Category: endorsements

PubliCola Picks: Nicole Thomas-Kennedy for City Attorney

Nicole Thomas-Kennedy

For weeks, media coverage of public defender Nicole Thomas-Kennedy’s campaign for city attorney has focused on anti-police tweets she posted in 2020, to the exclusion of almost any other campaign issue. Amid the onslaught of one-sided coverage and attacks, Thomas-Kennedy has declined to apologize, and odds are, it wouldn’t matter anyway: The “But Her Tweets” crowd is so set on demonizing and caricaturing Thomas-Kennedy as a monstrous extremist, acknowledging their demands would only encourage them.

Nor, it seems, have Thomas-Kennedy’s opponents paid much attention to her actual platform, which represents an evolution and expansion of city policies that have already demonstrated their effectiveness. Already, under current city attorney Pete Holmes, the city has invested in diversionary programs that keep people out of jail and put them on a path to recovery and self-sufficiency—programs like Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, which provides case management and services to people involved in low-level street crime, and Community Passageways, a diversion and prevention program for youth and young adults.

Ten or 15 years ago, when the first diversionary programs were just coming online, it was still somewhat controversial to propose spending money to address the problems that cause people to commit “public disorder” crimes instead of locking people up for things like shoplifting, sleeping in public, and small-time drug deals. Today, the evidence is incontrovertible that prevention and diversion are far more effective (and cost-effective) than punishment and retribution. Restorative justice, diversion, and decarceration are no longer radical concepts, but mainstream approaches.

Thomas-Kennedy wants to push farther in the direction of decriminalization and abolition than Holmes, who accomplished significant policy changes (decriminalizing marijuana locally before it was legal statewide, for example) using a quiet, sometimes incremental approach. But elections present choices, and Holmes is no longer on the ballot. The choice now is between a public defender with a firm grasp of both the civil and criminal sides of the city attorney’s office and a clear, full-speed ahead progressive agenda—and an unqualified activist and perennial candidate whose solution to homelessness and crime are the same: Lock ’em up. Of all the members of this year’s backlash slate, Davison is the most extreme, pushing a law-and-order agenda Seattle hasn’t seen the likes of since the voters returned Mark Sidran to private practice 20 years ago.

Davison conflates crime and homelessness but fails to understand that prosecuting homeless people does nothing to address the conditions that lead people to shoplift, sleep in parks, or buy and sell drugs. Like her supporters Scott Lindsay, Ed McKenna, and, yes, Sidran, she believes that Seattle is too soft on people whose crimes result from poverty, addiction, and homelessness, and wants to restore “order” to Seattle streets by delivering “disorderly” people, particularly “chronic offenders,” into the hands of the criminal justice system.

This simplistic, out-of-sight-out-of-mind approach to complex problems is a pattern for Davison. In 2019, when she ran for city council against District 5 incumbent Debora Juarez, Davison proposed making people experiencing homelessness invisible by rounding them up and busing them to warehouses in North Seattle, Pierce County, and Renton. Her “plan” to warehouse up to 5,500 people, which Davison claimed she “meticulously priced out,” would have supposedly cost the city less than $1,500 per person, per year—an estimate that is profoundly out of touch with the reality of not only what shelter costs, but what shelter is.

Beyond her strange policy proposals, Davison appears to have a shaky grasp on what the city attorney’s office actually does. In campaign mailings and public statements, Davison has focused largely on felonies, like homicide, rape, and burglary, which are not handled by the city attorney’s office. To the extent she has articulated a vision for the city attorney’s office, her plan focuses on what she won’t do—allow people to sleep outside, in conditions she calls worse than “a UN Cambodian refugee camp”—than what she will. Perhaps that’s because Davison has almost no actual courtroom experience, representing just a handful of clients in low-level probate and arbitration cases, most of them more than a decade ago. The region’s coalition of minority bar associations recently gave Davison its lowest rating: “Not qualified.”

Seattle voters, known for electing leaders with generally progressive values, should be alarmed by the fact that Davison not only joined the Republican party during the Trump Administration, but ran for office as a Republican when Trump was at the top of the ticket. (Davison now claims she is a nonpartisan, “independent thinker.”) Although Davison says she voted for Biden, she has not said whether she supported “Stop the Steal” conspiracy theorist Loren Culp, the Republicans’ choice for governor last year. Davison’s platform was a classic Republican stunt: Elect me, and I’ll abolish the office.

The city attorney is not primarily a prosecutor; the criminal division makes up about a third of the office, while the bulk of the work takes place over in the civil division. Mostly, the job involves working far outside the spotlight: Ensuring that legislation passes legal muster, developing labor relations policy, enforcing local regulations, and representing the city in civil litigation. Seattle needs an attorney who is qualified, prepared, and understands the assignment.

While we’re a bit skeptical of Thomas-Kennedy’s plans to enlist the city attorney’s office in a dramatic overhaul of the entire criminal legal system, we are convinced she understands the job she’s applying for. As a public defender who’s had to advocate for people whose actions she didn’t agree with, she’s also well aware that the job will sometimes require her to put her personal views aside and provide the best possible representation for her clients. We’re not convinced that Davison, who has consistently advocated for a justice system based on punishment and retribution, has the perspective or the legal experience to do the same.

The PubliCola editorial board is Erica C. Barnett and Josh Feit.

PubliCola Picks: Teresa Mosqueda for City Council Position 8

Teresa Mosqueda
Image via teamteresa.org

In her first term on the city council, Teresa Mosqueda has distinguished herself as an effective advocate for progressive policies, fighting for Seattle’s most vulnerable residents while championing pro-housing policies—like allowing more housing in Seattle’s exclusive single-family neighborhoods—so that people who work in Seattle can also afford to live here.

After the failure of the so-called “head tax,” which the council passed and quickly repealed under pressure from Amazon and other large businesses, Mosqueda—who voted against the repeal— didn’t denounce her colleagues or spend time grandstanding. Instead, she got busy. Working largely behind the scenes, Mosqueda won consensus for a larger, more ambitious tax plan that spread the burden more broadly among big Seattle businesses but still put Amazon on the hook for tens of millions a year. In its first year, her JumpStart tax withstood a veto by Mayor Jenny Durkan and has provided tens of millions of dollars in relief for people impacted by the COVID pandemic, including rent subsidies, grocery vouchers, and assistance to small businesses and child care providers.

