Morning Fizz

Morning Fizz: "Let the CRC Die"

Caffeinated News & Gossip featuring nimble political committees, protest letters, and niche caucuses.

By Morning Fizz September 20, 2013

1. For starters, please check out yesterday's Late Afternoon Fizz: Erica reports the news that there's now a second independent expenditure group (IE) supporting state Sen. Ed Murray's (D-43, Capitol Hill) bid for mayor.

Curiously, the new group, People for a New Seattle Mayor, has the same campaign manager (Dean Nielsen) and the same treasurer (Phil Lloyd) as the existing pro-Murray IE, People for Ed Murray. The new group has not reported any contributors yet. 

Nielsen was reticent yesterday when we asked him about the new IE, finally (and a bit abstrusely) telling us the new IE was a "smaller, more nimble group."

The existing IE, People for Ed Murray, is funded largely—$52,000 out of $128,000—by the Seattle chamber's political action committee, CASE, Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy.

The McGinn campaign seems to think the current pro-Murray group is plenty "nimble." The McGinn campaign has filed an ethics complaint against People for Ed Murray, arguing that by listing CASE as a donor rather than identifying the individual donors to CASE itself, the pro-Murray group is trying to "deliberately conceal information from Seattle voters." 

Fun fact: The McGinn complaint that the pro-Murray IE, or Political Action Committee (PAC), is trying to "conceal" donors cites PubliCola reporting about the Murray group ("Vulcan, Hedreen Behind Big Donations to Ed Murray PAC," August 20) where we outed who was contributing to CASE.

2. State Sen. Don Benton (R-17, Vancouver) sent a letter to Oregon legislators yesterday urging them to defund the Columbia River Crossing project in their upcoming special session.

The Republican-controlled Washington state senate killed $450 million in CRC funding earlier this year, but Oregon approved its $450 million share keeping the project, which includes light rail, kinda in play.

Necessary federal support for the project was contingent on both Washington and Oregon ponying up $450 million apiece for light rail, but Oregon is now trying figure out how to move forward with the project on its own.

Including his bullet points against light rail, Benton wrote:

While the Columbia River Crossing project is not among the publicly-stated reasons for your upcoming special session, I expect there will still be a push by Gov. Kitzhaber and others to bring the project back before you prior to Sept. 30.  If so, you will be asked to support a one-state version of this project and approve funding. I hope someone will stand up on the floor of your chamber and ask: “Why didn’t the Washington Legislature appropriate $450 million for the CRC project?"


So if the CRC project comes up, you can do what Washington did and let the CRC die. It won’t please our governor – who, you should know, is now willing to pursue a transportation-revenue package that does not include the CRC – or your governor. But building this boondoggle would be a net loss for the people you represent, same as for the people I serve. Wouldn’t your constituents prefer that you reclaim that $450 million and allocate it where it is needed?

By the way, rumor in Olympia is that Benton may step down.

3.  The extremely convoluted debate over whether the city will finally get a public restroom (AKA a "Portland Loo") in Pioneer Square will wrap up, one way or another, around the end of September, when city council members and downtown developer Greg Smith decide whether they'll enter into an agreement that will allow Smith to add 30 additional feet of residential space to a property he owns near the "Sinking Ship" parking garage at Yesler and James, or whether he'll turn the space into a 100-foot-tall office tower. 

UPDATE: The Puget Sound Business Journal reports that Smith has indeed opted for the shorter building, which means he doesn't have to build the loo. Mayor McGinn's office says the city will dip into a $250,000 "contingency fund"—McGinn spokesman Aaron Pickus wasn't sure of the exact source of the money—to build the loo anyway, and the Pioneer Square Alliance, a neighborhood business group, will pay for its ongoing operations and maintenance. 

The council's planning committee approved legislation yesterday allowing Smith to build 30 feet taller if he agrees to fund a new public restroom, which would cost him an estimated $100,000 to $250,000, depending on whom you believe. (The wide variation in cost estimates has to do with how much it will cost to make the loo ADA accessible, among other factors). Currently, office space is reportedly more profitable than residential housing; under an amendment adopted yesterday, Smith couldn't turn any of the residential space into hotel rooms, which are more profitable than apartments.

Council member Nick Licata attempted to pass an amendment that would require Smith to fund the maintenance of the loo for 50 years; after that amendment failed for lack of a second, he abstained from voting on the main legislation. 

4. U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-1, WA) is evidently heading up a new, niche caucus in the house—the Reed College Caucus.

U.S. Rep. Richard Hanna (R-22, NY) was one of the lonely 15 Republicans who voted against yesterday's successful 217-210 GOP vote (no Democrats voted for it) to gut $40 billion over ten years from food stamps, or SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

DelBene and Hanna are the only two members of Congress who went to the liberal arts (emphasis on liberal) Portland, Oregon college and conveniently enough are next-door office neighbors in the House Cannon Building. They reportedly confabbed on the bill. 

In a statement explaining his 'No' vote, Hanna said: "The SNAP program provides a lifeline for millions of Americans and thousands of my constituents in upstate New York.  It serves a vital role and I support it. ... I voted against this legislation due to the high probability that should it be enacted work requirements would be imposed on struggling parents from all walks of life – including mothers of young children who may need or want to be at home to care for them during the day."

And here's his Reed alumni colleague speaking against the bill on the floor yesterday:

Washington Republican Reps. Doc Hastings (R-WA, 4), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA, 5), and Dave Reichert (R-WA, 8) voted for the bill; Rep. Jamie Herrera Beutler R-WA, 3) did not vote.


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