Morning Crank: “We Are the Dakota Access [Pipe]line Tribe.”

Last night, the Mercer Island City Council voted unanimously to sue Sound Transit and the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), in part, to preserve the right of island residents to drive alone in the westbound I-90 HOV lanes.

The island has been fighting to preserve this highly unusual privilege for decades, despite the fact that the original agreement granting them special access to carpool lanes, signed in 1976, anticipates a future when transit lanes, or fixed-rail transit, will supplant some freeway lanes and require island residents to give up their access. (Mercer Island also wants its residents to be permanently exempt from tolls on I-90, to restrict parking at the Mercer Island park-and-ride serving light rail to Mercer Island residents only, and to prohibit bus transfers on the island, keeping the people who ride buses from deboarding in the wealthy enclave.) The lawsuit seeks to force the state and Sound Transit to grant all these privileges, which, as Zach Shaner at Seattle Transit Blog has noted, would be “completely unique to Mercer Island.”

If you weren’t following along last night, I Storified all my tweets here.

2. Jan Angel, a conservative Republican legislator from Port Orchard, has introduced a bill that would prohibit cities from passing laws barring landlords from discriminating against tenants based on their source of income—a proposal that would, if passed, slap down Seattle’s new law that says landlords can’t refuse to people because their income comes from sources like Social Security or unemployment, and requiring them to rent to the first qualified applicant. (The Seattle law also prohibits landlords from offering special deals to employees of specific companies, such as Amazon.)

That Angel has introduced such a bill is hardly news—in recent years, the conservative Republican has proposed drug testing for welfare recipients and business-friendly changes to the workers’ compensation system. What was surprising is who showed up to testify in favor of the anti-Seattle bill: Smart Growth Seattle lobbyist Roger Valdez, who once worked for a liberal environmentalist think tank, the Sightline Institute, and a liberal city council member, Peter Steinbrueck.

“At a time when demand for housing is outpacing supply, producers and operators of housing have faced an ever-expanding gauntlet of rules, regulations, fees, fines, inspections, infringements, and limitations that are confusing for both housing providers and consumers,” Valdez said. “It’s time for the state to take back the control. … What’s also important is that the mayor and council have pursued this improvisational regulatory spree with no consultation of housing developers, property managers, or anyone in the housing business whatsoever. None. That’s true. They have not talked with us at all. That’s why this was a problem.”

Sen. David Frockt (D-46) pointed out that developers were very much represented on the Housing Affordability and Livability Committee, which worked to create many of the rules Valdez was opposing so vociferously; in fact, supposed overrepresentation by developers is one reason many neighborhood groups and anti-development liberals oppose HALA. In a testy back and forth, Frockt challenged Valdez, who eventually allowed that the city did give developers a seat at the table, but that “sitting in the room on a large committee is not consultation.”

Historically, anti-discrimination laws have come from cities first before being adopted by the state; it is unprecedented for the state to adopt renter protection laws before they have first emerged at the municipal level.

3. Crank hears that another candidate may soon be jumping in the race for City Council Position 8, the citywide seat that Tim Burgess will vacate next year: Stephan Blanford, a Seattle Public School director who has focused on closing the achievement gap between black and white students in Seattle schools. Blanford, who was endorsed in his 2013 school board run by local Democratic groups and elected officials as well as the political arm of the Chamber of Commerce and former King County Executive Ron Sims, would join a crowded race that already includes 2015 Burgess challenger and tenant organizer Jon Grant and Washington State Labor Council policy director Teresa Mosqueda.

Grant sent out two job announcements this week seeking a campaign manager and an organizer; his campaign will rely heavily on the city’s new Democracy Voucher program, which provides $100 in vouchers for Seattle residents to donate to the candidate or candidates of their choice.

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 it 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: “Not Gonna Happen”

1024x10241. Update on an item earlier this week about the Washington State Democrats’ Executive Committee had about possibly reducing the salary of the party chair now that Tina Podlodowski has been elected to that position. According to several Democrats who were present at the meeting (including members of the executive board itself), the person who raised the possibility of reducing Podlodowski’s salary was executive board member Ed Cote, who suggested reexamining the salaries for both the chair of the party and its executive director. After some discussion, another male board member, Don Schwerin, reportedly asked Podlodowski point-blank if she was willing to take a pay cut; she said no. Folks I talked to who were in the room said they were “horrified,” “appalled,” and “shocked” at both Cote’s line of questioning and Schwerin’s request.

The former party chair, Jaxon Ravens, was paid about $120,000, according to board members, plus a car allowance.

Cote says he raised the question of Podlodowski’s salary as part of a broader conversation about whether both the party chair and executive director should be paid, and how much. But it wasn’t lost on many in the room that Podlodowski is only the second woman to ever serve as state Democratic Party chair—and that the board discussing the possibility that she didn’t deserve the same salary as her male predecessors, Jaxon Ravens and Dwight Pelz, was two-thirds men.

“I just brought up that when [Podlodowski] presents a [Party] budget, I thought it would be good that we have a conversation around the right administrative structure going forward,” Cote says. “We have a paid chair and a paid executive director, and many states have one or the other. … I wasn’t suggesting that the chair was paid too much. … I wasn’t trying to suggest that she was overpaid or anything of that nature.”

Podlodowski says she thinks it’s possible that Cote didn’t think about how his question would come across (and indeed, those who questioned Cote’s suggestion reportedly did so by discussing what similar positions paid at other large nonprofits, rather than observing that the whole conversation was sexist). But, she adds, “when someone did ask me if I would take a pay cut, I was like, ‘Not gonna happen,’ and I’m certainly not going to cut pay of anybody who’s female. But I am going to look at the budget, because it’s always important to make sure that we’re paying people appropriately.”

Podlodowski says that when she signed up for her new insurance plan, she learned that it didn’t cover children, only spouses. (Podlodowski and her wife have three children.) That’s another example, she says, of “why women should rule.”

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2. If you think you’re confused about what to do with the four “democracy vouchers,” worth a total of $100, that appeared in your mailbox earlier this year, don’t worry, you’re in good company. Seattle City Council members and staffed grilled Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission director Wayne Barnett on some basic details of the program yesterday—details that were all laid out in the language of Initiative 122, which voters passed last year, but which, in fairness, you might have missed in the 15 pages of fine print. Some of the council members’ questions, answered:

  • Why is the city mailing vouchers to 508,000 people—are there even that many voters in Seattle? Under the initiative, vouchers must be mailed to every registered voter in the city, which includes “inactive” voters who have long since moved away.
  • Could the city cover the cost if all 508,000 voters tried to “spend” their vouchers at once? The cost of the program, which will cost the city $3 million a year, is limited by campaign spending limits, not the number of vouchers; I-122 specifically says that there must be enough in the budget to pay for three council races in which a total of 18 candidates run using voucher money exclusively. That works out to around $3 million.
  • Can organizations or employers bundle contributions from their members or employees and make a big contribution to a single candidate that way? Not that way—bundling, where a person collects many individual donations and then writes a big check for the entire amount—is illegal, but a campaign is free to ask the members or employees of a large group or company to spend their vouchers on a particular candidate.
  • Since the requirement to qualify for voucher funding is a minimum of 400 contributions of $10 each, couldn’t a candidate just get someone to write them a check for $4,000? No, because viability is determined by how many contributions (100 or more), not the total (a minimum of $4,000, but in all likelihood more).

