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.

“Corporate” Contributions: Not Really a Thing in Seattle (Updated)

This originally ran as item 3 in today’s Morning Crank. 

Update at 12:30 on Wednesday: After I posted this item this morning, the right-wing Freedom Foundation announced that it was filing a lawsuit challenging the city of Seattle’s new income tax. The attorneys representing the group: Lane Powell. As I reported on Twitter, Lane Powell attorneys have contributed nearly $3,000 to Jenny Durkan—far more than they have to any other mayoral candidate, including current Mayor Ed Murray, back when he was still running for reelection. Durkan has expressed skepticism over the legality of the tax.

Every year, lefty candidates in Seattle races try to distinguish themselves by pledging “not to accept any money from corporations or developers,” suggesting by implication that their opponent is financed by (and in the pocket of) big corporations. For example, in this year’s mayoral race, Cary Moon, and Nikkita Oliver both pledged that they would not take direct contributions from corporations or developers, and in the race to fill city council Position 8, both Jon Grant and Teresa Mosqueda made a similar vow Moon and Oliver were trying to distinguish themselves from their business-endorsed opponent Jenny Durkan, and Grant and Mosqueda from their business-endorsed opponent Sara Nelson.

It all sounds very principled: “Even if it costs me the election, I will decline all corporate contributions, because my values aren’t corporate values.” But it’s just about the easiest promise any candidate can make—because corporate contributions are basically nonexistent in Seattle.

Obviously, the Seattle Chamber and other business groups support certain candidates (often, in recent years, by funding independent expenditure campaigns), but corporations don’t typically give to individual candidates, making this perennial pledge little more than an empty applause line. I took a look at the contributor lists for the frontrunners in this year’s mayoral and council races, and found that, after Oliver and Moon (who, indeed, took no direct contributions from business), the candidate who took the smallest percentage of contributions from businesses—just 1 percent—was actually … Jenny Durkan. (Jessyn Farrell tied Durkan’s 1 percent.) Three percent of populist state legislator Bob Hasegawa’s contributions came from businesses, as did 2 percent of Mike McGinn’s. Worth noting: 60 percent of Moon’s money came from her own bank account; as Moon herself has said, she was able to self-finance largely because of family money, which came from the family … business.

In Position 8, the pattern is similar. While neither Mosqueda nor Grant received any money from businesses, “business” candidate Nelson got just 4 percent of her money from businesses.

All candidates, including Oliver, Moon, Mosqueda, and Grant, received contributions from people who work for corporations, including Amazon, Microsoft, Vulcan, and Google.

So the next time a candidate points to “refusing corporate contributions” as a point of pride, you might want to point out that businesses don’t really contribute to Seattle campaigns—even to “business” candidates.

* Of course, businesses do fund independent expenditure campaigns, which cannot be coordinated with candidates.

** Part of the reason business contributions make up such a small percentage of campaign war chests in Seattle is that contributions are limited to $500. The limit is designed to reduce the influence any one contributor can have over a candidate, and it serves its purpose.

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

Morning Crank: How About You Just Rent Them the Apartment?


Image result for no vacancy sign

1. The council’s civil rights, utilities, economic development, and arts committee unanimously passed legislation yesterday morning that will bar landlords from considering potential tenants’ criminal records, unless they were convicted of a sex offense as an adult. Council member Mike O’Brien offered two amendments to the legislation, which I wrote about last week: The first removes an exemption to the new rule for landlords of buildings with four units or fewer who live on site, and the second removes the so-called two-year lookback, which would have allowed landlords to consider a tenant’s criminal history going back two years.

Council member Debora Juarez, a former Superior and Municipal Court judge, said both amendments addressed a fundamental problem with the original bill: It created different classes of landlords and renters. The four-unit exemption, she said, gave extra privileges—essentially, the right to discriminate—to landlords who happened to own smaller buildings and live in one of the units, and the two-year lookback put tenants with more recent criminal histories in the position of begging landlords, on a case-by-case basis, to take them despite their criminal record. “It’s pretty clear that people of color and low-income people are being disproportionately denied and discriminated against … based on the fact that they have criminal records,” Juarez said. “I think you should just eliminate [the lookback period]. How about you don’t consider anything [other than a tenant’s ability to pay]—you just rent them the apartment?”

