News Blog for Seattle's Maple Leaf Neighborhood

 

City Council votes to expand staff; Debora Juarez chases NE 130th light rail station

April 28th, 2016 by Mike

Update: The Seattle Times has an editorial column on the gold-plated Seattle City Council.

Mentions The Pronto vote, too, in the fourth graph.

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Eight of the nine Seattle City Council members voted this week to add an additional staffer per council member – potentially bringing their individual staffs to four each.

Only budget chair Tim Burgess, who said the cost will be an extra half-million dollars annually, voted “no.”

The rationale: Now that seven of the council members represent neighborhood districts, they actually have more work to do. Erica C. Barnett has a post: Council: Smaller Districts Require Larger Staffs.

From Seattle Council Insight’s piece here:

Council members Lisa Herbold and Debora Juarez, who hold district-based positions (unlike Burgess whose seat is city-wide), were the vocal proponents for the change this afternoon….

Juarez, (who represents the vast majority of Maple Leaf), took the point further, claiming that when voters passed the initiative switching the Council to seven districts, it was because “the voters wanted someone to advocate for them, while keeping in mind the greater good of the city of Seattle.” She rattled off a long list of issues she and her staff have needed to deal with in their first 100 days on the job, saying “you can’t expect three people to be expert in all that.”

Burgess disagreed. From The Seattle Times:

Council members in similarly sized U.S. cities with district council members have only one to three aides, according to a 2014 report by the City Auditor, Burgess noted, mentioning Austin, Boston, Denver, Jacksonville, Fla., Oakland and San Francisco.

The Times story is here (including the information that in addition to council-member aides, the council is supported by more than 20 shared “central staff” policy analysts).

Meanwhile, Juarez continues to prioritize pushing for another light rail station at Northeast 130th Street.

In two separate emails yesterday she issued a “130th Street Station Call to Action.”

If we are going to see some an amendment to the Draft ST3 Plan we need you to write in and tell the Sound Transit leadership that we need a commitment to build the 130th Street Station!

I am not sitting around hoping there will be a change, I am out here pushing every button and looking for all the possible ways to get North Seattle what it needs.

She’ll be at the Sound Transit board meeting this afternoon, 1:30 at 401 S Jackson St., and wants you to be there, too.

Here’s her full post, including a suggested letter to send Sound Transit.

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Councilwoman Debora Juarez’s top three tasks

March 20th, 2016 by Mike

Debora Juarez,  the Seattle city councilwoman representing virtually all of Maple Leaf, has posted this guest column over at CityLiving.com: A lot accomplished in first 100 days.

Specifically three things:

In our first 100 days in office, we set out with three goals to deliver on the promise of district representation. First, we aspired to create momentum around the three major capital projects planned for our district. Second, we planned district tours of major enterprises in North Seattle. Third, we opened a district office, where our constituents could speak with my staff and myself without the need to travel downtown to City Hall.

The district office is at North Seattle College, College Center Building, Room 1451, though I can’t seem to find a link to it on her web site.

The capital projects are:

1) The new north police substation at Northeast 130th Street and Aurora Avenue North.

2) The oft-discussed pedestrian bridge between North Seattle College and the Northgate Transit Center. From the city’s web site:

With the passage of the Move Seattle Levy, the Northgate Pedestrian and Bicycle Bridge project has acquired full funding for the construction of the bridge. The project team will continue to refine the design of the bridge.

3) “Finally, I have been advocating for our district’s second light rail stop, slated for Northeast 130th Street and Interstate-5. This station would serve the Lake City, Bitter Lake and Haller Lake communities.”

There is no mention of Pronto, which surprisingly, continues to be a flash point over the city budget (see comments at link).

Her guest column is here. Juarez’s own blog features “Happy International Women’s Day.”

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What is Councilwoman Debora Juarez thinking?

March 14th, 2016 by Mike

Note that the original question – what went wrong with the March 1 vote? – remains.

The six City Council members sitting next to one another at this table on March 1 either could or couldn’t count to six.

Update: Councilwoman Juarez’s staff has sent me a statement (!). Here it is:

“After careful deliberation, today I voted yes on legislation which removed restrictions on $1.4 million of $5 million previously budgeted for the Pronto system by council vote in November of 2015. Today’s action allowed the Executive to purchase the bike share system’s assets from Pronto.

