Image via SeattleBubble.com.
1. As numerous statewide elected officials leave office, newspapers are doing the inevitable exit interviews. At the Olympian, Jordan Schrader interviews outgoing state auditor Brian Sonntag, asking him about, among other things, how much he can bench-press, the most flagrant abuse he witnessed during his time in office, and why Sonntag, nominally a Democrat (Sonntag was frequently allied with initiative hawker Tim Eyman, whose Initiative 900 broadened the auditor's powers), endorsed Republican Rob McKenna for governor.
2. And at the Seattle Times, Andrew Garber interviews outgoing Gov. (and likely EPA administrator) Chris Gregoire on her legacy, which consists mostly of budget shortfalls, slashed spending for social and human services, and state worker furloughs and pay cuts. Josh and I did a similar—though broader-reaching—interview with Gregoire back in December; check out parts one, two, and three of that conversation.
3. Looking forward, the News Tribune's Peter Callaghan prognosticates on what it will mean if the state legislature (and Gov.-elect Jay Inslee) fail to move on the state supreme court's order that it correct the state's decades-long failure to fully fund education. "No one says no way, of course," Callaghan writes. "They all pay lip service to their love of education and their oaths to follow the constitution. But a lot of electeds think the Supreme Court can’t make them do anything because of that whole separation of powers thing.
4. It's a seller's housing market these days, according to the real-estate blog Seattle Bubble, which reports that the latest real-estate listings show that the median price of a single-family home in the Seattle area is up 18.8 percent over last year, while the number of active listings has gone down 46.4 percent—creating a more expensive market for potential homebuyers. The Puget Sound Business Journal, reporting on the same numbers, notes that the biggest price increases in King County were in Skyway, Central Seattle, Vashon, West Bellevue, and Burien.
5. In an oddly naive post praising Mayor Mike McGinn's deal with San Francisco hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen to build a third stadium in SoDo, the pro-McGinn Stranger argues that there's no risk involved in the arena plan, because "the city is essentially just offering its bonding capacity" to Hansen, and isn't actually funding the arena. Their argument, in short: The arena will pay for itself (through taxes on things like sky box rentals and hot dog sales), so therefore "the city isn't really giving away money." Overruns, in other words, are impossible.
Ultimately, as we've reported, the city will be on the hook if Hansen and his investors are unable to pay the bills on the half-billion-dollar arena. Addittionally, the agreement only mandates oversight of the arena company, not the related companies that Hansen's arena entity is working with, such as the team itself. Insufficient gaurantees on those deals undercuts the otherwise up-front deal the city got with Hansen. And even that up-front deal, with its several provisions to prevent deafulat---including a personal guaranty from Hansen that he'll make up any shortfall---has, as we've also reported, big risks. The personal guaranty, for example, only lasts five years (on a 30-year agreement); and if Hansen becomes insolvent, it would be up to the company he has formed, ArenaCo, to pay back the arena debt.
But the biggest reason the Stranger's pro-McGinn position strikes us as odd is this: When it came to the downtown tunnel (which McGinn opposed), the paper was (justifiably) alarmed by the possibility of overruns and dismissed state officials' claims that Seattle wouldn't have to pay for extra costs as naive and self-serving. Now that it's a pet McGinn project at stake, that skepticism has evaporated.