Morning Crank: “Let’s Actually Do It.”

1. For a few weeks, a rumor has been going around that Scott Lindsay, Mayor Ed Murray’s public safety advisor and the most vocal defender of encampment sweeps in the mayor’s office, was thinking of running for city attorney against longtime incumbent Pete Holmes. Yesterday, Lindsay put those rumors to rest, announcing that not only is he running, he’s leaving the mayor’s office in one week, presumably to campaign full-time. Perhaps most interesting, Lindsay’s announcement included two unlikely endorsements, from Mothers for Police Accountability founder Rev. Harriet Walden and Public Defender Association director Lisa Daugaard. Walden is a longtime police accountability advocate and Daugaard has been highly critical of Murray’s homeless encampment sweeps; both serve on the Community Police Commission, the civilian body that oversees police reform efforts at the city.

Daugaard’s decision to support Lindsay is surprising not only because she supported Holmes in the past (over two campaign cycles, Daugaard  contributed $246 to Holmes’ campaigns), but because Lindsay is widely seen as a law-and-order guy and a strong defender of Murray’s encampment removal policies. (Shortly after Lindsay announced, Safe Seattle—a group opposed to homeless encampments, safe drug-consumption sites, and Murray’s pro-density policies—sung his praises on their Facebook page.

I asked Daugaard why she was supporting Lindsay. Her response: “We need to do more with the office of City Attorney. We’re entering an era when we had better be doing things worth defending here in Seattle. If we’re saying safe consumption [sites for drug users], let’s do it. If we’re saying we can care for people and reduce crime through community based alternatives, let’s actually do it.

“Scott’s analysis that we can take a more serious approach to all of these issues is correct. I haven’t always agreed with him and that may continue, but I respect his energy and openness to evidence about it what works.”

Daugaard says she’s concerned that after eight years with Holmes as city attorney, misdemeanor defendants “still serve long sentences on cases with excessive probation, are held in lieu of bail because they are poor, and are made to give up their trial rights to get services in too many cases. Jail utilization has climbed.”

“I give Pete great credit for hiring Kelly Harris as his criminal division chief last year. Kelly has made important improvements. But we need to get serious about making more effective city wide use of community based diversion. This has to work—we don’t have an infinite time frame to get it right and take it to scale. Scott is very serious about showing that we can achieve strong neighborhood-level outcomes through a public health-based approach. We need that kind of energy or people are going to get fed up.”

Murray’s campaign confirms that he will continue to support Holmes, whom he endorsed before Lindsay got in the race. The timing of Lindsay’s announcement puts Murray, who is running for reelection himself amid allegations that he sexually abused teenage boys in the 1980s, in a tough position—having a top staffer abandon ship during a tough reelection campaign does not exactly inspire confidence.

There may be another reason Lindsay decided to leave Murray in the lurch: Because polling suggested he could win. So far, Lindsay has reported one expenditure: A $20,000 phone poll, conducted between April 21 and April 23.

2. Four years after denouncing a soda tax proposal by his then- (and future) opponent, Mike McGinn (and getting trounced by his opponents as a shill for the beverage industry) on soda and sugar-sweetened beverages, Mayor Murray rolled out the details of his own soda tax proposal Thursday. The proposal would impose a 1.75-cent-per-ounce on all sodas, including diet sodas, to be paid by soda distributors, who would almost certainly pass the cost on to customers. (This, I should note, hits Crank where she lives. Don’t mess with my garbage water, Mr. Mayor, SIR.)

The money—an estimated $18 million a year, depreciated from the $23 million the city budget office estimates it would taken in on current soda sales to account for the fact that soda taxes reduce consumption—would pay for programs that support education and access to healthy food in low-income communities, including: $469,000 a year to expand school-based mentorships; $1.1 million a year for workplace learning programs for kids in high school; $1.1 million a year for case management and training to reduce racial disparities in discipline; and a one-time investment of $5 million to create an endowment that, Murray said Thursday, will provide “one free year of college at Seattle colleges [formerly known as community colleges] to all public schools students who graduate.”

Acknowledging that a soda tax is regressive—not only does it hit lower-income people hardest, lower-income people buy more soda—Murray said, “To those who say that we are resorting to a regressive tax, I say, you know what is more regressive? You know what is really taking money out of African American communities? Tolerating an education system that is failing students of color every day and leaving them without a future and giving them food that will only lead to health problems.” Excessive soda consumption has been linked to obesity, diabetes, and heart and liver problems, Murray noted. Murray said he decided to include diet soda in the tax for equity reasons—higher-income white people are more likely to drink diet soda than sugar-sweetened drinks—but the expansion to diet drinks also allowed him to lower the tax slightly from the 2-cents-per-ounce tax he originally proposed in his State of the City speech in February.

The soda tax requires council approval; two council members, Rob Johnson and Tim Burgess, flanked Murray at yesterday’s press conference.

Immediately after Murray’s press conference, a group of Teamsters and other soda-tax opponents gathered in the lobby of City Hall to denounce the proposal.  Pete Lamb, a representative from Teamsters Local 174, said similar taxes had already forced companies like Coca-Cola and Pepsi to cut jobs in Philadelphia, where a 1.5-cent-per-ounce tax on soda went into effect this year. (The mayor of Philadelphia pointed out that the two companies saw gross profits of more than $6 billion last year, and called the company- and union-led efforts to blame the tax for layoffs a “new low.”) “We will not support a tax that puts our members’ jobs on the line,” Lamb said.

“Just in the soda and beverage industry alone, we have 1,200 to 1,300 workers, plus distributors and warehouse workers—when you really look at the full scope of it, you’re looking at thousands of jobs being potentially impacted,” Lamb said. “We support … working to combat obesity, but to just target soda when we have so many things in our food chain that are sugary—we can’t support that.”

Interesting foot note: The spokesman for the soda tax campaign, the Seattle Healthy Kids Coalition, is Aaron Pickus—the longtime spokesman for former Mayor McGinn, who proposed the original soda tax four years ago.

3. This morning, the city will once again remove a persistent unauthorized encampment above the Ballard Locks and provide its residents with information about open shelter beds and services in the hopes that some will accept their offers. The Locks encampment has been swept numerous times thanks in large part to repeated complaints by Ballard residents about garbage and erosion at the site.

George Scarola, Murray’s homelessness director, acknowledged Thursday that “of course [the decision to clear a particular encampment] is in part based on complaints. He says the Locks encampment is a “longstanding issue—as long as I’ve been here, I’ve heard people complain about it.” But, he says, the city is getting better about offering real services and shelter, rather than simply directing people to line up at bare-bones shelters downtown. “Are we simply moving people from one place to another? We are doing some of that,” Scarola acknowledges. But, he says, “We are getting 40 percent who are accepting services.” And “moving people around is somewhat useful, because we can remove some of the garbage,” which is a major source of neighborhood complaints.

The sweep begins at 8:30 this morning.

4. A new website that includes a petition to “recruit” 2016 Republican. gubernatorial candidate Bill Bryant for mayor appears to be the handiwork of Matthew Donnellan, Bryant’s campaign manager in his unsuccessful effort to unseat Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee last year. Although the owner of the site paid to register it through a service that hides site owner identity, Ben Krokower of  the consulting firm Strategies 360 noticed Donnellan’s name in the source code and pointed it out on Twitter. Bill Bryant received 32 percent of the vote in King County in his race for governor.

