Morning Fizz: What Sawant Hopes to Accomplish
Caffeinated news and gossip featuring Carrasco, aPodments, exaggerated voters' guide claims, and transit equals safety
1. At the city council's energy committee this morning, city council member and committee chair Kshama Sawant has set aside an hour to interrogate City Light director Jorge Carrasco about a number of recent utility-related events (and, in some cases, scandals), including the utility's aborted hiring of brand.com, an online reputation consultant, to try to boost positive City Light stories (and bury negative stories) on Google; a massive copper theft that happened in part because Carrasco gave the thieves access to a City Light's scrap yard; a proposal, scuttled by Mayor Ed Murray, to give Carrasco a raise of more than $100,000; and "employee morale at City Light," which, according to employee surveys, has been low for many years.
What Sawant hopes to accomplish by calling Carrasco (with whom she has clashed at previous meetings) before the committee to defend his record is unclear; a call to her office asking what questions she plans to ask Carrasco went unreturned. But the list of topics the committee ,which includes Sally Clark and Mike O'Brien, has zeroed in on certainly suggests that Carrasco won't be sitting down before a friendly audience in council chambers this morning.
2. In a letter yesterday to city council member Mike O'Brien, Smart Growth Seattle, the group that promotes microhousing and small-lot developments, said that they're willing to support design review for microhousing developments, AKA aPodments (currently, microhousing is not subject to design review, which gives neighbors a chance to protest a project and ask for changes to its design), but that they're not open to other elements of the proposed O'Brien compromise, which would reclassify micro-units as small efficiency apartments, effectively imposing a minimum average size on the units, which are currently as small as 180 square feet.
"We object to efforts to micromanage the lives, lifestyles, and choices of residents of the projects by mandating room sizes and sinks, for example," the letter, signed by Smart Growth Seattle representative Roger Valdez, says. (O'Brien says he doesn't support requiring extra sinks, although he does support requiring a minimum amount of contiguous living space.)
"And we don’t support the idea of having neighbors dictate the decisions of builders about how to meet housing demand any more than we’d support them making demands about what’s on the menu at a new restaurant," the letter continues.
The council's planning, land use, and sustainability committee, which O'Brien chairs, is expected to vote on a proposal imposing new regulations on microhousing by the end of the summer.
3. Late last week, we reported on state Sen. Andy Hill's (R-45, Kirkland) startling voters' guide claim that he had closed "unfair loopholes."
He told us he was referring to the legislature's 2013-'15 budget moves to close the estate tax loophole and the telecom loophole.
Not to put to fine a point on it, but that claim is nonsense. Here's a a side-by-side comparison of Sen. Hill's 2013-15 budget proposal as it stood, line in the sand, after the regular session ended without a deal. (After the first special session gave way to a second special session, Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee blew a gasket over Hill's refusal to close the estate tax loophole.)
You will notice that the Democratic house proposal books $160 million from the closing the estate tax loophole and $110 million from the telecom fix. Hill's senate budget books zero dollars for both items. (It's also worth pointing out that the Democratic proposal has $352 million in "tax preference repeals." Hill's version: $0.)
Yes, after two special sessions, and a court-ordered threat to mail estate tax rebate checks out to people who claimed the exemption, the GOP signed off on the Democratic budget. But Hill is misleading eastside voters.
Hill goes on to quip:
"It’s interesting to note that in recent history prior to 2012, when the House, Senate and Governor were all controlled by Democrats, the only significant tax preference elimination was the 2010 repeal of the sales tax exemption on candy and gum. This was overturned by the voters in Nov 2010."
Sen. Hill is overlooking the fact that it took a two-thirds vote at the time to repeal tax loopholes and despite repeated calls by the Democrats to close a big bank loophole, senate Republicans stalled the legislation in the senate throughout the Great Recession.
4. File this one under our unified theory theory: We couldn't help notice that representatives from Sound Transit showed up to new Seattle SPD Chief Kathleen O'Toole's community walk through Rainier Beach last night. An ST representative was handing out free all-day transit passes for walk participants who didn't have ORCA cards (the walk included a short hop on light rail, between the Rainier Beach and Othello light rail stations).
O'Toole is doing a series of neighborhood walks to address community concerns about crime—and there was Sound Transit handing out transit passes.
The idea: Sound Transit sees a transit-safety nexus that supports public safety by giving marginalized communities better access to public transit.