Morning Fizz

We Don't Have A Great Track Record

By Morning Fizz March 24, 2010

1. At last night's packed PubliCola-sponsored debate on the future of the SR-520 bridge across Lake Washington, Seattle City Council member Mike O'Brien and state Rep. Deb Eddy (D-48) defended their preferred options for replacing the bridge. Eddy supports the six-lane replacement that was endorsed by the state legislature earlier this year, which would include four general-purpose lanes for cars and two lanes for buses, vanpools, and carpools. O'Brien supports an alternative proposal (also backed by Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn) that would include two lanes dedicated exclusively to high-capacity transit (i.e. light rail).

Last night's 520 forum: Erica C. Barnett, Mike O'Brien, Deb Eddy

Some highlights:

Eddy, speaking on behalf of Eastside legislators from her district as well as the 41st and 45th districts: "There will never be more than six lanes" on the 520 bridge.

O'Brien, on the need to dedicate two lanes on the new 520 bridge to transit now, rather than reprogramming them for transit later: "We don't  have a great track record in this state of managing [high-occupancy vehicle] lanes. We don't have a great track record of taking away lanes of cars and dedicating them to transit."

House transportation committee chair Judy Clibborn (invited onstage by PubliCola at the end of the event), on the legislature's relationship with Seattle: "The reason this has taken so long is that Seattle has not been engaged. We now have a mayor and a city council that will talk to us. Can you imagine—we were trying to plan [the bridge design] with no input from Seattle."

O'Brien, responding to a question about the fact that the new 520 bridge will not increase "capacity" for cars: "Any time we add additional lanes, we need to dedicate those lanes to transit."

O'Brien, asked by retired transportation engineer Christopher Brown if it wasn't "insane"  to spend billions of dollars on 520 without adding any new capacity for cars: "Capacity isn't just about adding lanes and roads. If I can now walk from my house to the grocery store that should count as capacity."

2. Both the city council and the housing development community reiterated their commitment to keeping the city's Office of Housing yesterday, in the wake of news earlier this week that Bill Rumpf, the acting director of the office, has decided to resign his position.

In a statement, the Housing Development Consortium (which represents Seattle affordable-housing developers) called Rumpf's "departure a loss for the city of Seattle." Contacted yesterday, HDC outreach director Anna Markee said the group hopes McGinn will preserve the housing office, which he has indicated may be merged into other city departments.

And in a letter yesterday, the three members of the city council's housing committee reiterated their support for keeping the housing office, urging McGinn "to consider the strong support the Council has for the Office of Housing" as an independent city office.

3. As we've reported, city attorney Pete Holmes' office has been working on a massive records request by two former assistant city attorneys, Ted Inkley and Phil Brenneman, seeking information about how and why they were let go after Holmes was elected to replace former city attorney Tom Carr. Now, Holmes' office has revealed exactly how much time their taxpayer-funded attorneys and other staff have spent (so far) responding to the request: 178 hours. That doesn't include the time Holmes' office will need to actually finish responding to the request, which they estimate they'll be able to do sometime in April.

4. The city's Planning Commission sent a letter to the city council this week wholeheartedly backing new development standards for multifamily buildings (AKA the condos and townhouses that so frequently cause controversy in Seattle neighborhoods). The new standards could eliminate minimum parking requirements in certain parts of the city and allow denser developments by eliminating current limits on multifamily-housing density—in theory, ridding the city of onerous regulations that have led to a glut of widely reviled "six-pack" townhouses throughout Seattle.

5. Gov. Chris Gregoire's office confirms that the governor supports keeping a $4 million-a-year tax break for TransAlta's coal plant in Centralia.

The environmental lobby has told PubliCola that the governor was against lifting the exemption, but this is the first we’ve heard from the governor’s office about the issue.

“The governor has been clear about trying to protect jobs, including the 300-ish jobs that are [at TransAlta] right now," Gregoire spokesman Viet Shelton said. “Maintaining employment [and] good-paying jobs in that part of the state is an important goal.”

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