Caffeinated News & Gossip

1. Republicans just can't seem to get a handle on the science thing.

Here's state Rep. Ed Orcutt's (R-20, Kalama) now legendary email defending the bike tax proposal on the grounds that "bicyclists are actually polluting when they ride" :

 

Erica addressed the myth that bikers don't pay their fair share here, starting with the fact that bikers, in fact, do pay taxes for roads

Perhaps, like a model Republican, Orcutt was just trying sound like former President Ronald Reagan, who infamously claimed back in 1981 that trees caused more pollution than cars

UPDDATE: The Seattle Times reports that Rep. Orcutt issued an apology today for the bizarre riff about how bike riding causues pollution, but he thinks the bike tax is worth considering to pay for bike infrastructure. 

2. Metro general manager Kevin Desmond has spent the last few weeks doing a kind of road show—trying to warn legislators and the public about what will happen if the temporary $20 fee that saved Metro service in 2011 expires without anything to replace it. The short version: Automatic service cuts of around 17 percent, the equivalent of all Metro's weekend service.

Last Friday, Desmond took his show to the Transportation Choices Coalition's monthly forum. The highlights:

"We won't be robbing Peter to pay Paul; we'll just be robbing Peter"—Kevin Desmond, General Manager, King County MetroMetro has been able to avoid major cuts (and even worse overcrowding, since ridership is up overall) so far by eliminating things like night service on little-used routes and moving those service hours to more popular areas. "We're basically robbing Peter to pay Paul," Desmond said. The question for Metro is, "do you just disenfranchise some people … to keep quality service on your productive routes … or do you just sort of cut it across the board?"

Metro has also cut back on drivers' recovery (or break) time, reduced their reserves, and all but abandoned their capital program, Desmond said. "There ain't no more money at Metro for building things."

Starting next year, Desmond said, if the legislature doesn't give King County the ability to fund Metro, the agency will be $75 million in the red—$60 million in service hours, and $15 million for buses. "We won't be robbing Peter to pay Paul; we'll just be robbing Peter … The tragedy of it is that a lot of people are just going to give up on transit."

Asked whether he's optimistic that the legislature will approve new Metro funding (a proposal by house transportation chair Judy Clibborn would give King County the ability to pass a new motor vehicle excise tax and a $40 vehicle license fee, and to put a gas tax on the ballot), Desmond said, "I run a transit system. I'm not a political prognosticator.

"It's a tough environment Olympia," where the senate is dominated by Republicans and transportation is competing for funds with education in the wake of the McCleary decision. "But people do sometimes pull rabbits out of the hat at the end of the session."

3. Democrats have been pretty antagonistic to supermajority rules lately—suing to have the state legislature's two-thirds-to-raise-taxes rule thrown out and whining about filibusters in the U.S. Senate.

Now, it turns out, they're mad about it because Democratic leaders themselves used a supermajority threshold to block a vote on rules changes to make the King County Democrats' candidate endorsements more accountable and transparent to the local districts.

At a meeting of the King County Democrats Central Committee last week, bylaw amendments to the endorsement process—such as a requirement that the endorsements committee contain at least one member from each legislative district, that the districts have input in who that member is, and allowing the endorsement interviews to be videotaped—were tabled by leadership because they  fell four votes short of a 2/3rds vote to consider the question.

Calling it a "filibuster," and arguing that the 2/3rds requirement was "ridiculous," Endorsement Committee Chair Michael Maddux, who supports the changes, sent an angry email to district chairs this weekend saying, "I hope that the dilatory tactics that were engaged in last Tuesday will be left aside, and that those who don't want protections for the Districts will at least allow a vote at the March meeting."

4. Republican King County Council Member Reagan Dunn, who recently lost a bid for higher office—he lost last year's Washington State Attorney General race to Democrat Bob Ferguson—will now have to fight to hold on to his council seat.

Dunn, who represents the 9th District—which stretches from Bellevue southeast through Kent to Covington and Black Diamond—is being challenged by Democrat Shari Song, a Bellevue real estate broker and longtime leader of the local Korean business and civic community; she's served as a board member of the Korean American Chamber of Commerce.