The city's budget forecast for the next few years is underway, and the preliminary prognosis, in the words of finance department director Dwight Dively, is "not that good." According to finance department officials, who briefed city council members on the budget outlook this week, the city expects revenues to slow down over the next few years to a total growth rate of 1 percent to 2 percent. The biggest loss will be in real-estate taxes (the taxes that pay for the city's building projects), which are expected to fall about $10 million short of expectations. ERICA C. BARNETT
City council member Tom Rasmussen has asked the city auditor's office to conduct an audit to determine how well city departments are doing at increasing the tree canopy in Seattle. Under an urban forestry plan adopted last year, the city is supposed to increase the amount of land in the city covered by trees to 30 percent, from a current canopy of about 18 percent.
The problem is, trees are maintained by many different departments, and some departments are doing better than others at replacing trees they cut down, planting trees where they can grow (rather than, say, below power lines), and taking care of trees in their jurisdiction.
At the same time, the city's Department of Planning and Development is looking at revisions to the city's Tree Code (yes, there is such a thing) that could make it much tougher for citizens to cut down trees on their private property. And the council is considering an amendment to the city's comprehensive plan to appoint a "tree czar" to manage all trees in the city. ERICA C. BARNETT
(Self-Appointed) Neighborhood Czar
On April 21, over objections from neighborhood activists who argued they were subverting the will of neighborhoods and lowering environmental standards, the city council passed legislation exempting some small developments in urban centers—the densest areas of the city—from review under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA). The rationale: Since the council set the original standards for SEPA review, they've passed numerous laws that are redundant with SEPA. Moreover, the aesthetic issues most neighborhood activists have with new development are better addressed through design review (which actually looks at aesthetics and neighborhood "fit") than by SEPA (which doesn't).
Later this year, the council will look at expanding the number of projects that are subject to design review—a process that will actually put more neighborhood development plans under the scrutiny of neighbors.
That didn't satisfy density opponent and City Neighborhood Council chair Chris Leman, who denounced the council, accusing them of relegating urban-center residents to "second-class citizenship" and delivering "a terrible setback to citizen rights and the environment."
Clearly annoyed by Leman, new council member Tim Burgess said Leman and his ilk were trying to sway the council and citizens with "disinformation and disingenuous comments" about the proposal. "These changes are reasonable; they do not take away the environmental protections and environmental reviews that some have suggested [they do], and to suggest that is disingenuous." ERICA C. BARNETT
Seattle Seahawks defensive tackle Robert Eugene "Rocky" Bernard was arrested early April 21 and booked into the King County Jail for a domestic-violence assault.
Bernard was celebrating his 29th birthday at the downtown club Ibiza, at Second Avenue and Yesler Way, and, according to a police report, got into a scuffle with an ex-girlfriend, who is also the mother of one of his children. According to the report, Bernard punched the 21-year-old woman in the forehead, sending her backward into a glass divider.
The report says the woman ran out of the club with a friend and got into the friend's car, where Bernard reportedly stood next to the vehicle, pounding on the windows.
The woman drove to a "safe location" and called 911. Officers called Ibiza to locate Bernard, who was later arrested at the club.
The Seattle City Attorney's Office has filed assault charges in the case. Bernard, who has pleaded not guilty, could receive a maximum $5,000 fine and up to a year in jail if convicted.
The Seahawks did not respond to requests for comment. JONAH SPANGENTHAL-LEE