Had this proposal failed, the city would have been obligated to repay $1 million in federal grant money and the three thousand yearly members of our bike share system would be left without a service they paid into.

The introduction of the Pronto bike share system in Seattle has faced serious problems since its launch in October 2014. I share the concerns of Seattleites who look at our major challenges citywide and debate whether money should be spent on a program that has so far not lived up to expectations. This is why I also voted for the successful amendments to the final ordinance that significantly increase council oversight and accountability for this program.

I am looking forward to enhancing the transparency, service area equity, and overall vision of bike share in Seattle. Today’s action gives us the best chance at achieving this goal.”

– Councilmember Debora Juarez, March 14, 2016

Update: She voted “yes” to save Pronto. The full council voted 7-2 in favor, with Maple Leaf’s other councilman, Rob Johnson, also voting yes. Opposed were Lisa Herbold (west Seattle/South Park) and Tim Burgess (at large).

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On the first day of the month a Seattle City Council committee deadlocked 3-3 on bailing out the failing Pronto bike rental service.

Except it didn’t.

The record now reads that newly elected Councilwoman Debora Juarez, who represents north Seattle including virtually all of Maple Leaf,  actually voted to save the system.

That was not the vote announced at the meeting and heard by the six council members present, and by support staff.

What happened?

A week ago today, on Monday, March 7,  we emailed Juarez’s legislative assistant, BrynDel Swift (bryndel.swift@seattle.gov), to ask.

We’re following the Pronto vote and I’ve been keeping an eye out for Councilwoman Juarez’s statement on her vote last Tuesday. Somehow I’ve missed it, but am quite interested. Can you provide? Thanks.

No answer.

So two days later on Wednesday, March 9th, we forwarded the email to the rest of her staff, Mercedes Elizalde (mercedes.elizalde@seattle.gov), Tyler Emsky (tyler.emsky@seattle.gov) , Sabrina Bolieu (sabrina.bolieu@seattle.gov), and to Juarez herself (debora.juarez@seattle.gov).

No answer. And we haven’t seen it answered elsewhere, either. (Except, kind of, here.)

Our earlier post on Pronto, including updated links to other news organizations’ stories, is here.

In comments there, and elsewhere, Pronto seems to have become a stand-in for how the city prioritizes its spending.

An example: In Danny Westneat’s Seattle Times column last week on a Greenwood food bank closing for lack of city funding, one commentator wrote:

Explain how the city has millions of dollars to spend on a bloated failed bike share program which most citizens don’t want or use while this needed food bank program is shut down. Misguided priorities and lack of common sense.

And another:

OK Debora Juarez: Here’s where you show you’re the adult in the room. Instead of voting yes on that losing proposition Pronto how about using those funds to keep this food bank going? Things like food banks are important. Pronto is just a Murray dream that ends up being a nightmare for everyone else. I had great hopes for you when I cast my ballot for you but now I’m not so sure. So far all I’ve seen from you is more of the same council we had before the election.

The full City Council vote on Pronto is set for this afternoon.

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UPDATE: Seattle Council can’t count. Pronto bike program still muddles on – will the new City Council districts make a difference?

March 2nd, 2016 by Mike

Update March 10: Since folks are still commenting on this:

The Seattle Times’ Brier Dudley has a piece much discussed on talk radio: Pronto alternative: bike ownership.

And Publicola’s Josh Feit has a rebuttal: A Bike Policy for Adults.

Off-topic, but about biking, the Seattle Bike Blog has a post slamming sharrows, but also sort-of explaining them. (“The sharrow is the city’s most prolific graffiti tag.”)

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Update Thursday afternoon: Two days after the fact, The Seattle Times has a new story saying the city claims Tuesday’s vote on Pronto was not in fact split 3-3 but actually favored bailing out Pronto 4-2 because:

1) Councilwoman Debora Juarez, who represents Maple Leaf and north Seattle, actually voted “aye.”

2) Committee chair Mike O’Brien, a Pronto backer, counted wrong.

The story is here: Seattle council panel’s Pronto vote wasn’t an even split, after all.

Though Juarez didn’t contest O’Brien’s take at the time, she actually voted “Aye,” which means the real result was 4-2 in favor of buying the struggling bike-sharing program for $1.4 million. That’s what the council’s official record now shows.

With a 3-3 tie, the plan to rescue Pronto would have gone to the full council March 14 with no recommendation from the committee. The 4-2 result means there will be a recommendation that the full council vote to prop up the program.

