Seattle Transit Blog is eager to see Mayor Murray’s Metro plan, and open to the idea that it may be superior to the text of Initiative 118. However, we see no reason not to gather signatures for I-118 in the meantime. We simply cannot afford to wait for an alternative to develop, as Keep Seattle Moving must turn in 21,000 valid signatures from registered Seattle voters by early June.

Collecting signatures doesn’t necessarily mean the Initiative will be on the ballot. Ben Schiendelman, former STB staff writer and the spokesperson for Keep Seattle Moving, has told us that if the Mayor or City Council come up with a better solution they will drop I-118 and instead support that effort. We hope that the city does come up with a great solution. But until they do we need to keep working for I-118. As the $15 Now campaign has shown, the threat of a strong initiative can be a powerful tool for getting a superior final product.

In the next few days we will have an in-depth look at the benefits and weaknesses of I-118, and as soon as we have been able to digest the Mayor’s proposal we will do the same for it. But if Seattle wants to have the chance to chose the better of two options, we have to have two options. So go download the petition and start collecting signatures

The STB Editorial Board currently consists of Martin H. Duke, Matthew Johnson, and Frank Chiachiere.

35 Replies to “Moving Forward on I-118”

  1. In addition to credit for putting real initiative behind the same word, much impressed by the eminently reasonable way Ben is handling this matter. Main thrust of this posting is also badly needed.

    In the face of a really dangerous possibility of a splintered response to the recent election, it’s worth a lot to show this amount of willingness to work with the Mayor and the other elected officials for the best possible plan.

    Very often, to persuade other people to take any action, the strongest thing is to set an example. Whatever one’s feelings about Israel’s current policies, the motto of its officer corps is worth following: “After me!”

    Mark Dublin

    1. Ben, I have a genuine question re: I-118 should it move forward. Is there concern that there might be donor fatigue? Move KC Now brought in massive contributions from very big players (ATU, Amazon, Vulcan, etc.). Given that 118 would be voted on in this same year, is there a chance of a dry well that could negatively impact the campaign?

      1. I have this same concern, but it’s somewhat tempered by knowing that a citywide initiative is cheaper to campaign than a countywide initiative.

        However, I also felt the level of campaigning for prop 1 was insufficient.

    2. Hey Ben, since you’re here, what do you think about Murray’s recent comments regarding you, personally?

      “I only know them to be a single person who has never written a positive thing about me,” Murray said, referring to the initiative’s filer, Ben Schiendelman. “I’ve gotten a lot of advice that there will be no positive outcome if I reach out to that individual.”

      I mean, to me it just sounds like Ed Murray being Ed Murray, and refusing to work with anyone in the open, but do you think there’s some specific animosity between you two, or a reason that he might be getting this “advice”?

      1. It’s no secret that Ben has been a Mike McGinn supporter for years. Murray is likely referring to the mayoral campaign where Ben likely often wrote about who McGinn would be a better mayor than Murray.

        That said, remember when Murray said the following? “If there is one thread that runs through my years of public service, it is my belief that true leadership is not about picking fights with your opponents, it is about building bridges (sometimes, literally) to achieve positive change…”

        It’s time for Murray to grow up and become the politician he sold himself as during the campaign.

      2. To be fair, a lot of us really liked Mayor Nickels a lot too, back in the day. But when he wasn’t the mayor anymore, I don’t think many people were biased against his proposals just because he wasn’t Nickels.

  2. Murray better come up with something good, and fast. If he’s trying to throw a well-timed wrench into the signature drive without an a real, serious, at least 90% as plausible and good plan of his own, he’s going to lose whatever trust he had with the pro-transit community and voters. Part of me wants to believe he can’t possible be so inept and dishonest as to try something like that. But where’s the plan, Mayor?

    1. Let’s remember that this is all happening very fast. Prop 1 failed just two weeks ago. At the time I thought that was the end, so I was very pleasantly surprised to hear about the initiative one day later. But that’s the exception, not the rule. We can’t expect a mayor to have a finished alternative ready to publish after every proposition fails.That would be a lot of redundant work.

