Morning Crank: Voluntary or Involuntary

1. In an agreement that allowed both sides to declare a partial victory, city council member Lorena Gonzalez announced this morning that she had accepted a proposal from Mayor Ed Murray to appoint a joint committee that will oversee the transition between Murray and the next mayor, whoever that will be—and whether that transition is “voluntary or involuntary,” as Gonzalez put it in a letter this morning.

Murray has said he has no plans to resign in light of recent revelations in the Seattle Tiems about allegations that he sexually abused his foster son in Oregon three decades ago. Although Gonzalez said last week that she would move to impeach Murray if he had not stepped down by today, it quickly became clear that most of her colleagues had no stomach for forcing the mayor out of office, which would require a finding that he had neglected his duties as mayor or committed an offense involving “moral turpitude” while in office.

Creating a transition committee, Gonzalez said Monday morning, “provides us with the opportunity to have assurances and an independent understanding of whether the mayor is continuing to be effective in his role as mayor, given his position that he will not resign.”

2. At the same meeting, Gonzalez suggested that the best way to stop Seattle police from disproportionately targeting black pedestrians for jaywalking tickets might be to decriminalize jaywalking altogether, especially if jaywalking tickets do nothing to discourage jaywalking, as Gonzalez believes research suggests.

“I don’t think having jaywalking ordinances actually deters people from jaywalking, and … I have a lot of questions about whether we should be criminalizing jaywalking at all,” Gonzalez said. “We are now hearing for the second or third time that this is a type of infraction that has disproportionate policing impacts on the black community, and I’m not sure what the public safety goal is that we hope to accomplish by having this infraction.”

3. Working Families for Teresa, the union-backed independent expenditure group working on behalf of City Council Position 8 candidate Terese Mosqueda, has received $100,000 in the past week from the political arms of five state unions—UFCW 21, the grocery workers’ union; SEIU 775, which represents low-paid health care workers; the AFL-CIO; the Washington State Labor Council; and the AFL-CIO-affiliated Washington State Labor Council, where Mosqueda works as political and strategic campaign director.

The pro-Mosqueda IE has not reported precisely where all the money is going, although SEIU 775 reports contributing some of its staff time toward a radio ad campaign.

Sara Nelson, a business-backed candidate for Position 8, also has an independent expenditure campaign working on her behalf—People for Sara Nelson, which is funded by the political arm of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, the Washington Hospitality Association, which represents the hotel and restaurant industry, Bellevue investor Jeffrey Gow, and Seattle developer Greg Smith and his wife, Monica Smith. People for Sara Nelson has raised about $82,000 (plus a $10,000 pledge from the real estate group NAIOP) and spent roughly $75,000 on online ads on Facebook, the Seattle Times, Geekwire, and elsewhere.

 

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, phone bills, electronics, 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 Endorses: Teresa Mosqueda

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Teresa Mosqueda is an experienced leader with a mile-long resume and an incredible track record fighting successfully for equitable health care, fair wages, and paid sick and family leave. Of several qualified candidates running for this citywide position, Mosqueda stands out as the overachiever brimming with enthusiasm, ambition, and ideas.

As the campaign chairwoman for Raise Up Washington, Mosqueda helped draft and lead the successful campaign last year for Initiative 1433, which increases the statewide minimum wage to $13.50 an hour and requires employers to provide paid sick leave. As legislative director for the Children’s Alliance, she fought for implementation of Apple Health for Kids, the state’s Medicaid program. And as campaign director for the Washington State Labor Council, she was deeply involved in this year’s paid family leave negotiations, which resulted in a bill that will provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave for workers who take time off to care for a new or newly adopted child, to recover from a serious illness, or to take care of a sick family member. Mosqueda continued to work on family leave even after she declared her candidacy—a reflection both of her strong commitment to women and families and the fact that she, unlike some of her opponents, can’t afford to quit her job to run for office full-time. If she wins, she’ll also be the only renter on the city council. (No wonder the Seattle Times didn’t endorse her.)

Much of Mosqueda’s work has been behind the scenes—the kind of efforts that tend to go unnoticed but have lasting and important consequences. As the head of the state’s largest health care advocacy coalition, the Healthy Washington Coalition, Mosqueda served on the state’s health insurance exchange board, where she fought to require insurance companies to disclose what services they provide, including reproductive health care. She also insisted that the state of Washington provide information about voter registration to people buying plans on the exchange, an ACA requirement the state tried to circumvent. These issues aren’t flashy. They don’t make headlines. But they matter.

Contrast Mosqueda with Jon Grant, the former Tenants Union director who is seeking this seat for a second time. Grant deserves credit for turning the financially struggling Tenants Union around—and he takes it: “In just a few years time and tireless hours of work, Jon was able to… transform the organization into one of our region’s leading forces for housing justice,” his campaign website says. Grant also claims credit for his work on the statewide minimum wage campaign, which Mosqueda led; Grant worked briefly as an organizer for the group. And he used an anti-pipeline protest at Chase Bank as a photo opportunity for his campaign, which ran a photo of him being handcuffed with the caption, “Four activists arrested at Wedgwood Chase, including Jon!” (If the arrest was a ploy, it worked: The photo and story of Grant’s arrest has been mentioned by nearly every organization that has endorsed him.)  Try to imagine a low-income candidate of color being that sanguine about getting thrown in jail. The most effective city council members aren’t the ones who grandstand and take credit; they’re the ones who do the unglamorous, nose-to-the-grindstone work of drafting legislation and rounding up support. It’s appropriate that Grant—who recently declared his conversion to socialism, earning him a coveted endorsement from the Stranger as well as the Seattle Democratic Socialists of America—is supported by the council’s grandstander-in-chief, Kshama Sawant, who holds frequent rallies to place public pressure on her colleagues but has never set up a district office.

