal Brougham.) The fact that an entire station was built with only the stadiums in mind says more about the shortsightedness of building stadium districts instead of real neighborhoods, but we digress.
This is all to say: Mayor Murray staffer, his state lobbyist Scott Plusquellec, caused a stir on Facebook late yesterday when he posted a mini-rant about the "incompetent planning" at Sound Transit's SeaTac stop.
He wrote: "I can't even comment on the Link Light Rail stop at SeaTac and what a testament to inept and incompetent planning and design it is," adding: "People should be shot for this."
After the comments piled up, Plusquellec apologized this morning:
Thank you for calling me out on this. You are right, it was a highly inappropriate thing to say and I apologize. I had been traveling all day and was very tired and not enamored of the hike with luggage to the rail station. That doesn't excuse my comment which was insensitive. For the record I am a huge fan of light rail and a strong advocate for it. I wish we had a full system throughout the region. Please accept my apologies. Would be happy to meet in person to talk.
4. City Council member Tom Rasmussen said yesterday that the latest version of the city's Bicycle Master Plan will focus more on neighborhood greenways (streets designed to encourage bike and pedestrian use, rather than traffic from cars) and less on things like cycletracks (separated bikeways) and sharrows (pavement markings to indicate that cars and bikes should share a single lane) than the previous plan—a change, Rasmussen said yesterday, from former mayor Mike McGinn's plan and toward "involving more people in the [bike master planning] process."
Asked by a TV cameraman whether he thought the city should crack down on cyclists who break traffic laws, Rasmussen responded, "The majority of bicyclists are very cautious and careful. They value their lives. They're not going to be wildly reckless."
And he rejected the idea of requiring cyclists to buy special licenses as ridiculous and impossible to administer; "how big would they have to be," he asked rhetorically, "so that a police officer could actually see the number?"
5. From the PubliCalendar:
The Northwest Film Forum, the city's Mecca of indie movie programming, is bringing a batch of ultra left-wing films to the screen to celebrate (and speculate) about Seattle's recent shift to the left.
Is it conceivable that Seattle—paradise of plastic bag bans, mandatory paid sick leave, mandatory composting, and civil liberties for backyard goat herds—could actually move any further to the left? Oh yes. In case you missed it, we elected socialist Kshama Sawant to the city council late last year, and we're currently on the cusp of raising the minimum wage, Sawant's campaign pledge.
To explore Seattle's deep dive into socialism, NWFF is hosting Red Renewal: Seattle's Socialist Spring, ten nights of movies where radical politics hit the screen.
NWFF wanted to get PubliCola involved, so Josh was asked to program a night for the series. Rather than showing one movie, Josh is going to discuss several movies that each reflect on a different aspect of political urbanism, the brand of politics, that, in his opinion currently offers the most radical and relevant challenge to the status quo.
The movies, such as Fight Club and the Blackboard Jungle, touch on themes like urban transportation, mutliculturalism, networks, and youth culture. The finale of his talk features a flick, Hackers, that ties all these urbanist themes together in one exciting, action-packed example of city cinema.
Here's how Josh described the night to the folks at NWFF: It's a tour through movies where urbanism—particularly the electric youth culture of city life—is as radical and subversive as Marxism and anarchism. Agit-prop teens translate music into politics and tech smarts into transgression, upending the government and corporate status quo, in this collection of urban-themed films. Multiculturalism, mass transit and the kismet of streets (all fixed features of cities) also factor in to the revolution at hand.
Wednesday, April 9 at 7:00PM, Northwest Film Forum, 1515 12th Ave.