1. The King County Regional Policy Committee, which includes members of the Seattle City Council and King County Council as well as several suburban mayors, voted yesterday to move a proposal to renew and expand the King County Veterans and Human Services levy (now known as the Veterans, Seniors, and Human Services Levy) one step closer to the November ballot. The committee debated, but didn’t take a position on, the size of the levy, which under a proposal by King County Executive Dow Constantine would increase from five to 12 cents per $1,000 of property valuation. Kent Mayor Suzette Cook, a member of the Sound Cities Association of suburban cities, proposed reducing the renewal measure from 12 cents to 10, while advocates for seniors and people with criminal convictions in the audience advocated an increase to 15, which would represent a tripling of the levy.
The testimony, which stretched more than an hour, whipsawed between senior citizens praising Constantine for including seniors in his proposal, and advocates for active drug users and people with criminal convictions asking the committee to add programs that provide housing for those hard-to-house groups to the levy. Not This Time founder Andre Taylor’s testimony about being unable to rent an apartment in Seattle because of a conviction 20 years ago was followed moments later by an advocate for senior citizens who are losing their sight. Although both groups wore green scarves to symbolize their support for increasing the levy, those who supported housing for people with criminal convictions and active drug users hung an additional symbol—an orange strip of fabric—around their necks; none of the people wearing green scarves spoke in favor of the proposal, possibly because housing senior citizens is much less contentious than housing active drug users and people with criminal convictions.
“Everybody lives somewhere,” Public Defender Association director Lisa Daugaard said. “If it is on the street and in public, in our cities and in unincorporated King County, that is an insurmountable impact to quality of life,” both for people who can’t find housing and people who encounter them on the street. Most housing for people with substance use disorders require total abstinence from drugs and alcohol, which gets the equation exactly backward; for people living on the street, getting clean and sober can be an insurmountable challenge, but harm-reduction studies have shown consistently that people’s quality of life improves once they have housing, even if they keep using drugs or alcohol.
The levy proposal now heads to the county council, which will send a final version back to the committee by July.
2. In response to news that billionaire investor and Celtics minority owner David Bonderman, a key player in the Oak View Group of investors that Mayor Ed Murray recently selected to rebuild Key Arena, had resigned from the board of Uber after making sexist comments, Murray said yesterday, “businesses that wish to partner with the City of Seattle must share our values of equity and inclusion. Because of the negative impact of attitudes and comments like these, we will engage with Oak View Group during our negotiation to ensure our partnership is built on and reflective of Seattle’s values.” Asked what form that “engagement” will take, mayoral spokesman Benton Strong said that was “being discussed.”
3. Former 46th District state Rep. Jessyn Farrell won the straw poll and went home with a slightly crumpled straw cowboy hat at conclusion of the the 34th District Democrats’ mayoral forum in West Seattle last night, after two rounds of questions that initially winnowed ten candidates (including unfamiliar faces like SPD officer James Norton and business consultant Tinell Cato) down to three familiar ones (former US Attorney Jenny Durkan, vFarrell, and current 11th District state Sen. Bob Hasegawa), then two (Farrell and Hasegawa) then one.
A few things I heard last night, in no particular order:
Michael Harris, TV producer and tailored-suit aficionado, on what he’d bring to the table as mayor: “The ethic that I’ve learned as an ABC producer is that I get I there and immerse.”
Mike McGinn, former mayor: “We tax regressively. We need to spend progressively. I would hold the line on sales taxes and property taxes.”
Jenny Durkan, on the need to keep Seattle’s neighborhoods unique in the future: “If you held a gun to some people’s heads and said, ‘You have to move from West Seattle to Capitol Hill,’ they would say, ‘No way.'”
Jessyn Farrell, on her solution for “food deserts” like Delridge, where grocery stores are few and far between: “There’s a real role for government to step in. By using incentives and disincentives we can foster more small businesses and [reduce] barriers. We could be asking grocery stores to do more when we’re granting permits.”
Hasegawa, same question: “I’m all for supporting mom and pop grocery stores to start up in the neighborhoods, but the easier way is to really build out our transit system so people can get where they want to go easily.”
Hasegawa, on how he would pay for that: “A municipal bank.”
Hasegawa, asked whether he would prefer to have lots of homeless children or lots of homeless single men. “I’m a politician, I guess we’ll work through [the question.]” (Proceeds to talk out the clock.)
Jenny Durkan, on whether it’s appropriate for schools to employ uniformed SPD officers as “community resource officers”: “One of things we found out from SPD’s own data is that 75 percent of the time, when an officer used force, it was either someone in a mental health crisis or under the influence of drugs and alcohol.” (Proceeds to talk out the clock.)
McGinn, on whether he supports or opposes the soda tax that just passed (everyone else held up their “no” signs): ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Everybody, on whether the city should annex North Highline, an unincorporated area near White Center: “¯\_(ツ)_/¯”
The 34th District Democrats did not make a formal endorsement last night.
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