Morning Fizz

One Scary Number

By Morning Fizz July 6, 2010

1. During what has become a weekly grilling by tunnel skeptic Mike O'Brien, city viaduct replacement staffers acknowledged yesterday that the bond they're requiring tunnel contractors to provide in case they default or run into overruns—a so-called performance bond—doesn't actually protect the state (or, potentially, the city) in the worst-case scenario.

At a meeting of the city council's viaduct oversight committee, O'Brien pointed out that the company hired to study the risk and choose the size of the bond, Parsons Brinkerhoff, estimated that the cost of starting tunnel construction over, for example, could range from "a small amount" to fully ten percent of the total project cost; yet PB chose the much lower 2.5 percent as its "worst-case scenario.

"Is that a pretty bad scenario, and not a worst case?" O'Brien asked. "If we're trying to figure out what's the amount of bond that could truly protect us no matter what goes wrong, it seems to me that there's a rounding down that's going on here."

City council central staff director Ben Noble acknowledged that "it's somewhere between a worst-case and a realistic case." And viaduct project manager Ron Paananen said, "I don't know that at every element of the analysis it would make sense to pick the highest number possible."

2. Not much happened at yesterday's King County Council budget committee meeting, which was mostly a pro forma second chance for council members to ask questions about three potential sales tax ballot measures, but council member Julia Patterson did provide one scary number that put the potential for cuts to public safety next year into perspective.

If the council doesn't put a sales-tax measure on the November ballot, or if they do and voters don't approve it, the sheriff's department could have to cut as many as 238 officers. "The number is daunting," Patterson said, in a considerable understatement.

3. The city, which is going through its own budget cuts (about $10 million this year, and as much as $56 million next year), will change its approach to budgeting in future years, deputy budget director Hall Walker told the council yesterday. Instead of budgeting only by the biennium, the city's finance department will do a "rolling forecast" over five years to help prevent the kind of midyear budget cuts departments are having to make this year.

"We're putting more emphasis on looking as far out as is reasonable to get a sense of where we're going to be beyond" the next two years, Walker said.

4. PubliCola sat down with city attorney Pete Holmes yesterday to talk about Mayor Mike McGinn's pick for police chief, the changes Holmes has made to the city's prosecution policies since taking office, and, of course, his motion to stop Attorney General Rob McKenna's lawsuit against health-care reform, which will be heard by the state supreme court in November.

Here's what Holmes had to say about McKenna: "It's ironic that in pursuing what are claimed to be constitutional violations [McKenna is arguing that health-care reform violates constitutional restrictions on regulating interstate commerce] , Mr. McKenna has violated the state constitution. ... Nowhere does the constitution say he has the right to unilaterally decide when the state of Washington will pursue litigation."

Find out what Holmes thinks of McGinn police chief appointee John Diaz, whom he harshly criticized for his leadership of the department during the recent panhandling controversy, when we post the video of our interview later today on PubliColaTV.

5. Last week, in response to heavy organizing by an anti-sweatshop group called J Connect, the city agreed to start using a "sweat-free policy" when it buys uniforms for city employees.

According to the US Department of Labor, more than 50 percent of sewing factories in the country violate labor, environmental, and human rights laws and standards. The city buys about $1.2 million worth of uniforms every year.

6. In case you missed it, Erica had the news yesterday: NARAL is being barred from tabling at West Seattle's Alaska Junction Summerfest this weekend.
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