Another telling detail that illustrates the effectiveness of Mosqueda’s firm but collaborative style: Amazon stayed out of this year’s local elections and has not contributed a dime to her nominal competitor.

This year, for the second time in a row, Mayor Jenny Durkan is attempting to siphon revenues from JumpStart to pay for her own budget priorities, even attempting to permanently eliminate the spending plan outlining where the money should go. Mosqueda warded off a similar mayoral effort last year, giving us confidence that the money will continue to go where she and her colleagues intended—toward housing, small-business assistance, and Green New Deal programs to benefit people living in the communities hit hardest by climate change.

After four years on the council, Mosqueda has such an impressive list of accomplishments it’s easy to forget she’s just wrapping up her freshman term. To rattle off just a few: Passing the city’s first-ever Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights, which guarantees minimum working standards and wages for domestic employees like housekeepers, cooks, and in-home care providers; securing funds for affordable housing and shelter, including hotel-based shelters, during COVID; and sponsoring policy changes that encourage affordable housing on surplus land owned by the city.

Mosqueda knows we can’t get to a carbon-free future by taking baby steps like electrifying the city’s motor pool. Mosqueda is the council’s champion for getting rid of exclusionary single-family zoning, which pushes lower-income people out of the city and contributes to climate-killing suburban sprawl. Early in her term, in the midst of a NIMBY backlash against her urbanist colleague Rob Johnson, she championed the Mandatory Housing Affordability rezoning plan, which has allowed denser development in more areas while funding thousands of units of new affordable housing.

Recently, Mosqueda caught flak for sponsoring legislation to change the name of the city’s most common zoning to “neighborhood residential,” a largely symbolic acknowledgement that the city’s current “single-family” areas have historically allowed many different types of housing. NIMBYs upset by that cosmetic change, watch out: In her second term, we expect Mosqueda will be deeply involved in reshaping the city’s comprehensive plan, which guides what kind of development is allowed throughout the city, and to join other pro-housing advocates on the council to end exclusionary zoning.

Mosqueda’s opponent, Kenneth Wilson, is a civil engineer who received 16 percent of the vote in an 11-way primary in which he did not campaign. Raised to visibility by his second-place finish, Wilson has spent his time in the spotlight showing exactly how out of his league he is. Asked how he would help people who are at risk of being displaced stay in Seattle, he said they could move to somewhere like Angle Lake, a suburb 20 miles south of the city. Asked to summarize why he’s running for office, Wilson said he was motivated by crime and “ghetto-style paintings everywhere.” And, asked how he would prevent displacement among homeowners in the Central District, Wilson talked about college kids getting kicked out of rental houses in Wallingford.

Mosqueda is a standout leader in Seattle with a record of collaborating to move progressive policies forward. The choice in the race for City Council Position 8 is clear. PubilCola picks Teresa Mosqueda.

The PubliCola editorial board is Josh Feit and Erica C. Barnett.

PubliCola Picks: Nikkita Oliver for Seattle City Council Position 9

Nikkita Oliver
Image via Nikkitafornine.com

The race for citywide council position 9 pits a white business owner and former city council aide, Sara Nelson, who wants to turn back the clock on how Seattle addresses homelessness, crime, and housing, against a progressive Black nonprofit director, activist, and attorney, Nikkita Oliver, with ambitious plans for addressing displacement, institutional racism, and the broken criminal justice system. We support Nikkita Oliver.

While we endorsed longtime city council staffer Brianna Thomas in the primary, we took time in that endorsement to make it clear how impressed we were with Oliver’s history of activism on behalf of their community and their commitment to funding community-based alternatives to policing, prosecution, and jail for low-level crimes.

Oliver is an abolitionist, a term that has caused some voters to balk in this hyper-polarized election year. But the steps they and other abolitionists call for represent an expansion of the kind of diversion programs the city already funds, including Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, Choose 180, and Community Passageways—not an abrupt divestment in police and jails without any alternatives in place. Meaningful change always happens at the local level when voters elect people whose ideas are outside the status quo—and right now, the status quo at the Seattle Police Department is one that requires more radical change than the meaningless “reimagining,” “rethinking” and “reform” of the past four years.

Speaking of the need for radical change: Oliver wants to end exclusionary zoning in Seattle, allowing more apartments throughout the city, including in areas where racist whites-only covenants were eventually replaced by exclusive single-family zoning. For decades, this invisible covenant has preserved generational wealth for white homeowners while driving renters and homeowners of color out of the city as effectively as redlining once kept Black and brown home buyers out of many Seattle neighborhoods.

Oliver’s opponent Nelson, in contrast, generally supports the current system, which segregates people who live in apartments from those who live in suburban-style single-family enclaves, arguing that the mere preservation of “naturally occurring affordable housing” (code for crappy apartments where tenants feel disempowered to complain) is a meaningful anti-displacement step.

Nelson often cites the “neighborhood planning process of the late ’90s,” as she put it recently, as a shining example of the city “pay[ing] attention to the differences and nuances in all neighborhoods.” But the neighborhood planning process of the late ’90s contributed directly to most of the city’s current housing problems, including high housing costs, gentrification in historically Black and brown neighborhoods, and the segregation of all new housing in the city into a tiny sliver of Seattle’s residential land.

Meanwhile, Oliver’s approach to homelessness is as multifaceted as their positions on criminal justice and housing, and more (to borrow a term) nuanced than the one-note Compassion Seattle model Nelson parrots. (In a bit of near-perfect symbolism, Nelson’s business, Fremont Brewing, installed massive concrete barricades in the public right-of-way to prevent unsheltered people from parking their vehicles there). Oliver—noting, correctly, that the root of homelessness isn’t addiction or behavioral health problems but a lack of housing—wants to “tax the wealthy,” using one of the mechanisms identified by the city’s Progressive Revenue Task Force in 2018, to expand access to rental and ownership housing through co-ops and community land trusts, and public housing for very low-income people, including those experiencing homelessness.

