1. The University of Washington’s U-Pass program, a subsidized transit pass for faculty, staff, and students, is in jeopardy, according to staff at the U.W.
The popular program—65 percent of U.W. faculty and staff have a U-Pass—has been around since 1991.
Ever since the director of the U.W.’s transportation division, Josh Kavanagh, left his job earlier this year, his former staff, which oversees transit programs for U.W.—and which has achieved a remarkable 40/20 split in bus commutes versus single occupancy vehicle trips—has been wary that programming and staff is on the budgeting chopping block. (By the way, the other 40 percent is divvied up between pedestrian commuting and bikes.)
About 30,000 people work at the U.W. and U-Pass holders pay a quarterly subsidized fee for the pass—about $150 per quarter. (Students, 97 percent have a U-Pass, pay for it as part of tuition and so wouldn’t be affected by the budgeting cut.)
The subsidies for the staff passes come from parking fees at the U.W.; it’s a tricky model because the more successful transit programs are, the fewer dollars to fund transit.
Exacerbating the tension: there's even less money from parking at the U.W.'s disposal. A city audit found that the U.W. hadn't been paying the city’s commercial parking tax and the city made them pay up and start paying it regularly. This has siphoned even more parking revenues away from the program.
Supporters of the program have been urging the administration to increase the quarterly fee to help the program. Conversely, union reps, who also champion the idea of getting workers onto transit, have been arguing to lower the fee or make it an outright benefit.
The irony of the city's commercial parking tax, which is undermining the transit program at the U, is that the city wants to upzone the district for more density to make it easier to get around on mass transit.
There are nearly 315,000 trips to the U.W. every week.
2. The Washington State Democrats passed a charter amendment at their state convention this weekend to address concerns about transgender rights. Current rules governing local representation at the state party level mandate that the Party’s state committee members must be evenly split between men and woman. The rule alienated many transgender people who may face discrimination about their gender identity or don’t identify as strictly male or female—but as non-binary.
The new language doesn’t formally address the non-binary issue. It states:
Any bylaw or rule at any level of the Washington State Democratic Party that is meant to provide for the equitable participation of both males and females shall be so construed so as to also provide for the equitable participation of individuals of any other gender identity, with the provision that the individual may choose to participate as a member of the group of males or females but not both groups simultaneously within the same context, while retaining and respecting their own individual gender identity regardless of their choice of participatory group.
Tara Gallagher, the mother of a non-binary teenager who pushed for a more comprehensive charter amendment during this year’s caucus process when transgender Party members felt excluded by the Party process tells Fizz: “The charter amendment that passed does not address non-binary representation at all. Progress is being made, the state party is definitely aware of the issue, but it will take time and continuing gentle pressure to be sure it is fully resolved.”
Gallagher says she plans to push for stronger language at the September Washington State Democrats Central Committee meeting.
Meanwhile, the Democrats passed a resolution about Presidential delegate representation that directs the national party to set up a process to address the same male/female rules that govern national delegate selection to make it more inclusive of transgender rights.
Breanna Anderson, the transgender woman going for a national spot as a Bernie Sanders delegate I wrote about for the magazine this month—she had made it from the precinct level in Kirkland to county level—didn’t make it to national.
She called the delegate resolution that passed “a little vague,” but added: “However, with the passage of the new rule and visibility of the issue it was a highly ‘teachable’ moment. The convo continues,” she said.
3. A couple of readers report they were polled about the race in the 7th Congressional District—the race between state senator Pramila Jayapal (D-37, Southeast Seattle), King County council member Joe McDermott, and state representative Brady Walkinshaw (D-43, Capitol Hill) to fill retiring liberal icon U.S representative Jim McDermott’s seat.
The poll reportedly says Jayapal was endorsed by the Stranger. While the influential weekly did endorse Jayapal in her past campaign for state senate (ditto Joe McDermott and Walkinshaw in past campaigns), they have not endorsed yet in this year’s race for U.S. congress.
The poll also asked voters how important it is that the next member of congress be a parent. Jayapal has a son. Neither McDermott nor Walkinshaw (both gay and married) have kids.