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I’m forwarding you this petition to urge the UW President to divest all university holdings from fossil fuel companies. Universities were key in divesting from apartheid South Africa, and we hope to do the same from the fossil fuel industry in the fight against climate change. 
 
 
I was wondering if you know of any current students on campus who might be interested in getting more involved from the campus level. If you can think of anyone, I would love to get in touch with them.
 
The global 350 Movement would also make a fantastic Senior Project topic, if any Seniors are still looking.

 

Starbucks opens a new reclaimed shipping container drive-thru in Tukwila, WA. More after the jump!

Smart growth in form doesn't necessarily reflect the same in function. (image from VIA Architecture)

Dense pedestrian and transit-oriented “urban village” developments often receive the favor of public sentiment thanks to the warm connotations of sustainability, livability, eco-friendliness, and such.  With planners and environmentalists touting density as a solution to combating sprawl and climate change by crafting our built environment, it’s easy to get excited about these kinds of developments, like the one recently approved in Issaquah.

With 4.4 million square feet on the drawing board, Skip Rowley’s proposed development is being lauded as a “catalyst” for growth, one that will purportedly transform Issaquah into a thriving urban destination from the sleepy suburb it has long been known as.  Yet a closer look reveals much more– this development could increase sprawl, worsen traffic congestion, and perpetuate a precedent of badly planned growth.

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Official 'No on 1125' Campaign Logo

Major transportation policy decisions always seem to find their way to the hallowed and terrible realm of the voter’s ballot, both revered for its adherence to democratic virtues and hated for its subjection to faulty populism.  Whatever the political climate, decisions like these are thus contingent on how the masses think and feel, which makes campaigning utterly important to how our transportation system ultimately turns out.

This past November, there were two measures subject to voter “will”– Proposition 1, which asked Seattle voters to approve a $60 car-tab fee which would have funded capital improvements for transit, pedestrians, and bicyclists as well as provided a bit of money for streetcar planning, and Initiative 1125, which asked statewide voters how they felt about various restrictions on tolling along with the Easter egg clause to essentially ban light rail from expanding to the Eastside.

Voters said no to Proposition 1.  The reasons were many and varied: “We can’t afford another $60 in car-tab fees!” “This fee is too regressive!” “I don’t like Mayor McGinn!”  Whatever the real reason behind the rejection, much of the talk and press seemed centered on one thing– the nature of the car-tab fee.  Though it was the only kind of taxing authority given to Seattle by the State Legislature, many argued against its regressive nature or simply against it entirely, summing up a relatively anti-tax climate that even Seattleites are prone to huddle under sometimes.

There’s no doubt that Proposition 1 would have benefited sustainable transportation greatly.  Its investments in capital projects, like sidewalks, bicycle facilities, and transit corridor improvements would have both increased safety and reduced bus travel times.  But because these benefits were shrouded by the cold hard fact of what amounted to a tax for many, people only cared about how much money they would have to fork over rather than how much they would benefit from the funded improvements.

Some have argued that Proposition 1 would have passed had the car-tab fee been $80.  Though seemingly counter-intuitive, the logic follows that a $80 fee would have funded a much more ambitious, more tangible, and more apparent signature project, like the streetcar connector linking the South Lake Union and First Hill lines.  This, in effect, would have made the benefits more “worth it.”  Regardless, there’s no way of knowing for sure if voters would have passed an $80 measure, and no ‘what-ifs’ can change the outcome at hand.

Initiative 1125 had just about the opposite problem: voters saw the costs associated with the measure with little benefit to go with it.  Yet anti-tax populism for I-1125 swung the other way– a ‘yes’ vote was essentially sold as a mandate against tolls and for accountability and transparency in the State government.  Whether voters liked tolls or not, the outcome of the race was to be purely determined on how apparent the costs of the initiative would have been.

Thanks to a robust ‘no’ campaign, I-1125 failed at the polls as voters began to realize just how much the measure could cost both the public and private sector.  The ambiguity behind the initiative language was equally unhelpful for Tim Eyman and produced the opposite problem as Proposition 1– because no one could figure out the magnitude of costs, many felt that the best solution would be to vote against the risk.

As is with any election cycle, the outcome of these two races was heavily contingent on just how much ambiguity could be deciphered on either side.  Unfortunately, such is the case with participatory democracy, as many voters are often led to vote from a secondhand opinion, whether through an editorial, endorsement, etc. rather than firsthand research.  But for those of us who could understand the costs and benefits well, the choices were clear.

Because transportation is about making long-term decisions to fulfill long-term needs, advocates of strong cities and robust transportation should never allow political ambiguity to shroud these goals.  In making the case for Proposition 1 and against I-1125, this approach was integral to suppressing the dominance of short-term interests.  In effect, the choices for voters had to be equally clear, as long as they understood the long-term implications of both costs and benefits.

An opportunity to join in conversation with Bill and Milenko in Wallingford. Within walking distance from UW, and its Free!

Wednesday, November 9th

6:00-8:00pm (wine to drink at 6 with the conversation starting at 6:30)

East Hall at iLeap4649 Sunnyside Ave. N, Suite #400, Seattle, WA 

Free

Many of the foundations of our common life – the economy, the environment, the state of our republic – are in transition, unstable. This evening we will discuss how pursing the common good in these uncertain times is a necessary new world view. 

Pomegranate Center invites you to join us for this conversation with Milenko Matanovic, Pomegranate Center founder and executive director, and Bill Grace, founder of Common Good Works and the Center for Ethical Leadership.  

RSVP today (<—click!)

E-mail hannah@pomegranate.org with questions or to express your excitement. 

