Friday, September 24, 2010

Moving forward with King County Executive Dow Constantine

On Wednesday, September 8th, at the invitation of our super friends at Sonicsgate.org, a few of us had the good fortune of meeting with King County Executive Dow Constantine and his Director of Government Relations Sung Yang.

After some handwringing over the past, and well deserved compliments of the film Sonicsgate, Camp Jones brought us back to the present by asking what can we do now, and Brian Robinson asking Dow if he was willing to be proactive in working towards a new team.

Adam Brown, Jason Reid, Camp Jones and Brian Robinson provided Dow with smart answers to good questions. I think our conversation kept returning to our desire to get something, anything, moving in the future.

My favorite question was the "why me" question.

I'll answer that now as I think all of us did then, we need political leadership. Turning to the City of Seattle just hasn't worked out so well in the past (it's true). And... a solution anywhere in King County is a solution.

To me, turning to the city now this is what I see:
rumor: Things are so testy between certain council members and Mayor Mike McGinn that certain council staffers are not allowed up on the 7th floor.
Publicola.net, Moring Fizz, 9/14/2010

Seattle may not be the solution in the end, and they just do not look like they can agree and lead on who presses the button in the elevator, or signs a draft document. I am sure they will sort things out, soon.

When I look at King County, and in particular Dow Constantine, this is what I see:
“There’s simply no substitute for being there when it comes to getting a feel for a community, its people, and its issues,” Constantine said in a news release. “I met every mayor in King County on their own turf and let them set the agenda for our discussion.”
, IssaquahPress.comKing County executive completes sojourn to 39 cities, 9/15/2010

I am the mayor of my own opinion, and that's about it. But, you know, he was that way with us too.

Back to the answer to Camp's question; what we can do now is work with all of our friends in getting legislation passed at the state level that would bring home our tourism taxes.
I know that this makes people crazy.
We all have to try to keep an open mind and look at different ways to get something accomplished.

With Husky Stadium no longer in the picture, and our friends at 4Culture looking at "evaporating" if something does not pass this legislative session, it is in King County's best interest in helping all of us get a bill passed this legislative session.
As we know more, you will know more.

Let's move forward together.

Thanks,
Mike Baker

(originally posted at Sonicscentral.com)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Seattle Times: Panel backs Chihuly exhibit at Seattle Center

If we are going to be handing over public land to the tourism industry then they can fork over some of that hotel tax money, right now.
This stuff aint free, and I am getting tired of paying a levy for maintenance and capital investment for these "sites" if its intended audience are out-of-towners.

Who are we building the city for?
Where is the tax-benefit nexus?

No more levies for tourist traps. Let the hotelier's new Public Facilities District and the 7% hotel tax start paying for the upkeep of these Seattle-ish "public" parks.
The entire Seattle Center site, if this is the direction they really want to take that site, should get its capital money from the 2% sales tax credit on Seattle hotels that is part of the Convention Center tax revenue.
No more "park" money if this is the direction they want to go. Go ask the tourism industry for our tax money back while you are kissing their asses.

A citizens panel selected Dale Chihuly's glass-art exhibit Friday for a much-prized site at the foot of the Space Needle. The panel's conclusion, after months of meetings and debate, is the same as the one Seattle Center officials reached last spring.

Seattle Center Director Robert Nellams will study the panel's recommendation and present his choice to Mayor Mike McGinn. The City Council will make a final decision this fall.

The committee expressed skepticism about seven other proposals for the 1.5-acre site, and said the commercial and privately owned Chihuly exhibit would not cost the city any money and would attract tens of thousands of tourists in time for the 50th anniversary celebration of the World's Fair in 2012.

With city budget cuts coming, an unfunded master plan for the Center and a basketball arena that is missing its NBA team, Seattle Center will need something to celebrate in two years.