If you enjoy the work I do here at The C Is for Crank, please consider becoming a sustaining supporter of the site! For just $5, $10, or $20 a month (or whatever you can give), you can help keep this site going, and help me continue to dedicate the many hours it takes to bring you stories like this one every week. This site is funded entirely by contributions from readers, which pay for the substantial time I put into reporting and writing for this blog and on social media, as well as costs like transportation, equipment, travel costs, website maintenance, and other expenses associated with my reporting. Thank you for reading, and I’m truly grateful foryour support.

The C Is for Crank Interviews: Cary Moon

Cary Moon, a civic activist and urban planner best known for leading the fight against the downtown tunnel (read my 2004 story about that effort here) is an unlikely candidate for mayor. A wonk who recently cowrote a four-part series about neoliberalism and gentrification for the Stranger, Moon has never made herself the center of attention, and seems more comfortable debating the granular details of housing policy than she does speaking directly into a camera, as she did in the video announcing her candidacy. She’s running, she says, because she wants to address the growing divide between Seattle’s “haves and have-nots,” with progressive taxation, a crackdown on speculative property buyers, and by having a conversation with Seattle residents about “what kind of city we want to be.” I spoke to Moon by phone on Thursday.

The C Is for Crank: A lot of people seem to be jumping in to this race because they perceive that Murray is newly vulnerable. Do you have a specific critique of Murray’s record and positions?

Cary Moon (CM): I think he has done quite a bit and he deserves to be proud of that. He’s made a lot of good changes for the future. [But] I feel like we have had a lot of big, transformative changes in the city. We’ve become a city of haves and have-nots, and I don’t think he has the right analysis of why that’s happening. I feel like in a time of change, we need a really strong vision and idea of what we’re aiming for, and we need an action plan to get there, so people feel like they have a voice on housing affordability, and on building a local economy that circulates [wealth] back into small businesses and local businesses. There’s things the city and state could and should be doing to increase the ability of the city to share prosperity.

“Housing used to be local. It used to be local players, building housing for local people. Now they’re acting more and more like Wall Street, where outside predators are piling on just left and right.”

ECB: Can you give some specific examples of times when Murray has used the wrong analysis to inform his policy choices?

CM: I think we missed some opportunities with HALA. There’s some good things in it. I like the mandatory affordability proposal. I like the proposals about what to do in single-family zoning to add townhouses and duplexes and accessory dwelling units—building the missing middle. But I think we’re missing some good opportunities. We’re not really understanding everything that’s driving up demand. So yes, let’s build houses for everyone who wants to live here, but there are other causes that are escalating housing prices that the city is not considering. We need to figure out what to do with those.

ECB: Like what?

CM: If you look at what’s happening in other world-class cities, you see this phenomenon of outside investors piling on and taking advantage of everyone wanting to move here. It’s just like Wall Street—when Wall Street sees a stock go up two days in a row, all of Wall Street piles on to that stock. That same phenomenon is going on in our housing market.

Housing used to be local. It used to be local players, building housing for local people. Now they’re acting more and more like Wall Street, where outside predators are piling on just left and right.

ECB:  You’ve mentioned this theory before—that foreign investors from places like China are snapping up properties here as investments and leaving them vacant, which helps drive up housing prices. But all the available data seems to show that while this is happening in Vancouver, it isn’t happening here. I’m not saying it couldn’t happen in the future, but what evidence do you have that so-called hot money is driving up housing prices now?

CM: I don’t have any secret information that nobody else has, but the dynamic is there. I’ve read enough articles that have said that investors that have been in Vancouver are now looking at other cities, and Seattle is one of their choices. It’s not just hot money, it’s not just foreign investors, but everything has changed in the last 10 years. It used to be, you buy property, you build a building, you get a certain rate of return, and you get your money back, maybe 7 percent in 20  years. It’s completely different now. Now, you buy a building and sell it right away, and the return on investment comes not from the slow, long revenue stream of rents coming in, but from the quick turn of selling at a higher rate and doing the same thing again and again and again and again. Our development world is behaving more like Wall Street than it used to. It’s developers leaving buildings vacant, it’s people buying investment properties, it’s Airbnb, it’s people building second and third and fourth homes that might not have anybody living in them for most of the year. Real estate is a great place to put your money, if you have money.

“It’s very attractive to anybody that’s trying to find a place to live that’s affordable, so everyone piles on. ‘We can live in the Central District. It’s close to downtown, close to work.’ It’s escalating.”

ECB: Isn’t the bigger problem that a lot more people want to live here, and that housing supply isn’t keeping up with demand? Wouldn’t the obvious solution to that be just—build more housing?

CM: I think people are moving here because there are jobs here, and that’s great—I don’t want people to stop moving here—but there’s additional pressure on neighborhoods that have been traditionally redlined, where society and government and banks and the real estate industry kept prices low and kept segregation happening, and now those prices are different than the rest of Seattle. It’s very attractive to anybody that’s trying to find a place to live that’s affordable, so everyone piles on. ‘We can live in the Central District. It’s close to downtown, close to work.’ It’s escalating. We need to take a very careful look at what can we do to preserve access to the neighborhood for people from the community, with cultural ties and family ties in the community, so that we’re not blasting out those people and filling the neighborhood up with a bunch of wealthy white people.

ECB: So what do you propose to prevent displacement from those communities?

CM: Strong tenants’ protection rights are a part of it. I think looking at rent stabilization—not rent control, but are there things you can do to dampen rent escalation, to slow it down? Are there things you can do with the community to benefit the people from the community that already live there? There are a lot of subtle things that you can do that are going to benefit folks from the community.

I think [HALA] wasn’t enough. I think it was a good step. But where we were three years ago when HALA started—that was as far as developers were willing to go. I would like to revisit and look at some of the solutions we proposed, things we didn’t do yet in single-family-zoned lands, like townhouses and duplexes and accessory dwelling units. I want to have that conversation.

ECB: Those things were all originally part of HALA, and they all got shot down during that process. How would revisiting HALA change that outome?

CM: I think it’s a matter of leadership and vision. The way I think people perceived HALA was that it was a power struggle between stakeholders, and everybody fighting for their own interests. I would like to set aside that way of operating for a minute and ask the people of Seattle what kind of city we want to be. How do we want to welcome young families? How do we want to welcome all communities and restart this debate towards a constructive goal around what kind of city we want to be? We need to change the framework, change the context, and talk to  people about what kind of city we want to be.

ECB: Homelessness has become a huge issue during Murray’s term. What do you think of his approach to homelessness—from the ongoing sweeps of homeless encampments to Pathways Home, which focuses on rapid rehousing and rebidding city contracts with service providers?

CM: The proposal that was put forward by the organizations involved in homelessness and Mike O’Brien and the ACLU—that was much closer to what we should be doing. I would like to go back to that proposal and figure out the best way to do this in a way that respects people’s human rights and dignity.

[In general] ,my feeling is that there are a few things we need to do differently. First, we need to get better data, a better sense of collaboration, and a commitment to those values across city agencies and the nonprofit community and providers. It feels like Barb Poppe was possibly right that there was a lot of duplication of effort and a need for efficiencies. I like the idea of housing first—people need shelter to get back on their feet, and you can’t really accomplish anything if you don’t have a place to sleep. I like low-barrier shelters, and I like the idea of looking at the shelters where people are staying for months and months and months and not moving. I like the idea of figuring out what those folks need to do to move on.

I’m concerned about the voucher system. Unless we address the root cause of affordability, vouchers are not going to do it. Vouchers might work for a family that just had a temporary crisis and lost their job and had a fairly easy time getting back on their feet. But for people whose incomes are low and are going to stay low, the voucher system is very impractical. We need to figure out how to build more affordable housing or people are going to be back out on the street.

“Low-income people, middle-income people, have been generous enough. They pay, as a proportion of their income, seven times more than wealthy people do in taxes.”

