Morning Crank: “Some Kind of Magical Treatment Carwash”

1. Homeless service providers and advocates expressed skepticism, and some support, for the idea of consolidating the city and county’s response to homelessness under a single regional agency on Monday. Kevin at SCC Insight has a thorough writeup of the report from NYC-based Future Laboratories, but the key bullet point was the recommendation that Seattle and King County should consolidate all the agencies providing services to people experiencing homeless in the region into a single regional über-agency, while keeping capital projects (i.e. housing construction) under the purview of individual cities.

Some of the issues service providers raised after consultant Marc Dones’ presentation were familiar. Daniel Malone, the director of the Downtown Emergency Service Center, cautioned that in the absence of additional funds for housing, it would be almost pointless to provide more funding for treatment and behavioral health care, which was among Future Labs’ 10 recommendations. “We are not going to realize the benefits from all of those additional investments if we don’t pair them with housing, and too many of the proposals so far are really just for the allocation of additional treatment beds,” Malone said. “There’s this idea that some people have that there’s some kind of magical treatment carwash that we can run people through, and they come out through the other end all better.” In reality, Malone said, it’s hard for people fresh out of treatment to stay on track while living on the street. “We ought to make sure that there’s a commitment to [housing] before we move on the rest of these investment changes.”

Paul Lambros, the longtime head of Plymouth Housing Group, cautioned that any new regional agency needed to have real authority, lest it get “watered down” the way previous efforts at a “regional response to homelessness” have. During the Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness (which wrapped up in 2015 with homelessness more pervasive than ever), “we made recommendations, and then, through … the city council’s process and the county council’s process and others, it got watered [to the point that] there wasn’t a lot of authority there,” Lambros said.

Alison Eisinger, director of the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, agreed with Dones’ statement that the success of a system shouldn’t be judged on how many times someone has to come back to get a new ID, but pushed back on the notion that having to get an ID again and again and again was somehow normal. “Just as we should not require people to share their personal information many, many times over and measure things like how many times someone has gotten an ID card, we should question how it is that peoples ID’s are lost so frequently, including in sweeps that are funded by public dollars,” Eisinger said.

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2. Fred Podesta, the former Finance and Administrative Services Department director who had served for several months as head of the city’s Navigation Team, left the city earlier this month to take a new position as the COO for Seattle Public Schools (Podesta’s reassignment, last August, was widely viewed as a demotion; he took a new). His replacement will reportedly be Jackie St. Louis—the current coordinator for the Navigation Team and part of the social-worker component of the team, which also includes Seattle Police Department officers.

Durkan has been forceful in her support of the Navigation Team, which was doubled in size thanks to a one-time grant from King County in 2018. During last year’s budget negotiations, when council member Teresa Mosqueda proposed rolling back the team to its pre-grant size in order to give city-contracted human service workers a 2 percent raise, Durkan went on the offensive, and one of her deputy mayors, Mike Fong, sent letter to council members suggesting that rolling back the size of the team, which sweeps encampments and directs camp residents to services and shelter beds, would result in “400 more people living on our streets” and “200 more encampments in our parks and public spaces.”

Durkan spokeswoman Chelsea Kellogg says the mayor’s office came up with these numbers by reducing the actual 2018 numbers “by the percentage of the proposed cut.”

In an email labeled “Talking Points-Nav Team cuts,” Durkan staffer Anthony Auriemma suggested several talking points that didn’t make it into Fong’s email, including the claim that if the council rolled back funding for the Navigation Team, “the City will struggle to deliver basic services such as keeping parks open for everyone to enjoy or ensuring sidewalks are safe and accessible.”

It’s hard to say whether Durkan’s office would have actually argued that reducing the Navigation Team to its 2017 size could have forced the city to shut down public parks or that Mosqueda’s plan would have rendered sidewalks across the city unsafe and unusable. It’s easy to see, however, how such talking points (combined with claims that council members were swelling the city’s unsheltered population by hundreds of people) could be politically damaging to council members seeking reelection this fall. Back in November, Durkan’s spokeswoman categorically denied reports that the mayor had called council members to let them know that if they voted against the Navigation Team expansion, they would have to explain to their constituents why they had allowed public safety to deteriorate in their districts.

In the end, Durkan got her permanent Navigation Team expansion, and the human service workers got their 2 percent inflationary pay increase. Imagine what this debate would have looked like during an economic downturn.

End-of-2018 Appeal

File:Seattle New Years Eve Fireworks 2011 (8).jpg

I feel completely confident in saying that 2018 has been The C Is for Crank’s best year yet—full of breaking news, in-depth coverage of people and issues that get short shrift from other media, and the kind of independent journalism on Seattle issues that you just can’t find anywhere else. In the past year, I’ve published almost 180 stories, Morning Crank columns, editorials, and guest op/eds, which represent countless hours of interviews, research, public disclosure requests, and deep dives into the minutiae of legislation, local politics, and the law. When I’m not posting on this site, I’m often breaking news, posting live updates from events, providing quick-hit analysis, or interacting with readers directly on Twitter, which I see as an invaluable tool to supplement the longer stories I write here.

If you’ve been reading me all year and are just looking for a nudge to become one of the hundreds of supporters that make this work sustainable, here you go: I literally can’t do this work without you. This site is ad-free and paywall-free, and I plan to keep it that way, but the only way I can do that is with contributions from readers like you. If  you’ve gotten anything of value out of my work this year—information you wouldn’t have had otherwise, a story you didn’t see anywhere else, or a bit of analysis that made you think—consider kicking in a few bucks a month or making a one-time donation to keep the site going for years to come.

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If you still more convincing—or just a reminder of what I’ve been up to over the last year—here are a few of the stories I’m particularly proud of:

• My ongoing coverage of the drama at the King County Democrats, whose embattled chairman, Bailey Stober, refused to resign despite multiple charges of misconduct, including allegations of improper spending and sexually harassed his lone employee. The drama went on for months as Stober stonewalled, claimed to be the victim of discrimination, and used parliamentary procedure to hang on to power while decisions he had made as chairman (like a $500-a-month deluxe Internet package) pushed the organization to the brink of insolvency. I stayed on top of the Stober story, attending meetings that often stretched well into the night, until he finally stepped down after a 13-hour “trial” at which his supporters impugned the character of his accuser and suggested falsely that she had a drug problem that made her less than credible. Today, the group is solvent and headed up by Shasti Conrad, one of the women who spoke out on behalf of Stober’s accuser and fought for his resignation.

• After I broke the news that a custodial worker had been rushed to the hospital after being stuck by a needle while changing the trash in the women’s restroom at the Ballard branch of the Seattle Public Library (and was told that libraries don’t provide sharps containers because drugs are illegal), I stayed on the story, covering the library’s decision to provide containers for used needles on a pilot basis in several branches where needles are often found. Eventually, the library decided to expand the sharps pilot to every branch and make it permanent—a for which I’m happy to take some credit, as the only person who’s covered this story to date.

