Morning Fizz

Hippie vs. Hippie in Seattle; Democrat vs. Democrat in Olympia

Caffeinated news featuring a debate about the environment and a debate about transportation.

By Josh Feit February 20, 2015

Caffeinated News


1. The public committee created by the parks department and city council ordinance to help decide whether the city should greenlight a $100,000 grant to build a controversial dual-use bike and pedestrian trail in the Cheasty greenbelt in Southeast Seattle held its final meeting last night at the Rainier Community Center. The committee voted 7-4 in favor.

The pro-side, the younger members and the lone African American on the committee, cited the benefits of providing access to the forest (for both the public and the forest) and said there should actually be more cross trails in the forest.

The con-side, the four older members including a neighbor who was worried about parking, said the committee had exceeded the council order by considering more than one trail. Opponents also raised warnings about the wetlands.

One of the younger members, sporting a beard obviously, noted that building a trail, according to the geotech report, could actually help the stability of the wetland.

The crowd mirrored the lopsided committee vote with the majority of public testimony—an hour's worth—coming out in favor of the trail. Lots of them were sporting blue Cheasty bike trail stickers.

It was an opponent who spoke during audience testimony, Ruth Williams, president of the Thornton Creek Alliance (from North Seattle), who had the best line of the night, though: Saying the city should follow the "Right activity/Right place" principle, she said: "You wouldn't play Frisbee in the library."

Some testimony from the pro-side featured a pretty good sound bite as well. Lisa Miller, executive director of the Washington Student Cycling League, who—highlighting the need for in-city bike trails— lamented that less than five percent of her members lived in Seattle and said creating the trail would help Seattle fight its "Nature deficit disorder."

What do I LIKE about all of this?

My main takeaway from the meeting: Oh, beloved Seattle, it's hippie vs. hippie out there, with one camp coming up to read poems about connecting with nature and the other camp saying we needed to leave nature and the animals be.

I also liked that one of the committee members, another bearded younger man, Weston Brinkley, an environmental research consultant, cut through the hippie rhetoric on both sides with some practical reality: "We can't deny the fact that this is an urban space. Whether we approve this trail or not, people are going to be there." His 'yay' vote: Build a trail to govern the forest traffic.

2. Yesterday's state senate transportation committee meeting went well for Republicans: Despite not having enough votes to pass the transportation gas tax package on their own, enough Democrats, including Seattle state senator Jamie Pedersen (D-43, Capitol Hill), voted for it.

File that under DISLIKE.

Democrats like senator Pedersen (and green senator Marko Liias, D-21, Mukilteo) supported the legislation despite a slew of conservative provisions—it prevents the governor from enacting carbon emission standards; it shifts money out of the toxic cleanup account; it shifts roughly $1.2 billion out of the general fund by dedicating sales tax on transportation projects to transportation projects only; and it doesn't give Sound Transit enough taxing authority—because they want to keep the transportation package in play thinking that the liberal house will be able to amend it. Pedersen, who also says he supported the package because it comes with $1.75 billion for his district's 520 project, says keeping the package alive will help education funding in the session endgame as well.

Here's his reasoning. By approving the $15 billion package, the GOP has put money on the table in sales tax revenue. That money is currently tied to the GOP demand to shift transportation sales taxes to transportation projects only, but, says Pedersen, with the full $15 billion in play (and currently "insufficient signatures" on their "shift" provision), the Democrats will be able to exploit GOP support for the transportation package and turn it into tax dollars for McCleary K-12 funding.

However, here's the bigger picture for Democrats: By giving the GOP anti-tax ideologues cover with a handful of Democratic votes, the Democratic caucus is showing a lack of discipline by letting the Republican party succeed rather than exposing the GOP's internal weakness.

"Until they can assure they have enough Republican votes for a floor vote," Southeast Seattle state senator Pramila Jayapal (D-37, SE Seattle) says, "why would we support something that's this regressive and that undermines the environment?" 

One amendment that did pass during the transportation package debate came from the Republican side. It says no money from the transportation package can go to fund Seattle's Bertha-burdened tunnel project. Jayapal was one of three Democratic 'No' votes on the committee who teamed up with her colleagues, senators Cyrus Habib (D-48, Kirkland) and Annette Cleveland (D-49, Vancouver), to offer a barrage of failing amendments, including progressive stuff from Jayapal like replacing a portion of the gas tax with a carbon tax (that would help fund the working families tax credit), giving full funding authority to Sound Transit, and increasing the MVET portion of light rail funding while decreasing the sales tax portion to lessen the regressive blow.

In a formal press release after the vote, Jayapal added:  "I can’t in good conscience vote in favor of a measure that forces a parent choose between healthy lungs for her child and transit that allows her to get to work."

3. A Like? and a tunnel alert: One amendment that did pass during the transportation package debate came from the Republican side. It says no money from the transportation package can go to fund Seattle's Bertha-burdened tunnel project. It's a symbolic gesture because there isn't any money in the package for the tunnel. 

Pedersen, who voted against the anti-Seattle stunt, managed to strip out language from the amendment that reiterated the infamous "stick-it to-Seattle" clause that says Seattle property owners are on the hook for any cost overruns on the tunnel project.


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