Oliver would make life a little less miserable for people living in encampments, by ending sweeps and providing restrooms and hygiene stations for people who currently lack access to both. Nelson has mocked this concept, which Oliver calls “radical hospitality,” but it actually would address some of the problems Nelson has put at the center of her backlash campaign, including the presence of trash, needles, and human waste in parks and neighborhoods. Unlike Oliver, Nelson would maintain the failing status quo: moving people from place to place while raiding the JumpStart payroll tax, which is supposed to pay for housing, equitable development, and small-business assistance, to pay for vaguely defined “services.”

These divergent approaches to homelessness define the dramatic choice in this contest. Oliver’s transformational plan may be a long shot, but real progress on homelessness will be an even longer shot if voters give in to Nelson’s fear-mongering. Calls to double down on policies that have failed will only exacerbate the homelessness crisis. It’s time to embrace new approaches that both acknowledge the realities of inequity and seek to address them.

In the race for City Council Position 9, PubliCola picks Nikkita Oliver.

The PubliCola editorial board is Josh Feit and Erica C. Barnett.

PubliCola Picks: Lorena González for Seattle Mayor

©2019 Steve Dipaola

In July, PubliCola endorsed city council president Lorena González for mayor, crediting her for having “well-defined agenda, a solid track record, and a set of achievable plans for addressing the city’s thorniest issues,” including homelessness, the role of police in public safety, and housing. In her two terms on the council, we wrote, González pushed for, and passed, important worker protections, election reforms, legal assistance for immigrants facing harassment and deportation in the Trump era, and a police accountability ordinance that advocates hailed as a groundbreaking step for reform.

We also criticized one of the other leading candidates, former council member Bruce Harrell, noting that he passed almost no major legislation during his 12 years on the council and “uses warmed-over management jargon to promote an agenda that would maintain the status quo.”

Now that the two candidates have had many opportunities to present their visions for Seattle in head to head debates, the choice is even clearer and more urgent. González wants to eliminate racist, exclusionary zoning policies, adequately fund homelessness programs, and enhance worker protections; Harrell wants to double down on the failed status quo by preserving exclusive single-family areas, and—even worse—reverse course by re-empowering the homeowner-dominated neighborhood council that helped block housing for decades. Moreover, his plan to address police accountability is a rehash of the wishful thinking embraced by one-term mayor Jenny Durkan and former police chief Carmen Best—the idea that if Seattle just commits to more anti-bias trainings, and to hiring “the best of the best,” as Harrell puts it, the police department will fix itself.

González rejects the myopic view that “love” and “coaching” is all it will take to fix a fundamentally broken approach to public safety.

We’ve had four years of slow, incremental change from a mayor who has resisted every effort to meaningfully shake up systems that harm people of color, poor people, renters, and people experiencing homelessness—four years of a mayor who represented the interests of her friends and donors while ignoring constituents who didn’t share her views. The race to replace Durkan presents a clear choice between a candidate who offers more of the same and one who embraces progress and change.

Harrell frequently mentions the fact that he was “born right here in Seattle,” a classic Seattle dog whistle that frames González as an inauthentic outsider because she moved here from somewhere else. (In other words: Unlike Harrell, González chose Seattle, as did the majority of people who live here.) At a recent debate, for example, Harrell said he has “skin in the game” on issues like police violence in a way that González, a first-generation Mexican American whose parents were migrant farmworkers in Eastern Washington, does not. “It’s not hard for me to talk to people when I walk the streets of Seattle,” he said. “This isn’t just academic for me. This is real stuff I’ve been dealing with decades and decades.”

This attempt to portray González as some kind of elitist outsider is both parochial and a distraction. Both candidates have lost family members and friends to police violence, and both are invested in eliminating police bias and racial profiling; the difference is in how they would address these problems. González may not be “from here,” but she actually prosecuted the Seattle Police Department for racist violence—representing a Mexican American beating victim in the infamous “Mexican piss” case—and won.

On this issue, the candidates might as well be running in different decades. Harrell says he will “change the culture of the police force,” “hire the best of the best,” and enforce a 2017 law that requires SPD to conduct anti-bias trainings and track data designed to reveal racial bias in policing. (While the city did require more anti-bias trainings, they’ve hardly led to a less biased police force, as González has pointed out.) On his website, Harrell promises he will “personally recruit officers looking to be internal change agents, heroes within the department to help coach, train, love and inspire our officers to be the department we all deserve.”

González, in contrast to Harrell, has committed to supporting new progressive taxes, aimed at the same wealthy corporations Harrell plans to hit up for donations, to fund the billions of dollars the city will need to truly address homelessness and, incidentally, help people move on from tent encampments in public places.

Harrell’s approach represents a retreat to the pre-June 2020 status quo, before weeks of protests led to a growing consensus that an incremental approach to police “reform” doesn’t work and probably never could. González rejects the myopic view that “love” and “coaching” is all it will take to fix a fundamentally broken approach to public safety. Instead of proposing data dashboards or more trainings of dubious value, she wants the city to invest in alternative crisis responders inside and outside the city, diversion programs that address the root causes of crime while keeping people out of the criminal legal system, and early intervention programs to put young people on “on a path towards towards actual resilience and empowerment,” as she put it during a recent debate.

Similarly, Harrell’s plan for addressing homelessness would turn back the clock to the pre-pandemic era, when the city swept multiple encampments a day. His homelessness plan replicates every provision of Charter Amendment 29, the so-called “Compassion Seattle” initiative, down to the number of shelter beds he proposes adding with no new funding (1,000 in the first six months, 2,000 in the first year) and the percentage of the city’s budget he proposes using for this purpose (12). This fear-based approach doesn’t acknowledge or address the fundamental economic and social problems that underlie homelessness, nor has building shelter, in itself, ever been the solution to encampments. People aren’t dots on a data dashboard, and they have legitimate reasons not to “accept” an offer of a random shelter bed.

