Category: LGBTQ+

Candidate Says Bagel Giveaway Is Strictly Business; Big Business PACs Back Harrell-Allied Candidates; “Books Unbanned” Still Open to Minors In Library Book Ban States

1. Stephen Brown, the president of Eltana Bagels and a candidate for City Council in District 1 (West Seattle), said a mailer emblazoned “Seattle Deserves Better… – Stephen Brown” that included an offer for free bagels was just a routine promotional pitch for his local wood-fired bagel chain, not a campaign expenditure.

The flyer (which opens to the word “Bagels!”) offers a half-dozen free bagels and a “spread of your choice”—a “more than $25 value!” to anyone who comes in to either of Eltana’s two locations, which are both located outside District 1. In small print below the offer, the mailer says the offer expires at the end of August and has “no cash value.”

Contacted by email, Brown said the flyers were part of Eltana’s routine direct-marketing strategy and went out “to various addresses in the city that are close to retail grocery stores selling Eltana bagels. … As part of its promotions, Eltana regularly gives bagels away in an effort to garner trial and acquire customers.”

“The intention was to use a banal, stereotypical message as a parody—to use humor to sell bagels,” Brown added.

“This effort is not a campaign expense—it is not electoral in nature.” —District 1 city council candidate Stephen Brown

Eltana has also purchased four billboards, including at least one in West Seattle, prominently featuring Brown’s name.

“Eltana has never bought billboards in the past but the incredibly low price for billboards this summer ($1000 a month) made this promotional offer too attractive for Eltana to pass up,” Brown said. “We have used me, as the founder, in the past to promote Eltana[.] …. This effort is not a campaign expense—it is not electoral in nature.”

If the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission determines that the mailers, giveaway, or billboards do promote Brown’s candidacy, the campaign would be in violation of Seattle election law, which bars candidates who participate in the democracy voucher program (as Brown is) from accepting more than $300 in cash or in-kind contributions from any campaign donor. The commission declined to comment.

Brown said “the campaign will not be reporting on the performance of the Eltana trial promotion,” as “the offer is made and distributed by Eltana, is city wide, and doesn’t promote any candidate for public office nor does it mention any elections or geography.”

2. A developer-funded independent expenditure campaign poured more than $27,000 into the effort to elect Maritza Rivera—whose campaign focuses on hiring more police—to City Council District 4, where urbanist Ron Davis is the other top contender.

“University Neighbors Committee” received its largest donations from developers John Goodman and George Petrie—two frequent Republican donors who bankrolled the failed Compassion Seattle campaign and poured $150,000 into the political committee that helped elect Bruce Harrell in 2021. The other donors backing the pro-Rivera PAC include developer Jordan Selig, developer Martin Smith, developer Matt Griffin, and Amazon bigwig David Zapolsky.

The PAC’s first pro-Rivera mailer says that as a parent of a child at Ingraham High School, where a 17-year-old was shot last year, she “decided to run for city council because our current council isn’t doing enough to keep us safe. “If voters elect Rivera, the mailer promises, they’ll get “More cops. Better training. Faster response times”—Rivera has said wants to reduce Priority 1 911 response times to five minutes, which would require hiring hundreds more officers—a goal SPD has acknowledged isn’t realistic—and making Seattle the exception to a nationwide trend.

The exact same group of donors has contributed more than $32,000 to the “Elliott Bay Neighbors” PAC supporting Rob Saka—another Harrell-allied candidate—in District 1 (West Seattle).

If you’ve seen any mailers and want to send them our way, email erica@publicola.com. 

3. Earlier this month, the state of Mississippi effectively banned people under 18 from accessing e-books or audiobooks through any of its public libraries—part of the growing trend of book bans and other restrictions aimed at preventing young people from accessing information about gender, sexuality, race, and anything else Republican lawmakers consider objectionable.

The law requires vendors of digital materials like Libby and Hoopla to ensure that no minors can access anything the state deems “sexually explicit,” which includes everything from textbooks that include human anatomy sketches to “descriptions [of] homosexuality or lesbianism.”