ECB: You and ex-mayor McGinn hold a lot of the same views, support many of the same policy positions, and seem likely to draw support from the same set of progressive young urbanists and social justice advocates. What distinction would you draw for voters who are torn between you and him?

I’m wondering what he’s all about with his slogan of Keep Seattle, because it’s signaling, like, a direction I don’t quite understand. We might have a lot more policy differences than I thought we did. Definitely, our style of leadership is different. I want to build will and momentum toward a common vision, and I think he loves the street fight of scrappy power struggles. And I believe I have a much deeper analysis of how to tackle the affordable housing crisis and how to build affordable housing. I’ve spent the last two years working on that as well as democracy reform—how to spread power across spectrum, not just to wealthy white people.

ECB: Do you agree with McGinn that people in Seattle are overtaxed, and that the city should adopt an income tax, even one that’s unlikely to hold up in court?

CM: I see the same problem as he does. Low-income people, middle-income people, have been generous enough. They pay, as a proportion of their income, seven times more than wealthy people do in taxes. I want to have a big, broad conversation with the city and all the most creative lawyers in the city about how do we do this. Wealthy people should be paying their fair share, and a lot of wealthy people believe that too. We have to build the public will and the right legal strategy. I’ve heard that a capital gains tax is a better place to start [than income tax] because it’s more likely to hold up, but I need more information on that. I would say yes, I’m for finding new sources that are more progressive.

 

ECB: When they were teasing your candidacy before you announced, Moxie Media described you as a “well-resourced” candidate. How much of your own money are you willing to put into this race?

CM: I don’t know. I’m fundraising like hell, because that’s important to building commitment and credibility and expanding the movement. I’m going to do that first.

If you enjoy the work I do here at The C Is for Crank, please consider becoming a sustaining supporter of the site! For just $5, $10, or $20 a month (or whatever you can give), you can help keep this site going, and help me continue to dedicate the many hours it takes to bring you stories like this one every week. This site is funded entirely by contributions from readers, which pay for the substantial time I put into reporting and writing for this blog and on social media, as well as costs like transportation, equipment, travel costs, website maintenance, and other expenses associated with my reporting. Thank you for reading, and I’m truly grateful foryour support.

Morning Crank: If Those Conversations Are Not Happening in Good Faith

1. Mayor Ed Murray’s surprise announcement, at a campaign forum last week, that he would put forward “a proposal for a high-end income tax” came at a particularly inopportune time for a group of progressive taxation advocates that has been working for months to craft just such a proposal. Proponents of a local income tax, including council member Lisa Herbold, met last week with city budget director Ben Noble to discuss putting together an income tax proposal that could withstand legal scrutiny. On Monday, Herbold announced she was introducing a resolution—”drafted with the assistance of the mayor’s office” and reviewed by the city attorney—that lays out a timeline and questions that need to be resolved in drafting a local income tax ordinance. The goal, Herbold said, is to begin considering a local income tax proposal by the end of May and to adopt an ordinance in July.

Trump Proof Seattle has proposed a 1.5 percent income tax on incomes over $250,000 a year; Herbold said Monday that one of the goals of the council process will be to decide on an income threshold and what kind of income (earned or unearned) will be taxed. Prior to Murray’s announcement last week, former mayor and current mayoral candidate Mike McGinn said he supported an income tax; Cary Moon, an urban planner and civic activist who announced she was running last week, says she would prefer a capital gains tax.

2.  Council member Lorena Gonzalez had a message for legislators who are dithering over whether to require companies in Washington State to provide paid family leave: If they won’t do it, she will. Time is running out for lawmakers to reach a compromise between two dueling proposals, including one (sponsored by Sen. Joe Fain, R-47) that would preempt Seattle from adopting more generous requirements. The details of the two plans vary in the ways you might expect; the Republican proposal is entirely employee-funded and would provide new parents or people who need time off to care for a sick family member just two months of leave at half pay, while the Democratic version is partly employer-funded and provides more generous benefits.

“I feel that a statewide solution is the best solution for all working families, including Seattle working families,” Gonzalez said.  “But I have still have a very strong interest, and am incredibly ready to advance, a Seattle-only policy if those conversations are not happening in good faith.”

3. A new job opportunity opened up this week for those with thick skin and a willingness to work for a company that has been widely panned as hostile to unions: Community manager for social responsibility for New Seasons Market in Seattle. New Seasons, you may recall, sparked controversy with its plan to bid on a new location above the Capitol Hill light rail station; labor groups criticized the Portland-based company for being “anti-union,” and the United Food and Commercial Workers  organized an “unwelcome ceremony” when the company opened its first Seattle-area location on Mercer Island last year. New Seasons is also rumored to be the anchor tenant at another controversial development at 23rd and Jackson, where the luxury condo behemoth Vulcan plans to build hundreds of new apartments and tear down the unionized Red Apple store that has been a community fixture for more than 25 years. The community manager for social responsibility in Seattle, in other words, is going to have their work cut out for them.

If you enjoy the work I do here at The C Is for Crank, please consider becoming a sustaining supporter of the site! For just $5, $10, or $20 a month (or whatever you can give), you can help keep this site going, and help me continue to dedicate the many hours it takes to bring you stories like this one every week. This site is funded entirely by contributions from readers, which pay for the substantial time I put into reporting and writing for this blog and on social media, as well as costs like transportation, equipment, travel costs, website maintenance, and other expenses associated with my reporting. Thank you for reading, and I’m truly grateful for your support.

The C Is For Crank Interviews: Former Mayor Mike McGinn

Last week, former mayor Mike McGinn took many in the local political community by surprise when he announced he was running again for his old position. Although McGinn’s name had certainly circulated in the past as a potential challenger to Mayor Ed Murray, who defeated the then-incumbent in 2013, he always demurred when asked, calling the question of whether he planned to run “unanswerable.” It became answerable, it appears, after a man named Delvonn Heckard sued the mayor, alleging Murray had sexually abused him when Heckard was a teenager in the 1980s. McGinn announced his run with a press conference in his Greenwood backyard and the perplexing campaign slogan “Keep Seattle,” which he told me means “Keep Seattle for people.” I sat down with McGinn on Capitol Hill last week.

The C Is for Crank (ECB): I know you don’t want to comment on the charges against Mayor Murray, but I do wonder whether your decision to run now, instead of declaring before the scandal broke, is a bit opportunistic. Did you decide to run because you have specific issues with the mayor’s record, or because you saw an opportunity open up and you want another bite at the apple?

Mike McGinn (MM): I do care a lot about the city, and I’m interested in how we can make it so that people can move here and live here, and that we’re still a place for immigrants and refugees to land, that we’re still a place for young people and artists, and that we’re not driving people out. This has been the dominant issue of the day. I’ve been watching the land use and transportation issues with concern. The homelessness issues also concern me. And all of this is in the context of a budget that’s growing and growing and not really being managed very well. When I saw Ed come out at the State of the City speech and say, ‘Here are my solutions: two more taxes,’ [a tax on sugary soda and a property tax increase to address homelessness], I just decided we’re not managing the city for the people who are here or who want to come here.

ECB: In your announcement, you said specifically that growth has been responsible for driving up rents, and that the city needs to adopt policies to mitigate those impacts. To me, that sounds very different than the Mike McGinn of 2013 or 2009, when you ran as a pro-growth candidate. What’s changed?

