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Seattle Council Follow-Up

Washington State Transportation Tunnel Failure

To Emerald City Journal:

I just read your good article you wrote about the tunnel.

I wrote a letter that went to every city council member the morning they were supposed to get the real “scoop” from DOT. Well they got the real scoop except it was the kind you need a scoop shovel to get rid or and it “stinks”. Not one member on the council responded to me after the meeting. Can you imagine them sitting there listening to State Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson, spinning a story that would make a normal persons head spin but the Council Members didn’t argue with her. She says its too late to stop work on the tunnel because the tunnel is 70% complete (yes seventy). It would take a really good liar to be able to make a statement like that at this point. Why didn’t they stand up and declare the meeting over? Is this an insult to the taxpayers of Seattle and to the businesses that have been ruined during this last year of digging. Well I cant use the word digging because Bertha cant dig. What will it take to stop this nonsense? They cant drain the sound, and if they dig beside it they will hit water so they can never pump enough. All the politicians think is how to PUMP MORE MONEY into it, not water out of it.

The council hasn’t made a big deal of any of it publically. The money for the tunnel is gone on south and north portals and a pit to reach Bertha. How can you call this even a start on the tunnel? Its just a big gamble(but they already lost the money). Lets say they ever get the pit dug. Will the land around the pit hold up when they bring in a crane or cranes big enough to lift the front end of Bertha out or will we have Bertha and a crane or two to bury? Readers speak up now or forever hold your peace. Email council@seattle.gov and every member will get a copy. Flood them with e mails not water.

A gambler can quit anytime he wants. If he has lost his pay check, he still is better off to walk away before he puts the title to his car or house in the pot for the last game. It makes good photo ops for the Mayor. Maybe Obama can send Gruber to give a speech saying Taxpayers are too stupid to understand how good this is. See my letter to the council below or here.
Lilly

Update: Unfortunately, there has been no response from the City of Seattle Council as of 3/13/15. We are sadden to say the least. We continue to see the failed tunnel project move forward. Each day wasting more and more money which could have been spend on our education system, roads, or new options / roads to fix the mess this project has created. One thing we will never see is the Council admit they made a mistake with this project. They will continue the effort and talk less and less about all the money being dumped into it. When it finally is completed they will praise their hard work and how successful it was. It’s a complete failure and catastrophe. As news continues to come out about the tunnel (Alaska Way Viaduct Project), more and more injuries are being reported now. Medical / compensation claims are at there highest at over 1$ million dollars since 2012. According to an AP news report, there were more claims in 2014 then the last two years combined. The machine continues to sit with no action. It is believed that the machine will start running again in August 2015. The Seattle Council members fail to listen about all the wasted money. Aborting this project is the right action.

Letter To Council About Failed Tunnel Project (No Response)

Seattle Council Email About Tunnel Project Failure

To:; council@seattle.gov
Subject: Tunnel

Hate to say,” I told you so”, but the Tunnel mess is really coming to light. How many more billions are you going to pour down the sink hole? We could have had a nice flat surface road or a new viaduct by now but you have an endless pit. I wrote before that I thought digging a tunnel thru fill dirt right along the sound was about as stupid as anything you could dream up. The DOT, The Tunnel Partners have lied to you repeatedly. Why will you believe tem this morning when they come to assure you everything is “hunky dory”. You should invite former Governor Gregoire to come. How many times did she stand with a straight face and say, the tunnel will be built under budget and NOT ONE COST OVERRUN WILL BE PAID BY TAXPAYERS?

You have heard from strategists, planners, managers, and experts, but mostly from LIARS. This was a boondoggle from day one. You had 1.4 billion to build the tunnel. 1 billion is gone and you are not only at square one but worse than when you started. What are the odds of it ever getting built? I would say zero. If you think spending 400 billion more to try to keep from losing the 1 billion you already lost, you should definitely listen to Kenny Rodgers sing, The Gambler. That’s all you are doing now.(gambling) No one knows how much water you need to pump, The space where you pump water has to be filled with something. Do you want to keep on til the historic buildings start to shift and crack? Do you want to wait til the viaduct falls over because of your digging? Do you want to keep on til the pressure sends dirt up thru the hole you are trying to dig to repair Bertha. You have squandered enough money to build a new house for every homeless person in Seattle. You have squandered enough to repair every street in Seattle. On and on and on.

