Morning Fizz

Morning Fizz: "We Have a Challenge Ahead of Us in 'To Be Determined' Funding."

Caffeinated News & Gossip featuring pandemonium in High Point, cost overruns on the waterfront, big donations for November, and SPD Chief O'Toole.

By Morning Fizz September 30, 2014

1. It was "pandemonium" (according to Erica's tweets and photos) at last night's Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) meeting at the High Point Community Center in West Seattle where the housing agency presented its controversial "Stepping Forward" plan, a Bill Clintonesque welfare reform-style plan to raise rents and make low-income housing contingent on getting a job.

A call-and-response  protest ("Scrap the plan!" "Yes!") was followed by a walkout to the nearby gym, where the group, dominated by women, immigrants, and people of color, listened as council member Kshama Sawant discussed plans to compel SHA to scrap the proposal.

City Council member Kshama Sawant leads protest last night at High Point Community Center.

Sawant is not an iconoclast on the issue; Mayor Ed Murray kicked off city opposition to the SHA proposal with a July 31 letter (which is how the policy change first came to our attention) writing that the proposal would have a "disproportionate impact on women and families of color, in particular immigrant and refugee families," while noting that 69 percent of the families who would be impacted by the proposal have a head of household whose primary language isn't English. Many are also single moms who would have to find a way to afford day care, in addition to their new higher rent.

"Based on the information you have shared with my staff, I cannot support the changes contemplated in the Stepping Forward proposal," Murray wrote. 

And Seattle City Council member Sally Clark, who told Fizz last week she also had concerns about the policy, says the council is drafting a letter of its own.  

2. Formally updating the city council's waterfront committee yesterday afternoon with a Power Point on the financing, city budget director Ben Noble and Office of the Waterfront director Jared Smith made it official: they're scaling back the original $250-to-$300 million they had budgeted for the $1.07 billion waterfront makeover from a Local Improvement District (LID) down to a "more realistic" $200 million.

The LID would raise money from local property owners, but A) it's become increasingly unclear that the city has buy-in from area businesses (see yesterday's Fizz) and B) the city had originally been calculating dollars based on state work—like knocking down the viaduct and building the tunnel—but LIDs can only raise money based on city work. 

Additionally, thanks to Bertha delays, Noble told the council that the waterfront project—which includes a major overhaul of Alaskan Way with a protected bike lane and a promenade, an overlook at the western end of Blanchard Street, east-west street improvements to connect downtown to the waterfront, and amenities like a pool barge and a floating dock—was going $200 million over budget.

City Budget Director Ben Noble breaks the bad news at yesterday's Central Waterfront, Seawall and Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program Select Committee meeting.

As a result, Mayor Murray has come up with $168 million in "potential modifications" to scale back and save money such as simplifying the Marion Street pedestrian bridge rebuild (saving $19 million), reducing the city's contribution to the $34 million Seattle Aquarium upgrade by $11 million (this seemed to be the most heart-wrenching aspect of yesterday's meeting), and delaying heavy lifts such as the Pier 62/63 (due west of Pike Place Market) replacement project to a "future phase," saving $69 million now.

That still leaves $32 million to come up with in savings. 

"We have a challenge ahead of us in TBD funding," budget director Noble said. 

The Seattle Times interviewed Mayor Murray about the project yesterday.  

3. With less than a month to go before ballots land in mailboxes for the November 4 election, two local campaigns reported major contributions yesterday: Quality Pre-K for Our Kids, which is supporting one of two competing preschool-related ballot measures, Prop. 1B, and Yes for Seattle Transit, which is backing a proposal to raise the Seattle vehicle license fee and sales tax to initially forestall cuts to, and fund enhancements for, King County Metro transit service inside Seattle city limits.

Yes for Early Success has raised $720,414, including more than $705,000 from the SEIU and the teachers' union, the American Federation of Teachers. 

Quality Pre-K, which supports a the mayor and council property tax proposal to pay for preschool slots for around 2,000 Seattle kids reported $137,487 in new contributions Monday, bringing Prop. 1 B's total to $265,704. The latest contributors includes Alaska Airlines ($5,000), retired Microsoft exec and minority Mariners owner Christopher Larson ($50,000), Connie Ballmer, wife of ex-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, and Amazon head Jeff Bezos' father Miguel Bezos ($25,000). 

Prop. 1 B isn't to be confused with the union-funded Yes for Early Success campaign, which is promoting a competing unfunded measure, Prop. 1 A, which mandates a $15 minimum wage and minimum training standards for child care workers, along with aspirational language encouraging pre-K access for all. 

Nor should Prop. 1 B with wealthy supporters like Baller and Bezos trick you into thinking they've got the big money in its contest with the union measure. 

Yes for Early Success has raised $720,414, including more than $705,000 from the SEIU and the teachers' union, the American Federation of Teachers. 

Meanwhile, Yes for Seattle Transit recently raised  $17,659,  bringing their total to $85,572, including new contributions from Pemco Insurance ($5,000), the state Service Employees International Union ($5,000), and Seattle Children's Hospital ($2,500), and Alaska Airlines ($5,000).

Police officers are like everyone else: We have First Amendment rights and we have political beliefs from time to time, but when we come to work we have to leave those political agendas and those political beliefs at home," O'Toole said. 

4. Quick outtake from last week's appearance by Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O'Toole at Seattle University's Chardin Hall: O'Toole, who says she spends "about 25 minutes a day" at her desk and is far more likely to be seen in a business suit than the standard blue uniform worn by previous chiefs, had a few words to say about SPD officer Randy Jokela, the overzealous cop who was reassigned after issuing 80 percent of all citations for smoking marijuana in public.

(Ultimately, City Attorney Pete Holmes said he would seek the dismissal of all tickets issued for public pot smoking under the new state marijuana law, which legalizes recreational pot smoking on private property, in light of the news that one officer was responsible for the overwhelming majority of citations.)

Officer Jokela, O'Toole said, is a "very hard-working police officer [who is] highly respected by his peers and respected by many people in the community" who let his own "poltiical agenda," particularly his dislike for Holmes and the city attorney's support for marijuana legalization, get in the way of his job.

"He put snarky little notes on the tickets, little messages to the city attorney. ... Police officers are like everyone else: We have First Amendment rights and we have political beliefs from time to time, but when we come to work we have to leave those political agendas and those political beliefs at home," O'Toole said. "He apologized. I think he was embarrassed for the department and for himself. It was strictly this political agenda with the city attorney that motivated this. He said he did it because he was frustrated about some of the political decisions that were being made. 

"My hope," O'Toole continued, "is that police officers would go out first and try to deescalate situations and say, 'Look, it's not legal to smoke dope here,'" before issuing citations in the future.


Show Comments