MM: I think that my views on land use and transportation issues have really been consistent over time. I think the biggest thing that’s changed is the incredible growth in jobs at Amazon and other companies. It’s like a different environment. That’s the biggest difference. Things really change when we have a situation where tens of thousands of jobs are being added, and that puts demand on housing and increases rents and housing prices. And then the taxes. Our overall tax system is very regressive. So it turns out that there are people benefiting from the growth, but the people who are objectively benefiting the least, those with the lowest income, are actually getting priced out. And that’s a different place than the city has been. When I was at Great City [the pro-growth nonprofit McGinn co-founded], we were still working on, how do we get major employers to locate downtown? And that, historically, has been the issue for cities like Seattle that saw big employers depart for the suburbs, whether it’s Microsoft or T Mobile or A&T Wireless—all of these companies were moving out.  We went from zero cranes in my term to many, many cranes now, and that calls for a more aggressive policy response than we’ve had.

ECB: What do you mean by a more aggressive policy response?

MM:  I’m in favor of the policies that I’ve always been for. I’ve been a supporter, as you know, of missing middle housing. In my term, we tried to make it easier to build small apartment buildings, microapartments, backyard cottages, and the like. We were for those things. The critique I’ve had—and this is, I think, where some of the confusion arises—was of the HALA process. It was good-hearted in the sense that a bunch of people came together to promote their best ideas, but coming from my own experience as mayor and my own experience in the green community, I could sense what was going to happen, and it did happen, which is that there were a lot of people who were left out of that process and there was an immediate backlash against the proposals, which led to some of the more promising proposals just being dropped entirely right off the bat.

ECB: Are you actually saying that you don’t think there would have been a backlash if Murray had included all the groups that feel they were left out of the process, even if they arrived at the same set of recommendations?

“The HALA process was good-hearted, but there were a lot of people who were left out of that process and there was an immediate backlash against the proposals, which led to some of the more promising proposals just being dropped.”

MM: There may have, but we know the result we ended up with. The debate over growth, as we can see ,is becoming a really polarizing one in the city. People want to label each other—’Oh, they’re an urbanist,’ or ‘Oh, they’re a NIMBY’—you’re not going to make that go away. There are people on either pole who aren’t necessarily going to be persuadable, but in my experience working in neighborhoods, there are people in the middle who are persuadable. But if you can’t overcome the process objection, your’e never going to be able to get there.

ECB: So are you saying that you think the HALA process should be revisited, even though the council has already adopted a lot of the upzones?

MM: I think that process is going to obviously run its course through the council. There’s a number of things happening and we can quibble over specific policy details, but I do think it’s not going to produce the types of changes in housing policy that we ultimate need. It’s just not the scale that we need. So we’re still going to have to revisit the issue of, how do we make it so that people can live here.

ECB: One specific thing Murray has done is to distance the city from the neighborhood councils, and as you know, there was a backlash to that. His response to that backlash, and I think it was a appropriate one, was to say, ‘We’re not excluding you, we’re just including other people too.’

 

“Now I’m not saying that all of a sudden everyone says, ‘Oh, I’m for a bike lane.’ There are going to always be some people who hate a bike lane. But when you have neighbors talking to neighbors about what an outcome should be, you remove the process objection.”

MM: I personally was bothered by the way Ed kind of got rid of them. I do think they have a place but—you should go reread the article I wrote on Crosscut. I expressed that there were weaknesses. But I think that [cutting ties with the councils] was a divisive act. It was perceived by those folks as an attack. And I think there’s a way to say, ‘Look, you’re a voice and we’re going to continue to solicit your views, but we’re also going to invite more people in. That’s a process issue as well.

ECB: But I feel like those people hated you anyway. So how are you going to convince people that Ed is divisive but you’re not?

MM: You have to define what you mean when you say [divisive]. Are there are people in every neighborhood who are resistant to changes? Sure. But I think there are also people in every neighborhood who are open to change. I’ll give you an example: Bicycling in the the city. When it was portrayed as, the mayor is imposing his will on neighborhoods on biking, that was not something that went so well. That was one of the beauties of the road safety action plan. We actually brought folks in the room and we found a different way of talking about and approaching the issue. That helped change the debate. Now I’m not saying that all of a sudden everyone says, ‘Oh, I’m for a bike lane.’ There are going to always be some people who hate a bike lane. But when you have neighbors talking to neighbors about what an outcome should be, you remove the process objection. I look at the HALA focus groups. The reason people dropped out is that ultimately, it didn’t feel meaningful to them, for whatever reason. And so that’s what I’m trying to get at, is you need to have that engagement on the front end. When I went to a town hall and had a group of people saying we can’t do something on this street, and we had other people saying, ‘I live in this neighborhood, and I do those things.’ That fundamentally changes the debate.

ECB: It’s my impression that the neighborhood-versus-city or homeowner-versus-renter divide is much sharper now than it was when you were mayor. What’s the breaking point, when you have to say, ‘Sorry, you might not like this policy, but we’re going to do it anyway’?

MM: Ultimately, you have to make the call, but first you have to listen.

And I walked into rooms with hundreds of people yelling at me, and I brought my staff with me and I brought my department heads with me. Has [Murray] ever just walked into the room and said, ‘Anybody in the neighborhood who wants to ask me a question, go, one after the other’? I did. And what I learned was, the first meeting, people really unload. And the second meeting, it’s like, ‘Oh, he’s showing up again.’ And by the third meeting, maybe you feel like you’re starting to make some progress. But you need to show that you’re going to have a continued commitment to showing up in the room, and the next time you show up in the room, you show that that you’ve delivered something, and that you’ve heard what they say and you’re trying to deliver an outcome. Who you speak to, who you let question you, changes what you do, and if you’re just in the room with the lobbyists, if you’re just in the room with the donors, certain things are going to become priorities. If  you don’t hold yourself accountable to the neighborhoods, other things become priorities.

When you talk about the divisiveness issue, you should look at who’s getting upset and saying that. I think a lot of groups in the city thought I was far more inclusive than they had seen. But there are hard issues where there are deep divisions, like land use, zoning, bike lanes, and you can do things as mayor, inadvertently, to drive that division.

ECB: Can you give me an example of something you did to inadvertently exacerbate a division?

MM: Fire station 39. [In 2012, Lake City residents opposed plans to use a decommissioned fire station in their neighborhood for shelter and services for homeless people. Last year, the city reached an agreement with the Low-Income Housing Alliance to develop workforce housing at the site.] There were neighbors that were upset about that. They didn’t want it there. And this was an example where we were like, ‘Okay, who are the neighbors who support it?’ And the breakthrough, as time passed, was that we realized that there was a division in that neighborhood that already existed, between people who were fine with it and supported it and people that were adamantly opposed. And we started a Lake City planning process to talk about how we deal with these issues, and projects came out of that that people could agree on who disagreed w other things.

The HALA process is very divisive, it is tense, but we’re going to have to revisit it.

ECB: But the HALA upzones are all passing the council unanimously.

MM: Yeah, but I think at the end of the day, I don’t think that those upzones are going to be sufficient, and the measurement of sufficiency is in the rents and housing prices that we’re going to see.

ECB: So what do you want to see? Higher incentives? Higher payments? Just more process? What would you change?

MM: I think we could have gotten a little more out of luxury condos and we’re probably getting too much out of small apartment buildings, as an example, and one of the ways to get more out of the bigger buildings was to let a tower be more of a tower. It’s harder to get as much out of small apartment buildings. But having said that, let’s not forget that in the last couple years we also saw microapartments ruled illegal as well.

ECB: With the support of your ally, Mike O’Brien. What did you think of that vote [effectively barring new microhousing developments]?

“Murray did not recognize that this problem is scaling up, and that we need to scale up the response—not just ring the fire alarm, ask the feds to come in, and then just run out of the building. You’ve got to be the fireman on this one.”

