After mostly awful spring weather, a modicum of sunshine here pretty much qualified as news. But Seattle and the region had a bit more to occupy themselves this week: a high-profile schools controversy, biking backlash, and, in Snohomish County, a pay package that certainly brightened the days of a utility executive.
The weather (and the seasonally fascinating question about reaching 70 degrees) was timed nicely to — finally — provide a little support to Bike to Work Month activities, which peaked here with the F5 Bike to Work Day celebration Friday (May 20). But, as Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat laid out so well, biking isn't being universally celebrated at the moment.
Westneat made some pointed observations about Mayor Mike McGinn, arguing that he hasn't done a good job of presenting his efforts to encourage bicycling. But Westneat went on to suggest that the talk of McGinn's supposed war on cars doesn't seem to hold up:
But did you know his totalitarian plot for turning us into a velocipede paradise consists of spending 3 percent of the city's transportation budget on bike lanes and bike paths?
That would be $10 million out of $313 million. The other 97 percent is going to paving roads, fixing bridges and overhauling arterials such as Spokane and Mercer streets — all stuff for those forgotten cars he's said to be waging war on.
There goes Westneat again, someone must have thought, trying to spoil the fun of scapegoating bicyclists for every transportation frustration by citing inconvenient facts. But calm didn't miraculously descend on bicyclist-motorist relations. The Seattle Weekly's Nina Shapiro, a reporter with a sterling reputation for digging out the facts, wrote about the tensions unfolding in front of her eyes on Wednesday (May 18) when a driver got out of his car and threw a cyclist, a 40-year-old named Brooks Groves, against a wall on Alaskan Way. Shapiro wrote:
Groves said he reported the attack to a police officer nearby, "who took the information but only seemed vaguely interested." Groves said he got the impression that this sort of thing is pretty common.
She suggested "a serious public education campaign that teachers drivers and bikers alike how to share the road."
An equally dramatic, if less physical, story unfolded over the firing and then rehiring for at least one year of Ingraham High School's popular principal, Martin Floe. As Linda Shaw of The Seattle Times reported in a well-balanced story, there was both praise and questioning of interim Seattle Public School Superintendent Susan Enfield's reversal.
Enfield herself explained the decision as a matter of doing the listening required of a good leader. Well, perhaps she was also reading what Ingraham grad and Pulitizer Prize winner David Horsey had to say with a seattlepi.com column and cartoon.
Horsey wrote of Floe:
He is credited with facing down and largely eliminating a serious gang problem at Ingraham. He has encouraged more minority and low-income students to take the tougher classes in the IB program. And he has sat face-to-face with students on the edge of dropping out and convinced them to stay. That might not have helped aggregate test scores, but it certainly may have given hope to some individual students who might otherwise have quit school and been doomed to failed lives.
How many paper pushers in the central office can claim that sort of success? If it is numbers they want, here are some that impress me: The many Ingraham parents who have rallied, protested and petitioned on behalf of Martin Floe and the unanimous vote of support from the Ingraham faculty. Bad principals do not get those kinds of numbers.
Time will tell whether Enfield gets credit or blame for her reversal, which she accomplished without backing down from concerns that appear to center partly on test scores.
Like what you just read? Support high quality local journalism. Become a member of Crosscut today!