Morning Fizz

"I Don't Begrudge My Colleagues, But..."

By Morning Fizz January 13, 2011

1. In her state of the state speech on Tuesday, Gov. Chris Gregoire gave a brief history lesson about Washington State during the Great Depression. She may need a history lesson herself, though.

Her point, which she echoed by also talking about the "underdog" Huskies win over Nebraska in last month's Holiday Bowl, and the Eastern Washington Eagles' 20-19 "comeback" win last Friday, and "those" Seahawks—was that adversity creates opportunity and success. (She also noted that Boeing began its ascent by introducing the first modern airliner, the 247, during the Great Depression; and that Microsoft and Starbucks emerged from the economic doldrums of the 1970s).

She specifically noted the Depression-era legislative session from 1935 as an example of hope. "In 1935," she said, "Governor Clarence Martin signed ... the most comprehensive tax overhaul in the state’s history. After what was described as a 'stormy' session, the bold reform was enacted, and that reform has endured for the past 80 years. ... Let us go into this session with the clear knowledge that we have an opportunity, like those who lived through the Great Depression, to be bold and help the people and businesses of Washington rebound and prosper."

Gregoire herself, though, has framed the 2011 session by recommending an all-cuts budget to deal with the the current crisis. She should note that in the History of the Washington State Legislature, 1854-1963, author Don Brazier's recap of the 1935 session (the one she's looking to for inspiration) describes an opposite game plan.

While the normal activities of the1935 session progressed, a gigantic  black cloud hung over the Legislature. The financial situation was more dire than at any time in history. Revenues were down drastically,the income tax  had been held unconstitutional, and the 40 mill limit had been continued on property taxes. Because of the severely depressed economy demands for social services were vastly increased. ... When finally resolved there was a general fund budget of $77,000,000 dollars and a sales tax had been imposed as part of a $32,000,000 tax package.

2. At last night's kickoff for Initiative 102, an anti-tunnel initiative sponsored by the Sierra  Club, Real Change, and the United African Public Affairs Committee, city council member Mike O'Brien made it clear---despite his usual knack for conciliatory remarks---that he opposes the tunnel and hopes to see it go down in flames.

"I don't begrudge my colleagues or other leaders who thought this was a good idea at one point in time, but I'm really disappointed at those who won't have a conversation about how we're going to make it happen and who's going to pay," O'Brien said. "Stopping this tunnel is immensely important." (I-102 does not call for "stopping" the tunnel, it calls for the city council to protect Seattle taxpayers from covering any tunnel costs by saying the state is solely responsible for all tunnel costs, including overruns.)

Then, borrowing a line from his anti-tunnel ally, Mayor Mike McGinn, O'Brien said: "Elected officials don't get to tell the people what's possible. You tell us what you want and it's our job to do that."  (McGinn used the same line against the 2007 roads and transit initiative when establishment liberals insisted the measure was the only way to get light rail. Roads and transit lost, and—as McGinn predicted—came back to win as a transit-only initiative in 2008.)

Alluding to McGinn's new coalition between the environmental community and social-justice folks like Real Change, O'Brien, a former Sierra Club leader, added: "The environmental community is pretty strong, but it can be brushed aside. The social justice community is pretty strong but it can be brushed aside." But together, he said, the two groups are formidable.

Making the green/blue strategy tangible, Real Change director Tim Harris took the stage as O'Brien's follow-up act.  Sporting a baseball cap pushed over unruly 1970s locks, Harris said environmentalists (McGinn and O'Brien) had "stuck their necks out for the poor [when they shot down council member Tim Burgess' panhandling ordinance last year], and what if the poor people stuck their necks out for the environment? ... The only way we avoid being screwed is to join together."

Harris pointed out, as did O'Brien, that poor people also have a vested interest in sticking their necks out to stop the tunnel because spending money on the tunnel, they both argued, will hijack social programs.

Harris concluded by asking the crowd—about 30 people in the back of the Spitfire on 4th Avenue—to raise their hands if they were willing to commit to collecting signatures (they need 20,000) and also to writing some checks.

Pointing to a nearly empty plastic Costco tray of vegetables and dip, he said, "We need money, because we don't have any left. We blew it on broccoli." Photos don't lie:

3. After last night's event, Morning Fizz headed over to Belltown's Nightlite for a lengthy chat with mayoral communication staffers Aaron Pickus (who had been at the 102 kickoff) and Mark Matassa, who met us at the downtown dive.

Unfortunately, our conversation was off the record.

4. Although the Washington State Department of Transportation made it pretty clear earlier this week that the deep-bore tunnel spells doom (i.e., demolition) for the seismically unsound 619 Western Building, which houses 100 artists, the news could be worse: Under the state's relocation-assistance program, tenants stand to receive as much as $5,250 in rental relocation assistance (more if they end up buying a home), plus moving expenses of $600 for a one-bedroom apartment (or more, depending on apartment size).

City of Seattle relocation expenses top out at $3,002.

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