Hella Bus Blog
Please welcome the newest member of the Hella Bus Team!
Kseniya Husak is a recent graduate from the UW holding an eyebrow raising combination of degrees in Philosophy and Accounting. She arrived in the US from Ukraine in 2004. Since her arrival to the cornucopious US of A, she has substantially improved her knowledge of Star Trek and Star Wars and can now successfully hold not-terribly-awkward conversation with most Americans. In her spare time Kseniya enjoys reading about politics, internet stalking various political leaders and informing others (mostly friends, family, and strangers on the bus) about current political developments. Although she’s conducted research on juvenile prostitution and human rights crises on a global scale, she is excited to engage more with local politics. Kseniya’s favorite food is ice cream, and she’s currently actualizing her long time dream of eating copious amounts of said ice cream by working at Molly Moon’s, where you are welcome to holla at her.
VIVA LA CATS AND WASHINGTON BUS!
Now that the dust has settled, and Mitt Romney has been declared the winner of both the Michigan and Arizona primaries, the Republican candidates for president are setting their sights on the next state competition.
And that means the next battle will be taking place in our very own Evergreen State.
This Saturday, March 3rd, Republicans all over Washington will hold caucuses to determine which candidate will receive our 43 delegates. Even more than primaries, caucuses tend to bring out the most enthusiastic and determined voters, as they require several hours to complete. Oh, and they take place on Saturday morning. Ouch.
With the national momentum now swinging back towards Mitt Romney, the other candidates will try to leverage a Washington win into coverage, energy, and a new (yes, again) narrative heading into Super Tuesday.
Candidates are starting to show their faces. Both Rick Santorum and Ron Paul were here campaigning earlier in the month, and are returning for events this week. Mitt Romney will be holding a fundraiser in Bellevue this Thursday, an event that was planned well before the Washington caucus had prominence, but one that is fortuitously timed.
University of Washington Professor David Domke wrote an excellent piece last week detailing five specific reasons why 2012 is the year for Washington to matter in the Republican primary calendar.
The biggest reason? That would be our 43 delegates. Only one other state so far - Florida - has parceled out more delegates. And while much attention has been given to stress the importance of Michigan, that state only awards 30 total delegates.
Winning is not everything in the primaries. Momentum is the name of the game, and the winner in Washington will be able walk into Super Tuesday contests with some serious swagger and a nice chunk of delegates.
Well, hello there! Zach Duffy and Seth Dawson here – your trusty Hella Bus guest posters. We’re here today to talk to you about the Washington State Voting Rights Act. As student-researchers in the State of the State for Washington Latinos, a long-running initiative at Whitman College, we looked into why measures to restore Washington State’s democracy might be necessary.
What is the Washington State Voting Rights Act?
This bill, hotly contended in the State Legislature, brings the federal Voting Rights Act down to the state level. It allows protected classes of voters – people of a race, ethnic, or language minority group – to challenge local electoral systems when it can be proven that such systems present insurmountable barriers to the election of minority groups’ preferred candidates. The typical solution would be a switch to neighborhood elections.
I don’t understand what that last paragraph meant at all. Can you explain it again?
Sure. 99% of local elections in Washington State are conducted at-large, meaning that positions are elected citywide rather than by neighborhood. In a city council election, for instance, a voter is able to vote for each and every city council position.
What’s wrong with this picture? Imagine if the entire state was allowed to vote in each election for state legislator. The people of King County would, in all likelihood, determine the outcome of every election in Eastern Washington. We’d have a lot more legislators that liked indie rock and fancy cappuccinos on this side of the Cascades. Sounds pretty good! But it’s not democratic, because it prevents minority voices from being represented. The same is true when we conduct our local elections at-large. The Washington State Voting Rights Act is one measure that legislators have proposed to correct this problem.
Do local elections in Washington State accurately represent local communities?
