Caffeinated News

1. Should we be with nature? Or should we let nature be? That's the hippie vs. hippie question dogging city hall public policy makers right now in southeast Seattle. I've got a story all about it in the April issue of Seattle Met—looking at the big battle: bike trail or no bike trail in Beacon Hill's Cheasty Greenspace

This rarefied Seattle-only squabble between rival factions of environmentalists over the fate of the green space continued this week as the Urban Forestry Commission released a draft set of recommendations opposing plans for a bike trail while activists, who have been restoring the forest in preparation for a bike trail, responded.

A sampling... The Urban Forestry Commission's eight-point letter, which goes on to cite parking problems (point six) because it will "attract out-of-neighborhood users," began with these basic objections: First, "mountain biking can be expected to cause serious erosion to a site known to be a landslide hazard/steep slope area and likely also is an erosion hazard area, second, "mountain biking can be expected to result in too much loud, sudden noise that will frighten wildlife. A Cooper’s hawk nest has been located on the site. The male and female are likely within the 20 individuals said to have been counted in the whole City during the last Audubon bird count. Other wildlife species/individuals have not yet counted by Parks as part of pre-project analysis and thus are vulnerable to not being recognized in post-project evaluation."

But citing a Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation-commissioned geotech study that a-okayed the trail and another Seattle parks and rec study that didn't find any rare or endangered species, the Friends of Cheasty Greenspace responded, beginning with this: "[UFC's] reasons [are] based on the false axiom that bicycle trails and their use cause substantially more damage than pedestrian trails."

Here's the Urban Forestry Commission's recommendations against the bike trail. And here's the Friends of Cheasty Greenspace's response.

 2. It was no April Fool's joke, though at first many thought it was when 17-year King County Council fixture Larry Phillips announced yesterday he was not seeking reelection this year

Phillips's announcement creates the possibility of yet another cattle-call election in Seattle; his district stretches from north downtown through Queen Anne and Magnolia and up through Ballard in northwest Seattle, basically the 36th Legislative District (for the state legislature). It also overlaps with the sixth and seventh newly drawn districted city council positions. The open seat for former 36th district state representative Mary Lou Dickerson brought a parade of hopefuls in 2012—inlcuding Phillips's son; former port commissioner Gael Tarleton eventually won that election over progressive organizer Noel Frame.

As for the overlapping city council turf, it's notable that while the nine positions overall have drawn 40 or so candidates, only three of that large crew is running in the seventh and sixth collectively, including incumbent Sally Bagshaw in the seventh and incumbent Mike O'Brien in the sixth; O'Brien has drawn the lone challenger. Is this such content turf that Phillips' open seat will also fail to attract a big crowd? Or will the opening instigate a pile up of hopefuls.

State representative Reuven Carlyle (D-36, Ballard), would be an obvious front-runner if he chose to jump in; he told me he would eventually give it "some serious thought," but his head is deep in state budget negotiations right now; Carlyle chairs the house finance committee.

3. Speaking of Representative Carlyle, he's been criticizing the senate budget proposal for relying too much on pot revenue, tweeting out this week that the GOP budget relies on "Seven million people...smoking a lot of pot."

This morning, Carlyle continued hazing the Republicans. He told me: "I guess they're hoping [to] lower tuition on college student and that the students spend the extra money on pot"—a reference to the GOP proposal to lower college tuition by 25 percent.

Carlyle was responding to a GOP response to his criticism of their pot plan which relies on more than $900 million in pot revenues over the next four years; the Democrats say that's excessively...high. The Republicans pointed out to me that they only budget $89 million more in pot revenue than the house Democrats' budget.

I asked Carlyle to respond, and for starters he said a big problem with the GOP estimates is that they aren't making policy choices that help bolster pot revenues—they tax it at a higher rate than the Democrats would (37 percent vs. 30 percent) and they sweep money that's supposed to go to local jurisdictions. Those choices, he argues, won't protect the legal market from losing ground to the black market and will incentivize hundreds of cities to go the moratorium route on pot sales, decreasing revenues.

Carlyle's bigger complaint: The Republicans are violating the initiative by using pot money for the general fund rather than for health care, prevention, and drug programs as the voters mandated.

He also lambasted the GOP—and their budget leader state senator Andy Hill (R-45, Redmond) in specific— for relying on a historical unknown like pot sales with no data to look at, while the GOP criticized the Democrats' capital gains tax budget centerpiece for being "too volatile" and thus an unconstitutional source for meeting the McCleary K–12 funding mandate.

"Everyone should be enraged with the duplicitous deceit of our good friends the Republicans who wave their arms in the air about the initiative process and then balance their budget on a cloud of pot; that's what's unconstitutional."

4. And a final note on the GOP budget. It doesn't fund the Service Employees International Union 775 state home care contract.

Last year, I noted that the lefty SEIU 775 endorsed GOP budget leader Hill in the pivotal election for control of the state senate.

I wonder how they feel about that endorsement now.

A press release condemning the Republican budget from SEIU 775 this week groused:

Unlike the Governor and House proposed budgets, the Senate budget rejects the home care union contract and insists that it be renegotiated to remove any retirement benefit for caregivers. Caregivers currently receive no retirement benefits, and many aren’t even eligible for social security. The contract includes a small defined contribution retirement benefit for caregivers.
 
“Home care workers make an average of about $12 per hour, making it impossible for them to save money for retirement,” said SEIU 775 Secretary-Treasurer Adam Glickman. “This forces them to work until they need long-term care themselves. We’re deeply disappointed that the Senate Republican budget insists on forcing thousands of caregivers to spend their final years in poverty with no recognition of the years of dedicated work they do.”