Hella Bus Blog
Your place for all things Buslandia!
- Without an increase in funding, Metro is facing a 17% cut in service affecting the majority of routes in King County. This is "the rough equivalent of eliminating all rush hour bus service for commuters, or all weekend service in King County." Wowza.
- King County Executive Dow Constantine has proposed a $20 annual car tab license fee as a stop-gap measure for funding Metro for the next two years.
- With the official vote in six days, the proposal is currently one vote short of passing the council, with two councilpeople currently against it, but on the edge.
- Our voices, together, can make the difference.
Money and politics have always gone together and always will: that's just the nature of both. Still, I've always been of the opinion that there should be as little mixing as possible. There's a lot of obvious reasons for that—conflict of interest, quid pro quo, privileged access, and all that good stuff—but I would like to draw your attention to another casualty of too much money in politics—the citizen-candidate.
Raising money for a campaign requires lots of money at every level, especially if there aren't firm contribution limits. Even on the lower levels it costs a lot of money—lots of incumbents in Seattle City Council races have raised in excess of $200,000 for the upcoming election. Raising that kind of money requires a huge time investment. In this piece from a few 2007, former City Council candidate Casey Corr describes the hours upon hours of calls that he had to make to have enough money to run. That's a typical experience for any serious candidate.
While some candidates can get by on sheer charisma and door-to-door canvassing, the candidate that can make it work over the course of a multi-month election campaign and win a respectable margin—let alone a majority—is a rare one. Most grassroots candidates can't compete with direct mailing and radio ads if they don't have the same resources.
That means that there's a fundraising requirement that candidates have to meet. That requirement is, in my view, a challenge that candidates shouldn't have to overcome. And it detracts from the quality of political campaigns—how are you supposed to have enough energy to meet voters and educate yourself on issues if you have to spend twelve hours every day dialing for dollars?
And, if you're facing a serious, respected incumbent, then you're already at a huge fundraising disadvantage. Incumbents already have a donor network that's worked for them at least once before (sometimes more than that). They also get access to the political money that will always be in a race—some people always give to candidates, and those people usually give to incumbents—it's a lot easier to get an appointment with an official if you've contributed to the campaign (though I don't want to imply that our state's elected officials are selling their votes—they're not). The advantages of incumbency are pretty staggering, but they are one of the features of electoral politics. It's the nature of the game.
Still, there there's such thing as an unfair advantage. Tim Burgess, the current City Council President, had this to say in 2007 about the amount of money in City Council races: "The good news is more and more contributors are becoming involved," Burgess said. "The bad news is that we're nearing the point where it's prohibitively expensive to run, particularly for challengers." Burgess hit the nail on the head—lots of good people aren't running for office because they're scared away by the amount of money you have to raise. And that was three years ago.
That's why we could use public financing in this town. Public fundraising has lots of different successful models; the common denominator is that the public pays for election campaigns for qualifying campaigns either in full or in part. This sort of campaign finance model can be extremely useful in the right context—if the incentives are right, most or all of the candidates for a certain office will sign up for public financing. Until recently, that was what happened in Presidential elections—until George W. Bush won in 2000, every winning candidate since Gerald Ford had accepted public financing.
There are lots of benefits inherent to a publicly-funded campaign finance system: the candidates spend less time raising money, they're less beholden to their donors, elections are perceived by voters as fair, and, most importantly to our current subject, publicly financed campaigns can be subject to funding caps. Campaigns that rely on money from private donors can spend as much as they want (i.e. as much as they take in). Campaigns that take money from the taxpayer have to follow the taxpayer's rules—including rules about how the money is spent and the election is run. If we had a successful public financing system, we'd be able to level the playing field.
Public financing does have a little bit of history behind it. In 2008, the Council commissioned a study on implementing a public financing system in Seattle but didn't come up with a proposal to implement a system. It'd be a great thing for our local democracy if the Council would seriously consider a new system in time for 2013, which will probably be much more competitive on account of the simultaneous mayoral race. It'd be the perfect time to draw up and battle-test a bold new campaign finance system that could be the envy of the rest of the country. It'd be pretty cool if Seattle developed a reputation as the city of the citizen-candidate.