      I’m troubled by the mayor’s statements against the initiative, but I expect it will be a temporary kerfluffle or misunderstanding that will go away later as the two sides work together on what they purport to be their common goal. Four months and one issue is not enough time to fully evaluate a mayor. I don’t believe either Murray or the council or Keep Seattle Moving are obstinate in their views: they just have different things they most want to protect. For KSN, that’s Metro. For Murray, it’s the property-tax capacity and his entire vision of it. It’s not an either/or, and additional opportunities may emerge over the next couple months.

      But the initiative is necessary, both to “light a fire under the establishment’s butts”, and as a guaranteed fallback in case something better doesn’t emerge from City Hall. The initiative has an intrinsic tight deadline, so we can’t pause in gathering signatures. The signatures not only qualify it for the ballot: they also tell the city that a substantial number of residents think this is a high priority — the same kind of thing Sawant has done with her $15 minimum wage campaign.

      As for property taxes vs some other (unspecified) tax, one of the main arguments against Prop 1 was the highly regressive type of tax, and almost everyone said a property tax would be fairer. So here’s a property tax. The mayor seems concerned about saving property-tax capacity for other things like preschool and parks: OK, I like both, but I’m not going to let them be higher priority than restoring Metro. Because parents and park patrons have to get around town too. The mayor has to prove his (unspecified) tax has at the same or better chance of passing as the initiative, will be as effective, and won’t be too regressive. And won’t put education and parks in a privileged position while transit has to keep scraping for long shots every few years.

      1. Four months and one issue is not enough time to fully evaluate a mayor.

        Indeed, this is really only the second semi-tough transpo/land use decision he’s made. The first one was correct, backing rideshare regulation without caps. The forcefulness with which he’s opposed I-118 is disconcerting, but we’re far from closing the book on this episode.

      2. “We can’t expect a mayor to have a finished alternative ready to publish after every proposition fails.That would be a lot of redundant work.”

        No, but we can–and I do–expect a mayor to have at least an outline of an alternative after a major proposition like Prop 1 was. Mayor Murray knows the deadlines, knows the importance, and knows the history. To come in, two weeks into this campaign, and say “hey, woah, calm down, we need to step back and examine this further” (also known as “The Seattle Process”) when he and his staff know that the first round of cuts begin in September is bad planning. To use what sounds an awful lot like a personal swipe at one of the leaders of the initiative seems petty.

        Mayor Murray’s statement on Reddit, to the Stranger, and elsewhere could have been an outline of what he wants to *do*, not the principles he wants to follow. I get it, regionalism is important, but there comes a time to look out for #1. If he has a plan, lay it out. Pre-announcing “things will be coming” is what Apple does to sell phones six months down the line, not how to run a government.

      3. I just heard, not 5 minutes ago, Mayor Murray on KPLU saying “I am willing to be known as an anti-transit mayor if it means protecting property taxes”

    2. If Murray fails to save Metro, he is toast as Mayor. Nothing “good” he does will be remember in light of how he destroy Metro by sheer ego. Frankly, his bad behaviour and total clusterfuck of media relations is bad enough. He comes off as one angry fucker. And he’s going to have make good henceforth. One would hope that he at least stops burning his bridges and comes up with a reasoned solution. Deliver or burn, Mayor.

  3. As a student of politics I really don’t understand Ed Murray’s strategy of personally attacking Ben and his efforts. It seems beneath the office to attack a private citizen, and really doesn’t help his cause if he’s serious about getting something done. It alienates the very transit supporters he’s going to need to support his plan.

    That being said, I would support any solution that helps Metro stave off the deep cuts coming within Seattle. The progressive nature of I-118’s tax appeals to me, but we shall see what the Mayor’s plan entails.

    And thanks to the STB board for this post. We need a calm rational voice in this fight, and I always look to STB for that.

    1. Sherwin, ever wonder if “Donor Fatigue” isn’t something invented by the media- the way the drug companies identify conditions medicine has never heard of to sell products.

      This isn’t legislation anybody can call “feel-good.” Seattle voters have just demonstrated that they’ll pay to maintain decent transit. Here we have one concrete and progressive (in tax terms) measure that doesn’t cost anybody very much money- to avert a disaster that will be hugely expensive on a personal level.

      We’re talking blocked airway and arterial bleeding here. Even if we get slaughtered at the polls- what has transit got to lose?

      Mark, you know you’re not alone with your feelings. Cautionary lesson no Seattle mayor dares forget: What word “Snowplows” did to Greg Nickels. Politically, the crash of public transit would mean an ice age with one single-official-sized hole chopped in Lake Washington or Elliott Bay.

