Afternoon Fizz: The NBA, the Parks District, Ridesharing, and Broadband
Afternoon Fizz: Non-minimum wage edition.
1. Chris Hansen, the hedge-fund billionaire who wants to build a new arena for a to-be-determined NBA franchise in Seattle, lost another battle (last year, he tried and failed to buy the Sacramento Kings) when his onetime partner, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, went rogue this week and bought the L.A. Clippers for an estimated $2 billion and said he plans to keep the team in L.A.
Today, Hansen released this statement, which is rather ... sanguine, given the circumstances:
First I would like to congratulate Steve Ballmer on his apparent successful bid for the Los Angeles Clippers. Steve's passion for basketball and commitment to the NBA will make him a great owner and strong asset for the league.
I would also like to assure Seattle fans that my remaining partners and I remain committed to bringing the NBA back to Seattle. The environmental review process for the Seattle Arena is nearing completion and we will soon be in a strong position to attract a franchise back to the Emerald City.
2. Former Mayor Mike McGinn, who campaigned for the parks levy that expires this year—a parks levy that included funding for new park acquisitions but no money to operate and maintain those new parks—has endorsed the proposed parks district (a permanent property tax levy that would address the park system's $267 million major maintenance backlog). When he was running for reelection, McGinn suggested a soda tax to pay for parks. The parks district, which will be on the ballot in August, would generate around $48 million a year.
Cascade Bicycle Club, Transportation Choices Coalition, King County Conservation Voters, and the Sierra Club have also endorsed the measure.
3. UberX, the company that hooks up drivers with passengers via smartphone app, released numbers this week suggesting that their drivers make as much as twice what traditional cab drivers earn. In a statement, UberX said that "the median income on UberX is more than $90,000 per year per driver in New York and more than $74,000 per year per driver in San Francisco." That's compared to an average income of $40,000 a year for a cabbie in San Francisco and $38,000 in New York City.
Here in Seattle, according to UberX spokesman Aaron Toso, the median UberX driver makes $53,697 a year.
Toso acknowledges those are gross income numbers that don't include expenses such as the cost of car payments, maintenance, gas, insurance, and other expenses involved in running a business as a driver.
Even so, the taxi industry doesn't buy the ridesharing industry's numbers. Dawn Gearhart, a spokeswoman for the taxi workers' union, says the numbers "don’t seem realistic. Granted, the markets in NY and SF are larger than Seattle, neither figure seems accurate. I contacted a few Uber and UberX drivers just preliminarily and none of them have reported earnings close to that."
Gearhart says that a "traditional taxi owner-operator has an estimated net income of about $15, 450 per year."
4. A new report backed by the nonprofit Roosevelt Institute and conducted by Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law professor and former Obama advisor Susan Crawford outlines several regulatory hurdles that stand in the way of Seattle's adoption of widespread high-speed Internet service.
One we've mentioned before is the fact that in Seattle, putting a broadband cabinet on public right-of-way requires the explicit written approval of 60 percent of the land owners within 100 feet of the cabinet (if a property owner says nothing, that counts as a "no.") Another is that any broadband provider who wants to provide service via utility wires has to pay to survey pole routes, cut vegetation, and check every single pole to make sure it contains no rotting wood.
The report also mentions the failure of former mayor McGinn's chosen broadband provider, Gigabit Squared, which "cast a shadow" over the prospect of high-speed broadband service. "The collapse [of the partnership] raised questions about why Seattle chose to partner with an unproven company that had never built a municipal network, especially one on the scale of Seattle’s proposed network. The collapse also revealed problems on the government side, as the city was reportedly unable to provide timely accurate information about its fiber assets."
The best hope for widespread high-speed access, the report says, may be a municipal system, in which the city lifts some of the regulations holding high-speed Internet back and then leases its "dark fiber" to an independent provider.
It concludes, "City council members used to be elected at large, which meant that their accountability to particular neighborhoods was limited. Beginning this year, seven of the nine city council members will be elected by particular districts. This change may increase public ability to pressure city council members to care about improving high-speed Internet access in Seattle."