Herbold, who expressed concern last week that some small landlords might get out of the business if they had to rent to people with recent criminal records, said yesterday that she had decided “to vote according to my values and what I feel is best for renters in this city.” The proposal goes to the full council next Monday.

2. Council member Sally Bagshaw’s health and human services committee will take up the recommendations of the Vehicular Living Workgroup, which has been meeting since March to come up with “solutions that meet the needs of vulnerable populations living in vehicles due to inaccessible housing and address neighborhood impacts of vehicular living,” at 2:00 this afternoon. The meeting will be just for discussion; no legislation will be introduced.

The recommendations include a mitigation fund to help RV residents and other people living in their vehicles pay their parking tickets; additional outreach services; and a citywide “safe parking” program that would allow people living in vehicles to park safely in small groups (no more than five or six vehicles at one place) around the city. The recommendations do not, notably, include banning the estimated 1,000 people who live in their vehicles from parking inside city limits, and that has gotten the attention of the folks at Safe Seattle, a group opposed to allowing people to live outdoors or in their vehicles. Commenters on the group’s Facebook page have called Bagshaw “dangerous,” accused the council of “turning our precious city streets into desolate drug & crime ridden RV parks,” included the hashtag “shitforbrains,” and accused council member O’Brien of intentionally unleashing “blight” throughout the city as part of a conspiracy to drive families to the suburbs so the whole city can be redeveloped into apartments.

The public comment period will be 20 minutes.

3. Every year, lefty candidates in Seattle races try to distinguish themselves by pledging “not to accept any money from corporations or developers,” suggesting by implication that their opponent is financed by (and in the pocket of) big corporations. For example, in this year’s mayoral race, Cary Moon, and Nikkita Oliver both pledged that they would not take direct contributions from corporations or developers, and in the race to fill city council Position 8, both Jon Grant and Teresa Mosqueda made a similar vow Moon and Oliver were trying to distinguish themselves from their business-endorsed opponent Jenny Durkan, and Grant and Mosqueda from their business-endorsed opponent Sara Nelson.

It all sounds very principled: “Even if it costs me the election, I will decline all corporate contributions, because my values aren’t corporate values.” But it’s just about the easiest promise any candidate can make—because corporate contributions are basically nonexistent in Seattle.

Obviously, the Seattle Chamber and other business groups support certain candidates (often, in recent years, by funding independent expenditure campaigns), but corporations don’t typically give to individual candidates, making this perennial pledge little more than an empty applause line. I took a look at the contributor lists for the frontrunners in this year’s mayoral and council races, and found that, after Oliver and Moon (who, indeed, took no direct contributions from business), the candidate who took the smallest percentage of contributions from businesses—just 1 percent—was actually … Jenny Durkan. (Jessyn Farrell tied Durkan’s 1 percent.) Three percent of populist state legislator Bob Hasegawa’s contributions came from businesses, as did 2 percent of Mike McGinn’s. Worth noting: 60 percent of Moon’s money came from her own bank account; as Moon herself has said, she was able to self-finance largely because of family money, which came from the family … business.

In Position 8, the pattern is similar. While neither Mosqueda nor Grant received any money from businesses, “business” candidate Nelson got just 4 percent of her money from businesses.

All candidates, including Oliver, Moon, Mosqueda, and Grant, received contributions from people who work for corporations, including Amazon, Microsoft, Vulcan, and Google.

So the next time a candidate points to “refusing corporate contributions” as a point of pride, you might want to point out that businesses don’t really contribute to Seattle campaigns—even to “business” candidates.

* Of course, businesses do fund independent expenditure campaigns, which cannot be coordinated with candidates.

** Part of the reason business contributions make up such a small percentage of campaign war chests in Seattle is that contributions are limited to $500. The limit is designed to reduce the influence any one contributor can have over a candidate, and it serves its purpose.

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.

Very Early Morning Crank: Election Night Edition

Jessyn Farrell greets supporters just before last night’s results came in.