      But some wisdom from last night’s gathering: worse disasters among allies and potential ones happen suddenly in politics. The mayor was invited to the Spitfire. His non-appearance is his hopefully curable problem. Same with certain other tactics to date.

      We have much to gain by refusing to pay any attention to this divisiveness, and nothing to lose by keeping approaches open. From political history: this country owes its founding victory to an alliance with a king much worse than the one we were fighting.

      Will bet there’s already a petition on the Mayor’s desk this morning. So best hold off crashing their servers with pdf’s ’til Ben says to do it.


      Mark Dublin

    2. “Here we have one concrete and progressive (in tax terms) measure that doesn’t cost anybody very much money”

      It’s also conservative compared to most other initiatives. It doesn’t try to start a radical new program like legalizing or funding all of Seattle Subway in one step. It uses an existing successful structure, Transit Now, and expands it just enough to avoid a hole in the status quo — the most widely agreed-on transit idea. And it sunsets in ten years. So it will only cramp City Hall’s style for one decade, and by then ST2 Link will be fully operational, so Metro will both have reserve hours and it won’t be as critical as it is now.

      1. I think I confused its sunset with something else. What was ten years then? Prop 1?

      2. Yeah, I think so. Isn’t that how they came up with the misleading $600 figure?

  4. “I only know them to be a single person who has never written a positive thing about me,” Murray said, referring to the initiative’s filer, Ben Schiendelman. “I’ve gotten a lot of advice that there will be no positive outcome if I reach out to that individual.”

    What’s the source of this quote? If it’s accurate, it would be terrifically advisable to find out the source of the Mayor’s advice and think about making that information public. Hope Ed didn’t spend taxpayers’ money on a consultant specializing in Idiotic Advice. Incorporated or LLC.

    My own idea a minute ago about the pdf’s classes as above type, and really needless. If conflict can’t be reconciled as I hope, no countermeasure of ours can match the damage someone is inflicting on himself.

    We could take LINK underground to California with hole-digging capacity like that- except that vertical angle is stuck at 270 degrees. And both Hell and China are giving us problems about revenue share and ORCA.

    Incidentally, Mark, better historic analogy on bad blood between comrades, you’ll see in “Lincoln.” Several of his own cabinet hated him worse than they did the Confederates. His Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, was in some quarters suspected of being behind Lincoln’s assassination.

    Whatever happens starting these next few weeks, I-118 is just what Seattle needs a time like this.

    Mark Dublin

  5. Quick dumb question from a young lurker who’s new to this – how do I get my *own* name on the list, to get this initiative on the ballot? Not sure I’ll have time to collect signatures, but want to at least get my own down.

    1. Well you could just print out the linked document, sign it, and mail it to them.

      1. I’m with mayor. I’d rather see transit cut by 50 percent than have property taxes raised. Our property races are already exorbitantly high. I don’t think we should be funding metro any more than we already do. The taxes in seattle are already too heavy a burden. I’m sad for people that will lose their bus, but I and many other seattlites do not want to pay metro any further. 2014 us the year of metro cuts.

      2. Jim,

        I don’t live in Seattle so I won’t have to pay the extra levy; in a sense by not living there I’m voting “against” it myself. But I’ll tell you why I don’t live in Seattle: I’m neither rich nor the happy owner of a Seattle home bought in the 1970’s. One of those things is a necessary antecedent to living in Seattle as a homeowner today. That’s because it’s one of the worlds premier cities, and there are roughly a billion to a billion and a half people who know about Seattle and would like to live there. Supply. Demand. It’s a bitch all the time….

        I would love to live in Seattle again and was lucky enough to have done so for nine years from 1974 through 1983 back before the lovely Dame Seattle got “noticed”.

        Unfortunately for those who are living in Seattle because of the second antecedent, which presumably from your post includes you, the economics of life there is whispering “You can’t be here any longer”. Soon it will be shouting.

        It’s not “fair”, but neither is it “fair” that several hundred million people in China had to live through the Cultural Revolution. History is I’m afraid, inexorable: time appears to be directional and we little one-six-billionths of humanity can not stand in its way.

        Seattle has become a world city; it’s a place where innovation creates new products that benefit everyone worldwide. It needs the “best-and-brightest” to cluster there, as Silicon Valley and a few places in Japan, China, Taiwan, and Europe do. As a result the cost of living is shooting up rapidly.

