Axios Seattle

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💕 It's Wednesday! And it's Valentine's Day.

  • We're personally avoiding going out tonight, but you do whatever makes your heart sing.

🌤 Today's weather: Partly sunny. High near 48.

🏠 Situational awareness: The Washington state House passed legislation yesterday that would cap annual rent increases at 7% for many properties. The state Senate now will consider the measure.

ğŸŽ‚ Happy birthday to our Axios Seattle member Kati Sills!

Today's newsletter is 821 words, a 3-minute read.

1 big thing: All the closed park bathrooms

The sign at Powell Barnett Park has a handwritten message: "Please open Bathrooms Thank You." Photo: Melissa Santos/Axios

If you visit one of Seattle's parks this month and have to pee, there's a good chance you'll be out of luck, as more than half of the city's park bathrooms are currently locked.

What's happening: Park officials say dozens of their public restrooms can't handle cold weather, forcing the city to close them for the season — a problem Seattle doesn't expect to fully fix until 2028.

Why it matters: If you've ever had to help your barely-potty-trained kid relieve themselves behind a bush — probably violating the city's law against public urination — then you know.

The big picture: People experiencing homelessness and advocacy groups have long expressed concern about Seattle's shortage of available public restrooms.

By the numbers: Of the city's 129 public park bathrooms, 68 were closed as of Tuesday, according to city data.

  • 41 of those were shuttered for the entire winter, roughly from late November to March, "due to the potential for freezing pipes that often burst," per the city's dashboard.
  • 22 more were closed for repairs or planned construction, while five were closed for "other" reasons. Some of these have portable toilets set up, but not all, the parks department said.

What's next: The park bathrooms that closed for winter weather are slated to reopen in about a month, Seattle parks spokesperson Rachel Schulkin told Axios.

  • By the end of 2028, the city plans to have retrofitted all of its bathrooms "with the appropriate protection" so they can be open year-round.
  • The city also plans to boost maintenance staffing, another factor in bathroom closures.

Between the lines: Cities that regularly freeze over in the winter, such as Chicago and Cincinnati, commonly close many park bathrooms for the season.

  • Yet some cities with milder climates similar to Seattle — such as Port Angeles and Federal Way — close bathrooms for shorter periods, mainly when freezing weather looms, rather than all season long.

Melissa's thought bubble: It does feel a bit weird to go to a Seattle park in February and see bathrooms closed when low temperatures are hovering in the upper 30s and 40s.

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2. 🤖 Use AI to own the haters, Microsoft says

Image: Microsoft

Artificial intelligence won't steal your job — but it could help you prove all the haters in your life wrong, according to the big-budget ad Microsoft ran during Sunday's Super Bowl.

Why it matters: The 60-second spot tries to reframe AI for the general population, presenting it not as a scary unknown novelty but a way to help people achieve their personal and professional dreams, Axios' Scott Rosenberg writes.

Catch up quick: The ad for Microsoft's AI Copilot rolls out a parade of people who list their thwarted ambitions.

  • "They say I will never open my own business" ... "get my degree" ... "make my movie" ... "build something" ... "They say I'm too old to learn something new" ... "too young to change the world."
  • That's the first 30 seconds. In the second half, we see each dream brought to life — thanks to timely creative and organizational help from Microsoft's Copilot AI bot, which responds to each user's inquiry: "Yes, I can help you."

The big picture: Microsoft wants the world to see the AI it is spending billions on as a boon to our humanity.

The other side: The ad touts how Copilot can provide tutorials, designs and code.

  • But it leaves out all the actual human tutors, graphic designers and programmers whose labor is being bypassed — and whose know-how was slurped up by AI models without consent or compensation.

Of note: Surveys show Americans evenly divided over whether they think AI will help or hurt them.

Go deeper: Microsoft's game-changing Super Bowl ad

3. Morning Buzz: Alaska strike vote

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

✈️ Alaska Airlines flight attendants voted to authorize a strike, meaning that a strike could happen if airline management does not "agree to significant improvements" that workers are demanding. (KGW)

👁️ A proposal in Washington's Legislature would let businesses use an eye scan, palm print or other biometric identification checks to determine whether someone is old enough to buy alcohol. (Washington State Standard)

🗳️ A ballot measure to raise the minimum wage in Renton to about $19 an hour was leading in early returns from Tuesday's special election. (Seattle Times)

4. Charted: Our sports bar shortage

Sports bars per capita by metro area
Data: Yelp; Note: Among 112 metro areas with at least 500K residents; Chart: Axios Visuals

It likely was harder for Seattleites to find a sports bar where they could watch Sunday's game than it was for fans in, say, Milwaukee or Madison.

By the numbers: The Seattle area has a lower ratio of sports bars to residents than many other U.S. cities, according to data from the online restaurant review platform Yelp.

  • As of early last week, the Seattle area had 6.8 establishments labeled as "sports bars" on Yelp per 100,000 residents, compared to 7.3 for the 112 cities studied.

👂 You tell us: What are the best sports bars in Seattle? Hit reply to share your top spot and what makes it great.

  • We'll compile a list of readers' favorite Seattle sports bars soon.

♥️ Melissa is still amused by the barista who suggested yesterday she doesn't have to get her husband anything for Valentine's Day, on account of her "growing a human for him."

  • She'll still probably pick him up a cute tiny cake and whiskey.

💤 Clarridge will be back in a day or two, after sleeping off the jet lag from her epic India trip.

This newsletter was edited by Emma Hurt and copy edited by Egan Millard.