1. Morning metaphor: Highlighting an unusual alliance between greens and social justice advocates, environmental lobbyist April Putney from Futurewise subbed in for social justice advocate Nick Federici at yesterday's hearing in Olympia to testify in favor of a bill that would allow local governments to use Tax Increment Financing, or TIFs.
TIFs are a controversial development tool that aren't currently kosher with the Washington State constitution (the bill comes with a constitutional amendment) because they essentially allow local governments to lend money directly to private developers. (In the TIF equation, developers—typically tasked with infill and redevelopment projects—pay the money back with increased property taxes generated from the redevelopment.)
Old school liberals and progressives are against TIFs because they see them as giveaways to developers for gentrification. But at yesterday's hearing, a coalition of liberals—greens and low-income housing advocates specifically—joined together to support the idea because they see TIF as a tool to promote a combo of smart growth and affordable housing.
Indeed, after a parade of developers testified 100 percent support for the bill, they were followed by low-income housing advocates and greens. The coalition of lefties, like Ken Katahira from the International District's Inter*Im Community Development Association, said they were willing to support TIF with some slight amendments, such as making sure the definitions of "public improvements" included affordable housing.
Greens like Putney joined Katahira. "The coalition largely supports the concept," Putney told the committee, because TIF can generally support goals around growth management, environmental protection, and, sounding like working class lefty Federici now, "social equity." She added, "If we use TIF improperly, it can also counter each of those goals"—noting that single use, large scale commercial development in the exurbs, "far away from population centers, [will do] harm."
She said the bill's general TIF mandate should be amended to specify "good applications of TIF" so that it can only be used for mixed-use development (employment and residential) and that portions of the money raised go directly back to the community for public benefits like open space and affordable housing.
2. The West Seattle Blog reports that West Seattle resident Michael Taylor-Judd will be joining the giant cast of characters running against City Council member Jean Godden. Taylor-Judd, who first told us he was running for city council about month ago, is now the fourth candidate to target the two-term incumbent.
3. The Washington Environmental Council is protesting a bill that would water down I-937, the renewable energy measure approved by voters in 2006. (This is the third year in a row the senate has taken a run at changing I-937.) The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Brian Hatfield (D-19, South Bend, Kelso, Raymond) would broaden the definition of "biomass energy facilities" so that more energy facilities qualify as "renewable energy sources."
"Proposed Senate Bill 5575 would change I-937 to include existing 30-year old biomass resources to count toward the renewable energy standard," says Keri Cecovich, Outreach Director for WEC. "The effect would be a reduction in the amount of new renewable resources, like wind and solar, developed in our state."
Proponents, including Weyerhaeuser, Cowlitz PUD, and the Association of Washington Businesses, argue that the bill will save jobs by allowing plants like the Kettle Falls biomass plant and the Longview fiber liquor pulping plant to keep operating during these rough economic times.
4. Some controversial bills are getting hearings in Olympia today: State Rep. Marko Liias' (D-21, Edmonds) bill to phase out coal at TransAlta's controversial Centralia plant is up in the house enviornment committee and Rep. Eric Pettigrew's (D-37, S. Seattle) bill to base pending teacher layoffs (thanks budget) on teacher evaluations rather than seniority is up in the house education committee.
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