Friday Fizz Likes and Dislikes Part 3: Trees, Soda, and Bus Funding

Urbanists for trees, judges for health, and money for metro.

By Josh Feit June 27, 2014

We were psyched to let the ladies from Seattlish commandeer Fizz this morning, but you didn't think you were going to escape without hearing our Likes & Dislikes from the week, did you?

1. While acknowledging that this one is coming from the slow-growth faction, and so wouldn't seem to sync with our usual Urban Upgrade rhetoric, we Like the Friends of Seattle's Urban Forest mission to save, restore, and protect Seattle's tree canopy. 

Forcing DPD to consider tree canopy would broaden DPD's mindset and ultimately work to create a more holistic vision about the city.

Seattle's canopy has decreased from about 40 percent of the city's land area in the early 1970s to about 23 percent in 2007, according to the city's Urban Forest Management Plan.

[UPDATE: While the 40 percent figure is listed in the city's report, the city could not find a source to back it up, and current city staff believes it may have been a misstatement. Nonetheless,Seattle's canopy was at about 20 percent in 2007, according to the city's Urban Forest Management Plan, and the city wants to increase it to 30 percent by 2037 according to the Urban Forest Stewardship Plan.] 

At a Department of Development and Planning comp plan community meeting at Seattle Center Tuesday night, urban canopy advocate Steve Zemke was handing out a list of 10 demands—including "require that a Canopy Impact Assessment be done on all development projects, evaluating the impact of tree removal on the city goal of reaching 30% canopy cover by 2037"; "require permits to remove trees on both public and private property" (currently, preventing someone from cutting down a tree on private property is complaint-based only, which is a bit pointless coming after the fact); and "license all ... tree cutting operations." 

Given how important trees are (they reduce stormwater runoff, gobble CO2, provide wildlife habitat, and—for you urbanists—provide built-in traffic calming), Zemke's demands—he's asking people to contact the mayor and city council—are worth considering.  

 Just this morning, I was appreciating the tree cover downtown.  

One demand I think Friends of Seattle's Urban Forest has wrong, though, is that they want to take tree oversight away from DPD and create a new office—"a new Department of Forestry"—or house tree oversight in the more green-minded Office of Sustainability and the Environment. 

Their reasoning seems to make sense at first.  Zemke notes that DPD's mission is to facilitate development and points out that city code governing tree preservation gives DPD plenty of leeway to take out trees. It's like the fox guarding the henhouse.

But just as urbanists want housing and health metrics to be factored into the mission of traditional road-building agencies like WSDOT, I think forcing DPD to consider tree canopy would broaden DPD's mindset and ultimately work to create a more holistic vision for the city.

The real Nanny State is the corporate food industry.  

2. We (me anyway) Like (and yes, we read the whole thing), the dissenting opinion in yesterday's ill-considered New York State Court of Appeals final ruling against NYC's ban on 16 oz. sugary sodas. 

First, Judge Susan Read eviscerates the argument that the New York City Board of Health wasn't empowered to make and enforce the rule. Hilariously, she also catches the majority in the contorted logic of relying on a precedent [Boreali] about limiting state power while the crux of their opinion is that the Board wasn't empowered by the state. Read writes (and I laughed): "Having rejected the Board's argument that its authority and delegated powers are conferred by the state legislatures, not the Council, why is Boreali even relevant?"

But, beyond the legal primer, Judge Read also goes straight to the water cooler yammer about the Nanny State (by the way, the "Nanny" Board used the same power to get lead out of paint.)

In the context of the real Nanny State, the food industry's social engineering advantage over consumers —kids and their soda mostly—Read writes:

There is no obvious reason why "economic consequences," "tax implications for small business owners" and "personal autonomy" are "ends." One could just as easily define the "ends" (as the Board did) to mean the protection of public health from
risks associated with over consumption of sugary drinks." 

"But why is an "indirect means" of achieving an end (healthier intake) a forbidden policy choice? Making the healthier choice the simpler choice is one way to reduce over consumption of sugary drinks, a category of products that has repeatedly been linked to
weight gain, obesity and a variety of diseases. And the Board chose this means over other possible approaches as a way to tailor its regulations so as to impose the least burden on

She concludes: "What the petitioners have truly asked the courts to do is to strike down an unpopular law, not an illegal one." 

3. We Like King County Labor Council leader Dave Freiboth's testimony at yesterday night's city hall hearing on the proposed sales tax and vehicle license fee to save Metro service.

"This isn't the place to change our tax structure," Freiboth said, referring to a counterproposal for a new tax on employers, "this is now the place to save transit. I'm disappointed in some of my friends on the left whose impact wll be to confuse voters, and we'll see bus service cut as a result."  

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