By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Will Metro‘s next “service change” include a service cut?
Decision time is down to the wire. The King County Council has to decide soon whether to ask voters to approve a local tax package. Various Metro-related conversations are on its schedule this coming week.
With West Seattle and White Center bus service having the most to lose, because of Highway 99 “mitigation” money expiring as well as the $20 tab fee, local groups are taking their official stands.
The one taken by the 34th District Democrats this past week was a little unusual.
During their monthly meeting on Wednesday night, they got a pitch straight from the top – King County Executive Dow Constantine recapped the looming expiration of funding and lamented that he wasn’t instead participating in a conversation about increasing service, saying ” “we’re right now 500,000 hours short of meeting the current demand.”
He declared that “to keep our heads above water. … This is the only option we have.” He also spoke of the “desperate, desperate” state of King County roads. And he mentioned the fifth increase in Metro fares in past five years or so, submitted with this, along with first-ever low-income fare. “We would put tens of thousands of cars back on the roads if we have to make these bus cuts … the burden is going to fall on every one of us if those cars have to be put back on the bridge, or the Viaduct, or city streets.”
He then said “the problem is really in the State Senate.” And he said that while people feel they will certainly wake up, they apparently already have declared defeat, “so we have no option … the damage that would be done by failing to act now will be dramatic.”
Move King County Now campaign manager April Putney came up for the pep talk and a bit of logistics, saying the campaign is halfway to its fundraising goal already.
Shortly thereafter is when the group realized it couldn’t just take an endorsement vote – chair Marcee Stone-Vekich said 34th DD bylaws required knowledge of the exact verbiage of what’ll be on the ballot — and that wasn’t available quite yet.
Can’t we suspend the rules? it was asked.
Suspending a bylaw was strongly discouraged, Stone-Vekich said.
Ultimately, Ann Martin helped save the day, suggesting the group vote in favor of preventing 17 percent transit cuts in King County.
And so they did.
CITY COUNCIL BRIEFING: Councilmember Sally Clark was a last-minute cancellation due to illness but Councilmembers Tom Rasmussen and Mike O’Brien showed up to talk about various hot topics . Rasmussen mentioned the transportation funding issue. “It’s maddening,” he said, that the Legislature is doing nothing. He said, “We should be adding (transit),” not facing cuts. He mentioned transportation safety, and 35th SW. “2 years ago I asked SDOT to look at a road diet, and (they) said it had too many cars. But they are taking another look.” He also mentioned abuse of disabled parking passes – 1 million in the city but maybe only 600,000 valid.
O’Brien said he wants to pass minimum wage, housing affordability legislation.
Rasmussen listed the expected Seattle Parks levy – whatever form it takes – as a priority too, as well as the seawall. He also mentioned the Seattle City Light surplus ex-substations in the West Seattle area, which a citizens’ coalition is campaigning to save as greenspace: “I’m going to try to get them for the community.”
34th Dems member Michael Taylor-Judd asked about head tax and impact fee to raise $ for transportation.
Rasmussen said we need to “look at everything” but says staff call impact fees ‘hard to implement,” though he feels they are a ‘great idea.’ O’Brien agreed, saying he is open to everything.
Speaking of development, one attendee asked about parking pressures increasing in neighborhoods. Rasmussen acknowledges “we need to look at some of our parking requirements re: developments built with little or no parking… but they’re trying to reduce the cost of building parking in a structure.” Maybe an RPZ (Restricted Parking Zone) could help the questioner, he suggests.
Then there was the “ridesharing” debate, with a now-tabled vote looming at the time.
O’Brien said Uber and Lyft are “really just taxis” and “in blatant violation of our laws.” But he uses them.
Rasmussen agreed with an opinion called out by former 34th Dems chair Ivan Weiss – if they don’t have insurance, etc. “they need to get off our streets.” And he says, the drivers are caught in the middle.
Then came the minimum-wage-increase issue, and a question about council camaraderie, which was interpreted as a question about how they’re working with new councilmember Kshama Sawant. She’s “great,” declared Rasmussen, adding: “We try to stick to the issues, we don’t get personal.”
O’Brien said, “I think we’re really lucky to work in the environment we do.” He called Sawant ‘a great human being,” and as for the minimum-wage increase: “We have to do it right.” He says Seattle can ‘set the tone for the entire country.”
One more note from the meeting:
GARDEN PARTY: This year’s big summertime 34th DDs fundraiser will be at a new location: The Technology Access Foundation‘s Bethaday Learning Space in White Center’s Lakewood Park. August 15th is the tentative date.
The 34th District Democrats meet second Wednesdays, 7 pm, at The Hall at Fauntleroy; updates and events are on their website, 34dems.org.