Remember the walking tour to fix the Move Seattle Levy? Well, it had an effect- Jean Godden added this requirement to the final Move Seattle Levy language:

Develop plans and complete improvements to enhance the NE 45th St Corridor for pedestrians and cyclists between 4th Ave NE and Brooklyn Ave NE by the time University Light Rail opens in 2021.

We went back and forth with her a few times on the language, as the initial amendment just asked for a study. Even the language above may be maneuvered around- it’s possible that SDOT will do something really lame like a paint-only solution and then say “mission accomplished”. Time will tell.

So, regardless of what you think of Jean, we should be thankful that she got this done for our community. Mike O’Brien and Tom Rasmussen supported the amendment when it came up for a vote, but neither was responsive when asked to change the levy language for the better. Only Jean was willing to work with us on levy language.

In terms of working with city government, the biggest lesson to me through all of this is that if you don’t work downtown at city hall, your opinion is just perceived as an obstacle. Scott Kubly (head of SDOT) made that very clear with a string of obscenities when talking to me about neighborhood planning (he comes from Chicago). Nobody from downtown is going to come to Wallingford to ask you “what do you think we should do next?” or “which of these 3 plans do you think is best?”

The only reason we were successful is that we had the backing of Cathy Tuttle, who as director of Seattle Greenways knows which buttons to press downtown, so much thanks to Cathy for her assistance. If anyone else wants to help with bike and pedestrian routes in Wallingford, here’s the link to the Wallingford chapter of Seattle Greenways.

I’ve gone very publicly on record as opposing the levy at this point, see here in the Seattle Times, but at the very least this language change pushes the levy back from being a complete train wreck for Wallingford. Anything you buy has some waste and badness in it, whether it’s a can of coke or a transportation levy, and (hopefully) this levy will now do more good than bad for us here in Wallingford. I still think cycle tracks on 50th and Green Lake Way that dead end at the intersection with Stone are not a priority, but O’Brien supports them so they are staying in the levy.

So, this concludes our extensive coverage of the levy. Let us know what you think.

Will you vote for the Move Seattle Levy?

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Burnt out shell

IMG_8482.JPGWhen Kitaro caught fire back in 2011, we mourned. When the burnt out shell remained for three and a half years, an eyesore and a graffiti magnet, we mourned again.

Now, there’s reason to cheer.While the King County web site doesn’t have a demolition permit for that property listed (although it does have a vacant property complaint), Jeff Lindstrom spotted demolition trucks outside earlier this week, and the workers told him it’s coming down.

I stopped by on Thursday, and there was little evidence of the demolition in the works, but hopefully it will have transformed from a burnt out shell to a hole in the ground in the next week.

And hopefully, it doesn’t stay a hole in the ground as long as it was a burnt out shell. The lot isn’t big enough for one of those condo buildings that are springing up everywhere, but who knows.


Happy Fourth!

img_05Happy Independence Day, y’all. It’s a good one to celebrate: gay marriage, healthcare for all, Citizen United overturned.

OK, two out of three ain’t bad.

If you’ve been around Wallingford for a while, you know that it’s going to get hectic, and with the temperatures up in the record-breaking high 80’s, it’s going to sizzling. It’s also going to be dry, dry, dry. So please, please, please, go easy with the personal fireworks (this means you, too, Lynne!)

Seriously, people: remember in 2013 when that firework landed on a boat canvas down by Lake Union and burned $1.5M in boats? Grass is dry, roofs are dry, gardens are dry. I know, it’s fun to make the flash and the bang. As a guy said to me at last week’s Grateful Dead show, “I vibe you, man.” But how would you feel if you burnt down someone’s house by accident?