Take a special vote of the people of Seattle and especially the businesses that have been ruined by all this digging. Is was in insult for the Mayor to take advantage of King Street falling apart for a photo op. He doesn’t have a clue(neither does anyone else) why it is happening. Maybe you need to bring “Patty and Maria” for a photo shoot and have them promise all sort of Federal Funds. Remember Federal funds, County funds, City funds all come from the working peoples pocket. The money to build the tunnel is gone. Time to admit defeat. Give Bertha a burial and let some other fools a hundred years from now run into her when they try to dig again. Stop this madness and stand up for the people who voted you in to speak for them.

– That was my letter to the Seattle Council. There has been no response thus far.

Letter To Seattle Council City Light CEO

Seattle City Lights

My letter to the Seattle council….

Sounds like someone got their wires crossed at City Light. Please delay your vote on the stupid stupid raise for the CEO of City Light. He was already getting a whopping 245,000. He is the highest paid city employee. What on earth can make him worth that? Now you want to give him a raise of almost $120,000. What are you thinking about, when we have no money for things the city needs you raise his pay to $364,000. That was all the information I have read or heard about and it was a shock. Completely out of line. He could fall off a light pole tomorrow and city light would go on just fine without him. Of course he doesn’t climb poles, or change bulbs or do anything we really need. He spins tales for the city and the Mayor. If he can go someplace for more pay, we city light customers will come help him pack. Remember you are representing the people of Seattle and there is no way you can think this is right or fair.

That was bad enough, but thank goodness for the Times article today (Sunday June 15) by Jim Brunner we learned there is something very wrong going on. People can stand to be screwed over, they can stand to be taxed unfairly, but one thing almost NO ONE can stand is a liar. Then top it off with a cover up. Have you taken some lessons from Susan Rice? She is the second best liar I have ever heard of. Obama is the number one. They sent her out to spin the tale of a video causing the Benghazi disaster AFTER it was well known by everyone that it was a terrorist attack. But wanted to keep it covered up so Obama could win a second term. Now she was back telling more lies that the deserter had served with dignity and distinction. She is trying to make Obama look good and facts or the truth has nothing to do with what she says. So City Lights Chief of Staff Sephir Hamilton hired a firm Brand.com to clean up the CEO’s image online. The only thing that should be online about Jorge Carrasco should be the TRUTH. Nothing taken away, nothing added. They call it a reputation-management service. The clear negatives by blanketing search results with positive content. In other words if the CEO has done some things he would like to keep covered up, just write something positive instead. If Mayor Murray is so hell bent on quality leadership he should not even be considering someone who is trying to cover their tracks.

Wait on your vote until you are sure (not just what the Mayor tells you) what it is he is trying to quash. Or is he being given a whopping raise a/k/a a pay off to promote the City’s green program. If the green program is so good it will make it by showing the people its good, not paying a CEO bribe money or pay off to promote it for you. The more lies and cover up’s the worse it will get. So don’t vote on the raise this morning.
Thank you
Lilly

Councilmember Nick Licata responds and does a very good job of explaining his point….

I too am troubled by the City Light CEO salary hike approved by the Council majority and have shared my concerns on the my Urban Politics blog and below.

To recap, the City Council voted 6-2 (Myself and Sawant opposed and Harrell was absent) last week to raise the City Light General Manager and CEO salary range by 45 percent, setting a new maximum of $364,481-per-year up from a $250,750 top-end salary. The Council vote paves the way for the Mayor to pay the highest paid Seattle city employee even more. The Mayor has said he will give General Manager and CEO Jorge Carrasco a 24 percent bump from his current salary of $244,954 up to $305,000.

Council proponents argued that Carrasco is underpaid in comparison to leaders of other publically owned utilities. Their conclusion originates from city staff analysis showing we pay our top City Light post less than other governments pay their utility heads. Past city staff studies reached the same conclusion. However, the relatability of the other salaries has been challenged because some utilities included as comparables in the staff analysis oversee multiple utility services, like water, while City Light just handles electricity. Regardless, on the surface, it would seem that one could justify the raise—albeit a very large raise on top of a very large salary when compared to what Seattle pays other city employees.

Councilmember Sawant and I raised objections of two kinds. First, and most obvious, is that in comparison to other City Light employees’ salaries, the General Manager and CEO’s new salary is out of line and sends the wrong message to our employees and the public. The big ticket salary basically says that CEOs of large corporations deserve a salary commensurate with whatever the market will bear, and that City Light must be a large corporation with its over 2,000 employees and budget of more than $1 billion. In other words, if other CEOs receive huge salaries, the City must offer the same to attract top talent.

