Caffeinatd News & Gossip

1. We're resisting writing this in all caps: This is a must-watch exchange from yesterday's state house transportation committee meeting, which had a hearing on state Rep. Laurie Jinkins' (D-27, Tacoma) bill to make health a policy goal for transportation planning. The idea is to make sure transportation planning isn't just about cars, but about walking, providing access to transit, and biking.

It's a significant exchange for a couple of reasons. First, the department's response to the inevitable charge from Republicans that the state is out to control you (think Antonin Scalia's profound fear of broccoli) was completely disarming.

Rep. Jay Rodne (R-5, North Bend) started things off by scoffing at the audacity of WSDOT's goal. "I'm curious to what is the logical end point of the department of transportation's scope of regulatory authority. Because so much about health is about individual behavior, and if the department of transportation is going to become concerned about regulating people's personal health choices," he concluded sarcastically, "should we just add 'happiness' as a goal of the transportation system? Where is the logical stopping point?"

WSDOT's response to the inevitable charge from Republicans that the state is out to control you was completely disarming.

WSDOT Strategic Programming and Planning Director Brian Smith began by slyly egging Rodne on, telling him that "in effect, probably happiness is one of [WSDOT's] goals."

And then he got down to it, reframing the debate as being about "providing options for folks or foreclosing options for folks." 

He went on, seeking to find common ground with Rodne over their military service, to tell a powerful anecdote: After getting hit by a car during his time in the Army reserves, and having to use a walker, Smith became acutely aware that the awkward street pattern in his neighborhood took him a mile-and-a-half out of his way to catch the bus to work ("I couldn't drive") even though the bus was only a quarter mile away.

A smart street grid fix, an alley, was built that eventually provided Smith quick access to the bus.

Listen to Smith's common-sense rebuttal about adding choices. It's the best rejoinder to the social engineering rap you're likely to hear any time soon.

The second significant thing about the exchange is this: Smith and the Department of Transportation did not testify on this bill (which failed) last year.

The fact that they're now on board and bringing game to the committee is worth noting as Gov. Jay Inslee's administration takes over.

2. City council member and mayoral candidate Tim Burgess is spending $35,000 on a poll from the Washington, D.C.-based Mellman Group, according to campaign finance reports filed earlier this week. The poll, Fizz hears, starts out by asking respondents who they prefer for mayor, then asking them their opinions on issues like transportation, public safety, and transportation (in a way that one person polled thought was intended to push them toward Burgess), and then asking again who they support for mayor.

As for the high cost of the poll: Unlike mayor Mike McGinn's $5,000 robopolls, Burgess's poll was conducted by actual human pollsters. 

3. Speaking of McGinn: At the Seattle Neighborhood Coalition meeting this past weekend, the mayor endorsed the idea of district elections (as well he should, given that districts dilute individual council members' power), telling coalition members, "I believe you should be able to get elected by walking a district and knocking on doors."

McGinn and challenger Kate Martin spoke this month; the roster for next month's meeting includes McGinn challengers Peter Steinbrueck, Tim Burgess, and Ed Murray. 

4. Seattle voters overwhelmingly approved the renewal of two local school levies last night. The first, a levy to fund school operations, passed with a majority of 74 percent; the second, which pays for capital improvements to existing schools and for new school buildings, passed with a majority of 72 percent.