And there’s so much else to do! Back yards and front yards across the neighborhood will be chillin’ and grillin’, and Tte festivities at Gas Works Park start at noon, with a full day of Seafair Summer Fourth fun, including:

  • All-American games
  • Festival-style Food Trucks & Concessions (including Oprah-famous Ezell’s Chicken)
  • Large Beverage Garden
  • Exhibit Booths
  • Kids Zone
  • Washington National Guard Display
  • SkyDive Kapowsin Landing Zone
  • DoubleDown Interactive Live Music & Entertainment Stage

Sounds like you can bring a tent to keep out of the sun, but you may not bring:

  • Personal Barbecues
  • Marijuana
  • Alcohol
  • Fireworks, explosives or incendiary materials or devices
  • Pets, other than service animals
  • Weapons and Firearms
  • Glass bottles
  • Illegal drugs

How awesome is it that marijuana and “illegal drugs” get separate bullets?

As always, the area below 40th will be blocked off to non-resident traffic, but you live in Wallingford, so you don’t have to worry about that, now do you?

And what else do you have planned, Wallingford? Anyone reading the Constitution? Pulling couches out onto Wallingford Ave?

Did you know Sound Transit is thinking about running rail through Wallingford? Well, they never came to Wallingford to ask, but they are in fact planning it. Hell, I wouldn’t have known if Mike Ruby hadn’t told me, and he didn’t even know until a week and a half ago.

You might think “that’s nice, maybe I’ll use it”, but if you think that then you clearly don’t understand what adding light rail means. Light rail costs over a half billion dollars per mile, so the city completely rezones neighborhoods for density when adding it. The effect of “light” rail on Wallingford will be far, far greater than making 50th and 45th one way. Adding light rail to Wallingford will mean making Wallingford look like the U-District.

Here is a Q&A with Sound Transit spokesperson Geoff Patrick. It took them over a week to reply to one email asking about the project, but you now have less than a week to tell them what you think:

Q1- When Through Wallingford: As we are in Wallingford, we are very interested in the newly proposed Sound Transit line between Ballard and the U-District. When are you considering that- after the Ballard line from downtown or at the same time as the Ballard line from downtown? As part of ST3, or after ST3?

Geoff: In August, public input that we are collecting through July 8 (there is a survey we are promoting at will help the Sound Transit Board update a Draft Priority Project List identifying projects that are proposed to be studied as potential candidates for ST3. Information from the studies (including estimated costs, ridership and other information) will enable the Board to further narrow from those candidate projects to shape the ST3 measure. The Ballard-UW project is one of those on the list proposed for study as a possible ST3 project. If it is not included in ST3 it is envisioned by our Long-Range Plan to be built as part of a later measure.

Q2- Where Through Wallingford: Where are you thinking stations would be located between I-5 and Aurora? Are they all going to be located along NE 45th street?

Geoff: If the project is ultimately studied, that work will take a very general look at where stations could be located from the standpoints of developing conceptual ridership and cost estimates. However, it’s important to note that if the project was included in ST3, station locations wouldn’t be selected until Sound Transit conducted a very thorough environmental review process following passage of the measure. One of the important aspects of environmental review is involving community members in making these kinds of important decisions.

Q3- Above or Below Ground: Would you plan to bore all the way through Wallingford, or might the line be partly above ground through Wallingford, and if so where?

Geoff: If study of this project moves forward within the ST3 process, general assumptions about where the project could be underground, at-grade and elevated will be part of developing a conceptual level estimate of the project’s cost, travel times and ridership. However, the same response to the previous question applies here. Decisions about the routes and profiles of all light rail extensions will follow thorough environmental review processes that provide involvement opportunities for community members.

Q4- Walllingford Rezone: Our understanding is that the city says it will expand 60ft zoning to a 10 minute walk shed around station stops. Is that correct, and if so what are the possible zoning impacts of stations to Wallingford? What is the band of streets that could be impacted- for instance, would zoning impacts be limited to being between N 40th and N 50th?

Geoff: We need to refer you to the City of Seattle planning folks on this question.

Q5- Square Footage Requirements: What is the square footage requirement for stations? Can they straddle a roadway or must they all be located on a single city block?

Geoff: The space requirements depend greatly on the specific location and configuration (elevated, underground or at-grade). On this potential project, platform lengths would be assumed to be 200 feet long, enough for a 2-car train, and at-grade station platforms would not be divided by streets. Tunnel stations may be designed to accommodate 4-car trains for future potential expansion.