MM: I think that they were not for everyone, but they are for some people, and it’s disappointing to me that we don’t make that option available. With backyard cottages, Mike had to try to carry that alone, really without much support from the mayor’s office at all, and now it’s tied up in litigation. [A neighborhood activist sued to stop the implementation of rules that would making it easier for homeowners to build accessory dwelling units, and O’Brien announced last month that the city would do a full environmental review of the impact of backyard cottages and basement apartments]. Maybe it would have happened anyway,  but that’s something where the mayor basically walked away from those recommendations because he thought it was too hot.

ECB: The issues you hear people getting worked up about now are not things like a single fire station. They’re, ‘I see encampments 400 times a day.’ How do you think the mayor has been doing at addressing the issue of homelessness?

MM: Not well. I think what we saw was the scale of the problem grew dramatically but not the scale of the response. Declaring an emergency is a good thing, but it was then followed by, ‘Let’s wait for the state.’ The strategy was that [the declaration of emergency] will encourage the state or the federal government to give us more, and I don’t think that was good judgment. When I was mayor, we had Obama as President and community development block grants were being cut. It was happening even without Trump. And the idea that he federal government was going to rapidly change course was not realistic. We spent a lot of time not responding. The number of sweeps picked up and we weren’t picking up the scale of our response. It’s a management issue around effectively handling the sweeps, but there was also the policy issue of prioritizing our resources.

ECB: You use the word ‘sweeps,’ which is itself a loaded word. Are you now opposed to sweeps?

MM: I did them as mayor too, but my view was always that if we needed to do it, we needed to be able to say to the public that we were providing more options for somewhere to go.

ECB: Murray says his new Navigation Team does offer meaningful alternatives. Do you think that’s b.s.?

MM: No, I don’t think it’s b.s., and I’m sure there are some really good things happening there, but we are three years and three months into his term, and he finally figured out how to do it, and that’s a serious problem. He did not recognize that this problem is scaling up, and that we need to scale up the response—not just ring the fire alarm, ask the feds to come in, and then just run out of the building. You’ve got to be the fireman on this one.

ECB: You’ve said you want to find efficiencies in the city before asking voters for another tax. Do you think there’s enough room in the budget to pay for the growing need for homelessness services?

MM: We may indeed need more resources—I suspect we will, as a way to get through it—but I don’t want to say we need another tax until we take a really close look at spending. I believe there’s real money in that budget to be reprioritized.

“When I was mayor, we had Obama as President and community development block grants were being cut. It was happening even without Trump. And the idea that he federal government was going to rapidly change course was not realistic.”

And if we are going to tax, what I would look at would be what happens if you, for example, increased the business and occupation tax on businesses over a certain size and expanded the exemption so that small businesses have lower costs. There’s actually a lot of money to be had. The dreaded employee hours tax—what came to be known as the head tax—is another example. And these are things, by the way, that the city council can do without passing a ballot measure.

And I think, let’s answer the income tax question, for crying out loud. [State law prohibits a state income tax, but both McGinn and Murray have said they want to propose a local tax to see if it stands up in court]. I would get that going as soon as we could so we could get an answer on that. I actually think a city income tax, if legal, could probably be better than the corporate tax I was just describing.

ECB: Do you think that since you left office, the city council has moved in your direction politically?

MM: Absolutely. Yeah. For example, the city council’s big response to homelessness the first year I took office was an anti-panhandling statute [which Tim Burgess proposed but which never passed]. They opposed the temporary  encampments again and again—in fact they took a vote and told me I had to evict them back then, and for that, some labeled me divisive because I was standing up for the homeless. And now we’re starting to see people putting tiny houses in the encampments, and they’re really better places than they were when the council was trying to stomp them out.

Municipal broadband, while it’s certainly been quashed by Ed, the demand is still out there. (Ed. note: In fact, McGinn commissioned a study that found that municipal broadband would cost between $700 million and $900 million and did not pursue the idea further, instead announcing a partnership with a small, new company, Gigabit Squared. That deal fell apart when Gigabit ran out of funding and left the city with thousands of dollars in unpaid bills; the company’s president soon stepped down over the botched deal.) I remember when I first ran, people were going, ‘Municipal broadband—what does that have to do? Fiber optic—what does that have to do?’ That has changed. When I ran, a lot of people criticized me for wanting to get involved in the school district, and now the it’s taken for granted that the city should be part of education and the school district, and a partner on things like expanding youth violence prevention. So has the city moved more in my direction and the things I was fighting for then? Yeah. And that’s where I thought the city was going.

If you enjoy the work I do here at The C Is for Crank, please consider becoming a sustaining supporter of the site! For just $5, $10, or $20 a month (or whatever you can give), you can help keep this site going, and help me continue to dedicate the many hours it takes to bring you stories like this one every week. This site is funded entirely by contributions from readers, which pay for the substantial time I put into reporting and writing for this blog and on social media, as well as costs like transportation, equipment, travel costs, website maintenance, and other expenses associated with my reporting. Thank you for reading, and I’m truly grateful foryour support.

Morning Crank: It’s On

The big news from the first joint mayoral-city council election forum of 2017, sponsored by the 46th District Democrats last night at the Mennonite Church in Lake City, was Mayor Ed Murray’s announcement that he will propose a local income tax on high earners, taking away a major campaign talking point from one opponent, former mayor Mike McGinn, and potentially overshadowing efforts by a coalition called Trump-Proof Seattle that has been working for months to come up with a local income tax that will pass legal muster.

At the forum, Murray said he planned to “send to council … a proposal for a high-end income tax.” Murray announced the proposal in response to a question about solutions to homelessness, and preceded McGinn in the order, knocking the former mayor a bit off balance. “In my announcement, I proposed an income tax,” McGinn said. “If that is found not to be legal, we need to tax the big corporations that are benefiting from the growth” in Seattle.

Murray said a high-earners income tax would probably face an immediate legal challenge, one reason he has cited in the past for not proposing such a tax. (Murray initially proposed a new local property tax to pay for programs to address homelessness, but abandoned that plan in favor of a countywide sales tax, which he endorsed along with King County Executive Dow Constantine last month.

Of the eight mayoral candidates on stage last night, only one—Cary Moon—raised her “no” sign to the lightning round question, “Do you support a local income tax?” Moon told me yesterday afternoon that she is more interested in a capital gains tax, which she believes is more likely to hold up in court.

I live-tweeted the entire event, including the Position 8 city council debate, and Storified all those tweets here.

Welcome to Election 2017. Much, much more to come.

If you enjoy the work I do here at The C Is for Crank, please consider becoming a sustaining supporter of the site! For just $5, $10, or $20 a month (or whatever you can give), you can help keep this site going, and help me continue to dedicate the many hours it takes to bring you stories like this one every week. This site is funded entirely by contributions from readers, which pay for the substantial time I put into reporting and writing for this blog and on social media, as well as costs like transportation, equipment, travel costs, website maintenance, and other expenses associated with my reporting. Thank you for reading, and I’m truly grateful foryour support.

GOP Proposed More than a Dozen Bills to Preempt Cities This Session

State preemption bills as of March 1, 2017

Conventional wisdom holds that Republicans are the party of “local control,” arguing that towns and counties, not big-government bureaucrats in state legislatures or the federal government, should be able to decide what rules and laws work best for them. Small-c conservatives feared overreach from distant authorities, and argued that top-down rules, like state minimum wage laws, could threaten local economies and communities in ways that legislators in faraway capital cities could never anticipate.

