Tag: democracy vouchers

Morning Crank: Trump Didn’t Give Me Enough Notice

anti-keystone-council1. An anti-Keystone XL Pipeline resolution proposed by council member Kshama Sawant’s resolution would direct the city’s Department of Finance and Administrative Services to come up with a plan to avoid doing business with the 17 banks that have invested in the pipeline. On Monday,  council members said they needed more time to look at the proposal, which Sawant sent out at 9:00 Monday morning hoping for a 9:30 discussion and a 2:00 full council vote.

Sawant’s resolution directs FAS “to investigate ways to establish contracting criteria to prioritize the City’s goals to avoid contracting for banking services to The City of Seattle with financial institutions that provide credit-level facilities or project-level loans to TransCanada.” At the council’s Monday briefings meeting, council member Sally Bagshaw said she felt “steamrolled” by Sawant’s last-minute proposal. “I appreciate the political stripes that we’re trying to show here. That said, I want  to make sure that we’re not making a political decision that’s going to have an negative impact on the fiscal health of the city,” Bagshaw said. To Bagshaw and other council members who said Sawant didn’t give them enough notice before introducing her resolution, Sawant responded, “Well, Trump didn’t give me enough notice” that he was approving Keystone construction.

Tim Burgess, chair of the council’s budget committee, pointed out that when the city decided to divest from Wells Fargo, which is financing the Dakota Access Pipeline, they took their time and “got over 10 legal opinions,” as opposed to passing the resolution the day it was introduced. Another difference between the two resolutions is intent: Originally, the reason the city moved to divest from Wells Fargo was because it committed fraud against its customers; the pipeline issue was tacked on later. That resolution committed the city to partnering with businesses that are “committed to and consistently demonstrate engaging in fair and responsible business practices and avoid conducting City business with partners that engage in criminal or systematic deceptive, fraudulent, or abusive business practices.” It was silent on the issue of banks that aren’t breaking the law, but merely do business with companies, like TransCanada, that the city opposes for political reasons.

It would be one thing if the city had a lot of banking options, and only some banks were “bad.” The problem, according to sources familiar with the proposal, is that insisting on ideological purity could leave the city without a viable banking option. If the city won’t do business with banks that lend to polluters, what justification will it have for turning around and working with banks that finance union-busting corporations, or companies that deny women birth control? The city is reportedly looking into options that would allow it to put some of its money in smaller banks, but state law mandates that the bulk of the city’s money be in large institutions that are stable enough to weather financial storms, to avoid putting city employees’ paychecks and pensions—not to mention many progressive city programs aimed at counteracting Trump Administration policies—at risk.

The council will take up Sawant’s resolution sometime in the next two weeks.

2. When voters passed Initiative 122  last year, creating a public financing system that gives every voter $100 in “democracy vouchers” to spend on the city council candidates of their choice, opponents predicted that businesses and labor would take advantage of the early money, holding “voucher parties” to encourage their members to donate en masse. (The initiative encourages early spending in two ways: It requires the city to mail vouchers out in January, when only the most organized candidates have declared they’re running, and actually funds only a fraction of the vouchers in circulation, creating an incentive for business and labor to anoint and fund their candidates early).

Labor and business groups haven’t thrown their weight behind any candidates yet, but voucher parties have come to pass. The first one is happening this Thursday, when a group of urbanist techies calling themselves “Sea Tech 4 Housing” meet at Optimism Brewing Company on Capitol Hill to support Teresa Mosqueda, one of 10 candidates running for citywide Position 8. The suggested donation: $100—or four $25 democracy vouchers.

3. While some local news stations are wringing their hands over the safety of children playing during the day near a temporary men’s shelter that doesn’t open until 9:30 at night, Operation Nightwatch is worried about where it will go next. The 75-bed men’s shelter was recently displaced from its longtime home in the International District’s Pearl Warren Building, after the city announced it was opening a new 24-7 low-barrier Navigation Center shelter at the site. Last week, the city told the Compass Housing-run shelter it could set up in the Next 50 Pavilion at Seattle Center until April 17, but it’s unclear what will happen after that; Human Services Department spokeswoman Meg Olberding says “We are calling on community members who might have space we can use to let us know, and we are combing our networks to try and find space.”

