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Opinion Northwest

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

Topic: Seattle

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March 28, 2014 at 6:25 AM

The ‘theoretical’ and ‘practical’ of a Seattle $15 minimum wage law on tipping

Washington is one of just seven states that does not allow a lower wage for tipped workers; if you give a tip, it’s on top of a wage that is at least $9.32 an hour. It’s a settled issue. The federal minimum tip wage is an appalling $2.13 an hour, meaning that waitress in Idaho who calls you “hon” really needs that 20 percent tip.

File photo from a March 5 public hearing before Mayor Ed Murray's minimum wage committee at Town Hall. (Dean Rutz/The Seattle Times)

File photo from a March 5 public hearing before Mayor Ed Murray’s minimum wage committee at Town Hall. (Dean Rutz/The Seattle Times)

But the $15 minimum wage issue is re-stirring debate over whether it should come with a lower tip wage, or some acknowledgement that “total compensation” of workers includes tips. A state food service industry wage survey shows only chefs and managers made more than $15 an hour (including tips), but my bartender friends say that ridiculously low-balls tips.

The last panel of Mayor Ed Murray’s Income Inequality Symposium Thursday at Seattle University offered an entertaining exchange on the pros and cons of a tip law.  Eric Pravitz, an earnest nail salon co-owner who supports a minimum wage which counts tips, sat next to Saru Jayaman, a charismatic restaurant industry advocate who denounces tip wage laws as a “draconian, sexist system.” It was very Seattle: they clearly thought each other nuts, but in a friendly way.

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0 Comments | Topics: minimum wage, Seattle

March 24, 2014 at 6:23 AM

How a higher minimum wage would affect nonprofit supported-living providers

In a Sunday guest column, Sylvia Fuerstenberg wrote about how a higher minimum wage would affect a nonprofit like hers, which provides care for people and families with developmental disabilities. Fuerstenberg is the executive director of The Arc of King County. Her nonprofit receives funding from the state to provide a specific number…

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0 Comments | Topics: arc of king county, developmental disabilities, minimum wage

March 18, 2014 at 6:04 AM

Poll: Do you agree with Seattle City Council’s decision to limit Lyft, uberX and Sidecar?

No big surprises with the Seattle City Council’s unanimous decision on Monday to cap technology-based ride-services such as Lyft, uberX and Sidecar. The council passed a two-year pilot program to legalize and limit each network to 150 drivers at any given time, and to raise the number of taxi licenses by 200 over the next two years. (Read Seattle Times reporter Alexa Vaughn’s news side story.)

Taxi driver Benyam Hailu holds a sign as he waits for a meeting of the Seattle City Council to begin, Monday, March 17, 2014 in Seattle. The Council was voting on rules and regulations that have pitted supporters of ride-share and other non-traditional transportation companies against taxi and for-hire drivers and operators. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Taxi driver Benyam Hailu holds a sign as he waits for a meeting of the Seattle City Council to begin, Monday, March 17, 2014 in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

As The Seattle Times editorial board argued in this March 14 editorial, the city should have focused less on caps — for both taxis and ride-services — and more on consumer safety and leveling the playing field for all drivers. Increased competition has improved customer service over the last year, and it would be a shame to see ride-services cut back services in a city where people are driving less and demanding more affordable transportation options.

The other takeaway? This likely becomes a political issue in the next city council election cycle. See Uber Seattle’s tweet after the vote, which was retweeted at least 100 times as of Monday evening.

Before Mayor Ed Murray signs Council Bill 118036, he should also consider convening a panel to review and revamp the city’s antiquated taxi regulations. In a timely statement released after the vote, Murray indicated he plans to get more involved:

“As Mayor, I will direct my staff and the Facilities and Administrative Services Department Director to engage stakeholders and experts outside of City government in further discussions. Based on these discussions, I then plan to submit to Council my own recommendations to both ensure customer safety and improve customer choice while leveling the playing field for all industry players.”

This entire process has put Seattle in the spotlight because its city council is the first in the nation to limit the growth of a wildly popular service. Hopefully, Lyft, uberX and Sidecar officials learned along the way that they must release data much sooner and develop better relations with the council. Several elected members showed a willingness to revisit the cap in the future, but not until the market has time to adjust and the networks agree to be more transparent about their insurance policies.

Below the poll and forum, look for a sampling of reactions from the council members.

Do you agree with the council’s decision? Vote in the poll below. 

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0 Comments | More in Discussion, Polls | Topics: lyft, ride-services, ridesharing

March 7, 2014 at 6:04 AM

UberX, Lyft and Sidecar finally reveal driver numbers in Seattle

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.

Supporters of uberX wave cards as a person speaks in favor of their continued existence. (Alan Berner/The Seattle Times)

Supporters of uberX wave cards as a person speaks in favor of their continued existence. (Alan Berner/The Seattle Times)

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:

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0 Comments | Topics: lyft, regulations, ridesharing

February 25, 2014 at 11:56 AM

Poll: Should Seattle City Council impose cap on rideshare services Lyft, uberX and Sidecar?

In case you missed it, Monday’s editorial in The Seattle Times opinion section argues that a cap on ride-sharing services in Seattle does not improve consumer safety and kills an emerging business model. The board also supports lifting arbitrary caps on taxi, for-hire and ride-sharing vehicles.