Harrell offers lip service to the idea that solving homelessness will require housing and services. But his big idea to pay for those things—convincing large corporations to voluntarily give money to the city—is fanciful. Companies do run internal philanthropy programs, but big corporate gifts typically flow directly to nonprofits and pay for discrete projects—a shelter for women and children on Amazon’s campus, for example—that benefit the company’s reputation. Harrell has not presented any plan to convince Microsoft to pay for drug treatment for chronically homeless men, for example, and his plan seems to rely on his personal “social capital” and networking abilities rather than any kind of coherent strategy to convince companies to pay their “fair share” voluntarily. Continue reading “PubliCola Picks: Lorena González for Seattle Mayor”

PubliCola Picks: Lorena González for Mayor

In this critical, post-COVID election year, Seattle needs a mayor who understands the job, has a plan to translate their progressive values into policy, and can jump into the job with both feet on day 1. City Council president Lorena González will come to the mayor’s office with a well-defined agenda, a solid track record, and a set of achievable plans for addressing the city’s thorniest issues..

González has set a standard for not just talking a good game—but getting things done. In her two terms as a council member, she has pushed for—and passed—protections for hourly workers, such as the secure scheduling bill; established a permanent legal defense fund for immigrants facing deportation; and passed a number of underreported but important election reforms, including a ban on some corporate contributions, new transparency requirements, and restrictions on indirect lobbying, in which lobbyists seek to influence the public without revealing who’s paying them. She has also been a pragmatic and savvy advocate for police accountability, spearheading a police accountability ordinance in 2017 that advocates hailed as a groundbreaking step for reform.

And, in a lone dissent that got little coverage at the time but telegraphed her understanding of the challenges inherent to a “regional approach to homelessness,” she voted against a plan for the new regional homelessness authority that handed significant power over to suburban jurisdictions that pay nothing to support the authority, but wield outsize influence over its policies.

A lot has happened since 2018, including a nationwide movement to hold bad cops accountable and demilitarize and defund police departments across the country. González recently told PubliCola that if she was voting on the same contract today, “I’d vote very different[ly].”

González noted before her prescient vote that “politics have already taken hold in this structure.” She was right. We’re already seeing the ramifications today, with suburban cities adopting anti-homeless policies and insisting on their own, locally unique “sub-regional” plans. The former co-chair of the city’s Progressive Revenue Task Force is also right about how to tackle homelessness in the future; she’s committed to adopting new progressive revenues to fund the billions of dollars the city will need to truly address homelessness instead of passing a ballot initiative that she has called an “unfunded mandate” designed to cement the “status quo.”

González has caught some flak from the left for voting, along with seven of her eight council colleagues, to approve a 2018 police contract that nullified some elements a historic 2017 police accountability ordinance. But activists who want to castigate her for this vote should consider a bit of context. At the time, the police union had been without a new contract since 2014, after members rejected a negotiated contract in 2016. Meanwhile, Mayor Jenny Durkan was working overtime to convince the public and the council that police would quit en masse if they didn’t get the raises promised in the contract. Most council members, including dogged police accountability advocate, council member Lisa Herbold, agreed that the new contract, though inadequate, was an improvement on the existing 2014 contract, keeping parts of the accountability law intact and preserving a law requiring cops to wear body cameras on duty.

Finally, a lot has happened since 2018, including a nationwide movement to hold bad cops accountable and demilitarize and defund police departments across the country. González—a former civil rights attorney who secured a $150,000 settlement for a Latino man who sued the city after a Seattle police officer threatened to “beat the fucking Mexican piss out of” him—has expressed support for this core agenda. She recently told PubliCola that if she was voting on the same contract today, “I’d vote very different[ly].”

González has a real vision for Seattle’s recovery—one that doesn’t rely on clichés or empty promises (how exactly will philanthropic giving fund the $450 million to $1 billion the region needs to spend every year to address homelessness, Bruce?) For starters, she wants to make it easier for renters to stay in their homes, providing rental assistance as well as caps on move-in costs that can add thousands of dollars to the price of an apartment. Continue reading “PubliCola Picks: Lorena González for Mayor”

Mega Campaign Fizz: Compassion Seattle, Mayoral Money News, González Polls on Homelessness, and Much More!

1. Compassion Seattle, the group backing an initiative that would require the city to divert funds from other purposes to pay for 2,000 shelter beds in order to “clear” parks for housed people to use, announced Thursday that it had collected 64,155 signatures—about twice as many as the number of valid signatures the campaign needs to get the measure on the November ballot.

Even in victory, the campaign claimed to be the victim of “harassment, theft of petitions, assault and significant time delays”—claims it has made in multiple emails to supporters. The campaign did not immediately respond to questions about the incidents, including a request for case numbers in the event that they reported any of the alleged crimes to Seattle police.

UPDATE: In response to PubliCola’s questions, Compassion Seattle provided a list of eight incidents involving signature gatherers. Six involved people ripping clipboards out of people’s hands or destroying signature sheets. The remaining two examples were more dramatic; in one case, someone threw a garbage can at the signature gatherer, and in the other, a woman was “harassed and pushed down” on Capitol Hill.

2. Mayoral candidate Andrew Grant Houston received permission from the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission on Thursday to raise money beyond the legal maximum under Seattle’s democracy voucher program, which limits mayoral campaign fundraising to $400,000 in the primary election. Houston argued (and the commission agreed) that mayoral candidate Bruce Harrell has already exceeded the cap through his own fundraising and that of a political action committee organized on his behalf.

Under city election law, any candidate who has maxed out on campaign spending or fundraising, unless the excess is “minor” or “inadvertent,” can seek a release from the cap as soon as another campaign, or the combination of a campaign and an independent expenditure (IE) campaign acting on the candidate’s behalf, has busted through the cap.

