Representatives of Seattle's business community gathered in a noisy warehouse in SoDo this morning to decry a proposal by Mayor Mike McGinn to close a $67 million city budget gap, in part, by raising utility taxes and parking rates and to extend paid-parking hours. However, pressed repeatedly to suggest revenue sources they would support, the business representatives fell back on sound bites about excessive city spending on "unaffordable luxuries" and the need for revenues that don't disproportionately impact the business community.

"Seattle has a spending problem," said Joe Quintana, head of the Seattle Business Coalition. "Seattle's got to get out of denial and stop spending so much" instead of raising utility rates, Quintana said. Pressed to identify potential savings, Quintana said the city should hire private contractors for things like street signs and utility call centers; during his campaign, McGinn pledged to reduce the number of outside contractors hired by the city.

Asked (by persistent Seattle P-I reporter Chris Grygiel) whether Seattle's business community might eventually see the tunnel, which is funded in part by the very utility taxes the business owners were criticizing, as an "unaffordable luxury," Chamber spokesman George Allen said, "The number one prioirity [of the business community] is public safety: police, fire, and construction of the tunnel and seawall. ... We feel that the tunnel is a public safety project [and that] the city government's resources should be focused in that direction first."

Tango restaurant owner Travis Rosenthal, meanwhile, objected primarily to higher parking meter rates and longer meter hours, which he said would be devastating to the restaurant industry and would send restaurantgoers fleeing to places like Bellevue, where parking is cheap or free. McGinn has proposed raising parking rates from $2 to $3.50 per hour downtown and from $2 to $2.50 in other parts of the city.

"It seems our mayor has a strong disgust for cars and a strong love for bikes. And I respect that, but unfortunately, cars bring my restaurant its guests," Rosenthal said. "When I look at Seattle city streets, I do not see thousands of bikes on the road right now. I do not see light rail or monorail or streetcar on my commute."

Similarly, Fremont Chamber of Commerce director Jessica Vets said that although Fremont does have more than 500 free parking spaces, "everyone who comes to Fremont will have to pay more in parking" for the 72 spaces that aren't free.