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1. Is there a flaw in Sound Transit’s political logic?

Ignoring standard transportation planning theory—that you build from the core out rather than stretching through lower ridership suburbs—ST3’s slave-to-the-spine (Tacoma to Everett to Redmond and Issaquah) design indicates that the board is trying to please voters all across the region rather than prioritizing building an efficient system. For example, going with the recommended line to downtown Redmond—with an estimated 9,000 daily boardings—versus a now discarded Ballard to the U. District option with its 24,000 estimated daily boardings, appears to undermine the smart transit planning purpose of activating green cities.

The overriding political principle, though, is that the extra voters in Redmond (versus the yes votes they’ll already get in Seattle) on the $50 billion package will give Sound Transit a November win. But don’t the low ridership numbers, versus Seattle’s high ridership numbers, which demonstrate the wisdom of prioritizing the core, also confirm that the political calculation doesn’t actually make sense? 9,000 “boardings” actually translates into 4,500 riders. That’s not a ton of votes in the region.

Seattle city council member and Sound Transit board member Rob Johnson defends the suburban line, though, noting: “Don’t forget that the current suburbanization of poverty requires redefining who lives in the suburbs and therefore who is benefiting from that investment.”

He’s got a point: The discarded Ballard to U. District line had a 28 percent minority population living within a half mile of the station area.  But by comparison: It’s a 46 percent minority population within a half-mile of the Redmond line. Similarly, it’s a 37 percent minority population near the planned Issaquah line. And heading south into the suburbs makes even more sense by Johnson’s social justice metric as well. There’s a significant 57 percent minority population on the Federal Way extension.

The ridership in Federal Way is much higher than its Eastside suburban counterparts, by the way, coming in closer to the Ballard-to-U. District numbers at 20,000 daily boardings. The Federal Way line is also more similar to Seattle in another way (as opposed to the Eastside lines) with its larger low-income population. Twenty two percent of the population within a half-mile of the Federal Way extension is low-income; similarly, it was 23 percent low-income around the Ballard to U. District line.

The low-income population on the Eastside lines, despite the high minority population, is a minimal nine percent, which certainly undermines Johnson’s defense of the $1 billion capital cost on the Redmond portion of Eastlink.

2. Speaking of the Eastside: U.S. representative Suzan DelBene (D-WA, 1) is fighting for your cyber rights again. Following up her successful push as a member of the house judiciary committee to pass legislation to stop the NSA’s Snowden-era bulk data collection on cell phones, she’s now running point on the email privacy act in the judiciary committee; the original sponsors aren’t on the committee and they’re relying on DelBene.

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The bill would create a warrant standard for law enforcement to obtain someone’s email. That’s right, currently there’s no such protection. The current standard, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986, says emails older than 180 days are considered “abandoned” and no warrant is required. This was before the days of cloud storage and email servers—when people downloaded an email to their computer…or floppy disk!

DelBene says: “When current law affords more protections for a letter in a filing cabinet than an email on a server, it’s clear our policies are outdated."

The bill is set for a committee vote next week. “I’m glad the Committee will move the bill without further delay, and ensure Americans are guaranteed the privacy protections most think they already have,” DelBene said.

3. State senator Rosemary McAuliffe (D-1, Bothell) announced yesterday that she’s not seeking reelection. Her northeastern suburban Seattle first legislative district leans Democratic—both house members are Democrats—but the race to fill her vacancy, likely between state representative Luis Moscoso (D-1, Shoreline) and Democrat Guy Palumbo, could rankle Democratic efforts to focus on beating Republicans, who currently have a 26-23 advantage.

Watch for Democratic union dollars, particularly from the teachers union, go to support Moscoso over education reformer Palumbo, just as they did when Palumbo challenged McAuliffe in 2012.

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