Fact Check: Do rainbow crosswalks break the law? Did they cost tax payers $66,000?

Jun 24, 2015, 1:38 PM | Updated: 3:36 pm
When it was announced that Seattle Mayor Ed Murray spent $66,000 on nearly a dozen rainbow colored ...
When it was announced that Seattle Mayor Ed Murray spent $66,000 on nearly a dozen rainbow colored crosswalks in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, Jason Rantz says a number of people had a number of questions. (Photo: Mayor Ed Murray)
(Photo: Mayor Ed Murray)

When it was announced that Seattle Mayor Ed Murray spent $66,000 on nearly a dozen rainbow-colored crosswalks in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, a number of people had a number of questions. Is this necessary? Was this worth the cost? Did my tax dollars go to this? Is this even legal?

Now, some didn’t ask questions at all. They created their own narrative that this was a “waste of tax dollars” or that it is “clearly illegal.” Others, liking the symbolism of the crosswalks, pretended the financial concerns were silly and insignificant.

I’m going to attempt to answer some of the valid questions, realizing that some of you have legitimate concerns, while others are hiding behind these questions to simply display your anti-gay bigotry.

Did Tax Dollars Go to this Project?

No sooner was this project unveiled that people assumed tax dollars paid for this project. On the one hand, it’s a reasonable assumption to make (governments generally spend our tax dollars on projects; Seattle Department of Transportation certainly has a reputation for spending our tax dollars on bad programs and policies). But people jumped the gun claiming that tax dollars funded the project.

Mayor Murray responded to the claim Tuesday morning that “most of the cost of this are covered by the fees we charge developers for various street use.” And SDOT confirms that the “work was paid for primarily using Street Use fees, which come from developers using the public right of way.” I generally agree that tax dollars shouldn’t go to projects like this because it’s essentially a form of activism, but in this case, the bulk of the dollars came from Street Use fees; so you should revise your criticisms with that context in mind.

What about Funding Body Cameras?

I’ve heard criticism that the mayor is spending funds unnecessarily on this, when there are other projects and programs that need funding. KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson, for example, argued on Tuesday:

We don’t have enough money to get body cams on our cops. But for his passion of gay rights issues, Ed Murray &#8212 in last week and a half &#8212 has spent more than $100,000 taxpayer dollars to fly to Israel and paint rainbow-colored crosswalks on Capitol Hill.

I certainly understand the sentiment and the perception. I think it’s a valid argument to wonder if the mayor is prioritizing funding correctly. Transportation infrastructure is awful in Seattle, we have a hell of a homelessness problem, and body cameras are a program I wholeheartedly want to see promoted.

But using the rainbow crosswalk and Israeli trip is, in a way, a straw man argument. It’s irrelevant. There is one pot of money that is picked from on a whim. There are budgets. Seattle Police Department has a budget the way Seattle Department of Transportation has a budget. Certain funds are allocated to certain departments and programs. You can’t simply reach into another department, raid their budgets, and pass it along to another department. There are some reasonable checks to that move.

There is also some additional context to consider. For one, President Obama promised to help fund the body cameras program for police departments nationwide. Congress has yet to allocate funds. But it’s also important to keep in mind that the body cameras program will cost roughly $2 million for the first two years. Though it seems Dori’s $100,000 figure is on the high side, that doesn’t come remotely close to covering the program, assuming you can simply move budgets around without any oversight.

Rainbow Colors are Against the Law, Right?

No, not right.

Listeners have emailed and messaged me on Facebook claiming, essentially, that all crosswalks have to be white in order to satisfy state law. Specifically, critics point to MUTCD 3B.18 which states:

When crosswalk lines are used, they shall consist of solid white lines that mark the crosswalk. They shall not be less than 6 inches or greater than 24 inches in width.