Unfortunately, this trend has gone on for some time. In 1965, CEOs made more than 20 times what an average worker was paid. By 2012, that ratio was more than 10 times as skewed: CEOs made 273 times the average worker that year. I don’t believe that the Council, representing taxpayers, must conform to this pattern. By doing so, we contribute to the very problem of income and wealth inequality that now plagues our nation and undermines our economic stability. As workers are paid less and less, they have less to spend to keep our economy functioning smoothly. What’s more, workers are being pushed out of Seattle. Relative to wages, housing costs have become unaffordable. The irony is that since President Ronald Reagan embarked on a philosophy of letting the unfettered market determine what is fair in the 1980s, laborers have enjoyed an ever smaller share of the productivity gains their hard work produced. American workers are not being adequately compensated for their efforts.

The second objection raised is more to the point here in Seattle. Our city government has kept a tight lid on wages for average city employees. How can we fairly bargain with our employees after giving such an ostentatious salary increase to one individual? The Council and Mayor’s pay hike for the City Light General Manager and CEO justifiably creates hard feelings among our employees and sets up a very poor example for evaluating and rewarding performance.
It’s this last point that I most underscored during the meeting Monday. First, a little background—Carraso was confirmed in February 2004, and, that spring, a survey was conducted of City Light employees. It had been scheduled before Carrasco became the head of City Light. A report was issued on the findings, and four significant problems were identified:

• A troubling lack of confidence in the executive management
• Poor communication among the various levels within the utility
• Lack of adequate staffing to provide high-quality service
• A sense that quality and process improvements were not a priority

Another survey was taken in 2007 to see if these problems had been addressed during the first three years of Carrasco’s leadership. To assure that the survey was measuring the same concerns, 29 of the 50 questions asked were pulled from the 2004 survey, either exactly or using very similar language. More than three-quarters of City Light’s workforce responded to the survey, roughly the same rate as in 2004. The Council’s Central Staff reviewed the survey and concluded that the 2007 survey averages were statistically indistinguishable from those of the 2004 survey.

A staff report to the Council concluded, “ …the most striking conclusion to be drawn from the new survey is how little things have improved in the three-plus years since the first survey was done. In key areas – leadership, communication, and staffing – in which City Light did poorly in 2004, there has been no improvement.” Though some improvements were noted, the report said scores for key areas remained “at a level the survey developer would describe as a failing grade.”

The Council acts as the board of City Light, and I believe that we (and I include myself) should have required—at a minimum—that another survey be taken. We did not. There has not been another survey conducted since 2007. I asked the Superintendent at a June 9, 2014 meeting when another employee survey would be done. He said one will be done this year. However, our Central Staff know of no such effort.

So the bottom line is: why are we boosting the pay range for the City Light CEO when we have no evidence comparable to a survey showing employees believe that there has been improvement under Carrasco’s leadership? Carrasco has told me that he solicited input from employees when drafting a new City Light strategic plan City Light. I’m glad, they certainly should be involved. But that is not the same as a thorough review; that is not a survey showing how things have gone since 2007.

Unfortunately, we heard news recently that raises concerns things may not being going so smoothly at the utility. Thanks to the investigative reporting of Seattle Times reporter Jim Brunner, it was revealed to the Council and the public that City Light entered into a $47,500 contract with marketing firm Brand.com to engage in an “action plan” that included creating positive blog items and stories about City Light’s green image.

City Light has made strides with its sustainability programs—that is not to be challenged. But isn’t it more important to spend funds to assure that we have a well-run, efficient and responsive public utility? The money would have been much better spent on addressing the problems that were identified 10 years ago, reiterated in the 2007 employee survey and, for all we know, might still exist.

Thank you for taking an interest in our city and for taking a moment to share your thoughts with me.

Sincerely,

Nick

Seattle City Councilmember Nick Licata
206-684-8803

Seattle’s $15 Minimum Wages – Passes

Seattle Minimum Wages Increase to 15 per hour

On Monday with a 9-0 vote the Seattle Council voted to pass and increase the minimum way to $15 per hour. This makes the minimum wage in Seattle the highest in the nation. The increase in wages will be a slowly phased into Seattle over several years. Smaller business will have even more time to phase in the increase.

The City of Seattle of course supports it because the tax revenue is massive. They essentially double what they bring in now per individual minimum wage paycheck.