Seattle Public Library spokeswoman Laura Gentry said the library will continue to offer Seattle library cards to people with Internet access living in Mississippi, whose ban on online materials for minors only extends to public and school libraries in that state, through its Books Unbanned program. Currently, she said, the program has 17 participants from Mississippi, including a 23-year-old teacher who submitted this comment: 

“Living in Mississippi, a lot of books with vital information/stories/perspectives are banned or being banned. Being a Black woman in the city with the highest population of Black people, I know how important it is for us to protect our history. Also, being a teacher, I see how certain books being banned has already affected the younger generation. There is a lot that they don’t know and may never know so it’s extremely helpful to have access to this catalog.”

Seattle Public Library Kicked Out of Trans Pride After Hosting Anti-LGBTQ+ Activist Kirk Cameron

Image from Kirk Cameron's latest anti-"woke" children's book, "Pride Comes Before the Fall," issued to coincide with the first day of Pride Month.
Image from Kirk Cameron’s latest anti-“woke” children’s book, “Pride Comes Before the Fall,” issued to coincide with the first day of Pride Month.

By Erica C. Barnett

The Gender Justice League has barred the Seattle Public Library from participating in the Trans Pride event on Friday, June 23, after the library decided to rent a large auditorium at the downtown library to former child star Kirk Cameron, a conservative activist who is touring to promote his latest “traditional family values” picture book.

PubliCola broke the story about Cameron’s appearance in April.

Responding to PubliCola’s questions about the cancellation, Gender Justice League Executive Director Danni Askini said the decision wasn’t just about Cameron’s appearance, but a response to a longstanding pattern of “deeply problematic behavior by the Library toward Two-Spirit, Trans, and Gender Diverse People,” such as denying a trans man access to a restroom in 2017 and renting the auditorium to a group that advocates against trans women’s rights two years later.

We know there are situations where intellectual freedom, equity, and inclusiveness are in conflict at the Library—we have seen it and lived it, and we should discuss it.”—Chief Librarian Tom Fay

“We look forward to the City Librarian, the Library, and the City of Seattle taking this opportunity to reflect on the harm that platforming hate groups have on our community, at a time when there have been 450+ anti-trans laws, including calls to remove trans youth from their families, banning constitutionally protected healthcare, creating felonies for using restrooms with minors, and outlawing all forms of gender affirming care,” Askini said.  “We absolutely refuse to allow government entities that platform hate mongers into our sacred, holy, and inviolable space,” she added.

The library has maintained that it has the legal obligation to rent its rooms to anyone who applies, regardless of their views, and that to make judgment calls about who uses their facilities would amount to government censorship and a violation of the First Amendment,” as well as “intellectual freedom.”

Cameron has said that public schools are “sexualizing” and “grooming” kids, that being gay is “unnatural” and “destructive to so many of the foundations of civilization, that women who have abortions are “murderers,” and that his book tour offers a “wholesome alternative to the Drag Queen Story Hours promoted by woke Marxist librarians.”

Cameron released his latest children’s book, “Pride Comes Before the Fall,” to coincide with the first day of Pride Month because, as he told the Washington Times, “When you have an entire nation setting aside a month to celebrate something as dangerous as pride, I feel it’s my responsibility to hold up the truth of humility so kids can have a chance.”

In a letter to library staff, SPL Chief Librarian Tom Fay said he understood and shared the Gender Justice League’s “concerns” about the anti-trans laws that are proliferating around the country in response to the efforts of prominent right-wing activists like Cameron.

“Library leadership will continue to discuss and investigate options for handling meeting room requests from groups outside of our community that strain the community relationships we have worked hard to build and that strain our limited publicly-funded resources,” Fay wrote. “We know there are situations where intellectual freedom, equity, and inclusiveness are in conflict at the Library—we have seen it and lived it, and we should discuss it.” However, his proposal boiled down to a “facilitated discussion” with trans and queer library staffers, rather than a change in policy.

In a public interview for the chief librarian position last year, Fay said the library had the “legalistic” obligation to rent its rooms to any person or group, and suggested in order to “at least state where we’re at on an issue without being so neutral,” the library could say that it “in no way endorses this particular group.”

A library spokesperson was unable to respond to a request for comment on Thursday; we will update this post when we hear back.

