In Other News...
art cred: adam weintraub
Quote of the Week
"When I was living in the commune, one day we all decided we were going to go and eat some meat. We had gotten tired of eating nothing but vegetables. So, of course, this being a commune, we had to go out to where the cows were and watch the cows get slaughtered. So we set out one day in the morning through the fields—the mist was rising from the ground—and we came up to a field where about eight cows were standing around eating grass. And the guy who was going to slaughter the cows got out his shotgun, and he put the shotgun to one of the cows' heads. And the cow just looked up at him, kind of curiously. And then suddenly, BAM!—he just blew its head off. And the other cows looked up, and they all looked really freaked out. And then, after about a minute, they all took a few steps backward, and then they all went on eating. That's about what it was like."
—Seattle City Council President Nick Licata, responding to the news that his longtime colleague Peter Steinbrueck was foregoing a reelection bid to work full time against a new elevated viaduct on the waterfront. ERICA C. BARNETT
Sound Transit is fighting against a bill in Olympia that would create a regional transportation commission. The commission, to ST's chagrin, would put an elected body in charge of all transportation projects and take over planning responsibilities from transit agencies like Sound Transit and roads agencies like the Regional Transportation Investment District. The idea, says sponsor Senator Ed Murray (D-43, Seattle), is to coordinate projects. Both ST and RTID would still have independent taxing authority, but Murray says a single commission would force planners to look at multiple modes of transportation rather than fighting turf wars over roads and transit.
Earlier this week, Sound Transit's lobbyist sent out an e-mail to pro-transit Democratic legislators condemning the idea of an elected board: "Every member of this commission would be able to essentially veto a proposed regional plan. Imagine, if you will, [Republican former senators] Luke Esser or Jim Horn as commissioners."
Meanwhile, Sound Transit reportedly warned the GOP caucus that "labor and environmentalists will run transportation in central Puget Sound." JOSH FEIT
Housing activists from the Seattle Displacement Coalition have been pushing legislation that would allow local governments to cap the number of apartments that are converted to condos. Makes sense. Seattle had 2,352 condo conversions last year—a 450 percent increase since 2004. Those numbers are particularly alarming, the Displacement Coalition says, given that 3,900 lower-priced rentals have been either converted to condos or filed for conversion in the last two years. Indeed, the average price of new condos is $250,000.
A bill that was in play as The Stranger went to press would regulate the terms of conversion for displaced renters. But the amendments introduced by Representative Maralyn Chase (D-32, Shoreline) that would allow cities to put a cap on converting lower-rent units into condos was losing steam.
It could be that Seattle supporters of the condo-conversion cap weren't very convincing.
The city sent two contradictory e-mails out to legislators in Olympia this past week. On March 13, City Council Member Tom Rasmussen, the city's primary supporter of the measure, wrote: "The majority of the council supports giving cities the right to limit conversions and we appreciate the work of those who are proposing amendments that would give that local option."
But on March 9, Seattle's lobbyist in Olympia, Rose Feliciano—who doesn't seem to understand Chase's amendments (she continues to characterize it, inaccurately, as a moratorium)—sent an e-mail to legislators that said: "There are three amendments likely to be proposed by the prime sponsor Representative Chase. Amendment 122 allows jurisdictions to provide limitations on the number of apartments that can be converted. We do not support having [that] amendment added to the bill." JOSH FEIT
Bill of the Week
House Democrats in Olympia passed a bill 58—37 that raises the hurdle school administrators must meet to justify censorship of high-school and college papers. The bill mandates more protection for students than the low federal hurdle contained in the U.S. Supreme Court's Reagan-era Hazelwood standard.
Hazelwood, which overturned '70s-era protections for free speech, holds that school administrators simply have to find an educational purpose for censoring stories, including demonstrating that the article in question may disrupt the educational environment.
This bill, sponsored by Representative Dave Upthegrove (D-33, Des Moines), gives students greater protection, granting them the same First Amendment privileges that exist in the real world.
Three GOP amendments—-including one that would have taken high-school students out of the bill, limiting the First Amendment protections to college students—failed.
On to the senate. If it passes there, Washington State will rightly grant its students greater rights than the limited federal rights put in place by the Reagan-era courts. JOSH FEIT