Q6- Congestion Tolling vs Property Taxes: In terms of funding, we recently had a poll on Wallyhood where 142 of 179 voters said they preferred congestion tolling to property taxes as the preferred mechanism for funding transit (79%) While we understand that the legislature require property taxes as the funding mechanism, you do have the ability to add advisory votes to the ballot. Would you consider having not just ST3 on the ballot, but also an advisory vote on the ballot that would ask the legislature to shift ST3 funding from property taxes to congestion tolling?

Geoff: The Sound Transit Board requested a mix of sales tax, MVET and property tax revenues from the Legislature because these are the sources most capable of generating the significantly increased revenues needed to make major infrastructure investments around the region. Other sources including tolling do not provide revenue levels significant enough to fund these major projects. The Board is likely to propose a ballot measure that uses the sources the Legislature granted.

What’s Next? When is the decision being made on what goes in to ST3, and what is the process leading up to that decision, including public comment?

Geoff: As mentioned earlier public input that we are collecting through July 8 (survey at will help the Sound Transit Board decide in August which projects will be studied as potential candidates for ST3. Information from the studies (including estimated costs, ridership and other information) will enable the Board to further narrow from those candidate projects to shape the ST3 measure. Our schedule assumes that in early 2016 the Sound Transit Board will advance a draft ST3 measure for more public input.

More Reading: All this planning has of course not involved a single visit to Wallingford, but the transit blog has been discussing the issue for a while. Here are some links:

So, what do you think? If you are a home owner, are you eager to cash out? If you’re a renter, are you interested in moving? Because it seems unlikely to me that you’ll be using light rail in your current home. I figure a vote is in order:

Do You Support Light Rail and Related Rezoning in Wallingford?

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The SPS Wonkathon votes have been very one sided in favor of Rick Burke, so I’m going to compress the last two wonkathon posts into one here and eliminate the vote. When you have an imbalanced situation like this I don’t see a point in dragging things out.

I would like to thank both candidates for taking part, and I look forward to working with victor in the election to address issues with Seattle Public Schools going forward. Sherry Carr did a good job of bringing a level of professionalism to this unpaid position so I want to thank her as well. Which is a good segway into the first of our final SPS question set…

Professionalism at District HQ: A key problem at SPS district headquarters is people dropping the ball and not following through and then switching jobs. The result has been a lack of professionalism, with budgetary and planning problems coupled with law suits and compliance failures. On the up side, some are saying the situation appears to be getting better as of late, particularly in special education.

What do you see as the main issues that need to be fixed at district headquarters, and how do you plan to help make those fixes?

RickRick Burke: Accountability is a favorite district buzz-word, which has lost meaning through overuse in strategic documents and lack of follow-through. As a School Board Director, my leverage is through policy, Superintendent oversight, and personal influence, and I plan to use all of these to stimulate culture shift in the district.

My short-term goals include public access to key administrative job descriptions to increase transparency of departmental and staff responsibilities. Clear, written record of the duties for principals and central office department and program heads will greatly reduce the typical “finger-pointing” and ambiguity of who is actually responsible for decision-making.

Longer term, I want to invert the accountability chain. Schools should be accountable to the communities they serve, and the district should be accountable to the schools. By putting central administration in a role where it is explicitly responsive to school requests, we can improve the relevance of services provided to buildings and programs.

LauraLaura Gramer: This part has been a huge issue with my family and other parents trying to improve programming for deaf and hard of hearing children. There have been repeated changes in leadership over the years and things were not changing as a result of that until recently. I am cautiously optimistic with proposed changes that are now beginning to happen in special education. Time will tell but it’s important for SPS to work on communicating effectively and building trust with the community and families, and that only comes through transparency. We need to work together to make school better for our children.

Simplifying Programs: SPS provides many differentiated learning opportunities for advanced students like APP, Spectrum, ALO, and IB programs. Some argue that Spectrum in particular creates more troubles than it solves and should be replaced with differentiated learning programs like Walk to Read and Walk to Math.

Further, SPS provides a wide range of option schools, some of which are under-enrolled like Licton Springs here in Wallingford. Some argue that SPS should close the most under enrolled option schools so that SPS can focus its resources more efficiently.

