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University light rail station construction

1. Thirteen people signed up to comment about plans for the proposed University District light rail station at yesterday's Sound Transit board meeting. About half supported Sound Transit's proposed alternative, which includes dense new mixed-use development (transit oriented development) above the underground station, and about half backed a separate proposal to turn the surface of the station into an open plaza.

The board voted unanimously to declare the surface property "surplus," which allows the process---which will culminate in Sound Transit's sale of the land to the UW---to keep moving forward, with the development vs. park debate still in play.

Former Seattle City Council member Peter Steinbrueck testified in favor of the plaza option. Noting that he was a founding board member of smart growth group Futurewise, he proclaimed that the open space proposal was consistent with the green group's transit oriented communities blueprint.

Brock Howell, a current staffer at Futurewise (he's the King County Program Director), testified after Steinbrueck and—joking that it's always good to have the last word—spoke in favor of the mixed-used development plan.

Offbeat sidenote: Sound Transit board member and King County Council member Joe McDermott brought some levity to the hearing when he voted 'No,' as a lark, to letting Board member Pete Von Reichbauer join in by phone.  (The two have been rivals on the County Council over the arena issue.)

2. Amber Carter, a spokeswoman for the conservative Association of Washington Business, responded yesterday to PubliCola's piece on the AWB's support for a proposal that would consolidate all of the state's local business and occupation tax collections at the state level, and to explain why the group backs the proposal, which will likely be reintroduced during this year's legislative session.

AWB, Carter said, would prefer to put the state in charge of local tax collection because "it simplifies the process for employers in understanding what their tax obligation is and paying it."

She disagrees with Seattle's contention that cities will lose tax dollars under the new system, asserting that they'll actually gain taxes from companies that are currently able to skirt the law or that don't know what their obligations are.

And she said that although cities' proposal to build a central "portal" for businesses to pay their local B&O taxes was a good step---"we have to give them a lot of credit for actually recognizing that there's a problem"---it doesn't go far enough. "We'd like to have 100 percent commonality at the state level," Carter says.

3. King County Metro now plans to provide 19-to 23-seat mini-buses to serve people who can't afford to pay the $2.25-$2.50 bus fare once the downtown ride-free area goes away in September.

Advocates for the homeless have pushed King County Metro to provide free, full-size buses when the downtown ride-free area no longer exists. While Metro hasn't agreed to that plan, they will expand the area in which shuttles are free to serve First Hill and Harborview, rather than just the downtown area.

4. Erica C. Barnett will be on KUOW's Weekday with Steve Scher this morning to review the week in news.

Tune in 94.9 FM at 10.