3. All Home, the coalition that coordinates efforts to reduce homelessness in King County, used a different approach and a different vendor to conduct its point-in-time count of people living unsheltered this year, and homeless advocates like Tim Harris at Real Change have questioned one major change this year: Unlike in every previous year, All Home won’t announce the number of people it counted right away. Previously, All Home and its former partner, the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, released the number the day after the count; this year, the number won’t be released until June. All Home says it needs the extra time to survey people experiencing homelessness to get a better count of people living in vehicles and tents.

The delay also isn’t sitting easy with Seattle City Council member Sally Bagshaw, who heads up the council’s human services committee. She said yesterday that she wrote a email to Putnam asking him for the raw count number now, figuring that even if a more accurate number is issued later, at least the city would have a baseline for comparison when discussing its strategy for addressing homelessness. “Mark, I’d love an informal update on how the count went and how you’re doing with data when you get a chance,” Bagshaw wrote. “It’s important that we have a baseline and provide my committee with some trend information.”

Charging “Ethnic Discrimination,” Dems Seek to Stop Vote on 37th State Senate Appointment

Members of the 37th District Democrats have filed a lawsuit seeking to prevent the King County Council from voting to fill the state Senate seat left vacant by the election of Sen. Pramila Jayapal to Congress in November. [UPDATE: According to Knoll Lowney, one of the attorneys representing the Democratic Party members seeking to stop the appointment of a new 37th District state senator, a judge has rejected the Democrats’ request for a temporary restraining order. The order would have enjoined the King County Council from appointing a successor to Pramila Jayapal, who was elected to represent the 7th Congressional District last month. Lowney says that more than who ultimately gets appointed, “it’s critically important that we not have a process that is flawed.” The next hearing in the case is scheduled for December 23; the county council could vote on Monday, or decide on their own to wait.

Original post follows.]

The plaintiffs, calling themselves Democrats for Diversity and Inclusion, argue in their complaint that the appointment process was effectively rigged to preclude certain precinct committee officers (PCOs) from participating, leading to the nomination of Rory O’Sullivan, the white former chairman of the district, to represent the majority-minority 37th in the Senate. The King County Council is ultimately responsible for appointing legislators to fill vacant seats, but they typically follow the lead of the PCOs. However, they are not required to do so, and have diverged from that practice in the past, as Josh Feit pointed out on PubliCola this week.

In addition to stopping the vote scheduled for Monday, the lawsuit seeks to force the King County Democratic Central Committee to hold a second vote, this one including all the appointed PCOs (PCOs who were appointed by other PCOs, in this case PCOs from parts of the district that are more heavily populated by people of color) excluded from the process, and submit the list of candidates that results from that process to the council for a decision. (According to the lawsuit, 115 PCOs were excluded from voting; of the 106 who were eligible under the disputed rules, 82 voted.)

In 2012, the 37th was created explicitly as a majority-minority district, and the second- and third-place runners-up in the PCO vote were Puget Sound Sage director Rebecca Saldana and Shasti Conrad, both women of color. Another woman of color, NAACP leader Sheley Secrest, was also in the running. The lawsuit claims the exclusion of the appointed PCOs constitutes deliberate “ethnic discrimination” that led to the choice of O’Sullivan instead of one of the many people of color on the ballot. “The 115 PCOs who were illegally disenfranchised represent more than 40,000 registered 37th District voters in precincts that are primarily African Americans, Hispanics, immigrants and People of Color,” the proposed order says.

It continues:

In total disregard for state law and party rules and to create a favorable electorate for certain candidates, former KCDCC Chair Richard Erwin delayed the nominating caucus until the terms of all 115 appointed PCOs expired, but before the party organization could reconvene to appoint replacement PCOs. KCDCC then refused all appointed PCOs their right to vote in the nominating caucus, something that is unprecedented in the history of the 37th District. Such procedural gamesmanship is not permitted. Party rules explicitly mandate that the nominating caucus include both elected and appointed PCOs. Furthermore, federal and state law prohibit KCDCC from disenfranchising and discriminating against appointed PCOs.

A hearing is reportedly under way right now in King County Superior Court; I’ll post an update when the court issues a ruling on the case. Read the full complaint here, and the proposed order enjoining the county council from voting 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 it 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.

No, Trump Won’t Be “Good For Cities”`

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Over the last few days, I’ve seen a number of urbanists claiming that even if Donald Trump does deport millions of undocumented immigrants, ban abortion, eliminate health care coverage for 20 million Americans, and devalue the lives of women, people of color, LGBTQ people, and religious minorities, at least he’ll be “good for cities.”

After all (the argument goes), Trump is a developer, and a New Yorker—which makes him fundamentally urbanist, right? I mean, check it out: Not only did he help build the biggest, most urban city in the nation, he made a promise to “rebuild America’s inner cities,” which could definitely use some sidewalks and pothole fixes. And he vowed to spend $1 trillion on “rebuilding America’s infrastructure”—which can only be good news for mass transit, sidewalks, and crumbling city streets. (Finally, a Pothole President!) And just think: By clearing away local and state regulations that hamper housing production—like environmental laws that keep housing away from freeways, and zoning restrictions that draw borders around developable areas–President Trump will clear the way for a new urbanist renaissance.

Bullshit. Trump would be a disaster for cities, and not just because his ascension represents a total rejection of the diversity of thoughts, ideas, opinions, and people that makes cities great. He would be a disaster for cities because every policy he has espoused is (like his largely rural support base) profoundly anti-urban—and if you believe, as I do, that Trump means what he says, then it’s time to take a gimlet-eyed look at what Trump has said he will do in, and to, cities. Urbanists must stop indulging in the fantasy that there is a “real” Donald Trump who supports investments in public transit, urban housing, and programs that will give poor people in cities opportunities to succeed. There is only one Donald Trump. Here is what that Donald Trump seems likely, based on his own words and actions, to do.

Cut federal funding for mass transit.

When Republicans talk about transportation “infrastructure,” they mean, first, big highway projects, and second, roads and bridges in rural areas. The GOP platform adopted this year says this quite explicitly. “One fifth of (trust) funds are spent on mass transit, an inherently local affair that serves only a small portion of the population, concentrated in six big cities,” it says. “We propose to phase out the federal transit program.” Sound Transit 3, which voters overwhelmingly adopted Tuesday, relies heavily on that transit program–it includes $5 billion in matching funds from the federal government—as do most of the transit funding measures passed by urban voters across the nation last week.

Privatize roads, highways and bridges–and leave those that can’t turn a profit to crumble.

