Morning Fizz

City Budget Fizz

By Morning Fizz October 25, 2011

Caffeinated news & gossip. Your daily Morning Fizz.

1. In case you missed this important piece of news in yesterday's Afternoon Jolt: Thanks to budget woes—and in another sign that green policy is seen as expendable during a recession—the council is considering putting off planned updates to the city's comprehensive plan.
The city council’s budget committee appears poised to put off updating the comprehensive plan, the document that guides the city’s development policies, due to the ongoing budget shortfall.

Although council member Mike O’Brien protested that the city’s Department of Planning and Development should stay on its usual seven-year schedule for updating the comp plan so planners could coordinate that work with the city’s climate action plan, other council members argued today that DPD had more important work on its plate and that putting the comp plan off for a year wouldn’t represent much of a setback.

2. Yesterday, the city council, which is currently working to close an $18 million citywide budget shortfall, debated a proposal by Nick Licata to set aside $10,000 to offset any permit fees for non-religious organizations that want to host homeless encampments in the future.[pullquote]In another sign that green policy is seen as expendable during a recession...[/pullquote]

Earlier this month, the council voted to exempt religious institutions from permit fees for encampments, and made it possible for more private, nonreligious institutions to host encampments. In order to waive fees for nonreligious groups, the council would have to amend the city's comprehensive plan; the $10,000 fund would be a stopgap and would only be spent if a nonreligious group stepped up and said it wanted to host an encampment.

So far, the only secular organization that has hosted an encampment is the city itself, which converted a fire station in Lake City into a temporary homeless shelter.

3. The council also spent a surprising amount of time yesterday discussing the fate of a program so small council member Sally Clark described it as "budget dust": A $17,000 allocation to LettuceLink, a program provided by Solid Ground, to provide vegetable seeds to low-income people. "There's a problem determining whether [Lettuce Link clients] are opening up that packet," Clark said.

Mayor Mike McGinn proposed reducing the program's budget by half. Based on their discussion yesterday, the council seems likely to restore the program's funding, but redirect it toward programs with more easily measurable outcomes, such as direct produce distribution to food banks.

4. In other city budget news, council transportation chair Tom Rasmussen wants the city to dedicate "some initial funding" to improve public safety and transit operations on Third Ave. downtown in coordination with the impending elimination of Metro's Ride-Free Area.

The money, which could be supplemented by car-tab fees if Proposition 1 passes in November, would pay for things like better street lighting, longer bus stops (to activate more of the street), more police officers on Third, and funding for cleanup and graffiti removal. If Prop. 1 fails, the city could pay for some of Rasmussen's proposal by increasing solid waste disposal fees.[pullquote]Today, we'll continue our run-up to the election with a ThinkTank featuring social justice activist David Bloom vs. Metro bus driver Verita Alexander on the the $60 car tab proposal. [/pullquote]

5. Late yesterday afternoon, responding to an emergency motion by the anti-gay rights group Protect Marriage Washington, the 9th Circuit temporarily halted the release (while the appeal is pending) of any more names of people who signed the R-71 petition. R-71 is the failed 2009 measure that would have undone the state's domestic partner rights laws.

The court, however, did not rule on the larger issue of release and also kicked the issue of a longer restraining order (while the appeal is pending) back to the Federal District in Tacoma.

Last week, the Federal Court in Tacoma said the names must be released because PMW has not shown any convincing evidence  that they'd be in danger if their names were released. PMW is appealing disclosure.

6. Last week's PubliCola ThinkTank featured I-1125 author Tim Eyman squaring off against his opponents at Microsoft.

Today, we continue our run-up to the election with a ThinkTank featuring social justice activist David Bloom vs. Metro bus driver Verita Alexander debating the city's proposal for a $60 car tab fee to fund road and transit infrastructure.

Stay tuned.
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