Because IE campaigns can raise and spend unlimited dollars from any source, IE fundraising routinely provides leads to a campaign fundraising free-for-all. Houston’s release from the cap will trigger other candidates who have reached the fundraising limit to seek similar permission to raise and spend more money, effectively neutralizing rules adopted by initiative in 2015 aimed at limiting the impact of money on elections. The initiative, known as Honest Elections, created the voucher program, which gives $100 to every Seattle registered voter to spend on the candidate or candidates of their choice; it also imposed a number of campaign-finance rules, including new contribution and spending limits.

During the 2019 election, the campaigns for city council candidates Jon Grant and Teresa Mosqueda, including a pro-Mosqueda PAC, raised and spent more than $1 million despite a total “campaign valuation” (fundraising) limit of $300,000. Similarly, spending on behalf of successful mayoral candidate Jenny Durkan totaled well over $2 million, despite a formal cap of $800,000.

Ultimately, the only thing that will stem out-of-control spending is a court ruling overturning or limiting the impact of Citizens United, the Supreme Court ruling that effectively barred limits on campaign spending by corporations and interest groups. Limiting spending by candidates but not committees, commission chair Richard Shordt pointed out Thursday, would limit the “voices” of “the thousands of Seattleites who are using their democracy vouchers” to support campaigns.

3. An online poll—apparently conducted on behalf of mayoral candidate Lorena González’s campaign—tested messages for and against the candidate in a hypothetical election between González and her former council colleague Bruce Harrell, who is currently the presumptive frontrunner.

The poll, which focuses on homelessness, describes González as a former civil rights attorney who was inspired to run “after watching Jenny Durkan give big corporations too much say in city government, side with the police union when cops tear-gassed Seattleites, and let the homelessness crises get worse”; it describes Harrell, more generically, as a former council president who “has the experience and skills to unite our city.” Continue reading “Mega Campaign Fizz: Compassion Seattle, Mayoral Money News, González Polls on Homelessness, and Much More!”

Election Crank: Facebook Rules Catch Up With Moms For Seattle; Burgess’ Left-Baiting Rhetoric as Subtle as a Hammer and Sickle

1. It’s the final week before ballots are due for the August 6 primary election,  so here’s a quick roundup of election money news, starting with the latest on the new PAC Moms for Seattle, which is funded largely by self-identified “homemakers” and retired women who happen to be married to rich and powerful men like telecom mogul John McCaw, former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard, and tech entrepreneur Tom Pigott, a member of one of the richest families in the country. (Robert Getch did a bunch of digging on Moms’ backers over the weekend and posted his findings on Twitter.)

For weeks, the group had been posting political ads on Facebook promoting their preferred candidates, including Phil Tavel in District 1, Pat Murakami in District 3, Alex Pedersen in District 4, and Heidi Wills in District 6. As of Monday, however, their ads appeared to have vanished. Facebook officially bans political advertising in Washington State, but this ban is still fairly theoretical—the ads, which are transparently political, ran for weeks despite efforts by advocates to have them taken down. According to one person who reported the ads, Facebook removed the ad because it violated their ad policies. (Screen shot here). I reached out to Moms for Seattle to find out whether all of their ads have been removed for violating Facebook’s ban on political advertising and will update this post if I hear back.

2. NEW: Moms for Seattle’s first primary-election mailer landed in mailboxes across Seattle Monday. Featuring a photo of an empty swing set against a graffiti-covered wall in a playground occupied only by a large pile of trash, bikes, and shopping parts and a tent, the mailer reads, “This isn’t how people should be living or where children should be playing… All of Seattle’s residents deserve better.” The only problem: The image isn’t real. Moms for Seattle apparently couldn’t find an actual playground overrun by tents, so they had to manufacture one. Here’s the mailer, along with the stock photos Moms for Seattle used to make Seattle look like a place where kids can no longer play in parks because of all the homeless people squatting there:

Hey, if you have to fabricate a scene to illustrate your point that Seattle Is Dying™, maybe it isn’t?

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3. People for Seattle, the “pragmatic, progressive” PAC created by former city council member Tim Burgess, is attempting to prop up Burgess’ former aide, Alex Pedersen, with a misleading mailer saying that Pedersen’s labor-backed opponent, Emily Myers, is the same as socialist city council member Kshama Sawant. (The messaging is as subtle as a hammer and sickle: A photo of Myers, and one of Sawant, connected by an “equals” sign. An earlier mailer, describing Sawant challenger Zachary DeWolf in similar terms, had a different equation: {Dewolf + Sawant = More of the Same City Council Dysfunction.”)

“If you like extremist Kshama Sawant, then you’ll love Emily Myers,” the flyer blares, over the same image of tents that has been used in mailers smearing District 1 incumbent Lisa Herbold (like Sawant, a former Burgess colleague) and DeWolf. The mailer’s flip side calls Myers “too extreme for Seattle” and (in case you didn’t get the message) calls a vote against Myers a vote against “city council extremism.”

Myers, a grad student at the University of Washington who is backed by big labor contributions, is hardly an “extremist” (she advocates for liberalizing the city’s exclusionary zoning laws, rent stabilization, and “dignified shelter”), but it’s clear that Burgess and his financial backers (who include many of the same wealthy families backing Moms) see her as more of a threat than the actual Sawant-affiliated socialist, Shaun Scott, who is running for the same seat.

4. Myers supporters may be preparing to fight back, though—on Monday, the Service Employees International Union Political Education and Action Fund—the national political arm of the powerful health care workers’ union—transferred $350,000 into the account of the local SEIU campaign fund. A spokesman for SEIU wouldn’t say how the group plans to spend the money, but getting Myers through the primary is one of their 2019 priorities—so far this year, they’ve made modest spends on Myers, Tammy Morales (D2) Herbold, DeWolf, Jay Fathi (D6), and have contributed $10,000 each to two new progressive PACs, Civic Alliance for a Progressive Economy (whose biggest financial backer is billionaire think tank founder Nick Hanauer) and Working People for an Affordable Seattle, whose funding comes, so far, from SEIU and UFCW 21, the grocery workers’ union.

“If you like extremist Kshama Sawant, then you’ll love Emily Myers,” the flyer blares, over the same image of tents that has been used in mailers smearing District 1 incumbent Lisa Herbold (like Sawant, a former Burgess colleague) and DeWolf.

