Morning Crank: The High Cost of Mandatory Parking

1. By a 7-1 vote Monday (Kshama Sawant was absent, having just landed back in Seattle from a socialism conference in Germany), the city council adopted parking reform legislation that will lower parking mandates in certain parts of the city, require more bike parking in new developments, redefine frequent transit service so that more areas qualify for exemptions from parking mandates, and unbundle rent for housing from rent for parking, so that renters who don’t need parking spaces don’t have to pay for them.

As promised last week, council member Lisa Herbold introduced an amendment that would give the city’s Department of Construction and Inspections the authority to impose environmental “mitigation” measures on new developments in areas where there is no parking mandate and where more than 85 percent of on-street parking is generally occupied by cars. (Herbold raised objections to the unbundling provision and the new definition of frequent transit service in committee, too—and voted against sending the legislation to full council—but only reintroduced the mitigation amendment on Monday). Under the State Environmental  Policy Act, “mitigation” is supposed to reduce the environmental impact of land-use decisions; Herbold’s argument was that measures such as imposing minimum parking requirements, reducing non-residential density, and barring residents of new apartments from obtaining residential parking permits would mitigate the environmental impact caused by people circling the block, looking for parking. (At the advice of the city attorney, Herbold said, she removed the RPZ language from her amendment).

Citing parking guru Donald Shoup—whose book “The High Cost of Free Parking” has been the inspiration for many cities to charge variable rates for on-street parking, depending on demand—Herbold said 85 percent occupancy was “a good compromise between optimal use of the parking spots and [preventing] cars [from spending] five, ten minutes driving around looking for a parking spot.” But Shoup never said that the correct response to high on-street parking usage was to build more parking; in fact, he argued that overutilization is a sign that cities need to charge more for parking so that fewer people drive to neighborhoods where parking is at a premium. Shoup’s primary point wasn’t, as Herbold suggested, that the problem with scarce parking is that people burn gas while looking for a parking spot; it was that too many or too few vacancies is a sign that parking isn’t priced correctly, and the price should be adjusted accordingly.

Ironically, after her amendment failed, Herbold turned around and slammed Shoup for using what she called outdated data. But Shoup (and Johnson) got the last laugh. From the council press release on the passage of the legislation:

Council Bill 119221 aims to ensure that only drivers will have to pay for parking, which seems fair,” said Donald Shoup, author of The High Cost of Free Parking. … “If drivers don’t pay for their parking, someone else has to pay for it, and that someone is everyone. But a city where everyone happily pays for everyone else’s free parking is a fool’s paradise.”

2. Now that longtime state Sen. Sharon Nelson (D-34) has announced that she will not seek reelection, Herbold’s onetime opponent, Shannon Braddock, is reportedly considering a bid for Nelson’s seat. Braddock, who serves as deputy chief of staff to King County Executive Dow Constantine, lost to Herbold in the 2015 council election. State Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (D-34) told the West Seattle Blog this week that he did not plan to run for Nelson’s senate seat.

3. The King County Democrats will hold a meeting for all the precinct committee officers (PCOs) in the county to vote on whether to remove the group’s embattled chairman, Bailey Stober, from his position on Sunday, April 15. The meeting will come one week after a closed-door trial by a committee that will make its own recommendation about whether Stober should stay or go.

Stober, who has been accused of sexual harassment, creating a hostile work environment, bullying, and financial misconduct, has refused to step down from his position despite the fact that more than 60 percent of the voting members of his executive board have asked him to resign. Under King County bylaws, Stober can only be removed by a vote of two-thirds of the PCOs who show up at Sunday’s meeting—and, as I’ve reported, many PCOs who have been appointed will be unable to vote at the meeting specifically because Stober has failed to approve their appointments. Some of those PCOs have been waiting for Stober’s sign-off since last fall.

This document outlines the case against Stober, who is accused of sexually harassing and bullying his lone employee, Natalia Koss Vallejo, before firing her without board approval, “engag[ing] in physical altercations while with staff and other party members,” using Party money to fund certain candidates he personally favored while leaving others high and dry, and spraying Silly String in Koss Vallejo’s face while she was driving, an incident Stober filmed and posted on Instagram.

