1. Yesterday on KUOW radio's morning show "Weekday," Mayor Mike McGinn lit into the city council for failing to "pass a balanced budget" last year, leading to an upcoming mid-year budget reduction of about $12 million.
In reality, the city frequently does "midyear budget adjustments" to reflect a changing national and local economic climate—in this case, revenues that fell short of expectations. Former mayor Greg Nickels, for example, cut $13.3 million from the budget last year.
Yesterday morning, city finance director Beth Goldberg got an earful from council members who were incensed by the mayor's accusation. First, budget chair Jean Godden asked sharply, "Do you agree with the mayor's assessment that we didn't pass a balanced budget?"
An uncomfortable-looking Goldberg demurred before responding, basically, no. "What the data is showing us is that the picture has changed," she said. "What you've seen in the last couple of years is that the revenue picture has deteriorated and it has deteriorated beyond what any economist in the world has anticipated."
Council member Sally Clark responded, "My hope for the mayor is that ... revenues do tick up and he has the opportunity to work with us to increase spending" in the middle of 2011 rather than make additional cuts.
Council member Richard Conlin was less charitable. "We're going to have to work really hard on all of this together," he said, "and it's not helpful that the mayor makes such a statement. ... I would encourage the budget director to help him understand the budget situation."
2. Shoulder surgery?
3. City council member Mike O'Brien's double reversal on Tim Burgess' aggressive panhandling law—first he opposed it, then he supported it, and finally, yesterday, he voted against it—puts him in the elite company of two other historic flip-flops by city council members.
In 2002, Heidi Wills and Jim Compton suddenly reversed their "no" votes on Mayor Nickels' proposed budget after then-deputy mayor Tim Ceis threatened to yank support for a critical fire engine in Green Lake. And in 2003, Compton, Wills, and Judy Nicastro reversed position and voted to expand parking for the Rick's strip club in Lake City after taking campaign contributions from the club's owners, leading to the controversy known as Strippergate.
(As for famous mayoral vetoes—McGinn is set to veto yesterday's panhandling vote— Mayor Greg Nickles vetoed a developer giveaway early in his term, which Josh wrote about long ago, and Mayor Paul Schell vetoed the council vote to repeal the restrictive teen dance ordinance, which Josh wrote about even longer ago.)
4. The Bellevue City Council voted last night to move forward with a joint funding plan with Sound Transit to pay for a light-rail tunnel through downtown Bellevue. The tunnel option, which the entire council supports, would cost as much as $285 million more than Sound Transit has budgeted for the project, known as East Link.
Under the agreement, Bellevue would pay for up to $150 million of the tunnel. Sound Transit had worried that supporters of council member Kevin Wallace's so-called "Vision Line," which would move the rail alignment south of downtown to the Burlington Northern Santa Fe tracks next to I-405, planned to derail the agreement by linking its approval to further study of the Wallace plan. The Vision Line is controversial because, according to a Sound Transit analysis, it would cost more and have lower ridership than any other alignment south of downtown Bellevue.
5. The Coalition for a Sustainable 520, which opposes the state's preferred six-lane option for the new 520 bridge across Lake Washington, sent its objections last week to the state's environmental analysis of the proposal.
Among their claims: The state appears to have already made up its mind on the plan, and is "going through a paper environmental review process while subverting the intent of the law"; the state is taking protected parkland on the west side of the bridge, in violation of federal law; and the environmental study fails to consider the impacts of highway expansion on pollution and human health.