Absolutely not. Only 4% of elected officials in Eastern Washington are Latino, even though Latinos make up well over 50% of the population in Adams and Franklin counties. The same underrepresentation occurs in Western Washington for other people of color. And our research shows that this has been a problem for at least thirty years. From 1983-2011, Latinos won less than 6% of all city council and school district elections.
We’d love to tell you more about this issue, but we know that a blog post can only be so long before you start wishing we had made a video where we explain the issue while drinking a ton of liquor (A Shot of Oly, here we come!) For more information, check out www.walatinos.org.
A Salute To You
Photo by the brilliant Victoria VanBruinisse (more of her work available at http://portableviva.com)
Now, the Bus is not usually one for nostalgia (a penchant for 80's power ballads not included), but as this year wraps up, let's pause for a second and think of what we've accomplished together.
We took the Bus's biggest wins from years past and doubled down. Pledge to Vote cards? Doubled them. Bus Trips? Doubled. Puns? Tripled, at least.
Somewhere in there we threw a sold-out Candidate Survivor, launched our Media Internship, and fulfilled the Bus's strict shenanigans quota (remember a Shot of Oly?).
As a salute to you, here are three things that made this year HUGE:
Pledge to Vote
Be it Sasquatch, Block Party, or Pride, Bus volunteers were bringing the political party to the people as we doubled 2010's pledge to vote numbers. Then we polished it off with a cold, tall glass of 11,000 voter reminder calls to make sure it all paid off.
From SeaTac, to Bellevue, to Spokane, we got on the Bus to help win elections for progressive powerhouses. When we see elections decided by literally handfuls of votes, we know that Bus volunteers made victory possible.
All told, Bus volunteers came out over 2000 times to register and pledge young voters, elect progressive candidates, and put young people firmly in the heart of Washington State politics.
We are so, so lucky to have such a relentlessly positive, and positively relentless statewide movement on our side to make this grand experiment so dastardly effective.
The Bus continues to grow, fine-tune, and will roll full steam into 2012. In a time where many are trying to come to terms with what politics can be, we're thrilled that you've helped us champion a model that is positive, playful, and people powered.
So cue up your favorite 80's power ballad, let your hair (metal) down, and just rock out for 5 minutes. You earned that one.
Alex and the Bus Staff
P.S. Since I know you're still fired up, here are three things for you -
1) Come to FestiBus, our annual holiday throwdown with DJ's, drinks, and delicious eats! It's Dec. 7th at 6pm at the Bus HQ.
2) It's official, the campaign for Marriage Equality is off and running! Sign up here to get involved.
3) Looking for good info/stickers/info-graphics for all the Occupy biz? Look no further than wearethe99percent.us
If the cavalcade of political mumbo-jumbo that appears on your ballot every fall was a high school algebra test, the Progressive Voters Guide would be the bowl-cut wearing math whiz sitting in front of you scrawling the answers in big font while squinting through his grandfather's tri-focals. That is to say, it's a cheat-sheet.
The Progressive Voter's Guide is your Rosetta Stone for the mostly boring, but nonetheless important political issues appearing on your ballot this fall (which should arrive any day!).
Do yourself a favor - go get it here and see where some of the state's leading progressive organizations stand on the issues.
Having closely watched the never ending debt-ceiling debate, we all know how the key players felt about it and voted. But where did our very own, beloved Washington state representatives stand? Perhaps not surprisingly, the female superduo, Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray voted in favor of the debt-ceiling agreement. Despite their vote, their comments afterwards clearly reflected their disappointment and dismay over the agreement. Cantwell commented that while the plan was far from perfect, it was necessary. Murray pointed out that the agreement saved Social Security and Medicaid from serious cuts but also acknowledged the serious and deep impact that the other cuts will have on Washington families. The Senate ended up voting 74-26 in favor the debt-ceiling agreement.