Grant’s time at the Tenants Union wasn’t without blemish. Before he resigned in 2015, a group of his employees wrote a letter to the Tenants Union board accusing him of “oppressive and tokenizing treatment” of people of color at the organization. The letter, which surfaced in an unfair labor practice complaint against the organization, accuses Grant of failing to show up to appointments with staffers, soliciting campaign contributions at a staff meeting, and delegating low-profile, menial, and administrative tasks to women of color.  (In response to my questions about the complaint, Grant said that while “I tried in every situation to empower my staff … I want to take responsibility for that as a person with both white privilege and positional authority, it is clear I did not meet the expectations of these staff members to support them as people of color within the organization. I take that feedback seriously and always strive to do better.” He also denied asking for campaign contributions at a staff meeting.)

Grant agrees with Mosqueda on many issues, including safe streets (he supports road rechannelizations like the one on Rainier Avenue), Sound Transit (he wants to speed up implementation so people in Ballard and West Seattle don’t have to wait until 2035 to get service) and homeless encampments (he opposes the current strategy of sweeping homeless people from place to place.)

But his views on housing are  in line with anti-growth groups like the Seattle Displacement Coalition, which has endorsed him. For example, he supports an unworkable plan to require developers to make 25 percent of new units affordable—a proposal that would condemn Seattle to San Francisco-style underdevelopment at a time when tens of thousands of new workers are moving here every year. He wants rent control, which would also suppress housing development at a time when our rents keep rising specifically because the city doesn’t have enough housing to accommodate everyone. He believes police union negotiations should be open to the public, which—however reprehensible the city’s police union may be—would only politicize and stalemate the bargaining process. The Stranger slammed Mosqueda for opposing public union negotiations, but her position is more nuanced and actually workable: She wants a community representative at the table, but argues, correctly, that if the union’s collective bargaining process happened in public, both sides would grandstand and dig in their heels instead of negotiating in good faith.

Mosqueda has been criticized as too polished, too connected to the unions, and too “mainstream.” This is a familiar, sexist refrain. Female candidates—too often targets of condescending comments about their appearance, tone, and youth (or lack thereof)—are often held to a suspect double standard, told to wait their turn, or treated like they’re running for middle school class president.

But take notice: Mosqueda is running for Seattle City Council. And voters shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to elect her, a smart, engaged, driven woman of color with a track record of fighting and delivering on issues that matter to all of us.

The C Is for Crank endorses Teresa Mosqueda.

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, phone bills, electronics, website maintenance, and other expenses associated with my reporting. Thank you for reading, and I’m truly grateful for your support.

Morning Crank: This Is Not a Health-Care Facility

Image via 3W Medical

1. Anti-choice activists bombarded King County Board of Health members with hundreds of emails this week opposing a proposed rule change that would require so-called crisis pregnancy centers—fake “clinics” run by anti-choice nonprofits that bait pregnant women with promises of medical care and counseling, then try to talk them out of having abortions, often by providing medically inaccurate information—to disclose the fact that they do not actually provide any health-care services. (CPCs generally provide pregnancy tests and ultrasounds, and may offer samples of formula and diapers. Their main purpose, however, is to frighten women out of terminating even risky pregnancies by providing misinformation about abortion and birth control, including claims that abortion leads to cancer, suicide, and “post-abortion syndrome.”)

The rule change would require anti-abortion pregnancy centers to display a sign on their doors that says, “This facility is not a health-care facility” in at least 48-point type, and to include the disclaimer on all its written materials.

King County Council member Jeanne Kohl-Welles says that in the past week, she has received more than 500 letters from CPC proponents, all with the same pre-written message:

Pregnancy Centers are reputable organizations that provide much-needed services. While special interests may claim that these centers deceive and disrespect women, the facts show otherwise- Care Net of Puget Sound boasts a 99.7% positive response rate from those they have served in King County over the last two years.  Women in crisis need MORE options for health services, not fewer, and it is unconscionable that the Board of Health would pass regulations intended to harm those providing women with the services they need.

That 99.7 percent satisfaction rate isn’t represented in Care Net’s Yelp reviews, which focus on the fact that they don’t provide any actual reproductive health care services. “I can only imagine a scared, or worried person calling about an unintended pregnancy and getting this casual attitude about having a baby and changing your life,” one reviewer write. “Heaven forbid someone be on the wrong end of a crime and need resources like birth control that these people refuse to give.”

Kohl-Welles says the vast majority of the emails have come from outside her district, and many are from people outside King County.

On Monday, county council member Kathy Lambert said she was disturbed by the CPC advocates’ claims that they had not heard about the board of health rule change in advance. The board of health held a public discussion about the proposed rule in June.

The board of health will discuss the rule change at 1:30 tomorrow afternoon in King County Council chambers.

Full disclosure: From April 2015 to April 2017, I was the communications director of NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, the pro-choice advocacy group, and currently contract with them for approximately three hours a week.

2. Despite overwhelming support from advocates for veterans, seniors, and homeless King County residents, the county council seems unlikely to support a proposal to increase the Veterans, Seniors, and Human Services levy ballot measure to 12 cents. On Monday, after a dizzying back-and-forth between the county council and a regional policy committee (RPC) that includes representatives from Seattle and several suburban cities, the council tentatively approved a ballot measure that would renew the existing Veterans Levy at 10 cents and expand it to cover seniors and human services for non-veterans, rather than the 12 cents originally proposed by County Executive Dow Constantine.

The measure would also do away with a provision that would have split the levy proceeds evenly between veterans, seniors, and human services, weighting the proceeds more heavily toward veterans. The plan, which the RPC will take up this afternoon, calls for a ten-cent tax, with one third for veterans and one third for human services; the remaining third would be allocated first to senior veterans, until 75 percent of the county’s homeless veterans are housed, at which point the money could be spent on services for non-veteran seniors.

This last, convoluted change came at the behest of council member Rod Dembowski, who has said he would be open to a 12-cent levy but only if a larger percentage of the revenues go to veterans. Kohl-Welles, who has supported the 12-cent, evenly split proposal, said Monday that “I have a lot of trouble saying that one category in our King County population deserves more than other categories—they’r all people.”

