Morning Fizz

Other Capital Projects

By Morning Fizz February 23, 2011

1. A disused room along the hallway that connects the nine council members' offices recently got a new life as a conference room for city council aides. (Officially, the room is for anyone to use, but legislative assistants hope it will be a private place where they can talk away from the prying eyes of bosses and other staffers).

The room even has its own name: The Theresa Dunbar conference room, named after the former city council clerk who retired last year after more than 30 years with the city.

2. A recent newsletter from King County Executive Dow Constantine rekindled conspiratorial fears at the city that a state house bill to extend a batch of King County taxes—hotel/motel taxes, food and beverage taxes, and car rental taxes that are paying off Safeco and Qwest fields—will be used not only to fund what the bill also says the money is for (arts funding; expanding the Seattle convention center; and affordable housing for hotel workers, tourism industry employees, and artists), but is secretly cued up to fund an NBA stadium in Bellevue.

The conspiracy theory is that by including expansion of the convention center, Seattle wont be in a position to come out against bringing the NBA to the suburbs.

The newsletter hyping the bill noted the $3 million for arts and $5 million for worker housing, but then cryptically said this: "Remaining funds would support expansion of the Washington State Convention Center and other capital projects."

Fizz asked bill sponsor Rep. Tina Orwall (D-33, Des Moines) about the "other capital projects." If there was a plan afoot to bring a stadium to Bellevue?  Orwall said she's "not aware of any language in the bill that would support a new sports stadium"  (here's the sprawling bill and staff summary—no mention of a new stadium there). Orwall added that no one has lobbied her about a stadium. If an NBA stadium became part of the mix, she said, that would "need to be clarified" in the bill "as it proceeds in the legislative process."



At a hearing on the bill yesterday, no one said anything about an NBA stadium, sticking—as King County Executive Dow Constantine did in his testimony—to hyping "an expanded flagship convention center" which would create thousands of new jobs (3,000 permanent jobs, he said), 130,000 more visitors per year, and a quarter billion dollars in new economic activity a year, warning that the current convention center is "falling behind" other convention centers nationwide, "due to size limitations." We are jeopardizing Washington State's ability to land events, Constantine told Rep. Ross Hunter's (D-48, Medina) ways and means committee.

3. Also up in yesterday's ways and means committee hearing: The tax increment financing (TIF) bill we've been writing about.

TIFs allow local governments to lend money directly to private developers, who pay the money back with increased property taxes generated from redevelopment projects. With an eye toward green urbanism, a coalition of environmental and affordable housing advocates are pushing for amendments to make sure TIFs are used exclusively for mixed-use projects, that TIFs are only set up in cities, and that part of the money goes to public benefits like affordable housing and open space.

However, pushing in the opposite direction, lobbyists for the association of counties asked the committee yesterday to strike the only guideline in the TIF bill—the prerequisite that TIFs at least happen inside urban growth areas.

"Yay Wal-Mart, yay Cabela's" a green lobbyist groused sarcastically, before explaining: "We don't want to finance sprawl."

4. A copy of Mayor Mike McGinn's state of the city speech distributed to city council members and press included an odd headnote: The names of all nine city council members, followed by the accomplishment for which McGinn would give them "specific call-outs." (The equivalent would be marking applause lines with "APPLAUSE" in a public version of a speech).

After the speech, council member Nick Licata, noting that his call-out was supposed to be for "Nightlife Initiative OR Homelessness," said he was glad that even though McGinn had formally hedged his bets, ultimately, "he gave me credit for both."
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