Late-night/early-morning observations on tonight’s election results; tune in later on Tuesday and for the rest of the week for more analysis as the late returns continue to come in each afternoon.

Biggest takeaway:: Voters were not inspired by candidates who made their campaigns about “taking back” Seattle and “keeping Seattle” the way it used to be. (In the supposedly halcyon past when single-family homeowners had all the power, rather than just most of it, redlining was used to create the high-cost, exclusively single-family areas that the single-family preservationists now say they want to “protect.”) Bob Hasegawa, the state legislator who wanted to give money and power back to the unrepresentative neighborhood councils, ended the night with 8.62 percent of the total—just 7,562 votes. Harley Lever, the “Safe Seattle” Facebook group leader who supposedly represented the “silent majority” of city voters fed up with coddling homeless people, enabling addicts, and empowering renters who supposedly have no stake in their neighborhoods, got all of 1.82 percent—1,585 votes, less than beef jerky magnate Larry Oberto (1,623).

Oh, and the guy who literally made “Keep Seattle” his campaign slogan ? He came in sixth, with 7.16 percent, or 6,247 votes.

Over in the Position 9 council race, longtime neighborhood activist and single-family zoning advocate Pat Murakami pulled just 19.83 percent against incumbent Lorena Gonzalez despite the endorsement of the Seattle Times, whose middle-aged paunch of an editorial board came out swinging for the candidate whose main claim to fame has been opposing development at light rail stations. The fact that David Preston, Lever’s campaign manager and the man who dedicated most of his Election Day to harassing me, stealing my copyrighted headshot, and encouraging his supporters to mock my appearance on his campaign Facebook page, edged above 10 percent says only that some people will vote for the white dude no matter what.

Second biggest takeaway: Seattle, the supposedly progressive city that hasn’t elected a woman mayor in 92 years (and then for just a single two-year term), managed to choose two of the four women running (and neither of the two men) to move forward to the general. The upside: We’re finally entering the late 20th Century! (Here’s a list of all the current female mayors of United States cities with more than 30,000 residents, if you think having a female mayor is somehow radical). The downside: The two guys who didn’t go forward include one who couldn’t raise money because of his job in the state legislature and one who voters already roundly rejected four years ago. So let’s not pat ourselves on the back for defeating the patriarchy just yet.

Debate I look forward to having if Durkan and Oliver go through: How will each candidate address homelessness head on, and what realistic, achievable solutions do they each propose?

Debate I look forward to having if Durkan and Cary Moon go through: As self-proclaimed urbanists, what realistic, achievable proposals does each candidate propose to address our city’s housing shortage?

Debate I’m glad we won’t be having because McGinn didn’t go through: Relitigating Bernie vs. Hillary. 

Other takeaways: 

Things look good for union, minimum-wage, and paid family leave leader Teresa Mosqueda, who’s leading for council Position 8 with 30.8 percent to socialist and ex-Tenants Union director Jon Grant, who has 24.29 percent. Assuming Fremont Brewing owner Sara Nelson doesn’t pull ahead in the late votes (unlikely, since late votes tend to trend more liberal, and Nelson is backed by the Seattle Chamber), Mosqueda will likely pick up all the voters who make up Nelson’s 23.13 percent, giving her a strong lead going into the general.

• Democrats may be about to flip the 45th legislative district, which has long elected Republicans—and take back control of the Republican-controlled state senate, where Democrats have a nominal majority but where one of their members, Tim Sheldon, caucuses with the Republicans.

In the race to replace the late Republican Sen. Andy Hill, Manka Dhingra, the Democrat, leads Jinyoung Englund, the Republican, 50.5 to 42.5 percent. Before relocating to the district and running for , Englund worked for one of Trump’s most enthusiastic supporters, US Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, and as a lobbyist for Bitcoin, the crypto-currency. On Twitter, she has circulated misleading, heavily edited videos that falsely suggest Planned Parenthood “sells baby body parts”; suggested that climate change is not a threat; and opposed the estate tax.

• Despite many people’s prediction that McGinn would come in second on name recognition alone, he finished the night in sixth place.

In retrospect, maybe we could have seen that one coming .

