This week's LIKES and DISLIKES:
1. We LIKE that the city is starting to face reality on the tunnel.
Fizz talked to the city's Office of the Waterfront Director Jared Smith yesterday about a key component of the $1.1 billion waterfront revitalization project, the local improvement district (or LID). The LID, the biggest outstanding funding source for the waterfront revamp (25 percent of the project), would have area property owners pay, based on anticipated property value increases, for the main corridor improvements along Alaskan Way (not the tunnel, but the boulevard above) plus east-west connections and pier projects.
However, both the fact that legal challenges complicated the legitimacy of the city reaping the value of those property value increases, which are largely coming from $3.145 billion in state work (including tearing down the viaduct and building the tunnel), plus serious questions about the tunnel project itself thanks to Bertha's breakdown have ground the LID concept to a halt.
Smith told Fizz that the mayor's new budget, due in a few weeks, would "revise" the $250 million that's currently budgeted to come from the LID; presumably, "revised" means lowered. And due to the uncertainties, the new number will be "more of a placeholder," Smith added.
Asked about the $250 million LID money in the city's most recent waterfront project program report, which was published in August, Smith told Fizz:
"With the delay and the tunnel boring machine, we basically suspended the analysis for the Local Improvement District. Until we get a better handle on the delay, that was one thing we put a pause on." —City Waterfront project director, Jared Smith
"In the next couple of weeks, you'll start to see, as part of the biennial budget, we're going to be rolling out updated information. That's when you'll see a lot of answers to your questions in terms of revised assumptions both in terms of sources of funding and the uses of the funding."
"I know that that [whether the city could claim the money from the property value increases] has been a topic of discussion. And I think when you see the new assumptions roll out, there will be some adjustments there. That was a question. And still, there hasn't been a whole lot of the detailed analysis that you must put in place to eventaully launch that process. We were going to be doing that this year, but with the delay and the tunnel boring machine, we basically suspended the analysis for the local improvement district. Until we get a better handle on the delay with the tunnel boring machine, that was one thing we put a pause on. What will come out is probably more of a placeholder number."
2. We already made it clear that we LIKED Foster Pepper attorney Thomas Ahearne's performance in front of the Washington State Supreme Court this week when he argued as the McCleary plaintiffs' counsel that the state should be held in contempt for failing to fully fund K-12 education.
Our favorite moment was his sassy (and classy) retort to the GOP gripe that the court needed to respect separation of powers standards and mind its own business: "What is the purpose of separation of powers?" Ahearne told the justices. "Is it to protect government officials who violate the constitutional rights of citizens? Or is it to protect the citizens whose constitutional rights are being violated?"
Fizz followed up with Ahearne yesterday to have him elaborate. He said:
"It's separation of powers not elimination of powers."
"I get a lot of letters from Eastern Washington telling me that separation of powers prevents the supreme court from telling the legislature what to do. People bandying around the phrase 'separation of powers, separation of powers, separation of power.' There is separation of powers, but the question is what's the purpose. And if the purpose is to protect each branch's ability to violate citizens' constitutional rights if they want to, that's not what the separation of powers is. You give separate branches separate powers so that if the other branches are violating citizen's constitutional rights [the constitution says the legislature must fully fund K-12 education, which the court already ruled] you still have a branch left that can stop it. I mean, it's separation of powers not elimination of powers."
And then bam:
Part of this whole discussion of 'separation of powers' and 'the courts have no business telling elected officials what to do with public schools.' We've heard all those kinds of comments before. Because those are exactly the same comments that southern elected officials were making when the courts were telling them they had to desegregate the schools. 'What business do courts have telling us what to do with our schools, we're the elected officials.' When [George] Wallace made his famous stand in the school house door .... he was constitutionally wrong.
3. Lastly, we LIKED taking the advice of our own PubliCalendar this week by going to Wednesday night's recommended reading at Town Hall where historian Rick Perlstein read from the new third volume in his planned four-volume series on the rise of the American right from Barry Goldwater to Ronald Reagan—the contrarian and ascendant backlash undercurrent during the seemingly liberal 1960s and 70s.
What we mostly LIKED about his lecture—the latest book, The Invisible Bridge, documents Ronald Reagan's Tea Party-like challenge to the GOP status quo during Republican incumbent president Gerald Ford's Pyrrhic victory over Reagan in the GOP 1976 primary—was Perlstein's Wacky Packies theory.
If it's about anything, The Invisible Bridge largely captures America in the defeated, sullen, and cynical 1970s. And nothing, Perlstein demonstrated during his slide show presentation, captured that cynicism better than the insane popularity of Wacky Packies, the bubble gum card stickers for little kids that spoofed the TV show commercials they were simultaneously growing up on.
Perlstein told an anecdote of an elementary shcool teacher who had to spend a whole day peeling the stickers off desks as they cleaned up the classroom after the kids had left for summer vacation in 1974.
Yep. Fizz grew up on Wacky Packies. We confess. It's all true.