Morning Fizz

Morning Fizz: Obliviously

Our Friday morning Likes & Dislikes

By Morning Fizz September 12, 2014

It's time for our weekly wrap-up: Friday Fizz LIKES & DISLIKES

1.  Fizz DISLIKES two things that the city council's transportation committee seemed a-okay with at this week's hearing on "Impact Fees"—a policy they're considering to make developers pay a special fee to fund related things like schools and parks and new roads when they build new projects.

During his presentation, consultant Randy Young with Henderson & Young did a powerpoint on myths about impact fees to anticipate developer gripes with the program. "Impact fees are paid by developers and builders," he began, "No." He explained: "Yeah, they're the ones with the checkbook ... giving you the money, but it does not come out of their profit margins. It raises the price of their product ... and that has an effect on the marketplace." In other words: It raises rents.

At a time when rents are going through the roof, it was odd to see the council's unbridled enthusiasm for the policy, including committee chair Tom Rasmussen, who, totally missing the implication of Young's point about rent, mimicked whiny developers, saying: "That's the soundbite we always hear. 'Make the developers pay.'"    

The other moment in the hearing that showed off the council's ignorance: Young hyped impact fees by explaining that "you don't have to have impact fees if you like congestion. No impact fees, you're just sitting in traffic more." 

At a time when rents are going through the roof, it was odd to see the council's unbridled enthusiasm for the policy.

Of all people—Green Metropolis transit brain Mike O'Brien chimed in obliviously, "Can we get a show of hands who likes congestion?" Rasmussen seconded smugly: "Pot holes. Gravel. Gravel roads."

Give me a break. It is common knowledge among urban planners that, in fact, making it easier to drive cars should not be the goal of city planning. And congestion is necessary to make investments in transit—like the new protected bike lane on 2nd Ave.—pay off. In other words, you can't build transit infrastructure and expect it to take—if you're still catering to cars by building new roads. 

And important footnote here: Impact fees aren't allowed to pay for transit. They're only allowed to pay for roads.  

2. Fizz LIKES that environmental activist April Putney, Director of State Policy & Advocacy at Futurewise, won the People's Choice Transit Hero Award at last night's Transportation Choices Coalition's fundraising dinner at the Palace Ballroom. (King County Executive Dow Constantine and County Council Member Larry Phillips were inducted into TCC's transit heroes hall of fame for their long records supporting pro-transit legislation; and Alison Eisinger, Executive Director of the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, won TCC's community transit award for her work advancing Metro's low-income fare program.)

Back to the people's champ, though, Putney. The kick-ass Olympia lobbyist who spends the session debunking anti-Green and anti-transit GOP talking points with meticulous (and often witty) testimony, ran this year's campaign to pass Prop. 1, the county ballot measure to prevent deep Metro cuts. The measure lost, but it was a harbinger campaign for transit because Putney put together a coalition of interest groups from the business, civil rights, labor,  environmental, and social justice communities that has since become known plainly as "The coalition" putting transit at the leading and unifying edge of the progressive movement.

...which brings us to this week's next LIKE.

3. Fizz LIKES that state house speaker Rep. Frank Chopp (D-43, Wallingford) was one of the politicians at the TCC shindig last night; "We're honored to have you here," TCC Director Rob Johnson said from the podium. Chopp, known primarily as an affordable housing zealot (more of a Woody Guthrie progressive than a Bill McKibben progressive) isn't a usual suspect at a TCC event; highlighting his presence, word is he was missing an annual low-income housing fundraiser to be at the annual TCC dinner. Chopp, also infamous among transit advocates for his obscure and anathema viaduct retrofit/rebuild option, is far from transit hall of fame status, but reportedly, he's embraced the mass transit cause with an enthusiasm transit activists haven't seen from him in the past. With a super power player like speaker Chopp leading the charge on agenda items such as a 2016 light rail initiative, transit funding will get a needed boost.

Footnote: In a sign that building the unified theory coalition is a conscious decision—it was Chopp who assigned freshman state house Rep. Jessyn Farrell, D-46, N. Seattle (Johnson's predecessor as TCC's director and a McKibben transit green herself), to sponsor last session's Woody Guthrie legislation, the statewide minimum wage increase.   

That political discomfort is going to complicate any concerted effort to meet the McCleary mandate. And yesterday's reticence from the MCC hinted at the ideological gridlock to come on school funding.

4. Fizz DISLIKES that press statements were not forthcoming yesterday from the senate majority GOP on Thursday's big deal Washington State Supreme Court decision to hold the state in contempt (an historic first) for not following the Court's earlier McCleary mandate to fully fund K-12. (We put in three requests. Heard nothing.) Meanwhile, the house GOP, the Democratic governor, and the senate Democrats all fired off responses.

Fizz's read? The Republican-dominated Majority Coalition Caucus (MCC), which currently runs the state senate, isn't all-in on following the Court's order. While some Republican senators in the coalition are eager to fulfill the Court order, the right wing (which controls the MCC) has a problem in principle listening to "activist" judges. That political discomfort, Fizz fears, is going to complicate any concerted effort to meet the McCleary mandate. And yesterday's reticence hinted at the ideological gridlock to come on school funding.

5.  Fizz DISLIKES the news we had yesterday that the Seattle Department of Transportation did not get a federal TIGER grant to fund a ped/bike bridge at the future Northgate light rail stop. But it gets worse: The University of Washington had applied for a TIGER (Transportation Improvement Generating Economic Recovery) grant as well; they wanted to make improvements along the portion of the Burke-Gilman by the UW campus to untangle and separate ped and bike traffic. Fizz hears the grant wasn't approved.

We're hearing just two TIGER grants were approved in Washington state: one for the Port of Seattle and one for the Makah Tribe.

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