So where do we go with this new news Seattle? I guess businesses no longer need to hire high school kids or drop outs…. when they can get college grads for $15 per hour. Hell educated kids from Tacoma would probably even commute to Seattle for this kind of money. The even better news that who really needs college anymore. You might as well get a $15 – $20 per our job and figure out the college thing later.

Why stop at $15 lets just make it $20 per hour which is 40K per year. If we are going to go big – why not go really big? Since people are making more now let’s continue the raise the already high rents in the neighborhoods. Landlords are going to love this. People are making more now so it only makes sense to me. Since people are making more the City can charge a little extra on parking tickets or add a few more traffic light cameras.

All of this is an excuse to take more money from your paycheck and at the same time create an excuse to raise the prices of other things around the city. It’s all about getting money back into the system and nothing to do with you personally.

Look if we really want to make a change there should be a $15 MAXIMUM wage for congress and the Seattle Council members. One step forward and two steps back.

Seattle 15 per hour wages

Seattle Ride Sharing Rules Coming Soon

Seattle Ride Share Sevices

December 13, 2012 the City of Seattle Council held a public meeting regarding ride share services. These new services are popping up everywhere now and the taxi drivers are getting mad because they are offering a lower, faster, CHEAPER, and in reality better service.  They are saying they can’t compete and they are not safe ect.  Some of these new services include Sidecar, Lyft and Uber for example. However, city taxis of course are regulated by the city and they want the new ride share services to be also. I certainly can understand that frustration if I was an owner.  The city is holding them back.

As I’ve mentioned several times now on the Emerald Journal when an opportunity presents itself for more tax revenue the Council with certainly take you up on that opportunity. Here is another example of how these services are deemed “illegal” and we need to come up with a “fair” solution to regulate and tax them appropriately.

Seattle talks a big game about wanting riders to share, use buses, bikes, ect but when something new and innovated comes around and provides a real service of doing just that – they are quick to knock it down.  These services are really innovated and have the business down not like the old taxi systems in place.  These companies use apps on their phones, easy to use, and much cheaper.  It’s sad but the reality is that it’s all smoke and mirrors with the City of Seattle Council to make the public opinion positive about them and what they do for the city.

The City is proposing an annual license fee of $50,000 for these companies. Well that sounds “fair” to me (not). That sure is horrible for these companies and obvious sign the City Council is all about regulation, control, and revenue. It’s not about better air, less traffic, or anything like that – it’s about revenue first.  This effort pretty much puts them out of business and/or makes it extremely difficult to do business here in Seattle.  I thought the goal was to increase transportation and encourage great ideas to solve the traffic, parking, air, car issues in Seattle.  This move in licensing just kills that effort.

If they really wanted to solve this problem they would simply lower the regulations on Taxi owners and let them all compete evenly. The best service will win over the public. That would just be to easy, however, and would limit the cash flow and regulations which the city would never agree to. Sad but true. Take note just another case of grabbing more cash and not really caring to come up with innovated solutions which are available right now.

Next time you vote to support those businesses or public transportation just remember the City killed these cheap innovated companies so they can continue to control and regulate this area.

Smoking Marijuana In Public – $27 Fine

Seattle Marijuana Smoking Fines

In and effort to keep control over the industry and increase revenue if necessary the Seattle Council passed a law which would fine for smoking in public.  Sure it’s not much but still a behavior by the City of Seattle that really wasn’t necessary.  It just proves when there is an opportunity to make a few more dollars they will take that opportunity to make a fine/tax out of it.  At his point, what is the big difference between cigarette smoking in public and marijuana smoking in public – absolutely nothing.

A law (unlike smoking) voted on by the people and all the City Council can do is come up with new laws and regulations to fine this cash cow as much as possible.

When Nick Licata (Council member) told the public this is now going to be the law (passed by the Council), he also mentioned that the police would be “giving warnings”.  Isn’t that a great line to calm the public so there is no uproar.  I would love to see how many warnings they give out compared to how much revenue they bring in from this great news.

