1. Between 300 and 350 people showed up yesterday afternoon to implore King County Metro (and, by extension, the state legislature) not to implement a 17 percent cut to service that could happen as soon as next year if the state legislature fails to give the county a new funding option to keep service at its current level. (Although the legislature gave King County a two-year reprieve in the form of a temporary $20-a-year vehicle license fee in 2011, that fee expires this year; after that, Metro faces a funding shortfall of $75 million a year—$60 million for service, and $15 million for capital costs like buses).
Seattle legislators (state Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, D-34, W. Seattle, Burien; Rep. Jessyn Farrell, D-46, N. Seattle; and Sen. David Frockt, D-46, N. Seattle) along with suburban city representatives (Kenmore Mayor David Baker; Lake Forest Park council member John Wright), lined up to make their case against the cuts; although, as Futurewise King County program director Brock Howell noted in his testimony—which featured a huge banner showing the names of hundreds of people who had signed a petition urging against the cuts—"There is no action [the King County Council] can take today. We need the legislature to take action."
It's hard to see why Olympia would deny a constituency so eager to tax itself, at no cost to the state, the ability to do so.Among the speakers, of course, were scores of ordinary citizens—Metro riders from the University of Washington, riders who were disabled, and riders whose routes will be slashed to almost nothing (no night service, for example) or eliminated entirely if the cuts go through.
Although some of their suggestions were a bit cockamamie—one speaker urged council members to raise fares to $5; another suggested getting rid of "free transfers" (which, of course, exist to make the system function efficiently and which riders pay for when they board)—most had a simple message: If you cut my transit service, I'll either go back to driving, or won't be able to get around anymore.
It's hard to see why Olympia would deny a constituency so eager to tax itself, at no cost to the state, the ability to do so.
2. Yesterday's PubliCola One Question with Majority Caucus Coalition leader state Sen. Rodney Tom (D-48, Medina) focused on his Sen. Sharon Brown (R-8, Kennewick) endorsement; Sen. Brown has gained notoriety among Democrats for proposing legislation that would allow businesses to discriminate against gays based on religious convictions.
The Democratic complaint about the Republican Sen. Andy Hill's budget isn't philosophical, it's mathematical.
The interview segued into a discussion about the overtime budget negotiations, and so we also asked Sen. Tom to respond to the house Democrats' claim that $620 million of the MCC's budget savings are based on funny math.
The Democratic complaint, in this instance (as opposed to their policy disagreements like the house's choice to put $225 million toward K-3 class-size reduction vs. the senate's choice to earmark no money for K-3 class-size reduction) isn't philosophical, it's mathematical.
Where, Democratic house budget leader Rep. Ross Hunter (D-48, Medina), wants to know, is the MCC actually going to get the money when its budget books: $200 million in "administrative efficiencies;" $9.5 million in health care savings (that includes cutting a federally mandated $8.7 million child autism care program); $5 million in unspecified child care development funding; a magical $40 million in additional use tax revenues; an extra $127 million in "wishful thinking" (that sidesteps collective bargaining rights) by moving part-time employees into the Obamacare health exchange; $72.2 million by cutting a K-12 career and technology education programming that, if cut, the school districts will simply move back into their traditional classroom budgets; and $166 million in supposed overspending on (this makes Hunter apoplectic: "Overspending?!? Really?!?") K-12 school construction.
"If you're going to cut, you actually have to say what position you're going to cut," Hunter says. "Show me the parole officer you're going to cut. Show me the child care worker you're going to cut."
So, we asked Tom, who's not only from the same district as Hunter, by the way, but is Hunter's roommate down in Olympia: What do you say to Ross Hunter, who says your budget has more than a half a billion in gimmicks?
If you want to go down the gimmick road, they had $182 million in revenue that they couldn’t get out. [The house Democrats scrapped their original proposals to: extend a beer tax worth $60 million; to repeal $80 million worth in tax breaks for dockworkers and insurance agents; and to institute $42 million in new taxes on janitorial services–Eds.] Then they had ... several others that didn’t get out, and then they were dipping into the Rainy Day Fund, which takes a 60 percent vote, and they didn’t have any Republicans for that. But that’s what the budget guys are doing right now, making sure that—we’re trying not to negotiate in this in the press, but they think we have holes and both parties are explaining the rational to the other side. There’s always assumptions made in these things and that’s what Ross and [senate budget leader Sen.] Andy [Hill] are doing.
Rep. Hunter's budget proposal does spend the $575 million rainy day fund (which certainly requires a two-thirds vote ... which he acknowledges he doesn't have), but Hunter points out that Hill's senate budget leaves only a $19 million ending balance, while the his budget leaves a $330 million cushion.
3. Nickelsville, the temporary homeless encampment that has, for the past two years, been located on a vacant city lot on West Marginal Way, has worn out its welcome at its current location, and could be sold to Food Lifeline if the city council decides to pass legislation, proposed by Mayor Mike McGinn and backed by city council member Nick Licata last year, that would allow semi-permanent encampments on privately or city-owned non-residential land throughout the city.
The legislation died last time after neighborhood activists and the homeless advocates who run Nickelsville objected. (Currently, only religious organizations may host tent cities like Nickelsville, and none have stepped forward to offer to host the current encampment, which has been plagued by flooding, overrun by problem tenants, and divided by political disagreements over who should and shouldn't be allowed in.)
SHARE/WHEEL, the controversial group that started Nickelsville (their alleged refusal to evict "meth dealers" and barred, violent former campers led some residents to form a splinter group), opposed the original Licata/McGinn proposal because they felt, according to an open letter from the organization, that tent cities belong in residential areas.
McGinn has two proposals. One is essentially the original legislation, which Licata now feels could pass because the city has a financial and ethical interest in selling its property to Food Lifeline. (The amendments address some of SHARE/WHEEL's concerns, including reducing setbacks from residential areas and increasing the amount of time the encampment can stay on a property from six months to a year.)
The second is to allow the encampment to stay at its current location "on a semi-permanent basis," which would require the city to "identify problems with drainage and pests" and "provide access to running water and other basic amenities," according to a May 13 letter from McGinn. Both McGinn and Licata, of course, prefer the former option. Licata's committee will discuss the legislation on Wednesday, May 22.