5. Back to Burgess for a moment. His PAC didn’t stop at targeting his former colleague Herbold just once. They sent out a second mailing—complete with an ominous black-and-white photo with Herbold’s nose ring front and center—claiming that not only did Herbold “drea[m] up the job-killing head tax” (which would—though the mailer doesn’t mention this—have only targeted very large businesses), she “blamed the public” for failing to understand what it would do. “Vote “No” On Lisa Herbold” the mailer urges. In reality, the head tax passed unanimously, with full buy-in from Mayor Jenny Durkan, before a massive campaign funded by large businesses like Amazon, Starbucks and Vulcan turned public opinion against the council. Ultimately, Herbold voted for the repeal, making this latest mailing from Burgess’ group an especially dishonest distortion of council history.

The heightened rhetoric is being echoed inside Herbold’s district. Yesterday, this graffiti showed up on Delridge Way SW, just south of the West Seattle Bridge. It’s ironic  that an ex-council member who frequently bemoans the lack of “civility” in Seattle politics may be largely responsible for one of the nastiest local campaign seasons in memory.

Morning Crank: Seattle vs. Broken Windows, Burgess vs. “Ideology,” Showbox Contract Suspended

 

In SODO and Georgetown, lots of arrests and a focus on clearing out RVs, and just one referral to Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, for 1,500 hours of emphasis patrols.

1. On Wednesday, the city council’s public safety committee got into a philosophical discussion about the”broken windows” theory of policing with representatives from several city departments, during a presentation on Mayor Jenny Durkan’s decision to extend “emphasis patrols” in seven neighborhoods beyond the initial 30-day period announced at the end of April. The patrols have been controversial, with critics contending that the seven neighborhoods—which include Ballard, Fremont, and Pioneer Square—were chosen based on the volume of complaints from residents rather than the presence of actual crime. (The mayor, for her part, said that she was unaware of any such criticism).

Council members Lorena Gonzalez and Teresa Mosqueda pushed SPD strategic advisor Chris Fisher and assistant chief Eric Greening to explain the difference between “broken windows” (the widely debunked theory that graffiti, panhandling, vacant buildings, and other types of “disorder” create an atmosphere that leads people to commit more crime), and the theory behind the emphasis patrols. The theory, popularized by George Kelling and James Q. Wilson, was implemented in cities across America throughout the 1980s and 1990s and has become synonymous with zero-tolerance policing and Rudy Giuliani’s New York City.

Fisher called this a misinterpretation. “Different people have different interpretations of broken windows,”  Fisher said. “I think the original theory involved working with the community… [and] I think some departments, some other researchers or practitioners, took it as meaning zero tolerance. [They] didn’t involve the community, and they just decided they were going to arrest everyone for everything, but that wasn’t the intent of broken windows.”

Highfalutin theories aside, it’s notable that the Durkan administration appears to be explicitly embracing the broken windows theory, in the form of ramped-up arrests for low-level crimes in the emphasis areas (broken down by neighborhood in the report) and neighborhood “cleanup” efforts that include removing graffiti, getting rid of newspaper boxes, and cutting back vegetation as well as removing more encampments without prior notice or offers of outreach or services.

Christopher Williams, the parks department director, pointed to a skatepark in South Park where workers have picked up litter, gotten rid of graffiti, and cut back vegetation, all “things that really emphasize that broken window theory—the quicker we can clean it up, the more that gives a message to the community that this is a cared-for, loved space and the community tends to treat it that way.” Williams also said his department is “treat[ing] single tents and encampments like stand-alone obstructions and we will have those removed immediately, for the most part,” rather than providing 72 hours’ notice and offers of shelter and services to encampment residents.

Council members, including District 4 representative Abel Pacheco, still seemed unsatisfied by SPD’s explanations for how the seven neighborhoods were chosen, an issue Fisher seemed to chalk up to the way the information was being presented, rather than the information SPD has provided to the council itself. “I asked for data about why these specific neighborhoods were chosen, and I believe the answer I got from you was that it was [a] combination of data … and calls and complaints that were generated from neighbors,” Mosqueda said. “To me, that’s not a quantitative way of explaining why we’re going into certain neighbors.”

In Ballard and Fremont, lots of calls for service from neighbors contributed to the decision to add patrols.

Fisher (essentially repeating what he told the council back in May) said the neighborhoods were chosen based on “an increase in calls and crime and complaints.” For example, “Fremont was our hottest neighborhood … in terms of an increase in reported crime and calls for service. It was sort of the clear winner,” Fisher said.

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2 . Former council member and mayor Tim Burgess sent out an email Wednesday telegraphing which city council candidates his blandly named political action committee, People for Seattle, will be supporting in the August primary elections. Not too surprisingly, they overlap 100% with the candidates endorsed by the Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy (CASE), the political arm of the Seattle Metro Chamber of Commerce, with the exception of Districts 6 and 7, where People for Seattle did not make a recommendation. The candidates People for Seattle (and CASE) support for Districts 1-5, in order, are: Phil Tavel, Mark Solomon, (former Burgess aide) Alex Pedersen, and council incumbent Debora Juarez.

Burgess’ group, in other words, is snubbing two of Burgess’ own former colleagues, Lisa Herbold (D1) and Kshama Sawant (D3) in favor of candidates who, as Burgess put it in his email, can “best lead our city forward and change the current approach at the City Council.”

People for Seattle currently has about $220,000 in the bank, much of it raised in $5,000 chunks from developer and tech industry folks like Clise Properties CEO Al Clise, Amazon senior vice president Doug Herrington, developer Richard Hedreen, telecom moguls Bruce and John McCaw, and billionaire Mariners owner John Stanton. So far, they owe EMC Research $40,000 for polling, presumably to test messages like the one Burgess underlines in his email: “Please spread the word that we need a new City Council that gets back to basics and focuses on our city’s most pressing challenges. We want the next City Council to bring us together with solutions and not divide us based on ideology.”

