Morning Fizz

Morning Fizz: Local Government Must Approve

Caffeinated News & Gossip featuring coal, gravel, light rail, drones, and McGinn. Plus PubliCola gets a shoutout from the Washington Post.

By Morning Fizz March 6, 2013

Caffeinated News & Gossip

1.  Here's a Fizz item about PubliCola.

Yesterday, we were named one of the country's best state politics blogs by the Washington Post. Check out Post politics reporter Chris Cillizza's blog, The Fix, for the list.

2. Sen. Steve Hobbs (D-44, Lake Stevens) offered an amendment to his controversial "projects of statewide significance" bill yesterday that would make it half as controversial.

Hobbs' legislation, which fast-tracks a Jeffereson County gravel mine project—the 1,000 foot "pit to pier" conveyor belt at Hood Canal—by granting it "statewide significance status," came under attack when the public realized the bill would also fast-track the Cherry Point coal train proposal. After the proposal got dubbed the coal train bill, some moderate Republicans whose support Hobbs needed such as Sen. Steve Litzow (R-41, Mercer Island) were reportedly scared off.

Hobbs, who supports the coal train but says his legislation wasn't intended to promote that project, proposed an amendment yesterday deleting "basic commodity transportation" from the types of projects that could be considered for fast-track status, which disqualifies the coal train.

And to make the bill sweeter for environmentalists, Hobbs also added some new project categories that would be eligible: "development of renewable resources and environmental conservation or efficiency."

He also tells PubliCola he supports a pending amendment from fellow Democrat Sen. Annette Cleveland (D-49, Vancouver) that would explicitly make the Columbia River Crossing light rail project eligible.

However, Hobbs coyly says "haven't read them yet" when asked about some other amendments that have been proposed. Sen. Christine Rolfes (D-23, Kitsap) has a trio of amendments that would disqualify the gravel project. One of Rolfes' amendment excludes "transports of aggregates of gravel"; one excludes projects that only have a "net environmental benefit" (barring projects that harm one community, but claim offset benefits elsewhere); and her final amendment says local governments must approve of the project—Jefferson County does not like the pit to pier proposal. 

Fizz's favorite amendment, though, comes from Sen. Kevin Ranker (D-40, Orcas Island). This one pretty much covers it: "[Projects] may not be considered a project of statewide significance where the project conflicts with the goals and objectives of the Puget Sound Action Agenda and the state's greenhouse gas emission reduction targets."

3.  A popular, bipartisan bill to regulate drones ran into trouble yesterday when Boeing flew into town and began a full court press lobbying campaign against it. Boeing believes the bill will hurt Washington state's chances to be one of six FAA sites around the country that can test drones.

(The bill, which is being pushed by the ACLU, does a few things: 1) It requires approval by a local legislature before a public agency can buy a drone—to facilitate public discussion, which didn't happen in Seattle; 2) it defines when drones can be used—in non-criminal emergencies such as search and rescue situations, plus in criminal emergencies such as barricaded hostage situations, all the while mandating a warrant for other criminal justice uses; and 3) it puts limits on a drone's ability to collect and store personal info. And no guns allowed.)

The bill wouldn't affect Boeing's ability to test drones. For example, the bill doesn’t cover private use, only government drones. Second, it allows uses that don’t collect personal information and aren’t mandated by regulatory enforcement—drone testing doesn't fall into either of those categories.

"I don’t think a 'perception problem' should trump the rights of Washingtonians not to be surveilled by their own government."—ACLU lobbyist Shankar NarayanBoeing, and Gov. Jay Inslee, who also wants Washington to get designation for drone testing, are nervous that the bill could create a perception problem that Washington isn't tech-friendly.

ACLU lobbyist Shankar Narayan says: "I don’t think a 'perception problem' should trump the rights of Washingtonians not to be surveilled by their own government."

And he adds: "I would think that having regulation of drones would actually be a plus for Boeing. Unlike other states, we’re not trying to ban them—just to disallow warrantless fishing expeditions that collect personal information.  Legitimate uses of drones—of which there are many—are given the green light in the bill."

4. We'll be publishing a massive Q&A with Mayor Mike McGinn later today.

We did the interview as part of a series we've been running in the magazine of sit downs with all the 2013 mayoral candidates. 

We conducted the interview a few weeks ago—before McGinn's latest confrontation with City Attorney Pete Holmes—but this excerpt seems timely.

PubliCola: What have you worked with [city attorney] Pete Holmes on? Because it seems like you have an odd—

McGinn: So you see the point. There’s lots of legislation that we’ve [the mayor's office] developed jointly [with council]. We [the mayor's office] worked with Conlin on development of the Transit Master Plan. We worked with Tim Burgess on the Families and Education Levy. We worked with Jean Godden on changing the policies on our rainy day fund so that we’re rebuilding it now instead of letting it decline.

I think you’ll also see that in this administration—unlike the prior administration, which put a hard barrier between them speaking to department heads—we have always made staff and department heads available to them on a direct basis, so that we can work with them.

So again, I think you have to look at where the story’s coming from and what’s the motivation. With every new mayor, there’s a territoriality dispute. But if you look at our record of passing legislation, balancing the budget, working on new programs—we worked with Bruce Harrell on broadband legislation and the development and passage of the City Light strategic plan.

PubliCola: Let's go back to Pete Holmes – when you guys were both elected back in 2009, we were excited about Mike McGinn and Pete Holmes. It struck us that here are two real change agents and political allies. And then we were disappointed that the two of you weren't teammates. You butted heads over the tunnel. What is your relationship like now? 

McGinn: He's a separately elected city official who has his own policy ideas about what the best ways to proceed are. As the chief executive, I can use legal advice sometimes. And sometimes Pete doesn’t agree with the policy direction that we’re going, so we just have to navigate that. For example, on the tunnel, he took the position that the public wasn’t entitled to have a vote on it. We’ve worked together on certain things, but on that one we disagreed.

PubliCola: What have you and Pete worked together on?

McGinn: We’ve been working together on the development of how do we regulate marijuana locally. We also worked closely with the law department on what used to be called the joint enforcement team— now it’s the code compliance team, which reflects our different approach to how we work with nightclubs.

5. The city's Ethics and Elections Commission will take up a proposal to put a measure on the ballot that would provide public financing for local campaigns at its meeting this afternoon—4:00 at the Seattle Municipal Tower (700 5th Ave.), Room 4080.

The proposal, aimed at making it lowering the financial barriers to entry for new city council candidates and reducing the power of incumbency, would provide public dollars to candidates who meet certain private fundraising thresholds; although the commission has been skeptical that public financing will increase competitiveness, they agree that it reduces barriers to entry and can draw new people into the political process; read their report here.

6. In case you missed it (we published it late in the day yesterday), Carryn has a report on Gov. Inlsee's testimony in the legislature on his green house gas bill. 

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