Do you believe any programs or option schools at SPS should be wound down or changed, and if so which ones?

Rick Burke: Current SPS philosophy on which programs to nurture and which ones to starve is difficult to pin down. Advanced learning appears to be in the midst of this right now, with Spectrum programs being dismantled and the resulting by-product of overcrowding in APP/HCC programs.

My core belief is that there should be a limited number of self-contained programs serving only the students who can’t learn in the general education environment, but then we need to create some explicit differentiations and supports within the gen ed environment to allow all students to be challenged at their level. This doesn’t mean loading up a classroom with 30 students with a wide academic and social range and expect the teacher to “differentiate”. My kids attended a school with a successful Walk to Math model, and although these can create scheduling challenges, I support this approach.

When considering programs and schools for creation or closure, my evaluation criteria would be strongly based on whether the program was meeting the “next level” needs of the students. For a K-5 program, are the students well-prepared for middle school? For a middle school, look to the 9th grade teachers for feedback, and so on.

Laura Gramer: I need to learn more about these learning opportunities. However, SPS and the community should work together to identify what is working and what needs to be replaced or changed. Some changes may not make everyone happy but as long as there is transparency and a good relationship between SPS and the community, we can move forward to make our program stronger.

Evaluating the Superintendent: Your primary role on the school board is to evaluate the superintendent. Larry Nyland is still arguably in his honeymoon period, but there have been promising signs regarding compliance improvements and an ability to deescalate conflict that were not evident in the work of his recent predecessors.

How would your rate our current Superintendent’s efforts so far?

Rick Burke: I worked with Dr. Nyland on the Washington State Board of Education Math Panel in 2007, and recently had an opportunity to talk with him as a School Board candidate. I have found him to be experienced and reasonable, and also believe that some of his actions in the last year show a lot of promise for the future. Based on this perspective, I rate him a solid 7, and look forward to the opportunity to work with him and refine that number.

Specifically, I’m supportive of his recent “100 days of customer service” initiative, which I would like to see continue as the new normal for SSD. I have also been pleased with improvements in special education and his candid handling of recent district mis-steps, such as the response to the inadvertent release of over 7,500 student records containing personally identifiable information.

Conversely, a few of Dr. Nyland’s actions which give me pause stem from the Teaching and Learning Department. These concerns include his position and intimidation letter to teachers regarding the standardized testing opt-out movement, and the recent closure of Middle College High Point with vague justification.

Laura Gramer: I hope Dr. Nyland will stay with SPS for a long while. There are many things that needs to be addressed and it’s important that SPS has a stable leader to see things through. I need to see more positive changes to feel that things are moving the right direction.

Priorities for the District: Running for the school board and then being on the school board are both crazy hard jobs full of contentious, emotional issues, and you will get paid nothing for your efforts. We assume there’s something motivating you other than a love of little people, or else you would just become a teacher.

What are the top one or two priorities that you hope to accomplish for Seattle Public Schools by being on the School Board?

Rick Burke: My motivation to run for school board is partly insanity, partly a supportive group of people encouraging me that I can bring positive change and cohesion to the fray, and partly an commitment give back to the public school system which helped me develop into a successful adult. I want the same opportunity for all the kids in Seattle.

From my wish list I’m going to share a long-term broad priority and a near-term focused priority: For the long term, I want Seattle Public Schools to be doing such an awesome job of serving students that the distracting discussion about charter schools withers away, and I want the private tutoring business in Seattle to shrink, rather than grow. For the short term, I want Seattle to adopt effective instructional materials in math, replacing the existing Connected Math Project (CMP2) textbooks. The CMP2 program has been underserving middle school students and their families for 10 years now, and it’s time to get rid of it.

Laura Gramer: My platform is that “ALL students deserve a good education.” My parents raised me to give back to the community. My children are entering the SPS so I have a vested interest in making sure they, as well as other children, all have a good education.

That’s it! Any other thoughts on election coverage you’d like Wallyhood to be doing?

Carl Slater

Nice Tie Carl!

