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On Other Blogs Today: Worker Rights, Biking History, and Wasted Potential

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By Erica C. Barnett September 25, 2013


1. The Seattle City Council's housing and human services committee will get a briefing this afternoon on how well businesses are complying with the city's paid sick leave law, which requires all but the smallest employers to provide some paid sick leave. (In short: Most employers are complying, but many are confused by the "safe leave" requirement, which allows workers to take time off to deal with personal safety needs related to domestic violence or harassment)

Meanwhile, in Tacoma, a dog training business owner has written an op/ed for the News Tribune arguing that a proposal to require paid sick leave in that city is good for workers and businesses. 

The business owner, Diane Inman, writes, 

Our employees don’t use paid sick days very often. Part of the reason is that when employees are ill, they stay home to recover instead of coming to work and spreading their germs to co-workers. We know that healthy employees are more productive, alert and able to give our clients the kind of service they deserve and expect. Our high level of repeat and referral business is a direct result of that consistent, high-quality service.

2. At Crosscut, Knute Berger is doing what looks to be interesting (if predictably contrarian) historical series arguing that the "roots of Seattle urbanism" were actually at the turn of the last century, when people switched from horses to bikes and when Seattle was called "New York By-and-By."

Just a couple of little gripes: Of course people used bikes when they became cheaper than horses. Cars weren't widely available in the 1890s. And much of the vision Berger outlines in his intro to the series involved turning Bellevue and Everett from farmland into sprawling suburbs—exactly the sort of development pattern we've now adopted programs like transfer of development rights to prevent. 

Still, it's an ambitious -sounding series (funded by 4Culture), and I'm looking forward to the next installments, which will focus on density, urban agriculture, and urban planning. 

That's true not only in New York City, where "vast [commuter] rail station parking lots are 'dead zones,'" but right here in the Seattle area.

4. As other countries (like Hong Kong) rake in tax dollars from commercial properties at rail stations, the U.S. is still squandering valuable space building parking lots for people who want to drive to transit, Streetsblog reports.

That's true not only in New York City, where "vast [commuter] rail station parking lots are 'dead zones,'" but right here in the Seattle area, where the Tukwila light rail station is a massive wasteland of car parking connected to the surrounding area by massive, pedestrian-hostile streets. 

5. And speaking of transit, NextCity takes issue with a report I mentioned in yesterday's OOBT, which concluded that bus-rapid transit, done right (that is, more like rail), can stimulate development as well as or better than light rail. Their contention: The only reason bus-rapid transit makes sense in the U.S. is because building rail is so expensive here thanks to high labor and capital costs, and the only way around that is government "interventions," like economic development corporations, eminent domain and comprehensive citywide plans.

6. In Seattle, when the city raised parking rates and lengthened paid-parking hours, businesses screamed that the new policies would put them under. They also pushed successfully for longer maximum parking times in some areas. In Tacoma, according to the News Tribune, where they've lengthened paid-parking hours, increased weekend parking prices, and decreased the maximum parking time near the UW Tacoma, businesses are psyched.

The TNT reports: "Tom Vigue, owner of Savor Tacoma Creperie on Pacific Avenue, said he sees cars circling the block several times looking for any open spot.

"'From a business perspective, (parking changes) will help keep the flow of traffic moving,' Vigue said.

"Russel Brunton, co-owner of Indochine, agreed.

“'Over the past three years, more cars have come into downtown,' he said, adding that more cars mean fewer available spaces for customers." 

This, of course, is exactly the argument city officials have made for updating Seattle's prices and hours—and exactly the opposite argument restaurants and businesses here have made: If you charge what parking's actually worth, more people can use it. 

7. Finally, state Sen. Ed Murray (D-43, Capitol Hill) is getting national attention for his $15-minimum-wage proposal, via a GovBeat blog post in the Washington Post. After noting—twice—that Murray came in first in the August primary and saying he is "seen as the front-runner" in the general, the Post writes: "Even some of the more liberal members of the city council have questioned the wisdom of raising the rate, and the city’s Chamber of Commerce, which still holds some sway at City Hall, says it wants to pursue other options before hiking the minimum wage."

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