Morning Fizz

An Unusually Conciliatory Note Re: Mayor Mike McGinn

By Morning Fizz October 6, 2011

Caffeinated news & gossip. Your daily Morning Fizz.

1. City council president Richard Conlin, striking an unusually (for him) conciliatory note re: Mayor Mike McGinn's proposed budget on his blog yesterday, predicted that the budget process this year "will go smoothly," and outlined only a few areas of concern about McGinn's proposal.

First, he said, even if the police department is meeting its overall goals citywide, he needs to be convinced that they're doing so in crime "hot spots" and at all times of day, not just on average. "  The Council will have to closely examine the Mayor’s proposal to see if his metrics really work," Conlin writes.

Second, the mayor's proposal to spend $1.5 million on high-capacity transit planning may not be the best use of one-time dollars, Conlin writes. "The Council will look at what this will actually be used for and how it fits into the long-range plan for transportation improvements.[pullquote]"Conlin applauds (we think?) McGinn for "taking the risk of proposing this controversial idea."[/pullquote]

Additionally, Conlin sounds skeptical about the mayor's proposal to merge the Offices of Housing and Economic Development, departments that have, he notes, very different missions. But (in a bit of damning with faint praise?) he applauds McGinn for "taking the risk of proposing this controversial idea."

2. Yesterday, we reported on the Washington State Democrats' latest attack on Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna, the Republican candidate for governor. McKenna has stuck by nationwide settlement talks with banks over mortgage foreclosure trickery which several other state attorneys general have walked out on and have denounced as being too lenient on banks.

Among other things, the frustrated AGs say the pending settlement will waive future claims against unscrupulous banks and shelves further investigations.

Seizing on a quote in the the Palm Beach Post earlier this week where McKenna said the settlement would "provide huge benefits for borrowers" and "will not give banks a get out of jail free card," skeptical Washington State Democratic Party Chair Dwight Pelz said McKenna was backing a "horrendous deal for the victims of abusive Wall Street practices." (The pending deal would lower fines on derelict banks in exchange for easing up on homeowners who face foreclosure.)

In response, late last night, McKenna's office forwarded us the entire quote they submitted to the Palm Beach paper. First, here's the published quote:
Our settlement will provide huge benefits - estimated in the tens of billions of dollars - for borrowers," Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna said today . "The deal we are negotiating will not give banks a get out of jail free card.

Here's the full quote:
Our settlement will provide huge benefits - estimated in the tens of billions of dollars—for borrowers. Money for families who lost their homes in illegal foreclosures, higher loan servicing standards, principal reductions, loan modifications and other means to preserve home ownership are all in the mix. The deal we're negotiating will not give the banks a 'get out of jail free card.' There will be no amnesty from criminal prosecution or release of uninvestigated claims. Any settlement will not interfere with the work of other state or federal agencies. Nor will it waive rights of individuals without their consent.

Some suggest putting the settlement on hold in order to investigate the impact lending practices had on mortgage investors. Investigations into the effect mortgage 'securitization' had on hedge funds and state pension plans, for example, should move forward on a separate track  because they don't pertain to every state. Putting our settlement on hold indefinitely will delay relief to homeowners, just when they need it most. As Iowa Attorney General Miller said last week, the multistate effort is pressing forward and we fully expect to reach a settlement with the banks.

Fizz doesn't have a law degree, so we'll turn to a couple of other AGs for a second opinion.

Here's Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden in the Philadelphia Inquirer last month: "The events leading up to the mortgage crisis must be fully investigated, including origination and securitization practices, before any broad immunity is granted - the American people deserve an investigation."

And here's California's AG, Kamala Harris, who quit the talks, in Reuters: "California was being asked for a broader release of claims than we can accept and... the relief contemplated would allow too few California homeowners to stay in their homes."

3. City council transportation chair Tom Rasmussen sits on the Bridging the Gap Oversight Committee, which oversees the implementation of the 2006 Bridging the Gap Levy; he's also one of the council's most vocal supporters of a proposed $60 car-tab fee to pay for transportation.

So Fizz was a little surprised to go back into council records and discover that Rasmussen actually voted against putting the Bridging the Gap measure, which passed with a six-vote council supermajority, on the ballot.

UPDATE: Rasmussen's office says he opposed the original version of Bridging the Gap, which had no end date; Rasmussen, along with the rest of the council, voted for a later version of the measure that lasted just nine years.

 4. For yesterday's coverage of the Occupy Seattle arrests in Westlake—nine booked for obstructing an officer, 16 others were released with charges of obstructing an officer being sent on to the City Attorney—see Lummy's coverage (and great photos) here.
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