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Morning Crank: “Not Gonna Happen”

1024x10241. Update on an item earlier this week about the Washington State Democrats’ Executive Committee had about possibly reducing the salary of the party chair now that Tina Podlodowski has been elected to that position. According to several Democrats who were present at the meeting (including members of the executive board itself), the person who raised the possibility of reducing Podlodowski’s salary was executive board member Ed Cote, who suggested reexamining the salaries for both the chair of the party and its executive director. After some discussion, another male board member, Don Schwerin, reportedly asked Podlodowski point-blank if she was willing to take a pay cut; she said no. Folks I talked to who were in the room said they were “horrified,” “appalled,” and “shocked” at both Cote’s line of questioning and Schwerin’s request.

The former party chair, Jaxon Ravens, was paid about $120,000, according to board members, plus a car allowance.

Cote says he raised the question of Podlodowski’s salary as part of a broader conversation about whether both the party chair and executive director should be paid, and how much. But it wasn’t lost on many in the room that Podlodowski is only the second woman to ever serve as state Democratic Party chair—and that the board discussing the possibility that she didn’t deserve the same salary as her male predecessors, Jaxon Ravens and Dwight Pelz, was two-thirds men.

“I just brought up that when [Podlodowski] presents a [Party] budget, I thought it would be good that we have a conversation around the right administrative structure going forward,” Cote says. “We have a paid chair and a paid executive director, and many states have one or the other. … I wasn’t suggesting that the chair was paid too much. … I wasn’t trying to suggest that she was overpaid or anything of that nature.”

Podlodowski says she thinks it’s possible that Cote didn’t think about how his question would come across (and indeed, those who questioned Cote’s suggestion reportedly did so by discussing what similar positions paid at other large nonprofits, rather than observing that the whole conversation was sexist). But, she adds, “when someone did ask me if I would take a pay cut, I was like, ‘Not gonna happen,’ and I’m certainly not going to cut pay of anybody who’s female. But I am going to look at the budget, because it’s always important to make sure that we’re paying people appropriately.”

Podlodowski says that when she signed up for her new insurance plan, she learned that it didn’t cover children, only spouses. (Podlodowski and her wife have three children.) That’s another example, she says, of “why women should rule.”

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2. If you think you’re confused about what to do with the four “democracy vouchers,” worth a total of $100, that appeared in your mailbox earlier this year, don’t worry, you’re in good company. Seattle City Council members and staffed grilled Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission director Wayne Barnett on some basic details of the program yesterday—details that were all laid out in the language of Initiative 122, which voters passed last year, but which, in fairness, you might have missed in the 15 pages of fine print. Some of the council members’ questions, answered:

  • Why is the city mailing vouchers to 508,000 people—are there even that many voters in Seattle? Under the initiative, vouchers must be mailed to every registered voter in the city, which includes “inactive” voters who have long since moved away.
  • Could the city cover the cost if all 508,000 voters tried to “spend” their vouchers at once? The cost of the program, which will cost the city $3 million a year, is limited by campaign spending limits, not the number of vouchers; I-122 specifically says that there must be enough in the budget to pay for three council races in which a total of 18 candidates run using voucher money exclusively. That works out to around $3 million.
  • Can organizations or employers bundle contributions from their members or employees and make a big contribution to a single candidate that way? Not that way—bundling, where a person collects many individual donations and then writes a big check for the entire amount—is illegal, but a campaign is free to ask the members or employees of a large group or company to spend their vouchers on a particular candidate.
  • Since the requirement to qualify for voucher funding is a minimum of 400 contributions of $10 each, couldn’t a candidate just get someone to write them a check for $4,000? No, because viability is determined by how many contributions (100 or more), not the total (a minimum of $4,000, but in all likelihood more).

3. All Home, the coalition that coordinates efforts to reduce homelessness in King County, used a different approach and a different vendor to conduct its point-in-time count of people living unsheltered this year, and homeless advocates like Tim Harris at Real Change have questioned one major change this year: Unlike in every previous year, All Home won’t announce the number of people it counted right away. Previously, All Home and its former partner, the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, released the number the day after the count; this year, the number won’t be released until June. All Home says it needs the extra time to survey people experiencing homelessness to get a better count of people living in vehicles and tents.

The delay also isn’t sitting easy with Seattle City Council member Sally Bagshaw, who heads up the council’s human services committee. She said yesterday that she wrote a email to Putnam asking him for the raw count number now, figuring that even if a more accurate number is issued later, at least the city would have a baseline for comparison when discussing its strategy for addressing homelessness. “Mark, I’d love an informal update on how the count went and how you’re doing with data when you get a chance,” Bagshaw wrote. “It’s important that we have a baseline and provide my committee with some trend information.”