Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Opportunity for Olympia for All



A week or so ago I took a look at the geography of the failed income tax in Olympia.

And a while back I looked at the geography of voter drop-off in citywide elections.

Now this week, I put them together!

The exercise I did on drop off was to figure out if there were neighborhoods that were more robust in their support of the original statewide income tax and the local version. Where did the vote for the first tax (which passed in Olympia) drop the least when it came to the second vote (which failed in Olympia)?

The purpose is to find out if there is a correlation between a neighborhood a robust supporter of an income tax and a neighborhood where fewer people would vote in a city council election.

It looks like there is a "slight" correlation (in the words of a smarter person that I asked to take a look at the numbers for me):

This chart is not mine (that smarter person did it), but I did collect the data:

So, if you're a local political group that is interested in progressive politics, changing city hall and increasing participation in local elections (like Olympia for All, amiright?) these precincts that ranked both high in tax support and low in local voter turnout would be your main targets, right?

In the map below, I categorized the neighborhoods, combining their rank in voter turnout with tax support, and came up with four categories. Green is the best, then yellow, orange and red.



Except for downtown, this is a very interesting map to me. Southeast Olympia as a broad swath of orange, that's not surprising at all. That's where you'd expect higher turnout and a lot of side-eying of progressive ideas.

But, the green neighborhoods are fascinating. They're mostly newer, non-walkable and high density neighborhoods on the edge of Olympia.  There is a large collection of them along Harrison Avenue west of division and the most of the ones on the east side are east of South Bay Road.

And, a lot of the typical close-in, very walkable neighborhoods rank very poorly. And, this isn't just because they retain participation in local elections. If you go back to the Opportunity for Olympia map, you see less support for the local property tax.

There is opportunity out there, but it's among the newer apartment buildings and neighborhoods on the edges of town.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Drive-throughs are worth it if it means doing something in Briggs Village



Something is better than nothing at all and we've been waiting a really long time.

Update (11/22/16 (9:22 a.m.): the planning commission voted in favor of the amendment to allow drive-throughs last night.

Last night the Olympia planning commission held a public hearing on allowing drive throughs inside the commercial portion of the Briggs Urban Village. Long the dream of walkability and livability in the SE Olympia sprawl, Briggs has been an urban village in name only. It has been a moderate mix of mixed density housing. But even there, the real diversity of single family homes and high density apartments are kept well separated. Lots of great townhouses though. That's a plus.

Anyway, lacking a core tenant like a grocery store in the commercial core of the neighborhood/development, the idea to encourage smaller junior anchor tenants was put forward. Ralph's Thriftway was supposed to move in at some point, but apparently that plan has fallen off the table. So, these kind of tenants would be drugs stores or coffee shops. In our case, Bartels or Starbucks.

But these folks need drive throughs. From a letter written (pdf) by the commercial broker currently selling Briggs Village locations:
As part of our efforts to attract junior anchor retail tenants, we have had several conversations with representatives of Starbucks and Bartell Drugs. Starbucks has had an interest in the site for quite some time, but the company will not consider new locations without a drive-through, especially in suburban areas.
While Briggs is an “Urban Village” under City of Olympia regulations, as a practical matter it remains a suburban site for purposes of retail site selection criteria. An anchor tenant with wide brand recognition like Starbucks or Bartell Drugs would draw other brands and businesses such as restaurants and service oriented businesses, as well as professional office tenants. The variety of such a tenant mix will create synergy thus attracting customers. 
Essentially, you can put an urban village inside a suburban sprawl, but that doesn't mean the suburban sprawl will suddenly be urban. Southeast Olympia is the least walkable part of town. To get anything done, short of going to school or maybe a park, you need to drive. There is a YMCA down here, but unless you're literally me or my immediate neighbors, you're probably going to drive there too. Also, you're likely to use a vehicle to get to school or the park. Just saying.

Also, this is not a lecture on the value of walkability. You can find that elsewhere.

So, while Briggs without coffee shop or drugstore drive throughs would be nice, in the current reality, we're never going to get a real urban village with houses, townhomes, apartments and commercial development without them.

But, we should still work to infill and rethink the entire landscape of SE Olympia to make it more walkable and more diverse, we should do that too. But, that is a much bigger piece of work. Maybe some day, we'll abandon the drive throughs.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Four things to think about the 2016 Thurston County commission races (2014 all over again, sort of)

Over the past couple of years, I've been rolling over how an independent candidate with conservative values was elected in a usually safe Democratic county. Bud Blake's win in 2014 over Karen Valenzuela took a lot of folks by surprise, so a double repeat of that victory for the other two commission seats by Gary Edwards and John Hutchings was supposed to be preventable.

