City Hall

Friday LIKES & DISLIKES: Renters, Bike Share, Heroin, Electric Cars, the North Precinct, Antisemitism, and More

Lots of people's opinions about this week's news.

By Josh Feit September 16, 2016

It's been a busy news week, making it a  perfect time to bring back PubliCola's Friday LIKES & DISLIKES column.

1. A drug epidemic task force appointed by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, King County Executive Dow Constantine, Renton Mayor Denis Law, and Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus LIKES the idea of safe consumption sites for drug addicts; here's the full recommendation released this week.

And task force member, and longtime progressive activist, public defender Lisa Daugaard, really likes the defining element of the report: Going with a "safe consumption" site versus a "safe injection" site.

"It is a big deal that the King County task force recommended a safe consumption, not safe injection, program," Daugaard tells me.  "That means all illicit drugs could be used, not just injection drugs. A major reason is so that we don't create perverse incentives for people to move toward drug injection, which is so much more dangerous to health, in order to access the supervised consumption facility.

"It's also important to make sure that this more enlightened consumption just as available to those who bore the brunt of the War on Drugs, such as crack users, as it is to the new and often more affluent populations affected by the heroin epidemic. Our re-framing of this approach as 'safe consumption' rather than 'safe injection' is now being taken up around the country by public health and community advocates."

2. I don't know if North Seattle City Council Member Debora Juarez LIKES of DISLIKES Central Seattle City Council Member Kshama Sawant's idea to shift the money (about $150 million) that's been budgeted for the now-on-hold North police precinct—the "Bunker" as Sawant calls it—to fund affordable housing...though I have reached out to Juarez for a comment several times today.

In a press release yesterday, Juarez did say:

Plans to re-evaluate the project will be done with a commitment to rebuilding a useful and productive North Precinct station. Constituents...deserve a cost-effective proposal that is responsive to racial justice issues and will provide for north end public safety reliably over the long-term. I hope you will join me in supporting this proposal to take the time to do this project right.

3. I presume Seattle Department of Transportation Director Scott Kubly LIKES Bewegen, the Canadian company that won the bid to run the city's bike share company; company's were asked to present an expansion plan for the city's bike share program in a deal that comes with a $5 million start up assist from the city.

A) Bewegen (pronounced like "Be Vegan") is proposing an all electric-assist bike system, which will make the system popular in our city of hills...and Kubly needs it to be popular. (See B)

B) Bewegan is not Motivate, another bidder, which ran Seattle's first bike share system; Kubly was the former head of Motivate (then called Alta) and that relationship ended up in an ethics ruling against Kubly, hurting his reputation and besmirching bike share in Seattle.

For the record, Kubly hasn't actually told me he LIKES Bewegen. He wasn't on the selection committee and didn't see seen any of the proposals and had nothing to do with the request for proposal says SDOT's director of transit and mobility  Andrew Glass Hastings; the RFP committee included SDOT staffers, Finance and Administrative Services staff, council staff, and mayoral staff. The city council, per its $5 million advance to SDOT, still must approve the whole deal along with the mayor.

But in the past—both in a federal grant application to expand Seattle bike share last year and in his pitch to council to further fund bike share—Kubly called for an all-electric system.

"We have stated our preference for electric bikes," Hastings says. "We recognized that hills are a challenge."

Pronto's 500 bikes will hopefully get sold, the city says, to a college or business for a campus-style bike share system. Meanwhile, Hastings says, Bewegen is bringing approximately 20 bike stations to the table

 4. Upgrade Seattle LIKES an amendment that Seattle City Council member Rob Johnson wants to add the city’s 2035 Comprehensive Plan; the “Comp Plan” is the defining document that governs growth for the next 20 years. Johnson’s amendment expands the traditional notions of growth guidelines—the overall plan recommends directing growth to about 13 expanded “Hub Urban Villages” and "Residential Urban Villages" around the city—by bringing technology into the picture. Johnson wants establishing citywide municipal broadband to be a formal goal in the plan. He contends that citywide internet access will affect growth patterns by putting people online rather than on the roads and in cars as a way to upend daily commutes in favor of telecommutes and making good on the urban village strategy by allowing job centers to spring up all over the city.

Devin Glaser, from Upgrade Seattle testified at yesterday’s public hearing on the comp plan in front of Johnson’s land use committee, to support adding the amendment. He noted how 20 years ago the Internet was still dial up and “made that funny noise” in era when people still walked into storefronts to apply for jobs or used the Dewey Decimal system at libraries to do homework. A lot has changed, he said, arguing that today “the Internet is the gatekeeper to economic progress, advancement, and government services.”