• Months before the Seattle Times and other media picked up on the story, I got wind of a planned “reset” for Move Seattle—the $930 million transportation levy that passed in 2015—and reported on it in early April. The reset, which has since been covered in detail by many outlets, including this one, will mean that many of the projects originally promised in the 2015 levy will not get built, and others will be scaled back or postponed.

In that same post, I was also the first to report on the outcome of the One Table process, a joint effort between King County and its cities to determine the root causes of homelessness and come up with a plan for addressing them. The recommendations, such as they were, were “familiar,” I reported: Build more housing and “increase access to existing housing choices.” Critically, One Table never suggested any way to pay for new housing or increased access to existing housing, and—after many cancelled meetings and with nary a press conference to announce the results—the effort ended with a fizzle.

• One of my most-read posts this year was a report on a public forum in Ballard, ostensibly about the proposed head tax, that I believed laid bare the intolerance and indifference to the suffering of others that’s at the heart of some Seattle residents’ opposition to spending a single penny more to help or house people sleeping in tents and huddled in doorways in one of the richest cities in the world. Titled “Tonight In Ballard: Two Hours’ Hate,” it describes what I still consider a low point in the city’s anti-homeless rhetoric, a mob scene where property owners screeched obscenities (inside a church, no less) at a group of officials and volunteers who they had no intention of allowing to speak.

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• When the city’s Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Mandatory Housing Affordability plan was released in May, I was thrilled to learn that in addition to the usual data about environmental impacts—how many cars the plan would add to or remove from the roads; what kind of impact additional housing would have on the urban tree canopy—that it also included a detailed breakdown of the impact exclusive single-family zoning has had on our city’s affordability and diversity. Point by point, the EIS demolished several canards about density, including the belief that allowing more housing in single-family areas will displace low-income people and people of color, and demonstrated clearly how single-family exclusivity has little purpose other than building wealth for incumbent homeowners, who tend to be whiter and wealthier than the average Seattle resident, at the expense of everybody else.

(In a similar vein, I also covered council member Teresa Mosqueda’s proposal to put the hallowed neighborhood plans of the 1990s, which effectively enshrined single-family zoning and restricted rental housing to narrow bands of land along arterial streets, through a race and social justice tool kit to see what impact those plans have really had on low-income people and people of color;  efforts by an anti-housing homeowners’ group to misrepresent a letter from a group of city employees as a smoking gun proving that the city didn’t do any kind of race and social justice analysis on the proposed MHA upzones (they did); and a shouldn’t-be-radical proposal by the city’s Planning Commission to get rid of exclusive single-family zoning altogether.)

• While others in the press were waxing nostalgic (and ignoring pertinent facts) in an all-out campaign to “Save the Showbox,” I covered the efforts to preserve the architecturally unremarkable building—which served as a peep show, a furniture store, a bingo hall, an empty storefront, and a comedy club before beginning its current incarnation as a rock club in the 1990s—with considerably more skepticism. My story on what the city actually did when it voted to “Save the Showbox” (preventing a developer from building apartments on the site, which was recently upzoned to encourage development, and prompting a lawsuit by the property’s owner) puts the decision to add the building to the Pike Place Market Historical District in in a historical and legal context—noting, among other things, that the Showbox itself is owned by AEG, an international promotions company, and that preserving the two-story box in which the club is located doesn’t actually erase the fact that the Showbox is a tenant, or that AEG’s lease ends this year. More recently, I reported on a budding backlash against the Showbox’s chief crusader, Kshama Sawant, from—of all people—her own Capitol Hill constituents.

• In September, I broke the news that Mayor Jenny Durkan and council member Rob Johnson had decided to hire a mediator to soothe tensions between two groups advocating for and against a long-planned protected bike lane on Northeast 35th Street between Wedgwood and Ravenna, after Johnson was targeted with death threats and someone placed explosives on construction equipment located incidentally along the bike lane route. on the road. The bike lane was included in the 2014 Bicycle Master Plan, and was supposed to be completed this year, but Durkan’s office said she decided to add more process to the process after receiving thousands of letters opposing the proposal. As I wrote back in July, the arguments against the bike lane range from the easily disprovable (the city’s analysis found that street parking was never more than 50 percent full within a block of the project, belying claims that removing parking on 35th will destroy businesses) to the absurd (the claim that only “the privileged” want safe bike infrastructure, which will be news to the hundreds of South Seattle bike riders who have been clamoring for safe passage along Rainier Avenue for years). In late November, I spelled out some of the consequences of the city’s lackluster performance on bike lanes, and gave an update on the latest “compromise” plan for 35th—a new “alternative design” that includes no bike lanes at all.

• Earlier this month, I broke the news that Mayor Durkan had given Anne Fennessy—a public affairs consultant who has known Durkan for decades and is the wife of her deputy mayor, David —a $720,000, no-bid contract to serve as the city’s main point of contact during the development of a plan for Sound Transit 3, which will extend light rail to Ballard and West Seattle. Durkan previously hired Fennessy to do an analysis of the planned downtown streetcar, which the mayor put on ice early in her term, and to evaluate the performance of SDOT, which has lacked a permanent director for more than a year.  The agreement is unusual not only because of Durkan and Fennessy’s close relationship, but because Fennessy is primarily a public-affairs consultant, not an expert on the type of technical input she will be coordinating as part of the four-year contract. The Seattle Times picked up on the story, crediting me, later in the day.

• Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t note the debut of a new column by my longtime friend and colleague Josh Feit, called The J Is for Judge, in which Josh issues a verdict on the week’s news. His first column, on the toxic nostalgia surrounding the Showbox debate, was a barn-burner (“the outcry to save the Showbox is just more nostalgic pique from a public in the throes of anxiety about change”); but I also recommend his wonky latest, debunking the conventional wisdom that building market-rate apartments reduces the amount of affordable housing in Seattle.

If you’re convinced that this site offered you something of value in 2018, please please, make a sustaining or one-time donation to keep the momentum going in 2019. Do it now, and enjoy the warm, fuzzy glow of knowing that you supported independent local journalism in 2018. Thank you, and happy new year.

Afternoon Crank: Polls Test Taxing Uber and Challenging Mike O’Brien

1. There’s a new poll in the field, to gauge support for a fee or tax of up to $3 per trip with ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft. The fee, according to the poll script, would raise “between $75 million and $100 million” for “housing for working families,” programs to help the homeless, “transportation programs to reduce congestion,” and benefits for ride-hailing drivers. The poll tests a number of positive and negative statements about the proposal, including (on the con side) the argument that higher prices will encourage more drunk driving, and (on the pro side) that drivers often make less than minimum wage and “are not entitled to many of the same work protections” as regular employees.

