Caffeinated News & Gossip

1. First, a correction: On Tuesday, we reported that State Sen. Don Benton's (R-17, Vancouver) proposal to require parental notification to get abortions applied to adult women. This was incorrect. We have amended our initial post. We regret the error. 

NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, however, says there's a provision in Benton's bill that would go way beyond any legislation proposed in recent years to overturn abortion rights in Washington State.

Specifically: The legislation includes two sections that would repeal early-'90s-era legislation guaranteeing "a fundamental right of privacy with respect to personal reproductive decisions," including the "fundamental right to choose or refuse to have an abortion," and another ensuring that "the state may not deny or interfere with a woman's right to choose to have an abortion prior to viability of the fetus, or to protect her life or health." 

We have a call out to Benton and are hoping to talk to him later today.

2. Defying predictions that drivers would avoid tolls on the 520 bridge by going miles out of their way to use I-90 (or even moving elsewhere), the state department of transportation (WSDOT) concluded, in a report presented to the Washington State Transportation Commission in Olympia yesterday, that people are continuing to drive across 520 despite tolls—an average of 70,000 trips a day.

"I'm wondering, what do sidewalks have to do with transportation?"—State Senate Transportation Committee member, Sen. Mike Carrell (R-28, Lakewood)At the same time, the report found that transit ridership on the bridge has increased an astonishing 25 percent since tolls went into effect—an indication that people are capable of adapting to changing circumstances such as tolls, using public transit for their commute instead of driving themselves.

3. Speaking of transportation: State Sen. Mike Carrell (R-28, Lakewood) had a strange question at this week's senate Transportation Committee meeting: "I'm wondering, what do sidewalks have to do with transportation?"

Carrell put the question to Steve Gorcester, Executive Director of the Transit Improvement Board, a state agency that makes grants to local jurisdictions for street grid projects, including a sidewalk program.

Gorcester fielded Sen. Carrell's (evidently sincere) question (Carrell noted that lots of sidewalks in his district are unused—"I never see anybody walking on them"— and go "nowheres") with total class and without breaking stride: 

Well, sidewalks are incorporated into street design standards and because they're a part of the street system. They're necessary to the project when you construct street improvements. We're not out building sidewalks in the unincorporated areas of counties, but in towns and in the urban area, the sidewalks are incorporated into the street design.

The legislature passed Seattle state Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon's (D-34, W. Seattle) "complete streets" bill in 2011 which mandated that all road projects had to incorporate pedestrian, bike, and transit users into their design.

Carrell voted against the bill. 

4. At a forum hosted by the new group Smart Growth Seattle, which promotes density in single-family areas, controversial developer Dan Duffus (he's the guy responsible for building several tall, modern cottages next to single-family homes under a loophole that allows development on some "substandard" single-family lots) responded to critics who claim he's responsible for destroying the character of Seattle's historic single-family neighborhoods. 

"We are really working under a 1957 code," Duffus said. "Our households have gotten smaller and there are more singles, and people aren’t necessarily looking for a 3,000-square-foot home on a 5,000-square-foot lot." 

One audience member objected to new, modern houses among the "old, classic mansions" of Mount Baker.

Duffus responded:

"We are really working under a 1957 code. Our households have gotten smaller and there are more singles, and people aren’t necessarily looking for a 3,000-square-foot home on a 5,000-square-foot lot."—Dan Duffus  "Neighbors are never going to be happy when new homes are going up, but we really need to find a middle ground. ... I've built in Mount Baker, and they don't like anything. It is very difficult to make everybody happy." 

5. Yesterday, we reported that mayoral candidate and city council member Bruce Harrell received a somewhat surprising maxed-out, $700 contribution from the Seattle Medical Marijuana Association—a medical-marijuana dispensary in Fremont. (It's surprising because Harrell, the only candidate to get a donation from the dispensary, is not known as an outspoken advocate for medical pot or marijuana legalization).

SMMA founder and lifelong Seattle resident Karl Keich, tells us he's been a Harrell supporter ever since Harrell's first run for council, in 2007: "He's an awesome guy, and I think he'll really clean up the city," Keich tells Fizz.

Keich says he's also a big supporter of city council member Mike O'Brien, his Fremont neighbhor, a chicken-owning gardener who isn't ordinarily seen as an ally of Harrell's on the council.

6. FYI: Yesterday, we endorsed Seattle Propositions 1 and 2, the Seattle Schools Levies, which are on the February 12 ballot: Astute voters understand that the McCLeary decision highlighted a crisis that demands collective action. Putting the state on notice that Seattle's all-in response to the education funding crisis is the smart thing to do.