Screen shot 2016 09 16 at 1.15.35 pm auqgtg

He also hit Johnson's Urbanist point: “Telecommuting will remove cars from roads, but it will only work if all neighborhoods have equal access to fiber.” Glaser noted that  15 percent of the city lacks Internet access.

5. The executive director of the Cascade Bike Club Elizabeth Kiker LIKES Westlake's new bike lane. Located on the west side of Lake Union, the protected lane opened Thursday evening and connects South Lake Union to downtown.

According to SDOT, the lane was created to address conflicts among pedestrians, cyclists and drivers created by the undefined parking and sidewalk space along the passageway. Kiker says cyclists have been waiting for a flat connection between North Seattle and Downtown for decades.

"There were lots of issues when it all got started, but the way it ended up is just beautiful," Kiker said. "We're so excited."

While the Westlake lane is a move in the right direction, Kiker said the network of protected bike lanes in Seattle needs to continue expanding.

6.  Speaking of Urbanist council member Johnson: This is not a LIKE or a DISLIKE, but he has an interesting POV on the news this week—accompanied by an awkward video starring Mayor Murray and Council Member O'Brien driving an electric car and singing a Beatles song—that the city budget will include a pitch to build 150 electric car charging stations.

Johnson says while he likes anything that takes us away from a reliance on fossil fuels, he "hopes that in focusing on Leaf, we don't lose our focus on building light rail."

His larger point? Cars are ultimately still cars. And the real fix to our global warming mess needs to focus on transit and transit oriented development through land use policies. "In the past, we build our transportation infrastructure to serve our land use decisions, but now we're making our land use decisions to serve transit."

For example, Johnson says:  "Our land use decisions are now changing as a result of the transportation decisions we've made—ie taller buildings by train stations... rather than what we used to do which was respond to land use with transportation investments—ie widening roadways after a subdivision goes in." 

7. I DISLIKE Antisemitism.

Spotted on Capitol Hill this week:

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8. I LIKE that Erica C. Barnett posted a thoughtful piece on FB about a lawsuit against the Stranger; a woman is suing the weekly, the legal complaint says, for running a picture in their regular “Drunk of the Week” feature without the woman’s consent where her breast is exposed. The Stranger disputes the woman’s claim, saying the pic isn’t of her, but of a different woman. The story gets super hard-to-follow at that point with lots of confusing story lines.

However, Erica steps back and raises fundamental questions about the meaning of consent. I’m antsy about reeling in the freedom of the press, particularly in the post-Peter Thiel era (and the pending Trump era?), but Barnett makes some great points about how to define consent. And I’d add: It’s hard not to notice that freedom of press and freedom of speech issues often hinge on exploiting women.

9. Mayor Ed Murray LIKES Sara Maxana, a principal planner in the Puget Sound Regional Council's growth management department.

Maxana, who worked at the green advocacy group Futurewise before working for PSRC (the regional governmental transportation and growth planning agency), is leaving PSRC to join the city's new Department of Planning and Community Development where she will oversee Murray's signature Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) plan.

Maxana has been organizing behind the scenes for months with Seattle for Everyone, a herding-cats coalition of social justice groups and developers that's been trying to match anti-HALA NIMBY turnout at public forums with pro-HALA YIMBY turnout. (Judging from last night's Comp plan public hearing, the YIMBYs, Yes in My Backyard, still have their work cut out for them, though I will say, it used to be unheard of to have pro-growth neighbors showing up at council hearings. Last night, with groups like Puget Sound Sage and Futurewise in the mix, the pro density faction certainly got heard.)

Maxana, a Ballard mom (yup, Ballard moms can be YIMBYs) gave a big deal pro-density speech back in January when the mayor unveiled his HALA plan (which includes neighborhood hub expansions and upzones.)

10. Capitol Hill Housing LIKES renters.

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Next Saturday, September 24, CHH is hosting a renters summit to help renters get organized around affordable housing

The discussion looks like it's going to be much more than your standard "Fuck Amazon!" bash developers affair. While there will certainly be traditional populists in the house such as council member Kshama Sawant, former council member Nick Licata, and state representative, speaker of the house Frank Chopp (D-43, Capitol Hill, Wallingford) the  lineup also includes Urbanist smarties like Transportation Choices Coalition director Shefali Ranganathan, the aforementioned YIMBY Maxana, and council member Johnson.

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