What I am going to have for lunch? Chipotle mac n cheese? Yes please. Maybe kimchi fried rice? Sign me up. A fried shrimp po boy? I'm thur. Currently, these are all delicious food varieties on offer by Seattle's limited number of food trucks. However, this number is about to change.
Yesterday, the Seattle City Council voted unanimously to loosen street food restrictions, allowing food trucks to set up shop on the street rather than only on private lots. Food trucks will be charged $2.25 an hour for their allotted four hour time slot. It also allows food trucks parked on public space to be able to sell more food items besides just coffee, hotdogs and popcorn.
There still are a host of limitations to where food trucks can park though: Only two food trucks are allowed on one block at a time, they cannot park within 50 feet of a food establishment or 15 feet within a retail entrance, they cannot park within 1,000 feet of a high school, with the exception of commercial areas where it decreases to 200 feet, and they are not allowed to park in specific residential areas. It also stipulates that the truck must be parked within 200 feet of a restroom.
Following in the footsteps of Seattle's rival sibling city Portland, who has an estimated 600 food trucks, the City Council hopes that these new rules will help stimulate the creation of small businesses. The expansion also opens up the possibility for a stronger and more interactive street life. Despite the perks of food trucks, many restaurant owners strongly oppose the new rules, arguing that they could take way business by selling food at a lower price because of their lower overhead costs.
While the City Council may have just sandwiched themselves between the two sides, at least it will be a very delicious, mouth watering sandwich.
Check out the event below with Working Washington at South Seattle Community College on Saturday! Lawmakers will be present to talk with community members about how to revive the economy in Washington State.
Is in this
Courtesy of 2011 Summer Fellow Mikeya Harper
The Washington Bus grooved to the beat with Pledge to Vote Cards and dancing VoteBots this past weekend! We were door-belling for democracy in Yakima and getting young people registered to vote at the Bite of Seattle. Here is a little snapshot of all the awesome things we did:
The Drizzle -
The Bite of Seattle is a huge 3-day festival thrown every summer at the Space Needle that supports local restaurants all over the state of Washington. Even though the rain hit Seattle hard with few sun breaks in-between, it was amazing to see the community out and about enjoying themselves as we got 46 Pledges to Vote and registered 11 new voters.
The Sizzle -
One Sunday we drove over 250 miles to Yakima. There were dance parties in our cars and a epic BBQ! But these weren't the only reasons we drove across the state. We drove for democracy - the fuel that makes the Bus's wheels go 'round to empower young people all over Washington State. We knocked over 400 doors that day to spread the word about Yes for Districts, Yakima's Proposition. 1. This measure will make sure that every person in Yakima is represented and that their voices are heard in city government.
Another great weekend. Bam Bam! Go Bus!
With an event like Candidate Survivor, the candidates can't do it all themselves. No, It takes a collection of steely-nerved, quick-witted panelists to pull the candidates out of their comfort zone and into the fray. Luckily, we have just the folks for it, namely:
Dominic Holden - News editor at the Stranger, public figure, ruffian.
Sarah Cherin - Director of Governmental Relations at UFCW 21, lecturer at UW School of Social Work, known badass.
Larry Mizell Jr. - Host of KEXP's street sounds, hip-hop columnist for the Stranger, MC, Seattle music impresario.
Music and other announcements to come!
EXCITING NEWS FROM BUS HQ: Buses. We love them. And not just because we have one! Although we do have one. And now is the time to use it.
We're packing the real live Washington Bus full of good people and rolling to Burien this Thursday evening at 4:30 pm. Why? To bring a literal bus load of energy to the King County Council hearing on the proposed Metro service cuts. We love metro, and it's the crucial moment to make our voices heard and maintain the services that we count on. We'll be departing from Bus HQ on Capitol Hill and heading down in one great, music-blasting, armada. RSVP to Alex Miller at
Check out our Dansportation post for all the info about the proposed cuts, but here are some cliff notes:
Join us this Thursday to help us save one of the most critical services in the County and to bring the young voice to the table. Box o' info here:
Bus for the Buses
4:30pm, Thursday, July 19th
Return by 8pm
Meet at Bus HQ (1100 E. Union St. Apt 1E)
Email Alex Miller at alex [at] washingtonbus [dot] org to save your spot!
