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Defund teachers. Defund students. Defund schools. Defund parks while you’re at it. Defund crosswalks. Defund lifeguards, too. Defund public restrooms.

Sounds insane.

But when cities fund one specific effort, one tool or method to the point it accounts for about half of your budget, it has that effect. That’s especially true when throwing more money at said tactic isn’t proven to be great at accomplishing its stated goal.

Seattle teachers are on strike this week. School has been cancelled a second day as labor negotiations continue.

It’s noteworthy on its own because, hey, teachers are striking. This group of people we trust with our children, with the next generation of our own communities—the next generation of our city and world—are saying “Hey, so, the conditions under which we are being asked to perform this important task. Please improve them.”

And we haven’t. To the point that, as mentioned, we have this work stoppage.

The strike is also noteworthy as it stands in contrast to recent labor discourse regarding the Seattle Police Department—that was noted by resident right-wing provocateur Brandi Kruse, with many folks very much humoring her request. Twitter user @spekulation put it aptly.

Here in Seattle, for example, even simple traffic stops are way down from pre-pandemic levels, despite traffic being back up. It was revealed earlier this year that Seattle PD stopped investigating new sexual assaults while throwing entourages of officers at sweeping homeless encampments.

Over a 20-year sample from 1990 to 2019, crime is down, police budgets are way up but the rate at which the department solves crimes is down precipitously. Even more, continued from research by Bryan Kirschner, “In 1990, each crime handled cost us $3,286 and each crime solved $15,923. In 2019, the corresponding numbers were at least…$8,278 and $93,791, respectively .” (Figures adjusted for inflation.)

We spend more money to solve less crime. Despite there being less crime to to solve in the first place.

It’s particularly salient then when you take a look at Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell’s stance on the two labor spats, which I was inclined to do as two of Seattle’s more progressive councilmembers, Kshama Sawant and Teresa Mosqueda, joined teachers on the picket lines.

Here’s Harrell on the strike, the only quote I could find being this short prepared statement:

“We encourage teachers and the school district to urgently reach a just and fair resolution that centers our students and prioritizes their education and future.”

The most recent development in Seattle PD labor discourse came as the city approved a plan to offer five-figure bonuses to new hires, a method with questionable effectiveness.

Here’s what Harrell said when proposing the plan. Yes, proposing—this was his. The mayor made sure to step in and take direct action with SPD. And here are his words when he announced the effort that would eventually be approved by the council.

“We know that financial incentives are critical,” he said at a press conference at police headquarters Wednesday. “That’s why this plan offers incentives up to $30,000 for lateral transfers and $7,500 for new recruits, ensuring that Seattle is fully competitive with our neighboring jurisdictions.”

Huh. How about that.

If you ever need a good anecdote for how this all works—for how this country is the way it is, spending way more on police but ending up less safe, there you go. In deep blue Seattle, we throw our full weight behind the police.

We throw platitudes at teachers.

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I could write so many words about ebikes. Just riff after riff after riff on even the emotions of whipping around on an ebike. So, you know what, here’s exactly that.

For whatever reason, probably a simple desire for a more enjoyable world in which to live in, I’ve ended as an occasional participant up on urbanist/ebike Twitter. And yesterday there was a bit of a main character. Main character article? Something like that.

That was a piece in The Atlantic titled ‘The E-bike is a monstrosity,’ with this observation the most salient.

Vehicles have symbolic value, like it or not. Cars denote freedom; commuter bikes imply, for better or worse, jerkitude or tweeness; motorcycles are cool; e-scooters are for douchebros. But e-bikes bear no clear character. They fall between the cracks. Even when I willingly tell people, “Oh, I got an e-bike,” I’m not sure if I’m bragging or revealing shame.

Which, oof.

Those are some unintentionally revealing words that I obviously don’t agree with. But they’re words I thought about when out for a bike ride around the neighborhood last night, and felt the feeling such a ride usually invokes.

Ebikes make you feel like a kid.

There are so many words I could put after that. Or around that. But I can’t put it better any shorter than that.

If a visual representation is more your thing, here you go:

Yesterday evening, I went for an eight-mile ride for no reason. Not even really a specific destination.

I finished work and other tasks about 6:30pm and with no plans and nice weather but a desire to not be out too long, I put my dog on the back and we headed out.

First it was over and through the neighboring park to see if any other dogs were playing, then down a couple nearby blocks with sweeping views of the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound before deciding to head for a specific stretch of street-end shore access.