Mayor Jenny Durkan has been considering such a tax since at least September, when I reported that her office was considering a per-ride fee on ride-hailing customers. The city could unilaterally impose a fee on ride-hailing customers; in contrast, a toll on drivers who enter the center city—what most people think of when they hear the term “congestion pricing”— would require a public vote.

It’s unclear who’s behind the poll. Representatives for both Uber and Lyft say it wasn’t them, although Uber spokesman Nathan Hambley says the company “would be concerned about any proposal that hurts low income riders and decreases trips for drivers.” The company has said it supports broad-based congestion pricing. Mayor Durkan’s spokesman, Mark Prentice, says, “This is not a City-funded poll.” I have a call out to the Teamsters Local 117, which is working to unionize Uber drivers, to see if the poll is theirs. The mayor’s office says they don’t know who’s behind the poll; they did not immediately respond to a question about whether Durkan plans to propose a ride-hailing fee in the near future, and, if so, which programs such a fee would fund.

Support

2. Another poll—this one a robopoll in Seattle City Council District 6, where Mike O’Brien is the incumbent—is testing voter support for two potential council candidates: 36th District State Representative Gael Tarleton and Fremont Brewing co-owner Sara Nelson, who ran for citywide Council Position 8 last year but didn’t make it past the August primary. Tarleton didn’t respond to a call for comment, but her Twitter feed has focused an awful lot on city of Seattle politics lately; Nelson declined to say whether she plans to run again. O’Brien hasn’t said whether he plans to run for reelection.

If he does, he may have another opponent who wasn’t included in the poll—former city council member Heidi Wills, who lost to David Della (a one-term council member who slapped Wills with the moniker “Rate Hike Heidi” after she voted to raise electric rates) in 2003. Wills, who has spent most of her 15 years out of office as the  executive director of The First Tee, an organization that teaches golf to disadvantaged youth, says she is taking the next couple months to decide whether to run, and will make a decision by the end of January.

One possible sign that Wills is leaning “yes”: The former council member is running for a position on the executive committee of the Washington State chapter of the Sierra Club. O’Brien first got involved in politics through the Seattle chapter of the group, where he has volunteered for more then 15 years; currently, he serves on the Sierra Club’s national board. A position on the Sierra Club’s state leadership team could help inoculate Wills against charges that she lacks O’Brien’s environmental cred. Or it could mean nothing. Either way, it’s probably a good idea to bookmark the city’s 2019 campaign page, because the race for Position 6 is going to be crowded.

City Budget Roundup, Part 2: Tenants’ Rights, Homelessness, and the Streetcar

This is part 2 of a two-part series; part 1 is just below this post, or right here.

I’m leaving town just in time for election day this year (one more year, and it’ll be a trend), but before I do, I wanted to give a quick rundown of what’s happening with the city budget—specifically, what changes council members have proposed to Mayor Jenny Durkan’s budget plan, which holds the line on homelessness spending and includes a couple of controversial funding swaps that reduce potential funding for programs targeting low-income communities. None of these proposals have been passed yet, and the council has not started publicly discussing the cuts it would make to the mayor’s budget to fund any of their proposed new spends; this is just a guide to what council members are thinking about as they move through the budget process.,

This list is by no means comprehensive—the list of the council’s proposed budget changes runs to dozens of pages. It’s just a list of items that caught my eye, and which could cue up budget changes or future legislation in the weeks and months ahead. The budget process wraps up right before Thanksgiving, but the discussions council members are having now could lead to additional new laws—or constrain the mayor’s ability to spend money the council allocates, via provisos that place conditions on that spending—well into the coming year.

Tenants’ Rights

Several proposals would enhance and expand the rights of tenants living in substandard housing or at risk of eviction. One, by council member Mike O’Brien, moves about $600,000 for eviction prevention from the Human Services Department to the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections and stipulates that most of it has to go to community-based groups that do proactive outreach to tenants at risk of eviction who may not know their rights or the resources available to them. This money was allocated last year for the same purpose, O’Brien said, but was inexplicably spent expanding a hotline tenants can call when they need help, rather than letting tenants know that the hotline and other resources exist.

“We were pretty clear, I thought, in our budget last year” that the money was supposed to be spent “really actively going out and finding households that may not be aware of what their rights are and making sure they have access to those resources,” O’Brien said. “What happened last year is that the executive”—at the time, Tim Burgess—”chose to put that funding into increasing the funding for the hotline response work. … It’s hard to see how we could be more clear than last year. But we will try to be more clear.”

Another proposal, by Herbold, would direct SDCI to come up with faster ways to get landlords to address habitability issues, and to prevent evictions when tenants live in substandard properties. Currently, tenants can be evicted from apartments even if the landlord is in serious violation of the city’s building and land-use codes, or if the tenant has withheld rent because an apartment needs serious maintenance to be livable. Two other Herbold proposals would increase tenant relocation assistance for tenants displaced by rising rents and make more tenants eligible for such assistance, and direct Seattle Public Utilities to analyze the eligibility criteria for the city’s Utility Discount Program. Currently, the program—which provides a discount on water and electricity to eligible customers—is only open to people making less than 70 percent of the state median income, or around $42,000 for a household of two; Herbold wants to expand it to people making less than 70 percent of the local median income, or about $56,000.

“It’s hard to see how we could be more clear than last year. But we will try to be more clear.”

SHARE/WHEEL

Nearly a month ago, I wrote:

“[The] issue of SHARE’s shelter funding, like the issue of whether the city will keep paying for bus tickets for its clients, has become something of an annual ritual—and every year, the council finds a few hundred thousand dollars to keep them going. If this year is any different, it will be a notable departure from tradition.”

Turns out that this year isn’t any different. On Thursday, council members agreed to restore funding for basic overnight shelters that SHARE operates in collaboration with several  churches, despite the fact that the controversial organization scored dead last in the Human Service Department’s bidding for shelter funding last year. When SHARE failed to win funding for its shelters through that process, the city provided “bridge” funding that was supposed to get the group through the middle of next year; during that time, they were supposed to come up with a “transition plan” for when the money went away. Last month, HSD deputy director Tiffany Washington said that of all the agencies that received bridge funding and agreed to come up with a transition plan, SHARE was the only service provider that had failed to do so. The reason SHARE gave the city for not abiding by the agreement, according to Washington: They said they had no plans to close down.

Good instinct: As in previous years, the council came through for SHARE, promising $378,000 for the second half of 2019 and $756,000 in 2020.

Image via Streets.mn

Adaptive Signals

Transit, pedestrian, and bike advocates raised concerns that Mayor Durkan’s proposal to fund new “adaptive signals“—traffic lights that respond to traffic volumes, usually by prioritizing drivers over other roadway users—only paid lip service to the idea of accommodating cyclists and pedestrians. In addition to more car-detecting sensors, Durkan’s budget proposed a pilot project that would trigger a “walk” signal once enough pedestrians had gathered at an intersection, as well an app that would signal to traffic lights that a cyclist was present—as long as that cyclist owned a smart phone and happened to have the app running. O’Brien’s proviso would put a hold on the adaptive signal money unless the plan “test[s] or further[s] the development of passive detection of pedestrian, bicycle, and transit modes.”