SeattleBikeBlog has posted here.

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Pronto – Seattle’s bike renting program which will go broke at month’s end (and would already be insolvent if the city hadn’t spent nearly a third of a million dollars bailing it out at the turn of the year) – is still adrift.

On Tuesday the city’s transportation committee – now called the “Sustainability & Transportation Committee” – split  3-3 on whether Pronto should be saved for another $1.4 million.

(Editorial snark: The old public safety committee is now named the “Gender Equity, Safe Communities & New Americans Committee. We originally thought public safety might have become the new “Human Services & Public Health Committee,” but perhaps that’s the one saddled with The Jungle, another place to watch how the new council functions.)

Our interest in Pronto is not so much in whether it’s useful to Maple Leaf and the north end – it’s not, unless you take a bus or, soon, light rail, downtown – but in its politics.

How will Seattle City Council members, newly elected by district to represent specific neighborhoods, vote?

In this case, Debora Juarez, who represents the north end’s Council District 5, including most of Maple Leaf, voted on Tuesday against the buyout.

Councilman Rob Johnson, who represents Maple Leaf’s southern toe and points south in District 4, is an enthusiastic “yes,” and has posted such on the City’s web site: Why investing in bike-share matters.

For more about districts citywide, go here.

The Seattle Times has coverage of Tuesday’s meeting here: City Council can’t make up its mind over saving bike-share program.

Councilmember Mike O’Brien, who chairs the committee, voted for purchase, as did Rob Johnson and Kshama Sawant. Councilmembers Lisa Herbold, Tim Burgess and Debora Juarez voted against the plan.

O’Brien represents Northwest Seattle, Sawant represents the Central District.

Herbold represents West Seattle/South Park, Burgess’ district covers the entire city. [Read more →]

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Two more things about Pronto bike rental…UPDATE

February 18th, 2016 by Mike

Weekend update: Pronto muddles on.

The Seattle Bike Blog has a long Pronto update here, including a look at its financials.

In other words, the proposed $1.4 million is a buyout, since the city is purchasing assets (and getting a good deal as you will see below). But the $305,000 is a bailout, a cash injection to keep the system afloat.

In addition, Crosscut has a piece today.

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On what’s already an exceedingly odd day (see police chief, also Pope, Trump), here are two new things about Seattle’s failing Pronto bike rental service:

1) In an editorial, The Seattle Times suggests we wish Pronto off on the Eastside.

It probably won’t work there, either, the Times seems to say, but maybe they’ll give us money for it.

2) Over at Publicola, Josh Feit reveals Seattle, which is considering spending $1.4 million to rescue Pronto, just (quietly) spent nearly a third of a million dollars on it.

The city has already spent $305,000 to keep Pronto afloat through February. SDOT went ahead and gave $65,000 to Pronto last December and $240,000 this year so Pronto could pay its vendor contract.

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Update: Public transportation – and a new City Council

January 30th, 2016 by Mike

Update on Mardi Gras:

The Seattle Times has an opinion piece here. It’s not supportive of Pronto.

Update Feb. 4:

The Stranger has a Pronto story here.

The Seattle Bike Blog has one here.

Update Feb. 3: Josh Feit over at PublicCola has an update on Tuesday’s hearing on Pronto rental bikes.

Bottom line: Not much happened. Any vote was postponed as apparently only two transportation committee members were present – including the chair, Councilman Mike O’Brien.

To O’Brien’s frustration, SDOT’s presentation didn’t come with a specific business plan other than the immediate pitch to stabilize the program—there are currently 50-plus stations with 500 bikes and 3,000 members—and then have the city put it out to bid again in 2017….

O’Brien’s committee didn’t take any action yesterday (Pronto will go under in March if the city doesn’t bail it out); O’Brien reasoned that his other council colleagues are likely to have questions. Indeed, letters have been coming in to city hall suggesting that the $5 million could go to homelessness programs.

Feit tweeted about the meeting here.

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A month into Seattle’s new City Council – in which council members are elected neighborhood by neighborhood – we’ll get a look at what this might mean for local public transportation.

Specifically, what will the council members – representing their districts – say about:

* Rescuing Pronto bike sharing rental.

* The apparent disappearance of much of our direct bus service to downtown.

