Urban Politics #35: Library Bond Shaping Up


No Comments (Leave Comment)

By City Councilmember Nick Licata.

Urban Politics (UP) blends my insights and information on current public policy developments and personal experiences with the intent of helping citizens shape Seattle’s future.

________________________________________________________________

CONTENTS:

  • Library Bond Shaping Up
  • Sandpoint Blue Ribbon Committee
  • Metro Proposes To Cut Bus Route 30
  • Local Gas Tax Option

Library Bond Shaping Up
The City Council met with Head Librarian and Board Members to discuss the public’s reaction so far to the proposed bond. Overall reaction has been positive.
Trouble spots are the funding and size of the downtown parking garage, and the overall funding plans including the size of the bond. Some critics say the proposed 200 space garage under the library is unnecessary, others say it does not provide enough space. Under current codes if this was an office building, 273 parking spaces would have to be provided and a retail use would require at least 320.
Council seems to be leaning towards accepting the number of project parking stalls at 200, since library users have identified lack of parking as a major concern. A survey conducted early this year showed that 60% of those using the central library rated parking as its poorest feature. There are, however, still some questions about how to fund the garage.
The current plan is to have the Council pass approximately $ 6 million in councilmanic bonds to pay for it. These bonds are not submitted to the public for a vote, unlike the general obligation bonds which make up the rest of the library’s public funding. However, councilmanic bonds can be paid off from parking revenues rather than from property taxes.
Using general obligation bonds to fund the garage would push the library bond issue over $200 million. Some think going over that figure would endanger passage of the measure this fall. It’s based on the same logic that stores use for labeling goods $1.95 and not $2.10. Funding the garage with general obligation bonds would probably be more costly, since the interest rates on the councilmanic bonds are lower than the general obligation bonds.
Even with incentives for car pooling and a voucher system to provide free or cheap rates for brief library visits, the garage should be able to make money after the first year, if it used councilmanic bonds. The eventual positive cash flow might even cover some building maintenance costs, thereby not using money from the City’s general fund.
The library board also agreed that there would be no raiding of funds between the central and neighborhood branches. Some Council Members feared that if the central branch ran over budget, the neighborhood branch construction schedule might be delayed. In addition, the $ 6 million Opportunity Fund will not be used to cover construction cost overruns. It is to be used to address new or unanticipated library capital needs. The library board was asked to come back with policy guidelines to define the use and priority of the fund.
Sandpoint Blue Ribbon Committee
I’m currently working with Deputy Mayor Tom Beyers in pulling together a “blue ribbon” committee to provide some overall guidance to the future development to Sandpoint and Magnuson Park.
I believe that an overarching vision of what we, the general public, want and need from this park is necessary to avoid future conflicts between various users and to also provide a coherent and enticing park plan to solicit outside funding sources.
To this end, I hope the committee can focus on the following tasks:

  1. Articulate a unified vision of our newest and potentially grandest park that will embrace a multitude of uses and users for generations to come.
  2. Identify criteria which can evaluate and prioritize the many proposed activities and purposes that are coming forward by asking which ones best fulfill this vision.
  3. Create a mechanism for citizen oversight to assure a vigilant public stewardship of this vision.
  4. Approve a funding plan and identify committed sources for implementing this vision.

