As we head into 2013, we thought we’d partake in the common practice of looking back over the last year’s “best” and “worst” events on the local political scene. Then, so as not to leave readers too depressed, we’ll offer our predictions for what we believe will be a much better year.
Best — Mandated paid sick leave took effect in Seattle, as a result of city legislation passed a year earlier. Seattle workers in businesses with four or more employees now no longer need to worry about losing pay or a job when taking time
off for sickness or to care for a family member.
Worst — The Seattle City Council and Mayor Mike Mc-Ginn thumbed their noses at Roosevelt residents, giving the go-ahead to view-blocking towers around Roosevelt High School that also will butt right up against single-family neighborhoods.
No matter that the neighborhood supported other planned upzones and Roosevelt already has growth in excess of targets. No matter that their 10-year-old neighborhood plan called for lower densities in that area and hundreds turned out at public hearings to oppose the change.
Best — A determined band of community activists, mostly from Capitol Hill, successfully turned back zoning changes designed to expand commercial uses and add densities in lower-density residential zones across the city.
This victory signals a reemergence of neighborhood power in Seattle and demonstrates that, when sufficiently riled and well-organized, grass-roots activists can still trump the pro-developer, pro-density lobby.
Worst — Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) got the permits from City Council for a remake (“destruction” is a better word) of the Yesler Terrace public-housing Project without requiring SHA to replace all 561 very-low-income units and allowing SHA to raid the state low-income housing
trust fund and the city housing levy to help finance the project.
Best — The City Council (thanks largely to Nick Licata’s persistence) approved a mandatory rental-housing-code inspection program. The law guarantees that every rental unit will be licensed and inspected over a 10-year period, ensuring safe and sanitary living for more than 140,000 Seattle households (now a majority of all city households).
Low-income households and people of color will especially benefit.
King County and Seattle officials approved a new basketball arena in SODO that will cost taxpayers millions.
Our mayor and City Council committed more than $10 million to plan for an $800 million streetcar system when we can’t even afford to fix our roads, bridges and sidewalks.
King County cut bus service and eliminated the downtown free-ride zone.
Our mayor and City Council pushed state legislation allowing future car-tab hikes without a public vote, despite voters saying “no” to car-tab hikes in 2010.
And they are forging ahead with a $3 billion to $4 billion waterfront tunnel that will carry 30-percent fewer commuters.
Our mayor resisted U. S. Department of Justice police reforms.
The mayor and City Council’s continued to kowtow to Paul Allen’s Vulcan Inc. in South Lake Union.
The renewed strength of the neighborhoods will manifest itself this fall, when residents vote overwhelmingly to replace our current system of at-large City Council elections with seven council members elected by district and two at-large.
It’s unlikely any of the four incumbent council members will be unseated, in part because credible challengers know that, in an at-large election system, it’s almost impossible to beat a well-heeled incumbent.
But our current mayor will be shown the door. Voters will replace him with Peter Steinbrueck, who’ll promptly appoint a transition team of neighborhood and social-justice activists to recommend a revamp of who runs city departments. New heads will be
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