If you think a President Trump will not only renege on his party’s promise but reject it wholeheartedly then you haven’t looked at his infrastructure plan. In effect, Trump’s proposal would privatize the nation’s roads, bridges, and highways by providing tax credits to subsidize $1 trillion in private investment in infrastructure. Companies would make their money back for charging people to drive on those roads, bridges, and highways, and any project that doesn’t pencil out—that is, that doesn’t turn a profit for investors—won’t get built. (On Friday, Trump announced his pick to head up his “transportation and infrastructure” team—literal asphalt lobbyist Martin Whitmer.)

This will lead not only to a widening gap between poor counties and cities and wealthy ones, but a disinvestment in inner-city transit infrastructure. (picture wealthy exurban homeowners driving on pristinely maintained toll roads while overcrowded buses ferry carless city dwellers through traffic-jammed, pothole-riddled streets. Rail and express-bus lines that serve the suburbs will be able to pay for themselves through higher user fees, but public transit, which relies heavily on federal funding as well as local subsidies, won’t. (Think about it: Even if King County Metro raised bus fare to, say, $10 a ride—about what it would cost absent other funding sources—the vast majority of riders would be forced to stop riding, making the system unprofitable. Oh, and there’s that whole equity and social justice thing.)

Privatization also creates a perverse incentive for builders to cut corners and endanger public safety, by saving costs on bridge reinforcement, for example, or using less-reliable or less-durable materials. It also means that cities whose citizens can’t afford to pay for improvements  themselves—say, struggling citizens of Flint, Michigan poisoned by lead in their water pipes, or parents in low-income school districts with school buildings that are unsafe and out-of-date—will be left behind. Inner cities aren’t the crumbling, post-apocalyptic hellscapes Trump made them out to be on the campaign trail—far from it—but his privatization plans would send them spiraling in that direction.

Eliminate some federal housing subsidies, and abandon commitments to fair housing made by President Obama.

Trump hasn’t yet said who he’ll appoint to head up the Department of Housing and Urban Development,  and in fact, the issue of housing—particularly housing for the homeless, a population that has boomed in cities even as the economy has recovered—didn’t really come up during the campaign. That’s a shame, because it would be instructive to know how Trump plans to address the growing crisis, which has led three West Coast cities (including Seattle) and Hawaii to declare an official state of emergency.

Seattle, in response to HUD policies under Obama that direct federal funds into “rapid rehousing” vouchers, recently released a plan called “Pathways Home” that reflects this approach, but if HUD dramatically changes direction, reducing the federal subsidies on which cities like Seattle rely or relying on privatization schemes like the one Trump has proposed to pay for other kinds of infrastructure, cities could find themselves trying to dig out of an ever-deeper funding hole. (That’s assuming that those cities that have declared themselves “sanctuary cities” for immigrants, including Seattle, still receive any federal funding at all).

Trump’s family, famously, was accused of discriminating against African American tenants in New York City in the 1970s, when Trump was president of Trump Industries. (A New York Times investigation uncovered “a long history of racial bias at his family’s properties, in New York and beyond.”) On the campaign trail this year, Trump vowed to overturn a rule adopted by the Obama administration called Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing, which requires local jurisdictions that receive federal housing funds to address housing segregation and other disparities in housing access, in part by encouraging affordable housing development in more affluent, whiter neighborhoods. Right-wing outlets and pundits, from the Daily Caller to the Daily Sturmer, effusively praised Trump for his promise to reject Obama’s efforts to, as one alt-right site put it, “force ‘diversity’ on white neighborhoods.”

One day after the election, Mayor Ed Murray said he would consider floating another levy (in addition to the $290 million housing levy voters adopted earlier this year) to address the city’s homelessness crisis. As the impact of Trump’s presidency sets in, we’ll see how serious he is about that idea.

• Adopt policies that make the homelessness and addiction crises worse.

Last year, the One Night Count of the homeless counted about 10,000 homeless people living in King County, about half of them sleeping unsheltered. (Service providers suggest doubling that amount to get an accurate figure). Reducing that number will require funding not just for housing but for drug and alcohol treatment, mental health care, and job assistance.

Trump hasn’t said anything specific about dealing with those root causes of homelessness, but his health care plan consists of repealing the Affordable Care Act, which will leave some 20 million Americans, most of them lower-income, without health care. That includes mental health care, including treatment for addiction. Meanwhile, Trump’s only public statements about drug addiction have consisted of wonderment that an opiate epidemic could exist in America’s beautiful rural areas (“How does heroin work with these beautiful lakes and trees?”), and a promise to build a wall with Mexico to cut off the flow of drugs, War on Drugs-style. Neither of these statements bodes well for reducing the addiction epidemic, or for helping people who are homeless because of addiction get housing and health care.

This is far from a comprehensive list of reasons urbanists, and those who love cities, should be alarmed about the next four years—there’s also the promised crackdown on religious and sexual minorities, the prospect of mass deportations, the rejection of climate science, and the imposition of a 1950s good-ol-boy culture that is fundamentally provincial, anti-intellectual, and conformist. The next four years will reveal how much of this vision Trump manages to inflict on America, and how much cities react by pulling up the drawbridges and becoming not so much urban archipelagos as urban islands.

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 it 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.

Major South Park Landlord Will Urge Tenants to Vote “No” on Annexation

Wikimedia Commons

As early as this November, in a down-down-down-down-down-ballot election in the Southwest Seattle-area neighborhood of South Park, a few dozen residents will decide if they want to remain an oddball sliver of unincorporated King County in the middle of Seattle, or if they want to become part of the city. The landlord to more than a few of them, George Harris, is strongly against annexation–and he’s letting his tenants know how he feels, urging them to vote “no” when the proposal, decades in the making, finally comes up for a vote as soon as this November.

Only about 80 registered voters live in the section of South Park known as the “sliver by the river,” a stripe of unincorporated King County that includes several blocks of single-family houses along the western bank of the Duwamish River. The fate of the sliver, along with an adjacent industrial area known as the Duwamish Triangle, is a longstanding anomaly within city limits; after an annexation boom at the turn of the last century, Seattle mostly stopped expanding, and has not added any new land to its boundaries since 1986.

Tukwila has expressed interest in annexing the Triangle, which includes the headquarters of the luxury yacht company Delta Marine, but not the Sliver, due to the significant cost of providing sewer, fire,  and police service to the people who live there.

For a similar reason, Seattle only wants to annex the Sliver if it also gets the Triangle and the business tax revenues that go along with. Complicating matters further is the fact that the South Park Bridge bisects the Sliver, and if Seattle takes it over, it will also be responsible for tending and maintaining that structure.

Add to this complicated mix a group of taxpayers who aren’t convinced that joining the city will be in their best economic interest, and you begin to see why the fate of the sliver has been debated since at least the 1970s.

Harris, who got involved in the annexation debate back in 1978, counts himself among the skeptics.  “I don’t look forward to being part of the city of Seattle,” Harris says. “Their whole mentality  is that they need to take more money out of an area than they put in, so that does not bode well for sidewalks or sewers.” Currently, the Sliver has no sewer service and is served by the North Highline Fire District, not the City of Seattle.