Homelessness

Mayor Durkan’s budget proposal, which comes on the heels of the city’s botched attempt to tax large businesses to pay for homeless services, essentially flatlined spending on the homelessness crisis, boosting it by a barely-inflationary 3.2 percent between 2018 and 2019. The council could boost that substantially through a number of small and large budget adds, including, potentially, one very big tent.

The big-tent idea apparently originated in Los Angeles, where the city recently erected a massive white tent containing enhanced shelter and services for about 75 homeless Angelenos. Council member Teresa Mosqueda, who proposed the big-tent idea, said she was skeptical until she visited LA, where she discovered that the tent wasn’t just “a FEMA tent” with tents on the floor or bunk beds lining the walls;  it had “partitions between beds, the option for pets and loved ones to come and be together, [and] access to mental health care on site.” Creating an enhanced shelter in a tent, Mosqueda’s office estimates, would cost $6 million over two years. “I offer this up as a potential opportunity for us to think about ways to expand the options that we have along that continuum of housing  … so that if it is more cost-effective, then we can direct more resources to building permanent housing,” Mosqueda said.

Support

And finally, Some more budget restrictions

Council members have frequently expressed annoyance at Durkan for failing to deliver reports on schedule or comply with recommendations from the council or, in the case of one of this year’s budget provisos, the city auditor’s office.

This year, council members proposed placing spending restrictions on two big, expensive ongoing projects. The first is the existing First Hill and South Lake Union streetcar. The mayor is supposed to report to the council twice a year on how the streetcars are doing, both financially and in terms of performance metrics such as ridership and reliability. The last time the mayor’s office provided such a report was in June 2017, when Ed Murray was mayor. “We’ve been waiting on this report for a while, and I’m not sure what the holdup is,” O’Brien said last week. “It should be fairly simple to meet the requirements of this proviso. It’s just unacceptable that we’ve been waiting 18 months for the next report on those two segments of the streetcar system.” Durkan’s budget does include about $9 million in funds over two years to help pay for anticipated streetcar revenue shortfalls up front.

“Another reasonable response might have been to not support continued funding of the Navigation Team, because all the work that was supposed to have been done by the executive by this time this year was not done. So we’re really trying to meet them halfway on this.”

A proposal from Herbold, meanwhile, would require the Navigation Team—a group of police officers and social service workers who remove encampments and direct people living in tents to available services—to submit quarterly reports showing progress on steps the city auditor outlined a year ago before the council would release funding for the coming quarter. Those steps, or “Checkpoints,” include things like creating a plan for “unsheltered individuals to be meaningfully involved in Navigation Team evaluation” and assessments of strategies to prioritize hygiene services and prevent trash from piling up at encampment sites.

Bagshaw said the process Herbold was outlining sounded like “a lot of committee work” for the council, to which Herbold responded: “The issue is that the auditor has made recommendations, and the executive is not in compliance with those recommendations. … I think we’re acting in really good faith. I think another reasonable response might have been to not support continued funding of the Navigation Team, because all the work that was supposed to have been done by the executive by this time this year was not done. So we’re really trying to meet them halfway on this.”

 

Sawant’s City Printer Usage: 26 Hours, One “Tax Amazon” Rally, 4,000 Copies

A little over a week ago, during the council debate over the head tax, council member Sally Bagshaw called out her colleague, council member Kshama Sawant, for using the legislative department’s shared printer to print out a huge number of bright red posters advertising a rally Sawant was holding over the weekend to protest Amazon and create public pressure on the council to support the highest possible tax. “I just don’t think it is right for us to be using city resources or the copy machines to promote something that not all of us agree to,” Bagshaw said.

I wondered just what kind of resources Bagshaw was talking about, so I filed a records request to find out how Sawant’s printer usage compared to other council offices’. (Each office has its own printer, but big jobs—like, say, 11-by-17 color posters for political rallies—must be done on a large color printer in the second-floor printer room).

Unfortunately, the city wasn’t able to provide the most recent month’s invoice to its printer company, Ricoh, because that invoice wasn’t available yet. Printer costs have accelerated steadily through the year, however, growing from $493.86 in January to $1,231.46 in February to about $1,300 in March (the exact total is hard to extrapolate because the March bill includes rent for the copier itself, plus various taxes whose rates are unspecified).

Fortunately, the printer itself does save records for the most recent several days, broken down by document name and the name of the staffer requesting the print job. I made my request on May 14, the day  Bagshaw chided Sawant for using the council’s shared, city-funded printer to create her rally posters, and got records showing all print jobs between 11:02 am on May 10 and 10:19 am on May 14. (According to the council’s public disclosure officer, the printer does not store print records long-term.) Sawant’s “Tax Amazon” rally was on Saturday, May 12.

The documents show that Sawant’s office—specifically, her legislative assistants Ted Virdone and Adam Ziemkowski—printed several thousand posters and other documents related to the rally, including hundreds of chant sheets to guide rally participants during the “March on Amazon.” The printing jobs dwarf other council office’s print requests; moreover, the council offices that did relatively large print jobs during the time when Sawant’s office was using the city printer to produce her rally posters were printing presentations, copies of studies, and agendas for council meetings—not posters for weekend demonstrations against Amazon aimed at pressuring council members to adopt a larger tax.

Between around 2:00 in the afternoon on May 10 and 4:00 in the afternoon on May 11, the day before the rally, Sawant’s office printed:

  • 1,004 copies of a document called “March On Amazon.doc.”
  • 50 copies of a document called “fight bezos bullying.pdf”
  • 75 copies of a document called “tax amazon, no loopholes, no sunset.pdf”
  • 50 copies of a document called “tax amazon – fund housing and services.pdf”
  • 50 copies of a document called “tax amazon, 75 million, no extortion2.pdf”
  • 50 copies of a document called “150m EHT.pdf” (Sawant was pushing for a head tax, or Employee Hours Tax, that would raise $150 million a year)
  • 50 copies of a document called “tax amazon, no bezos durkan deal.pdf”
  • 400 copies of a document called “Tax Amazon chantsheet2.doc”
  • 2,198 copies of a document called “may 11 (two sided).pdf.

It’s unclear, given the limited period of time the records cover, whether Sawant’s office printed other posters and rally-related before 11am on May 10, the earliest time for which printer records are available. It’s unclear from the records which documents were large 11-by-17 posters and which were in full color. However, demonstrators at last Monday’s council meetings on the head tax held signs bearing the same slogans as those in the file names Sawant’s office printed out the previous Friday, and Sawant herself defended her use of the city’s official printer to produce anti-Amazon materials, telling Bagshaw, “You can choose not to use your office for really fighting for the interests of working people and to build movements. I strongly believe that council resources absolutely should be used to further social movements and not for the protection of the interests of the chamber of commerce.”

