Fact-Checking Pro-Harrell Mail, Poll Tests Arboreal Opinions, Union’s Role at Homeless Authority Still Unclear

1. The King County Regional Homelessness Authority’s governing board approved a bare-bones initial staffing plan for the agency on Thursday, but not before a lengthy conversation about the future of labor unions at the new agency—and the future of city employees who currently do the work that’s supposed to move over to the authority next year.

The city’s Homeless Strategy and Investment division, which is part of the Human Services Department, is currently represented by the PROTEC17 union, which also represents county human services workers. KCRHA director Marc Dones has said that they want to hire a whole new team for the agency, and that anyone at the city who wants to keep doing their current work will need to apply for the open positions just like everyone else. Dones has also said that although they support unions in general—saying on Thursday, for example, that “we would be delighted to have one or more unions represent our staff”—union reps and at least one city council member want more reassurances.

On Thursday, Seattle City Council president Lorena González told Dones that the law the city passed agreeing to join the new authority requires “a plan for transitioning staff positions to the new authority.” 

Shaun Van Eyk, the labor representative for PROTEC17, told PubliCola that the union wants any succession plan (an agreement that gives the union the right to represent anyone at the new authority who job falls within the “body of work” that existing union-repped employees are already doing) to include a right of first refusal for employees who remained at their city jobs even as the city repeatedly pushed their layoff dates forward. Although permanent HSI employees have been assured jobs elsewhere in the city, many of the jobs in the division are currently filled by long-term temporary workers, who have no job guarantee once the division shuts down.

“Marc has the ability to not only acknowledge PROTEC17 as the exclusive bargaining representative for those bodies of work, but to offer a right of first refusal for those folks doing that work currently,” Van Eyk said. “Part of my duty in this role is to advocate for our members [who have been] keeping the work going, especially with the delays.” The authority is currently about seven months behind schedule, and it’s far from clear that it will be prepared to take over hundreds of contracts from the city’s homelessness division in January as planned.

The larger question is how the new authority, and Dones in particular, will work with organized labor. King County Executive Dow Constantine appeared unnerved enough by the conversation about succession to add, “If I could just be completely frank, it is unlikely, approaching a zero likelihood, that the county or the city would fund a non-union successor to its union operations. That seems inconceivable.”

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2.  A flyer promoting mayoral candidate Bruce Harrell that arrived in voters’ mailboxes last week included what looked like an unusual disclaimer: “No corporate money paid for this mail piece. Hundreds of local residents gave their own personal money to send you this message.” The mailer, produced by an independent expenditure group called Bruce Harrell for Seattle’s Future, says Harrell, who played for the Huskies, will “go on the offensive to move Seattle forward.”

The claim is a stretch. While Bruce Harrell for Seattle’s Future is funded by individual donors, the top donors to the IE are employed by, or in charge of, corporations with billions in assets and a huge vested interest in pro-business policies. Among the biggest contributors: Goodman Real Estate CEO George Petrie and his wife, Alyssa ($100,000); Hunters Capital owner Michael Malone and his wife, Barbara ($25,000); and retired seventh-generation banker Joshua Green III ($10,000).

In fact, the top seven employers of people who contributed to Bruce Harrell for Seattle’s Future (after “not employed”—people who listed their occupation as “retired” or “homemaker,” many of them formerly in real estate or married to real estate bigwigs, made up $98,000 of the group’s approximately $300,000 in contributions) were real estate firms, accounting for $117,750 of the group’s total contributions. So while it’s true that the people who gave money to the pro-Harrell group are “individuals,” their interests could hardly be more corporate if they were writing checks from their company accounts.

Finally: The IE campaign doesn’t have contributions from “hundreds of local residents”; it doesn’t even have 100 contributions, much less 100 from Seattle. About a third of the 79 donors listed at the Public Disclosure Commission live outside city limits, mostly in Eastside suburbs.

