Morning Fizz

Looking at Pie Charts

By Morning Fizz December 8, 2010

1. Buried in yesterday's Seattle Times post headlined "Most voters say state budget will be balanced with cuts and 'money from somewhere'" was this news: majorities–56 percent, 56 percent, and 50 percent respectively—favored tax increases over cuts to public education, social services for the vulnerable, and the Basic Health Plan.

Here's  the poll.

2. The five-member Seattle Port Commission did not adopt two resolutions that were supported by environmentalists and social-justice activists yesterday, thanks to a vote to table one resolution and a decision to abstain on the other by commissioner Gael Tarleton, who, seen as the swing vote on the issue, ran as a progressive alternative to her predecessor, Bob Edwards, in 2007. The votes came after nearly two hours of testimony, mostly in favor of the resolutions, including comments from city council members Mike O'Brien and Nick Licata and from state Rep. Dave Upthegrove (D-33), who spoke on behalf of the state Democratic Party.

The first resolution, sponsored by commissioners Rob Holland and John Creighton, would have directed Port director Tay Yoshitani to come up with three alternative plans to clean up the Port's diesel truck fleet by July 2011 in keeping with the Port's stated commitment to become “the greenest, cleanest, most energy efficient port in North America.” The port's existing clean trucks program, the resolution said, doesn't go far enough to clean up the Port's truck fleet, whose emissions impact residents of the Georgetown and South Park neighborhoods as well as truck drivers.

"If these activities were happening in Laurelhurst or Madrona or my neighborhood of Fremont, we wouldn't be looking at pie charts" that break down the sources of Port emissions, O'Brien said. "We would quickly address it. ... I urge you not to let the citizens of that neighborhood, even if it's only a handful of them, be brushed aside in the interest of regional competitiveness" with other ports.

Holland's resolution would have required the Port to come up with a timeline for bringing 100 percent of the Port's trucks into compliance with EPA standards for diesel emissions; create measures to enforce emission standards that would allow the Port to directly monitor compliance, gather and analyze data, and keep non-compliant trucks and trucking companies out of Port terminals; and identify stable funding to buy and maintain trucks that meet EPA standards.

Opponents said diesel trucks don't make up a significant portion of the Port's emissions (about three percent), and said the commission should focus instead on cleaning up cruise ships and cargo cranes instead of its truck fleet.

Tarleton was joined by commissioners Bill Bryant and Tom Albro, who also voted to table the measure until some point in the future.

"Policy is a very blunt and clumsy instrument to try and influence what happens," Albro said. Albro also questioned "the amount of time we're spending talking about how to improve a program that we don't know what its results are yet."

The second resolution, also sponsored by Holland and Creighton, would have expressed support for the federal Clean Ports Act, which has 92 sponsors in the US House, including Washington State Reps. Jim McDermott, Jay Inslee, and Adam Smith. That act would give ports the authority to set environmental, safety, and other standards for their port trucking operations.

That proposal failed because Tarleton and Bryant abstained from voting, while Albro voted against the resolution.

3. State Sen. Steve Hobbs (D-44, S. Snohomish County) got back to us about our report yesterday that Democratic leadership had left him off the K-12 education committee—a move that angers education reform groups like Stand for Children. Hobbs said leadership told him it was a gaffe that the committee had been downsized. (Hobbs was on the committee last year.)

However, they did not guarantee that Hobbs, who unions dislike (and spent over $72,000 against in independent expenditures this year, including nearly $10,000 from the teachers' union) would be put back on the committee.

Upon seeing the list, Hobbs says he told his caucus that he wants to be put back on the committee. He did not stress his ed reform bona fides (a controversial stance in the Democratic party), but instead reminded his colleagues that he has three school-age kids, including two with special needs, which makes him devoted to fixing failing schools.

4. Contrary to council claims that they didn't propose amending the city's sign ordinance specifically for the benefit of Russell Investments (which wants to put a large lighted sign on top of the building it will soon occupy downtown) council president Richard Conlin told the Seattle Times last year that the city council would consider changing the ordinance for Russell's benefit.

Last September, the Times reported that Conlin "said the only other possible city action for Russell would be a change to the restrictive sign ordinance to allow the firm to put a large Russell logo on its new building." After yesterday's public hearing on the proposed changes, Russell issued a statement calling the proposal "a tasteful and modern update for the city, and an effective vehicle to prompt economic development far into the future."

5. In response to a federal ruling that struck down Seattle's strip-club ordinance as unconstitutional because it didn't give applicants a deadline for obtaining a license, a city council committee voted yesterday to require the city to act on license applications within 30 days. Previously, the city could sit on an application indefinitely.

In 2005, a federal judge struck down a seven-year-long moratorium on new strip clubs as unconstitutional.

6. Reminder: PubliCola is holding a tunnel debate on Thursday December 16 starring panelists from both sides, including Mayor Mike McGinn on the anti-tunnel side and Seattle City Council Member Tom Rasmussen on the pro-tunnel side.

Stay tuned for more details.
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