County Exec Candidates Spar Over PACs, City Finally Funds Street Sinks

1. During a campaign debate sponsored by the King County Young Democrats on Saturday, King County Executive Dow Constantine and his challenger, state Sen. Joe Nguyen (D-34), had a testy exchange about the issue of corporate PAC contributions.

It started when Nguyen said he didn’t accept any money from “corporate PACs.” Constantine said he was “interested to hear [Nguyen] say that he doesn’t take corporate PAC money,” given that he has received thousands of dollars from political committees for credit unions, health care, dentists, beer and wine distributors, and auto dealers, as well as individual lobbyists from industry groups. “I’m fine if you want to say  you’re not taking any corporate PAC money, but just make sure that you actually weren’t taking corporate PAC money, which you clearly were,” Constantine said. 

Nguyen, sputtering a bit, responded, “I’m happy to explain the difference between an association and a PAC … and in fact, if that’s the bar, then if you did the same thing, then that’s totally fine. So feel free to do the exact same thing that I am doing, that’s totally fine.” 

Later, Constantine brought up the PAC issue again, Nguyen responded: “Are they PACs? Were they PACs?”

“Yeah,” Constantine replied.

“They’re not. So look again. Look again,” Nguyen said. “They were associations… not the corporations themselves. But if you think that’s an issue, do the same. I’m happy to have you follow my lead, so don’t take corporate PACs and call it good.”

For the record, both candidates have accepted money from PACs, although Constantine—as the more established candidate—has accepted more. Nguyen’s PAC money came during his run for state senator in 2018.

SeattleMakers’ street sink model.

2. Six months after the city council allocated $100,000 to “develop and implement a publicly-accessible sink program that utilizes the Street Sink style handwashing station model developed by the Clean Hands Collective,” Seattle Public Utilities has finally chosen two vendors to receive the money.

Slightly more than half, $60,000, will go to the Clean Hands Collective, an organization founded by Real Change that includes landscape architects and public health experts; the rest, $40,000, will go to SeattleMakers, a South Lake Union “makerspace” that designed a prototype “handwashing station” at an estimated cost of $7,250 per unit—about ten times the price of Clean Hands’ Street Sink. According to SeattleMakers’ website, the city reached out to them to design the sink.

Tiffani McCoy, the advocacy director at Real Change, said she thinks “we can easily put up 45 sinks for the $60,000,” assuming it will cost about $10,000 to roll out the program—a process that will include building and maintaining the sinks as well as finding new locations for many of them.

A spokeswoman for SPU said the city does not know yet how many sinks of either type the money will fund, and that the ultimate cost per unit will depend on the design.

The Clean Hands Collective hired a contractor to work with the seven districted council members to identify appropriate sites for 63 sinks—nine in each council district—but the city now requires the sinks to be near a storm drain and a fire hydrant, which knocks many sites off the list. “If we’d known these specifications [from the beginning], we could have saved a lot of work and money,” McCoy said.

The SPU spokeswoman said SPU will work with another executive department, the Department of Neighborhoods, to site the sinks, and that some will probably be in locations the Clean Hands Collective already identified, if they meet all the new requirements for wheelchair access and graywater disposal.

“Like ADA accessibility, the location of compliant greywater discharge outlets may also be an important part of siting,” the spokeswoman said. “Final ADA compliance will be dependent on siting, including access points and providing a level, flat surface without tripping hazards.”

Many of the city’s existing “sanicans,” including some that have foot-powered sinks, are neither ADA compliant nor wheelchair accessible.

Although SeattleMakers did not immediately respond to a message seeking updated costs on Monday, their cube-metal model is heftier and more “permanent”-looking than the Street Sink, which consists of a basic utility sink that drains into a galvanized tub filled with plants and dirt.

Mayor Jenny Durkan’s public utilities department delayed implementation of street sinks for months, SPU director Mami Hara has said, because they wanted to open up bidding to more people, expand the scope of the project to include things like food waste disposal, and address concerns such as ADA compliance, graywater disposal, and tripping hazards, among a long list of other issues.

The council could provide more funding to both SeattleMakers and the Clean Hands Collective in a supplemental budget action later this year.

At a council meeting earlier this month, Hara suggested that the Street Sinks might actually spread diseases themselves, if users contaminated sink surfaces and then another person touched them without washing their own hands. As we’ve reported, during the past year and a half, when both private and public restrooms have been closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, there have been numerous outbreaks of gastrointestinal diseases and hepatitis that could have been prevented or controlled if people had access to soap and running water to wash their hands. The latest one was in the South Delridge area, near White Center, earlier this month.

2 thoughts on “County Exec Candidates Spar Over PACs, City Finally Funds Street Sinks”

  1. I have to admit I’m amazed that the city is willing to spend that money for its intended purpose after all. I just got back from visiting twelve parks, all those in a large area (NE east of I-5 and Lake City Way and south of 85th St) with water fountains, and finding only two fountains running. When I started my blog, I cast Mayor Durkan as the heroic fighter against water addiction as a satirical device; this year it’s been hard to tell whether she took it seriously. Anyway, I hope to see the Street Sinks in action on future hikes before the pandemic ends.

    The SPU sinks at University Heights and the camp at I-5 and 45th St now bear stickers all over them saying essentially “Don’t drink this”. Do you know whether Street Sink water is intended as drinkable?

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