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1. The first big standoff on the new city council is in play (behind the scenes!) this week. The duel is between the two friendly, smiley-faced, white guys—veteran council member Mike O’Brien and newbie Rob Johnson.

The council’s premier nerds—O’Brien is the former land use planning committee chair who now chairs transportation, while Johnson has taken over as chair of the land use planning committee—are vying for the Seattle City Council spot on the Sound Transit board.

Both gee-whiz policy aces—O’Brien looks like a 1970s tennis star and Johnson looks like a 1950s sitcom soda shop teen—are currently waiting for King County executive Dow Constantine to appoint them; or reappoint them in O’Brien’s case. O’Brien currently sits on the board along with mayor Ed Murray.

Will Constantine bump O'Brien for Johnson?

Constantine is certainly a Johnson fan. He gave Johnson his early endorsement in last year’s city council race and toasted/roasted him at Johnson’s December going-away ceremony at the Transportation Choices Coalition holiday party. (Before getting elected to city council, Johnson was the executive director of TCC. Constantine’s lead lobbyist also chairs TCC’s board.)

The ST board is about to choose corridor options—light rail from Ballard to SeaTac? Ballard to West Seattle?—and the price tag for this year's regional ballot measure, ST3. O’Brien has been instrumental in making sure Seattle and a second downtown tunnel are in the mix—making the case that a successful regional system needs to prioritize Seattle investments.

Constantine's office would not comment on the appointment, but he is prepping the appointments as we speak.

2. The results of two New Year Stuart Elway polls are out: The first, Elway’s so-called “Voter Outlook Index” measures how voters expect “things will go” over the next year; and the second tracks which issues voters are most concerned with as the legislative session in Olympia starts.

“Voters Head into New Year on a Downbeat,” Elway writes in his “Voter Outlook Index,” where he found a big drop off in outlook from the last four years.

Elway assesses voter outlook in four areas: in the country as a whole, at the state level, at the local level, and in your own household.

People were gloomiest about the country. Comparing sentiment to last year’s findings at this time, Elway writes:

The country dropped a net 22 points—from 60 percent “better” vs. 34 percent “worse” to 46 percent to 42 percent last week; the state dropped a net 14 points—from 64 percent “better” vs. 28 percent “worse” to 57 percent to 35 percent; community dropped a net 10 points—from 68 percent to 22 percent to 61 percent to 26 percent; household dropped a net 14 points—from 77 percent to 16 percent to 68 percent to 21 percent.

King County voters were the most optimistic (trending up since Elway’s last pulse check in July, though still well below previous years) while voters in Eastern Washington were just plain bummed out.

Republicans, people without college degrees, older voters, and lower income voters were the most pessimistic.

As for voters' top priorities in Olympia: Education, as it did last year, tops the list. However, whereas 42 percent of voters flagged education as the top priority last year, only 33 percent do this year.

Democratic voters were most concerned with education. Elway maps out the breakdown between Democrats and Republicans. Oh, and "Independents" (yeah, right).

Elway writes:

Democrats were predominantly concerned with education (44 percent) with the economy second (36 percent) and social services well back at No. 3 (18 percent). Independents’ focus was similarly concentrated, but they had the economy No. 1 (33 percent) just ahead of education (30 percent), with taxes a distant third (14 percent). Republicans put equal emphasis on economy (24 percent), taxes (24 percent) and education (23 percent).

With McCleary looming—the legislature’s about $5 billion shy of meeting the Supreme Court’s mandate because of lagging teachers’ salaries—Elway also asked where people wanted to get the money. There was no clear answer other than that the least favored approach was raising taxes.

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