Overall, Sawant’s office printed out more than 4,000 copies in the approximately 24 hours between the afternoon of May 10 and the afternoon of May 11. (After the rally, their printing needs returned to a normal level—about 40 pages between May 12 and May 14).  No other office came close. Council member Rob Johnson’s office was in second place, with just over 600 copies in the same period (none of them posters), but that was skewed by a single 465-page printout—copies of a PowerPoint presentation on the Families and Education Levy for council members.

Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission director Wayne Barnett told me that he considered Sawant’s use of the city’s printer to produce her rally signs acceptable under city ethics rules, because she was using the posters “to pass legislation.”

If you enjoy the work I do here at The C Is for Crank, please consider becoming a sustaining supporter of the site or making a one-time contribution! 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 time I put into reporting and writing for this blog and on social media, as well as reporting-related and office expenses. Thank you for reading, and I’m truly grateful for your support.

Morning Crank: “An Anthony Weiner Type”

1. The city council got its first look at the revised budget forecast for 2018 yesterday afternoon, and the gist of the presentation can be summed up, more or less, in three graphs. The first shows the rate at which the city’s revenues are projected to grow. In order to just keep city services at current levels, revenues—money coming in from fees and taxes—have to grow at a rate somewhat above inflation, or between 3 and 4 percent. When that doesn’t happen, the city has to make budget cuts.

Although the budget office currently projects growth to exceed inflation (represented by the jagged line on the chart above) for at least the next few years, the city actually needs to see revenue growth well above inflation to pay for all the additional obligations it has committed to, including programs that ongoing but are currently being paid for with one-time funding—or by dipping into the city’s general-fund balance, a cash reserve that grows whenever revenues come in higher than expected. In 2016, the year-end fund balance exceeded $60 million—but since then, the city has been spending far more than it has been taking in, draining the fund to the point that by next year, if nothing changes, the balance will be more than $28 million in the red.

The next chart uses numbers to demonstrate the same problem, and adds an additional ongoing wrinkle: The city anticipates spending about $10 million a year, far more than previously anticipated, paying for “unbudgeted” judgments and claims against the city. By 2020, according to the budget office, the city could face a shortfall of up to $53 million. “We are in a pattern where we are spending down our fund balance,” budget director Ben Noble told the council. “In 2019, given the revenues that we’re forecasting, we would use up all of our remaining fund balance and then some and dip into the red. We can’t do that. We can’t run a deficit.”

On top of that, budget officials told the council Monday, the city needs to figure out how to pay for homelessness programs that were kick-started with onetime funding, a planned safe consumption site, and a long-awaited new accounting system, among other promised programs. “We are supporting some ongoing activities with onetime revenue sources, and what this is saying is that you can’t keep doing that on an ongoing basis,” Noble said. “Our forecast indicates that … the higher growth that we’ve been seeing of late is not going to continue.”

Mayor Jenny Durkan has asked every city department to come up with a budget that reflects cuts of 2 to 5 percent. In a statement Durkan said, “[w]ith a series of one-time spending decisions that carry over into the upcoming years, the City must emphasize its priorities and evaluate sensible cost saving measures.”

2. Former King County Democrats chair Bailey Stober, who just lost his job as communications director for the King County Assessor’s office after an investigation concluded that he “engaged in conduct that was outside the bounds of an appropriate employer-employee relationship” in his position as party chair, told the Seattle Times‘ Jim Brunner yesterday that he will run for the state house seat currently held by Republican Mark Hargrove as an “independent Democrat.” Stober told Brunner that he has the backing of Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus and Kent Mayor Dana Ralph, and claimed to have “made lifelong friends and lifelong enemies” because he has “been involved in politics for more than a decade.” Stober, who previously claimed he has been “in Party leadership” for 11 years, is 26.

Stober’s announcement came just two days before another candidate, Debra Entenman, was expected to announce her candidacy for the same position. Entenman is currently the field director for US Congressman Adam Smith, and has reportedly drummed up significant early support from local Democrats.  The race to defeat Hargrove, a conservative Republican in a relatively moderate South King County district, will reportedly be on the agenda at Wednesday night’s meeting of the 47th District Democrats; both Stober and Entenman are expected to attend.

In the course of looking into the rumor that Stober planned to run on Sunday and Monday, I called around to more than a dozen people who have worked with Stober, including many who consider him a friend, and I heard the same story again and again: Everyone close to Stober was urging him not to run, arguing that he needed to disappear from the public eye for at least a few months and express some semblance of contrition before asking for voters’ support and trust. (Stober did not respond to my request for comment Monday morning). “The worst thing that can happen [with a scandal like the one in which Stober has been implicated] is that you’re a pariah, where you don’t have the change to rehabilitate yourself—an Anthony Weiner type,” one Democrat who called Stober “a really nice guy” who “means well” told me. “He’s delusional if he thinks that Auburn [which is in the 47th District] doesn’t know what’s going on in Seattle.”

3. An eagle-eyed reader pointed out that the copy of the report the King County Assessor commissioned as part of its investigation into Stober’s behavior—a report that cost county taxpayers more than $25,000—was missing two pages. This was the result of an oversight by the assessor’s office (the Seattle Times’ copy had the same omission), which provided the missing pages promptly when I asked for them yesterday. The full report can now be found here, but here’s a taste of what was missing from the original version I posted:

Two undated comments that Mr. Stober made within the “Dream Team” Facebook conversation about other members of the KCD are concerning. See Exhibit 6 and Exhibit 7. In these posts, Mr. Stober first commented about a former state party committeeman and said: “I’ll see if I can print off one more certificate to recognize [Redacted] as party rapist of the year so everyone feels better.” Mr. Stober also commented about a former member of the KCD leadership team and said: “Listen if you all want to clean up the bad blood send [Redacted] a chocolate covered dildo and tell him to get fucked.” Mr. Stober and another witness who participated in the “Dream Team” Facebook conversation provided an overview of events within the Washington Democratic party that they said provide context for these comments. Nevertheless, we find Mr. Stober’s choice of words to be wholly inappropriate.

One witness showed us, but declined to share, cell phone video clips of Mr. Stober apparently intoxicated at KCD-related events. Other witnesses reported (i) personally feeling pressure from Mr. Stober to drink and/or (ii) personally observing Mr. Stober pressure others to drink. These accounts lend support to Ms. Koss Vallejo’s claim that Mr. Stober also pressured her to drink. Moreover, prior to the Code of Conduct complaint, a number of witnesses either observed or heard from Ms. Koss Vallejo that she felt she had to (and did) drink socially with Mr. Stober in connection with her role as KCD Executive Director. Finally, we note that at least one individual who declined to be interviewed reportedly reached out to Mr. Stober about seeking professional help regarding his consumption of alcohol.