After the RPC votes out its own version of the measure—depending on who shows up to vote, the proposal could be 10 or 12 cents, and could be either evenly split or weighted more heavily toward veterans—the measure will move back to the full council, which has to make a decision before the end of the week to avoid triggering a special meeting that will require a six-vote supermajority for any proposal. Council members have been asked to clear their calendars for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday mornings.

3.

Oliver has not voted in a mayoral primary or general election since she registered to vote in King County in 2008.

More on that here.

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, phone bills, electronics, website maintenance, and other expenses associated with my reporting. Thank you for reading, and I’m truly grateful for your support.

County Presses Pause on Safe Consumption Sites

Two weeks ago, rejecting the unanimous recommendation of the King County Heroin and Opiate Prescription Addiction Task Force, the King County Council voted to prohibit funding for supervised drug consumption sites except in cities that explicitly approve them—a sop to suburban cities and rural areas where residents are vehemently opposed to the sites and a slap in the face for the task force, which recommended a pilot project that would include one supervised consumption site in Seattle and one somewhere else in the county. (The county refers to supervised consumption sites by the clunky acronym CHELs, for Community Health Engagement Locations).

The council also voted to prohibit the county from funding safe consumption sites anywhere outside Seattle, and barred spending any of the county’s general fund on a Seattle site. As a result of those restrictions, any money for the pilot project would have to come from the county’s Mental Illness and Drug Dependency levy—a tax that generates about $66 million a year but is already largely spoken for. The supervised consumption pilot was never supposed to be funded entirely through the MIDD, and supporters say that as the cost estimate for the pilot has ballooned to more than $1 million, the likelihood that it can be funded MIDD dollars alone is virtually zero.

“EFFECT: Restricts the General Fund Transfers to DCHS and Public Health such that 86 no General Funds can be used to establish CHEL sites. Restricts the MIDD  appropriation such that no MIDD funds can be used to establish CHEL sites outside 88 the city of Seattle.” – King County budget amendment barring county spending on safe consumption sites outside Seattle

Kris Nyrop, who wrote an op/ed for the Stranger comparing the council’s move to the “state’s rights” politics of the 1980s, says the vote “effectively kills” safe consumption sites, at least for the next two years, because “The MIDD dollars are all already accounted for until the fall of 2018” and because “the [King County] health department has dithered so long on this that they have given the opposition time to really organize” against it.

Supervised consumption sites, where addicts can use illegal drugs under medical supervision in a location that also offers medical care, detox, and referrals to treatment, are common in Europe but almost unheard-of in North America, where more puritanical attitudes toward addiction have made them controversial. The idea behind supervised consumption is that it keeps people from dying of overdoses and treatable conditions (like wound infections), prevents disease transmission via dirty needles, and gets people who may not have seen a doctor in years into the health care and social service system, providing a lifeline toward housing, treatment, and recovery.

“We haven’t yet done the work that we need to do at the council to understand the proposal, the benefits, or the criteria for when and where these [safe consumption sites] make sense.” – King County Council Democrat Claudia Balducci

The sites are controversial for obvious reasons: Intuitively, giving drug addicts a safe place to consume dangerous, illegal drugs seems like condoning their behavior. (This view assumes that addiction is a choice and ignores the fact that forcing people into treatment, an alternative that safe consumption opponents frequently suggest, is cost-prohibitive and doesn’t work, but it’s ultimately an emotional argument, not a rational one.)

“Trust me, you don’t treat alcoholism by inviting alcoholics to the bar,” Republican county council member Reagan Dunn, who has been public about his own struggles with addiction, said before the vote. “Fifty-six percent of my constituents said they are extremely against these sites. Only 20 percent of people indicated they were open to considering these sites.” Dunn said he was concerned about the county’s liability if users OD and die inside the facility (in almost 15 years, not one person has died at Insite in Vancouver) and worried that the sites would become magnets for heroin dealers. He suggested that Seattle should be a test case for the site, “before we take the show on the road” to suburban areas that don’t have the same capacity to provide treatment and emergency services.

Republicans weren’t the only ones arguing that safe consumption sites should be limited to the state’s largest city. Suburban Democrats like Claudia Balducci (a former Bellevue City Council member) and Dave Upthegrove, who represents South King County, argued that the county would be overstepping its authority if it opened a safe consumption site where residents opposed the idea. “One of the things that always drove us crazy at the city level was when higher levels of government told us what to do at our city,” Balducci said. “I come from a city that has decided this is not what they want in their city. It doesn’t fit the needs or the desires of their community…. [Safe consumption sites] work best in locations where there’s a lot of street drug use,” she added.

Public Defender Association director Lisa Daugaard, who sat on the heroin task force, argues that “it sets a dangerous precedent to withhold funding for health services from residents of towns whose elected officials have ideological problems with those medical strategies. … The health and well-being of people who live in Kirkland and Kent affect that of people in Seattle, and vice versa.”

Larry Gossett, a Seattle Democrat, scoffed at the implication that drug addiction—particularly heroin addiction—is a problem restricted to big cities like Seattle. Noting that, nationally, heroin and opioid addiction is largely a rural and suburban problem, Gossett said, “I do not understand this concept that people who live outside of Seattle and in suburban and rural areas are different than people who live inside of cities.” Council member Rod Dembowski, whose district includes Shoreline, Kirkland, and Woodinville, added, “There is a serious rural crisis going on, with people dying every day, and I don’t think it’s fair to the citizens of my district to say, ‘No, you don’t get to have return on your investment’ if such a facility would serve their needs. … I don’t think the public health of the 2.1 million residents of this county should be decided based on fear.”

