Morning Fizz

GOP in Oblivion, Bikes in Forests, and Herbold in District 1

Caffeinated News featuring light rail money, bike trail controversy, and a new campaign committee.

By Josh Feit February 3, 2015

Caffeinated News

1. As I noted in yesterday's "Ok, Seattle, go ahead and tax yourselves into oblivion"-Afternoon Jolt (that was state representative Ed Orcutt, R-20, Kalama, by the way, belittling the idea of giving sound transit the taxing authority to extend light rail), the house transportation committee approved legislation to authorize Sound Transit funding.

(Another zinger from Rep. Orcutt, who joined all the Republicans on the committee in voting against the bill: "I'm always a little nervous about giving out new taxing authority because the reason people ask for new taxing authority is because they want to use it.")

But on the senate side yesterday, two Republicans, including the transportation committee chair, state senator Curtis King (R-14, Yakima), signed on to a pro-Sound Transit bill that would allow locals to join ST's taxing district if they wanted. 

The legislation, sponsored by the Democratic contingent from the 22nd Legislative District in Thurston County around Olympia—senator Karen Fraser, D-22, Thurston County, and representatives Chris Reykdal, D-22, Tumwater, and Sam Hunt, D-22, Olympia— would allow Sound Transit to expand its boundaries west so that I-5 corridor cities which are in counties that are "contiguous" to existing ST counties, like Thurston county's Olympia, could be included in the future if voters wanted.

Light rail to Olympia? ST 4?

"We have had inadequate bus service from Olympia, the state capital, and major points north, like Tacoma, SeaTac, and Seattle" senator Fraser said. "The current system of funding regional transit between cities is inadequate. In the Olympia area, people are so tired of being stuck and driving through the JBLM congestion, and then the Tacoma congestion, and then the Federal Way congestion, and then the Seattle congestion. People are tired of driving. They would like better transportation between Olympia and the major urban areas where we go for all kinds of reasons—business, medical, cultural, family visits, you know, everything. The transportation planners in this state have underestimated the need."

Senator Fraser's future vision of an I-5 megalopolis transit corridor.

And do the Republicans who signed on agree with Fraser's future vision of an I-5 megalopolis transit corridor? "With redistricting," Fraser notes about senator Randi Becker, R-2, Eatonville, along with committee chair senator King, one of the two GOP co-sponsors, "her district represents a large portion of northern Thurston county now. So, all the urban and suburban area east of Lacey now. So, I thought she might like to sign on. She represents a lot of people who would potentially use the service. Out of courtesy, if nothing else, I talked to her about it."

While the Republicans in the house rejected the local authority taxing bill yesterday and no Republicans have signed the senate version, Fraser's bipartisan I-5 corridor Sound Transit bill continues to make it plain, as new polling shows, that mass transit is gaining popularity—and isn't just for Seattle liberals anymore.

And this brings me back to representative Orcutt's quip about oblivion: It's not just Seattle that could be voting on light rail expansion. The Sound Transit bill that the house transportation committee passed yesterday gives taxing authority to Pierce and Snohomish Counties as well as King.

Add in Thurston, and it looks like Orcutt, speaking of oblivion, is siding with a vanishing POV.

2. Mixed use isn't just for buildings anymore. It's also—according to a recent letter  from the Parks Board of Commissioners—for greenbelts too.  "In a dense mixed-use city, we need to keep our eyes open for opportunities where it is appropriate to have mixed-use open spaces that invite more people into our parks and give access to nearby nature," parks board member Brice Maryman tells me.

We touched in on the proposed Cheasty Trails and Bike Park (CTBP) controversy last summer—a standoff over a tract of forest adjacent to Rainier Vista that bike advocates want to revamp to include bike and ped trails while longtime neighbors want to preserve it as a natural space.

And last week, the debate between those "two deeply held Seattle values," as Maryman, who helped write the January 26 letter, puts it, has taken on urgency as the Project Advisory Team (PAT) homes in on making its recommendation to the parks board and, in turn, the city council.

According to the anxious parks board, which greenlighted an upstart citizens group to revamp the forest last year, the PAT has now limited the idea, which was originally seen as a pilot project to test out the verboten idea of making forest land more user friendly, to just a basic perimeter trail rather than an interior network. (The council singed off on a $100,000 grant for the perimeter plan.)

The problem with that limited approach, according to Joel DeJong, general manager of Traitor Cycles, a longtime advocate for remaking Cheasty, is that a perimeter-only design would acutally set the concept up to fail. 

"It’s the equivalent of a neighborhood group applying for funds for a community kitchen in a new building that is being developed," DeJong says, and  "the City Council approves the funds, but includes a clause in the ordinance that says the group can only build the kitchen, not the rest of the building."

Maryman and the Board of Park Commissioners agree, spelling out DeJong's point in more technical terms.

Under the header "Unintended Consequences," the letter to the mayor and city council says:

By only building the perimeter trail, significant user groups are effectively denied the opportunity to use the space, notably the students and parents living in Rainier Vista and served by Kimball Elementary. From both a race and Social Justice and Safe Routes to School perspective, we have concerns about this lack of access...

The one aspect of the plan that everyone agrees on is the importance of forest restoration. Our hope was that by having the bike partners implementers and stewards fo the forest, the implementers and stewards of the forest ... By only developing the perimeter trail, current plans may hinder this goal. Best practices for mountain bike trail building ... recommend [discouraging bikers from] building their own trails. Without planning for and accommodating these users, we fear that ... [impromptu] lines will be created through the forest, potentially damaging newly planted natives.

3. As we reported last week, longtime Nick Licata aide Lisa Herbold was considering a run for the open council seat in the newly created 1st District in West Seattle.

Herbold, taking a big step in that direction, registered a campaign committee with the Seattle Ethics and Elections office yesterday afternoon.




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