3.  An odd new online poll goes far beyond election questions, asking respondents about everything from their support for a future Seattle-only light rail measure to earthquake safety along I-5 to detailed questions about the city’s tree canopy. It’s unclear who’s behind the poll, but the specific issues it highlights dovetail with priorities articulated by council members Lisa Herbold (using bonds to fund bridge maintenance over bike lanes and sidewalks) and Alex Pedersen (bridge money, plus restricting development by preventing tree removal on private property.)

For example, one question asks whether a respondent would rather use $100 million in future bond capacity to pay primarily for “community-requested walking, biking, and transit projects” or “urgently needed bridge repairs.” Another asks whether there should be a special transit tax to speed up light-rail expansion projects that may be delayed “due primarily to financial shortfalls” at Sound Transit. Two other questions ask about non-standard voting systems. And of course, the survey asks who respondents are supporting for mayor, city council, and city attorney.

But the most detailed questions are about the city’s tree protection laws, which are up for a revision this year. Advocates such as Pedersen argue that the city can address climate change by preventing developers from removing trees on single-family lots—a de facto (and sometimes explicit) argument against the kind of urban density that is crucial to preventing suburban sprawl and the kind of mass deforestation required to build new suburbs.

To take the survey yourself, click here; and if you find out who’s behind it, let us know.

9 thoughts on “Fact-Checking Pro-Harrell Mail, Poll Tests Arboreal Opinions, Union’s Role at Homeless Authority Still Unclear”

  1. A recent study conducted by Jamboree Housing, United Way and UCI revealed some very interesting details about the homeless population in Orange County. It came after Imperial County saw a sharp rise in its homeless .

  2. It would be wonderful if all of Seattle’s progressives could work together on increasing density and preserving our tree canopy.
    What the heck happened?? Instead, the dialogue has been corrupted, and we have so-called nimby’s vs apparent linear thinkers who want to give developers carte blanche to have their way with our city.
    Get back to me, Josh, if you’d like some details on the half-backed projects being approved these days.

  3. I just took that survey and got none of those questions…I was asked about my support for the two contenders in the last election but no local issues at all. It seemed like it was gauging party loyalty as it came back around to ask if my party affinity a second time at the end. I wonder who is running it?

  4. I disagree with your statement that protecting the tree canopy conflicts with urban density and stopping suburban sprawl. That is a biased opinion that is open to debate, but something developers love to hear. It’s a statement that creates the “either-or” dilemma that is leading to climate change. You can have trees AND urban density with good design. I do not believe that urban density will decrease suburban sprawl. Moreover, trees are crucial to mitigate climate change and are a key component of battling what is known as heat equity where communities of color and low income are dealing with the consequences of global warming. We should be planting more trees across the city. We can tell Brazil to stop cutting trees, but we hold different standards for ourselves? Please. We cannot solve climate change with zero-sum thinking like this.

    1. “I do not believe that urban density will decrease suburban sprawl.” Not by itself no, the density needs to be affordable. We don’t need more luxe AirBnB or investment properties but with land prices the way they are, developers can’t make affordable housing pencil out. Right now, the trees are in the private park spaces (suburban yards all over Seattle’s car-dependent suburbs that it calls “neighborhoods”) with apartments and other multi-family developments surrounded by concrete and the resulting low quality air. We can fix that if we want to.

    2. “We cannot solve climate change with zero-sum thinking like this.”

      Yes, right on. The enemy of trees in Seattle isn’t density or growth, it’s a collective decision to be terrible at increasing tree canopy.

      Seattle data: estimated 28% tree canopy in 2016-2017, goal is 30% for 2037.

      Barcelona data: estimated 25% tree canopy in 2016-207, goal is…30%…for 2037.

      Barcelona presently has more than 4X Seattle’s population density.

      Right now in Seattle we’re just aiming low and engaged in dumb petty politics unrelated to really doing trees right. 🙁

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