On the  phone last week, Balducci defended her vote, arguing that the budget amendment is a temporary pause, not a permanent spending prohibition. “We haven’t yet done the work that we need to do at the council to understand the proposal, the benefits, or the criteria for when and where these [safe consumption sites] make sense,” she said. “We have to do a little more background work and figure out, what are these [safe consumption] sites and who do they serve.” Balducci also suggested that a huge debate about safe consumption sites could blow up her ongoing efforts to establish the first permanent men’s shelter on the Eastside in Bellevue. “We are facing a really tremendous backlash about that, and one aspect of the opponents’ position is that this is just the camel’s nose under the tent and they’re going to legalize heroin next and [addicts] are going to be out in all the neighborhoods.”

Of course, they’re already there.

Daugaard, who still holds out hope that the council could reverse its decision during the ongoing budget process, says that if they don’t, “it will be very difficult to keep the promise that the heroin task force made to neighborhood leaders in Seattle: that Seattle would not be left alone to respond to this need, which is fundamentally unfair given the widespread use of heroin and opiates throughout the county.  Waiting until 2019 to move forward inevitably will mean avoidable overdose deaths, and no solution to drug use in unsupervised public sites like bathrooms and parks.  Hopefully we all can agree that the status quo is unacceptable. Waiting is not a plan.”

If you enjoy the work I do here at The C Is for Crank, please considerbecoming 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, phone bills, electronics, 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 Endorses: Jessyn Farrell

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The 2017 mayoral election comes at a pivotal time for the urbanist movement. The most contentious parts of outgoing Mayor Ed Murray’s keystone achievement, the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda, remain unfinished, and conservative anti-density advocates have made common cause with anti-gentrification activists on Seattle’s far left, a potent alliance that could thwart efforts to address the city’s housing shortage.

Three candidates in the race for mayor—Jessyn Farrell, Cary Moon, and Mike McGinn—like to be considered urbanists. But only one, former state legislator and ex-Transportation Choices Coalition director Farrell, has a record of translating pro-transit, pro-housing urbanist values into policy. From her advocacy as TCC director for policies that changed the way the state thinks of road “capacity” (not just for cars anymore), to her work leading the 2008 campaign for Sound Transit 2, to her successful efforts to secure $500 million for Seattle during the debate in Olympia over Sound Transit 3, Farrell doesn’t just talk—she makes things happen.

Experience, a quality that’s frequently belittled in national politics, is crucially important in a mayor. Mayor of Seattle is not an entry-level job. As a longtime advocate and negotiator who has worked in government for many years, Farrell understands the need for negotiation and compromise. In a race where other candidates are promising to tax foreign investors and force developers to build affordable housing, consistency and competence can seem like unexciting qualities.  But in a mayor, they’re crucially important.

In our conversation about her candidacy, Farrell rattled off a list of concrete policy ideas that seemed both innovative and achievable. (Of the six mayoral candidates I interviewed at length, Farrell was the one who had me scribbling furiously in my notebook, highlighting ideas I had never heard before.) For example: Farrell supports the city’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda, which increases density across the city and funds affordable housing, but wants to expand it by spending some of the $500 million she secured for Seattle as a legislator to house kids and their families near their schools (as Sightline has documented, the vast majority of Seattle’s high-performing schools are in segregated single-family areas), creating a land bank of surplus public property as the backbone for a major new investment in public housing, and allocating $1 billion in affordable housing throughout the city on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis. Under Farrell’s plan, no neighborhood would be allowed to veto affordable housing, but each area could use different tools (such as rental subsidies for existing residents, detached backyard cottages, or apartment towers) to achieve its mandate.

Seattle hasn’t had a female mayor in nearly a century. This isn’t a bit of historical trivia; it’s a stain on our “progressive” city. Our priorities are determined by the people who lead us, and when those people are exclusively men, policies that have the greatest impact on the lives of women—paid family leave, equitable access to affordable day care and preschool, policies that promote pay and hiring equity in the private sector—take a back seat. In our conversation, Farrell demurred when I asked if she would have different priorities than her male opponents (and predecessors), then rattled off a list of ideas that would specifically benefit women and families—like partnering with private donors to supplement existing housing tax credits so they can build family-size housing instead of one-or-two-bedroom apartments and spending some of the city’s $500 million Sound Transit windfall on preschool facilities near major employers.

Two other candidates, Cary Moon and Mike McGinn, have strong pro-transit and environmental bona fides. Moon, an urban designer and civic activist who fought against the downtown tunnel ten years ago, has never served in public office or worked in government. McGinn has the opposite problem. Look at McGinn’s record (rather than his rhetoric)—as mayor, he failed to accomplish crucial elements of his agenda, because he couldn’t get along with the city council and surrounded himself with yes-men; we don’t need to go back to the days when the mayor alienated the governor by calling her a liar, repeatedly flubbed the search for a new police chief, and managed to come up with a transit tax that even Seattle voters wouldn’t support. Now he’s cozying up to neighborhood NIMBYs, signing a gimmicky no-new-taxes pledge, signing on to a neighborhood campaign against a public-private partnership to build a new Green Lake Community Center, and vowing to “revisit” the HALA plan—code for surrendering to demands for interminable process and delay.

Jenny Durkan—the hyper-competent Hillary Clinton grownup in the race—is almost certain to make it through the primary, but will have trouble overcoming her establishment label to appeal to Seattle’s populist left. Bob Hasegawa, a state legislator who has partnered with Republican legislators to reduce Seattle’s influence over Sound Transit and reduce the agency’s authority, has proposed bringing back and re-empowering the anti-development neighborhood councils and thinks virtually every problem can be solved with a public bank.

Nikkita Oliver, a civic activist, attorney, and poet, has tapped into the Black Lives Matter zeitgest, galvanizing communities that have been underrepresented in Seattle politics and shining a race and social justice spotlight on issues like property taxes, law enforcement spending, and development. Fittingly, her focus has been on the city’s lack of affordable housing, which drives displacement and promotes gentrification. But for a candidate whose primary issue is housing, Oliver was surprisingly unfamiliar with recent efforts to build affordable housing in Seattle. During our interview, she was unable to say whether she had supported last year’s housing levy, and said she didn’t remember the details of the proposal. (Oliver has since claimed that I misrepresented her quotes; I’ve reviewed the tape and confirmed that I transcribed her responses verbatim, and in the order in which they appeared, with no deletions; the only edit I made to that portion of our interview was to condense my questions, which went into more detail about the content of the housing levy and the fact that Mayor Ed Murray has touted the levy as one of his primary achievements.)