I was thinking that a larger electorate in a presidential year and more awareness of the nuances of an independent campaign would help seal a Democratic win. Anyway, that didn't happen. Let's look at how.

1. Just like 2014, it was a matter of beating the typical Republican

In 2014, Blake was able to beat a typical Republican in every precinct, from the most conservative to the most liberal. In most of these districts, even the very most liberal, there was a layer of voters that would not for a Republican in a down ballot race (attorney general, lieutenant governor) but would vote for an independent against a  Democrat in the county commission race.

 

2. Unlike 2014, core Olympia liberals did not abandon the ballot 

Something I noticed later was that if you looked at 2014 results in terms of turnout, the closer you got to Budd Inlet, the more likely you were to not fill out your ballot when it came to the county commission race. While these lost voters would not turned the campaign to Valenzuela then, it made it practically certain she would lose. Countywide, dependable liberal neighborhoods in Olympia need to turn out for Democrats to win.


While there was a geographically based drop off in voting, it seemed to have happened not in the home base of the more liberal candidates, but in the in-between area of the two camps. In the map of above, higher turnout for the county commission races are darker. So, in my reading, the lighter placemarks are mostly in either politically stratified neighborhoods around south county (Republicans and conservatives) and Budd Inlet (liberals and Democrats). Both camps did a good job getting their base to vote. And, the suburban tweeners stayed home. Well, we all stayed home. It's vote by mail.

3. BONUS: Kelsey Hulse did not improve her mark from the primary

If you take just the precincts that were involved in the Hulse Edwards primary back in August (commissioner primaries are just in the district they represent), she did just a percentage worse. Which isn't bad. Standing pat in the more conservative east district (Yelm to the eastern portions of Lacey) isn't a bad strategy for a liberal candidate.

And, of course, since I have place information for these precincts, here's a map of where she did better.



The darker the pins, the better Hulse did compared to her primary finish.

Looks like a lot of nothing to me. Not that there wasn't some moving around, there certainly were some places that she did better in (and worse in) November to August. But, I don't think it makes geographic sense to me. I'm mostly sharing it because I want to see if anyone else sees a pattern I don't.

4. SUPER BONUS: Hulse did better than Cooper in Olympia

From the brand spanking new Green Pages (which makes it a super special bonus), Steve Salmi writes:
One could argue that this occurred because Edwards was the tougher opponent — but only outside the liberal Democratic stronghold of Olympia. 
By the same token, one might suggest that Hulse’s campaign materials did a better job than Cooper’s of energizing liberals. This, in turn, may have partially been because Hulse raised roughly $74,000, a good $12,000 more than Cooper, according to the Public Disclosure Commission
One might also wonder whether a robocall that attacked Cooper had an impact. But again the question arises: Why did he outpoll Hulse everywhere else except for Olympia — particularly if the robocalls targeted south county residents? 
Perhaps other factors may be at play. For example, did Hulse more aggressively doorbell in Olympia because, unlike Cooper, she needed to introduce herself to a core voter base?

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Geography of the Opportunity for Olympia loss



From what I heard, there were several reasons for Opportunity for Olympia coming to Olympia. The income tax to pay for the first year of college for Olympia high school graduates was run here because Olympia was particularly fertile ground. We had supported the last statewide attempt at an income-like tax and we have a good track record of supporting school levies.

But, in the wash, Initiative 1 ran far worse in Olympia than either 1098 (47 percent to 56 percent) or local school levies (over 75 percent last time around).

So, first let's take a look at how Initiative 1 ran against our 1098 results precinct by precinct.



The lighter the placemark, the worse Initiative 1 did against 1098. In a few places (farish westside and far Eastside) Initiative 1 actually did better than 1098. But, the losses in the close in neighborhoods and Southeast Olympia were too much to overcome.

Let's take a close look, though, at the precincts where Initiative 1 did better. These aren't usually precincts I play close attention to when I think about Olympia politics. They seem to be areas around the malls and hospitals. A few precincts around the South Sound Center St. Petes and then up Lilly Road supported the local income tax over the statewide one, as well as precincts around the Capital Mall and Capital Medical Center. I have no idea what this means.




Again, the lighter the placemark, the worse Initiative 1 did against the last levy in February 2016.

But, again, there were no precincts where the initiative did better than the levy. We can't see a repeat of the South Sound Mall/St. Pete's precincts, since they're inside the North Thurston school district. But we can see some dark spots in the westside near Capital Mall/Medical center. And, again the South Capitol to SE Olympia axis, Initiative 1 did far worse.

Most interesting is that there are a few well off westside, water view precincts on the westside where the levy (property tax) did worse than generally than the initiative (property tax). My guess, people with lower incomes but better home values (water view westside) like Initiative 1 better than people with lower home values and higher incomes in the deep SE side. Just a wild guess based on neighborhood stereotypes.