Seattle Shuffles Scooter Share Deck, Library Invests in Social Services, Campaign Forms to Fight Potential Cannabis Tax

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1. Bird, a scooter supplier already ubiquitous in cities across the country, will soon enter the Seattle market, while Spin and seated scooter company Wheels will no longer be seen on the streets of Seattle. In addition to Bird, Link and Lime will continue to supply scooters in Seattle.

The Seattle Department of Transportation announced the scooter shuffle on its website last week, just weeks after the release of the results of a controversial and unscientific survey concluding that more scooter riders are injured while riding than previously reported.

The city will also permanently license a new bike-sharing company, Veo, whose low-slung bikes have vestigial pedals but operate more like a seated scooter, with a throttle that allows riders to propel them while using the pedals as a rest. feet.

Seattle’s relationship with scooters (and bike sharing) has long been ambivalent. In 2020, two and a half years after the complete scooter ban, the city took a small step forward by issuing permits to three companies for 500 scooters each. Since then, the city has expanded its scooter licenses to allow each of the three vendors to put 2,000 scooters on the streets; Lime, which supplies both electric-assist bicycles and scooters, has a fourth permit for a total of 2,000 bicycles and scooters.

According to SDOT’s scoring matrix, Spin narrowly lost to Bird, Link and Lime after scoring slightly lower on two measures: parking (which includes policies implemented by the company to ensure that people park correctly and how it responds to improperly parked scooters) and “operations and fairness”, which included a number of factors such as how the company responds to complaints and its efforts to place scooters in equity” outside of downtown, including southeast and far north Seattle.

According to the city’s scooter data dashboard, Wheels performed particularly poorly compared to other companies, including Spin, for providing fair access to its scooters.

Veo, which operates like a scooter but is classified as a bicycle, poses what SDOT spokesman Ethan Bergerson calls “interesting questions” for the city. Unlike traditional scooters, Veo devices are sidewalk legal; Because they are not classified as scooters, they also occupy one of three potential bicycle-sharing permits, which could limit the number of shared electric bicycles allowed on city streets in the future, if d other companies decide they want to enter the Seattle market.

“The bike/scooter sharing landscape is very dynamic and has changed significantly since the bike share program began in 2017,” Bergerson said, and now includes “more companies offering devices that combine some of the features of bikes and some of the features of scooters. … If this market trend continues, it may be worth considering how to adjust our permits to reflect changing technology and industry trends. »

2. The Seattle Public Library is ending its contract with the Downtown Emergency Services Center, which for more than five years has provided a part-time “Community Resource Specialist” to connect patrons to food, social services and shelters, and hire its own social service specialists.

New hires include an assistant manager librarian at the downtown branch to oversee the work; a new social services librarian who “will work with the information staff to keep information and contacts up to date, coordinate the bus ticket program and act as a link between our regular information services and our resource specialists communities,” according to library spokeswoman Elisa Murray; and two new in-house community resource specialists, including one who will focus on youth and youth outreach.

“While this new model does not necessarily offer customers more time with on-site staff, we believe we can sustain more partnerships with this model, which we hope will lead to more opportunities for customers to access the support services they need,” Murray said.

For years, libraries (including those in Seattle) have debated whether, and to what extent, library staff members should be responsible for connecting patrons not only to library materials, but also social services and resources beyond the direct control of the library. By hiring staff to oversee some of this work, SPL invests more directly in the theory that libraries can and should do both.

3. A new independent spending group representing marijuana retailers, called People for Legal Cannabis, just filed with the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission, declaring a $16,000 debt to polling firm EMC Research. The group’s intent: to fight potential legislation, first reported by KUOW’s David Hyde, that would impose an additional sales tax on weed sales in Seattle. If the legislation, currently being introduced by Local 21 of the United Food and Commercial Workers, passes, the group could propose a referendum to overturn the law.

According to a presentation first published on KUOW, which PubliCola independently obtained, the still-nascent UFCW proposal would impose a 25 cents per gram “cannabis tax” on the flower; $2.00 per half gram of high potency concentrates; and a penny per milligram of THC in everything else. The money would fund a paid “cannabis equity commission”; “manpower training” for cannabis workers; and a “cannabis equity fund” that would “prioritize the needs of those most affected by the war on drugs,” which has locked up millions of black and brown Americans for possessing and using weed. .

Seattle’s total cannabis taxes are over 47%, between the 37 state excise tax on cannabis sales and a combined state and local sales tax of over 10%.

The legislation, which has not been officially proposed, could also require marijuana retailers to “make a good faith effort” to hire at least half of their workers from economically distressed ZIP codes, and require that 10 % of their hours are spent with employees who have been arrested or convicted of a marijuana-related crime in the past, or who have a family member with such an arrest or conviction.

“In the midst of a public safety crisis created by armed robberies at cannabis businesses, it is disappointing that City Council is considering advancing an unprecedented and unworkable new tax and human resource mandates for small businesses. businesses,” said People for Legal Cannabis spokesperson Aaron Pickus. . “While proponents of this proposal to City Council have not yet engaged in any substantial way with legal cannabis businesses, we look forward to sharing information on industry realities and how cannabis revenues will be used for local programming statewide, including in Seattle communities. .”

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