Oliver has proposed policies—like requiring developers to set aside a quarter of their units as affordable housing—that would make gentrification and displacement worse. “Make developers pay” is a popular rallying cry, but it doesn’t create affordable housing any more than increasing business taxes improves wages;  in a city where housing prices are rising faster than anywhere else in the nation, the solution isn’t to restrict growth but to encourage it. The only city that has imposed a 25 percent affordable housing requirement on developers, San Francisco, is also the only city on the West Coast that is more expensive than Seattle, thanks largely to restrictive housing policies.

Much has also been made of Oliver’s voting record (as Danny Westneat at the Times reported, Oliver voted in just seven of the 24 elections since she registered in 2008); although I don’t think frequent voting should be a litmus test for people seeking public office, her explanation—that structural barriers such as lack of Internet access and rising rents prevented her from voting consistently—was defensive and less than credible. Pointing out structural racism, an overlooked and legitimate issue in Seattle politics, is misleading in this case: African American women turn out to vote in huge numbers, outpacing white men even in 2016, when black turnout declined. (She also accused Westneat of “degrading character assassination”—before he had even published his story.) Half of Seattle’s residents are renters, and many of us move often but still update our voter registration, which you can do online, in person, or through the mail.

Farrell doesn’t have a flawless record. She voted for a bill that rolled back Sound Transit’s taxing authority after Republican light-rail opponents (and Hasegawa) complained that the taxing schedule they approved in a previous session was unfair. She defends that vote by calling it insurance that will make it possible to pass other progressive taxes in the future, but acknowledges that “it stinks.” I’m more inclined to have confidence in a politician, like Farrell, who owns up to her own controversial decisions and missteps, over one who responds to coverage and criticism by lashing out at journalists and critics.

Nearly 90 years after the end of Bertha Knight Landes’ two-year term, it’s beyond time for Seattle to elect a progressive  woman as mayor. Of the four women at the top of this year’s ballot, one—Jessyn Farrell—stands out as a pro-transit, pro-city, pro-housing big thinker who will bring new ideas to Seattle’s fight for an equitable and sustainable future.  Farrell’s impressive record of accomplishment is a sign that she can actually deliver on her ambitious agenda.

The C Is for Crank endorses Jessyn Farrell. 

If you enjoy the work I do here at The C Is for Crank, please considerbecoming 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, phone bills, electronics, website maintenance, and other expenses associated with my reporting. Thank you for reading, and I’m truly grateful for your support.

“Compromise” Levy for Vets, Seniors Less Generous than County Exec’s Proposal

Advocates will make a last-ditch effort this afternoon to convince the King County Council to more than double the size of the King County Veterans, Seniors, and Human Services Levy, on the ballot this November. But after weeks of debate, and numerous proposals and counter-proposals, the council appeared last week to have settled on a compromise: A levy of ten cents per thousand dollars of property value—double the size of the previous levy—divided evenly between programs for veterans, seniors, and other vulnerable populations.

The argument over the levy has boiled down to two primary issues: How large it should be (County Executive Dow Constantine and advocates have argued for at least 12 cents, and some advocates have pushed for even more), and how it should be divided. The council’s three Republicans, not surprisingly, have advocated for a smaller, 10-cent levy.

Ordinarily, the Republicans would be outnumbered, and the Constantine proposal would prevail. But the Republicans have two Democratic allies in council members Dave Upthegrove and Rod Dembowski, giving them a five-vote majority. Dembowski, unlike Upthegrove, has made it clear that he would be willing to support a 12-cent levy, but only if that 12 cents was divided 50-50 between veterans and other beneficiaries; the other Democrats argued that it should be split evenly between programs for veterans, seniors, and everybody else. (The Dembowski split would be achieved by taking the third of the money that goes to seniors and earmarking half of it for seniors who are also veterans.) After a number of convoluted machinations at the council’s budget and policy committee, the full council, and a regional policy committee that includes representatives from several suburban cities as well as Seattle, the proposal to reserve more of the levy exclusively for veterans failed, and the “compromise” version the council will consider today is ten cents, evenly divided.

Council members who supported a more even distribution of funds argued that it was a matter of demographics and equity. At last week’s regional policy committee meeting, county council member Jeanne Kohl-Welles pointed out that while the number of veterans in King County continues to decrease, the number of seniors is about to skyrocket. “By 2030, we’re looking at a one to ten ratio of veterans to seniors,” Kohl-Welles said, “so my argument is that the best approach to take would be [the three-way split]. Even at that, the veterans are receiving way more, proportionally, than are the demographic of seniors in our population.” At least one local veterans’ group agreed with this analysis. ”

“Excluding seniors from this levy would be doing a disservice to our aging veterans and those that don’t identify as veterans for a number of legitimate reasons,” such as Ryan Mielcarek, co-chair of the King County Veterans Consortium, testified. “This levy is carried on the backs of veterans and we know that. To that I say, ‘Hop on. We will carry you.'” Even at the lower, 10-cent level, the levy would double what the county will spend on services for veterans.

Suburban members of the regional policy committee, including Mercer Island City Council member Dan Grausz, argued that voters outside Seattle might reject a 12-cent levy as too large. “I would hope that what we an do as electeds is always remember that our paramount duty is to get a result, and that sometimes requires compromise,” Grausz said. Seattle council member Kshama Sawant, who also sits on the regional committee, shot back, “The paramount duty of all elected officials, especially today, is to listen tot your constituents and respond to their needs—not to the political calculations of other politicians. Political realities on the King County Councilare no more etched in stone than they are anywhere else. If you call their bluff and send a 12-cent measure to the King County Council, they will have to go on record and say why they oppose it. If they really want to vote against 12 cents, let them do it. I don’t think it’s my job to make it easier for them.”

