Caffeinated News & Gossip

1. Near the end of a long discussion about Metro's woes at a Transportation Choices Coalition forum last Friday (we did a longer writeup on the whole event in yesterday's Fizz), someone asked King County Metro general manager Kevin Desmond what he thinks of Mayor Mike McGinn's plan to build streetcars around the city. (McGinn has proposed building a streetcar on Eastlake and across the Ship Canal.)

Desmond was diplomatic, but it's clear he isn't going to be endorsing the mayor's streetcar plan anytime soon.


Metro general manager Kevin Desmond illustrates the funding gap.

He said: "To be candid, if a lot of money is being spent on certain kinds of investments while the core bus service is deteriorating, I'm not sure what that's accomplishing. … I know there are a lot of folks out there who love rail. I like rail. But it's expensive and it takes a long time. We've got to figure out how to manage a whole transit system as long as possible now."

To be candid, if a lot of money is being spent on certain kinds of investments while the core bus service is deteriorating, I'm not sure what that's accomplishing.

2. A little more from the Seattle v. Seattle story we wrote about yesterday: Seattle state house Rep. Gerry Pollet (D-46, North Seattle) found himself in an awkward position on Monday morning when a bill he'd ushered through the committee process (and had all cued up for a floor vote) was suddenly being opposed by Seattle city hall.

The city sent out an "Urgent" email to the Seattle delegation in Olympia yesterday morning red-flagging Pollet's bill. Pollet's bill would set a maximum rate for towing fees—and Seattle now believes the bill would preempt the lower maximum rate they've imposed on towing companies locally, allowing the companies to charge higher rates than Seattle wants. (The towing industry is suing Seattle over its local regulations.)

The city was actually a-okay with Pollet's bill earlier this session, he grouses (and he's right), but they pulled a 180 yesterday when they spotted language they believe will lead to preemption. The language is in an existing towing ordinance that Pollet's new bill is amending to create his cap. The problem for Seattle: That existing ordinance, which would stand, mandates that all local ordinances defer to state rules.

But Pollet says doesn't think his ordinance will preempt the city's rates because he's simply setting a maximum. The city is free to set lower rates, he says. 

He also says by "publicly voicing alarm over the provision in existing law" the city "shot itself in the foot" in its court case with the towing industry. Pollet's point: "the city implicitly acknowledges that the old language may preempt the city’s new ordinance"—which is exactly why they're being sued.

And zing, but presuming the city thinks it has a good case in its court fight with the towing industry, Pollet adds: "If the old law doesn’t preempt them already, the new bill, with a maximum statewide rate, won’t either." Pollet concludes: "I thought the city had an interest in enacting statewide protections."

The city, however, says there's an easy fix to the disagreement, offering a zinger of their own: Rather than making assumptions, Pollet should just state explicitly in his amendment that state law does not preempt local jurisdictions, as the current governing ordinance implies.

3. City council member Jean Godden will introduce obviously well-intentioned legislation later today that would bar the city from shutting off water service to low-income families with children under 18 who fail to pay their water bills. In a statement, Godden said, "Human service providers have told me of families using buckets filled with water from neighbors’ homes to flush toilets and of parents unable to properly bathe their children or wash their hands after changing diapers.”  

While no one wants kids to show up to school dirty or parents to flush their toilets with neighbors' water, it's unclear to Fizz why low-income families and individuals that don't have kids should be subject to the same conditions—particularly given that, as Godden's own proposal acknowledges, only 138 households had their water shut off in 2012, about half of those with kids.

That leaves another half. And even assuming the childless households used the same amount of water as those with kids, providing both groups water assistance would only cost the city around $40,000 a year, which seems like a small price to pay to make sure no one in the city, including residents who don't have kids, goes without clean water.