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Predictions for a jittery 2013

The age of anxiety continues in local politics and our economy. Here are some guesses on how elections and key institutions will play out in the new year.

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The usual yawns at King County: Dow Constantine and all County Council incumbents who run (one won’t) are re-elected with token opposition and minimal debate.  Dow’s second term will be a modest let-down, in part because some of his A-team defects to Olympia and a new Seattle mayor. The big county issue will be trying to get more funding for Metro, reigniting the Metro-Sound Transit wars in Olympia.

University of Washington. Most likely is the emergence of a new-model, tech-centric university, with new rules making commercialization of research more attractive for investors, with plans for a new technology-rich district on the emerging campus west of University Way, and what few new dollars coming from the state tied to STEM education and jobs.

A second scenario is adapting to the new normal of paltry state funding, as the McCleary court decision requiring new funding for K-12 siphons off any new dollars for higher ed. There would be some concealed subsidies, such as a state program to buy down interest rates on student loans or other devices for helping those pinched by the high tuitions. Maybe some differential tuition steps (charging more for majors that cost more, due to labs, and whose graduates ultimately earn more) get started. But the main "cure" will be a massive new fundraising campaign.

The third, rather remote possibility is that President Michael Young announces his departure, concluding that the magnitude of effort in restoring funding for such a constrained and ambitious university is just too big a lift. That would produce a period of more-serious soul searching for a new financial model for the U.W.

Seattle Schools and K-12 education. The 2013 School Board election could be a crossroads event. School reformers, led by business and new-economy types, were surprised and disheartened when they lost the majority in the 2011 election. They will try to bump off Kay Smith-Blum, the leader of the group that felt dissed by the reformers and the Goodloe-Johnson administration, as well as Smith-Blum’s loyal lieutenant, Betty Patu. A reform-majority board, along with an education-oriented mayor like Burgess, could revive the reform agenda, currently rather dispirited.

The second scenario is that the Smith-Blum 4-3 majority prevails. I’d then look to the reformers to push for a change in the way we elect (or appoint) school board members.

A third scenario is that one of the two levies fails in February, as voters balk at the high combined price, $695 million for the capital improvements levy and $553 million for the three-year operations levy, and express their distrust of the Board, past turmoil, and the low-key Supt. Jose Banda. This could really put Seattle Schools in crisis mode. Related to this will be the battle in Olympia over having the state equalize levies, taking money from rich districts (Seattle being one) to help those with lower tax bases.

Looming over all school systems is the state Supreme Court’s McCleary case ruling that the state must significantly and gradually increase its funding of schools, starting with about $1 billion of new funding in the new biennium. Gov. Chris Gregoire floated a ploy where new gas taxes at the wholesale level fund school buses. The Republican-led coalition in the Senate will insist on funding McCleary and then finding corresponding cuts in social services, without new taxes. The House Democrats will want to pass the funding question to the voters, thus preserving existing programs. This is a recipe for a long session of playing chicken, paralleling the Congressional standoff over raising taxes and cutting entitlements. Inslee has boxed himself in by saying he wouldn't levy new taxes, but he'll probably find a way to squirm free of that pledge.

The economy. I don’t see Congress resolving its high-stakes showdown over taxes and the deficit anytime soon, aside from some Band-aids, so the national economy and business confidence will remain in low gear. Two local factors will shake the confidence in our tech-driven economy. One is cutbacks in defense spending, which affects Boeing and the whole south-Sound economy. Add to that the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma, already forced into making big concessions to shipping companies who are suffering from the decline in the world economy. The Port of Seattle will have four of its five commissioner seats on the ballot in 2013, and the current CEO, Tay Yoshitani, whose contract ends in 2014, is likely to announce his retirement. A new commission and the need for defining the new CEO will put the Port and its key part of our economy in the public arena for debate. Most Port-friendly mayoral candidates: Burgess, Steinbrueck, and Murray.


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Comments:

Posted Tue, Jan 1, 8:10 a.m. Inappropriate

What kind of "wars" does this refer to:

The big county issue will be trying to get more funding for Metro, reigniting the Metro-Sound Transit wars in Olympia. ?