Feeling a bit disillusioned with today's hip-hop and rap scene? Check out rapper XV. He's part of handful of up and coming rappers trying to make a name for themselves without giving into the gimmicky, auto-tuned sound of current mainstream rap. Signed onto Warner Bros Records last year, XV has maintained his unique sound and strong personal voice, putting out a diverse array of tracks, from pump up, feel good songs like "All For Me" to the more introspective, reflective ones such as "Smallville" produced by J. Cole, featuring a sample from The Smashing Pumpkins. His latest mixtape Zero Heroes, a collaboration between XV and producer Seven, has been well received by critics and heralded by some as one of the best mixtapes of the year.
In a similar fashion as Lupe Fiasco, XV has rejected embodying a hardened, gangstar image and instead embraced his real identity; a self-professed nerd. With a growing fanbase, XV has apparently designated his fans as "Squarians" as homage to his square/nerdy/geeky roots. Despite his geekiness, XV still maintains a level of swag--it is this very combination that gives XV a unique, different yet comfortingly familiar feel that makes him not only refreshing but actually fun to listen to. Come check out his show at Neumos this Wednesday night with opener Casey Veggies, it's gonna be AWESOME!
Ever since his arrival on the scene is 2006, Derek Vincent Smith aka Pretty Lights has become one of the most diverse, accomplished artists in the electronic music world. Smith started out as a fairly unknown producer combining hip hop samples with funk and trip hop influences, but soon became attracted to electronic while attending the University of Colorado-Boulder. While his music still is heavily influenced by hip hop, he has since diversified his sound, and now composes more dance floor ready tracks. Over the past year, Smith has added a drummer to his live sets and has graced the stage at Electric Daisy Carnival, Coachella, Ultra Music Festival, and Bonnaroo. His Bonnaroo performance (video below) saw Pretty Lights unveil an impressive new light show, and a more dubstep infused approach. At the recent All Good Music Festival in West Virgina, he let loose a reworking of the John Denver classic “Country Roads” that was so popular that he immediately released it for free download on his website. That’s the great thing about Smith and the way he creates and releases music. Every song he has every produced is available for free on his website, along with the works of the members of Pretty Lights Music, his record label.
This next artist has been making classics since the early 90’s, but has been experiencing a relatively low-key resurgence over the past few years. Ski, owner of hits like Jay-Z’s “Dead Presidents II”, Camp Lo’s “Luchini aka This Is It” and AZ’s “Your World Don’t Stop” has been making a comeback, working with modern stalwarts like Curren$y, The Cool Kids, and Jay Electronica. Ski has also made important contributions to both members of Black Star’s most recent efforts including the Kweli standout track “Cold Rain”. While Ski’s work on others’ albums has been incredible, he saved his best work for his own album 24 Hour Karate School, and fortunately for hip hop heads, Ski is prepping for the release of 24 Hour Karate School Pt. 2. The first installment featured Curren$y, Smoke DZA, Jim Jones, Jean Grae, Jay Electronica, Joell Ortiz, the Cool Kids, Stalley, Tabi Bonney, Wiz Khalifa, Rask Kass, and even longtime collaborators Camp Lo. The album was easily one of the best releases of 2010, and just today, Ski released the first teaser for his new album, a 15-minute video featuring tracks from the new album. Check out the video below, revisit some old Ski classics and be sure to cop the new album when it’s released.
The News of the World hacking scandal just went from political drama to surrealist comedy, as media mogul owner Rupert Murdoch was attacked by an assailant wielding...a shaving cream pie. Looking more like Nixon on Laugh In than in All The Presidents Men, Murdoch was pied while testifying before Parliament.
The assailant in question is Jonnie Marbles, a British comedian with a liberal tilt. Minutes before doing the deed, Marbles announced his intentions via twitter:
Police quickly removed Marbles from the courtroom, but not before he received a swift, decisive slap from Murdoch’s wife Wendi Deng (Deng is in pink, Marbles is on the far left):
It’s not really much more than a distraction from the real News of the World scandal which continues to spiral and consume various members of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire and the British government. Still the half-joking outlandish conspiracy theories continue; one YouTube commenter named MyHeadsAllright postulates that “Murdoch planted [Marbles] in hope that he could change the headline in tomorrow's paper”.
