Morning Fizz

Probably the Worst Place in the City

By Morning Fizz January 29, 2010

1. Are Democrats in Olympia willing to get behind new taxes this year?

Member photo

We will know soon enough. Spokane Rep. Timm Ormsby (D-3) is collecting co-sponsors today so he can drop a bill as early as Monday that would triple the hazardous substance tax—from 0.7 percent to 2 percent—on companies that produce dirty stuff like petroleum.

The haz mat tax—passed by voters in 1988— is supposed to go to pollution cleanup, but Rep. Ormsby's legislation would dedicate 70 percent of the money to core general fund services for three years.

We'll see soon who's willing to sign on to the additional taxes, which, business lobbyists argue, will be passed on to consumers or put industry jobs at risk.

2. We're not sure if every Democratic member of the US  Senate got a personalized shoutout from President Obama in his State of the Union address on Wednesday night (it was certainly long enough to accommodate such a list). But the way Morning Fizz sees it, both of Washington state's senators—senior Sen. Patty Murray and junior Sen. Maria Cantwell—got a nod from Obama.

Sen. Murray recently introduced a bill that would give $30 billion in bailout money (TARP funds) to help community banks.

On Wednesday night, Obama said:
"So tonight, I'm proposing that we take $30 billion of the money Wall Street banks have repaid and use it to help community banks give small businesses the credit they need to stay afloat."

Asked if they thought the President was referring to Murray's bill, Murray's office demurred. They said that while "[Sen. Murray] spoke directly with the President about her bill,"
"I don’t think we can say that. We haven’t seen the details of the President’s proposal, but it sounds like a similar goal and the same amount of dollars dedicated.  Senator Murray had brought her idea up with both Secretary Geithner and President Obama.  She was very pleased to hear the focus on community banks come up in the speech."

Obama's shout out to Sen. Cantwell was more subtle.

Cantwell has proposed reinstituting part of the depression-era Glass-Steagall Act, which would put up a wall between investment banking and commercial banking—preventing Wall Street investors from using your regular bank deposits on the market.

On Wednesday night, Obama said:
"We can't allow financial institutions, including those that take your deposits, to take risks that threaten the whole economy."

Sen. Cantwell's office has not told us if they think the line was a reference to Cantwell's proposal (which she's co-sponsoring with Sen. John McCain).

However, in a press release yesterday about her vote against reconfirming Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, Cantwell took the time to reference Obama's speech and Sen. Murray's legislation. And not in a good way. Noting the $30 billion plan, Cantwell's release said:
"Cantwell urged the Obama administration to immediately use funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) to infuse capital into small community banks for small business lending. The plan, announced by President Obama in his State of the Union Address, can be done by executive action rather than time-consuming legislation. Community banks should receive $50 billion in TARP funds, not the $30 billion in the White House proposal, she said."

Bold is ours. Slapdown is Cantwell's.

3. People's Waterfront Coalition founder and director Cary Moon took issue with the city and state's rosy assessment of a new proposal for the south end of the downtown Alaskan Way tunnel yesterday, arguing that the two transportation agencies in charge of the tunnel have not done enough analysis of the cost, potential seismic problems, and impact on historic buildings of the revamped south portal of the tunnel.

At a brown-bag forum yesterday at the Klondike Gold Rush Museum in Pioneer Square, representatives from the state and city departments of transportation (WSDOT and SDOT) laid out recent changes in the proposal for the south portal to the tunnel. Most significantly, tunnel planners have moved the proposed tunnel several blocks to the west, skirting hundreds of historic buildings that would have been demolished under the old First Avenue tunnel plan.

"We learned a lot about what it takes to build a tunnel in the last year," said Ron Paananen, viaduct project manager for WSDOT. Steve Pearce, viaduct project manager for SDOT, echoed Paananen's assessment, noting the "amazing arrival experience" drivers will have as they approach the tunnel from the south. "We wanted to celebrate that view."

Moon, however, said the planners had ignored "a whole host of other risks that are raised with this new alignment. We got pretty far with risk assessment with the other alignment, but we didn’t do that here."

Moon said the new design still leaves "a whole bunch of other historical buildings" in harm's way, and ignores the fact that the new tunnel location is right next to the water table, on seismically vulnerable fill. "This is probably the worst place in the whole city to put a tunnel portal," she said.

WSDOT estimates that around 59,000 drivers a day will enter and exit the tunnel in Pioneer Square.

Video of yesterday's event is available here (Part 1) and here (Part 2).

4. Erica will be on KING-5's "Up Front" this weekend, talking about Mayor Mike McGinn's proposed ballot measure for the seawall and its prospects in front of voters and the city council.

5. Last night's One Night Count of the homeless in King County found that the number of homeless people living on the streets has declined since last year's count, from 2,827 to 2,759. The Seattle/King County Coalition for the Homeless attributed the decrease to increased awareness of homelessness in the community, as well as an increase in available services for the homeless. The count does not include the estimated 6,000 people staying in emergency shelters and transitional housing in King County.

Today's Morning Fizz is sponsored by Is That Jazz?:

Show Comments