Panel backs Chihuly exhibit at Seattle Center, Seattle Times Newspaper

Friday, September 17, 2010

Seattle Times: State predicts another big shortfall, will cut spending 6%

House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, and Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, released a statement saying: "The fact is, the current budget situation clearly demonstrates that state government must be rescaled to fit the new fiscal reality. It will take more than just a quick special session to do that right."
State predicts another big shortfall, will cut spending 6%, Seattle Times Newspaper


Peter Callaghan of the Tacoma News Tribune asked the policy makers who are are part of the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council what the government would look like in the future; either the state is an education, health, and safety agency, or does the state shave chunks out of the areas of spending?
In answering that question Hunter said, in part, "we are going to have to decide what we do that are important to that economy... what we are responsible at the state level, what we are responsible at the local level, do we need to move some things across those boundaries. I think it is going to be a wrenching process." (tvw.org, 9/16/2010, 48.20 min., Economic & Revenue Forecast Council quarterly review.

Please click here to watch the TVW.org video.

The state will get out of the business of providing state-wide solutions. That begs the question for the counties and municipalities be in the business of providing? Will the state pass the power and authority for the counties that have when they can no longer deliver for the have not's?

I am going to repeat this from the prior post:
"Should we get out of the business of those things that we never heard a word in four public meetings or on a website with thousands of hits?" she asked. "Should we be funding it?"

When asked for an example, Gregoire said, "As hard-hitting as this may sound to people I very much respect, we heard nothing about the arts. If you put that into print I bet I'll hear something."

State Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, chairman of the Senate Democratic Caucus, isn't sold on the idea of cuts to the arts. "One of the things we know is the arts is a major jobs generator," he said. "There are 8,000 related art jobs in my legislative district alone. We have to be careful, if we're going to cut programs, that we don't create the anti-stimulus budget."

The state spends about $6 million every two years on the arts. While that might not sound like much money compared with the overall state budget, "We can't afford anything right now," Gregoire said. "Every time I get a call, I get 'Well, it will only cost X.' It's every call. I get this from legislators. I tell every single one of them ... I don't have X."

Local News | State budget likely to go from bad to much worse | Seattle Times Newspaper

Ed Murray is right, our economy in THIS area depends on arts funding. It also depends on Safeco Field being able to keep its parking fee as a means to fund capital maintenance. It also depends on a great variety of arts and entertainment to attract tourists, business, and in turn increase tax revenues, that in turn increase the general fund.
These "tourist taxes" are set to start expiring next year if the state does not take any action. To keep the taxes going takes a majority vote in the state legislation. Attempting to recreate these taxes later would take a 2/3 majority vote in the state legislature. Quite frankly, if the rest of the state does not see our business directly benefitting them then they are not likely going to be interested in supporting it on a purely ideological way.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Seattle Times: State budget likely to go from bad to much worse

As we enter the season of "hard choices", and the extremes of those that have resources and those who do not, decisions will be made in the Washington State Legislature. The state will be forced to choose between the businesses it will stay in.

The choices are even harder at the King County level. They have already made many of these choices, and the state will stop doing what the county wants in support of their needs. The City of Seattle is in the same position, with the state handing off to the county things it has already handed off to the city.

What we will likely, hopefully, see is the state shift the ability to do something about the the things the state will no longer do.
Last year the state passed an education funding bill that allowed the "haves" in the wealthier jurisdictions the ability to raise school levies. The "tax poor" jurisdictions were given some more state money, but not much.
Education is a state need, in the state constitution, that will get the state's energy.
Arts funding, tourist attractions, tax loopholes for pet projects are not in the state constitution.
One person's wants are another person's needs. In King County the business and local governments depend on tourism and business sectors that depend on amenities to attract and retail businesses that employ high wage earners, tax payers.
If the state is going to get out of the business of arts, tourism, and heritage infrastructure funding then I expect that they would pass the ability to keep those things going, including the on-going re-investment in that infrastructure to the county and the cities.
Just because the state does not want to be in a particular business support that does not mean every municipality in the state should have to get out of supporting that business.

To further this point, I think these businesses that benefit should carry the tax burden, that is, the future of tax levies to pay for things that are (more or less) tourist attractions should end. These kinds of choices are coming now, anyway. The nexus of general fund type revenue streams and what those revenues pay for will be drawn more directly. The same should be true of the non-general fund tax resources. For example, if hotels in King County (or Bellevue, or Seattle) carry a 2% sales tax on top of the existing state/county/city sales tax then that revenue should go toward funding things the perpetuates/benefits those businesses. But, the sales tax credit should stay with the state/county/city that is tasked with providing a superior social context that these businesses profit from by association.

