Isn't It Weird That

Isn't It Weird That...

Some weird things we noticed in Bellevue and Olympia.

By Erica C. Barnett February 13, 2013


Isn't it weird that... Of all the dozens of mayors in larger (50,000-plus) cities that participated in an effort to unite on a shared legislative vision, only one—Conrad Lee of Bellevue—declined to sign a letter to state legislators and Gov. Jay Inslee asking for new local tools for transportation funding. 

The letter, signed by mayors of cities from Black Diamond to Mercer Island to Seattle, asks legislators and the governor to create new ways for cities to fund basic road and bridge repair and maintain transit service—both priorities that surely apply in Bellevue, where more than a third of commuters get to work by means other than driving alone.

"Failing to take action now will cause increased transportation costs, increased congestion, and reduced competitiveness for Washington businesses," the letter says. "Recognizing that we as state taxpayers have competing interests for limited dollars, we ask that you give serious consideration to providing authority and options at the local level this year."

The effort to unite the mayors around a common transportation vision was spearheaded by Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and Federal Way Mayor Skip Priest. 

Specifically, the letter asks legislators and Inslee to: 

1) Increase the gas tax by eight cents a gallon; 

2) Give counties the authority to pass a motor-vehicle excise tax of up to 1.5 percent either by council action or a public vote; and 

3) Give counties the authority to pass a vehicle license fee of up to $40, instead of the current $20 limit, either by council action or public vote.

Bellevue's city council has long been divided over light rail and transit funding in general, with a four-member majority (Lee, Don Davidson, Jennifer Robertson, and Kevin Wallace) backed by the region's wealthiest and most vocal rail opponent, megadeveloper Kemper Freeman, generally fighting transit expansion and a three-member minority generally supporting it.  

Isn't it weird that ... The Republicans in the state senate are all for local control except when it comes to workers' rights?

A handful of Washington state senators, including five Republicans and Majority Coalition Caucus leader Rodney Tom, have introduced two bills that would, respectively, overturn and gut Seattle's paid sick leave law, which requires employers with five workers or more to provide paid sick time off. Seattle passed the law in 2011, and it went into effect in September. 

The first bill would declare that the legislature has the sole authority for setting sick-leave requirements. The second would exempt from sick-leave requirements any employer that happens to be headquartered outside the state—like, say, Wal-Mart or McDonald's. 

We asked Tom today about this seeming contradiction: Why shouldn't cities like Seattle be able to have local control over their own sick-leave regulations? Tom's (somewhat perplexing) response: "Seattle is free to do whatever it wants to do. We just don't want cost structures to affect Washington state businesses"—referring to the fact that the Seattle law would impact businesses based outside the city. 


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