Read the whole 29-page report here.

4. Secretary of State Kim Wyman showed up at the King County Council yesterday to testify against legislation, sponsored by council member Dave Upthegrove and supported by the council’s six Democrats, that would provide postage-paid ballots to every King County voter in this year’s primary and general elections. The measure, which would cost the county up to $381,000, is aimed at increasing voter turnout in King County; a February 2017 trial run in two King County jurisdictions, Shoreline and Maple Valley, found that prepaid ballots increased the percentage of ballots returned by mail from 43 percent (in the 2016 general election) to 74 percent during the pilot.

Speaking against the legislation, Wyman, a Republican, said that any prepaid ballot program should be implemented statewide, not on a county-by-county basis. “This decision should not be made in a vacuum because the impacts [don’t happen] in a vacuum,” Wyman said. In response, county council member Claudia Balducci tweeted: “I really don’t understand SOS Wyman’s objections. Each County puts out & collects their own ballots for federal, state & local elections. How could KC paying postage confuse voters or impact other Counties in any way? It didn’t affect us when Pierce Co did this a few years ago.”

Wyman, a Republican, won’t be up for reelection until 2020, but it’s worth noting that increased voter turnout in King County means increased Democratic turnout in all statewide races and in legislative districts that include parts of King County. Democrats hoping to turn the Eastside blue in 2018 would only benefit from measures that make it easy for King County voters to cast their ballots.

If you enjoy the work I do here at The C Is for Crank, please consider becoming a sustaining supporter of the site or making a one-time contribution! 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 time I put into reporting and writing for this blog and on social media, as well as reporting-related and office expenses. Thank you for reading, and I’m truly grateful for your support.

 

Embattled King County Democrats Chair Remains in Power, But Financial and Political Difficulties Deepen

Quick commercial break: This story took many hours of reporting, including but by no means limited to most of the day today and the five-hour meeting I sat through in Tukwila last night. If you enjoy the work I do here at The C Is for Crank, including long-form stories like this one, please consider becoming a sustaining supporter of the site or making a one-time contribution! 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 time I put into reporting and writing for this blog and on social media, as well as reporting-related and office expenses. Thank you for reading, and I’m truly grateful for your support.

In a meeting Tuesday night in Tukwila that lasted nearly five hours, including an almost three-hour closed-door executive session from which officials repeatedly emerged to make sure no members of the press were listening at the doors and that no members of the body were “leaking” information about what was going on inside, the King County Democrats decided to appoint a five-member panel to conduct a new investigation into the group’s embattled chairman, Bailey Stober.  Stober, as I reported Monday, is accused of verbally harassing and bullying the group’s former executive director Natalia Koss Vallejo, whom he fired on February 2, and misusing party funds.

Stober did not step down and continues to deny every charge against him. He has been on paid administrative leave from his job as communications director for King County Assessor John Arthur Wilson since February 12 “so the Department of Assessments can gather and review information about allegations against him related to his position as Chair of the King County Democrats,” according to King County chief deputy assessor Al Dams.

The panel charged with investigating Stober, which is supposed to be appointed within the next two to three days, will include two people hand-picked by Stober himself. The third member is supposed to be appointed jointly by Stober and the two party vice-chairs who investigated the initial complaint and concluded that most of the charges were “founded,” and the other two are supposed to be appointed by the vice-chairs. I say “supposed to” because one of the two remaining vice chairs, Michael Maddux, resigned on Wednesday night; a second vice chair, Cat Williams, had already stepped down before last night’s meeting and sent a statement to the meeting about why she stepped down, which was read during the executive session. On Wednesday night, Maddux told me he resigned because Stober “does not care about protecting workers.  In fact, thanks to expanding the scope of the investigation to include finding whoever leaked [the vice chairs’ report on the complaint], what they really care about is protecting themselves—not protecting, workers not protecting women. It shows what their priorities are, and that’s not an organization I’m willing to be associated with.”

On Wednesday night, former vice chair Michael Maddux said he resigned because Stober “does not care about protecting workers.  In fact, thanks to expanding the scope of the investigation to include finding whoever leaked [the vice chairs’ report on the complaint], what they really care about is protecting themselves.

“It shows what their priorities are, and that’s not an organization I’m willing to be associated with.”

The group will also do a separate investigation, requested by Stober, into the vice chairs’ investigation itself, which Stober and his supporters say was unfair and incomplete. In his complaint, Stober claims, among other charges, that the vice chairs violated the group’s anti-harassment policy by “promoting and sharing ‘offensive written comments,'” which appears to refer to the obscene names he is accused of using to describe Koss Vallejo. Finally, the group plans to do another separate investigation, added last night, into who “leaked” documents and details of what transpired during the executive session Tuesday night to the press, including me. (More on that in a moment.)

According to the report on the complaint distributed in yesterday’s closed session, Koss Vallejo described

extensive harassment on behalf of Stober, including being called ‘bitch,’ ‘cunt,’ ‘slut,’ and being demeaned regularly in front of other people in the political community. She recounted him taking her phone and posting an obscene post to her Facebook while she was using the restroom, and not alerting her for an hour, during which numerous people saw and interacted with the post. She recounted an instance wherein she was driving, and Stober was a passenger, and he sprayed a bottle of silly string in her face and mouth, while recording on his phone, ultimately posting to Instagram. She reported numerous instances of Stober making threats with financials toward her, and referring to her and [another party cited in the complaint] in derogatory terms when they questioned the efficacy of his spending habits. She described extensive demands on her to engage in excessive drinking, and last minute trips to Eastern Washington, with fears of retaliation if she did not comply. [Koss Vallejo has requested a separate meeting to discuss her termination and indicated potential retaliation from Stober. She expressed concerns about Stober sharing misinformation about her termination during the upcoming Special Meeting.

The atmosphere at Tuesday night’s marathon meeting was one of grievance, anger, and high-pitched paranoia. Before those of us who were not voting or invited members of the group were asked to leave, the group’s treasurer, Nancy Podschwit, confirmed and elaborated on what she told me over the weekend: The King County Democrats are out of money, and have been both overspending and bringing in far less money than their budget assumes. In January and February of this year, according to a documented distributed by Podschwit, the organization was supposed to bring in $27,649. Instead, they raised just $7,023, leaving the group with just $3,886 at the end of February. Podscwit said yesterday that the group will be “in the red three grand” by the time she pays all their bills this month, including an $1,800-a-month lease for office space in Auburn, and that’s before an anticipated fine stemming from campaign reporting violation charges from the state attorney general’s office that could total tens of thousands of dollars more.

“She described extensive demands on her to engage in excessive drinking, and last minute trips to Eastern Washington, with fears of retaliation if she did not comply.”

