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Join the informed writers of The Times' editorial board in lively discussions at our blog, Opinion Northwest.

Topic: city council

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December 16, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Seattle City Council’s ridesharing proposal kills innovation

On Friday, Seattle witnessed an example of how disruptive business models can thrive and gain popularity with consumers, but they can’t escape forever from the weight of existing regulatory structures.

Sylvester Bush, 50, of Renton is one of the first drivers for a ride-sharing app called Lyft. (GREG GILBERT/THE SEATTLE TIMES)

Sylvester Bush, 50, of Renton is one of the first drivers for a ride-sharing app called Lyft. (GREG GILBERT/THE SEATTLE TIMES)

The Seattle City Council’s latest draft rules to legalize and regulate ridesharing companies such as Lyft, Uber and Sidecar, leave room for improvement before a final vote in early 2014. City leaders say their intention is to not punish or stifle innovation, but that’s exactly what their proposal would do.

We need to keep consumers safe through common-sense regulations, but we also need to let the market determine how many taxi, for-hire and rideshare services are really necessary. Perhaps the city of Seattle can go back to the drawing board and adopt more aspects of the California model, which ridesharing companies like Lyft contend are fair and will not put them out of business.

Here’s a link to Seattle Channel’s video of the meeting and the city clerk’s summary of the draft legislation. Some highlights:

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Comments | Topics: city council, lyft, ridesharing

October 16, 2013 at 7:58 AM

Seattle Prop 1 aims high, falls short of improving elections

The public financing concept that became Seattle Proposition 1 on the November ballot initially intrigued me. Of course, the devil’s in the details.

In this earlier editorial, The Seattle Times encouraged giving voters a chance to vote on whether they want to use property taxes to fund city council campaigns.

On Wednesday, the editorial board formally opposed Prop 1 and recommended voters pass Charter Amendment 19, a ballot measure that would move the city council from nine at-large elections to a hybrid system of seven districts and two at-large positions.

The biggest contrast between Charter Amendment 19 and Proposition 1 is cost. District elections are cheaper to run than citywide races. But with public financing, taxpayers foot the bill and have no choice where their money goes.

As we dug deeper, it became clear why Seattle Ethics and Election Commissioner Bruce Carter is a vocal opponent of Prop 1. In this Monday Seattle Times news report by reporter Bob Young, Carter called the public financing measure a “remedy in search of a problem.”

Yes, money influences politics but…

Data, however, doesn’t confirm that big money’s grip on City Hall is growing stronger.

Seattle limits contributions in council races to $700, far less than the $1,800 limits facing Metropolitan King County Council and state legislative candidates. The average contribution to City Council members in the 2011 election was $223, according to the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission (SEEC), the city’s watchdog group.

While that average has increased over time, it hasn’t climbed every year. In 2009, the average contribution dropped to $178 from $213 in 2007. There were more contributions under $100 in 2009 city races than in any election since 2001, the SEEC reported, and fewer contributions over $600.

SEEC staff members believe the 2009 numbers were driven downward by the recession.

Still, total contributions to council candidates in an election year have never topped the $1.95 million collected in 2003. To date this year, the total amount is $795,000.

Do you plan to vote for or against Prop 1? Scroll down to vote in our poll.

As much as I appreciate the high-minded sentiment behind Prop 1, it has several flaws:

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Comments | Topics: city council, elections, public finance

October 3, 2013 at 7:00 AM

Boardinghouses and Bellevue’s affordable housing shortage

A few irate neighbors in Bellevue don’t like pop-up boardinghouses on their street. The Bellevue City Council’s response so far is to consider an emergency ordinance to cap home occupancy to four unrelated roommates, according to this Monday Seattle Times news report.

They should think carefully about this. If giant, gargantuan homes and visions of “Animal House”-style neighbors is the problem, then city leaders ought to first consider revising design standards before these buildings go up in the first place. Single Family The Three

Limiting the number of people who can live under one roof could aggravate the Eastside’s shortage of affordable housing. To understand the problem, click on this link to see a helpful infographic by the Housing Development Consortium, a King County advocacy organization.

The boardinghouse boom is a response to local demand. Bellevue College  is converting to a four-year school. Students and low-to-moderate-income workers in the area cannot afford to live in the current housing market. Those who do often end up paying more than the standard 30 percent of their income on housing and utilities.

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Comments | Topics: affordabe housing, bellevue, city council