Who is incendiary enough in Washington State politics to unite leaders of big Washington businesses, environmentalists, transit geeks, and give one Stranger writer apoplexy?
Tim Eyman. And his latest opus, I-1125.
You may have heard of I-1125. Never one for hyperbole, Goldy (who named his blog after Tim Eyman long before he became a Stranger writer) compares I-1125's effects to bombing the SR 520 bridge, or flying an airplane into a light rail train. And the Seattle Times writes about I-1125's effects on the several billion dollar, multi-state plan to replace the I-5 bridge over the Columbia. Suffice it to say that I-1125 would have a pretty powerful effect on transportation.
You count on Hella Bus to cut through the hype for you, though. So, what's I-1125 about? In a nutshell, I-1125 would prohibit 1) adjusting road tolling rates based on road usage or time of day (otherwise known as "congestion pricing"), 2) spending money raised through tolling on anything other than the capital costs of the thoroughfare being tolled, and 3) using highway lanes funded through the gas tax for a "non-highway" purpose (i.e. light rail). I-1125 would also require the State Legislature to set tolls directly rather than empowering the people who know how to do that to do it for them.
Goldy and various others are so up in arms about this because our state's transportation infrastructure is falling apart and badly needs funding. Take the SR 520 bridge: In 1997, WSDOT predicted that the bridge had 20 more years of use in it, which brings us all the way to...2017. And, fun fact, SR 520 now rides about a foot lower in the water than it did when it was first constructed.
The State plans to pay for a SR 520 bridge replacement through tolling. But imagine if, due to I-1125, we could only toll SR 520 were legally prohibited from tolling I-90. Tolls on 520 wouldn't raise enough money because a significant number of people would take I-90 instead, and, its likely that I-90 see a huge increase in congestion. Smarter people than I (e.g. our State Treasurer) say that I-1125 would severely lessen the state's capacity to update the 520 bridge.
Prohibiting congestion pricing would also throw a wrench in the works of a lot of projects. Congestion pricing is a pretty simple concept--charge a higher price for road use when or where demand is high. Road space is a publicly-owned commodity with a limited supply, and it doesn't make a lot of sense (in this blogger's personal opinion) for we-the-people to just give it away for free. So, how does the free market regulate the use of a scarce resource? Price signals--demand goes up, price rises, and when demand goes down, price falls. Currently, there's a pilot project on SR 167 where solo drivers can pay to have the privilege of driving in the carpool lane, and the price varies based on congestion. The folks at WSDOT are calling these "HOT lanes," and I have to agree--it is pretty damn sexy. Plus, as previously mentioned, a lot of the funding for the Columbia River Crossing project will come from congestion pricing, and I-1125 would make it difficult to fund that necessary project.
Fortunately for Eyman opponents, businesses need infrastructure in order to function. According to both Goldy and The Olympian, the Washington Business Roundtable (which includes executives from local heavyweights such as Boeing, Microsoft and Starbucks) doesn't want Tim Eyman f-ing over (I use that term in its technical, descriptive sense) our transportation networks. Goldy predicts a "well-funded" campaign against I-1125, which looks to be just getting started.
Get out your popcorn and red-vines. This is going to be interesting.
Here at the Washington Bus, we're big fans of buses of all kinds, because we love ourselves in a healthy, non-narcissistic way. That love extends to the hardworking King County Metro bus. We love King County Metro here because, honestly, we probably wouldn't be here without Metro buses—literally. We wouldn't have been able to get to where we're sitting right now without a Metro bus because that's how we get around. So when we heard that Metro might have to deal with a massive reduction in service, we wanted to know how we could help.
That's why the Bus is throwing its full support behind the proposed solution, a one-time $20 increase in car tab fees for King County residents. All of the money from the tabs will go directly to Metro. That revenue will be used to prevent cuts of up to 600,000 service hours. That's a huge reduction in service: Metro estimates that four out of five Metro riders would be affected by cuts. It would mean fewer (and more crowded) buses and fewer routes for pretty much every rider.