In other words, a secret beach.

It was a few miles from where we were, but mostly downhill. And Grinnell really likes to lean out and catch the wind when we’re cruising at a good clip downhill—so that’s an extra bonus. We got there, locked up, and just hung out; we waded in the water for a few minutes before sitting on a little seawall and enjoying a Seattle sunset with its saturation pushed to 11.

After a bit, I remembered I think I’d seen a nearby deck/vista thing I hadn’t been to before. It was just like a half-mile down, so we went there too—and there was a view of the railroad bridge and the canal that I hadn’t seen before.

And it was great. We chilled and watched a train roll across the bridge. Or I did as Gri sniffed around at all the nearby bushes.

Then it was home for dinner.

•    •    •    •

That is the character of an ebike.

The traveling parts of our quick little journey weren’t the only point to our time out—but they weren’t a small part of it, particularly enjoyable with a dog on the back and tunes in one ear.

You’re out in the world as you move through it. If there’s something nearby you want to check out, you go. You roll right up to it, without a care. There’s freedom, but also a deep curiosity to it.

Oh, that’s right—that spot. Wonder what that’s about. Will only take a couple minutes to check out.

Away you go, to anywhere you want that’s even relatively nearby. And just like when you were a kid, when five blocks in every direction felt like a good-sized parcel to roam, except now it’s five miles in every direction—or more.

You’re not in a bubble. You’re not fretting the most efficient route. And it’s not hard. You cruise up every reasonable incline, cover any reasonable distance.

If you take a turn too early and head up the wrong street, you just see a block or six you’ve never seen before. And it’s pretty cool.

So if you’re wondering what it’s about, what it’s distilled down to as far as aesthetics and vibes and whatever, there you go.

It’s childlike wonder—every bit as good, if not better, than the practicality.

If you take Seattle’s Greenwood Avenue North almost all the way to its upper end, there’s a turn down towards the Puget Sound—its dark grey waters somewhat in the distance, out to the left. You take the turn and cruise past Shoreline Community College, then the expansive Shoreview Park before arriving at Hidden Lake, off to the right.

You can barely tell the lake’s there, past dense trees. That’s probably for good reason, as it’s pretty grody—Boeing Creek was artificially dammed there, and stormwater runoff and sediment fill the lakebed.

Anyway, off to the left is 166th Avenue NW. At the end is Innis Arden Beach Trail—as pleasant an urban trail as you will find.

It winds its way along the right side of the ravine carved by Boeing Creek, eons before it shared a name with the company that makes planes and bombs. The path is superbly well-maintained given the surroundings, naturally precluded to erosion, mud pits and various debris.

It winds it’s way down the ravine a little less than a mile before arriving at the most wonderful gateway to the shore of the sound. Boeing Creek trickles to the left, splitting a low railroad underpass with a walkway that, in a high tide, has saltwater waves lap their way up it.

Continue Reading On segregated neighborhoods, private parks and us all wanting the same thing

It’s the best purchase I’ve ever made. The sooner I can get to that point, the better. It usually doesn’t happen as early in real life, when some hapless stranger triggers an excitable 10-minute conversation because they asked me about my bike.

Eventually though, I get there.

It’s a little bit like writing this blog post. I meant to write it at 1,000, 2,000, 3,000 and even 4,000 miles since I purchased mine in November of 2019—but even since the last figure I’ve clipped off another 600 miles. So instead of delaying further or making this any more complicated, I’m gonna riff.

Here’s owning an ebike.

Continue Reading Observations from 4,500 miles on an ebike—and why you should get one already

The Washington State Cougars replaced Mike Leach as head football coach and it appears the politics of the position may have gotten worse. Truly, that’s an incredible feat—made all the more impressive by it being the state’s highest-paid position.

Hand it to Nick Rolovich, who sucks.

As many are likely aware, Rolovich is against being vaccinated. We found that out when he had to stay home from Pac-12 media day, an event requiring attendees receive their shot.

Unlike with many other figures in sports, this controversy hasn’t gone away. And that’s because journalists covering Wazzu just keep kicking his ass for it.

And it’s great.

Continue Reading Every anti-vax public figure should be skewered like Nick Rolovich

Tomorrow is the 20th anniversary of 9/11. Of course. As with any big historic anniversary, there is media reminding us it has been a-number-divisible-by-five-years since it happened. The media, as it surely was in 2006, 2011 and 2016, is reflective of the year or years in which it was produced.