Last night, Stober, who told me over the weekend that the organization was doing fine financially—”I am sitting in the Party office with the rent paid, lights on, heat blasting and nothing is suffering here,” he said—suddenly produced a check for $5,000 he said he had just procured; later, I confirmed that this check was from King County Executive Dow Constantine, who pledged the money in November and just paid up this month. However, Wednesday afternoon, Constantine confirmed that he had rescinded the check pending the outcome of the investigation. In response to my tweet confirming that he had asked for the money back, Constantine tweeted, “The recent check to the King County Democrats has been put on hold. It was for the balance of a pledge from 2017. I regularly donate to the State, County, and my local LD Dem organizations, and others. I look forward to helping KCD again as soon as this issue has been resolved.”

In last night’s executive session, Podshwit said Stober’s spending outside what was allowed by the adopted budget included $3,000 in excessive expenditures on travel and entertainment and $14,000 in excessive expenditures on candidate contributions. Podschwit said that she had resigned three times over what she considered Stober’s excessive spending, and that whenever she questioned him about spending funds that were not authorized by the adopted budget, she was told that he had “ultimate power.”

For more details on Stober’s spending, which included thousands of dollars on hotels, at bars and restaurants, and a weekend Vashon Island retreat for party members at a pricey Airbnb house that included a hot tub, check out my original post.

In last night’s executive session, Stober was asked to step aside temporarily while the investigation was ungoing; he refused.  “No. You want to come see the evidence, come see the evidence,” he said. Stober was also given the opportunity to speak at length about how he felt about the allegations. (Koss Vallejo and her invited witnesses were not allowed to speak, except to answer a single question about what time on February 2 Stober fired Koss Vallejo). Stober claimed his attorney had told him that his opponents could not try him in a court of law but that they would try him “in the court of public opinion,” and spoke repeatedly about “justice” and “due process,” invoking Martin Luther King Junior and the fact that “we teach our children the value of fairness” but seem to have forgotten what that means. He spoke so loudly and adamantly that at one point, a member asked him to take a less aggressive tone, and he responded by saying that people tend to get fired up when they’re “falsely accused.”

When I spoke with him by phone and later by email over the weekend, Stober denied all of the charges, including the financial allegations and the claim that he bullied or used inappropriate language around Koss Vallejo. “When there’s an investigation committee or whatever the board decides to  do, you wouldn’t see me saying any of those things,” Stober told me. “You wouldn’t see anything like that. As soon as I give it to an investigator, I’m more than happy to say it to the media as well. It’s just not existent. I went through every text, every Facebook message, every email exchange I ever have had—no.”

The allegations, it’s worth noting, appear to be about verbal, not written, communications; therefore, any review of documents would not address the verbal behavior that was described in the complaint. However, screen shots of what appear to be text message exchanges between Stober, Koss-Vallejo, and another Party official appear to contradict at least the spirit of Stober’s claim. In the texts, Stober appears to make numerous disparaging jokes about women, complaining that the organizers of the Women’s March in Seattle chose to hold their annual Day of Action on January 21, one day after the King County Democrats had planned their own event. “Goddamnit, we need to tell the Women’s March to know their fucking role,” a text message that appears to be from Stober says. “THEY GONNA BAKE COOKIES ALL DAY TO PROTEST? CLEAN THE HOUSE?? JESUS.” In another message, Stober appears to joke about printing off an award certificate recognizing a party member accused of raping a woman at the group’s annual retreat last year as “party rapist of the year so everyone feels better.” Another shows an image of a monkey at a desk, with the message “Honestly looks like Natalia trying to work.”

In another message, Stober appears to joke about printing off an award certificate recognizing a party member accused of raping a woman at the group’s annual retreat last year as “party rapist of the year so everyone feels better.”

I asked Stober specifically about these messages, along with another one suggesting that another person in the thread “send [former King County Democratic Party chair] Rich Erwin a chocolate covered dildo and tell him to get fucked,” via email. Stober responded: “I’m not going to have this trial occur in the media – it doesn’t respect my board, the process or due process. But I will say this – my close circle of friends and advisors have engaged in internal jokes and conversations that could have and should have been avoided and we will address that and improve. But for Natalia to pretend that is one sided is a far stretch. … Here is one of MANY screenshots I’ll be turning over to investigators to show Natalia engaging in the same behavior she’s now accusing others of.”

Attached was a screen shot of an apparent text message exchange in which Koss Vallejo making a mild fat-shaming joke about an unknown person. The implication appeared to be that if an employee who answered to Stober made off-color jokes, it makes his own comments excusable. One important issue that has surfaced during the #MeToo era is the fact that women in subordinate positions who have been harassed or sexually assaulted by more powerful men (such as men who have the ability to fire them) often appear “chummy” with the men who are targeting them (a word used by one of Stober’s defenders, 34th District Democrats chairman David Ginsberg, in the initial story on the complaint in the Seattle Times), appearing cheerful in photos or going along with behavior they may not feel comfortable with.
Stober has consistently claimed that he did not get an opportunity to respond to the vice chairs’ investigation, and specifically that he was not given an opportunity to be interviewed himself. Last night, he said the meeting was “the first time I have ever seen” the full report on the investigation. The vice-chairs, he said in our conversation last weekend, reached out to him late in the afternoon of February 2, when the complaint was filed, and told him that “they were going to interview me. All I asked for is, ‘I can’t do it this week, but I can do it any time after that.’ My week was booked.” That same day, Stober called a special meeting of the Democrats so he could hold an executive session “to brief the board on sensitive materials.” Those materials turned out to include details about why he said he fired Koss Vallejo, according to witnesses.
Back at the King County Democrats meeting, I spent three hours sitting outside the room with several representatives from the live-streaming organization King County Precinct Committee Officers Media Group and a number of people who had been asked to leave the room. I set up my computer on the floor outside, where, very quickly, it became obvious that Stober and his allies were extremely concerned about “leaks” from people inside the meeting. Not only did Stober claim, in open session, that people who talked to the press about what happened in executive session might be subject to a libel lawsuit, he claimed in the executive session to have “sworn statements” from “members of the media” that would prove that the vice chairs had leaked documents about the investigation before he had a chance to review them. At one point, a  sergeant at arms came out and told me she had been asked to stand watch over me and make sure I didn’t communicate with anyone inside the meeting. (I declined to let her stand over my shoulder and look at my computer, and she made it clear she didn’t have any interest in doing so in the first place.) The sergeant at arms, Galaxy Marshall, told me she had also been told that I went into the women’s restroom at the same time as Koss Vallejo, and that she was supposed to ask me what we talked about. Obviously, I declined to do that as well (it was clear that Marshall didn’t want to monitor me at the time, and she said as much herself on Twitter the following day.)
In the day or so since the meeting, I have spoken to several members of the King County Democrats who are thinking of leaving the group. Their shared frustration can be summed up as: This is not what we signed up for. Even if there is a new investigation into Stober, the vice chairs, and the so-called “leakers,” it will almost certainly take months, and require everyone involved, including Koss Vallejo, to be interviewed again, a process that could involve responding to submissions from Stober like the trove of text messages from Koss Vallejo that he appears to believe will vindicate him. Stober has reportedly suggested that bad press from “leaks” is at least partly to blame for the group’s anemic fundraising. I would argue that the existence of a significant investigation into sexual harassment and financial impropriety is more damaging to the King County Democrats than “leaks.” Moreover, “find the leakers” is a phrase more closely associated with a different political party.
*Quick civics lesson: Whistleblowing, or “leaking,” is free speech protected under the First Amendment that is backed up by considerable case law. Truth is an absolute defense to libel. Reporting a fact that another person wants to conceal is not libel. Also, Robert’s Rules of Order, the rules under which the King County Democrats generally operate, is not the law.