"Should we get out of the business of those things that we never heard a word in four public meetings or on a website with thousands of hits?" she asked. "Should we be funding it?"

When asked for an example, Gregoire said, "As hard-hitting as this may sound to people I very much respect, we heard nothing about the arts. If you put that into print I bet I'll hear something."

State Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, chairman of the Senate Democratic Caucus, isn't sold on the idea of cuts to the arts. "One of the things we know is the arts is a major jobs generator," he said. "There are 8,000 related art jobs in my legislative district alone. We have to be careful, if we're going to cut programs, that we don't create the anti-stimulus budget."

The state spends about $6 million every two years on the arts. While that might not sound like much money compared with the overall state budget, "We can't afford anything right now," Gregoire said. "Every time I get a call, I get 'Well, it will only cost X.' It's every call. I get this from legislators. I tell every single one of them ... I don't have X."

Local News | State budget likely to go from bad to much worse | Seattle Times Newspaper

Ed Murray is right, our economy in THIS area depends on arts funding. It also depends on Safeco Field being able to keep its parking fee as a means to fund capital maintenance. It also depends on a great variety of arts and entertainment to attract tourists, business, and in turn increase tax revenues, that in turn increase the general fund.
These "tourist taxes" are set to start expiring next year if the state does not take any action. To keep the taxes going takes a majority vote in the state legislation. Attempting to recreate these taxes later would take a 2/3 majority vote in the state legislature. Quite frankly, if the rest of the state does not see our business directly benefitting them then they are not likely going to be interested in supporting it on a purely ideological way.

The state, county, city are all asking where does money come from, where does it go to, and is it sustainable.

Hopefully this year State Senator Rodney Tom can mind his own business.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Go Storm! NBA basketball? (an open letter to Steve Ballmer)

An open letter to Steve Ballmer (I did send an email into the Steve Ballmer email inbox that must be staffed by a team of email readers, here is an edited version).

Mr. Ballmer,
Should I bother encouraging diehard basketball fans to get state authorization to use King County hotel taxes to help facilitate developing an arena not knowing if it will have a public partner?
A few thousand of us Sonics fans would like to know if you are still interested in owning an NBA franchise.

Just askin'
If I can get the public and private partners to indicate they are still interested then our actions have a purpose.

Moving this foreword became my personal hobby after the Sonics left town.

Thank you for your time, and, Go Storm!
Michael J. Baker
Basketball Fan
Seattle, Wa

An edited version of this letter, Go Storm! NBA basketball? (an open letter to Steve Ballmer), can be found here: 
http://sonicscentral.com/blog/?p=2865

Visit me here:
http://manywordsforrain.blogspot.com/

Friday, September 10, 2010

MOHAI threatens to close if mayor wants to renegotiate deal on new space | Seattle Times Newspaper

Just so we are clear, the money MOHAI is getting is NOT coming from the City of Seattle's general fund. It is coming from the Department of Transportation because they are being forced to relocate out of the way of the new State Route 520 bridge.

The mayor is reaching into a non-profit to take money. It isn't denying city funds it doesn't have.
He is making a mistake.

"Now is not the time for one nonprofit, no matter how worthy it is, to get everything it can out of the city," McGinn said.

Last fall, the City Council agreed to let MOHAI negotiate with the state Department of Transportation to reimburse it for the value of the museum's buildings and surrounding city parkland. At the time, the council assumed MOHAI would get about $15 million for the buildings, plus about $7 million in rent for the land.

But the state decided to buy the city property instead of renting it, so the city then agreed it would make up the difference to MOHAI — up to $7 million. The city's acting parks director signed an agreement with the museum.

The museum later announced that its negotiations were so successful that it got $40 million from the state — more than twice what the city assumed when it had agreed to chip in the $7 million.

Now McGinn wants to back out of the deal, which he says is not legally binding without a council vote.

Local News | MOHAI threatens to close if mayor wants to renegotiate deal on new space | Seattle Times Newspaper

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