While almost all of the rest of Washington state's representatives voted for the agreement, two rebels stood tall. Representative Jim McDermott from Seattle and Adam Smith of Tacoma voted against the bill, making them the only two from Washington state to do so. McDermott stated his opinion saying, "This compromise is too much" and suggested that he did not believe it was the best deal that the Democrats could have gotten out of Republicans. Smith addressed to lack of new taxes or revenue creation, stating that "to prevent the worse of these cuts from taking effect, revenue must be on the table". A majority of the House voted in favor of the measure, with 269 in favor and 161 against.
Rep. Jim McDermott, making moves.
Although the country is widely divided on the issue of the debt-ceiling, there was one thing they agree on--the behavior of their representatives. While an overnight poll from CNN found that more Americans disapproved (52%) than approved (44%) of the agreement, it also explored, in a somewhat strange and hilarious fashion, how Americans felt about their elected officials, reporting that 77% of Americans felt that they acted "mostly like spoiled children" over "responsible adults" (17%). I'm glad to see we can at least agree on some things.
Still can't get enough of the debt-ceiling? Check out this New Yorker article about how crazy the whole debt-ceiling really was.
Last week we posted this astounding photo album from the great Vancouver hockey riots of 2011. Two follow ups that more or less confirm that this was one of the more peculiar riots in history -
1) 90% of the wreckage was cleaned up the next day by 11 am. Almost 16,000 Vancouver residents RSVP'd to join in sweeping up a shattered downtown - some of whom were angry about the riots, some of whom had taken part.
2) Police are identifying perpetrators through Facebook photos. The NYT has the rather creepy lowdown here. This feels like a fairly logical corollary to the public nature of social media and serves as an excellent reminder that when you stare into Facebook, Facebook stares back (thanks Nietzche!).
And this continues to be one one hell of a photo album.
It's a three way street, and it's blowing my mind (helmet tip to the Seattle Bike Blog)
Just as Avatar added a new dimension to cinema, bicyclists are adding a new dimension to street use. Previously, the distinction between cars and pedestrians, roads and sidewalks, crosswalk users and people who have to stop for crosswalk users was pretty well-defined. Even if not perfectly practiced, the rules were generally understood.
Now that all of us cyclists are on the road, though, it's a brave new world. Much like the mythical griffin that is part-eagle, part-lion, we exist in a gray area somewhere in between a car and a pedestrian. We travel in the street, and yet are as vulnerable to collisions with cars as pedestrians. When riding in the street, we generally ride in the right shoulder, but take the car-lane when we need to, and sometimes we even ride on the sidewalk. We stop at stop lights (mostly), but treat stop signs like they're yield signs.
As a society, we're clearly in the middle of a sometimes messy, and sometimes heated process of figuring out what the norms of the road are for our increasingly three-way streets chock full of bicyclists.
Publicola recently linked to an insightful Portland Tribune article arguing that bicyclists should be legally allowed to treat stop signs as yield signs. And, as the 'Cola points out, Idaho already allows this. Mad love for Idaho, but who would have thought they'd be leading the way? It's a brave new world indeed.
Some forward-thinking locales--mostly in Europe, as far as I can tell--are even removing traffic signals--the thinking being that in the absence of traffic signals, road users are forced to pay more attention to each other, and be more considerate.
My take on all of this? I'm not sure if I'm ready to remove all the stop lights just yet. But, after years of cycling, I've developed some opinions on what the norms of bicyclist road-use should be. It's totally cool to treat stop signs as yield signs, but be very careful. And, please, don't run red lights--you just look like a dick if you do that. I generally ride to the right, but I will take a car-traffic lane anytime I even vaguely think I need to for safety. And I never, ever ride on the sidewalk, except when I'm absolutely forced to in instances such as crossing the Fremont Bridge. At stop lights, rather than ride all the way to the front of the line of cars, I'll generally take the car-lane because I'm scared of a right-turning car slamming into me.
And in general, the more separation between cars, bicyclists and pedestrians the better. Mad love for bike lanes, the Burke-Gilman and the soon-to-exist Broadway cycle track, which the city is developing in conjunction with the soon-to-exist Pioneer Square to Broadway streetcar line.