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

Morning Crank: “Chaos and Turmoil”

1. Yesterday, city council Position 8 candidate Sara Nelson held a press conference to denounce her opponent (and one of the two presumptive frontrunners in the race), Jon Grant, for what she called “unreliable, unethical and incompetent leadership that caused much of the staff to quit and led the Board of Directors to force his departure.” Nelson also said Grant “[left] behind an organization in chaos and turmoil, a mess that others had to try to clean up.

Grant resigned his position as executive director of the Tenants Union during his first campaign for this same position, in 2015, after staffers complained that he “tokenized” women of color at the organization and assigned them the menial work that he didn’t want to do. The claims, which are part of an unfair labor practice complaint by a former employee that the Tenants Union settled for $2,000 last year, paint a picture of a leader who didn’t show up to meetings, moved the tenants’ rights group away from tenant organizing and toward advocating for rent control, a campaign issue, and even, according to the allegations, asked for campaign contributions during a Tenants Union staff meeting.

In the complaint, a TU staffer (who I’m not naming to respect her privacy) claims that she was demoted in retaliation for writing a letter to the board reporting “oppressive and tokenizing” practices during Grant’s tenure. Those practices included missing meetings or “having meetings when he is ready or decides to show up”; asking staff to contribute to his campaign during a staff meeting; “tokenizing POCs [people of color] and “giving POCs titles of leadership for purposes of funding.” In the letter, the woman, and two other TU staffers wrote that “working in an environment which was not prepared to nurture the leadership of People of Color, and honor our struggle, has been tokenizing and disrespectful” and described a “toxic environment bred by an executive director who lacked leadership and accountability.” 

“This was around the time he said he was going to run for city council,” a TU employee told SOCR in her declaration supporting the unfair labor practice claim. “We were … thinking this was really unfair, because we felt like we were doing a lot of the work, [as] three women of color, for a white male, an executive director absent from his work most of the time. We were holding the organization together, and it just felt really unfair he was going to be glorified and our work was not being recognized.”

The board didn’t dispute any of the staffer’s claims against Grant. (In one email, they said they had “agree[d] to have Jon resign” in part because he didn’t explain “how he expected to remain in the Executive Director position when he was running for City Council. …Basically, what he wanted was to retain his connection to city government ad county government. … and give everything else to Liz Etta,” a staffer who became executive director after Grant resigned.) What they did dispute was that the woman was demoted in retaliation for signing the letter complaining about Grant’s leadership. They said they demoted her because Grant had never asked permission to promote her in the first place, and because Grant had set up a top-heavy structure at the Tenants Union, with four director-level positions and just three non-supervisory employees. 

In response to my questions about the unfair labor practice complaint, Grant said that while “I tried in every situation to empower my staff … I want to take responsibility for that as a person with both white privilege and positional authority, it is clear I did not meet the expectations of these staff members to support them as people of color within the organization. I take that feedback seriously and always strive to do better.” He also denied asking for campaign contributions at a staff meeting.

The documents suggest strongly that Grant was asked to leave; however, they do not directly substantiate Nelson’s claim that he was “fired.”  Asked what made her so confident that Grant was fired, Nelson responded, “the resignation was not of his own volition” and noted that according to the documents, Grant had expressed the desire to stay at TU during the campaign.

2. The apparently neverending debate over a proposed 57-unit studio apartment building on an arterial street in the Greenwood Urban Village continues to never end. A group of Phinney Ridge homeowners, calling themselves Livable Phinney (of course), have spent more than a year raising every conceivable regulatory objection to the proposal, claiming at various points that it: Will make it impossible for homeowners to park in front of their houses, because the residents will all have cars; will be unfit for human habitation, because the units won’t have individual washer/dryer units or air conditioning; won’t be adequately served by transit, despite the fact that the 5 bus line arrives every 15 minutes right outside; and will ruin the character of the neighborhood by attracting unsavory people who will “party” in the proposed small rooftop garden.