Harris says as a member of the Rental Housing Association and a longtime landlord, “I’ve been taking care of my houses and my tenants for 30 years, and I don’t need the city telling me how to do it.” He anticipates a giant regulatory headache if Seattle annexes his houses, which are around 100 years old and have the outdated wiring common to houses of that era.

Harris says if and when annexation does come to a vote, “I will make sure [my tenants] are all registered and I will encourage them” to vote against annexation. In August of last year, at a meeting of the Washington boundary review board for King County, Harris testified against the annexation, arguing (according to the minutes) that residents’ taxes would increase and it would become harder for homeowners to improve their properties. In addition, according to two people who were there, Harris testified that he would instruct his residents that if they voted for annexation and it passed, he would have to raise their rents around $100.

 “I don’t look forward to being part of the city of Seattle. …  “I will make sure [my tenants] are all registered and I will encourage them” to vote against annexation.” – South Park landlord George Harris

“Basically, what he said was that if the community joined Seattle, the taxes would be higher–which is actually not necessarily the truth–and the costs for permits would be higher; therefore, he couldn’t keep his rents low to help out his tenants,” boundary review board executive secretary Lenora Blauman recalls. Dagmar Cronn, a longtime resident of the sliver and an annexation supporter who was also at the meeting, says Harris “told us a couple of times during the evening that he had told his renters that if it passed, he was going to raise the rent $100 a month–he said it several times throughout that evening.”

Cronn, who, like Harris, has lived in South Park for decades and is past president of the South Park Neighborhood Association, says her husband, Bob, had to spend weeks convincing a county electrical inspector that the property he wanted to upgrade was in the county’s jurisdiction, not the city’s. “It’s an odd little sliver of land, and a lot of the county maps are just wrong,” Cronn says. The boundary confusion has had more serious consequences for Cronn and her husband; in 2011, they had to wait 33 minutes for an ambulance to arrive during a medical emergency, even though there’s a Seattle Fire Department station just five blocks from their house.

Kenny Pittman, a senior advisor at the city’s Office of Intergovernmental Relations and  the city’s point person on South Park annexations, says residents of the Sliver “look across the street and see the City of Seattle fire department, and they can’t get service from them. The City of Seattle police department is right there too.”

Pittman has showed Cronn and Harris spreadsheets detailing how and why their taxes will go down, not up, if they join the city. “It drops a couple hundred dollars for a $240,000 home”–the median in South Park–because city residents don’t have to pay taxes for the North Highline Fire District, the King County library levy, or the King County Road District,” Pittman says.

Cronn believes Pittman; Harris does not. In fact, he calls Pittman’s tax claim “absolute baloney” and “propaganda,” adding, “the City of Seattle’s policy is to take more money out of any annexed area than they put into it. That’s just all there is to it.” He also objects to the city’s rental housing inspection program, its “ban the box” efforts to end housing discrimination against felons, and the general “mentality that, by nature, I am at war with my tenants, when nothing could be further from the truth.”

Pittman says he’s “feeling good about” completing all the necessary reviews for an annexation measure in time for a November election, or, failing that, an election early next year. Campaigning in such a small district is likely to be fierce, with annexation opponents like Harris arguing that joining Seattle will mean more taxes and unnecessary regulations, and proponents like Cronn making the case that this part of South Park deserves the same services and identity the rest of the neighborhood enjoys.

 

Council Pushes Back on “Growth Fund” Housing Preservation Proposal

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Freshman city council member Lisa Herbold has proposed resurrecting a pre-Eyman-era housing “growth fund” to pay for the preservation of naturally-occurring affordable housing–privately owned housing that, because of its age or state of repair, is more affordable than market-rate housing.   The original growth fund was created in 1985 to fund affordable housing construction; it consisted of a percentage of property tax revenues from new construction downtown, and brought in about $15 million in its 17-year existence. Herbold’s proposal would begin with a single demonstration project.

“I think it’s an important commitment to make in light of our current housing crisis,” Herbold says. “Between 1960 and 1985, nearly 16,000 housing units were lost downtown. … I think we are in a similar time now and if [Mayor Ed Murray’s] goal of 20,000 more net affordable housing units is going to be met, we have to do something about the fact that it is unlikely the units lost will be replaced or preserved without an explicit preservation strategy.”

Last Wednesday, Herbold invited affordable-housing advocates from groups like Puget Sound Sage and the Low-Income Housing Institute to pitch the council’s affordable housing committee on the fund proposal. 

“I think the public understands the linkage between all this new construction in a booming economy and the loss of affordable housing,” LIHI director Sharon Lee told council members. “We’ve got 1 Percent for the Arts. If housing is on the front page of the paper every day and people are being forced to leave Seattle [because of high housing prices], why aren’t we using 1 percent of the general fund for housing?”

Lee told the committee that former mayor Greg Nickels eliminated the growth fund when he first took office in 2002; “He said, ‘We have a housing levy; let’s just cut [the growth fund],’ and that was a disappointment to us,” Lee said.

But committee chair Tim Burgess and city budget office director Ben Noble strongly disputed Lee’s claim that Nickels had cut the fund for purely political reasons, noting that 2002 was the year that a Tim Eyman-backed measure capping annual property tax growth at 1 percent was adopted by the state legislature (the original initiative was ruled unconstitutional, but the legislature passed a copycat version). That meant that property tax revenues, which had been growing at about 6 percent a year, took a sudden, dramatic hit, forcing the city to scramble for funds to pay for basics and leading to the city’s current reliance on property tax levies to pay for everything from early-childhood education to libraries to housing.

“I think we should be real clear about why the city got rid of the growth fund in 2002,” Burgess said sternly. “It was not just the whim of Mayor Nickels.” After the 1 percent cap on property tax increases took effect, city leaders “determined that we should increase the size of the housing levy … and eliminate the growth fund because our property tax revenue options had been suppressed so much. That’s a much fairer explanation of that.”

Moreover, Noble and council member (and former private-sector CFO) Mike O’Brien pointed out that neither of Herbold’s proposals would create any new revenue; rather, the dedicated growth fund would take money from other city programs funded by the budget and spend it on housing preservation. Similarly, the bond proposal wouldn’t create any new money (Herbold protested: “It’s new in that it’s dedicated to this purpose”); instead, it would create new debt that would have to paid back, with interest, out of the general fund every year.

“Let’s not pretend that we get this [housing preservation fund] for free when we’re paying for that debt over 20 years, and there’s no new source of that money because it’s coming out of the general fund,” O’Brien said. “I expect and hope our experts will give us the best solution, so if using our bonding capacity is the best way to fund affordable housing, that intrigues me … and on the flip side, if it’s not a very good idea and there’s more efficient financing tools, I would not want to use a bad tool just because it sounds good.”

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“The bottom line,” Noble told me this week, “is that to do what council member Herbold is suggesting would require taking existing general fund resources and dedicating it to housing—which is a perfectly fine thing to do, but the general fund is already being relied upon on to pay for cops and fire and everything else.”  Noble says the city is still optimistic about passing a tax exemption for landlords who agree to keep their housing affordable, which narrowly failed in the state house this year thanks to opposition from house speaker Frank Chopp.