Arguments that voters might reject the veterans levy over two cents seem implausible in light of the levy’s overwhelming popularity. In August 2011, seven in 10 King County voters supported the levy—a massive margin for a property tax.

Advocates for the larger levy have pointed out that although it would only add $9 to the median property owner’s tax bill—an average of 75 cents a month more than the 10-cent version—it would increase county funding for services by $67 million over the six-year life of the levy ($407 million compared to $340 million for the 10-cent version.) That’s $21 million more for housing stability programs, $15 more in new services for vulnerable groups, $15 million more for veterans, and $15.5 million more for seniors. “We’re leaving $67 million on the table,” Seattle city council member Debora Juarez, who also sits on the regional committee, said last week. “To me, that’s unconscionable.”

King County Council chair Joe McDermott told me Friday that although he would be willing to support a levy of as much as 15 cents, he falls on the site of the political pragmatists. “I see the increased need around the entire county for all of these services, but part of legislating is working with colleagues and compromising,” McDermott said. “What came out of the [regional policy committee] is a compromise, and that’s the compromise I think we should all be looking at” on Monday.

If the council fails to reach a compromise this afternoon, the “drop-dead date” to vote on a measure for the November ballot is August 1, although that would require an emergency declaration from the council.

If you enjoy the work I do here at The C Is for Crank, please considerbecoming 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, phone bills, electronics, website maintenance, and other expenses associated with my reporting. Thank you for reading, and I’m truly grateful for your support.

Morning Crank: Endless Appeals Are a Common Tactic

1. Depending on your perspective, a meeting tomorrow night to discuss efforts to prevent displacement and gentrification in light of a proposed upzone in the Chinatown/International District is either: a) A “special meeting” of the city council’s planning and land use committee, with a “focus on Chinatown/International District” (the city’s version) or b) a “town hall” to “Save the Chinatown – ID—Stop Displacement Now” (the Interim Community Development Association’s version). “WE SHALL NOT BE MOVED! Come and make your voice heard to City Council!” Interim’s announcement urges—and if that use of a Civil Rights-era slogan didn’t put a fine enough point on what the activists think is at stake in the upzone, these flyers, which appeared around the neighborhood in the past week, certainly did:

And here’s the source material:

The second poster is a notice posted during World War II, when the US rounded up tens of thousands of Japanese Americans and sent them to internment camps. The (very slightly) coded message is that if the city upzones the Chinatown/ID, the gentrification and displacement that result will have a similar impact on its residents as the forced removal of Japanese Americans in the 1940s.

2. The Chinatown/ID meeting will actually be the second contentious meeting in one day for the land use committee. Tuesday morning, they’ll take up a proposal related to the design review process—ostensibly a process to consider the design of proposed new buildings; in reality an opportunity for anti-density activists to stall projects they don’t like—that could make it easier for development opponents to file appeals. (In August, the council will consider more sweeping changes to design review that could streamline the process for developers.)

The proposed change would remove one step in the process that opponents of new projects must go through before filing a formal appeal to stop a proposed development. The step, called a land-use interpretation, costs $3,150 and is required before a project can go before the city’s hearing examiner, the judicial official who ultimately decides whether contested projects can move forward. According to a council staff analysis, removing the interpretation step could “facilitate judicial appeals of land use decisions for projects that may be considered locally undesirable by near-neighbors, such as low-income housing projects, work-release centers, and homeless shelters.” According to the Livable Phinney website, the group “with other activists in West Seattle and Council member Lisa Herbold” to eliminate the interpretation requirement.

Endless appeals are a common tactic used by neighborhood groups to prevent new housing near single-family areas. For example, a group of Phinney Ridge homeowners has successfully stalled a four-story, 57-unit studio apartment building on a commercial stretch of Greenwood Avenue for more than a year by filing appeal after appeal; although previous complaints have involved everything from the lack of air conditioning and washer/dryer units in the apartments to the size of the units, they’re now arguing that Metro’s Route 5, which runs along Greenwood, is inadequate to serve the 57 new residents. Ultimately, like many such battles, this argument comes down to parking—the opponents believe the new residents will all own cars, which will make it harder for existing Phinney Ridge homeowners to park their cars on the street.

3. Just weeks after issuing a statement denouncing “the politics of personal destruction” after a man who had accused Mayor Ed Murray of sexual abuse in the 1980s withdrew his lawsuit, mayoral candidate Jessyn Farrell reversed course, saying last night that the mayor should resign instead of serving out his term. Farrell said newly disclosed information in a separate sexual abuse case “severely undermines our confidence in his ability to carry out the duties of his office,” according to Seattle Times reporter Daniel Beekman. On Sunday, the Times reported that an investigator with Oregon’s Child Protective Services concluded that Murray had sexually abused his foster son in the early 1980s. Murray denied the allegations, noting that the case was withdrawn and no charges were ever filed.

Farrell’s dramatic reversal (dramatic in part because there was no reason she had to weigh in at all) makes more sense in light of events that transpired after she defended Murray the first time. Back then, Farrell was still seeking the mayor’s endorsement, and believed she had a real shot at getting it. Since then, Murray has endorsed Jenny Durkan, saying the former federal prosecutor “has the best chance of winning.” While Farrell may be relieved that she lost Murray’s endorsement to Durkan, the snub had to sting—and it’s hardly a stretch to see Farrell’s denunciation as payback.

4. If you still aren’t sure which mayoral candidate you prefer, there are at least two more chances to see the candidates debate before you fill out your ballot. The first, a live debate sponsored by CityClub, KING 5, GeekWire, and KUOW, is sold out, but a viewing party from 6:30 to 9pm at the nearby Flatstick Pub will also offer a post-debate opportunity to meet the candidates. And on Tuesday, LGBTQ Allyship will sponsor its own debate, featuring candidates for mayor and council positions 8 and 9, focusing on LGBTQ issues. That forum will be held at the Southside Commons in Columbia City from 6 to 9 pm.