On Monday, the developers proposing the building were dealt another blow, when the city’s hearing examiner ruled in favor of Livable Phinney on a challenge involving two issues: Parking and shadows. (In addition to arguing that new renters will take up all the available street parking, Livable Phinney says the proposed building, which includes a partial story or clerestory, would cast too many shadows on adjacent houses and should have to be further away from those houses.) The ruling requires the developer to do a second transit study, this time measuring specific bus arrival times (as opposed to looking at the schedule) to see if Metro is actually hitting 15-minute headways; it also requires some changes to the building itself to prevent shadows, plus a new shadow study. Those parts of the ruling send the proposed building plan back to the city’s Department of Construction and Inspections, which means the developer will have to file a whole new land use plan—and that, in turn, can be appealed all over again.

Meanwhile, 57 units of desperately needed housing, in an urban village and directly on a major transit line, will not be built.

The attorney for Livable Phinney, Jeffrey Eustis, is the same lawyer who represented Marty Kaplan, the Queen Anne homeowner who successfully sued the city to prevent people from building backyard cottages or converting their basements into mother-in-law apartments. Eustis is also on the board of Futurewise, an environmental group that started out as a land-conservation group but now advocates for urbanist land-use policy—reflecting the 21st-century view that preserving rural farmland necessitates densifying cities. Futurewise actually does the outreach work for Seattle for Everyone, the coalition of environmental groups, developers, and social justice organizations advocating for the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda, which includes citywide upzones as well as the backyard cottages Eustis has already sued to stop. If Eustis continues to represent groups that oppose HALA, he will also continue to work against the explicit agenda of the group on whose board he serves.

Futurewise board appointments are not term-limited.

 

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

Morning Crank: Voluntary or Involuntary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Never Mind the Mayoral Race. Here’s the City Council Position You Should Be Watching.

This story originally appeared at Seattle Magazine.
With 21 candidates in the mayor’s race, it’s easy to focus on the parade of curiosities—the also-rans who thought it was worth their while to spend $1,951.86 to have their name on the August ballot. It’s also understandable; in August, voters will peruse a ballot that includes perennial candidates such as the guy best known for addressing Seattle and King County Con members with a Nazi salute and a string of expletives; a real-deal militant Socialist who frequently praises Cuba; and a young Libertarian who says he wants to “stop spending your money on partisan profligacy.”

Look down the ballot, though, and you’ll notice something surprising: In the open race for Seattle City Council Position 8, which will be vacated when Tim Burgess retires at the end of the year, there are almost no names that can be easily dismissed as “also-rans” or vanity candidates. (The one exception is Rudy Pantoja, who became briefly Internet-famous after a “Block the Bunker” activist accused him of sexually harassing her when he told her his name was “Hugh Mungus” in a videotaped interaction that went viral.)

Position 8 is a citywide seat, meaning that all Seattle residents are eligible to vote for the seat. Here’s a look at who’s running, their qualifications for the job and their potential liabilities.


Photo courtesy of People for Hisam Facebook.

Hisam Goeuli
About: A physician who works in gerontology and geriatric psychiatry at Northwest Hospital & Medical Center, Goeuli has decried the “warehousing” of mentally ill homeless individuals at hospitals like the one where he works and argues that everyone in Seattle deserves a physical, cultural and medical home.

Strengths: For an unknown candidate, Goeuli has an impressive grasp of the issues, a coherent platform and a strong onstage presence at campaign events and forums. He also has an intriguing profile—a gay Muslim American son of immigrants, whose Peruvian partner came to the United States as an undocumented immigrant.

Liabilities: First-time candidate with limited potential for raising money.


Courtesy of Jon Grant for Seattle City Council Facebook.

Jon Grant
About: A former Tenants Union organizer who is running as a Democratic Socialist, Grant sought this same position two years ago when Tim Burgess ran for reelection. This time he suggests that he is the true populist and progressive in the race, and recently got arrested while protesting Chase Bank’s relationship with the Keystone XL pipeline.

Strengths: Appeals to supporters of socialist city council member Kshama Sawant, who has endorsed him, and others who believe the city is in the pocket of big banks and corporate interests. He’s already raised more than $100,000 from “democracy vouchers”—small, publicly funded contributions from individual supporters.