And this document contains Stober’s rebuttal, which he also posted to his personal website last month. The rebuttal includes a lengthy text exchange in which Stober pressures Koss Vallejo to leave her own birthday party to come out drinking with him and she resists, in a manner that is likely familiar to anyone who has tried to say no nicely to a man who won’t take no for an answer (an especially tricky situation when that man is your boss.) It also includes several claims that have been disputed, including Stober’s claim that the group’s treasurer, Nancy Podschwit, approved Koss-Vallejo’s firing, which she says she did not.

On Monday, Stober responded to a Facebook invitation to the PCO meeting, saying he guessed he would “swing by.”

4. The King County Democrats aren’t the only ones accusing Stober of fiscal misconduct. So is the state attorney general, in a separate case involving one of Stober’s three unsuccessful campaigns for Kent City Council. The state attorney general’s office has been trying to get Stober to hand over documents related to his 2015 council run since 2017, when the AG took the unusual step of  issuing a press release publicly demanding that Stober give them the documents. On March 21, the state attorney general’s office ordered Stober to pay the state $5015 in attorneys’ fees in a case involving campaign finance violations in 2015. According to court records, Stober repeatedly refused to hand over documents the attorney general requested despite multiple orders compelling him to do so. Stober’s attorneys removed themselves from his case in early March.

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Chasing Ballots

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

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

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

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

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

Good afternoon,

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

Shannon is in urgent need of volunteers.

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

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

Best,

[Mark] Markham

 

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

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

The C Is for Crank Interviews: Shannon Braddock

Now that the primary-election field of 47 has been narrowed to a comparatively manageable 18, I’m sitting down with all the council candidates to talk about what they’ve learned so far, their campaign plans going forward, and their views on the issues that will shape the election, including density, “neighborhood character,” crime, parking, police accountability, and diversity. I’ll be rolling out all 17 of my interviews (Kshama Sawant was the only candidate who declined to sit down with me) over the next few weeks.

If you want to help me continue to do interviews like this one, plus on-the-ground reporting, deep dives on issues like affordability and transportation, breaking news, and incisive analysis, please consider becoming a sustaining supporter by pledging a few bucks at Patreon. This work costs money and (lots of) time, so I really appreciate every bit of support I receive from my readers.

shannon-braddockToday’s conversation is with Shannon Braddock, a West Seattleite and chief of staff to King County Council member Joe McDermott who’s running in District 1. We sat down at Collins Pub in Belltown.

Full disclosure: Braddock’s opponent, Lisa Herbold, is a longtime personal friend from way, way back and I’m supporting her campaign. In spite of our friendship, I tend to personally disagree with Lisa (and her boss of 17 years, Nick Licata) on a lot of issues, such as the proposed residential linkage fee for affordable housing and one-for-one replacement of existing affordable units. Overall, I think those two factors balance out. In any case, I made every effort not to allow personal friendship to influence the questions I asked either Braddock or Herbold.  Braddock and I spoke in person; in the interest of keeping my interview with Herbold as impersonal as possible, I submitted questions by email to her campaign, and will run her answers, edited for length, on Friday.

The C Is for Crank [ECB]: You were the beneficiary of a pretty significant amount of independent spending [nearly $75,000] from the Chamber of Commerce, developer lobbyists, and the landlords’ association. Even with all that, you came in second. Were you disappointed in the results, and how much influence do you think the outside spending had, positive or negative?

Shannon Braddock [SB]: I was disappointed, but the turnout was so low that I should have felt good about the results. Those last few days of doing a lot of field work helped. I did well. Personally, I was happy. My strategy to get through worked. My time was very focused on three-of-four Democrats [voters who identified as Democrats and voted in three of the past four elections].

I, honest to god, have no idea how much influence [the IEs had.] I’m going to guess not much, given the number of people in the race [nine]. I think i would have done well anyway. I never saw the ads on TV. My 15-year-old son found it online. I was glad it was a positive piece that said, basically, “She’ll be smart about transportation and growth and she’s a progressive candidate.” Even when you know it’s your supporters [doing an ad], it’s stomach-turning to know that somebody is campaigning on your behalf.

ECB: Why do you think the Chamber and other business groups are supporting you?

SB: I don’t know exactly, except that I don’t see business as the bad guy. We’re all working together to get stuff done and we all have to be partners.

I support the $15 minimum wage. That was one of the things the Chamber didn’t support. I have a reputation for working well with people, and I don’t come to the table saying I think I have the best answers.

