Morning Fizz

Ethics Commission DISLIKES Murray's Response to Sawant; the Feds LOVE SDOT

Ethics commission raises First Amendment questions about Murray proposal; U.S. DOT raises a toast to SDOT road redesigns.

By Josh Feit June 5, 2015

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 1. The U.S. Department of Transportation LIKES three Seattle Department of Transportation road diets rechannelizations road safety redesigns.

In a new national report on what are known as "road diets" (a misnomer since the process actually redesigns roads to carry more people not less thanks to typical changes such as adding bike lanes, sidewalks, bus hubs, and pedestrian islands), the U.S. DOT cites three Seattle projects as exemplars for increasing bus ridership, reducing collisions, clamping down on speeding drivers (a 90 percent drop in top speed), improving pedestrian safety, and increasing bike use. Oh, and, "the study confirmed the corridor [Stone Way] has sustained its capacity to carry the same number of motor vehicles in spite of the reduction in travel lanes." 

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Taking a close look at the Dexter "right size," the Nickerson safety redesign, and the Stone Way upgrade, U.S. DOT cheered SDOT's success at using smart traffic math—going from four car lanes to two, adding buffered bike lanes and floating bus stops, and adding crosswalks, curb bulb outs, and pedestrian islands—to make roads more efficient and multimodal. 

The conclusion about Stone Way tells the story:

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While it may sound counterintuitive that getting rid of car lanes could help traffic flow, SDOT's turn lane Tetris—rightsizing down to one dedicated left-hand turn lane, for example, rather than having one lane double as a through lane and a turn lane, eases congestion. (I wrote an Urban Upgrade for the magazine about this very auto alchemy on 23rd last year.)

2. The Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission DISLIKES mayor Ed Murray's response to city council member Kshama Sawant's election tabling at city hall. Last month, Murray proposed amending (currently vague?) ethics rules banning elected officials from using city hall resources for electioneering. Murray, along with council member Tom Rasmussen, proposed adding language that would specifically prohibit what Sawant did: setting up election campaign tables in the city hall common space adjacent to (and during) a city sponsored forum. (The event in question starred Sawant.)

However, heeding the objections outlined in a May 21 ACLU letter about Murray's proposal ("From the ACLU-WA’s perspective, the versions circulated thus far do raise significant constitutional issues—they are drafted in a way likely to be interpreted as vague and overbroad from a First Amendment perspective"), the city's ethics commission this week gave the thumbs down to Murray's proposal. Go to the 1:04 mark and watch the ethics board say they can't endorse the proposal (they give it a "B minus") and discourage Murray's representative's timid overtures to bring it back.

"Clearly you've heard what we've said, but given the lawyer in me, if [the city attorney] has heard this, I think it's clear where most of our concern is about whether or not this stands any kind of scrutiny," ethics commissioner Eileen Norton told Murray policy adviser David Mendoza and council staffer Lish Whitson, concluding: "Were we unclear with our issues with the current language? Ask, because we'll be even more blunt."

3. CORRECTION: Yesterday's Jolt reported that King County executive Dow Constantine and many of his staffers, including his chief of staff Sung Yang, had contributed to Sawant opponent Pamela Banks. I also reported that mayor Ed Murray's new office of economic development director Brian Surratt had contributed to Banks. This was inaccurate. I regret the error. I was viewing a separate campaign finance report for West Seattle District One candidate Shannon Braddock.

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