Caffeinated News

1. Right before the city council announced the eight finalists for the appointment to fill Sally Clark's open seat yesterday afternoon, they unanimously approved another (well-deserved) and equally significant appointment. And as opposed to just eight months, this appointment lasts through mid-2018.

Appointed by mayor Ed Murray, Seattle Greenways leader Cathy Tuttle was named to the Seattle School Traffic Safety Committee. The gig may sound inconsequential, but Tuttle—the subject of a Q&A in the upcoming May issue of Seattle Met—is intent on using the position to overhaul Seattle's streets. (Greenways use a combo of traffic calming design, signage, and bike infrastructure to level the right-of-way playing field between people on foot and on bikes with people driving cars.)

Just like social conservative activists see churches as ready-made boons for organizing, Tuttle sees schools and the walkshed zones around them as a base to make good on her vision. She wants to build a pedestrian and bike-friendly network that connects neighborhoods to major arterials in a truly multimodal city planning scheme—rather than the current one that's largely designed for people in cars.

Tuttle, a former city planner at the Seattle parks department who moved to Sweden for a few years and was blown away by the pedestrian and bike infrastructure there, returned to Seattle in 2008 and, appalled at how dangerous it was for her kids to get to school ("You take your life into your hands,") started a greenway project in her Wallingford neighborhood in 2011.

The grassoots effort quickly blossomed into a collection of similar ped activists throughout the city. She connected with Seattle Children Hospital's Paulo Nunes-Ueno, for example (now the transit division director at SDOT), who was similarly busy building ped-friendly infrastructure in Sand Point.

A policy maker high up the food chain at SDOT recently told me that Seattle Greenways, now made up of 20 neighborhood groups around the city, is replacing the influence of the antiurbanist neighborhood councils. Tuttle's appointment is certainly evidence of that observation.

2. Speaking of the council's pending council appointment, Roger Pence, a longtime Southeast Seattle neighborhood activist and retired community outreach staffer at Sound Transit, got into it over email with council president Tim Burgess yesterday.

Upset at what he saw as a cloaked voting process, Pence wrote to Burgess yesterday afternoon that "the law permits discussion of certain topics in executive session, but decisions must be made in public. I'm very disappointed. That's not at all what I expected." 

"I think any citizen would
be within their rights to demand to know which council members wanted which applicants to
 move forward."
Burgess emailed back, repeating what he told me yesterday after the vote when I raised the same open meetings law questions with the council president—basically that the council members simply discussed the applicants in the closed-door session as a group, and then, perfectly legally in smaller followup confabs, Burgess polled people to see who had enough support to make the cut. 

Burgess told Pence:

"Actually, Roger, we did not vote in executive session. At that session I told my colleagues that I would include any applicant that had three or more council members wanting to advance a name. Over the weekend and this morning, I heard from my colleagues on who they wanted to advance...if any applicant was favored by three or more, I included them in the motion. This is very similar to how any piece of legislation advances; council members talk to their colleagues and learn their thinking, etc. The city attorney had two lawyers in our meeting last Friday to make absolutely certain we did not vote, reach consensus, or otherwise make any decision. Sorry for any confusion about how this final list was developed."

Pence shot back: "Tim, what you describe sounds just like voting. Simply omitting the formalities (moved, seconded, carried) doesn't change the substance of what went on. I think any citizen would be within their rights to demand to know which council members wanted which applicants to move forward."

I asked Burgess who voted for who, but he said that wouldn't be appropriate.

3. Governor Jay Inslee's office is pissed about a robocall assault organized by the Washington State Republican Party targeting the governor's office to protest Inslee's 7 percent capital gains tax proposal (it kicks in once an individual earns $25,000 in income from the sale of a stock, or $50,000 on a joint return, bringing in $798 million over the two-year budget cycle). 

Reporting 4,000 calls yesterday from people prompted by emails and robocalls (starring GOP state chair Susan Hutchison), Inslee's communications director David Postman emailed the media this morning saying the GOP was "downright giddy" about the prospect of shutting down the government in their stand against new revenue. He also called the GOP's misnomer talking point ("a capital gains income tax"..."not sure what that is, but it's nothing we've proposed") "a political Manticore designed to frighten hardworking Washingtonians." Postman is a well-read fellow, if you don't know what a Manticore is, it's worth checking Google.

Fewer than 1 percent of Washington residents would pay the capital gains tax, though, GOP budget leader (and possible GOP gubernatorial candidate in 2016) state senator Andy Hill (R-45, Redmond) would likely have to pay. According to financial disclosure reports, Hill has 21 brokered or managed funds—and 20 worth at least $100,000 and one worth between $40,000 and $99,000—that could be subject to the tax. Four of those funds earned at least $100,000 according to Hill’s latest disclosure report. 

In conjunction with the GOP robocalls, a business political committee is running ads supporting Senator Hill's no-new-taxes budget proposal. The PAC, the Recover Washington PAC, has raised $137,000 in direct contributions and in-kind contributions from the National Association of Realtors and the Washington Association of Realtors this year.

From Postman's email:

Fear mongering seems to be the key GOP budget strategy. Senate Republicans’ main talking point for the past two weeks has been that they’re willing—if not downright giddy—to shut down government to stop a budget that includes any new revenue. And the state GOP and its business friends can’t just criticize a capital gains tax because it only impacts fewer than 1 percent of the wealthiest Washingtonians and is popular among the public as a way to fund education. So, instead, they create the mythical “capital gains income tax,” a political Manticore designed to frighten hardworking Washingtonians.

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