Liabilities: Heavily criticized by labor supporters of his opponent Teresa Mosqueda for what they call showboating on issues like Keystone and the $15 minimum wage while living in a house that was bought for him as a foreclosure by his parents.


Courtesy of Vote Mac McGregor Facebook.

Mac S. McGregor
About: A member of the city’s LGBTQ commission and diversity educator, McGregor would be the first transgender member of the city council. He’s said he was motivated to run by Donald Trump’s election and will represent all marginalized people.

Strengths: McGregor is an energetic candidate with a strong pitch on the stump and a sense of humor. (Earlier this month, he announced he was running as a “non-binary candidate”—that is, not a Democrat or a Republican).

Liabilities: A first-time candidate with a low profile outside the LGBTQ community, McGregor may struggle to stand out in a crowded field.


Courtesy of People for Teresa Facebook.

Teresa Mosqueda
About:
Currently a statewide lobbyist for the Washington State Labor Council, Mosqueda touts her work helping to draft last year’s statewide minimum wage initiative, advocating for Apple Health Care for Kids as chair of the Healthy Washington Coalition and working on paid sick-leave legislation in Olympia.

Strengths: Mosqueda can point to a long list of concrete accomplishments in Olympia as well as a long list of supporters from state government and the labor movement, including 22 state legislators, more than a dozen unions, and Congresswoman (and former state legislator) Pramila Jayapal. With labor support comes financial support, and so far, Mosqueda has raised almost as much as Grant, who got a months-long jump on fundraising when he announced his campaign last year.

Liabilities: Mosqueda is little-known outside state government and the labor movement, and may struggle to translate her work on state issues into a city campaign. Plus, she’ll have to cede the far left to Grant, who has touted his own work as an organizer on the statewide minimum wage campaign.


Courtesy of Sara Nelson for Seattle City Council Facebook.

Sara Nelson
About: A longtime aide to former Seattle City Councilmember Richard Conlin and currently the owner of the Fremont Brewing Company, Nelson says she’ll bring experience and a small-business sensibility to the council. As president of a growing brewery, Nelson says she has integrated green practices into her business and committed to paying her workers a living wage. She promises to focus on “wonky stuff,” like clean water rules.

Strengths: Nelson has strong support from the small-business community and could appeal to old-style Seattle moderates and environmentalists who supported Conlin and two-term mayor Greg Nickels, who has also endorsed her.

Liabilities: Nelson has been out of city politics for several years, and council aides don’t have high profiles to begin with. As a business owner who opposed legislation that would have halted Mayor Ed Murray’s homeless encampment “sweeps,” she risks being shoehorned as the “conservative” in the race, which could be a liability in a race against several high-profile progressives.


Courtesy of Sheley Secrest for Seattle City Council Position 8 Facebook.

Sheley Secrest
About: An attorney and vice chair of the Seattle NAACP, Secrest has been a member of a police oversight body and was a finalist for a temporary appointment to the council seat vacated by Sally Clark in 2015. Secrest opposes the new King County youth jail, gentrification in the Central District and supports “ban the box” legislation that would bar landlords from making rental decisions based solely on criminal history.

Strengths: As someone who has run for office before and held numerous city appointments, Secrest is fairly well known. She’s also the only candidate focusing primarily on racial justice, a prominent issue following the Department of Justice consent decree requiring Seattle police to address biased policing and use of excessive force.

Liabilities: When she sought Clark’s old seat, Secrest faced tough questioning about a suspension from the Washington State Bar Association, which helped torpedo her candidacy. This is also Secrest’s fourth attempt to win public office—in addition to Clark’s seat, she ran for the state senate in 2014 and sought appointment to the same office last year when Pramila Jayapal was elected to Congress—which puts her at risk for the “perennial candidate” label.


Courtesy of Elect Charlene Strong Facebook.

Charlene Strong
About: Strong was spurred to activism in 2006 when her partner drowned in the basement of their Madison Valley home during a severe rainstorm and she was denied access to the hospital room. She has promised to be a voice for neighborhoods that feel unrepresented in the ongoing debate over homelessness, drug addiction and growth, and says the council has moved too far to the left.