Because there’s nothing “ideological” about calling Seattle a “Mecca [for] homeless,” opposing the streetcar and Sound Transit 3, or denouncing the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda as a “backroom deal for real estate developer upzones.”

3. Last month, a King County Superior Court judge dismissed every one of the city of Seattle’s arguments in favor of recently adopted legislation that prevented the owners of the downtown Showbox building from selling the property to a developer. The legislation, which supporters pitched as a way to “save the Showbox,” added the two-story unreinforced masonry building to the Pike Place Market Historic District across the street for an initial period of six months; that period was later extended until December of this year because two consultants hired by the city’s Department of Neighborhoods said they needed more time to evaluate a proposal to make the building a permanent part of the Market. The consultants were charged with doing public outreach and determining whether it made sense to include the Showbox building, which the city recently upzoned twice in an effort to encourage density downtown, in the Market.

DON now tells The C Is for Crank that the department has suspended its contracts for the two consultants, Stepherson and Associates (a communications firm) and AECOM (an engineering firm). Although the firms were hired back in February, it appears that they didn’t do much work until very recently; according to a Department of Neighborhoods spokeswoman, the city has only paid out about $24,000 of their original $75,000 contract—$12,000 to Stepherson and $12,554 to  AECOM.

Election Crank: But Wait—It Gets Even MORE Confusing

Some campaign updates as the August 6 primary (and the narrowing of the Seattle City Council elections from dozens of candidates to just 14) approaches…

1. As I reported on Twitter last weekend, the political action committee for the Seattle Metro Chamber of Commerce, Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy, just spent more than $307,000 on mail, canvassing, literature, and direct mail for its endorsed candidates in all seven city council races.

But the bulk of the money—$260,350—went to three candidates: Lisa Herbold challenger Phillip Tavel, who ran for the same position in 2015 and didn’t make it through the primary ($77,750); former Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce leader Egan Orion, who’s challenging Kshama Sawant ($107,400); and Seattle Police Department  crime prevention coordinator Mark Solomon, who’s running for the seat being vacated by Bruce Harrell, where community organizer Tammy Morales is the presumed frontrunner ($75,200).

Next week, Jay Fathi (D6) and Michael George (D7) will ask to be released from the $75,000 spending cap on the grounds that the Seattle Chamber is spending money on behalf of one of their competitors—Wills in Fathi’s case, and Pugel in George’s. Of course, CASE is also spending money on behalf of Fathi and George in those races, so both are essentially arguing that they should be released from the spending cap because of spending by their own political benefactors.

2. Candidates for districted city council seats who participate in the democracy voucher program are theoretically limited to raising and spending a maximum of $75,000 in the primary election (and another $75,000 in the general), but that isn’t how it’s working out in practice. As of this writing, at least 16 candidates running for the seven districted council seats have asked to have their spending caps, or the caps on both spending and contributions, lifted because their opponents have either raised more than $75,000 or have had more than $75,000 spent on their behalf. (SEEC director Wayne Barnett provided a list of candidates who’ve been released from the caps).
Under the somewhat byzantine rules of the city’s new system, candidates in this year’s council elections who accept public funding through democracy vouchers (coupons worth $100 that are given to every Seattle voter to spend on the candidate or candidates of their choice) can’t spend more than $75,000 unless one of two things happens: a) another candidate in the race who isn’t participating in the voucher system, and therefore isn’t subject to spending limits, spends more than $75,000, or b) a political action committee spends enough on behalf of a candidate that the total expenditures on that candidate’s behalf top $75,000. In the former situation (when, say, Kshama Sawant outspends all of her opponents and isn’t subject to democracy voucher caps), candidates can ask to have both the spending limit and the $250 cap on individual contributions lifted. (The contribution limit for non-voucher candidates is $500). In the latter situatiom (when, say, the Seattle Metro’s PAC spends $77,000 to defeat incumbent Lisa Herbold, but no candidate in the race has spent more than $75,000 on their own), the candidates can only be released from spending, but not contribution, limits.
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The candidates who have been given approval to spend more than $75,000 are: Lisa Herbold in District 1 (because of CASE spending on Phil Tavel’s behalf); Tammy Morales, Phyllis Porter, Christopher Peguero, and Mark Solomon in District 2 (because Ari Hoffman has raised more than $75,000, they are also released from contribution caps—including Solomon, who is also benefiting from the Chamber’s largesse); Ami Nguyen, Logan Bowers, Pat Murakami, Zach DeWolf, and Egan Orion in District 3 (because Kshama Sawant has raised more than $75,000, all the other candidates are also released from contribution caps; Orion, like Solomon, is getting help from the Chamber as well); Emily Myers and Shaun Scott in District 4 (because of CASE spending on Alex Pedersen’s behalf); no one (!) in District 5 (as of July 2, incumbent Debora Juarez had raised just $43,000); Dan Strauss, Kate Martin, and Sergio Garcia in District 6 (because of CASE spending on Jay Fathi and Heidi Wills’ behalf); and Andrew Lewis in District 7 (because of CASE spending on behalf of Jim Pugel and Michael George.)
Whew!
But wait: It gets even more confusing. Next Tuesday, July 8, Fathi (D6) and George (D7) will both appear in front of the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission to ask to be released from the $75,000 spending cap on the grounds that CASE is spending money on behalf of one of their competitors—Wills in Fathi’s case, and Pugel in George’s. Of course, CASE is also spending money on behalf of Fathi and George in those races, so both are essentially arguing that they should be released from the spending cap because of spending by their own political benefactors.
This will look even weirder if, as seems likely, CASE puts out literature suggesting that voters pick either George or Pugel, and either Wills or Fathi, in those races—a scenario that will benefit all four candidates, not just Wills and Pugel. Not only that: George, Fathi, and CASE all share a financial compliance firm, Blue Wave Politics, which means that the same company is behind the campaigns benefiting from CASE spending, the campaigns asking to be allowed to spend more money because of CASE spending, and CASE itself. Pretty sure that this wasn’t exactly what the backers of democracy vouchers had in mind when they said the system would help get money out of politics.