        One of the things that world-cites all need is a first rate transit system, so that all the bright people needed to sustain the centers of excellence and all the folks in service professions assisting them in life can squeeze close enough together to get something accomplished besides driving,

        People who don’t provide enough economic value added to the “centers of excellence” will be squeezed out. You can kick and scream and yes, I agree it’s unjust and traumatic. But you’re not going to be able to hang on if you can’t afford $80 more per year to live there,

  6. I must admit I’m not the biggest fan of the provision in I-118 that requires all of the service cuts to be reversed before a single cent can be used to purchase new hours in busier corridors. I would prefer for the city to have the flexibility to (for example) add additional night runs on popular routes before restoring Route 61 to its current level of service, if that’s what would make for the best overall transit network.

    That said, this is the only plan put forward thus far to stop the cuts in Seattle. It’s much, much better than nothing and I’m happy to support it.

    1. It’s a cost of doing business. Everybody knows exactly what “reversing the cuts” means and how it would impact them. People are scared of unknown reorganizations that may screw them in unknown ways. University Link opens in just two years (or one if we’re lucky), North Link in seven years, and Lynnwood Link and East Link in nine years. That will give Metro and the city much more flexiblity to do something else, and it will be really silly if the 72 is still running unchanged then. So even if the immediate reorgs are reversed, we’re still in a reasonable position longer term.

      In any case, once the cuts are fully reversed, Metro could propose a reorg one month later. If that impacts a city-funded route, the city would have to decide whether to keep funding those exact runs or shift to something better. Since those runs are outside Metro’s base budget, it doesn’t really matter to Metro either way (except for the cost of bringing a driver and bus to a possibly-orphaned set of runs). Hopefully cooler heads will prevail at that point, and approve a sensible reorg with the city-funded hours going along with it.

      1. In any case, once the cuts are fully reversed, Metro could propose a reorg one month later. If that impacts a city-funded route, the city would have to decide whether to keep funding those exact runs or shift to something better.

        I’m not so sure that’s correct. The initiative, as written, says the following:

        All Levy Funds shall be used as follows:
        1) 100 percent to purchase service for Seattle Routes until Seattle Metro
        Service Cuts are restored; then,
        2) 100 percent of any remaining Levy Funds to purchase additional service
        for Seattle Routes as determined by the City consistent with the Seattle
        Transit Master Plan and Metro Service Guidelines, and approved by the
        City Council.

        So there are two possible scenarios here. Either the levy raises more than enough to restore all the cuts that Metro has proposed, or it won’t.

        If there’s a surplus, the City will be required to fully restore all of the cuts from Metro’s proposal. No exceptions. They’ll have the discretion to use any surplus where it will do the most good, but this will only be an option after to-be-deleted routes like the 4/5X/7X/19/21/22/25/26/27/28/30/etc. are fully funded at their current frequency, and enough service hours for to-be-reduced routes have been purchased to keep them going at their current frequency.

        If there’s not a surplus, the City will have the discretion to pick and choose among the to-be-deleted routes and to-be-reduced routes and allocate service hours among these in the most productive manner. But they won’t be able to buy any service hours at all for new or reorganized routes, or for routes that Metro has not proposed to cut for budgetary reasons.

        I do see some flexibility in that the initiative only requires funding to be used for future service reductions that are proposed “to address Metro’s current projected funding shortfall.” So if Metro decides to reorganize service to coincide with new Link stations becoming operational (as opposed to budgetary reasons), Seattle wouldn’t then be required to use levy funding to keep the old routes running along with the new. But I don’t see much of a way around the requirement to reinstate the routes that Metro has already proposed to eliminate due to the current budget shortfall.

      2. Well, a city initiative can’t force Metro to do something. Otherwise that would imply Metro has to run the current 71/72/73 forever because the initiative says it can’t ever change it, and that would certainly be beyond a city initiative’s power. It sounds like then if Metro wants to reorganize in a way that would reduce a city-supported route, it would have to refuse the top-up money for that route. That must be possible. We’d lose the extra service hours from that route, which means the consolidated route wouldn’t be quite as frequent, but that may be acceptable in certain circumstances. Then the city would have the difference unspent which it has to spend on reinstating routes, so it could apply it to another route.

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