ECB: West Seattle is such a close-knit community, that can seem, to outsiders, very separate from the rest of the city. What specific work have you done in West Seattle to prepare you for representing this district, and what’s your history with West Seattle?

SB: I grew up in Bellingham, and when I first moved here, West Seattle reminded me of Bellingham. It has great walkability to school, great walkability to grocery stores, great walkability to the old movie theater. I didn’t think I’d ever want to live there because it seemed so far away, but when I got there, I felt right at home.

When I first got there, my involvement was with Lafayette Elementary PTA stuff. I did little things, like litter pickups with the neighborhood association, and I was involved with the West Seattle Food Bank, which is facing a higher number of clients coming in. We were trying to change the number of things we were doing and expand services. It really opened up my world. I’m on the board of WestSide Baby.  I’m also involved with the 34th District Democrats. That got me more engaged in the political world.

ECB: Early on in your campaign, I remember that some opponents were questioning whether being a single mom disqualified you for this job because you wouldn’t have enough time to make it to night meeting and other obligations of being a council member. Were you expecting that kind of retro criticism?

SB: I did not realize that could happen. We live in such a progressive bubble that sexism still surprises me. There was a whole discussion on the District 1 Facebook page about whether it was a legitimate question to ask whether I could be a mother and serve on the council at the same time, especially a single mother. Now, I don’t really consider myself a single mother because my children’s father is very much involved in their lives. But I am a single mother, and to have people suggest that in 2015 is outrageous. The tenor of the conversation was, “Is she progressive enough?”, and then it would devolved into the equivalent, in my opinion, of misogynistic sexist attacks on me. It was jarring to me and frustrating to think that here we are, in a city where we’re progressive, and people are asking whether I can be on the city council because I’m a mother. It’s stuff men do not think about.

I’ve been told by men who are my supporters that I look tired in my pictures, or that I should smile more, or “Don’t talk so much about being a mom.” Thanks for reminding me why we need more women in government in general, and young women with kids at home in particular. We need that perspective. I look up to people like [District 3 primary candidate] Morgan [Beach] and [District 1 primary candidate] Brianna [Thomas], and I think we need women to keep doing that it until no longer seems surprising.

ECB: Do you think district elections made it easier for people like you and Brianna and Morgan to run?

SB: I was a supporter of districts, and I wouldn’t have run [without them]. Realistically, to do that as a mom with three kids still at home would have been much bigger challenge for me, and to have the time and space to go all over the city would be challenging. It would have been easier for me to talk myself out of it. This opportunity made me pause long and hard and think about it. While I support districts, I’m also a big believer in regional government. and I don’t want to be represented by someone who doesn’t have that perspective.

ECB: Your opponent, Lisa Herbold, thinks the city needs to go beyond the HALA recommendations by charging a linkage fee on all new residential development, among other measures the HALA committee did not recommend. Are you all in on the committee’s affordable-housing recommendations?

SB: I can’t say I support every single recommendation in HALA. I’ve read the report, but not with a fine-tooth comb. I do find it a little bit grandstanding [of Position 8 candidate and dissenting HALA member Jon Grant] to step in on it after they had agreement with 27 members. [Grant, along with Herbold, proposed an alternative to HALA that HALA backers say would scuttle the grand bargain]. It’s disrespectful. They did good work. I respect that they spent a lot of time on that. You can work around the edges during the hearings.

If you could have gotten 14 other people to agree with your HALA amendments,  you wouldn’t have had an alternative plan in the first place. It’s a recommendation. I think there’s plenty of opportunity for political pressure for him and his agenda. If he wants to blow it up, go for it, but I’m very comfortable with where they are right now. I wasn’t in those meetings, I don’t know how they came to this grand bargain, but if Council Member [Mike] O’Brien came to a spot where he felt that he had reached an agreement on the linkage fee that he could live with, then I’m good with that. If there are many things we could get to sooner rather than later, I’d vote for that.

ECB: Your opponent has seemed more open to the idea of rent control, or rent stabilization, than you have. What are your views on rent control?

SB: I opposed traditional rent control. If it was just a matter of allowing Seattle to discuss it, yes, I would absolutely support the state lifting the restriction. I support more options. A lot of what’s in HALA is rent control. Mandatory inclusionary zoning is an option to have lower rents.

ECB: People in West Seattle seem to have the sense that they’re constantly being asked to accept more density without more funding for infrastructure, like road improvements and bus service, to support that density. The counterargument would be that you can’t add bus service to areas where the population density doesn’t currently support it. What do you think of those complaints?