Seattle Taxi Drivers Losing Business

Seattle Taxi Drivers
Local Seattle taxi drivers are angry. The complaint comes from the new rideshare type companies in Seattle. Taxi owners feel they are stuck because their prices are controlled by the City of Seattle while these other type of transportation services are not. Mike Judd, the owner of Yellow Taxi, has a good point in my opinion and he says, “These guys don’t have business licenses, the drivers, they don’t have proper insurance, they’re doing a tremendous bite into our business and undercutting our rates that are regulated by the city and undercutting the safety of the public…” I do agree with that for the most part. I don’t agree with the public safety. Taxi’s are no safer than any of the other newer transportation options available. Common Mike Judd we all know how these Taxi drivers drive around town lets be real.

The Seattle Council has a meeting scheduled tonight with the committee on taxi for-hire and limousines. Who knew there was a committee to handle Taxi’s! Sounds like more wasted money to me. None the less, that is the situation for now. What I find most interesting is that in public, TV, and in ads they push and encourage more options for riders. They want the public to use the other public transportation options available. They want people to rideshare to work. Leave your car at home and ride to work or ride the bus – we have all seen this type of propaganda. EXCEPT – when they start to lose money because they are overpriced and new companies/solutions are readily available. That is NOT ok with the City and they must be shut down or highly regulated quickly.

What happened to capitalism and entrepreneurship? These companies have found a solution that a lot of Seattle residents are embracing. The demand is high and this is what American is about. It’s about being creative, finding a new solution, and that includes competitiveness for businesses. They are considerably less and easier to work with. You can order a ride from you mobile phone! Some of these newer solutions just ask for a donation for the driver. Another named UberX charges similar rates as the taxi’s but doesn’t require tips. These are just creative options and in my opinion the more options and competitiveness the better.

It’s a shame I feel the City is going to side with the taxi drivers on this one due to the money and regulations involved for the City. I feel, however, if the taxi drivers would actually clean up their acts, lower their fees, and COMPETE they actually may do quite well. With the monopoly in place there are no reason to do anything. They can continue to be rude, blow off pickup times, keep their cars filthy, and continue to only shower once a week. Why change anything when you’re the only option available? Time for a change and time to allow entrepreneurship to grow. This is supposed to be America after all.

Seattle Streetcar Projects A Big Drain

It appears Seattle continues to look at ways to blow our tax money.  The City Council is going to spend $10 million dollars to just review adding streetcars in Seattle.  The $10 million will be spent on just reviewing the roads, locations, areas, tracks, population etc.  In the event, the City decides to move forward on a streetcar, it will cost $50 million dollars.  How could anyone actually be considering this?  It’s just way out of our budget and simply doesn’t make any sense.  We would be better off buying a new bus, painting it (thus branding it) and naming it the Emerald City Shuttle.  It’s dedicated to just this mile and goes back and fourth all day.  The costs are maybe 100K for the bus and another 30K per year for the driver.  Do you know how many years it would take with my plan and budget compared to your $50 million+ plan?  It would take 50 years on my plan to even reach you’re $50 million initial construction work easily.  You’re plan doesn’t even include millions per year for maintenance of your plan.  It’s just a no brainer.

Lets talk about the extra revenue.  My plan and your plan does create revenue except my plan Keep Reading

Nurse Family Partnership Program In Seattle

The Seattle Council approved an increase into the Nurse Family Partnership Program.  The budget for the program was $1,017,816 and it was increased 61% now to $1,641,672.  I was curious what this program does exactly so I did some investigating into it.  I had some concerns obviously since that is a huge increase.  The City Of Seattle continues to claim poverty for many of it’s programs and issues so increasing the amount for a nursing program raised a few red flags for me.
Keep Reading

Council Member Sally Clarks Seawall Visit

My email to the Seattle Council Members regarding the Seawall project:

I could not believe that 5 of you council members plus King County Deputy Executive, Fred Jarrett (I don’t have a clue what his real duties are at all) would make a trip to the Seawall to attempt to frighten voters into voting for Prop. 1. Real cheap shot. To trek to the seawall and announce that a Sandy could happen here. Sure a Sandy could happen here. A container box could have a bomb in it too. The seawall could go in an earthquake. You guys are not weather, earthquake or experts on anything. That was to try to scare a bunch of people who might think you “actually know something”.  All you want is $290 million. You have no plan. You don’t know what you want to build how long the seawall will be. You don’t know how you are going to build it when to start or when it might finish or any caps on the spending. If proposition 1 passes the seawall may never get built, the money diddled away like the monorail on planners, architects, and consultants. When the $290 million is gone we still wont have a sea wall but you will need more to fit the specifications these jokers have came up with.

You say if it fails it will disrupt traffic and transportation. Sure it will but only for Keep Reading

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