Morning Fizz

Change the Constitution

By Morning Fizz February 8, 2011

1. Fizz attended the community meeting in SoDo last night where Deputy Mayor Darryl Smith and Department of Planning and Development director Diane Sugimura announced details about the new homeless encampment at the former Sunny Jim's peanut butter plant.

The encampment would include two trailers linked together—including a laundry room, two showers, lockers, information about social services, and a communal kitchen; the encampment would be set up by next winter (the mayor had initially proposed setting it up as soon as this past November); and—addressing previous worries about the site—Smith, armed with a new, half-inch-thick report, said there are "no major environmental concerns."

"If we use the site as a transitional encampment, we will not be putting anybody in danger, and nobody will be coming in contact with contaminated oil or groundwater," Smith said. The city now thinks it can mitigate any dirty soil by removing and replacing the soil.

The permit for the Lake City location can only last, at most, until May after that, the encampment will either have to move or get another permit to stay in Lake City.

In the most ham-fisted comment of the night, Smith told residents that homeless people should have no trouble getting to services from the remote SoDo location. His evidence: "I drove down here"—pointing out that it only "took me six minutes to get here from City Hall."

2. So, you know how a U.S. District judge ruled in favor of the state's new energy and efficiency building code against a lawsuit from the Building Industry Association of Washington yesterday? (The PI.com has a good summary of the pro-environmental ruling.)

Well, no worries for the BIAW: Rep. Bruce Dammeier (R-25, Puyallup) is sponsoring a bill (with nearly 30 co-sponsors) that would delay the code.

3. Freshman state house Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (D-34, W. Seattle) is coming out swinging. Not only has he signed on to nearly every progressive bill in the house  (including sponsoring the vulnerable users bill to protect bikers and pedestrians), but today Fitzgibbon is introducing a bill to ban all disposable plastic bags at grocery stores (and big retailers like Macy's).

The bill would also require a five cents payment for each disposable paper bag used—with exemptions for poor people.

Fitzgibbon tells the Fizz he doesn't expect the bill to go far, but that he "introduced the bill so we can start thinking and talking about what a statewide disposable checkout bag strategy would look like and hopefully move some legislation next year or soon thereafter."

4. Another notable bill being introduced today (Fitzgibbon's on this one too, but conservative-ish Rep. Larry Springer, D-45, Kirkland is the main sponsor) would change the constitution to allow tax increment financing, or TIFs—a controversial development tool that's currently prohibited by state law.

Without raising property tax rates, TIFs allow cities to sell bonds to finance development in targeted areas based on future, increased, tax receipts from the redeveloped zones. Only property owners in the TIF would pay.

The idea is frowned upon by traditional liberals and progressives because, they argue, it shortchanges the general fund to pay developers. Green progressives like the idea because it's a tool that can encourage and fund infill and smart growth development.

A bipartisan crew of conservatives and liberals—liberal Rep. Mark Liias (D-21, Edmonds) is on the house version, for example, while Republican Steve Litzow (R-41, Mercer Island) is a senate cosponsor—are backing the legislation.
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