As you probably have noticed, things have been a little quiet around here in Crank City, and will continue to be so during the holidays as I finish moving (into Council District 3!), travel to the Deep South, and spend a little time grounding myself and making my New Year’s resolutions. Rest assured that I’m still working on plenty of new content for the New Year, though, including pieces on the public records requests that have brought city clerks across the state to their knees; the city’s commitment (or lack thereof) to gender equity; and some other stories involving election law, pot law, and much, much more.
One story I’m really excited to follow is what happens with the new council committees. I’m optimistic that Lorena Gonzalez will do something about pay equity at the newly recharged gender equity committee, although without real money (so far, the city is spending next to nothing on gender equity), those efforts could prove toothless. I’m also looking forward to seeing what former Transportation Choices Coalition director Rob Johnson will do as head of the land use committee–although transportation is obviously Johnson’s forte, he has a background in planning and an understanding of the ways in which land use and transportation work together to promote sustainable, livable cities.
I’m somewhat less thrilled to see Mike O’Brien, who has consistently voted against urbanist policies in favor of rules that protect single-family landowners from change, in charge of transportation and sustainability, because I’m not convinced he gets the connection between the two. By moving sustainability out of land use and putting it under O’Brien’s purview, is the council signaling a shift away from smart land use and toward building a bunch of bike lanes and calling that good? We need bike lanes and transit priority and sidewalks and safer crossings for pedestrians, but we also need the land use and planning guidelines that make all those improvements (which O’Brien will certainly support) functional within a growing city where more people are going to live more closely together.
I’m hoping O’Brien will make the connection between density, transportation, and livability, but in order to do so, he’ll have to stop listening to the loudest NIMBY voices who claim rights that they don’t have, such as the “right” to free parking and a lawn that isn’t shadowed by the presence of lower-income apartment dwellers next door.
And speaking of NIMBYs, I’ll leave you with a recent petition posted by some folks in O’Brien’s own district, who fashion themselves, rather grandly, as “The Citizens of Queen Anne, Magnolia, Fremont and Ballard.” (Magnolia, where citizens have hired a private police force in Humvees to patrol their quiet streets, figures prominently in the comments.)
The petition reads, in part:
It is apparent that these neighborhoods have experienced a significant and dramatic increase in criminal activity in recent months. Many of our neighbors and businesses report being victims of or witnessing crimes including home break-ins (some while occupied), stolen vehicles, stolen bicycles and other property, various property crimes, illegal narcotic distribution, known narcotic distribution sites, burglary, trespassing, and an overall concerning increase in suspicious activity.
Many residents in these neighborhoods are no longer feeling protected and safe, and are concerned for their children and their own safety. Slow or no response to citizens’ calls regarding criminal activity and a expressed de-prioritization of property and drug crimes by the Mayor’s office have appeared to increase criminal activity in these neighborhoods as “safe to commit crime zones” instead of “safe from crime zones” which the tax payers in these neighborhoods deserve.
“Known narcotic distribution sites”? Bring me to the fainting couch! As a resident of a neighborhood with actual crime issues beyond car prowls and the visible existence of people whose problems some homeowners find unsightly, I find it hard to see the argument for deprioritizing the city’s actual crime problems so that Magnolia residents don’t have to look at people shooting up.