SEATTLE — Here in Washington a number of big political stories made news, even national news, and will likely have lasting impacts in 2014 and beyond. Here’s my list of the top ten of the year.
#10 Rideshare – Taxi War
Alternatives to taxi exploded this year. Lyft, Sidecar, UberX and others easy-to-use services are taking a huge bite out of the cab business across the entire region. The ground war is pushing the Seattle City Council to consider bringing the rideshare industry under strict regulations similar to taxis.
#9 Big Bertha
It was a big year for Big Bertha. The world’s largest tunnel machine began digging the state’s largest and most controversial road project, the $2 billion corridor under Downtown Seattle. As predicted by naysayers, big Bertha hit a big blockage. The stoppage has pushed back the project by several months and could push up the budget as well.
#8 Minimum Wage
The $15 minimum wage prevailed in SeaTac. The small town of 25,000 now has the highest wage in the country and is already being hailed as an example to those who want to carry the movement elsewhere.
#7 Kshama Sawant
The next stop for the minimum wage fight is likely to be Seattle where Socialist Kshama Sawant scored a stunning upset victory for a seat on the City Council. She beat out a 16-year incumbent on a platform of a higher minimum wage, as well as tax on millionaires, and rent control for the low-income.
#6 SPD Reform
Seattle’s Police Department continued to make the headlines in 2013 as interim Chief Jim Pugel made big personnel changes aimed at reforming a department that has suffered incidents of excessive force and biased policing. The federal overseer gave top brass mixed reviews on how fast and how well the SPD is doing at achieving the mandates of the DOJ.
#5: Ed Murray
Ed Murray’s victory as the first gay mayor of Seattle will mean some big changes in the State’s largest city. Murray touted his coalition-building skills, which included passing Washington’s same sex marriage law, in knocking out incumbent Mike McGinn.
#4 WA Health Plan Finder
As Obamacare suffered a botched rollout at the federal level, the State’s healthcare exchange, Washington Healthplan Finder, ended up being much smoother, though not glitch free either. It remains one of the most successful exchange sites in the country with thousands have signed up for coverage.
It took months of special sessions and the threat of the first government shutdown state history for lawmakers in Olympia to agree on a new spending plan. The budget put $1 billion more into public schools, but the Governor didn’t get the revenue increases he was hoping for. An impasse continues over a multibillion transportation package for roads and bridges.
Lawmakers didn’t deadlock, however, when it came to Boeing. In Nov they approved a $9 billion package to help keep the 777X in our region. Despite the record tax break passed in record time, the company continues to look at other states for a better deal.
Finally, POT, my pic for Washington’s top political story of the year! Not only did the federal government announce that it will let Washington’s recreational marijuana market go forward without interference, but the Liquor Control Board finalize its rules for the new market and started taking applications for retail pot stores to open sometime in 2014.