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On Other Blogs Today: Fair Wages, Foreclosures, and Faulty Forecasts

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By Erica C. Barnett December 18, 2013


1. "How did Seattle do it?" 

That's the question the labor blog Labor Notes is asking about recent moves in the Seattle region to improve wages and benefits for workers, including the $15 minimum wage for airport-related workers in SeaTac, Boeing union members' vote to reject concessions on pensions and pay, and the nascent move to adopt a $15 minimum wage for all workers in Seattle. 

Their theories: Seattle's labor unions have unusually strong ties with "environmental groups, economic justice organizations, communities of color, the LGBT community, and immigrant rights groups," giving them a larger-than-typical base of support; internal union organizing mobilized shop stewards at companies like Safeway to keep momentum for a higher minimum wage going; and Washington state already has the highest state minimum wage in the nation, a precedent that has paved the way for the living-wage movement in and around Seattle. 

2. Washington state U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, who heads the senate budget committee, makes the case in an op/ed for the Huffington Post that the budget deal the house and senate approved today—a deal that failed to extend unemployment benefits for 1.3 million Americans, cuts pension benefits to many military retirees, and fails to close corporate loopholes—is the best compromise Congress could reach. 

While this deal is a strong step forward to roll back the harmful automatic cuts from sequestration and is an important step away from the constant budget crises of recent years, it's still just a step," Murray writes. "Nobody got everything they wanted." 

The budget deal does nothing to address the ongoing stalemate over lifting the federal debt limit, which will need to be lifted sometime in the spring.  

Gov. Jay Inslee now says that everything possible has been done to entice Boeing to stay in Everett and build its new 777X jetliner there. 3. Speaking of pensions and benefits: Gov. Jay Inslee now says that everything possible has been done to entice Boeing to stay in Everett and build its new 777X jetliner there, and now all the state can do is wait and see what the aerospace giant decides to do, the Everett Herald reports.

Union leaders rejected Boeing's latest offer last week because it would have mandated cuts to workers' traditional pensions and increased their health care costs. On his Facebook page this week, Democratic state Rep. Mike Sells (D-38, Everett), wrote that politicians, including Inslee, who supported the deal and have a government pension should "give it up for a 401(k) and put their money where their mouth is." 

4. At Slog, Ansel Herz accuses the Seattle City Council of "taking its sweet-ass time" adopting legislation to help homeowners struggling with foreclosure. 

As we reported briefly earlier this week, the council adopted a resolution to look at ways to help homeowners facing foreclosure, including things like land banks, allowing the city to acquire properties through eminent domain, and principle-reduction strategies. But studies take time, and the Stranger says that's precisely what underwater homeowners don't have.

"Christ," Herz writes, "considering the council can pass emergency housing legislation to, say, regulate small lots or mandate density [a reference to Richard Conlin-sponsored legislation that requires developers in urban villages to build more densely] how many more people have to lose their homes before the council actually does something?"

Leaving aside the fact that adopting a policy allowing the city to seize property from private owners through eminent domain and then sell it back to mortgage holders at a more affordable interest rat is more complicated than upzoning a drug store—it's pretty amusing to see the Stranger, once a loud crusader for density and renters, agitating for the sacred right to own a single-family home. 

5. Well, this sounds about right: According to an exhaustive analysis of state and regional transportation agencies' predictions about future traffic loads by the State Smart Transportation Initiative ... state and regional transportation agencies suck at predicting future traffic loads.

Specifically, state and regional transportation agencies (using models that generally haven't been updated since the 1980s) typically predict that traffic will grow ever greater into the infinite future, even as actual traffic has consistently declined, Streetsblog reports. Those traffic projections matter because they're used to justify widening roads and spending money on freeways instead of transit, bike lanes, and sidewalks. 



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