1. Advocates for low-income people and parks, respectively, came out in force at the second of two hearings on potential city budget cuts last night in North Seattle. It's the first time, in years of covering public budget hearings, that we can remember parks supporters turning out in such  huge, visible numbers—effectively pitting funding for parks, pools and community centers against programs that house the homeless, feed the hungry, and provide basic human services.

At the hearing—which included a weird quasi-pep rally from council budget chair Jean Godden, who asked people to applaud if they supported pools, parks, or community centers—people spoke passionately in favor of preserving funding for programs like El Centro de la Raza, the Millionair Club, and food banks. "We must recognize that before people can truly enjoy and use recreational space ... they have to be physiologically satisfied," said Molly Jacobson, food program coordinator for El Centro, which was well represented at last night's hearing. "Their fundamental needs must be met."

On the other side, parks supporters implored the council and mayor to keep parks, pools, community centers, and special programs for children and adults with special needs. Jeff Rahlmann, a docent at Discovery Park, told the council and mayor that if the city closes down the parks Environmental Learning Center, "the natural habitat will deteriorate, potentially destroying the years of work that went into creating a natural, beautiful park for the citizens of Seattle."

2. The Washington Conservation Voters—the environmental advocacy group that's coming off a bad year in Olympia after losing key causes like increasing the hazardous substance tax—made a few early endorsements for this year's upcoming state legislative races. These are the legislature's environmental stars.

Only three Seattle-area reps got the early, green stamp of approval:

Reps.  Sharon Nelson (D-34) (who's running for state Senate), who secured public money to take over the Maury Island mining site and led the ad-hoc blue-green coalition of labor and enviro reps; Mary Lou-Dickerson (D-36), the prime sponsor of winning legislation to ban toxic baby bottles, sippy cups, and sport bottles; and newbie legislator Scott White (D-46), who WCV says has become a leading environmental advocate.

The seven other environmental favorites include: Rep. Timm Ormsby (D-3, Spokane), who sponsored the hazardous substance tax bill in the House and who WCV credits with connecting labor Democrats—Ormsby's one—with envirnmentalists; Rep. Hans Dunshee (D-44, Snohomish), who secured the biggest environmental win of the 2010 session by passing a green jobs bond to retrofit schools; Rep. Dave Upthegrove (D-33, Des Moines), another star this year for passing amendments to the budget to fund core environmental programs at the Department of Ecology that had been cut; Rep. John McCoy (D-38, Everett), who quietly continued to successfully defend voter-approved I-937—the alternative energy initiative—from being watered down; Rep. Geoff Simpson (D-47, Kent); Rep. Ross Hunter (D-48, Bellevue); and Rep. Christine Rolfes (D-23, Bainbridge Island).

3. The New York Times editorial page namechecks Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA)  this morning calling on the Senate to support her financial reform bill amendments to regulate derivative markets.

Ironically, they also urge the Senate to pass the Volcker Rule, a half-hearted attempt to regulate investment banking as opposed to Cantwell's stronger alternative to reinstate the Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act, which puts a firewall between investment and commerical banking. In a lengthy Q&A on financial reform with PublcCola, Cantwell told us:
I think it’s cleaner just to say investment banking and commercial banking are separate. They’re two separate things. One is about risk and taking risks, and the other is supposed to be about securing deposits. I think it’d be cleaner to go back [to Glass-Steagall].

4. Mary's Place, the city's only emergency day center for homeless women and children—which was threatened with closure during a dispute with its previous landlord last year—has found a long-term home at Gethsemane Lutheran Church. The day center will move to the church in 2012, when construction wraps up on a $20 million social services and housing project that will also house five stories of low-income housing and a 10,000-square-foot new social services building.

The day center will move to a temporary site in Belltown this year.