Join the informed writers of The Times' editorial board in lively discussions at our blog, Opinion Northwest.
Topic: Seattle City Council
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March 7, 2014 at 6:04 AM
One week after a Seattle City Council subcommittee‘s controversial and preliminary decision to limit ridesharing services to 150 drivers per network at any given time, Lyft, uberX and Sidecar have each come forward to reveal the number of drivers on their respective platforms.
During a Feb. 27 hearing, council members complained loudly that these companies were refusing to release that information. The city’s top officials have struggled for months to reach an agreement on how to legalize ridesharing, which has disrupted Seattle’s highly regulated taxi industry.
Now armed with a little more information, council members should revisit the cap number they proposed and at least raise the limit on the number of drivers from each company who can work at the same time.
A March 10 vote by the full council has been postponed until March 17.
On Friday afternoon, uberX sent out a press release revealing it “has 900 active drivers on its system. This number does not include drivers who have left the system or those awaiting background checks to join the system. That number also does not include UberBlack or UberSUV drivers.”
The service also said more than 300 drivers are active at any given time and continues to grow with demand. So if the city’s proposed legislation is passed, hundreds of drivers using their personal cars will lose the ability they currently enjoy to earn income through uberX.
Uber Seattle General Manager Brooke Steger’s statement: (more…)
February 14, 2014 at 7:23 AM
On Friday morning, the Seattle City Council’s Committee on Taxi, For-Hire and Limousine Regulations will meet (again) to discuss what to do with app-based transportation companies such as Lyft, Sidecar and UberX. The three-member panel had planned to vote on a draft proposal that would have capped the number of ridesharing vehicles that can operate citywide.
That’s good. It means the council can avert the risk of passing a bad policy and punishing innovation.
Probably helps that Seattle Mayor Ed Murray weighed in throughout the week to express his concerns about the pending legislation. He tweeted this on Thursday:
January 7, 2014 at 12:09 PM
One of the questions swirling around Kshama Sawant’s improbable victory for Seattle City Council is her interest, and ability, to translate her activism into legislation. That requires tolerance for the oft-grinding process of law-making, and most importantly, getting four other votes on the council to pass a bill creating a citywide $15 minimum wage.
Judging by her inauguration speech on Monday, she’s not all that worried about it.
Here in Seattle, political pundits are asking about me: will she compromise? Can she work with others? Of course, I will meet and discuss with representatives of the establishment. But when I do, I will bring the needs and aspirations of working-class people to every table I sit at, no matter who is seated across from me. And let me make one thing absolutely clear: There will be no backroom deals with corporations or their political servants. There will be no rotten sell-out of the people I represent.
That’s a fine speech, but it implies no path toward anything but her sole vision, and implies that her colleagues on the council, and Mayor Ed Murray, are the “servants” of rich. (more…)
December 19, 2013 at 8:00 AM
Thanks to our readers for your thoughtful and interesting comments in response to the Seattle City Council’s draft plan to regulate app-powered ridesharing services in Seattle, such as uberX, Lyft and Sidecar.
In this Monday Opinion Northwest post, I argued that the city’s proposed efforts to regulate these popular new services using old-school standards punish innovation and do not increase consumer safety or choice. The council is considering whether to limit each of these ridesharing networks to 100 vehicles and many drivers to 16 hours per week. A vote is expected sometime early next year, so now is the time for a robust public discussion.
Here’s what some of you have to say about whether and how ridesharing should be regulated:
Absolutely. In an effort to live according to our environmental and urbanist values, my wife and I got rid of our car a year ago. We walk, ride our bikes, take the bus and use a number of ridesharing services to get around town. We rarely use traditional taxis because they are unreliable, especially when you need them most (i.e. rainy weather) and the service is usually not very good. Just try paying with a credit card and the driver has to run your card through an old-school carbon-copy machine. It’s like returning to last century. In contrast, the rideshare services have much better service (just ask the drivers how they like their jobs), are more convenient and are available when you need them most because of pricing that responds to demand.
By stifling these innovations, it becomes harder for people to become less dependent on cars, which contributes to the ongoing cycle of ever-increasing traffic congestion. Seattle thinks of itself as a city that embraces innovation and forward thinking. However, on this issue, our City Council is way behind.
— Gabriel Grant, Seattle
No. All this does is hurt the taxi and for-hire drivers who have worked hard to play by the rules. The stated demand is simply for a cheaper service. These new companies aren’t modeled on providing a cheaper service on a level playing field, they simply pick off the taxis’ best fares and do so without licensing fees, safety or insurance standards. This isn’t a new market segment against the established taxis, it’s the black market versus the law-abiding market.
Level the playing field. The current proposal is TOO lenient on these illegal black market rideshare companies.
— Pat Flanagan, Seattle (more…)
December 4, 2013 at 5:38 AM
On the eve of my retirement, Times Editorial Page Editor Kate Riley suggested I pick my favorites from the 342 columns I’ve written for The Times since 2000. Here are 10, with my own headlines:
1. “Games With Words,” April 12, 2000. This was my takedown of the World Trade Organization protesters, who used loopy logic to justify their disruption of an international conference.
2. “A Republican War,” April 9, 2003. I hated the Iraq war and wrote three columns against it before President Bush started it. This one was written while U.S. soldiers were on the way to Baghdad. In it, I predict that the conquest of Iraq would result in an electoral disaster for the Republicans in 2004. I was wrong; the disasters came in 2006 and 2008.
November 22, 2013 at 1:41 PM
Kshama Sawant is a natural campaigner.
