1. This week's PubliCola ThinkTank asked if there was a lesson from Wisconsin for Washington State. It looks like about 50 people who object to the recent house budget proposals—which slash education and social service spending instead of corporate tax breaks—think so. The takeaway: Time for some civil disobedience here too. There was a mass sleep-in inside the Capitol building rotunda last night.
After a day where 600 activists in "Cut Tax Loophole" T-shirts disrupted the house ways and means committee and the senate, taking over the gallery up above, a crowd of about 200 people stayed on after hours, filling up the marble rotunda inside the Capitol building and chanting for an hour before a hardcore crew of 50 unrolled their sleeping bags and stayed the night.
[pullquote]After initially refusing to allow pizza delivery to the protesters, the Capitol Police eventually a-OKed the action, telling the crowd they understood what they were trying to accomplish. "The troopers have been cool," one protester emailed Fizz.[/pullquote]
After initially refusing to allow pizza delivery to the protesters, the Capitol Police eventually a-OKed the action (there were no arrests), telling the crowd they understood what they were trying to accomplish. "The troopers have been cool," one protester emailed Fizz.
And many legislators showed their support too. "Sen. Karen Kaiser and Sen. Adam Klein brought us food, so now the place briefly smells like tangerines instead of human funk," the protester emailed again into the evening. "Then, the TV cameras showed up. Then, Sen. Lisa Brown and Sen. Nick Harper just brought Gatorade and 15 kinds of cheese flavored snacks."
Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (D-34, Burien), the protester said, followed up with water and donuts. Let them eat donuts, I guess.
Other legislators who reportedly stopped by were: Reps. Mike Sells (D-38, Everett), Bob Hasegawa (D-11, S. Seattle), Dave Upthegrove (D-33, Des Moines), Kevin Van De Wege (D-24, Sequim), Derek Standford (D-21, Bothell), Marko Liias (D-21, Edmonds), and former Rep. Brendan Williams.
Hasegawa, by the way, introduced a bill yesterday that the protesters would like. It requires tax exemptions—the bill cleverly calls them "tax expenditures"—to produce a demonstrable net gain for the state. Sen. Maralyn Chase (D-33, Edmonds) introduced a companion bill in the senate.
Those are all Democrats. Any Republicans? Rep. Kevin Parker (R-6, Spokane) spoke to the crowd, telling the group he appreciated what they were doing and that they've been heard.
[pullquote]"Really? Screw that," she said about budget cuts for undocumented immigrants. "Corporations are getting off easy and we're being scrutinized?[/pullquote]
The plan had been in play for two weeks, but they only announced it publicly today at 5 pm. "With all the focus on undocumented immigrants supposedly taking our money," said Fatima Morales, spokeswoman for the racial and economic justice group Washington Community Action Network, which organized the action, "we got fed up."
I reached Morales by phone at 4:30 AM as KOMO-TV was on their way to interview her, and she was washing her face in the Capitol bathroom after only a few hours' sleep. She reports that "snoring really resonates" in the giant rotunda. Morales was a bit giddy. "Really? Screw that," she said about budget cuts for undocumented immigrants—such as the 15,000 who were kicked off the Basic Health Plan. "Corporations are getting off easy and we're being scrutinized? (Lefties have tried to put the focus this year on the estimated $6.5 billion in tax breaks in the budget.)
The protest was part of a "Week of Action." Today, hundreds of members of the Service Employees International Union are showing up by the busload and on Friday the Washington State Labor Council plans to bring thousands.
2. The state Department of Transportation (WSDOT) just released a study on strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Buried in more than 100 pages of dry data are some pretty fascinating statistics about just what gets people out of their cars.
What'd they find? First of all, the single biggest factor in reducing the amount people drive is the cost of parking. Increasing parking charges from 28 cents per hour to $1.19 per hour reduces the number of vehicle miles people travel 11.52 percent. That's evidence, if ever there was any, that recent increases in Seattle's on-street parking rates will help achieve the city's goal of getting people out of their cars. The presence of sidewalks, too, reduces the amount people drive---increasing the number of streets with sidewalks from 30 percent to 70 percent reduces vehicle miles traveled by 3.4 percent.
These numbers show that changing transportation and land use planning has promise for the city's agenda. To find out what more significant changes might mean, WSDOT also looked at two neighborhoods with existing or planned rapid transit---Rainier Beach and Bitter Lake. The study found that a combination of more sidewalks, improvements to transit service, and slight adjustments to the mix of land uses, could reduce vehicle miles traveled 49 percent in Bitter Lake and 27 percent in Rainier Beach. Read the whole wonkarrific study here.
3. Washington is on its way to becoming the first state in the country to ban coal tar sealants—the stuff that's used to mend and pretty up parking lots and playgrounds. Studies show that coal tar sealants have polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, a suspected human carcinogen and major pollutant.
The bill, sponsored by freshman Rep. David Frockt (D-46, N. Seattle), passed the house in late February and passed the senate yesterday, 36-12 with impressive bipartisan support.
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