Both O’Brien and Burgess seem to agree that the source of additional funding for housing preservation is less important than providing the money, which led both to the idea of funding preservation through the housing levy.

“We’re getting ready to vote in two or three weeks on dedicating a huge amount of taxpayer money to housing, including preservation,” Burgess says. “This is really a discussion about how are we going to allocate all of the taxpayer money that we have at our disposal, and focusing on a specific method like a growth fund is less important to me than how we decide to use all our resources.” However, Herbold counters that the 2009 housing levy could have funded affordable housing preservation, but didn’t, in part because housing levy funds are less flexible than the growth fund was, and because the Office of Housing traditionally works on new construction, not preservation.

At last week’s meeting, Office of Housing director Steve Walker seemed to agree, noting that buying up existing for-profit affordable housing is challenging, because of income requirements (if an existing resident makes too much to qualify for a unit in a newly city-owned building, would the city kick her out?) and because the city doesn’t have much experience in the housing-preservation business.

Herbold says she worries that “if we separate the conversation, the result will be that we are driven down the path of traditional OH programs. …  Separating the conversation about financing from the conversation about preservation from makes the need for preservation more and more abstract from the harm of displacement.”

The council will need a lot of convincing on that front (right now, Herbold’s proposal seems to have little traction), and that will likely have to wait until after voters consider the $290 million housing levy proposal in August.

Chasing Ballots

With Lisa Herbold taking the lead in West Seattle’s District 1 on Friday—a lead she holds by just 27 votes—the November 3 election is far from over. Although there are over 300 ballots that remain uncounted in the district—the next vote drop, tomorrow around 4:30, could solidify Herbold’s advantage or put Braddock back in the lead—a parallel and equally important ballot-gathering effort is going on behind the scenes in both campaigns.

Known as “ballot chasing,” the campaign-led effort involves finding challenged ballots that are likely to favor a particular candidate and making sure those voters get their ballots counted.

Here’s how it works. Ordinarily, King County Elections initially rejects, or “challenges,” a ballot if the signature doesn’t match the one on file at the elections office, or if a voter fails to sign his or her ballot. At that point, Elections sends the voter a letter and asks them to remedy the problem. Many people just ignore or never get around to filling out the response form, and those ballots are never counted.

That’s no big deal in races where the margin is wide, but in close races like that in District 1, literally every ballot counts. Ballot chasers match up the list of voters whose ballots were challenged with voters who are likely to vote for their candidate, based on demographics, past voting history (did they vote in previous council races, or stick to just the top of the ballot?) and doorbelling records from the campaign. Interestingly, because the election is technically over, spending limits and rules barring coordination between independent expenditure groups and campaigns no longer apply, giving rise to efforts by outside groups that support campaigns to do all they can to pitch in.

And to emails like this one, from the director of the Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy (CASE), the political arm of the Seattle Chamber (bolds mine):

Good afternoon,

This weekend is make or break for Shannon Braddock’s campaign for Seattle City Council. With so few votes between candidates in District 1, the campaign with the strongest ballot chasing effort is expected to win this election.

Shannon is in urgent need of volunteers.

Please consider stepping up to volunteer this weekend and recruit your friends. A script and instructions will be provided for you to contact likely Shannon supporters whose ballots have been invalidated by the county.

[…] This is the homestretch! Let’s make it count.

Best,

[Mark] Markham

 

Ironically, perhaps, Braddock herself sent an email to her supporters last week expressing indignation that council member Kshama Sawant had called “on her supporters to intervene in our election process in favor of Lisa Herbold.” In fact—as the Herbold campaign pointed out in its own response email to supporters—the letter in question from Sawant is mostly focused on District 2 candidate Tammy Morales, who is trailing council incumbent Bruce Harrell by 357 votes, though it does urge Sawant’s supporters to  help “defeat the developer-approved candidate in District 1, Shannon Braddock.” In her email, Herbold said that although “help offered is appreciated,” the campaign told Sawant, “like we’ve told others, that we have a strategy to win this race. Our team continues to work to implement our strategy for our district.

An automatic recount is triggered if two candidates are separated by 0.5 percent or less of the total vote in their race.

Binders Full of Men

Reposted, with edits, from Facebook. The Times’ panel did not respond to questions from readers who wanted to know why they chose an all-male panel, and editorial board (and panel) member Jonathan Martin referred my questions to Times editorial page editor Kate Riley.

Days after an election in which Seattle elected the first majority-female city council since the 1990s, the Seattle Times and Crosscut are each holding all-male panels to analyze and discuss the election. Crosscut’s panel consists of three white guys–Christian Sinderman, John Wyble, and Charley Royer. The Times’ consists of one man of color, Sandeep Kaushik, and two white guys, Jonathan Martin and Danny Westneat.

Item No. 7304. City Council Inspection Tour on Kinnear Park Lawn, 1900. (Record Series 8200-13)

Seattle City Archives.

I wish I didn’t have to say this again so soon after the Times held an all-white-male panel to discuss the region’s transportation issues, and justified it by saying that they were looking for diversity of opinions, not diversity diversity, but here goes again: Actual diversity matters, not just “diversity of opinions.”

When panel planners say “we just got the best possible people available,” I think immediately of all the boys’ clubs from which I and women like me are excluded, not because we don’t have something to say but because we aren’t a friend of the guy who guards the door to the clubhouse. Blogs link blogs by their friends, public intellectuals and politicians and pundits signal boost for people they already know and just feel “comfortable” with, and the media give a boost to those who are already in power. When media gatekeepers say they just couldn’t find any women or people of color who were “qualified” to talk about an issue, I can almost without exception spout off a dozen examples of people outside the professional pundit class to prove them wrong. The only difference is that the middle-age white guys who always get picked have sat on those stages many times before, and are therefore the first people that come to mind for lazy panel planners.

Yes, it takes two seconds to think of and reach out to people who aren’t your default idea of “panelist.”

Yes, it’s easier to just ask the likes of Charley Royer, Christian Sinderman, and John Wyble to sit on the same stage they’ve sat on dozens of times before and offer their perspectives.

But let’s not forget that there are many, many women, including consultants and pundits, who actively participated in and commented these elections who are more than capable of sitting on a panel and offering their opinions and analysis–and that, importantly, their analysis will be qualitatively different because they are women.

In the comments, the Times’ Martin and an editorial member who moderated the all-male panel I wrote about previously, Thanh Tan, said that they had to throw the panel together at the last minute (why? the election date was no surprise), that, as Tan put it, “These guys are strong allies of women,” and that moderating a discussion by other people is just as important as actually expressing opinions or appearing as an expert on a subject. The two Times editorial board members also did backflips to note that the Times has women in leadership, that the moderator, Caitlyn Moran, is a woman, and that some of their previous “Livewire” discussions have included women. (Actually, the two panels that did have two or more women were about education and affordable housing, while panels on “hard” subjects like China were reserved exclusively for men.)