Clearly, she’s a passionate voice for those who agree with her. But does she listen to those who don’t? Because if she wants to create substantive changes in Seattle, she’ll have to learn the art of the political deal.
Each time she says something that resonates with voters, like this: (more…)
November 15, 2013 at 12:01 PM
The apparent victory of Kshama Sawant over incumbent Seattle City Councilman Richard Conlin proves something other than that a socialist can win election in lefty Seattle. It also shows that Seattle Proposition 1, taxpayer financing of city council campaigns, was not necessary.
It’s losing, narrowly, and that’s good. Taxpayers of Seattle, who are taxed heavily already, don’t need to pay for politicians’ campaigns.
The point of taxpayer financing, according to its advocates, is not to allow big money to buy elections. Consider Sawant. She is foreign-born with a foreign name. She had never held elective office. She is a socialist, and proudly says so. And she raised $105,630, according to the latest reports, in individual contributions no larger than $700. The total is less than half of what Conlin raised, but it was enough to beat him.
There were other radicals on the ballot, but they raised nothing. It wasn’t because the doors were shut to them. It was because they didn’t want to do the work.
Public financing is a law for lazy candidates.
The passage of Charter Amendment 19, for the election of most of the council by district, will make it easier for challengers to run, further undermining the case for taxpayer-financed political campaigns.
November 6, 2013 at 12:01 PM
Seattle voters made a series of bold decisions Tuesday night. Not only did they oust a mayor, they rejected public financing for political campaigns (Prop 1) and created a hybrid district system (Charter Amendment 19) that will alter City Council elections beginning in 2015.
Incumbent city council members Nick Licata, Mike O’Brien, Sally Bagshaw and Richard Conlin retained their seats, but prepare for a shake-up at City Hall.
All nine members are currently elected citywide. With a new system consisting of seven district and two at-large positions, voters will be able to elect a candidate who lives in their neighborhood and is more accountable for local concerns. Most other major cities already do this. A similar set-up in Seattle should liven up city council debates, which some observers accuse of being increasingly stale because the current council is ideologically aligned. Members are also hampered by the fact that they each represent the broad interests of more than 600,000 constituents. With districts, they’ll be focused on addressing the needs of about 88,000 residents.
This will be a fascinating change. Among the key questions: Which council members plan to run again under this new system? Will they compete against each other or at-large?
Below is the Seattle Districts Now map. I’ve added text to indicate where current council members live.
Faye Garneau, the north Seattle businesswoman who bankrolled the Seattle Districts Now effort with about $200,000 of her own money, says it was money well-spent if it forces future council members to prioritize and be more responsive to neighborhood concerns outside the downtown core.
“It’s my city. I love it,” she said over the phone Wednesday morning. “I want to leave it better than when I entered it. And I think it will be. ” (more…)
September 26, 2013 at 7:07 AM
Seattle’s rental market absolutely should not go the way of New York City and San Francisco prices.
In Tuesday’s Seattle Times, reporter Sanjay Bhatt wrote a news story revealing landlords plan to increase rent by about 3 percent between September and March, on top of an estimated 7.5 percent increase over the last 12 months. Part of the problem is people in the millennial generation (born between the early 1980s and 1990s) are moving from bigger cities to Seattle. They’re accustomed to paying much more, and landlords know it. According to Bhatt’s news story:
In New York, renters in that age group spend roughly 70 percent of their income on housing, reports JLL, which compared millennial income data from PayScale.com to its own data on rents. In San Francisco, it’s about half their income.
In Seattle, rent consumes about 30 percent of millennials’ income.
There’s nothing wrong with people moving to Seattle. Quality of life here is great. If rent continues to eat up a greater portion of paychecks, though, the working poor and young adults will soon be priced out of the city’s urban core. Allowing that to happen will make Seattle less diverse and exacerbate traffic problems by forcing more people to live farther out and drive to work. Also, the more people spend on housing, they less they save or spend on food and the local economy.
In a Sept. 3 editorial, our editorial board encouraged the mayor and city leaders to pursue policy changes to increase affordable housing options.
I’m also intrigued by Sightline Institute Founder Alan Durning‘s e-book released last July, “Unlocking Home: Three Keys to Affordable Communities.” Durning, a Ballard resident and expert in sustainable living, studied the history of affordable housing throughout the northwest. In the 50-page book, he identifies three “less controversial” and politically feasible reforms that have worked. He says the city could make some simple changes in code to create thousands of additional units in existing neighborhoods. The three keys are: (more…)
September 18, 2013 at 12:15 PM
It’s mystifying to see Seattle City Council President Sally Clark’s Twitter account has blown up with criticism from gay activists, thanks to an off-hand comment from Mayor Mike McGinn. Mystifying, because Clark, the first openly gay council president, co-sponsored council resolutions in support of same-sex marriage in 2012 and donated to the campaign to affirm its legality. Her record on LGBT issues is rock-solid.
But she became a target nonetheless when she declined McGinn’s offer to sponsor a city council resolution denouncing Russia’s retrograde law criminalizing “homosexual propaganda.” (For background, read this New York Times story).
McGinn suggested the resolution in response to a letter from the Seattle Russian Consul General Andrey Yushmanov, who criticizing the mayor’s participation in a Sept. 3 protest outside Yushmanov’s Madison Park home. “… I would appreciate if you could clarify whether such your (sic) support of the protesters reflects the official position of the authorities of Seattle,” Yushmanov asked in a letter.
When McGinn, in an interview with The Stranger, said Clark had declined to sponsor a council resolution, editorial director Dan Savage (who has 167,000-plus Twitter followers), pounced on Clark as hypocritical.