SB: I  can appreciate that people are saying that, because we don’t have enough buses in West Seattle. I think there is not enough bus service in most places. I don’t think that’s District 1-specific. I support more transit and I support [the upcoming Sound Transit 3 ballot measure], but I want it to include West Seattle and Ballard. At this time, I would not support it if it did not include West Seattle. As a District 1 council member, I would have to fall on a lot of swords for light rail if it did not include rail to West Seattle.

If I see a plan in place, an actual plan in place, for infrastructure, I’m a lot more omfotable building a little bit ahead of time. Right now we’re building based on  a 20-year development plan that had a monorail in it. It’s completely out of date. I want people to feel that they are watching a robust transit system grow. Right now, we’re at the spot when people in District 1 are saying, “When are we going to be getting it?” They’re not seeing any of that being done with bus service. Metro did split the C and D routes, which helped.

SDOT needs to improve their outreach to communities. We’ve had isssues in District 1. The rollout of the 35th Ave. Southwest road diet–SDOT was a little behind the 8 ball on that one. I do feel that sometimes they’re like, “Here’s what we’re going to do, you’re welcome.” Sometimes communities need more time to find out what they’re getting. That means we have to do a better job as government at involving the communities earlier.

ECB: Do you think having district council members will help with that kind of community outreach?

SB: Yes. I do think there are always going to be people that it’s never going to be enough for. I do hold out hope that having people like Kathy Nyland in Neighborhoods and the new department [the Office of Planning and Community Development] is very valuable. I’ve got some hope.

Previously:

Bruce Harrell, District 2

Tammy Morales, District 2

Michael Maddux, District 4

Rob Johnson, District 4

Mike O’Brien, District 6

Catherine Weatbrook, District 6

Deborah Zech-Artis, District 7

Sally Bagshaw, District 7

Tim Burgess, Position 8

Jon Grant, Position 8

Lorena Gonzalez, Position 9

Bill Bradburd, Position 9

Chamber Spends $88,000 on Braddock, Johnson

pplrob

This post has been updated.

Two new Seattle Chamber of Commerce-funded independent expenditure groups, People for Shannon and People for Rob, have spent $44,000 each on media buys (presumably cable TV ads) for Shannon Braddock​ and Rob Johnson​. The $88,000 total spend comes on top of the $48,000 the national Realtors Association dropped on long-shot North Seattle candidate Kris Kris M. Lethin​ a few days ago. (Read Lethin’s reaction when I told him about that surprise gift here.) Johnson is also, as of 5:00 this evening, the beneficiary of a $20,000 spend by the Washington Restaurant Association PAC.

Additionally, a group calling itself “NW Tribes for Debora,” funded by the Northwest Tribal PAC, has reported spending $15,000 to support Debora Juarez, a frontrunner in North Seattle’s District 5.

The ad buys, both funded by the Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy (CASE), which endorsed both Braddock and Johnson, make one thing abundantly clear: The influence of money in Seattle elections isn’t going away. If anything, it’s getting more explicit and more potent.

One argument for district elections was that smaller geographical districts would reduce the need for candidates to raise so much money (in some cases, hundreds of thousands of dollars) to communicate with voters and get elected. While this is somewhat true for individual candidates (so far, Johnson has raised $77,000 so far and Braddock has raised $59,000, though those numbers are difficult to compare to previous campaigns because of the sheer number of candidates and the unprecedented nature of this election), the independent expenditures more than make up for any fundraising disparity between, say, 2013 and now.

In fact, it’s likely that big IEs like these will become more common under the district system. With fewer eyeballs to purchase, a targeted IE can go further in a district than it could under the previous citywide system, giving moneyed interests more bang for their buck than they ever had trying to influence elections citywide. Seattle’s election laws allow unlimited independent expenditures.

Also worth noting: Both Screen Strategies Media, the East Coast film company that’s doing the ads, and Blue Wave Partners, the fundraising firm associated with both IE groups, are closely affiliated with Mayor Ed Murray. Screen Strategies did several cable TV ads for Murray back in 2013, and Blue Wave is Murray’s longtime fundraising firm. Murray has endorsed Johnson’s opponent, incumbent council member Jean Godden, so it’s interesting to see two firms associated with the mayor doing work for one of Godden’s top opponents.