Afternoon Jolt

1. This one's more of a warning Jolt for Move King County Now, the pro-Proposition 1 campaign. (Prop 1 is the 0.1-cent sales tax and $60 vehicle license fee that's on a special April 22 King County ballot to prevent as many as 600,000 hours in Metro bus cuts.)

Background: The state legislature failed to pass a transportation package this year. Metro was relying on the state to greenlight an motor-vehicle excise tax to save Metro bus service as part of the package; the MVET, based on the value of a car as opposed to the flat VLF, is a more progressive way to pay for bus service, but requires state authorization.

Without access to the MVET, the King County Council unanimously sent the property tax and VLF measure to voters. It would raise $130 million: $80 million for transit (including a rebate on the VLF for low-income people and a subsidized fare for low-income commuters) and $50 million for regional road maintenance. Without Prop. 1, the heavy bus casualties would put as many as 30,000 cars back on the roads.

Here's the warning for Move King County Now, the pro-Prop 1 campaign: For a while they didn't face any opposition—meaning paid opposition—but north Seattle businesswoman and property manager, Faye Garneau contributed $5,000 to Families for Sustainable Transit last week. Up until now, FST, the anti-Prop 1 group, was little more than a website, tied to a Republican web development team

A $5,000 contribution may not be much—MKCN has raised $567,000—but lets just say there's more where that came from. Garneau, who opposed adding bus lanes on Aurora Ave. during the Greg Nickels era, bankrolled her pet district elections cause last year, spending $230,000. 

MKCN has some serious donors of its own, though: Unions such as LOCAL 1488 AFSCME-WFSE AFL-CIO has put in $50,000 and the Amalgamated Transit Union has put in $40,000 ($20,000 from the national group and $20,000 from the local ATU 587, which represents Metro union members). Vulcan has put in $20,000.

2. And today's winner: Whole Foods. 

Today the city council's transportation committee voted 5-3 (giving the proposal majority support from the full nine-member council) to grant an alley vacation—basically, a handover of public right-of-way—to a proposed Whole Foods-anchored development in West Seattle.

Former Mayor Mike McGinn made the proposal a major issue during his reelection campaign, when he argued that the non-union Whole Foods shouldn't receive the alley vacation because it doesn't guarantee its employees a "living wage." 

Proponents of the Whole Foods development argued that Whole Foods' workers start at substantially higher wages than the current state minimum of $9.32 an hour, and point out that the Trader Joe's two blocks away is also non-union.

And supposedly urbanist McGinn's opposition was a bit clumsy given the fact that Whole Foods is anchoring a mixed-use development that would replace an abandoned car dealership.

Council members Nick Licata, Kshama Sawant, and born-again social justice lefty Mike O'Brien (who one might imagine would support a dense, tall, urban development anchored by a grocery store) voted against the alley vacation, which goes to the full council next Monday. 


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