This is a very big deal, especially because we're not talking about paying for anything new. This car tab money isn't going to pay for a sweet new superbus that can fly—this money will be used to fund the bus that you ride every day, the bus that gets you to work/school/pickup basketball/your significant other's house. If you're a Metro rider, these cuts will affect you.
The cuts are also going to affect folks who have realized recently that Metro is a great way to get around—ridership went up 5% in June and has gone up 2.5% during this year so far. With gas prices still trending upward, and our horrible traffic just as bad as it's always been, you better believe that lots more folks will ride Metro more often.
Finally, these cuts will only drive people back into their cars, making traffic congestion even worse for those of the driving persuasion.
So it's really important that the King County Council approves the car tab fee. The Council hasn't yet decided what it's going to to about the proposal. With six yea votes (a two-thirds majority), the car tab would be a go. However, some Council members are leery of voting for a tax increase without consulting the voters, and the Council might wind up with 5 yea votes. If that happens, King County voters will have to decide in November whether or not we want Metro service cuts.
This all sounds very bad, but we don't have to accept a future with no Metro and no puppies. The Washington Bus has your back. We're going to lobby as hard as we can in favor of the car tab. We encourage you to sign this petition and go to the upcoming forum with the County Council in Burien this Thursday to let them know how much Metro means to you. You might even be able to catch a ride with us (keep a look out on Hella Bus this afternoon). Buses have to stick together, right?
When celebrity advocates Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore told Piers Morgan that there are “between 100,000 and 300,000 child sex slaves in the United States today,” their numbers were probably wrong.
Village Voice Media (VVM) showed that much. In their report investigating that hundred-thousand figure- which the company published earlier this month in subsidiary publication The Seattle Weekly- VVM countered with some numbers of their own: about 827 child prostitution arrests are made per year throughout the entire country. The “100,000” actually comes from a study which lists the number of children “at risk” for child prostitution, including those who live near borders or have run away from home for more than an hour. Village Voice spent five pages and valuable front cover space attacking Kutcher and Moore for using misleading, misdirected statistics to further their own ends.
Predictably, VVM seems to be doing the same thing themselves. The evidence suggests that the media company is working to downplay the dangers of child prostitution, in part because they have a tremendous stake in the issue.
The Village Voice-owned classifieds website www.backpage.com has recently come under attack by various groups who claim the website accommodates child trafficking. Recently Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn joined the fray, saying that VVM needs to introduce “safeguards against underage trafficking”. (Backpage.com does not require photo identification and age confirmation to post an escort listing, unlike other similar websites in the Seattle area such as Craigslist and The Stranger’s Lustlab.) Since January 2010, 22 children were advertised on the Seattle section of Backpage.com.
By framing the debate as one of numbers, Village Voice will win by default. The issue is certainly more complicated than a misinformed celebrity sound bite, but it is also more important than the way the number 827 is used. As we wrap ourselves up in averages and percentages, it becomes easy to forget what those facts and figures represent. Each of those 827 children arrested for child prostitution every year is a human being who does not get to make choices about their own body. Each of the 22 children that Backpage.com helped to sell over the last 18 months needs help, and Village Voice Media instead spends its time and ink working to defend its own actions. VVM and the Seattle Weekly should own up to the mistakes they have made and work to correct them - instead of asking “what did I do?”, it’s time to ask “what can I do now?”
Starting last Friday night, the busiest, most congested freeway in America was shut down for repairs. I-405, the notorious Los Angeles freeway was closed all weekend in an event dubbed "Carmageddon" by the media, and now we are seeing the catastrophic effects of the construction project. The LA Times was on top of the action on their website, but also started up an LACarmageddon Twitter handle to keep those informed who aren't into that whole website deal. Shockingly though, by the end of the weekend, and after dozens of articles predicting certain doom for the citizens of Southern California were put in print, Los Angeles is still there, and incredible the four oh five is still running. Southern California, you survived Carmageddon for now, but who knows what the future holds for you...
Check out summer fellow extraordinaire Mikeya Harper's personal blog post on how the Washington Bus has changed her outlook on voting. Mikeya “Keyabee” is a spoken word poet, hip hop emcee, educator, youth mentor, and student at Washington State.
A brief teaser of her post: