Morning Crank: All the Gee-Whiz Enthusiasm In the World

1. Yesterday, I broke the news that former Position 8 City Council candidate Sheley Secrest, who lost in last year’s primary election to Jon Grant and Teresa Mosqueda (Mosqueda ultimately won), is being charged with one count of theft and one count of false reporting over allegations that she illegally used her own money in an effort to qualify for up to $150,000 in public campaign dollars last year. To qualify for public campaign financing through democracy vouchers, which enabled every Seattle voter to contribute up to $100 last year to the council or city attorney candidate or candidates of their choice, a candidate had to get 400 signatures from registered Seattle voters along with 400 contributions of at least $10 each. Secrest denied the allegations to the Seattle Times earlier this year, before the charges were filed. She has not responded to my request for comment on the charges against her.

As I mentioned in my post, the former campaign staffer who first brought the allegations against Secrest to the attention of Seattle police, Patrick Burke is also saying she failed to pay him more than $3,300 for work he did as her campaign manager. (The Seattle 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.) Yesterday, Burke says, he had a hearing in a small-claims court case against Secrest, but says he and Secrest were unable to reach a deal through mediation, so the case will be heard before a judge next month.

Burke says he is now living at a Salvation Army homeless shelter. He says that by the time he left the campaign, his phone had been cut off and he couldn’t afford to pay for bus fare, so he was doing most of his work from a room he rented in Shoreline. He says Secrest told him repeatedly that if he could just hang on until she qualified for democracy vouchers, she would pay him everything she owed him. (Burke provided copies of what he says are text messages between himself and Secrest that support this.) “[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.” One point of contention, Burke says, involved $40 Secrest paid another person to design a flyer advertising a fundraiser at Molly Moon’s Ice Cream (Molly Moon’s owner, Molly Moon Neitzl, donated $250 to Secrest’s campaign.)

Secrest ended her campaign nearly $4,200 in the red. When a campaign ends up in debt after an election, it is generally up to the candidate to pay her vendors and employees, who have the right to pursue the former candidate in court if she fails to do so. In 2011, city council candidate Bobby Forch, who ran unsuccessfully against former council member Jean Godden, ended his campaign with $61,000 in debt, most of it—more than $48,000—to his former campaign consultant John Wyble. Wyble and Forch worked out a payment plan. If a campaign does not work out a way to pay its vendors, after 90 days, the amount they are owed turns into a contribution. For example, the $1,675 the Ethics and Elections Commission says Secrest owes Burke would become a $1,675 contribution, and since that amount is over the $250 individual contribution limit, the commission could launch an investigation into the campaign. However, the most the commission could do is fine Secrest—a solution that wouldn’t help ex-employees who are owed money like Burke. And Secrest is potentially in much more trouble now, anyway.

Secrest, for her part, 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.” She sent her own screenshot of what she says is a text message exchange between her and Burke, in which she apologized that “we didn’t get fundraising in or qualified to pay you. You are a rockstar. As soon as I can pay staff I’ll reach out.”

3. Legislation currently moving through the state House, sponsored by Rep. Jake Fey (D-27), would broaden and extend the current sales tax exemption on electric vehicles, which was set to expire this year, until 2021 and would require all revenues that the state will lose because of the exemption come from the multimodal fund, which is supposed to fund walking, biking, and transit projects. Over three years, the bill report estimates, the tax exemption will cost the multimodal fund $17.65 million.

Electric-car proponents, including Gov. Jay Inslee and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan (who announced a number of new electric-vehicle charging stations this week), argue that electric vehicles are a major part of the solution to climate change. “Seattle will continue to lead on climate action and green energy innovation,” Durkan said in announcing the new charging ports this week.

But all the gee-whiz enthusiasm in the world won’t erase the fact that cars, even electric ones, enable sprawl, and sprawl is what destroys forests and farmland, causes congestion, paves over habitat, contributes to sedentary and unhealthy lifestyles, and is in every conceivable way anathema to a sustainable climate future. What we need are not technological quick fixes like electric cars and carbon sequestration, but large-scale solutions like urban densification and taxes on suburban sprawl. Standing next to shiny new Teslas is easy. Standing up for long-term solutions to the root causes of climate change is harder.

3. The city council-appointed Progressive Revenue Task Force met for the third time Wednesday, seeming no closer to finding any viable alternatives to the employee hours tax rejected by the city council last year than they were a month ago. (Perhaps that’s because they are ultimately going to propose… passing the employee hours tax rejected by the city council last year.) The meeting was taken up largely by a review of potential municipal revenue sources proposed by the progressive Center for American Progress in a 2014 report, most of which, staffers noted, were either already in place or unworkable in Seattle or Washington State.

The meeting did include a lively discussion about the cost of building housing for unhoused Seattle residents, and a mini-debate over which shelter clients will be prioritized for housing, given that there simply isn’t enough housing for everyone entering the city’s shelter system. “Basic” shelter, the task force learned, costs an average of $5,597 per bed, per year; “enhanced” shelter, which tends to be open longer hours and offer more services and case management, costs $14,873 per bed. (Advocates from SHARE/WHEEL, which lost funding from the Human Services Department during last year’s competitive bidding process, were quick to point out that their bare-bones mats-on-a-floor model costs much less than the average basic shelter).

Enhanced shelter, which is aimed at people who are chronically homeless, has lower overall exits to permanent housing than basic shelter, primarily because it’s aimed at people who are among the hardest to house, including those with partners and pets and those in active addiction. Of about 20,500 households the city anticipates it will serve with enhanced shelter every year, it estimates that just 2,000 will exit to permanent housing. “What, if any, cautions or counterbalancing is going on in evaluating the performance of the providers that were awarded contracts to ensure that they don’t meet their exits to housing [goals] by prioritizing the easiest to house?” task force member Lisa Daugaard asked, somewhat rhetorically. “That’s a good question,” council staffer Alan Lee responded.

The task force has until February 26 to come up with its proposal.

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.

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.

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.

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, equipment, travel costs, website maintenance, and other expenses associated with my reporting. Thank you for reading, and I’m truly grateful for your support!

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