Let the market determine how many vehicles should be on the road. Don’t limit growth. Focus on consumer safety.

Discussions on insurance gaps must continue in light of accidents involving ride-share drivers in other markets. Lyft has started a committee to find some clarity. Seattle leaders should join that effort.

Ride-sharing quickly gained a following because it keeps more cars off the road and gives drivers a chance to make a living with an asset they already own. Like the taxi industry, many drivers for these new services are immigrants. The council should beware of picking winners and losers.

Agree with this view or not, the editorial board would like to hear from you.

Vote in the poll below.

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0 Comments | Topics: lyft, rideshare, Seattle

February 25, 2014 at 6:25 AM

Cascade Bicycle Club apologizes for creepy email

The Cascade Bicycle Club got valuable real estate on Monday with a front page Seattle Times story on the club’s pivot toward a “more inclusive” recreation-first group. But the CBC took advantage with a rather a creepy email to members.  (Yes, I’m a member.)

Here’s an excerpt:

Let me introduce myself. I’m Bike “I’m smarter than you” Bot, the Director of Cascade’s Intelligence Agency.*

I’m not human. I’m an internet program that’s been trolling through how many emails you’ve been opening from the Cascade Bicycle Club and how many actions you’ve been taking.**

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0 Comments | Topics: advocacy, cascade bicycle club, cycling

February 5, 2014 at 6:20 AM

How much will the Seahawks Super Bowl parade cost?

The Seattle Seahawks are throwing the 12th Man the biggest super-sized party Seattle has seen since 1979. And they’re picking up the bill.

More of this: Seattle Sonics victory parade, 1979. (Vic Condiotty / Seattle Times)

More of this: Seattle Sonics victory parade, 1979. (Vic Condiotty / Seattle Times)

The Seahawks’ city-issued parade permit includes standard costs for traffic control, said Jeff Reading, Mayor Ed Murray’s spokesman. Costs above that – including a call-out of “every available police officer,” according to a city source – will be paid for by the Seahawks.

How much that will be is a secret, for now. Seattle police don’t disclose costs for big events in advance, for security reasons.

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0 Comments | Topics: celebrate 48, football, NFL

January 7, 2014 at 6:00 AM

Affordable housing in Seattle just as important as minimum wage

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray chose to make a $15 minimum wage for city employees the topic of his first official press conference last Friday, but he also reiterated that increasing wages alone won’t fix the city’s affordability problem.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray conducts his first press conference. His main topic was implementing a $15/hour minimum pay for all City of Seattle employees. (Photo by Greg Gilbert/The Seattle Times)

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray conducts his first press conference. His main topic was implementing a $15/hour minimum pay for all City of Seattle employees. (Photo by Greg Gilbert/The Seattle Times)

Murray said education and housing are two other issues that must be dealt with if Seattle is to remain a place where people from diverse backgrounds and income levels can work and live.

He’s right. For now, let’s single out the housing part.

In case you missed it, The Seattle Times editorial pages featured a special section on affordable housing last month. Read those op-eds here. In November, our board called on city leaders to develop a coherent strategy to fix the housing shortage.

Since then, Seattle Times reporter Sanjay Bhatt reports rent increases may be stabilizing, but not by much. And most of the housing stock that’s available is out of reach for low and middle-wage workers. Remember, affordable housing generally means the cost of utilities and shelter should not exceed 30 percent of household income.

Here’s a link to the city’s wait list for subsidized housing, which is perennially long and can last years. Many lower-middle class workers don’t quality for assistance. Thousands more remain homeless, including hundreds of families with children.

If we know the city of Seattle needs more shelter and housing, how do we pay for it? New and existing developments rely heavily on federal funds, the Seattle Housing Levy (which is up for renewal in 2016) and the state’s Housing Trust Fund. The new mayor and City Council’s challenge is to develop policies that will stretch those limited dollars further.

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0 Comments | Topics: affordable housing, minimum wage, Seattle

December 30, 2013 at 1:49 PM

Seahawks win unites us during dark days of winter

I was at a ramen house in University Village on Sunday with my sister from Los Angeles, refreshing the Seahawks app on my phone between slurps and conversation. My Twitter feed, too. We headed to a dessert shop afterward. A well-dressed mother and young daughter sitting next to us wondered aloud what the score was. I broke out my phone and gave them an update. Just four ladies at Fran’s Chocolates, talking football. The little girl’s father is a rabid fan and season ticket-holder. They weren’t with him at the game, but they were with him in spirit.

Russell Wilson takes the field as the Seattle Seahawks face the St. Louis Rams at CenturyLink Field on Sunday, December 29, 2013. (Photo by Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)

Russell Wilson takes the field as the Seattle Seahawks face the St. Louis Rams at CenturyLink Field on Sunday, December 29, 2013. (Photo by Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)

On Sunday, the Seahawks won the NFC West division title by beating the St. Louis Rams and secured home-field advantage until the Super Bowl.

For the first time in my life, this Washington native is genuinely interested in Seahawks football.

I’m cheering on my home team because it unites us. Brings us together during these dark, cold dreary days of winter.

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0 Comments | Topics: football, seahawks, Seattle

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