McGinn and Constantine already have said they want the state legislature to give them new motor vehicle fuel taxes and car tab taxes to impose by the city and county this session:

http://blogs.seattletimes.com/today/2012/12/seattle-king-county-and-suburbs-raise-gas-tax-8-cents-raise-car-tab-taxes/

They (or their successors) plan on going back to Olympia to seek the same kinds of taxes for Sound Transit in the 2014 session.

They want new taxes for Metro AND Sound Transit. That's not a "war", it's a dance.

crossrip

Posted Tue, Jan 1, 11:01 a.m. Inappropriate

Here are my Predictions for 2013

http://manywordsforrain.blogspot.com/2012/12/predictions-2013.html?m=0

Mr Baker

Posted Tue, Jan 1, 2:32 p.m. Inappropriate

" enhancing tourism with such things as the new Arena, " I suppose it is, by now, established wisdom that visiting sports teams and entourage do enhance "tourism" in Seattle. Who could argue? lots of high income people traveling around the country stopping in our city periodically. Our high income people travel to other cities and spend money in opponents cities, kind of a Tourism 101; we exchange dollars, buy some fuel and hotel rooms. Tickets, drinks and gas get consumed. Why does this not encourage me? Mr. Brewster does not, of course imply that this is great, fine productive economic activity, just that it is, in a loose definition, economic activity,,, even of the hole-digging, hole-filling variety that probably will generate some tax revenue. Meh.

kieth

Posted Tue, Jan 1, 4:35 p.m. Inappropriate

Brewster's problem is that his guy Peter Steinbrueck would prefer the arena go to the east side where people from other lands would travel to and spend their money.

Spending that money in Seattle vs Bellevue is something Peter will get to explain over the next several months. I'm sure the folks that run businesses the depend on tourism and "night life" activity will be interested in his explanation, he will need one.

Steinbrueck's argument for an Eastside facility during a meeting with King County Council on Tuesday was supplemented by census data. "Sixty percent of the fans are from the Eastside. Most of the growth in [King] County is on the Eastside, far less in Seattle. Most of the traffic will be east-west coming to this new facility. Does it really make sense that it's located in Seattle?" he asked.
http://mynorthwest.com/11/695645/Some-still-eager-for-NBA-arena-on-the-Eastside

He opposes people traveling from the east side into Seattle to spend their money. Kind of a strange thing to advocate for if you want to be the mayor of Seattle.
It's public testimony from Peter that he prefers development in Bellevue.

Mr Baker

Posted Thu, Jan 3, 5:19 p.m. Inappropriate

I'm all for a new mayor with a regional vision, not one that stops at the Seattle City Limits. There's nothing wrong with putting facilities like a basketball arena in that part of the region where most of the fans come from.

Posted Tue, Jan 1, 5:30 p.m. Inappropriate

Other predictions of note:

http://kunstler.com/blog/2012/12/forecast-2013-contraction-contagion-and-contradiction.html

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/dec/11/book-review-the-one-world-schoolhouse/?page=all

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12394824-the-aftershock-investor

More kick the can, or is the seminal year closing in on us?

afreeman

Posted Wed, Jan 2, 11:10 a.m. Inappropriate

David- I have no idea what Jay will, or won't do. But one thing you can count on: NO Democrat will challenge a sitting Governor. No Republican 'moderate' can or will beat him. Dixie is the only exception since 1950. Give up your dream of a 'third' force in Washington politics, at least in the Governors race. It's a 'pipe' dream: as in, what have you been smoking?

Ross Kane
Warm Beach

Ross

Posted Fri, Jan 4, 2:39 p.m. Inappropriate

Any thoughts on who will be appointed to fill Bob Ferguson's seat on the King County Council? He or she will of course have to run again this summer, and, if successful in the primary, this fall.

Posted Fri, Jan 4, 4:26 p.m. Inappropriate

Good question. The D's had Aaron Reardon on the bench as future gubernatorial-candidate material, but that tawdry business with the weightlifter tarnished his brand. They might be looking to put someone on the KCC they think can be groomed for statewide office (AG or governor).

crossrip

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