Seattle Ramming Through Measure for Business over Livability

November 11, 2008

While we’re still experiencing the buzz of the election, let’s chanel that into some attention to local politics.  There is a local issue coming to attention of the Council this week that influences everyone living here.

At issue are rather classic competing concerns about the City.  On one side are the people who live here who would like to  enhance its livability and on the other side are people interested beautifying the Westlake area where it intersects the Mercer Corridor.  The issue is whether $30 million is best spent construction a 6 block boulevard or whether it can be put to better use.

The City Council is trying to rush the boulevard approval through without considering a variety of relevant issues including alternative uses of the money.

The City Council’s Budget Committee this week l will consider whether to authorize spending $30 million for the Mercer Corridor Project in 2009 without first receiving the financial and environmental information it requested in Ordinance 122686 (passed in May 2008) as a necessary condition for the Mayor to proceed with the Mercer Project.

Nick Licata is leading the “livability” concerns and is joined by the following groups:

Magnolia Community Club
Rainier Beach Community Club Executive Board
Queen Anne Community Council
Southeast Seattle Crime Prevention Council
Othello Neighborhood Association
Columbia City Community Council
North Seattle Industrial Association
Aurora Avenue Merchants Association
Fremont Chamber of Commerce
Ballard District Council
Seattle Community Council Federation
Northeast District Council
Metropolitan Democratic Club
Seattle Marine Business Coalition
36th District Democrats
46th District Democrats
43rd District Democrats
Queen Anne Neighbors for Responsible Growth
University District Community Council

Expressing Concerns

Feet First (supports dedicating surplus commercial
parking tax revenues to fully funding healthy transportation choices equitably across Seattle rather than going to the Mercer Project)

The money is on the “boulevard” side, as you might guess, with Paul Allen’s people seeing this as a nice enhancement for their South Lake Union project, businesses in the Mercer area favor it as an enhancement that is likely to help business.  Many people in the Queen Anne area also favor the project as it enhances their neighborhood, while others there are eager to see the money used for other more broadly beneficial. (There is a discussion of the alternative uses here on September 30).  Generally speaking the moneyed interests favor investing the money to make Seattle a better place to drive to.  It is important to understand though that this measure is not to relieve traffic but to add aesthetic value to the drive.

To find out more you can contact any of the groups listed above or read the previous entries here or contact the City.  Please register your thoughts with the Council members who operate without the benefit of a great deal of public input.

Citizens are directed to the following website to complete a form to send an email to the Mayor’s Office.

Foreclosure Relief

February 1, 2008

Here’s a promising development. Seattle’s Mayor Nickels announced a pilot program which, through the offices of nonprofits Solid Ground and the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle, will provide foreclosure relief to householders earning $48,000 to $50,000 per year, about 80% of the mean household income. The program will loan money to forestall foreclosure and provide debt counseling. The loans are limited to $5,000 and the funding is small, $200,000, but the program will be assessed after 6 months to determine its viability.

My guess is that the amount will turn out to be a bit low, as typically people pay their last cent avoiding a foreclosure. By the time a foreclosure is begun they have little money to pay the lender and the cost of curing the default is much higher than the sum of the monthly payments that were missed. Default interest rates, trustee’s fees, attorneys fees, title reports, publication costs and the like quickly escalate the cost of curing a default. It is not terribly uncommon for these foreclosure-related costs to come to $5000.

In reality these will be loans to the vigilant and the informed, as the amount of money offered is most likely to be helpful before the foreclosure has progressed too far and accumulated a lot of extra costs.

The thing about this that appeals to me and which highly recommends it, is that the grant is for a loan and is presumably secured. The borrower agrees to refinance or sell the property to repay the loan. If the borrower is forced to sell the home, the borrower at least gets to receive all the equity in the house. If these loans are properly administered, they should all be repaid, or at least substantially all of them should be. It strikes me as a win-win type of program: the money goes back to the government and the home owner either keeps the house or sells and gets all the equity. The government’s net savings are substantial by avoiding responsibility for any sort of relief to the working family.