Caffeinated News & Gossip

1. King County Sheriff John Urquhart announced at a Town Hall meeting in Sea-Tac last night that he was reversing his position on "Lateral Vascular Neck Restraints" aka,  chokeholds—a deadly police move that the NAACP has condemned. 

At the Sea-Tac meeting, Urquhart told the crowd he would no longer train on the technique and his officers would no longer be allowed to use it; the King County Sherrif's office had recently announced they were actually  resuming LVNR training , which unnerved law enforcement watchdogs, particularly after an un-armed African-American man, Eric Garner died of a heart attack when the NYPD used a chokehold on him this summer. The police assault was caught on video and Garner is heard repeatedly saying "I can't breathe!" 

2.  The city's application for a $15 million federal grant to build a pedestrian and bike bridge over I-5 for direct community access to the planned Northgate light rail stop, has been denied.

The $36.5 million bridge project would have reduced the walk to the light rail stop from North Seattle College, for example, from 1.2 miles to .25 miles.

Without the $15 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant, the city's $5 million matching funds go away and Sound Transit's $5 million won't be locked in to the bike/ped project. The city has until July 2015 to come up with the money.  

As Fizz reported back in 2012: Calling themselves the 92 percent, pro-bike/ped activists in Northgate rallied around the fact that only eight percent of the 15,000 daily riders predicted to use the Northgate stop would be served by the ST parking garage that had been planned for the station.  

File these under Afternoon Jolt

3.  Winner: Transit Advocates in Olympia

On Wednesday afternoon, King County Executive Dow Constantine added more details to his earlier June announcement to pursue transit efficiencies by looking for ways for Metro (which he oversees as County Exec) and Sound Transit (he's the board chair) to cooperate. 

Releasing a report  yesterday, Constantine talked about "efficiency dividends" that would come from doing things like running East side Seattle suburban Metro buses to the future Mercer Island light rail stop rather than over I-90 to downtown Seattle. Not only would moves like that cancel redundant routes, but it would free up bus hours for other service. 

Getting rid of 1,000 bus trips on I-5 by coordinating with light rail service is part of Constantine's reform manifesto.

 Beyond making the trains run on time, there's a resonant political win in the cards. This is a boon for Sound Transit and Metro in Olympia.

In the next couple of years,  ST and Metro will both be going to the legislature (where the senate will conceivably be controlled by anti-transit Republicans) seeking money and authorization. The cool response from Republicans—as it has been repeatedly on school funding and transportation funding in general—will be: We want reforms first. 

Constantine's 30-page report about integrating service and, for example, getting rid of 1,000 bus trips on I-5 by coordinating with light rail service, is a reform manifesto.

Asked if Wednesday's news strengthened their hand in Olympia, Sound Transit spokesman Geoff Patrick said: "Any perception that our money isn't being spent efficiently undermines our case for needing more funding. What this is all about is that it's important that our dollars are being stretched as far as they can possibly go."

4.  Loser: Developers

Low-income housing advocate and developer watchdog Jon Fox summed up the situation best when he testified at a city council hearing hosted by Tom Rasmussen yesterday about "Impact Fees,"—a strategy Rasmussen is proposing that would charge developers a fee to help pay for parks, schools, fire stations, and new roads when they build new projects. 

Enthusiastically supporting the idea, Fox testified: "I'm usually accustomed to coming up here hearing the council talk about providing enormous tax breaks in the millions of dollars to development interests. ... It's time developers paid their fair share. Thank you Tom for doing this."

Fox's Seattle Displacement Coalition did the math on what impact fees would have brought in from development since 2005 (he said he used an "in-between fee" of $3,000 per unit). He claimed the 52,000 residential units would have brought in $156 million

With catchy logic—when new people move in, it creates the need for more open space and schools and services—charging developers for the new infrastructure makes sense. Political sense anyway.

It'd probably be trickier for the council to make all the people who move in pay an additional fee earmarked for these services. Sure they'll be paying regular old taxes to support the services, but so will the developers. 

Footnote: The one thing that "Impact Fees"—a tool authorized by the state—won't pay for? Transit. You can build new roads with the money. But public transit isn't allowed. Asked about that shortcoming, Rasmussen acknowledged that: "What we need is transit to serve these rapidly growing areas where impact fees would be most appropriate" and said it would be "very challenging" to get the authorization from Olympia. "I would be happy to work with legislators to allow impact fees to also help support transit service," but noted that "we've had trouble getting support for transit in Olympia in the past."