On Tuesday, the City Council will discuss whether to spend $1.4 million to bail out the failing Pronto public bike rental  system.

Fifteen months after launch, Pronto is insolvent. Also, no one is riding the bikes.

As the map shows, there are no Pronto bikes available in Maple Leaf nor, for that matter, in all of Council District 5 (north Seattle), now represented by Debora Juarez.

There was a proposal to put a Pronto station at North Seattle College, but only if the feds paid for it. The feds declined.

Our earlier post is here. The Seattle Times has an updated story here: Seattle’s Pronto bike-share nonprofit teetering, seeks $1.4M rescue by city. (Note to “terriance”, in the +300-plus comments on that story: We don’t know what an “enterprise producer” is, either.)

Councilmember Mike O’Brien, who chairs the Transportation and Sustainability Committee, said he was disappointed to see Pronto “go financially sideways so quick” and said he’ll have to carefully consider whether to fund it.

“Just barely a year into it we’re going to throw a million and half into it to keep it alive and see what the next phase is.”

He said he believed bike sharing could work in Seattle, but O’Brien said, “If we’re not going to make it work, let’s figure that out as soon as possible and not spend money on it.”

The Seattle Bike Blog has posted here: With Pronto in the red, city outlines takeover and expansion plan.

The Times’ Danny Westneat has a column here.

In its first year, people took 142,832 rides on Pronto bikes. That’s only 391 rides per day. It’s about seven rides taken at each station per day. Each station brought in only an average $30 a day in revenue.  These are terrible figures considering the bike stations are dotted around places like the Amazon jungle, which we imagine should be meccas of alternative transportation.

Also, helmets.

Also, buses.

With the coming of light rail to the University District, there are proposed changes in Metro routes – but we’ll be damned if we understand them.

We weren’t at the Community Council meeting Wednesday evening, but reports on “Metro’s” presentation were not illuminating. [Read more →]

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“No.” Feds on $15 million for Northgate pedestrian bridge

October 27th, 2015 by Mike

Bad news for the pedestrian/bike bridge between North Seattle College and the Northgate light rail station.

The Seattle Times posted a story tonight beginning:

The federal government has decided not to contribute $15 million toward a Northgate Station pedestrian-and-bicycle bridge over Interstate 5. Local taxpayers would need to fund the entire $26 million project themselves.

Nor will Uncle Sam donate $10 million to help Seattle expand the Pronto bicycle network, which currently serves the University District, downtown and places nearby.

The Times story is here.

Earlier posts of ours are here and here.

The Times adds:

Bridge funding still remains within reach.

Sound Transit already approved $5 million, and the Legislature $10 million, along with $5 million already pledged by Seattle. That leaves a gap of $6 million.

If voters pass this fall’s $930 million Move Seattle property-tax levy, the city’s plan would allocate $15 million to Northgate, pushing it past the goal line.

As others have noted, however, that is not a firm commitment from the city.

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Maple Leaf, Metro buses and Pronto rental bikes

October 5th, 2015 by Mike

Two things about transportation:

1) Metro is considering a plan that could dramatically increase mid-day bus service in northeast Seattle. Specifically, from about 8,700  to 28,000 households served by a bus every 15 minutes.

There’s a meeting Tuesday night, 6 p.m., at The Mountaineers Club at Magnuson Park, hosted by Rod Dembowski of the King County Council, which oversees Metro.

The address is 7700 Sand Point Way N.E. More details are here.

2) Meanwhile, the city of Seattle,in a bid to rescue the apparently faltering Pronto bike ride-share program, is proposing spending millions of dollars to, among other things, put a Pronto bicycle-renting station at North Seattle College.

From our news partners The Seattle Times:

The proposal to boost the bicycle network is laid out in Mayor Ed Murray’s budget proposal, announced this week. Murray called fora $5 million city contribution to purchase 2,000 new bicycles, to go with a potential $10 million in matching federal grants for stations and other needs….

The idea surfaced earlier this year, as a section of a $25 million federal grant request, primarily to seek $15 million toward the Northgate Station walk-bike bridge over Interstate 5, plus $10 million for the citywide bicycle network.

The grant request touts bike stations around North Seattle College and South Seattle College, which serve higher proportions of low-income and minority students than the city population in general.

The full Times story, and several hundred mostly not-supportive comments, is here.

For more supportive comments, try the Seattle Bike Blog, here.

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