 

I hope it’s clear that whether some of their best friends are women or not, there is no excuse for an all-male panel in 2015, especially on this election. And frankly, I don’t care if your moderator is a woman. Facilitation, in contrast to speaking, has always been a traditionally female role, and while facilitating the discussions of others is important, it is not at all the same as being the one on stage who gets to express their perspective and opinions.  As Lauren Burgeson pointed out when I wrote about the Times’ all-male transportation panel, you can’t be what you can’t see, and hidebound institutions like the Seattle Times and Crosscut (whose writing staff, unlike the Times, actually consists entirely of white men, and which just hired another white man as editor) to inspire women to enter public spaces (and run for office) when the only examples you elevate are the same old white dudes who get pushed onstage every election.

It’s 2015. Let’s end this. It’s time for the Seattle Times, Crosscut, and other power-wielding institutions to stop making excuses and start elevating women, people of color, and other marginalized populations. If you haven’t done so on Facebook already, or even if you have, please help me out by naming some folks you would suggest for panels in the future, in the hope that they’ll listen and amplify voices that actually represent the Seattle of today, not the Seattle of 150 years ago.

Election 2015: Establishment Up, Coattails Down

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The November 3 election, if last night’s results hold, solidified the Seattle establishment, represented a modest and promising, though not unprecedented, increase in diversity on the city council, and proved that Seattle voters are willing to invest (not show their “generosity,” as one longtime local pundit grumbled) real money to maintain and upgrade our transportation system. It was a bad night, as usual, for my predictive capabilities (I was convinced Move Seattle would end the night a couple of points behind, and squeak through in later vote counts as more tax-happy liberal late votes were tallied), and for boosters of district elections, who expected less money and more non-“establishment” candidates in the election and got the exact opposite on both counts. And then there was former Tenants Union director and HALA antagonist Jon Grant, the great hope for those who hoped to establish a Sawant Bloc on the council, who still hasn’t conceded but was, as of tonight’s count, trailing council incumbent Tim Burgess by more than 15 points.

Here’s a look at some of the political players and phenomena that helped shape last night’s results.

The “business establishment“–code for the developers that are changing the face of the city and, some claim, driving up rents for ordinary people–can declare victory in at least six (and possibly seven) of the nine races, as a cautiously worded but victorious statement from Chamber president Maud Daudon last night attests. The Chamber endorsed Shannon Braddock, whose race against longtime Nick Licata aide Lisa Herbold is still very much up in the air, as well as Urban League CEO Pam Banks, who lost to popular Socialist Kshama Sawant in the 3rd. The Chamber issued no endorsement in District 6, where increasingly anti-development council incumbent Mike O’Brien was challenged unsuccessfully by neighborhood activist and Ballard encampment opponent Catherine Weatbrook. If Braddock maintains her lead (the 7:00pm, November 4 vote drop has Braddock at  52.23 percent to Herbold’s 47.23 percent, which is a wide but not insurmountable margin), the Chamber will effectively be 7 for 2–hardly the ideological shakeup districts opponents expected when they voted to upend the old at-large system back in 2012.

Which brings us to the question of Kshama’s coattails. As far back as the primary, sagging candidates attempted to latch on to the popular incumbent by parroting her views on rent control or appearing in the background at her  frequent press conferences at City Hall. These sometimes cringeworthy efforts didn’t pay off for Jon Grant in Position 8, Bill Bradburd in Position 9, Tammy Morales in District 2, or Michael Maddux in District 4. All four candidates signed on when Sawant rallied her troops around legally dubious proposals for a “millionaires’ tax” and rent control, and against the nearly unanimous recommendations of the mayor’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda committee, but none managed to “Me, too” themselves into office. It may be that Sawant is a phenomenon unto herself, and that her cult of personality, rather than an upswelling of support for the Socialist Alternative agenda, is the reason she (and not Jon Grant) is idealistic young renters’ candidate of choice.

District elections were supposed to mean big changes for Seattle, lowering the bar for entry to give obscure or neighborhood-based candidates a chance to challenge the established order on the council. Although several candidates, such as North Seattle’s Debora Juarez, said they wouldn’t have run if not for district elections, money (and, in races such as Juarez’s, money from outside the district) played a bigger role in this election than ever. This year saw unprecedented independent expenditures in many individual races (Shannon Braddock, Debora Juarez) and unprecedented plain old spending in others (Kshama Sawant). Partly because of all that money, and despite district backers’ insistence that neighborhood-based elections would elect leaders with fresh new perspectives, the “establishment” candidates and incumbents generally prevailed. Meanwhile, the candidates who raised traditional “neighborhood” specters–that homeless encampments would destroy property values, or that development is ruining Seattle’s prewar Craftsman character–didn’t convince voters to support their parochial self-interest over the concerns of the city as a whole.

But in general, if district elections proved one thing, it’s that you can’t get big money out of politics. This year’s election offered even more concrete evidence of that eternal truth, as Honest Elections Seattle raised unprecedented money, much of it from untraceable out-of-town sources, to back a campaign that promised, without a trace of irony, to “Get Big Money Out of Elections!” Yes, yes, it takes money to win elections, and sometimes you have to join ’em in order to beat ’em, but the larger problem here is that even with the modest reforms included in Initiative 122, “big money” will never be “out of politics” until super-PACs can no longer dominate elections with unlimited contributions of unknown provenance. Water finds its level, and any restrictions the city places on local elections ($500 contribution limits; no contributions by big city contractors) are going to have only limited impact until we seal the holes created by that ruling. Honest Elections will probably marginally improve campaign finance in Seattle (that’s why I voted for it), but it won’t make elections honest.

Move Seattle’s decisive victory–against all wagers, if the crowd of nervous tipplers at the party for the transportation levy was any indication–was a victory for several high-pro people, and one future initiative. The levy’s first, and most obvious, political beneficiary was Mayor Ed Murray, an unparalleled dealmaker who managed, unlike his predecessor Mike McGinn, to pass a large, somewhat unfocused transportation levy despite a massive campaign (including relentless negative coverage and editorials from the anti-tax Seattle Times) against the measure. The second was Seattle Department of Transportation director Scott Kubly, a recent transplant who said last night that he had “no idea” how the levy would turn out but who had to know that his future in Seattle was riding, to some extent, on the outcome. And the third was Transportation Choices Coalition director Shefali Ranganathan, who played a key role in the campaign and who–educated guess–is the likely heir to current TCC director Rob Johnson, who conveniently happened to win his own race last night for council district 4.

Oh, and the final winner? Sound Transit, as last night’s vote once again proved Seattle’s appetite for big transportation levies. Sound Transit 3 will be on the ballot in exactly one year; the size and ambition of that measure will be determined, in part, by whether the Sound Transit board believes the region will vote to increase their taxes if those taxes pay for tangible, on-the-ground transportation improvements. Last night, in Seattle at least, the voters said yes.

