Morning Fizz

Tuesday Fizz: Based on Hopes and Prayers and Guesses

Tuesday Fizz featuring a Metro veto, KUOW fallout, and a pricey plane ticket.

By Morning Fizz June 10, 2014

1. After getting smacked down by his Democratic colleagues on the King County Council yesterday afternoon for proposing legislation that would (temporarily) limit Metro cuts by raising fares, dipping into the agency's financial reserves, and directing the agency to "find efficiencies," through an audit, to forestall major bus cuts, North Seattle King County Council member Rob Dembowski, who passed the legislation at the contentious hearing by rounding up all the council Republicans to support it, got supremely smacked down by Democratic King County Executive Dow Constantine, who vetoed the legislation within the hour.

"We need a reliable way to pay for bus service—but until then, we shouldn't spend money we don't have, we shouldn't use one-time money to pay for ongoing expenses, and decisions to save or cut service should be based on objective criteria and data, not on politics," Constantine said in a statement. "This ordinance falls short on all counts."

Dembowski's proposal would have implemented only the cuts scheduled for September 2014; an alternative proposal by the council's other four Democrats would have implemented all the scheduled cuts, with the caveat that if Metro comes up with additional funding between now and 2015, only the first two rounds of cuts, in September of 2014 and February of 2015, would go forward."No one up here wants these cuts, but I believe it is fiscally irresponsible to budget based on what-ifs."

Prior to the vote, council Democrats schooled Dembowski—who is, since his appointment last year, the newest member of the council—on the long and painful process Metro, the county, and Constantine went through to arrive at the proposed cuts. (In April, voters rejected Proposition 1, a vehicle license fee and sales-tax proposal that would have forestalled the cuts). 

"I know as a new guy it is really easy to walk in here and say, 'I know the solution, let's do an audit. Then I found out, we had already done one. Then I thought, let's make Metro more efficient. Then I realized we had alrady done that too,'" county council member Dave Upthegrove said. "The low-hanging fruit is gone, and we can't be positive there will be new money or significant operational savings or new revenue. ... No one up here wants these cuts, but I believe it is fiscally irresponsible to budget based on what-ifs."

Council chair Larry Phillips said Metro's financial situation "has been characterized as an area where reasonable people can differ. Perhaps. But in terms of writing checks that can provide service, we need to make sure that those checks are backed up by actual dollars." Dembowski's proposal, he said, "is based on hopes and prayers and guesses [and] the assumption that we're not going to have a recession" before 2021, when the region has been through two recessions in the past decade. 

The vetoed Dembowski proposal would have also preserved service on several small rural routes, known as Dial-A-Ride Transit (DART) in Republican council districts while Metro did another study to determine whether those routes should be saved. Democrats opposed that amendment, sponsored by Republican Kathy Lambert, arguing that Metro service should be based on criteria set out in the agency's strategic plan, not how many county council members support a particular route.

2. Some fallout from longtime KUOW host Steve Scher's departure: The Week in Review roundtable, Scher's Friday AM news roundup show has been "suspended indefinitely."

Regular Week in Review guest Knute Berger of Crosscut posted the following update on Facebook yesterday: "Have just been informed that Week in Review roundtable has been suspended indefinitely due to Steve Scher's departure from KUOW. Won't be on this Friday for sure."

The post prompted a round of boos from Berger's followers, including this gem from former state Rep. Deb Hall Eddy: "My only must-listen of the week gets suspended indefinitely? Why do I fear Lake Woebegone repeats?"

3. File this one under Isn't It Weird That ... Isn't it weird that Mayor Ed Murray spent a whopping $1,850 (from his office fund, which is paid for by individual donations from supporters) to bring his husband, city parks department planning director Michael Shiosaki, to this year's Super Bowl in New Jersey? The report was published by the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission late last week.

Murray spokesman Jeff Reading notes that the office fund can be used to pay for travel for family members (in 2006, then-mayor Greg Nickels spent $2,000 from his own office fund to go to the Super Bowl), but acknowledges that $1,850 is a lot for a single plane ticket. In Murray's defense, however, Reading adds that the trip "was last-minute!" The Seahawks defeated the Denver Broncos in a Super Bowl rout, 43-8.


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