That orthodoxy has never been entirely true, of course—for most of the last century, the GOP has been the party that advocates for regulating women’s bodies and peeking into couples’ bedrooms—but the shift has been especially pronounced in the Washington State Legislature in the past few years, as a newly emboldened clique of rural and exurban Republicans have proposed dozens of preemption bills aimed at stopping progressive laws in liberal cities like Seattle.

This past year, according to Seattle’s Office of Intergovernmental Relations, legislators proposed 16 bills that would preempt local authority. Most are aimed at local Seattle laws or proposals that frustrate the business community—such as SB 5149, sponsored by Sen. Joe Fain of Auburn, which would put the kibosh on Seattle City Council members’ efforts to require paid family leave, or SB 5620, from Sen. Curtis King of Yakima, which would bar Seattle from regulating transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft.

Others are aimed at stopping Seattle from passing socially liberal legislation, such as two bills by Sen. Mark Miloscia, from Federal Way, to prevent Seattle from opening supervised drug consumption sites (SB 5223) and authorizing homeless encampments (SB 5656). Still others take aim at local anti-discrimination laws, like the one in Seattle prohibiting landlords from refusing to rent to tenants using Section 8 vouchers or other nontraditional income sources.

“We’re a home rule state here in Washington, but if there are jurisdictions that have an idea and want to proceed with something that bothers [legislators], especially if it’s in the business arena—because there are businesses that work across jurisdictional lines—that can create tensions and conflicts,” says Seattle Democratic Sen. Reuven Carlyle, who recently wrote a blog post panning the preemption trend. But the larger fear, Carlyle says, isn’t just businesses will have to navigate a complicated web of overlapping rules—it’s that once progressive ideas take hold in one place, they tend to spread across the state.

“Once you start to see some of these policies get some momentum at the local level—and, worst of all, actually start to work—people in other towns and cities say, ‘Hey, maybe I’d like to make a higher minimum wage too,’ and it takes off,” Carlyle says. (So far, three cities—Seattle, SeaTac, and Tacoma—have passed local minimum wages that are higher than the statewide minimum, prompting legislators to propose a bill last year that would have preempted local minimum wage laws). “That’s the fear.”

The trend isn’t just taking place in Washington; as the New York Times reported in 2015, “So-called pre-emption laws, passed in states across the country, have barred cities from regulating landlords, building municipal broadband systems and raising the minimum wage.” Many of the bills are backed or drafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, a national group that provides model legislation to conservative state legislators. The Times noted that the states where such bills have actually passed—as opposed to bubbling up perennially but never quite making it through both houses, as they do in Washington—are Republican-controlled states like Texas and Arkansas.

With the state legislature split by the slimmest of margins (Republicans hold an effective 25-24 majority in the senate and Democrats control the house 50-48, it’s still hard for any of these local preemption bills to get through. But that could change, if Republicans manage to take control of both houses. “We’re one vote away from those types of bills passing,” Carlyle says. “If the Republicans took over, they would very quickly raise preemption to the top tier of legislative priorities.”

Then again, would the Democrats behave any differently if the tables were turned? Dave Williams, government relations director for the Association of Washington Cities, says both parties tend to favor preemption once they get in power. “Our experience is that the things we have to defend against are different depending on who’s in charge,” Williams says. For example, Williams says Carlyle himself “was problematic in the past about how we deal with some of the issues relating to marijuana revenues.” (Carlyle opposed past efforts to give cities a greater share of tax revenues from recreational marijuana sales).

“It goes back and forth—it’s not a one-party deal,” Williams says. “It just so happens that right now, especially on some business issues, the Republicans want to preempt” cities like Seattle. When Democrats had more power, “We tended to get mandates on environmental regulations without the money to support enforcing them.”

If you enjoy the work I do here at The C Is for Crank, please consider becoming a sustaining supporter of the site! For just $5, $10, or $20 a month (or whatever you can give), you can help keep this site going, and help me continue to dedicate the many hours it takes to bring you stories like this one every week. This site is funded entirely by contributions from readers, which pay for the substantial time I put into reporting and writing for this blog and on social media, as well as costs like transportation, equipment, travel costs, website maintenance, and other expenses associated with my reporting. Thank you for reading, and I’m truly grateful foryour support.

Morning Crank: There Has Been One Bump in the Road

Lauren McGowan, Marty Hartman, Barb Poppe

1. The third of three panel discussions on homelessness in Seattle (sponsored by the Downtown Seattle Association, Seattle Chamber, Visit Seattle, and the Alliance for Pioneer Square) featured an all-female panel (KIRO radio host Dave Ross, who moderated, made a cringeworthy joke about bringing “gender diversity” to the stage) that covered a lot of the same territory as the previous two. The panelists (consultant Barb Poppe, King County Human Services director Adrienne Quinn, Seattle Human Services Department director Catherine Lester, Mary’s Place director Marty Hartman, and United Way of King County financial stability director Lauren McGowan) agreed on the need for more accountability and better data; lamented the fact that homelessness is growing faster than the city or county’s ability to place people in housing; and disputed the notion, suggested by some audience members, that arresting people for sleeping in tents and panhandling was a good solution. I livetweeted the event and Storified those tweets here.

One new theme in yesterday morning’s discussion, which I hadn’t heard leaders acknowledge openly before, was the city’s inability to convince private landlords to voluntarily rent their units to formerly homeless individuals and families. The city’s Pathways Home homelessness strategy, which is based on a report Poppe produced last year, relies heavily on landlords to decide to participate voluntarily in a “housing resource center” that will, in theory, link people experiencing homelessness, including those with histories of eviction or criminal records, to landlords. The idea is to entice landlords to rent to people who might not meet their usual screening criteria by providing incentives such as on-call emergency assistance, a “mitigation fund” to pay for any damage caused by tenants, or flat financial payments to landlords who take on formerly homeless tenants. The center, Lester acknowledged, “has been an area where we have not been able to accelerate as quickly as we would like to.”

The view from Belltown: “I feel like I’m living in a war zone.”

Poppe appealed to landlords’ sense of obligation to help their communities. “There has been one bump in the road, which is the housing resource center, and they need your help on this,” Poppe told the audience of business community members. “They need those landlords to come forward. I really encourage the business community to engage and help get back on track.” Without much larger incentives, or a market crash that drastically slows or reverses population growth, that strikes me as wishful thinking—as things stands, landlords clearly see no reason to voluntarily rent to high-risk tenants in a market where they can easily find tenants with stable jobs and perfect credit.

2. The discovery of $3.4 million in “missing” money from the city’s incentive zoning program—which required developers in certain neighborhoods to build affordable housing or pay into a fund in exchange for greater density—wasn’t quite the bombshell news some media made it out to be; the error was discovered by the city auditor and corrected last year. However, the news raised obvious concerns about both accountability—are developers fulfilling their affordable-housing obligations?—and transparency—how do citizens know developers are fulfilling their obligations?— and both issues were on the table yesterday morning, when the council’s planning, land use, and zoning committee looked at the audit findings and a list of recommendations aimed at ensuring no more multi-million-dollar obligations slip through the cracks. The city is replacing the old incentive zoning program, which allowed developers to build taller as an incentive for affordable housing payment or production, with a new mandatory affordable housing program, which requires developers across the city to build affordable housing or pay into the affordable housing fund.

In addition to the need for better controls and more frequent checks to make sure that developers pay what they owe the city, council members pointed to the need to make sure developers are producing the housing they say they’re producing under the new program—and to ensure that the public can easily access that information as well.

“When I’m in the community talking about the MHA program, there’s a skepticism around the payments,” District 6 council member Mike O’Brien said. “I hear from folks in the community that they just pay and who knows where that money goes? The reality is that that money is going to a bunch of cool program, but the more clarity we can provide to people so they can see that ‘that project next to me or down the street is producing this many units or they wrote this check and we can actually see that project—it’s down the street,” the better. “My goal is not to create an overwhelming burden on the process or slow it down, but just to make sure that folks who are trying to access this information can look at that,” O’Brien said.

