Morning Fizz

Friday LIKES & DISLIKES: Light Rail as Dog Poop?

Caffeinated News featuring divestment fail; poop as light rail; and golf clubs equal jail.

By Josh Feit January 30, 2015

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1. I DISLIKE that Seattle City Council member Nick Licata, the chair of the Seattle City Employees Retirement System (SCERS, the city pension),  didn't even get a "second" on his motion to phase the fund out of fossil fuel stocks at yesterday's noon SCERS board meeting.

SCERS executive director Ken Nakatsu said that no city pension fund in the country had divested.

SCERS board member Glen Lee offered an alternative motion which directed SCERS to study the possibility of divesting (Licata called Lee's option a move "in the right direction, but not robust.")

Board member Susan Coskey amended Lee's motion so that it simply directed SCERS to monitor the fossil fuel industry and provide quarterly reports on trends. That motion carried unanimously.

Board member Lou Walter concluded: "We take this issue very seriously. This motion will give us time to take a breath and look at the issue."

"It just doesn't do much, if anything, and it really doesn't recognize the importance of divestment."—Nick Licata

Licata, who called me from the bus after work yesterday ("Next stop Aurora Ave. N. and N. 85th," a robot voice announced, drowning Licata out momentarily), told me: "Basically I couldn't even get a second from the board for what I would consider a divestment lite proposal." Referring to the final proposal, he continued, "there's nothing wrong with the proposal, it just doesn't do much, if anything, and it really doesn't recognize the importance of divestment."

Licata focused his criticism on the SCERS consultant at NEPC; NEPC has issued two dismissive reports in response to city council and board directives to study divestment (even while acknowledging in one report that fossil free indexes are outperforming traditional funds.)

"I'm actually most disappointed with the consultant," Licata said. "Even though there were people there [at the meeting] like [Social Responsibility Investment manager and adviser] Bruce Herbert who make investments in that area [and] were providing good information to the board on how this was not something unusual, drastic, or radical, the board was reluctant to move forward because of the way the consultant painted a rather Draconian scenario, just saying that it could result in violations of fiduciary responsibility that would almost certainly result in losses—which I felt was painting not just a pessimistic picture, but ... an inaccurate one. "

Licata did say that a positive aspect of the resolution that passed—the one calling for quarterly updates—"gives us an opportunity to ask our consultant what is going on in the market regarding fossil fuels and hopefully nudge [the consultant] into accepting an alternative reality to the one he's painted."

2. I DISLIKE that state Sen. Bob Hasegawa (D-RPZ, 28), who's sponsoring legislation to make Sound Transit subsidize neighborhood parking permits near station areas, described Sound Transit's opposition to the proposal as "a person walking the dog, takes a dump on your front lawn, you expect them to pick it up and clean up after themselves." Yup, building major transit infrastructure on the drag near a residential neighborhood is like pooping on the lawn.

(Watch Hasegawa here, plus KIRO's interviews with neighbors who KIRO laments must pay to park "in front of their own house[s]"—as if the residents should have exclusive right to the public right of way. The fee is $65 for a two year Restricted Parking Zone (RPZ) permit—or $10 for low-income people.

Sen. Hasegawa (D-RPZ, 28) didn't disclose during testimony that he literally lives in a Sound Transit parking zone in Beacon Hill.

I also LOVE that Sen. Hasegawa (D-RPZ, 28) didn't disclose during testimony that he literally lives in a Sound Transit RPZ— Zone 28 in Beacon Hill. His staff tells me has a driveway, though. So, he's not actually proposing legislation to personally get Sound Transit to pay for his parking. 

Speaking of driveways, a 2009 Seattle Department of Transportation RPZ study done in anticipation of light rail and the expected increase in neighborhood parking demand, found that on-street parking occupancy around the Beacon Hill station was about 40 percent—meaning there was 60 percent vacancy. (SDOT says 75-85 percent occupancy represents the most efficient parking scenario.)

If providing light rail in a neighborhood has now increased parking occupancy—from commuters looking for light rail parking (and I've got a request in to see the current parking occupancy rates)—the $32.50 a year, or $5 a year for a low-income permit, is simply a reflection of a fact neighbors seem to be missing. Thanks to Sound Transit, they now live in valuable real estate.

3. I LIKE all the reporting the Stranger's Slog is doing, starting with their scoop, on SPD officer Cynthia Whitlatch and her temper tantrum arrest in the case of dastardly 70-year-old William Wingate.

Wingate, an African American Air Force vet and retired Metro bus driver, was crossing the street last summer using his golf club as a cane. Officer Whitlatch insisted the golf club was a weapon. SPD arrested him and booked him in jail.

Mayor Murray was quickly forced to issue a statement yesterday calling for an investigation.

4. I DISLIKED  that Peter Steinbrueck's Wednesday night presentation at city hall about the city's comprehensive plan found that 60 percent of Seattle residents worked outside of Seattle.

However, I LIKE the actual number better:

Checking in with Steinbrueck yesterday on that alarming number, he said the data was confusing and potentially he misinterpreted it. He now says he currently believes the data shows 38 percent of Seattle residents work outside Seattle.

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