1. In the runup to a new set of recommendations on how to deal with street disorder and low-level crime in downtown and Belltown, particularly along Third Avenue, the council's transportation committee heard from representatives of the Center City Roundtable yesterday morning. Among them: SPD Captain Jim Dermody, who gave a snapshot of crime stats downtown—which, he said, are getting better.
In 2012, Dermody said, reports of crime and disorder—that is, calls to 911, not charges—went down 57 percent in the central business district, including the notoriously problematic stretch of 3rd Ave. between Pike and Pine, where SPD and Metro officers are now routinely stationed.
"Our being out in those high crime areas every 15 to 20 minutes … and talking to the folks that are on the street that we know are up to no good—we saw the positive impact right away and it has been sustained since," Dermody said.
Council members raised a couple of red flags.
Bruce Harrell wondered why there were only 20 arrests for aggressive panhandling in 2012. "You could catch that in a day," he said.
Looking at the crime stats as a whole, Bruce Harrell wondered why there were only 20 arrests for aggressive panhandling in 2012. "You could catch that in a day," he said. "This seems incredibly low. I'm glad these cases were filed, but that seems like a day's work." Dermody responded that under new rules adopted after Tim Burgess' thwarted attempt to crack down on aggressive panhandlers, an officer has to actually witness the crime to make an arrest.
And committee chair Tom Rasmussen wanted to know why Pioneer Square showed several times more calls for service for liquor violations than other downtown neighborhoods—more than 5,000 in 2012, compared to just over 1,000 for the central business district. Dermody said he didn't know why, but Pioneer Square has historically had more liquor violations, including calls for detox vans, than any other downtown neighborhood.
The group will make a set of concrete recommendations to the council, including diversion programs, increased enforcement, and amped-up outreach by social and human services agencies, later this spring.
2. Yesterday, we flagged the fact that a group of Seattle representatives voted to alter voter-approved I-937, the renewable energy initiative, by allowing the coal-generated power that utilities buy from TransAlta's Centralia plant to count when utilities are trying to meet renewable energy mandates.
Orwellian enough, but even worse we thought because two of the Seattle reps—Reps. Reuven Carlyle (D-36, Queen Anne) and Gerry Pollet (D-46, N. Seattle), have been loud critics of the proposed coal terminal at Cherry Point.
Carlyle's explanation—he was absent for the vote and a colleague voted the wrong way for him—is linked above, but Pollet didn't get back to us until late in the day.
His 'yea' vote, he said, was a good-faith effort to honor the major legislation passed two years earlier to phase TransAlta off coal by 2025.
“I am very committed to ensuring that agreement goes through and the jobs for the workforce in Centralia are funded,” he said. “This bill was mostly about implementing the agreement to find funding for the transition.”
Rep. Pollet also said he wanted to amend the coal counts bill to stipulate that in order for a qualifying utility to purchase TransAlta's coal power, it would have to also hit its biennial conservation target. (I-937 mandates milestones along the way toward a final goal of having 15 percent of utilities' output come from renewable sources.)
Pollet said though he withdrew his amendment, he felt confident the issue of conservation would be raised next session and, because of that, he voted for the bill.
“I think I got something positive out of raising those objections,” he said. “When you have a commitment and a step forward on policy and the bill is going to pass, if you want to have that commitment honored, you vote for it.”
The bill also passed the senate—Seattle Sen. Adam Kline (D-37, SE Seattle) voted for it while the rest of the Seattle delegation, along with liberal such as Sens. Andy Billig (D-3, Spokane) and Nick Harper (D-38, Everett) voted 'No.'
The bill landed on Gov. Jay Inslee's desk yesterday and his office tells Fizz they expect him to sign it. Inslee was a major supporter of I-937.
The calculation, however, only includes inflation and population growth—not caseload growth.
3. Yesterday, the Republican-dominated state senate passed a little known aspect (but a poison pill among liberals) of its budget plan: A cap on on revenues that can go to non-education spending.
The bill passed 25-23 along party lines.
“We’ve had a clear need – and requirement – to prioritize education in our state’s budget for a long time; still, for some time it’s been everything else that has grown the most,” sponsor Sen. Andy Hill (R-45, Redmond) said. “This is a forward-thinking plan that puts in place mechanisms to reverse the past trends in the Legislature, which has been to focus on non-education spending at the expense of our children.”
The calculation, however, only includes inflation and population growth—not caseload growth for things like senior health care, which has been far outpacing population growth. This measure traps the legislature into spending limits that will devastate senior health care, opponents say.