Office of Housing director Steve Walker said his office had made progress toward creating a public system that tracks new units built under various affordable housing programs, and Department of Construction and Inspections director Nathan Torgelson said DCI was working on a system to track how new developments plan to meet their MHA obligations, and where those developments are in “the pipeline.”

“I know the audit turned up, certainly, a couple of high-profile things that we’re all embarrassed by, and should be,” O’Brien said. “While this isn’t a shining moment of how everything worked perfectly at the city, I think it’s an example of how checks and balances are in place, and we have people dedicated to working through the process and informing the public” in the future.

3. Tensions in council chambers were high Monday morning,  when the council met for the first time as the Select Committee on Civic Arenas, a committee that was formed after the council voting against handing control of a public right-of-way over to billionaire hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen, who wants to build a new NBA arena in SoDo.

The street vacation went down by a 5-4 vote, which happened to break down along gender lines, prompting an awful lot of grown men (and a few women) to spend an awful lot of time and mental energy thinking up creative new ways to call the majority of the city council bitches and cunts. One of those women, Lorena Gonzalez, said yesterday that she’s hopeful that having a whole committee dedicated to the arena discussion will give people an opportunity to air substantive issues related to the arena debate issues “in a way that is more public and transparent” than last year’s street vacation discussion, which took place in the transportation committee, to which most council members do not belong.  “My hope is that the pro-SoDo arena crowd will, at a minimum, recognize that there is an effort by this council to air out potential issues early and to have conversations about those issues and concerns in a way that is productive,” Gonzalez said.

Fingers crossed.

If you enjoy the work I do here at The C Is for Crank, please consider becoming a sustaining supporter of the site! For just $5, $10, or $20 a month (or whatever you can give), you can help keep this site going, and help me continue to dedicate the many hours it takes to bring you stories like this one every week. This site is funded entirely by contributions from readers, which pay for the substantial time I put into reporting and writing for this blog and on social media, as well as costs like transportation, equipment, travel costs, website maintenance, and other expenses associated with my reporting. Thank you for reading, and I’m truly grateful for your support.

Should Seattle Avoid “Privatizing” Community Centers at All Costs?

This story was originally published at Next City.

Seattle’s Green Lake Community Center is in disrepair. The gym floor is buckling along the walls. The kitchen has been closed for months because there’s no money in the current city budget to bring it up to code. Buckets are placed at strategic points throughout the building to collect the rainwater that drips from the leaky roof.

As a population boom puts pressure on public facilities like parks, pools and more, the city of Seattle has identified eight community centers that need extensive repairs or total replacement, at an estimated cost of $62 million ($25 million for Green Lake alone). A parks levy for maintenance and operations, which passed narrowly in 2014, provides just $4.3 million a year to maintain and repair all 26 community centers across the city.

The budget gap has prompted the city’s parks department to consider an option that is close to anathema in liberal, pro-tax, anti-corporate Seattle: a public-private partnership, not with a for-profit company but a nonprofit. The idea is a group like the YMCA would provide capital for building and repairs and then operate the center. (The city has not formally reached out to the YMCA, but because it operates community centers in many other cities, both proponents and opponents assume it would be a leading contender to operate Green Lake.)

Although many cities have partnered with corporations in various ways to raise revenue, such deals are virtually unheard of in Seattle, where even the prospect of partnering with a widely respected nonprofit is being labeled “privatization.” See the Seattle Times opinion piece titled “Don’t Privatize Seattle’s Favorite Community Center.”

In response to the still-nascent proposal — which Jesús Aguirre, Seattle parks department director, first brought up at a community meeting in March — a group of Green Lake Community Center users formed a new organization, Save Green Lake Community Center and Evans Pool, to keep the city from shifting operations of a facility they say should be funded out of existing city dollars. “[We were] just appalled that the city would take [the community center] out of public management and effectively give it to a private nonprofit,” says Save Green Lake cofounder Susan Helf. “Providing recreational facilities is a core mission of the city, and it’s inappropriate for the city to transfer that over to a private organization” — particularly one, Helf says, that may pay its workers less than city employees earn, charge higher fees to users, or restrict access to homeless people who currently use the showers at the pool for free.

Aguirre disputes the notion that partnering with a group like the YMCA amounts to privatization. “Privatization would be, let’s give them the keys and they can build a restaurant, they can do whatever they want, as long as they give us some money,” he says. “We’re talking about some kind of operating agreement where we identify an organization that shares our values and continues to provide the same service that we’re providing, but does it better.”

Aguirre says such a partnership would allow the city to close the gap between what tax revenue provides and what the community demands. “There’s always going to be a gap. My challenge is, how do I try to bridge that gap in creative and innovative ways,” he says. Other options Aguirre says the city will consider, if this idea falls through: increasing the levy to 75 cents per $1,000 of property value, which the city can do without another vote; financing a new community center through bonds; or focusing levy dollars on Green Lake at the expense of community centers elsewhere in the city.

Aguirre notes, with some exasperation, that the city already partners with other nonprofits; the Woodland Park Zoo Society runs Seattle’s zoo, for example, and the Associated Recreation Council runs athletics programs and preschools in community centers across the city, including at Green Lake. Opponents point to some of those same deals as examples that make them wary — such as a controversial partnership that allowed a private tennis club in a park in northeast Seattle, or the zoo itself, which engaged in a years-long battle with the surrounding neighborhood over its plans for a multistory parking garage.

Aguirre refers to the model as a “public-benefit partnership,” and says he would never agree to a deal that took away services or made them less accessible to city residents. “Before we enter into any kind of agreement, there’s going to be a clear list of some non-negotiables,” he says. “You can’t create a situation which residents get less than they were getting before, and there’s got to be some community interest being served.”

Helf and her organization want the city to fund community center renovations out of the parks levy, or find the money elsewhere. “The city’s rolling in money. Where’s the money going?” Helf asks. “[Privatization] is the trend now in recreation and parks, and it may be good in small cities that can’t afford a pool, but it has no place in an extremely rich city like Seattle, where money is pouring in.”

Ultimately, city officials say, they won’t force a partnership with the YMCA or any other group if a community doesn’t want it. “What I’ve heard universally from the community that uses the [Green Lake Community Center] is that ‘We don’t trust a partnership,’” says City Council Member Mike O’Brien, who represents the district that includes the Green Lake center. “If the community is flatly opposed to it, I’m fine with that. We won’t do it.” However, O’Brien adds, the money to fund community center improvements has to come from somewhere. “The money’s not just going to magically appear to pay for this, so let’s stay flexible,” he says.

In the long term, partnerships with outside organizations may be unavoidable if the city wants to not only maintain what it has, but expand with its growing population. Putting off a decision this budget cycle may just delay the inevitable.

“We’re going to have to ask, for example, what do the community center needs of the future look like?” Aguirre says. “I’m not being stubborn and saying we have to do this, but in my view, we need to take a step back. We have a system that we’re responsible for. … We have this problem to solve: How do we meet the needs of that system? I think we need to look at partnerships [to do that]. And our charge as the public agency will be to make sure that the overall benefit is greater to the public than it would be without that partnership.”

Morning Crank: McGinn Again

At least he already has the Twitter handle covered.

Standing in the yard of his single-family home in North Seattle Monday, former mayor Mike McGinn announced he was running for his old position again as a champion of the little guy—the small business getting squeezed out by rising taxes, or “the people who helped make this city what it is [who are] being pushed out by growth.”