Strengths: With her advocacy for property owners’ rights, Strong is the only candidate in the race explicitly reaching out to traditional neighborhood activists and homeowners who feel the city has been too accommodating to renters, developers and homeless people living in unauthorized encampments.

Liabilities: Strong’s pro-business, pro-homeowner message may not be enough to put her over the top in this crowded field where candidates are focusing on issues like housing, affordability for renters and the plight of low-wage workers.

Morning Crank: Net Worth

1. Money remains a significant factor in which candidates become frontrunners in Seattle’s mayoral, council, and city attorney races, despite the fact that both council and city attorney candidates can now benefit from public funding through democracy vouchers—those $25 certificates that showed up in your mailbox earlier this year.

Most of the frontrunners in the mayoral race—with the exception of educator and attorney Nikkita Oliver, whose disclosure form did not list her net worth (but whose job at the nonprofit Creative Justice is not exactly a six-figure gig) and state Sen. Bob Hasegawa—have a net worth between the high hundreds of thousands and several million dollars. And before you say, “Well, of course they’re worth a lot—they’re all homeowners!”, keep in mind that net worth only includes the portion of a candidate’s house that’s paid off; the rest shows up on the ledger as debt. All net worth numbers are estimates provided by the candidates; all documents were obtained through a records request. (Oliver is a renter.)

Former US attorney Durkan2, a partner in the white-shoe law firm Quinn Emanual Urquhart & Sullivan, who holds large accounts at both Wells Fargo and Chase, two banks that have been targeted recently by anti-Dakota Access Pipeline activists: $5.75 million.

People’s Waterfront Coalition Founder Cary Moon, whose family owned a manufacturing plant in Michigan: $4.1 million.

Former state legislator Jessyn Farrell, who owns a house in Wallingford and whose husband runs a real estate investment company: $2.8 million.

Ex-Mayor Mike McGinn, who owns a house in Greenwood: $800,000.

State legislator Bob Hasegawa: $250,000

I also requested the financial disclosure statements for both candidates for city attorney. Incumbent Pete Holmes is worth $1.5 million, and challenger Scott Lindsay, who’s married to Microsoft attorney and Port Commissioner Courtney Gregoire, has a net worth of $875,000.

Finally, here’s a rundown of the frontrunning candidates for Position 8, several of whom haven’t yet reported their net worth. Compared to the mayoral candidates, the leading council contenders (with one exception) have relatively modest wealth, suggesting that city council remains a more accessible position than mayor, at least from a personal financial perspective.

Sara Nelson, CEO of Fremont Brewing Company: $2 million.

Former Tenants Union director Jon Grant: $150,000.

Washington State Labor Council lobbyist Teresa Mosqueda, who will be the only renter on the city council if she wins: $134,328.

Attorney and NAACP chair Sheley Secrest: -$120,940.

I’ll update this post with additional information about the mayoral candidates when I receive it.

2. Last night, the King County Young Democrats gave Jessyn Farrell their sole endorsement in the mayor’s race, in a competition that, unlike other Democratic organizational endorsements, allowed candidates from other political parties—like Oliver, who’s representing the new People’s Party—to seek endorsement. Betsy Walker, past chair of the Young Democrats, received the group’s sole endorsement to replace Farrell as 46th District state representative; Farrell resigned her seat last week.

3. In exchange for an agreement from the city council not to tax diet sodas, the American Beverage Association—which spent millions of dollars on an initiative to roll back a statewide soda tax in 2010—has reportedly agreed not to finance a campaign against the proposed soda tax. Mayor Ed Murray proposed taxing all sodas, including artificially-sweetened ones, on the grounds that diet sodas are disproportionately consumed by white, wealthier people (the inverse is true of sugar-sweetened drinks). Last week, lefty council members Lisa Herbold, Kshama Sawant, and Mike O’Brien backed a version of the mayor’s more equitable soda tax proposal, supporting an amendment, sponsored by Herbold, that would have lowered the tax from 1.75 cents an ounce to 1 cent and levied the tax on both sugar- and artificially-sweetened sodas. The full council will vote on the soda tax this afternoon.

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