If you enjoy the work I do here at The C Is for Crank, please considerbecoming 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, phone bills, electronics, website maintenance, and other expenses associated with my reporting. Thank you for reading, and I’m truly grateful for your support.

The Pushback Against ‘Privatizing’ Green Lake Community Center

On Monday, we’ll return to our regularly scheduled Cranking. In the meantime, here’s my latest piece for Seattle Magazine, on the ongoing controversy over a proposed public-private partnership to replace the Green Lake Community Center. 

Image Credit:  Hayley Young

To the casual visitor, the problems plaguing Green Lake Community Center don’t immediately present themselves. Sure, there are a few big plastic buckets scattered to catch the drips that leak from the roof on rainy days, and some of the sagging ceiling tiles are held in place by painter’s tape. But what old building doesn’t have its share of minor issues?

Look closer, however, and the cracks start to show. Some are literal—in the deck and shell of the circa 1955 Evans Pool—and others are metaphorical, like the tiny preschool room that’s bursting at the seams with toys, kids’ bean sprout experiments and child-size chairs. The floor of the gym (which has no wheelchair access) is buckled and sagging because of water damage from the leaking roof, and the upstairs kitchen has been closed for months because there’s no money to pay for the repairs required to bring it up to code.

This litany of issues has led the city to conclude that Green Lake—along with Lake City Community Center, also in North Seattle—should be replaced rather than repaired at an estimated cost of $25 million for Green Lake alone—and Seattle Parks and Recreation says it doesn’t have that kind of money. In fact, the parks department says that replacing Lake City and Green Lake community centers, and repairing six others requiring immediate maintenance, would cost about $62 million, or about 18 times the department’s current budget for such fixes.

To fill the gap, Jesús Aguirre, superintendent of Seattle Parks and Recreation, says the department is considering a public-private partnership with a nonprofit, such as the Associated Recreation Council of Seattle (ARC) or the YMCA, to build and run a new community center at Green Lake. But that idea has run into a wall of opposition from a new group of Green Lake community activists, who say the city should either use current funds to fix the community center or figure out another way to replace it.

Oh, and they have another word for public-private partnerships: privatization.

“Providing recreational facilities is a core mission of the city,” argues Susan Helf, head of the newly formed Save Evans Pool and Green Lake Community Center group. “It’s inappropriate for the city to transfer that over to a private organization that would result in no transparency, union busting, lower pay and higher fees.” (Parks superintendent Aguirre says the city has had no formal conversations with the YMCA, and denies that his department would ever partner with any organization that charges Seattle residents more for less.)

“This is the trend now in recreation and parks, [but] it has no place in an extremely rich city like Seattle, where money is pouring in,” Helf says.

Whether public-private partnerships are ever appropriate and exactly what existing city funds should pay for are at the heart of the Green Lake discussion. Are our community centers really for everyone if they’re run by private nonprofit groups? What responsibility does the city have to come up with the money to keep its recreational facilities from falling apart? And given that voters approved a new property tax in 2014 to pay for parks maintenance, why isn’t there enough money to pay for everything?

To the first, parks superintendent Aguirre points out that the city is no stranger to such arrangements. “We’ve got dozens and dozens of them at this point,” he says. This kind of arrangement is frequently used to maintain and expand popular but expensive programs. Think of the zoo, for example, or the downtown aquarium, both of which are operated by private nonprofit groups. Or, for that matter, the recreational and preschool programs at community centers such as Green Lake’s, which are run by the ARC, a private nonprofit organization.

Aguirre bristles at the notion that partnering with an outside group such the ARC or YMCA constitutes “privatization.” He prefers the term “public benefit partnership.”

“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,’” Aguirre says. “We’re talking about some kind of operating agreement where we’d identify an organization that shares our values and continues to provide the same services that we’re providing, but does it better.”

Trying to subsist on current resources will result in the city’s parks and community centers falling into disrepair, Aguirre says.

Not everyone agrees with that assessment, including Helf, who believes the parks department can come up with more funds. One avenue is the 2014 metropolitan park district levy, which gave the city the authority to levy as much as 75 cents per $1,000 on homeowners’ assessed property values. Currently, the city levies just 33 cents of the 75-cent-per-$1,000 maximum. Helf says if the park district is serious about fixing crumbling community centers like Green Lake’s, it could increase the tax, or find the money elsewhere. “I’d certainly pay another $30 a year to get a pool and community center that works,” Helf says.

But other parks advocates say it isn’t that simple. Michael Maddux, one member of the committee that came up with the metropolitan park district proposal, says the plan voters approved in 2014 was designed to backfill about $267 million in deferred maintenance to the city’s parks system, not to fund large capital projects like new community centers. Although the Park District Governing Board (composed of all nine members of the City Council) could direct dollars in a different direction after the current six-year levy cycle runs out, replacing pools and community centers would require additional funding, and “it was made very clear during the campaign that going up to the [levy] cap was not an option, because that would be such a dramatic increase,” Maddux says. Meanwhile, city officials say other potential revenue sources, such as real estate excise taxes, are already earmarked for other purposes.

Aguirre says there is another important issue as well. As the city grows and its population centers shift, it won’t be enough just to maintain our current parks and community centers. The city will have to decide how, and where, to expand the parks system to meet future demand, and how to fund that expansion. That may mean adding new community centers in parts of the city where there are gaps, like Wallingford and South Lake Union, or upgrading services in areas like Rainier Beach, which just received a new community center in 2013.

“We’re going to have to ask, what do the community center needs of the future look like?” Aguirre says. “And it may mean—and these are harder conversations to have—that Green Lake may not be the biggest challenge…. It’s one of 27 community centers, and it’s one of hundreds of amenities that the parks and recreation agency provides for its residents.”

