Dear Mr. Mayor

What I wish you'd said.

On Wednesday, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced he would not pursue the recommendation of his housing affordability committee (HALA), on which I served, to allow greater flexibility of housing types in single-family neighborhoods, such as cottage clusters, mini-duplexes, rowhouses, and stacked flats within existing rules on setbacks and building height and size. I sent the mayor a letter yesterday, expressing my disappointment in this decision, which I fear will begin to unravel the grand bargain of more housing/more affordability that HALA hammered out over ten months—and which I hope will form a bold new model for all of Cascadia’s cities.

In the letter, I acknowledged the intense and politically damaging outcry from some residents of single-family neighborhoods and agreed that he needed to respond.

Here are parts of the letter:

Dear Mr. Mayor:

…Here’s what I wish you had said yesterday in your statement. Read more »


Weekend Reading 7/31/15

BC's First Nations against Big Oil, Portland vs Shell, HALA-baloo, and more.
Original illustration by Nina Montenegro of


If you want to understand what is happening right now in Seattle’s housing controversy—the HALA-baloo—read this article carefully. What the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda committee has done is to offer a plan that would lead the city out of the trap it is falling into and which San Francisco is already deeply ensnared in. (Vancouver, BC, too is ensnared, though the trap is not identical.) HALA sketched a fragile, new political coalition, too. The old, anti-development political coalition  …  read more »

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Why Big Coal Likes Gerrymandered Districts

A switch to district-only voting would be a win for coal in Whatcom County.

Coal companies want to build the biggest coal export terminal in North America just north of Bellingham, Washington. The Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point would send more than 48 million tons of coal a year to Asia. Most Washington voters oppose exporting coal through the Evergreen state, so the moneyed interests that would profit from the coal terminal have enlisted conservative politicians in Whatcom County in a crusade to ensure that coal wins, whether voters like it or not.  …  read more »

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Picture Perfect Energy Efficiency

Your cheat sheet to effective energy efficiency imagery.

Words matter—I’d say, a lot. But that doesn’t mean we should treat visuals as an afterthought. Far from it. As Resource Media reminds us, the right images can have a mighty powerful emotional impact.

We should aim to combine compelling messaging and images.

With that in mind, those same smart Resource Media folks did some testing to pick out what kinds of visuals capitalize on the widespread enthusiasm Americans have for energy efficiency to boost support for bigger picture policy  …  read more »

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Sightline on Shell’s Presence in Oregon

Listen to a conversation on the Northwest's role in Arctic drilling.

Honest Elections Seattle Tames Lobbying Money

Candidates banned from taking money from big lobbying spenders.

Video: Who Funds Seattle’s Political Candidates?

What Seattle's money in politics looks like in two minutes.

Weekend Reading 7/24/15

The great HALA debate, the clear costs of GMO-labeling, setting kids up to succeed, and more.

Shell’s Rig is Headed to Portland

But the company—and its money—has been in Oregon for a long time

Interactive Map: Who Funds Seattle’s Political Candidates?

Half of political contributions come from 0.3% of the city's population.