Morning Fizz

Clinton in Seattle, Investigation at SDOT, and Costs in the Suburbs

Murray introduces Clinton in Sanders-friendly Seattle, city takes serious look at Kubly ties to Pronto, and Sound Transit review panel notes suburban costs.

By Josh Feit and Josh Kelety March 23, 2016

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1. KING 5 reported last night that the city has hired an outside attorney to investigate Seattle Department of Transportation Director Scott Kubly’s relationship with Motivate, the bike share operator that contracted to run Pronto. Pronto is the bike share nonprofit that Kubly’s SDOT helped keep afloat last year by providing three payments to Motivate totaling $305,000 that were not specifically approved by the council; Kubly used to head up Alta Bikes, which was subsequently bought out by Motivate. Last week, SDOT won council approval to buy out Pronto, something Kubly had been executing since May 2015.

Learn to trust the Fizz: Last week, after the council passed the Pronto buyout, Morning Fizz went with this headline: “Council Approves Pronto Deal, Ethics Questions Linger.” Following up on the $305,000 news, I confirmed that Kubly never presented the required letter to the city’s ethics department from the mayor drawing up safeguards to protect the city’s interests when there are potential conflicts and explaining why putting Kubly in charge of the Pronto buyout was necessary. Such a letter is required when a city employee is heading up city business with a company they formerly worked for within the last year. Kubly worked for Alta Bikes right up until July 2014 when he took the job as SDOT director, and he began overseeing the city’s efforts to buy Pronto in May 2015. Kubly’s relationship with Alta was hardly a secret. The mayor hyped it when he hired Kubly and Kubly highlights it as a bonus as the city gets into the bike share business.

Editorializing: Hopefully, the outside investigator, who singed a $20,000 contract with the city to look into the matter, won’t just grill Kubly, but will ask the mayor why he himself didn’t follow standard ethics policy by presenting the required letter to the ethics department. The ethics rules put the burden of presenting the required letter on the employee’s supervisor. Kubly’s supervisor is Mayor Murray.

2. Four days in advance of the Democratic caucuses on Saturday, March 26, former secretary of state and Democratic presidential primary frontrunner Hillary Clinton made a one-day swing through the I-5 corridor and Seattle yesterday.

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Image: Josh Kelety

After a stop in Everett at a Boeing machinist union labor hall, a fundraiser at the Medina home of Costco cofounder Jeff Brotman ($2,700 to attend), a meeting in Puyallup with native American tribal leaders, Clinton ended the day with a rally for 1,000 supporters—with more stuck outside due to a slow security clearance process for attendees—at  Seattle’s Rainier Beach High School gym.

Mayor Ed Murray got his moment in the Clinton spotlight, introducing the candidate at the rally alongside his husband. Murray, who, just days earlier, refrained from publicly supporting either candidate, endorsed Clinton the morning of her visit, saying she “understands big-city issues” and supports Seattle’s progressive initiatives and goals.

“When I see Hillary Clinton’s agenda I see Seattle’s agenda,” he told the crowd. “I see an agenda that calls for quality pre-k, that calls for raising the minimum wage. We need a progressive partner in the White House who can get things done.”

But in hyper-Sanders-friendly lefty Seattle (a Sunday Sanders rally at Key Arena drew crowds of 30,000), Murray’s Clinton endorsement feeds the narrative that Murray is ‘the man’ in a progressive city. When asked if he was concerned about this perception, he told the Seattle Times: “I hope folks don’t judge me on one endorsement.”

We asked Murray’s office if the mayor’s skittishness was an acknowledgment that he’s out of sync with the city he governs; the Seattle Times crunched the numbers and found that Seattle has “contributed more dollars to [Sanders’s] campaign, per capita, than any other large city in the country.” His aggravated spokesman, Viet Shelton, wouldn’t comment. Murray did pay tribute to Senator Sanders during his introductory remarks at the rally. “I’m glad we’ve had two [Democratic] candidates who have discussed the issues seriously with respect.”

Clinton first thanked local Washington elected officials like King County Executive Dow Constantine and Washington state senator Kevin Ranker (D–40, Orcas Island) for their endorsements. And gave a shout out to Rainier Beach High’s successful basketball and International Baccalaureate programs. (Ranker, who apparently met with Clinton briefly backstage, was giddy and in state of shock when he walked past reporters.)

And then she got into her standard stump speech, gearing it toward the general election and Seattle. Clinton stroked the crowd, praising the region’s aerospace machinists while promising to restore American manufacturing jobs. She also gave a shout out to Seattle’s $15 minimum wage; though Clinton has does not support a $15 minimum wage nationally, while Sanders does.

Clinton played up her foreign policy credentials in the context of Tuesday’s ISIS bombings in Brussels and the Republican candidates’ responses, and threw her support behind free community college, Obamacare, paid family leave, and lowering interests for student loan debt. She frequently slammed Trump and his runner-up, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, as incompetent, divisive bigots who use racism and play off economic insecurities of voters for their political gain. (Editorializing again here, but Cruz’s call to “patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods” in the U.S. was a chilling display of his fascist leanings.)

Denouncing the other extremist in the race, Clinton said: “The stakes [in this election] get higher every day,” Clinton said. “This is a contest between fundamentally different views of our country, our values, and our future. We can’t let a demagogue incite violence.”

With the exception of noting Sanders’s calls for free college tuition at four-year public colleges, Clinton didn’t waste much time catering to likely Sanders supporters; after last night’s Clinton win in Arizona, she has a 300 plus pledged delegate lead. “I do differ with my esteemed opponent who says free tuition for everybody,” she said. “I want to concentrate on middle class families, working families, poor families. Personally I think that if you can afford to send your child to college like Donald trump we should not pay for you to send your child for free.”

A few anti-Clinton protesters showed up outside the rally condemning her “super predators” remark in the 1990’s and her ties to Wall Street. Socialist council member Kshama Sawant—an outspoken Sanders fan—made an appearance as well holding a sign reading, “I’m not with her.”

The Sanders camp announced last night that he’ll be holding a rally at the 50,000 thousand person capacity venue of Safeco field Friday.

3. The Sound Transit board is set to approve ST3, a $30 to $40 billion light rail ballot measure they'll send to voters at their Thursday meeting.  But there’s a bit of data that the agency’s own expert review panel laid out in a letter to Sound Transit that raises a fundamental question about the decision to prioritize building out a super regional spine (north to Everett and south to Tacoma) over building up the network in the currently defined region served by ST 1 and 2—particularly in the Seattle core.

The projected cost per rider on new projects in Seattle are in the $2 range while suburban projects are in the $5 to $9 range, with some projects spiking at $16 to $17 per rider.

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