I wrote some years ago about the state Department of Revenue’s bone-headed decision to tax car-sharing the same as conventional car rentals. Portland exempted car-sharing from the rental car tax, and Washington did too… for a while. Then, in 2007, DoR revised its earlier approach, under pressure from the rental-car lobby. Now, every time you or I grab a Zipcar or Car2Go or RelayRides vehicle in Washington, we get hit with retail-sales tax PLUS rental-car tax. In Seattle, the combined tax burden is almost 20 percent. Car sharing is still a great deal, but it’s preposterous that public policy penalizes what it should encourage. Car-sharers drive dramatically fewer miles, pollute less, take up fewer parking spaces, and spend their money on other things than their cars—things that tend to help the local economy more. Washington’s policy gives Seattle the tenth highest car-sharing tax rate in the United States, according to this article summarizing a study of cities across the United States.
I’m a sucker for slick, solidly messaged environmental ads. (Surprised? Me neither.) That’s why Waterkeeper Alliance’s new ads, short and long versions, had me hooked. And if the message alone isn’t enough to get you, perhaps you’d geek out for the messenger? It’s Edward James Olmos, of “Battlestar Galactica.”
Speaking of water, I’m joining the Taking on Water Challenge for the month of February. Each week features a postcard with a new water use reduction challenge. The winner, drawn from the participant pool, receives a home water conservation kit and a signed copy of Wendy Pabich’s new book, Taking on Water: How One Water Expert Challenged Her Inner Hypocrite, Reduced Her Water Footprint (without Sacrificing a Toasty Shower), and Found Nirvana.
Finally, this NPR story on people’s quite human relationships with technology hit home earlier this week (the heartbreaker element starts at 4:16). My MacBook has been a little fussy lately, and it made a sound Sunday night that made me exclaim, like a worried mother, “I am taking you directly to the Genius Bar, little guy!” …Um, first, that’s humiliating; and second, is it so bad to anthropomorphize our machines?
In 2012, cultural anthropologist Adonia Lugo interviewed nine leaders in communities of color who live and/or work in Seattle’s Rainier Valley. As a car-free, bike-riding north Seattleite, I found the interview reports to be fascinating and a great reminder that we all have different experiences that lead to different views of our transportation systems. While you’re on the topic, check out Adonia’s blog where she “speaks out about the importance of cross-cultural understanding and community-based research in urban sustainability, including issues related to bicycling, transit, affordable housing, and public space.”
Hands down, my top recommendation this week is Greenpeace’s new video on Northwest coal exports. Not only in the content great, but I love that it stars Alia Shawkat of Arrested Development fame:
After you watch that, take a bit more time with Daniel Person’s version of the story in the Seattle Weekly. He starts at the beginning, geographically speaking, in the Powder River Basin and works his way to saltwater.
PBS did a nice ten-minute take on Germany’s clean energy revolution, documenting the politics that led an industrial superpower to move toward renewables in a big way.
From the Economist, an intelligent look at the role that airline emissions play in global climate policy. A pending UN decision could pose a challenge to President Obama’s recent statements about his commitment to fighting climate change. As the article notes:
Airline emissions should be an easy case. Flying is not a necessity in the same way that heating your home is, and offset-driven increases in the cost of flights will fall more heavily on the rich and middle class than a full-blown carbon tax would. If we can’t get a global deal on airline emissions, how likely is a global deal on carbon emissions in general?
Knute Berger wrote exactly the piece that I was hoping he would write: the case for leaving Seattle’s ramps to nowhere alone. By removing them, he argues, the highway builders will be erasing an important part of Seattle’s freeway-fighting past.
Via Goldy and the fine folks at EOI, a truly first rate infographic. It’s about as clear a depiction you could find of how an aging generation of policymakers (and voters) is systemically screwing younger generations.
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Thanks to Hans Littooy for supporting a sustainable Northwest.
At the New Yorker last week, Rachel Aviv had a tremendously thought provoking piece on the alarming growth in “civil commitments,” essentially a way of indefinitely incarcerating people for sex offenses they may never commit.
Salon’s Alex Seitz-Wald says: “No, really, Americans support gun control.” Twelve polls since Newtown show a consistent pattern: Americans favor limited gun control.
Mother Jones shoots down 10 pro-gun myths.
And, L. Randall Wray equates banks to assault weapons in a response to Matt Yglesias’s supposition that banks are too big to prosecute. He writes: “Banks don’t commit fraud. Banksters commit fraud.” He says it makes the most sense to a) Investigate and prosecute to the full extent of the law those that use weapons of mass destruction (such as AK-47s and financial derivatives); and b) remove the weapons of mass destruction (AK-47s and financial derivatives).
Fast and slow thinking, illustrated with video.
Google’s self-driving car has gotten a ton of press of late. But is it legal? The answer is: probably. But it takes a 100-page report to make the case.