I'm actually ridiculously excited for the cycle-track. Check out the plans for Broadway's new look:
Thanks to Capitol Hill Seattle for the image.
Remember Welcome Wagon?
Attendees from last month already helped to organize our wicked fun Council Kick-Off with the Stranger, joined us at Sasquatch, and helped hundreds of young Washingtonians pledge to vote. And it only gets bigger and better from here.
Well guess what, it's happening again! Welcome Wagon is the absolute best way for new folks to meet the Bus and see what it is we do, and for Bus stalwarts to usher in another exciting year of good parties and good politics. Come join us this month for more food, drinks, foosball, and opportunities for driving the Bus into a better Washington. It kicks off at 6pm and wraps up (or moves elsewhere, as the case may be) around 7:30. Everyone is invited! Please RSVP to nicole [at] washingtonbus [dot] org!
Bus HQ 1100 E. Union St. Suite 1E
To the humans of Washington,
The Washington Bus presents to you: A great evening, a landmark event, and your golden ticket to a new era of political leadership in Washington state. Of course, we are referring to the 2011 Summer Fellows Inauguration! You're Invited! Seriously! RSVP right now to mallory [at] washingtonbus [dot] org!
The Inauguration will kick off at 6pm in Nord Alley. Exquisite food will be provided by Pai's Food Truck. Delectable drinks will also be available (including alcoholic beverages for those of the 21+ variety). We also look forward to the presence of such stunning elected officials as: Rep. Eric Pettigrew (!), Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (!), Seattle City Councilpeople Tom Rasmussen, Richard Conlin, and Sally Bagshaw (!!!), Commissioner John Creighton (!), and King County Executive Dow Constantine (!)!
It isn't everyday that you get to take part in launching a fleet of precocious young activists into public life while chowing down on delicious Thai-Hawaiian cuisine and rubbing shoulders with tremendous elected officials simultaneously. Or if it is, I want your life. Everyone is welcome, so please RSVP to mallory [at] washingtonbus [dot] org today! Keep looped in on any updates on the Facebook event page here!
Did Elkfest, Spokane's annual block party, take place a week and a half ago and we are only uploading the pictures now, OR, did the magnitude of its awesomeness warp the fabric of space-time hurling us 10 days into the future making today the first available opportunity to post photos? I submit that the answer can be found below:
Alayna, the fearless director of Nextup Spokane, leading the charge.
Button making in full force
All things good in the world right here.
Votebot in its natural environment
The Bus and a local hoodlum. Just kidding, that guy's probably awesome.
Buttons: Bringing people joy since time immemorial.
The best art gallery in a semi we've ever seen. Hands down.
Just a small sample of hundreds of Pledge to Vote cards. Also, the ceremonial lollipop marks the beginning of the lesser known Elf fest, where candied treats abound.
The ruptured fabric of space-time. Inside, Elkfest continues to this day.
I knew it! Big ups to the organizers of Elkfest, Nextup Spokane for making moves (You should hang out with them), and all those awesome pledge to voters!
Last night, alongside The Stranger, we formally kicked off the Seattle City Council elections - Bus style. That is to say, informally. There were drinks, merriment, city council candidates in bright reflector vests, and a packed Havana full of good people celebrating the beginning of a rather important, and enjoyable (if we have anything to say about it, and we do), election season. Video = inbound in the next couple weeks. Lots o' pictures below!
Who can spot the candidates?
Folks meeting Sandy Cioffi
No sleeves required
Incumbent Tom Rasmussen fielding questions.
The time of their lives.
Dan, meet Dian. Dian, this is awesome Dan.
So many mirrors in that place.
Sally Clark, the only female under 50 in elected office in Seattle, holding it down.
Which hand, BURGESS??
People identified their priority issues.
It's a party folks, come on in!
Early exit polls
What an excellent, slightly blurry night!
