OOBT

1. Far be it from me to praise the Seattle Times editorial board, but I like the approach one of their new writers, Thanh Tan, takes when writing about a new microhousing (AKA aPodment) development that recently sprung up across the street from her home on Capitol Hill.

After acknowleding her initial skepticism (where will all those people park?), Tan ultimately concludes that living in a dense urban area has benefits that outweigh the nuisance of having to drive a few extra blocks for parking, and points out that without more density, "costs will continue to rise and people will leave the city or become homeless."

One point that I'd add to Tan's perceptive piece, though: Although she notes that the number of Seattle residents who spend more than half their income on housing is growing (according to the traditional theory, housing is "affordable" if it costs no more than 30 percent of a household's monthly income), it's also important to note that people who move to "affordable" suburban areas pay much, much more in transportation costs than city dwellers—particularly people who are able to live without a car.

 As Sightline has pointed out, when you live in a sprawling suburb that requires a car, your transportation costs skyrocket—which is why a Capitol Hill condo that costs $1,500 a month might actually be more "affordable" than a house in Renton that only costs $1,000. 

2. Lest you think the Times' editorial board has abandoned its crotchety conservative roots, though, here's Bruce Ramsey, admitting proudly that he loads up on plastic bags from stores that offer them every chance he gets. "Whenever I go shopping outside of Seattle where the bags are still legal, I get more. A recent visit to a WinCo Foods store, still in the free zone, was a good haul. WinCo allows you to bag your own groceries. One box of cereal per bag if you want."

Ramsey's belief that private companies should have to provide him as many free bags as he wants gives a whole new meaning to the term "free market." 

3. The Washington Budget and Policy Center's blog Schmudget (Yiddish for budget) argues that five advisory ballot measures this year, mandated by Tim Eyman's Initiative 960 (which requires an advisory vote on any tax increase), are "tailored to deceive" voters because it mandates that advisory measures, which must be 13 words or less, include no explanatory statement, no statements for and against, and no fiscal impact statement, among other shortfalls. 

"The bottom line is that the public advisory vote law distorts the facts in an effort to mislead voters into rejecting investments in schools and safe, healthy communities in favor of lower taxes for the richest Washingtonians and large, profitable corporations."

4. That's probably a fair description of the law, which also limits ballot titles to an inscrutable 13 words. However, as the Everett Herald notes, this year's five advisory measures are simply that: advisory; an up-or-down vote will have no impact on a specific tax. Last year, state residents voted to end a tax on oil refineries and extend a tax break for big banks. "Fortunately, the non-binding vote had all the impact of a North Korean plebiscite."