Helf says Green Lake is different, because—unlike other neighborhood parks and community centers—it draws people from all over the city. “There’s some very disturbing language” in the 2016 Community Center Strategic Plan, Helf says, “which says that Green Lake is too white, it’s too wealthy, and it has too many homeowners” to merit immediate investment. “These conclusions that Parks reached are really inaccurate.”

City Council member Mike O’Brien, whose council district includes the Green Lake neighborhood, met with members of Helf’s group during his office hours at the Ballard branch library in April, where they showed up demanding that he pledge to oppose privatizing the community center. Although O’Brien didn’t go that far, he did say that he wouldn’t support any partnership that the community doesn’t want. “If the community is flatly opposed to it, I’m fine with that—we won’t do it,” O’Brien says. But, he cautions, “that money is not just going to magically appear to pay for this, so I would argue that we should stay flexible.”

District 5 City Council member Debora Juarez, who heads up the council’s parks committee, says Helf and her group’s protests are “not falling on deaf ears. Nothing is going to get built or done without community input, and if [a proposed partnership] doesn’t fit with that community and their needs, no one will impose something on them that they don’t want.” In fact, while there are plans underway to develop a process to come up with a long-term vision for the city’s parks system—and a discussion of public-private partnership is expected to be part of that—at press time, there was no timeline.

“If I were still in the private sector, I could think of 10 ways to fund this,” Juarez, a former private attorney, says.

That kind of creativity Juarez alludes to—whether it means privatization or some other funding mechanism—may be needed if what Aguirre asserts is true. “The reality is that we are never going to have the level of resources to meet the demands that are going to be placed on us. There’s always going to be a gap. My challenge is, how do I try to bridge that gap in creative and innovative ways?”

In Defense of Talking About Misogyny In a City That Hasn’t Had a Female Mayor in 92 Years

The other night, I went to a play that has been universally praised by critics for its bold portrayal of racial divisions in America, and the complicity we all share, liberals and conservatives, Southerners and West-Coast elites, in perpetuating racism, racial disparities and race-based violence in America. (In the play, a diverse group of kids at Berkeley decide to go to a small town Georgia where one of them grew up and stage a fake lynching—and things go about as badly as possible).

What none of the reviews I read mentioned was that the chief villain of the show—the person at the center of every bad decision that leads to a disaster—is a dingbat white feminist who personifies cultural appropriation, wearing her blonde hair in dreadlocks (the show includes numerous references to “Medusa” if you didn’t get the point) and claiming to be “one-eighth Native American.” Candace is the one who comes up the lynching idea, the one who eggs the guys on when they want to drop out (the one who does participate is trying to impress her), and flees the scene when things go bad—showing back up so, ahem, hysterical that she can’t manage to explain what happened to her, setting off another cascade of calamities. In the end, the three male friends are complicated, flawed—and ultimately redeemable. The lone woman, having served her role as the foil for male redemption, is unredeemed.

After I came home, I started thinking about “Get Out,” a movie I loved with one massive caveat—its reliance on a lazy, misogynistic trope about white women seducing men of color with the intent to harm them. (It’s the same reason many of Spike Lee’s movies are hard to love). Few of the raves I read mentioned the thread of misogyny that ran through that storyline, either.

And then I got to thinking about all the other ways in which women are expected to ignore misogyny in discussions of other kinds of oppression, as if a person’s gender has nothing to do with how they experience the US economy, or job opportunities, or racism, ageism, disablism, and homophobia. (Why are you whining that Bernie doesn’t talk about abortion? All those women’s issues will be taken care of when he fixes the economy!)

And then I saw on Facebook that a white female candidate, Jessyn Farrell, had been asked for at least the second time if she planned to step aside for another candidate. In this case, the candidate was Nikkita Oliver, a woman of color; in the other, it was Mayor Ed Murray, who was contemplating a write-in run. Oliver and Farrell’s platforms are about as far apart as Kshama Sawant’s and Tim Burgess’, at least on issues like density, HALA, and rent control. Imagine, for a moment, someone posing this question to Mike McGinn: “There’s another man in this race. He has a completely different platform than you and your policy positions are diametrically opposed, but have you considered stepping aside to help him win?” No one asks this question of men. Men are unique, each with their own individual platform and set of beliefs that makes them fundamentally different than all the other men seeking the same position. Women, on the other hand—women are fungible. And there can be too many of them.

And then, while marveling at the fact that we’re asking whether there are too many women in the race when Seattle hasn’t elected a female mayor in 92 years, I remembered that the King County Democrats endorsed an all-male slate of candidates in a year when four of the top six candidates for Seattle mayor are women.

And then I thought about another conversation I had in the last couple of days, this one on Facebook, about the ways in which women’s unpaid labor often goes uncredited and unthanked in “progressive” political communities, even as men sign their names to their work and take the credit and bask in the spotlight.

And then I heard an appalling work story from a friend that convinced me we have so much more than we even imagined, right here in Seattle, to address misogyny and negative assumptions about ambitious women who work in fields where women don’t “belong.”

And then I thought about all the women I’ve known over the years, but especially young women, who are discouraged from running from office because they’re “too young” or “aren’t ready,” or who just decide those things themselves, because of all the training we all get, starting at birth, that we have to work twice as hard for half the credit, and that even then the worst thing for a woman to be is ambitious.

And then someone pointed out to me that in its profile of Jessyn Farrell, the Stranger interviewed her father (and did not interview the fathers of the male candidates for mayor). His quote is about what she was like in middle school.

And then of a specific female candidate who was asked to drop out more than 10 years ago, by women, which reminded me once again that misogyny doesn’t come only from men; it can also be internalized.

And then I asked on Twitter: Why is it okay for men to repeatedly ask women, and only women, to step aside?

I haven’t gotten an answer yet.

If you enjoy the work I do here at The C Is for Crank, please considerbecoming 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, phone bills, electronics, website maintenance, and other expenses associated with my reporting. Thank you for reading, and I’m truly grateful for your support.