Caffeinated News

1. I LIKE the dramatic ending of yesterday's hearing in the state senate government operations committee. The committee was taking up state senator Marko Liias' (D-21, Mukilteo) bill to regulate paid signature gathering businesses; the bill would require paid signature gatherers, for example, to provide a valid ID and go through a training—and require the business themselves to list all the initiatives their employees are canvassing on. 

The unruly hearing featured committee chair, and bill opponent, senator Pam Roach (R-31, Auburn) giving a Sarah Palin-style desultory mashup speech ending with her assessment that the legislation was "not what is simply stated as just a bill;" extended testimony from initiative hawker Tim Eyman who decried mandating "having the government giving the people permission to exercise their first amendment right to petition the government," and a hall-of-mirrors moment when Senator Roach extolled the virtue of unbridled debate, but then didn't hear testimony from opponents of the bill.

That loopy moment led to the grand finale when senator Liias complained that the secretary of state didn't get a chance to testify for the bill, noting that her office's testimony would have set the record straight about bill opponent senator Don Benton's (R-17, Vancouver) assertion that Liias was misrepresenting the bill. "I guess I was a little offended that senator Benton tried to suggest that I was presenting evidence that wasn't correct," Liias said. (Benton didn't believe the state police hadn't been able to track down fraudulent signature gatherers; Liias says the secretary of state has now submitted written testimony detailing the claim.)

At that point, after senator Roach, announced that she "has to have control of the committee, really," she gaveled the whole meeting down. Watch it:


And watch the whole wild show starting at the 31 minute mark.

By the way, on Eyman's catchy soundbite about the first amendment, Senator Liias notes that it's fair to require people who are being paid to petition the government—"just like lobbyists," he says—to go through minimal disclosure like lobbyists do.

2. Following up on yesterday's Jolt about Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) data showing there are more paid parking spots citywide than there were 10 years ago (a data point that indicates SDOT is trying to create more open parking spaces by forcing more drivers to get in and out): I LIKE that the number of paid parking spots actually decreased in the city's densest areas during the last three years—1,444 to 1,169 in the commercial core according to SDOT stats, for example, even as the city's population has spiked disproportionately to recent growth trends in that same period. (Between 2000 and 2010 the city's population increased by 7.9 percent, but in just the last four years alone, the city has already grown by 5.2 percent.)

SDOT spokesman Rick Sherdian attributes lost parking spots to "both transportation projects using curbspace and private development temporarily or permanently using right-of-way for construction purposes." Specifically, Sheridan notes that, "the commercial core includes street parking removed over time for the Alaskan Way Viaduct project. [And] in Capitol Hill and Pike-Pine, some of the street parking change is due to the construction of the streetcar and the Sound Transit Light Rail station."

In addition to light rail construction, here's the part to LIKE: Other drags on parking spots include 30 spaces taken away for the 2nd Avenue bike lane (leaving 59 spaces); 81 spots (46 paid, 35 unpaid) for bike share stations citywide; and seven spots (two unpaid, five paid) for five microparks throughout the city. The reason to LIKE this, beyond the obvious reason that bike infrastructure is intended to take cars off the street—decreasing the need for parking spots in the first place—is that the drop in spots is corresponding with an influx of people to the city, evidently creating a more mixed approach to city planning.

Asked to address the recent loss of some paid parking, Sheridan notes the 500,000 parking spots citywide (paid and unpaid that I cited in yesterday's Jolt) and tells me:

"In a growing Seattle, we need to maximize the safe movement of people and goods using our limited right of way, especially in denser neighborhoods. Sometimes parking is removed to enhance safety as seen with protected bike lanes and crosswalk improvements. In other instances it allows us to more efficiently move people as seen with transit-only lanes or turn pockets for cars. However, as we undertake such efforts, SDOT seeks to preserve as much parking as possible."

"Without a clear plan to replace coal with renewable energy and energy efficiency technology, Washington will miss a one-time opportunity to create thousands of jobs for Washington families."

3.  The Sierra Club DISLIKES a bill that was introduced in the state legislature today to phase local utilities such as PSE, Avista, and Pacific Power off out-of-state coal-fired electricity from Colstrip, Montana.

Why would the Sierra Club DISLIKE an environmental bill like that?

Because unlike 2011's successful plan to phase out TransAlta's Centralia, Washington coal-fired plant, the timeline is 30 years (it was 15 for the Centralia plant) and the legislation doesn't lay out a plan for how to repalce the power, a key component of the TransAlta plan.

Meg Matthews, spokeswoman for the Sierra Club explains: "Without a clear plan to replace coal with renewable energy and energy efficiency technology, Washington will miss a one-time opportunity to create thousands of jobs for Washington families."