As is usually the case, pulling out one particular line in a massive policy document doesn’t give the full picture. So let me get into the weeds here. MUTCD defines crosswalks:

(a) that part of a roadway at an intersection included within the connections of the lateral lines of the sidewalks on opposite sides of the highway measured from the curbs or in the absence of curbs, from the edges of the traversable roadway, and in the absence of a sidewalk on one side of the roadway, the part of a roadway included within the extension of the lateral lines of the sidewalk at right angles to the center line; (b) any portion of a roadway at an intersection or elsewhere distinctly indicated as a pedestrian crossing by pavement marking lines on the surface, which might be supplemented by contrasting pavement texture, style, or color. (emphasis mine)

Federal guidelines for crosswalks require crosswalk lines, which are defined by MUTCD as “white pavement marking lines that identify a crosswalk.” The code cited by listeners is about crosswalk lines, not crosswalks. As SDOT notes, “treatment inside the crosswalk lines is deemed supplemental.” As you can see, you have white pavement outlines for the crosswalk here:

145876

This is why you sometimes see brick crosswalks, as they have in parts of Columbia City, or grid patterns, as they have in parts of Wallingford. Now, if you believe those crosswalks are breaking code, feel free to protest with the same passion you’re protesting these rainbow-colored crosswalks.

I’m also told by SDOT that the city engineer has reviewed and approved these crosswalks, ensuring that they comply with state and federal standards.

Now, could this be “distracting” as some folks claim? Maybe. That is a fair point. And to that concern, SDOT will be monitoring the situation to make sure this doesn’t lead to accidents. If it does, and SDOT doesn’t react, we will hold them accountable.

Why Are You Really Upset?

Do you have any further questions? Send me a note and I’ll look into it. But if you’re outraged, ask yourself why you’re really outraged? I think you can legitimately present issues with this move. I had legitimate issues before I fact checked and reflected on this story. But I also think some people are using legitimate questions as a means to cover for their anti-gay sentiments. If you don’t like that this is celebratory of the LGBT community, then say so, and we’ll have that discussion. I encourage you to listen to my take on this crosswalk issue here.

Jason Rantz on AM 770 KTTH
  • listen to jason rantzTune in to AM 770 KTTH weekdays at 3-6pm toThe Jason Rantz Show.

Jason Rantz Show

Jason Rantz

Rep. Marilyn Strickland, D-Wash. (Getty Images)...
Jason Rantz

Rantz: Rep. Strickland makes evil claim about Justice Thomas on interracial marriage

The congresswoman claimed that Justice Thomas would overturn interracial marriage. Her comments are utterly vile and evil.
2 days ago
...
Jason Rantz

Rantz: Terrifying Pike Place Market road rage, hammer assault video released

Cell phone video from a terrifying Pike Place Market road rage incident shows the chaos that ensued on Easter Sunday last month.
3 days ago
Rebecca Perry YT...
Jason Rantz

Rantz: Democrat candidate’s vulgar campaign ad calls for mass property theft

A Democrat candidate for congress is calling for mass lawlessness to send a message to the "corporate elite."
3 days ago
Washington state Governor Jay Inslee speaks prior to U.S. President Joe Biden's appearance at Green...
MyNorthwest Staff

Gas shortages and record high prices plague Washington drivers

Gas stations in Washington are resetting their price boards to accommodate double digits in preparation for fuel prices potentially reaching $10 a gallon.
4 days ago
Ferguson, booster...
KTTH staff

AG Ferguson seeks protection for out-of-state abortion providers

Washington AG Bob Ferguson sent a letter asking to not disqualify out-of-state abortion providers from obtaining a license to practice medicine if they're penalized if Roe v. Wade is overturned.
5 days ago
Car Shot Seattle...
Jason Rantz

Rantz: Man nearly murdered in random Seattle drive-by while celebrating job promotion

My 25-year-old coworker had just finished hitting a bucket of golf balls at a North Seattle golf range. Moments later, his elation turned to terror as a man tried to murder him.
7 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
...

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]
...

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]
...

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
...
Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
Fact Check: Do rainbow crosswalks break the law? Did they cost tax payers $66,000?