Going To the Candidates’ Debate(s)

Nine simultaneous council races this year have turned my Twitter feed, at times, into a nonstop livestream of debates and forums where a parade of candidates workshopped their views on every issue from affordable housing to anti-LGBTQ hate crimes to transportation. From Broadview to Highland Park to Rainier Beach, the candidates, sometimes visibly tired and stumbling through their rehearsed remarks, attempted to define themselves against each other, a process that led to some memorable stumbles and some real line-in-the-sand differentiations on major issues. I went to every debate and forum I could, and livetweeted every one. For the still-undecided, or those who remain curious about what the candidates said when only a few dozen people were watching, here’s my roundup of notable moments from the general-election debates, organized by district and position. This post includes only previously unpublished material; for specific debates I covered on this blog or other coverage of the candidates, scroll through my recent posts or search for the candidates you’re interested in.

Remember, Election Day is November 3—get your ballots in or postmarked by 8pm!

District 1 (West Seattle): Lisa Herbold and Shannon Braddock

Lisa Herbold, on the city’s mandatory paid sick and safe leave law

I  was one of the folks involved in the passage of Seattle’s paid sick and safe leave law in 2011. That gave access to 130,000 workers in the city who had no access to paid leave. Three days out sick is a week’s worth of groceries for an average family.

But our laws are only as good as their enforcement. We need funding for both outreach to workers and education and funding investigators to do investigations. And that means targeting those individuals that are most likely to have frequent violations. Complaints should not be the only way to address labor law enforcement.

Shannon Braddock, on racial profiling by police:

The Community Police Commission is a very important part of oversight. My boyfriend, who I’ve been with for about three years, is African-American and I have been pulled over while I’ve been in a car with him more times than I have in my entire life. So having an awareness about that and being accountable to understanding what that means is really important. I know that I am not in a place to understand what it’s like to be profiled like that, but I am willing to be aware of what it’s like and make myself accountable to what it takes to make sure that we are following through [with efforts to combat racially biased policing].

District 2 (Southeast Seattle): Bruce Harrell and Tammy Morales

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Tammy Morales, on police accountability: 

The consent decree that we’re under right now was driven by community activists, civil rights activists, who were concerned about the unconstitutional policing within the city. So that is why we have a consent decree with the DOJ. And I would remind everyone that my opponent was against the intervention before he was for the intervention. It’s really important that this is a community driven process. We have to make sure that [the Community Police Commission] becomes and remains a permanent institution, so that our community has a real say in what factors in to reform.

Second, what I think we can’t do is rely on technology to solve the problem with unconstitutional policing. Body cameras are not the solution. Civil rights organizations across the country have said that surveilling the community is not going to solve the deep structural problem in our police departments. First of all, the cameras aren’t even on the police, they’re on the community. That’s not going to solve the issue. Second, we have video of the police brutality against citizens in this city and nothing is done to them. They’re not investigated, or their cases are settled at taxpayer expense, and those police are still on the force. So if we’re serious about reform, we have to do much more than relying on body cameras, which are expensive and ineffective, and I hope that you will support me in looking for other solutions.

Bruce Harrell, on keeping neighborhoods affordable for residents and small businesses: 

The most affordable housing is the housing people already have. We’re displacing people because they can’t fix their roof, they can’t pay their taxes. So the first thing is, I want to make sure that we preserve as much [housing] as possible. The second thing is, we have to be very aggressive on when we build and what we build around transit-oriented development. We have a lot of low-hanging fruit in terms of areas where we can aggressively build. And the third thing is, we need to get out from under state preemption where we can’t stabilize and look at the rates of rent that we can charge in the city. Our housing is in crisis. Local municipalities should be able to control these policies. We can’t build our way out of the problem.

[With small minority- and immigrant-owned businesses], I would talk to them and, if it was an African-American business,  say, “Are you catering to 8 percent of the population or 100 percent of the population?” And I would actually make our office of economic development assist these businesses with expanding their products and services to make sure they survive.

District 3 (Central Seattle): Kshama Sawant and Pamela Banks

Pamela Banks, on the Move Seattle levy: 

I do support having the districts get to figure out what is implemented in our district. I think our challenge is that we’re dealing with three transit agencies—Sound Transit, Metro and SDOT. We have two streetcars that don’t connect. People are very, very frustrated. I’ve gone to over 1,000 homes and the number one and two issues are transportation and public safety. I think we really have to take a hard look. We cannot continue having every mode of transportation on every street. It is causing gridlock, it is causing havoc in neighborhoods, and I also think the DOT needs to be out talking to people a little bit more. People are appalled about some of the road diets that are happening in District 3 and District 2. People feel like they weren’t notified and that  it’s being done to us and not for us. And i think that that’s one of the things we’re going to have to take a hard look at with the levy, to make sure that everything is equitably distributed, and if we’re going to pass it, we cannot let this levy be a surplant to existing transportation dollars. That’s what tends to happen. Bridging the Gap did not provide everyone everything that was promised. This is a continuation of that levy. We need to make sure that everything is distributed equitably and that we’re getting everything that we paid for.

Kshama Sawant, on expanding parental leave:

I don’t think it’s enough to just say we’ll use our general fund dollars [to expand paid parental leave at the city from four to 12 weeks], because right now the budget is grossly inadequate to meet the needs of our city, let alone the needs for paid leave of city employees. A tax on millionaires is something we want to seriously work on. I know elected officials will tell you that’s not legal, but look at the legal measures like the employee hours tax that the city has refueled to use. And we need to expand the 12-week program to all workers in the city of Seattle. All workers need 12 weeks of paid parental leave. We need to mandate that with all the big businesses as well.

District 4 (Northeast Seattle): Michael Maddux and Rob Johnson

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Michael Maddux, on hate crimes and other challenges facing the LGBTQ community:

We need to make sure we have adequate training, and relevant training, for our officers. This includes all parts of the city. As the only gay candidate, I’ve seen more and more parts of my community being brutalized. We need to make sure we have safe places for everyone across the city of Seattle, and I think part of that is that we need to be more proactive and do a better job of recruiting our officers from within our communities. Right now we have so many officers coming in from other parts of the county, other parts of the tri-county area. Let’s have a police department that looks like us, that represents us, that knows our area, and that cares about our area just as much as we do.

One thing I have focused on throughout my campaign is making sure that we build and staff an LGBTQ-focused community center that has emergency transitional housing on site for homeless LGBTQ youth. I know what that’s like. When I came out of the closet, my mother’s husband was not particularly fond of that fact, and I lived in a shelter. The need is there. We need to make sure that we as a city tell the LGBTQ youth across the city and across our region and across the  whole Northwest that this is where those kids can go, that they do in fact matter, and we’re going to spend the money to ensure they they have the same options at economic development and life that other kids have.

Rob Johnson, on how to keep District 4 affordable:

The most important issue is around funding the public school system. Historically, schools north of the Ship Canal have been able to support a lot of in-school and after-school programs using community-funded, parent-backed fundraising.

