Morning Fizz

Friday LIKES & DISLIKES: Why Don't Republicans Support Light Rail?

Caffeinated News featuring light rail funding, the NBA in Seattle?, the mayor and the school board, and more.

By Josh Feit January 23, 2015

Caffeinated News


1. I DON'T LIKE that there's a state senate bill to give Sound Transit the taxing authority to fund a plan to extend light rail to Everett, Tacoma, Redmond—and build more within Seattle—and not a single Republican senator has signed on. (20 Democratic senators have signed the bill.)

Sens. Joe Fain (R-47, Auburn), Andy Hill (R-45, Redmond), Steve Litzow (R-41, Mercer Island), and Steve O'Ban (R-28, Tacoma) have you seen the polling?

I asked the chair of the senate transportation committee, Sen. Curtis King (R-14, Yakima), why no one from his caucus had signed, and while he acknowledged that his caucus liked that voters would ultimately get to decide for themselves if they were willing to pay sales tax, property tax, and car tab tax increases for light rail, he simply said: "I don't believe that anybody brought it to me and asked me to sign it ... Not that I necessarily would have."

There's a house bill too (26 Democrats have signed and no Republicans have), but the senate bill is the bill that's in play.

2. I DON'T LIKE this statement from Mayor Ed Murray on his meeting with NBA commissioner Adam Silver.

On Monday in New York City, on my way to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, I met for the first time with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver regarding the status of an NBA team returning to Seattle. While Commissioner Silver said Seattle remains a very attractive city for an NBA franchise with our NBA championship heritage and enthusiastic fan base, the league has no plans to expand at this time. The city will continue to do our part to bring NBA basketball back to Seattle.

3. I THINK I LIKE this bill that Rep. Eric Pettigrew (D-37, SE Seattle) introduced this week to give the mayor two appointments on the seven-member Seattle school board.

But Rep. Pettigrew's bland explanation (he told the Seattle Times simply "when the current system isn’t working, it’s time to do something new, something smarter”) hasn't provided much clarity.

Mayor Murray's spokesman Jason Kelly told me:

The mayor’s office is aware of the legislation and is currently reviewing the proposal. The mayor’s office did not work with Rep. Pettigrew on the bill and did not have an advanced look at the legislation before it was introduced.
The mayor has said repeatedly that the city has a strong interest in working with the school district to address the persistent opportunity gap that continues to impact students of color in a dramatic way. Reading and math scores for African American students are more than 30% lower than those of white students. Similarly, graduation rates are 20% lower.
The city continues to invest in better outcomes through the Families and Education Levy, the new Seattle Preschool Program recently approved by voters, ongoing efforts to bring arts education to all students through Creative Advantage, and other initiatives. The mayor believes this collaboration is important to help close the opportunity gap. But if a change in governance is part of the solution, the mayor believes we should look at it.


Last November, when protests rocked Seattle in response to Ferguson, Murray focused on fixing our public schools to get at root cause of  disenfranchised young African American males. I asked him how, as a mayor on the sidelines of SPS, he could address that.

Here's that Fizz report:

Murray boiled the issue down to the Seattle school system. "We are failing our young African American men, sending them to prison instead of college."

I asked Murray aftwerwards if he had any specific plans to address the problems in Seattle schools—he had cited drop out numbers among African American students. He said only that he wanted to convene the City, businesses, and Seattle Public Schools to identify a joint effort.

Addressing persistent rumors that he's interested in having the city take over the school district, he said that would require authorization in Olympia and told me the city was not lobbying state legislators for that authority.

And during the 2013 mayoral election, I asked Murray if he had any designs on Seattle Public Schools. Here's what he said:

PubliCola: Education is obviously a huge issue in the city right now, and it seems like you've recently embraced it as one of your issues. What do you think of the education reform movement, and things like charters and teacher accountability?

Murray: I oppose the charter schools bill. Regrettably, in Olympia, education reform has turned into a war on teachers. And I don't know if it's just reforming the system or changing the system to meet the needs of a changing workforce. But I don't think you do that against the teachers. I think you do that with the teachers. And there's no area right now in state government where there's more infighting and division going on than the groups involved in education and the reform movement. 

PubliCola: What can you do as mayor to improve the schools?

Murray: I don't think a city can succeed unless it has a successful K-12 school system. But I also realize I'm not the school board and that the city doesn't control the schools. I'm not going to propose the Mayor Murray plan for taking over the school district. But I do think that if I'm the next mayor I would engage a conversation in the city with the school district, with our community colleges, with our universities, particularly their schools of education, and look at what kind of school district we want for this city that attracts kids who are now in private schools back into the public school system. How do we increase graduation rates, how do we reward the best and brightest teachers, how do we develop models of how an urban school system can succeed?

4. And I DON'T THINK I LIKE this bill that state Sen. Cyrus Habib (D-48, Kirkland) introduced to regulate ride sharing. 


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