Both the setting and the tone were a departure for McGinn, who ran for his first term as a Vulcan-backed advocate for density, urbanism, and—lest it be forgotten—GROWTH.

In a PubliCola endorsement of McGinn in 2009,  my former colleague Josh Feit and I wrote:

Ever since 2004, when Mike McGinn emerged as a Greenwood neighborhood leader and reclaimed the vaunted role of “neighborhood activist” from the anti-urban reactionaries who had dominated local politics for so long, he has been shattering the status quo and pointing Seattle in the right direction. His first victory: Turning the Greenwood Community Council into a platform for green density, pedestrian-oriented streets, and smart development.

Even before he ran for office, McGinn was a friend to developers; for example, his green urbanist organization Great City was bankrolled by companies like Vulcan and Triad Development and advocacy groups like the Master Builders Association. So it was a bit jarring to see the onetime density advocate standing proudly in his single-family yard and denouncing property taxes and growth as the reason for rising rents.

Likewise, it was odd to hear a candidate who was once a passionate advocate for a tax on sugary soda—McGinn’s tax, which Murray did not support, would have paid for parks—speak out against raising revenues through additional taxes, finding savings instead through efficiencies and increasing revenues through a city income tax. (McGinn, an attorney, surely knows a city income tax is unlikely to pass legal muster).

And it was, frankly, jaw-dropping to hear McGinn suggest that the city should reverse the course it has set under Murray (who has worked to involve traditionally underrepresented groups in the Seattle process) and get traditional neighborhood activists more involved in city planning; as mayor, McGinn was never one to pander to lowest-common-denominator NIMBYism, although many on the left (including socialist council member Kshama Sawant and Position 8 candidate Jon Grant) have certainly cozied up to anti-growth homeowner activists since McGinn’s 2013 defeat. By extending an olive branch to density opponents of all stripes, including homeowners who believe new neighbors will harm their ever-rising property values, McGinn may simply be acknowledging the new political reality—candidates who want to flank pro-growth incumbents like Murray from the left have started taking the view that density and affordability are at odds.

On the other hand, it’s entirely possible McGinn hasn’t put together a coherent campaign plan yet. Everything about his announcement—from the slapped together logo to the grammatically confusing slogan (“Keep Seattle” may be 2017’s “Mike Listens“) to the fact that, so far, McGinn’s campaign lacks both a website and an endorsement list—suggests that the former mayor arrived at his decision to run not long after news broke about a sexual abuse lawsuit against Murray.

 

Murray, who beat McGinn 52 to 48 in their initial matchup, obviously considers McGinn a credible threat. Just 12 minutes after McGinn’s morning press conference got underway, Murray’s campaign issued a statement touting what the campaign described as Murray’s accomplishments and McGinn’s failures, and concluding: “We believe that the people of Seattle do not want to return to those bad old days of failed and divisive governance. We look forward to drawing a clear contrast between Mayor Murray’s stellar record effective, progressive leadership and the track records of all of the other candidates in the race.”

“Contrast” usually translates as “negative campaigning,” and indeed, the famously combative current mayor—whose response to a lawsuit alleging he sexually abused a teenage boy was to hand reporters a medical exam that included a description of his genitals—had this to say about his equally pugnacious two-time opponent: “Mike McGinn picked fights with everyone under the sun. He attacked our Democratic governor, calling her a liar. He fought the Obama Dept. of Justice on police reform. He fought with our U.S. Attorney. He fought with our City Attorney. He fought with the City Council.”

No doubt, the mayoral campaign just got a lot more interesting—Murray and McGinn are worthy combatants, and McGinn, at least, is clearly raring for a rematch. But with two big-egoed men who like to hear themselves talk thumping their chests in the foreground, will other voices—like Nikkita Oliver, who previously occupied the campaign’s lefty spot, or a second female candidate (perhaps activist Cary Moon?), who is rumored to be announcing Wednesday—get drowned out?

If you enjoy the work I do here at The C Is for Crank, please consider becoming a sustaining supporter of the site! For just $5, $10, or $20 a month (or whatever you can give), you can help keep this site going, and help me continue to dedicate the many hours it takes to bring you stories like this one every week. This site is funded entirely by contributions from readers, which pay for the substantial time I put into reporting and writing for this blog and on social media, as well as costs like transportation, equipment, travel costs, website maintenance, and other expenses associated with my reporting. Thank you for reading, and I’m truly grateful for your support.

Morning Crank: The Political Rumorscape

1. Samantha Bee has invited the “Seattle Seawards”—the five women of the city council whose vote against vacating Occidental Street to enable billionaire Chris Hansen’s basketball arena inspired sportsbros across the city to flood them with a torrent of rape threats and sexist hate speech—to her Not the White House Correspondents Dinner on April 29.

The five women voted against handing over a portion of Occidental Avenue S. to Hansen because of concerns that a new arena in SoDo would exacerbate traffic problems in the area and make it harder for the Port to do business. Bee featured them on her show, “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee,” after the backlash, which featured grown men telling women to kill themselves and “get back in the kitchen,” among many more vulgar taunts and threats. Three of the five—Sally Bagshaw, Lisa Herbold, and Debora Juarez—have reportedly accepted Bee’s invitation to the shadow correspondents’ dinner,  a black-tie daytime affair that will raise money for journalism scholarships.

2. UPDATE: Well, at least one of the people on the list of perennial candidates, former mayor Mike McGinn, plans to run; this morning at 10:30, he will formally announce his candidacy. McGinn had one term as mayor before losing to Murray in 2013.

Although there have been many reports about “long lists” of credible candidates lining up to challenge besieged Mayor Ed Murray, most of those lists include people who have already said emphatically that they aren’t running for mayor, like Kshama Sawant, Mike O’Brien, and Tim Burgess. Others include people who haven’t said they aren’t running, but who also tend to show up on lists of potential contenders for council or mayor every two years, then disappear from the political rumorscape until the next campaign cycle—former US attorney Jenny Durkan, Seattle Chamber of Commerce CEO Maud Daudon, ex-mayor Mike McGinn.

But here’s one we haven’t heard before: Downtown tunnel opponent, affordable housing advocate, and anti-neoliberalism writer Cary Moon, who Crank hears may be the “well-resourced” female candidate consulting firm Moxie Media has been working with. No confirmation from either Moon or Moxie yet,  but we’ll let you know as soon as we hear yea or nay from either.

3. Operation Nightwatch, the overnight men’s shelter that had to vacate its old digs at the Pearl Warren building in the Little Saigon neighborhood when the city announced it was opening a 24/7 Navigation Center there, has to move again. Earlier this month, the city announced it had found a temporary space for the shelter at the Next 50 Pavilion at Seattle Center, but their time runs out today. Operation Nightwatch Executive Director Rick Reynolds said last week that the group has found a short-term space that will be ready in May, and a longer-term solution beginning in August, but that still leaves a “wretched gap for the next few weeks.” Seattle Human Services Department spokeswoman Meg Olberding said Friday that the city has figured out a way to fill the gap, but did not provide any details about what that solution looks like or when the shelter will relocate.

If you enjoy the work I do here at The C Is for Crank, please consider becoming a sustaining supporter of the site! For just $5, $10, or $20 a month (or whatever you can give), you can help keep this site going, and help me continue to dedicate the many hours it takes to bring you stories like this one every week. This site is funded entirely by contributions from readers, which pay for the substantial time I put into reporting and writing for this blog and on social media, as well as costs like transportation, equipment, travel costs, website maintenance, and other expenses associated with my reporting. Thank you for reading, and I’m truly grateful for your support.