Not only that: George, Fathi, and CASE all share a financial compliance firm, which means that the same company is behind the campaigns benefiting from CASE spending, the campaigns asking to be allowed to spend more money because of CASE spending, and CASE itself.

3. Speak Out Seattle, a group of self-described “concerned citizens” that held a series of controversial campaign forums earlier this year, has released its own list of endorsements—a roster that could have been lifted straight from the Facebook page of Safe Seattle, an online group that promotes conspiracy theories, false allegations, and harmful “solutions” for Seattle’s homelessness crisis. The candidates SOS has endorsed, in order of district, are: Ex-cop Brendan Kolding (District 1); both Solomon and conservative business owner Ari Hoffman (District 2); Mount Baker neighborhood activist Pat Murakami (District 3); Pedersen (District 4); attorney Ann Davison Sattler (District 5); Wills; and George. Safe Seattle, which is separate from SOS but has expressed many of the same views about homelessness, housing, and addiction, has frequently promoted Davison Sattler and Hoffman on their Facebook page.

When I entered the furthest-left positions on AlignVote’s questions about homelessness, “safe injection,” and housing in District 2, it suggested I vote for stunt candidate Omari Tahir-Garrett.

4. Davison Sattler created quite a stir at a recent candidate forum in District 5, which I was moderating, when she responded to a question about reducing emissions by calling climate change a “luxury item” compared to immediate problems like “keeping our city clean.”
Over shouts of disbelief from some audience members, Davison Sattler continued: “If we cannot even keep our city clean, I feel like we are in no place to be talking about issues like this. This is absurd that we are talking about this, yet we cannot keep our city clean. … We have to be taking care of things that are clearly on everyone’s minds, which is the state of our streets.”
During the same debate, Davison Sattler said she supported a “FEMA-style response” to homelessness; suggested putting a new North Seattle community center inside a new police precinct across the street from North Seattle Community College, where the event was being held; and said that some businesses near a now-dismantled authorized encampment at Licton Springs “could not even keep their employees for more than a few hours” because they had to wade through human feces, litter, and needles near the encampments.
No word yet on how candidates and activists who talk about the presence of “human feces” all over the city’s sidewalks can distinguish human from dog feces in a city where housed dogs outnumber unsheltered humans by about 45 to 1.

D5 candidate Ann Davison Sattler created a stir when she responded to a question about reducing emissions by calling climate change a “luxury item” compared to immediate problems like “keeping our city clean.”

5. SOS leader Steve Murch has created a voter guide called AlignVote, which (like SOS) purports to be a “nonpartisan” and unbiased guide to the candidates’ positions. In reality, the tool functions as a push poll for SOS’s positions on supervised consumption sites, rent control, and other issues—characterizing rent control, for example, as a policy that imposes “further restrictions on what prices landlords can charge.” (Another question, about police accountability, prevented these two possible responses as a binary choice: “The Seattle Police Department has major work to still do to restore more fairness and equity” and “The City Council needs to be more supportive of our police.”) When I entered the furthest-left positions on AlignVote’s questions about homelessness, “safe injection,” and housing in District 2, it suggested I vote for stunt candidate Omari Tahir-Garrett.

Who Said It? A Quiz from Last Night’s GOP-Sponsored Homelessness Forum

In a bit of kismet (or misfortune?) so perfect it almost seemed planned, the 43rd District Democrats held their primary-election endorsement meeting last night at Kane Hall on the UW campus—right next to a forum sponsored by the 36th District Republicans titled “HOMELESS & ADDICTED IN SEATTLE.” (Two Democrats I talked to in the foyer outside both events referred to the panel as “the hate group meeting” and “the Klan rally,” respectively).

The 43rd’s endorsements were uneventful (no candidate reached the 60% threshold for endorsement in Districts 3, 4, 6, or 7—the four districts that partially overlap with the 43rd), so I spent my night popping back and forth between the Democrats and the Republicans, whose security guards eventually stopped checking my backpack every time I returned.

The panel brought together two AM radio hosts, a police union leader and SWAT team offcer, the founder of Safe Seattle, a former Republican state legislator who now leads the Family Policy Institute of Washington, the program manager for Christian shelter provider Union Gospel Mission, and several others, to spend three hours agreeing at length about what causes homelessness and how to fix it. (In the panel’s apparently unanimous view, addiction, specifically heroin addiction, is the main root cause of homelessness, and the fix consists of tough-love “solutions” like forced treatment and making it “more uncomfortable to stay addicted,” as one panelist put it.)

It would have been a perfect echo chamber, if not for the presence of a few hecklers  (quickly ejected), plus a handful of folks who stuck around to ask questions that challenged the unanimous tough-love narrative of the panel (quickly shouted down). I find echo chambers exhausting (witness, on the other end of the spectrum, my extreme reluctance to cover council member Kshama Sawant’s endless “PACK CITY HALL” rallies), so instead, I’ve gathered a few quotes from last night’s panel into a little quiz.

See if you can guess which speaker from this list made each of the following statements (answers below the jump).

1. “You can’t have a relationship [with a homeless client] when you’re a social worker. My ex-wife is a social worker…. There’s no relationship.”

2. “Take the ties off of the hands of our brave men and women who are officers and allow them to do their jobs.”

3. “[There are t]hose who are advocating for giving more and more and more money and more and more services to people that aren’t taking any responsibility, and that is called enabling.”

4. “I don’t like doing my job anymore.”

5. “That question is a setup! I’m not going to tell him!”

6. “If you want to have a conversation with a bunch of experts, you can organize your own panel.”

7. “There is no homelessness in South Korea, in Japan, because they have a culture of family, of focusing on virtue. … If you have a culture that’s broken… you have evil, you have drugs, you have no accountability.”

8. “I’ve worked with hundreds of homeless people over 15 years. I have dozens of friends who have been homeless. The majority of those dozens of friends are not addicts.”

9. “Third and Pike, the downtown market, is the largest criminal organization for shoplifting in this country.”

10. “I think we have to stop calling it homelessness. I think we have to start addressing it as addiction.”

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