Thanks to Havana, the Stranger, the candidates, and most of all, you lovely people who came out and grilled them! We'll see you all again soon.
About a week ago, I was in Baton Rouge, Louisiana—home to a very flooded Mississippi River, po’boys, boiled crayfish, the Louisiana State University Tigers (they actually have a real tiger. In a cage by the stadium. Someone call PETA). And also home to seemingly hundreds of take-out daiquiri shops (the take-out part is unofficial but widely practiced).
The only problem with this seeming-paradise? No sidewalks. And really, what am I supposed to do with a take-out daiquiri shop (awesome) if I have to drive to get there (not awesome)?
All of this brings up a question--aside from having to drive to the daiquiri stand, why is it such a problem that Baton Rouge doesn’t have sidewalks? Other than easy daiquiri access, why do cities even have sidewalks in the first place? How do we benefit from them (aside from the obvious benefit of pedestrians not getting run over)?
Let’s consult sidewalk guru and Dansportation intellectual crush Jane Jacobs.
According to Jane, sidewalks—and the vibrant pedestrian life they allow—keep our cities safe.
“This is something everyone already knows: a well used city street is apt to be a safe street. A deserted city street is apt to be unsafe.” (page 44 in this book, which I highly recommend).
Makes sense, right? No one’s going to rob you on a crowded street—it’s a different story if no one else is around, though. This is why I, and I’m willing to bet most of you, feel a lot safer walking down any given street at noon than at 3am. Think about it—city streets aren’t safe because of laws, or police. Those things are great, but police aren’t around all the time. Rather, you feel safe walking down the street because we, as a society, have agreed on certain norms, and in a successful urban environment, we enforce those norms through the sheer presence of lots of people on the street—the more “eyes on the street” the better.
Sidewalks are also the basic building blocks of a neighborhood community (and the Bus is all about community). They are the most ubiquitous and yet the most overlooked public space in the city. They provide a site for the many miniscule contacts that add up to form a neighborhood. Once again, the lovely Mrs. Jacobs—
“Most of [sidewalk interaction] is ostensibly trivial, but the sum is not trivial at all. The sum of such contact at a local level…is a feeling for the public identity of people, a web of public respect and trust, a resource in time of personal or neighborhood need” (page 73).
To put it another way, which is actually very applicable to our beloved civic-engagement promoting Bus— “lowly, unpurposeful and random as they may appear, sidewalk contacts are the small change from which a city’s wealth of public life may grow” (95).
And, crucially, these interactions (usually with strangers) cannot happen without sidewalks. In the absence of sidewalks, where these interactions take place? A coffee shop? Maybe, but if you're in a coffee shop as often as you're on the sidewalk, you have a serious caffeine problem, my friend. In your house? Not so much. Talk to strangers on the sidewalk? Yes. Invite them in? Probably not.
Basically, sidewalks allow contact with people we wouldn't have a space to interact with otherwise. And contacts between people on sidewalks are the building blocks of communities.
So, how's Seattle doing at providing sidewalks for its communities?
Grey is good, but purple areas have been unfortunately overlooked by the city. "The map accounts for whether there is a sidewalk on a road or not and whether there is a physical buffer such as a parked car or a tree. It also accounts for the volume and speed of traffic on the road" Love, SDOT
Long and short: there's definitely room for improvement. According to SDOT, Seattle has 4,000 paved lane-miles of roads, but only 2,256 miles of sidewalks. If you live fairly central in Seattle, things are probably pretty good for you. But if you live in South Park, Georgetown, parts of the Rainier Valley, or far North Seattle, things aren’t so hot.
And that's why Dansportation heartily supports the Bridging the Gap Levy. The levy passed in 2006 and provides $365 million over nine years to, among other things, build 117 blocks of new sidewalks, repair another 144 blocks of sidewalks and restripe 5,000 sidewalks.
2015 is coming up fast though. What will the next version of Bridging the Gap look like? Can we get more sidewalks? Who's with me?