Council Candidate Backed Republican Smiley for Congress, Kirk Cameron’s Anti-“Woke” Event Spurred Successful Protest Fundraiser

1. Seattle City Council candidate Kenneth Wilson, running to replace one-term council member Alex Pedersen in District 4, supported Republican Tiffany Smiley over US Senator Patty Murray in the 2022 election, according to campaign finance records as well as Wilson’s response to a lightning-round question at a recent forum sponsored by the 36th District Democrats. At the forum, held on May 23, Wilson indicated “no” in response to the question “Did you vote for Patty Murray”; as the senator’s GOP opponent, Smiley flirted with election denialism and ran as an anti-abortion candidate.

Wilson also donated $500 to Smiley’s campaign last October, according to federal records. During his first run for council in 2021 against incumbent Position 9 Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, Wilson said he was motivated to run by crime and the presence of “ghetto-type paintings” all over the city.

His opponents include Maritza Rivera and Ron Davis. Rivera, a deputy director of the city’s Office of Arts and Culture whose husband, political consultant Dan Kully, worked on former mayor Jenny Durkan’s campaign, is aligned with Harrell; Davis, who contributed to Harrell’s opponent, Lorena González, is running as a progressive urbanist. Durkan contributed $300 (the legal maximum) to Rivera, her first campaign contribution since 2015, when she gave $125 to the short-lived council campaign of Mian Rice, the son of former Seattle mayor Norm Rice.

Wilson has raised more than any of his opponents so far—about $65,000.

2. About 200 people showed up to see former TV star Kirk Cameron speak at the downtown Seattle Public Library last week, after the library rented a meeting room (subsequently upgraded to the main downstairs auditorium) to the former teen star. As PubliCola reported exclusively earlier this month, Cameron is promoting his appearances, in which he reads from his children’s book, as “a wholesome alternative to the Drag Queen Story Hours promoted by woke Marxist librarians.”

Cameron has said homosexuality is “unnatural,” believes women who have abortions are “murderers,” and has said public schools are “sexualizing” and “grooming” kids, a common trope among right-wing fringe groups. The library told PubliCola it would amount to “government censorship and a violation of the First Amendment” to refuse to rent a meeting room to Cameron’s group.

In a silver lining, the fundraiser raised more than $5,000 in pledges for Drag Queen Story Hour, the American Library Association’s LeRoy C. Merritt Humanitarian Fund (which provides financial assistance for library staffers who lose their jobs for defending intellectual freedom; and Libraries for the People, an anti-censorship group.

According to one attendee—who helped organize a fundraiser to raise money for pro-library organizations—Cameron started his children’s book reading by delivering a “15 minute lecture on America’s tallest granite monument.” (Cameron is so obsessed with this obscure monument, known as the Forefathers Monument, that he made a documentary about it (!) and even sells “high-density resin” replicas of it (!!) for $200 (!!!) on his website. It’s so weird it would almost be charming, if the message of the monument wasn’t that the US is meant to be an explicitly Christian nation).

After that, he brought out the Bremerton coach who won a $2 million settlement after he was fired for holding prayers on the field during football games and led the crowd in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and singing “God Bless America” before reading two of his children’s books promoting “traditional family values.”

At one point, according to the attendee, “Cameron pointed to the sky and asked the audience, ‘who loves you the most?’ and a kid in the audience yelled ‘Obama!'”

The library had security on hand, along with Seattle Police Department officers, to respond to potential protests. On Tuesday, library director Tom Fay issued a bland statement calling the event “a learning experience for all” and thanking library staff for their work to “minimize disruption and reduce the use of Library resources needed.”

In a silver lining, the fundraiser raised more than $5,000 in pledges for Drag Queen Story Hour, the American Library Association’s LeRoy C. Merritt Humanitarian Fund (which provides financial assistance for library staffers who lose their jobs for defending intellectual freedom; and Libraries for the People, an anti-censorship group.