In 2021, this is among the crop of content:

It, well, it makes sense.

I’ll admit, I haven’t watched any of the September 11th content that has been produced. I know there are pieces that are surely outstanding, poignant, illuminating and heartfelt. It’s just, I can’t. I don’t really want to go back to then.

Because then, then was weird.

And looking at it through a 2021 lens can’t quite capture that.

Continue Reading The permanence of digital media is hitting us—and it is weird

Blogging is having a big year. That is, if you’re willing to stretch the traditional definition of blogging to include platforms like Substack. As I’ve written elsewhere, you should, because Substack has succeeded precisely because it emulates old-school blogging.

I was reminded of that again by an intro post from yet another former mainstream reporter going out on their own via the paid newsletter site—that being James Fallows, whose writing previously primarily appeared in The Atlantic.

He wrote, on blogging’s waning—and resurgence:

For many reasons, the sprawling, messy, but informative realm of the personal blog became a less and less natural fit to the structure and responsibilities of major publications, which of course have never been more crucial to our democracy. But I believe that the kind of communication and connection blogs made possible—between writer and reader, between writer and theme, among writers and readers who eventually formed a community—may also be even more important than before. […]

I know, in the era of social-media sewers, the appeal of “virtual community” can sound hopelessly naive. But my experience through many years of the blogging era is that, with attention and care, an online community can be informative, and even inspiring, in unique ways.

I feel as though this era—and all the messiness it has produced—is starting to drive people back to more authentic connections.

Everything is an algorithm. As platforms aim and attempt to learn what we want to see, we have less and less control over what’s being put in front of us, what we’re consuming. There’s too much noise, too much engagement-gaming—just, too much everything.

Sometimes, simpler is better. Control is better.

I’m constantly fascinated by the ability of certain technological choices to subtly influence behavior in ways that may never have been intended.

Take blogging. Take Substack.

No fancy design, no SEO gaming, no engagement-driven content. Just words—for a specific audience. Emailed to you.

The modern-day inbox is an unholy hell filled mostly with spam that managed to slip through various filters, but you still have to navigate it. Because there’s important stuff in there.

When you subscribe to a blog by email—or RSS, for that matter—you’ve determined it’s one of those important things. You’ve made the choice. And it will be delivered to you. An algorithm can’t stop it.

And as we get back to these basics, as we get back to the simple beauty of the pairing between a writer and their audience, we’re going to see more meaningful connections.

We’re going to see more blogging.

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner won reelection last night. Well, he won his primary over a challenger backed heavily by the police union—but he will win reelection as a Democrat in a Democratic city. As far as the primary part, though, there was some question. Or so some thought.

Larry Krasner beat his primary opponent by a two-to-one margin. He smoked him. Trounced.

Continue Reading When will progressive perspectives be as mainstream in media as they are in real life?

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan is not running for reelection. That’s for good reason. The big-money centrist conservative has been the executive progressives feared she would be and the Nextdoor commentorati who backed her will never be happy. So she would’ve lost.

And that’s a good thing. Because she’s pretty bad.

Seattleites are familiar with her handling of last year’s Black Lives Matter protests, which included tear gassing the city’s most densely populated neighborhood and the Seattle Police Department abandoning their East Precinct, the epicenter of the protests.

What went into those decisions? Who made the call to abandon the precinct? We’ll never know because the mayor and many of the people around her committed the felony of deleting their text messages.

Continue Reading Jenny Durkan and public embarrassment’s diminishing returns

Nobody’s perfect, but when it comes to the types of radical policies that make urbanists drool, it almost always feels like they’re coming out of France. Well, we’ve got another one as France took a step towards incentivizing—in a major way—citizens to swap their vehicle for an electric bike.

From Streetsblog USA, via Reuters:

In a preliminary vote late last week, the French National Assembly voted to expand its cash-for-clunkers program to include pedal-assist bikes in addition to electric cars, offering erstwhile motorists a grant of €2,500 ($2,975) to buy an electric bicycle if they trade in a gas-powered vehicle at the same time. A spokesperson for the French Federation of Bicycle Users, Olivier Schneider, applauded the government body for actively investing in mobilité territoriales vertueuses —or “virtuous forms of transport,” as the French refer to sustainable transportation beyond electric cars — and for recognizing that “the solution is not to make cars greener, but simply to reduce their number.”

The article goes on to note we’re at least starting to see efforts like this here stateside, even if they are limited in scope.

Continue Reading Tax credits for ebikes make too much sense