The committee should have its first meeting no later than mid-May and hopely it can wrap up its work by the end of Summer. Future editions of Urban Politics, will list the committee members and highlight its work.
Metro Proposes To Cut Bus Route 30
Thanks to Bob Klug for contributing to this item.
METRO will eliminate the Route 30 and 32 in North Seattle this Fall if King County Council approves the proposed schedule changes. To those Seattle residents that take the bus every day, it will be a great loss. The Ride Share Coordinator at Children’s Hospital, Judy Bouse, asked at a recent hearing that it be kept because it’s a critical part of their transit plan.
Meanwhile, Adobe Software in Fremont will have some 600 employees when it opens in the near future. Because the Route 30 goes right by its front door and then makes direct connections to other routes along North 45th, including the Freeway Flyer Stops and the University District, it is likely to see an increase in ridership. Route 30 can play a critical role in keeping down auto traffic both in Fremont and Wallingford because is serves as an Important east-west feeder to the RTA system in the University District through the North 45th Street corridor.
As this region prepares for the eventual deployment of the RTA light rail system in Seattle, it is critical that cross town routes, like Route 30, not be eliminated if in-city transit ridership is to be maintained. And it is Important to remember that RTA passed because of strong North Seattle voter support. Something like 15 different community organizations between North Capitol Hill and Matthews Beach and between I-5 and Lake Washington adopted the pro-position of the North East District Council.
King County Executive Ron Sims (ron.sims@metrokc.gov) has promised that there would be no such reduction with the introduction of RTA. It is just as Important that it not occur before as well.
Time is short. This proposal comes before the County Transportation Committee on Wednesday May 13th. The members of the TC are: Rob McKenna- chair, Maggi Fimia; Jane Hague; Greg Nickels; Dwight Pelz and Chris Vance. Although, County Council Member Cynthia Sullivan, Larry Gossett and Larry Phillips do not sit on the TC, Route 30 runs through their districts. After the TC vote, the proposal goes before the whole County Council. The City Council has no vote in this matter, although I and other City Council Members have written to the County about our concerns.
Web Site for Route 30: http://transit.metrokc.gov/cgi-in/show_map?BUS_ROUTE=030 Central Phone # for the County Council is: 296-1000
Listing of email addresses for some King County Council Members:

larry.gossett@metrokc.gov
chris.vance@metrokc.gov

rob.mckenna@metrokc.gov
jane.hague@metrokc.gov
cynthia.sullivan@metrokc.gov

larry.phillips@metrokc.gov
greg.nickels@metrokc.gov

dwight.pelz@metrokc.gov
maggi.fimia@metrokc.gov
Local Gas Tax Option
The P.I.’s Sunday editorial might provide the needed momentum to convince the King County Council to put this gas tax option on the fall ballot. With King County voter approval, the County would collect and keep 2.3 cents in tax on every gallon of gasoline sold here. Right now, 40% of the gas tax collected in King County funds projects outside our county.
County Council Members Greg Nickels (Democrat) and Rob McKenna (Republican) are pushing for Council action. To round up support, they are enlisting the support of suburban government officials by agreeing that the money collected will be spent on a prior approved list of priority projects.
I campaigned last summer against an increase in property taxes to fund street improvements because I believe that the users of roads should be directly taxed for those improvements. A gas tax is the best way to do that. City Council passed Resolution 29672 last December urging the County to place this measure on the ballot. The City cannot levy this tax, only the County can. Since then, the Council and the Mayor have again requested this action.
The City stands to receive up to $6 million a year in much needed revenue for making street improvements to our major arterials. This is six times the annual tax revenue that the Port’s $300 million dollar Harbor Is. is projected to bring into the city.
This revenue stream would benefit both suburban commuters and city residents by making improvements on Aurora Ave., Lake City Way, Rainier Valley and the Spokane St. Bridge. But getting the King County Council to vote on it is not a done deal. For one thing, even some City Council Members are shy about pushing for a vote this November because it will be on the same ballot as the Republican-led Legislature’s proposed statewide transportation package. As the P.I. notes, this state measure “will be of no help to cities and counties, even if it passes.”
I believe that the voters can evaluate each measure on its own merit and determine which provides the better deal for them. If you want to see our street conditions improve join, me in urging Mayor Paul Schell (mayors.office@seattle.gov) and County Executive Ron Sims (ron.sims@metrokc.gov) to lobby the County Council to act now. We cannot expect next year’s state legislature to solve our transportation funding problems when we are not willing to use the Local Gas Tax funding mechanism they have given us.

Keep in touch…

Leave a comment