The HALA recommendations give us the ability to diversify and bring in more low-income and working families into the North End. One of the most important things we can do is change the way people apply for apartments. Oftentimes, if you want to look at a couple different apartments, you have to apply at several different places and fill out several different forms and pay several different fees. I would like to standardize that form so you only have to fill out form one time.

District 5 (North Seattle): Sandy Brown and Debora Juarez

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Debora Juarez, on why she supports the HALA recommendations:

I’m proud of HALA because it was done with a race and social justice and equity lens. When did a person who had to sleep in a doorway become a trespasser? When did a drug policy called zero tolerance became an education policy? When did a person who had to panhandle for food become an aggressive panhandler and a criminal?

I grew up in a transgenerational community. I think affordable housing means keeping the  character of our neighborhoods and keeping us in our homes and also keeping our kids near us and our parents with us. We’ve got to keep Seattle affordable, and one of the ways that we do that is being really clear about the 65 recommendations that are in the mayor’s HALA report, which I support. We have to have density in particular areas, while recognizing that not everyone can ride a bike to work.

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Sandy Brown, on his concerns about Move Seattle: 

I’m going to vote for Move Seattle because I’m from Seattle and I always vote for whatever levy is on the ballot. But I grieved about it. I looked to see what’s going to be done in District 5. Nothing’s going to be done on Aurora in Move Seattle. Nothing’s going to be done on Lake City Way. It’s great to see that it specifies 101 blocks of pedestrian infrastructure in Broadview, that’s good,  but we’ve got huge needs in North Seattle. Why doesn’t the D [bus] line go all way up Greenwood?  I regret that there are pieces that, to me,  don’t work particularly well for North Seattle. Move Seattle only specified 150 blocks of new sidewalks, out of the 12,000 blocks without sidewalks in Seattle. That seems like not even a down payment on the investment that we need. …

We should have included in Move Seattle sidewalks for all arterials in North Seattle. We have waited many, many years in North Seattle, since annexation, for the city to provide this infrastructure.

District 6 (Northwest Seattle): Mike O’Brien and Catherine Weatbrook

IMG_0765Mike O’Brien, on inequality and the need to house the homeless:

Racism plays a significant role in everything that’s happening in the city. Frankly , I don’t think I fully appreciated how big a role racism plays in our city when I first ran for office. You name the system and embedded in that system is racism. My district is the least racially diverse in the city. …

We live in a process-driven city. It’s not, “Should homeless people live in my community or not?” Homeless people are in our community; they are our community. We have obligation to them. It’s embarrassing that in one of the richest cities in this country and one of the richest countries on this planet, we have to have so many human service providers to meet the basic needs of our people.

When was it decided that a police officer doing outreach on the street should make close to $100,000 but a social workers meeting  with people on the street makes $30,000 or $40,000, and it turns out that the professions that we pay less happen to be the professions that are dominated by women?IMG_1495

Catherine Weatbrook, on why she opposes the Move Seattle levy:

My opponent says it’s great, it’s innovative, it’s wonderful. I actually see it as a complete, abject failure. The reason we have so much of a [transportation] backlog is that we have not forced the developers to pay linkage fees to help maintain our roads. Yeah, there’s great projects in there, but I have a lot of trouble getting behind this without making sure that developers are also paying those impact fees.

District 7 (Downtown, Queen Anne, Magnolia): Sally Bagshaw and Deborah Zech-Artis

Debora Zech-Artis, on the need for more dog parks in District 7:

Down on 3rd and Bell, there used to be big drug park. They brought the dogs in and the drug people went away. We have more dogs than children in this city and we need to have open space for them.

Sally Bagshaw, on Black Lives Matter:

I just read an article by a New York Times writer [expressing] huge concern that we have Black Lives Matter and [saying that], yes, we need to work with the police, but over the past 12 years, 90,000 African-American men went nationwide were killed by African-American men. That is a problem and a disconnect where we have to recognize that we need to work with our police department to make sure that our police have reduced that racial animosity that we know has been felt all across the nation, and we have to recognize at the same time, bringing people into the conversation, that our racial issues start with education. The work that we’ve done with universal pre-K getting our kids ready for school; making sure that parents have good jobs so they can support their families–all of those are things that we want, and people in the city of Seattle need to bring the group back together and talk about how do we make that happen.

Position 8 (Citywide): Jon Grant and Tim Burgess

Jon Grant, on his plan for affordable housing (and why he was the lone “no” vote against the HALA recommendations):

I’ve been on front lines of trying to make Seattle affordable, and we absolutely can ask for more. I was on the mayor’s HALA committee and I was the one person who said we can do more. We call it the Grand Compromise–there were 50 percent of the people on that committee who were representing developers. If that was a grand compromise with the developers, I would like to see a grand compromise with the community. And I think we can do more affordable housing to stop economic displacement. It is outrageous that your rent can be doubled in a single year, and anyone who tells you otherwise is taking money from downtown developers, and that is folly. I have taken a pledge not to take any money from downtown developers so that you know I stand with you.

Tim Burgess, on why he is backing the “Grand Compromise”:

What the mayor has recommended to the city council is going to fundamentally change how city deals with affordable housing. I think it’s remarkable that we had 28 individuals–well, 27, actually–on the mayor’s advisory committee that represented neighborhoods, labor unions, social justice advocacy groups, affordable housing providers, businesses, developers, and landlords. They all  came together and for first time in the city’s history have said, “Let’s make sure that every multifamily building constructed in Seattle is also providing affordable housing, and that every commercial building is contributing its fair share to building affordable housing.”

And both of them, on youth violence prevention:

Position 9 (Citywide): Bill Bradburd and Lorena Gonzalez

Lorena Gonzalez, on HALA and housing policies that have been stacked against low-income people and minorities:

This city council, like any other entity, is a power structure institutionally, historically, and intentionally designed to exclude people like me. I think it’s really important for to us to recognize that these are power structures that make really big decisions that impact your youth, women, people of color, every single day. We have created a system in our city where we push people into certain neighborhoods where they don’t have access to the services they need to be successful. It does not get past me that opportunity is the key to success in our city.

A pro-density candidate can seize on of all of the economic growth we’re experiencing as a city and not be scared of it. We do have to manage it. There’s no question that there is a segment of our population that is being displaced, predominately low-income folks and communities of color and other underrepresented communities s from fixed income people down the line. The HALA recommendations gave us some really solid tools to be able to move the needle so we can have a place for both market-rate housing and for folks who don’t have the capacity to afford market-rate housing.

Bill Bradburd, on the same plan: 

It’s a huge mistake. The Grand Bargain is more of a grand blackmail in order to keep developers from suing the city for putting in more stringent requirements. …

Amazon workers are displacing our people. They’re taking over our land and taking over our city. We need to put far more energy into taking care of our own first. We choose to upzone our neighborhoods and the stuff that goes in is high-priced housing which the people who live here cannot afford. These are the people that want to see gentrification in our city, because they are the people that build the high-end housing that hour communities are being displaced for. The market will not build affordable housing. The city has to be far more actively engaged in subsidizing the production of affordable housing.