Morning Fizz

Resolve the Ambiguity

By Morning Fizz April 6, 2010

1. At the same time as city officials are wringing their hands about likely mid-year job cuts, the city's personnel department is hard at work implementing a new system they say will make it easier for people to apply for city jobs. The system, which has the ominous-sounding name "," will cost $55,000.

Why launch a new, $55,000-a-year employment system when the city isn't even hiring? "It's easier to change the wheels on the bus when the bus is moving slowly as opposed to when it's moving quickly," says personnel department manager Pam Inch. "We can deal with the rough spots that you always have when you implement something new."

2. Eleven representatives of environmental and community groups signed off on a letter yesterday that gets Mayor Mike McGinn's back by asking the city to come up with benchmarks defining  the city's minimum expectations for the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement. The letter—signed by a diverse group including John Coney of the Uptown Alliance, Sara Nikolic of Futurewise, Lisa Richmond of the American Institute of Architects, and Adam Hasson of the Pioneer Square Community Association—also asks the city to appoint an expert review panel to make sure the project meets those expectations.

In addition to things like good urban design, additional transit service, and historic preservation, the letter explicitly mentions the issue of cost overruns.

A law adopted by the state legislature in 2009 puts "Seattle taxpayers" on the hook for cost overruns, a major campaign issue for McGinn last year. The letter asks the city to "Resolve the ambiguity around liability for cost overruns so that various branches of city and state government have a  common understanding of responsibility" for overruns.

"Right now, the city has no leverage to [require the state transportation department to] do anything," says People's Waterfront Coalition founder Cary Moon, who signed the letter. "If there are cost overruns, we're going to end up cutting everything about the project Seattle cares about."

3. Our report last Friday afternoon that a beer tax was on tap in Olympia was confirmed yesterday when the Senate released its latest revenue package. But we were wrong about any reemergence of the soda pop tax idea, which we'd also reported was being discussed.

The Senate's new proposal did not include a soda pop tax—a $96 million idea the governor proposed at the beginning of the session, but which has been MIA in the House and Senate ever since.

The word in Olympia is that the soda industry has threatened to spend $10 million to repeal the tax because they're scared if it's enacted here, other cash strapped states like New York will follow suit.

4. Yesterday, Mayor Mike McGinn wrote a letter to the City Council asking them to approve the two-way Broadway/Jackson alignment for the First Hill streetcar—the penultimate step before final approval of the alignment.

The route is consistent with assurances made by Sound Transit to the First Hill neighborhood several years ago, when the Sound Transit board eliminated a planned First Hill light rail stop, and displaces an alternative route on 12th Avenue supported by Capitol Hill residents who argued it would promote economic development in their neighborhood.

5. Local political consultant Argo Strategies picked up a big client—the Washington State Democrats. Argo will be advising the Democrats' coordinated campaign in 2010, the combined effort to reelect Sen. Patty Murray and maintain control of the state legislature—a tricky task in a recession.

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