Seattle Cop Mocks Trans People, Blames Jan. 6 Riots on Pelosi; County Council Plays It Safe by Proposing Flat Levy Renewal

1. Seattle police captain Keith Swank, a 33-year department veteran who is currently out on long-term paid leave, has posted dozens of tweets that appear to violate SPD’s social media policy, which says SPD employees “shall not post speech that negatively impacts the department’s ability to serve the public,” including any post that “ridicules, maligns, disparages, expresses bias, or disrespect toward any race, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, or any other protected class of individuals.”

In the past several months, for example, Swank has posted tweets that are that are transphobic (March 24: “Transwomen are men. #KeepTheRepublicSafe”), racist (March 24: “Democrats let violent animals like this [Black attacker] back out on the streets to kill Americans”) and conspiratorial (March 21: “It’s time for Republican prosecutors across the country to start investigating Pelosi, Schumer, Swalwell, etc. I’m giving you the names, now find the crimes.”)

In addition to denigrating trans women and promoting conspiracy theories about—among other things—election fraud and Paul Pelosi, Swank has repeatedly expressed his support for the rioters who stormed the US Capitol on January 6, calling the killing of Ashli Babbitt—a woman who was shot while breaking into the US Capitol—”state-sanctioned murder.”

“Pelosi coordinated the deadly attack, and Ashli Babbitt was murdered,” Swank wrote in March. “Would be great to see this criminal face accountability for her crime.”

At least six SPD officers went to the pro-Trump rally that preceded the attack on the Capitol, and two who trespassed on Capitol grounds were fired in 2021 after an Office of Police Accountability investigation in 2021. Shortly after the attacks, Seattle Police Officers Guild director Mike Solan faced calls for his resignation after blaming Black Lives Matter for the attacks, which were coordinated and carried out by Trump supporters.

When PubliCola inquired about Swank’s tweets attacking marginalized people and defending the January 6 rioters, a spokesman for the police department, Sgt. John O’Neil, said the “department will evaluate any policy violating statements that we become aware of and refer them to OPA as appropriate.” Asked if SPD does believe Swank’s tweets violate SPD’s social media policy, O’Neil responded, “It’s the view of the Seattle Police that any employee that violates social media policy will be referred to OPA.  There is a process. We have no further comment on this.”

UPDATE May 4: The Office of Police Accountability confirmed that SPD did not file a complaint about Swank’s posts, indicating that SPD does not believe his comments violated its social media policy. OPA disagrees; after PubliCola contacted the office, the OPA opened a complaint into Swank’s social media behavior.

2. The King County Council rejected a measure that would have asked voters to increase the size of the Veterans, Seniors, and Human Services Levy by 2 cents per $1,000 of property value, or about $17 a year, opting instead for a flat renewal at an initial 10 cents per $1,000 that will result in cuts to services and build only half as many housing units as the most recent levy renewal.

“Going to the ballot with a property tax increase opposed by the suburban cities puts at risk the funding for the underlying levy, and I’m not willing to do that.” —King County Council Chair Dave Upthegrove

The seven-year VSHSL levy pays for housing, domestic violence prevention, senior centers, and supportive services for low-income and homeless veterans, seniors, and other King County residents. Over the last six years, it has raised around $350 million. Because property values have increased dramatically, the next seven-year levy will raise an estimated $565 million and cost the owner of a median (in 2024 dollars) $838,000 home around $100 a year.

Council members who supported the higher levy, including North King County Councilmember Rod Dembowski, noted that a flat 10-cent renewal will severely constrain the uses of the levy for the next seven years. “Ten cents is a cut,” Dembowski said. “It’s a cut because of inflation, [and] because of increased demand for the services that exist and for things we might want to do.”

Suburban council members said they feared a higher levy would lose outside Seattle, potentially dooming it. Eastside Councilmember Claudia Balducci, voted for the 12-cent rate, noted that the levy to build mental health crisis centers, which passed countywide in April, fared poorly in suburban districts, including hers.

Council chair Dave Upthegrove, said he had “no political problem” with the higher, 12-cent rate, but added, “I do worry about passage. … Going to the ballot with a property tax increase opposed by the suburban cities puts at risk the funding for the underlying levy, and I’m not willing to do that.”

After rejecting the larger levy proposal on a 5-4 vote, the council unanimously voted to put the 1o-cent levy on the ballot in August.