BREAKING: Seattle City Attorney Charges Ex-Candidate Sheley Secrest With Theft, False Reporting

Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes has filed criminal charges against former city council candidate Sheley Secrest, who allegedly used her own money to make it appear that she had more contributions toward the 400 required to qualify for democracy vouchers than she actually had. Secrest ran unsuccessfully for council Position 8, which is now held by Teresa Mosqueda, last year.

The charges include one misdemeanor charge of false reporting, which relates to the false reports Secrest allegedly filed with the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission, and one gross misdemeanor charge of attempted theft, which refers to the potential $150,000* Secrest attempted to receive from the city through publicly funded democracy vouchers. The 2017 election was the first election in which candidates could qualify for democracy vouchers—$100 in contributions that voters can give to the candidate or candidates of their choice. To qualify for democracy vouchers, candidates had to get 400 signatures, along with small contributions of $10 or more, from Seattle voters. As the Seattle Times reported last year, Secrest’s former campaign manager, Patrick Burke, alleged that Secrest used $560 of her own money and misrepresented it as coming from voters who signed a petition to qualify her for the vouchers. (Secrest did not end up qualifying even with the disputed funds.)

Last year, Burke filed a police report charging that Secrest had told him to collect signatures and not to worry about getting the necessary corresponding contributions; after he turned in 56 signatures at the Trans Pride Festival and at a local high school, he says, Secrest pulled $600 in 20-dollar bills from her purse and handed him $560. Secrest has denied all the allegations.

Burke, who says he is now living at a Salvation Army homeless shelter, has also charged that Secrest failed to pay him more than $3,300 for his services as her campaign manager. (The Ethics and Elections Commission reports that the Secrest campaign paid Burke just over $1,300 and owes him $1,675, but says he was also promised 11.8 percent in bonus pay based on how many signatures and contributions he brought in.) He has a hearing this afternoon in his small-claims case against Secrest. (More about that in tomorrow’s Morning Crank.) ”

“[Secrest] said, ‘If you can stick with this until we get the democracy vouchers, it will be worth your while,'” Burke says, “and I said, ‘If that’s what we need to do, let’s just push it and get done, but you have to understand that I can’t be at all the events that you need me to be at.” Burke says that by the time he was fired from the campaign, in July of last year, he could not afford to keep his phone on or pay for bus fare; part of his dispute is that Secrest paid new vendors before she paid him.

Secrest says Burke “has been paid for all services performed before the date of his termination,” adding, “Washington is an at-will employment state, meaning an employer does not need cause to fire an employee.  In this matter, we repeatedly informed Patrick that we could not afford to keep him on staff. We clearly told him to stop working for pay, and we repeatedly told him that we will reach out once funds were available.”

I have reached out to Secrest for comment on the charges against her, and will update this post if she responds.

The penalty for the simple misdemeanor charge is up to three months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000; for the gross misdemeanor, up to five years in jail and a fine of up to $5,000.

In Portland, voters shut down a similar public-financing program after one candidate misappropriated more than $90,000 in public funds, and another was convicted for forging signatures.

This is a breaking news post and I will update as more information becomes available.

If you enjoy the work I do here at The C Is for Crank, please consider becoming a sustaining supporter of the site or making a one-time contribution! 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 time I put into reporting and writing for this blog and on social media, as well as reporting-related and office expenses. Thank you for reading, and I’m truly grateful for your support.

The Real Surprise in Durkan’s Staffing Announcement Was Who Wasn’t Mentioned

ULI-081

Last Friday, MayorJenny Durkan announced the departure of Seattle Department of Transportation director Scott Kubly, who got in trouble over his role in promoting a now-defunct bikeshare company affiliated with his former employer, and Patricia Lally, head of the city’s Office for Civil Rights. Durkan replaced both Kubly and Lally with interim directors from outside the city—former SDOT director Goran Sparrman and former Youth Violence Initiative director Mariko Lockhart. Kubly reportedly lobbied hard to keep his job, but that was probably never in the cards—his fans saw a visionary, big-picture leader, but his detractors inside and outside the city saw an outsider (from Austin by way of D.C. and Chicago) who threw elbows at too many people.

Durkan also announced a number of department heads she plans to keep, including Office of Housing director Steve Walker, Human Services Department director Catherine Lester, and Department of Education and Early Learning director Dwane Chappelle.

One name that wasn’t on either list was Department of Neighborhoods director Kathy Nyland, the onetime Georgetown neighborhood activist who emerged as one of the most transformative figures of the last four years. Nyland reorganized and attempted to remove the deadweight from DON (her email signature: “New Day, New DON!”, which had been the city department where miscellaneous programs went to languish, and to reimagine the concept of “neighborhoods” itself, to include the renters, immigrants, and newcomers who actually make up the majority of the city. Nyland’s dedication to inclusiveness riled the old-guard neighborhood movement—single-family homeowners, mostly white baby boomers, who tended to oppose changes that would add new people, particularly “transient” renters, to their” neighborhoods.

Those old-guard activists lost big during the last election—NIMBY darlings Jon Grant, Pat Murakami, and Bob Hasegawa lost decisively—but are hoping Durkan won’t realize that their time has passed.

The biggest rift between Nyland and the old guard came when Murray announced that the city would no longer fund or staff the 13 neighborhood district councils, and would dedicate the money they had spent supporting the councils to other purposes. Nyland took the brunt of the blame, as neighborhood activists accused her of failing to get their input and shutting them out of the system they have dominated for decades.  On the campaign trail, Durkan talked about “bringing back the district councils,” and said she thinks “the city has quit listening to the neighborhoods’ needs.”

They haven’t—they’ve just started listening to underrepresented people, too—and as Nyland has pointed out, when you’re used to being the only voice in the room, inclusion can feel like an affront. But neighborhoods are made up of renters, immigrants, night-shift workers, and young people, too. It would be a shame if complaints from activists who want to restore things to the “good old days” of Seattle circa 1990 were successful at pushing out an effective advocate whose work is just getting started.

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.