 

About Milenko:

(Source: http://www.pomegranatecenter.org)

Milenko is a self-described recovering artist who founded Pomegranate Center in 1986 believing that magic happens when art, creative thinking, and community join forces.

Since then, he has been lucky to work with hundreds of communities across the country and abroad; collaborate with communities to build more than 50 gathering places; speak at more universities, community gatherings and conferences than he can remember; and train remarkable community leaders in the Pomegranate Center model of community building. He has been honored with the Home Shelter Award, the Legacy Leadership Award from the Center for Ethical Leadership and an honorary professorship at the University of Vladivostok, Russia (it’s a long story).

Connecting art with community building and everyday life is just one of the ways Milenko uses his creativity to prepare communities for the future. By combining his talents as a thinker, educator and artist, Milenko hopes to create a world where neither nature nor human talents are wasted. He lives to help communities become wiser by working together to find new and creative ways to push good ideas into action.

As a young man, Milenko left a successful art career as a member of celebrated group OHO in his native Slovenia. (OHO exhibited internationally, including at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.) He turned his creative energies toward communities — each community becoming a new kind of “studio” where art, collaboration and community building converge. He has been working with cities and towns in the U.S. and abroad ever since, because he believes this is the most efficient, broad-based way to improve society. Through this work he has learned how to listen to others’ ideas so that shared solutions are possible. He believes that when it comes to community, together we always know more.

About Bill:

(Source: http://www.commongoodworks.com)

Bill Grace is a social justice activist, a traveling teacher, storyteller, and an architect of ideas.

From 1976 to 1991, Bill served in higher education, promoting ideas related to moral and civic responsibility, service learning and global citizenship.  In 1991 Bill founded the Center for Ethical Leadership and served as Executive director for 14 years. The Center is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the common good through ethical leadership, civic responsibility and collaborative problem solving.  His current research and writing focuses on understanding Deep Hope, Moral Courage and Wisdom from the Margins—as well as other sources of motivation that have inspired transformational leaders to courageously pursue justice.

Bill promotes leadership that is grounded in spiritual development and compassion both of which deepen our commitment to pursue a just, peaceful and sustainable world.  He touches audiences deeply with a heartfelt commitment to global justice, peace and sustainability. Seminar participants and audience members report being inspired by Bill’s passion, authenticity and humility.

I got a few requests to post the questions you thought about during the Solo Hike this weekend at retreat.  It might be interesting to record your answers now, then revisit these questions at the end of the year.  Enjoy!  – Libby

How have you been helped by those around you?
Think about a peer you’ve met in the last few weeks and something you admire about them.
In one sentence think: What does life mean to you at this very moment in time?
How would you like to see yourself changed over the next quarter?  Year?
How might you have changed the people in your life?
What can you offer to your community?
What’s one thing you would do for CEP if you had unlimited resources?

'South Base' by Flickr user Atomic Taco

For the past month or so, a region-wide frenzy has gripped Seattle-area thinkers, voters, businesspersons, residents, drivers, and transit users.  It’s no surprise, then, that a carnival has ensued from the prospect of a 17% reduction in King County Metro bus service and the stop-gap funding measure proposed to stave off the cuts.  The battle has been classically partisan– on one hand, the anti-tax faction that see the cuts as the ugly result of an inefficient bureaucracy, and on the other hand a coalition of transit supporters who view the preservation of current bus service as a basic need that benefits everyone.

Though I fall within the latter faction, it makes me wonder how much truth there is to the opinion behind every view, particularly from the naysayers.  To a degree, the anti-tax faction is right– there are large inefficiencies in a county-run transit agency like Metro.  But the convolution in their rhetoric often turns their well-reasoned arguments into nasty ideological jabs.  All of a sudden, you go from talking about eliminating a low-productivity bus route to the personal freedom that a $20 car-tab fee infringes upon.

But some cuts need to happen.  And I’ve always stood firmly behind that position, as someone with fiscally conservative views.  The design of Metro’s transit network is woefully obsolete and terribly bastardized by political dealings over the years.  Buses are either too crowded or too empty and there’s never a shortage of blame going around as to how much Metro spends on overhead.  The bus system’s complexity is commonly seen as nothing more than spaghetti on the wall and often the butt of jokes like “King County Metro: We’ll Get You There … Eventually.”

What it all boils down to is our love affair of the status quo.  People do not like change, for better or for worse.  A great deal of testimony heard over the past few weeks has hinged on an someone’s dependency on a certain route, whether or not that route has been productive.  While you could redesign and restructure Metro’s entire network to end up with the same or even higher levels of service at a cheaper cost, you would still encounter resistance because well… people do not like change.

If there’s a solution, it’s far out of reach.  Should the $20 fee pass, Metro will have two years to lobby the State legislature for new funding authority, a tough ask considering the budget crisis and recent attitudes toward transit in Olympia.  Should the fee fail to pass, then King County residents will bear the brunt of longer commute times and all its side-effects.  What’s most unfortunate about this situation isn’t the cuts themselves or the proposed fee, but the fact that the real culprit is our resistance to change.

Change isn’t an idea just reserved for politicians, or businesspersons, or community leaders, but it’s something that we all must embrace.  And this isn’t the hopeful Obamaesque change, but change that impacts us on a real practical level day to day.  This might mean a bus rider having to give up a one-seat ride for a one-transfer ride.  This might mean a politician voting to prioritize pedestrians, cyclists, and transit users over drivers.  This might mean a business owner giving up car parking for bicycle parking.

This might mean a lot of things.  But if we don’t budge, we’ll never find out.