The Wallingford Community Council President this coming year is Carl Slater (fuzzy pic on the left from the annual meeting). He lives at 41st and Burke and is enthused to be running the show for the next year.

This Wednesday night’s meeting of the WCC is his first, wish him luck. The meetings are in room 202 of the Good Shepherd Center. Here’s tonight’s somewhat subdued agenda from Carl, you can go right after the farmer’s market if you like:

7:15 Announcements
7:25 Wallingford Chamber of Commerce Announcements
7:30 Help Wanted and handout distribution
7:35 President’s Message
7:40 Presentation of Greg Hill on City Council actions on Low Rise Apartments and the Rasmussen amendments.
8:10 Questions
8:25 Consideration of resolution related to Rasmussen amendments.
8:30 Good of the Order and Help Needed
8:45 Adjourn


Today we cover a couple hot button education issues…

Achievement Gaps

Wallyhood’s School Reform Question: There’s been obvious tension between the top-down, test-centered school reform movement and school teachers. School reformers argue that it is necessary to measure the effectiveness of teaching in order to achieve better outcomes. Teachers argue that tests are a poor measure of a teacher and that administration should be focused on supporting school communities instead of passing judgment on them.

How do you plan to navigate this rift, and what path do you see for improving schools without alienating teachers?

RickRick: As the husband of a teacher, I understand the need for classroom autonomy. As an engineer and small business owner, I recognize the value of systemic evaluation methods and performance reviews. As a School Board Director, I believe that I can contribute a balanced perspective to this adult issue, while keeping the focus on positive impact to students.

Teaching, like every other profession, includes a broad range of expertise and commitment. There is no disagreement that great teachers make a huge impact in student learning. The rift opens up when defining the attributes which comprise a great teacher and assessing the teacher against those attributes. For me, the approach should not be more testing; rather it should be to adopt a transparent 360 degree evaluation process for teachers and principals which incorporates supervisor, peer, and family feedback. This evaluation should be closely coupled to professional development and peer mentoring opportunities for emerging teachers, and respectful retraining paths for individuals who aren’t cut out to be educators or administrators.

LauraLaura: SPS needs to find a better balance with testing teachers, and testing students isn’t always an effective way to measure the teacher’s skills. Students all learn differently and testing is not a one fit all for students which skewers the results. I believe this also affects the students’ self esteem. SPS needs to find other ways to evaluate teachers and students and support the students at the schools.



Wallyhood’s Achievement Gap Question: A vast amount of resources at SPS and in the Families and Education Levy are concentrated on trying to close the achievement gap by focusing supports on schools with high levels of free and reduced lunch students. Some of these efforts seem well intentioned but ineffectual, while others seem so focused on drilling minority students in order to raise test scores that schools are drained of their sense of community and joy.

What do you think of current efforts to close the achievement gap, and what changes would you like to see made to it?

Rick: The achievement/opportunity gap is a difficult problem. If it were easy, it would be solved by now. We have to catch struggling students early and provide supports, including academic, social, and behavioral, before the gap becomes insurmountable.

One overarching focus needs to be maximizing the teaching and learning within the classroom. When the responsibility for learning sight words or practicing math facts is delegated to families, this opportunity gap gets amplified, since some students don’t have the home support to take on this critical component.

We need to identify and emulate successful schools. This is a place that standardized assessments can add systemic value, highlighting schools which make a difference. Mercer Middle School is an example of a success story. With over 75% free and reduced lunch and high ethnic diversity, the 8th grade students from Mercer outperform the district average in math, reading, and science. Over the past 9 years, they have raised the achievement of black students from ~10% meeting standards to 60% meeting standards in math and 68% meeting standards in science.

Laura: I need to learn more about what SPS is doing with closing the achievement gap. I can relate to this as a person with a disability. We need to shift our focus on teaching, building self esteem, and a safe and comfortable environment for students to learn and thrive instead of being singled out because of race, socioeconomics or disability. Our students need to feel valued and that they belong in school.

Who best spoke to the issues of school reform and the achievement gap?

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If you have follow up questions on the topics of school reform and the achievement gap, please chime in in the comments, I’ll look to get the candidates to follow up.

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