Tag: Dino Rossi

Morning Crank: The Ne Plus Ultra of GOP Supervillains

1. Bailey Stober may have been deposed as head of the King County Democrats, but his legacy of profligate spending lives on, in the form of an $1,800-a-month lease (twice what he was reportedly authorized to spend) for an office space in Auburn that has been sitting vacant for several months. This week, the group’s new chairwoman, Natalie Reber, sent out an announcement: The leasing agent for the space had found a tenant.

The bad news? According to Reber’s email to membership:

The leasing agent at the Auburn office has made a deal with the [Dino] Rossi campaign and it sounds like they will be taking over the lease.  While this is not ideal, I think it is reasonable and as far as any talking points, we just simply say, it was a business decision made by the leasing agent.  

Rossi, a current state senator and two-time gubernatorial candidate who is running for the 8th Congressional District seat being vacated next year by retiring Republican Rep. Dave Reichert, is not just any Republican—among Washington State Democrats, he’s the ne plus ultra of GOP supervillains. And, starting next month, he’ll be helping  them pay their rent.

Reber, who is out of town, declined to provide any details about the new arrangement, saying only that the group has “let the leasing agent know that we would like out of the lease and left it to them to find tenants. While that’s being sorted out, I don’t have a comment.”

Natalia Koss Vallejo, the former executive director of the King County Democrats (Stober fired her shortly after another woman filed a workplace misconduct complaint against him on her behalf), says the group considered subleasing some of its unused space to a Democratic candidate while she was still director, but rejected multiple potential tenants because the group had not formally endorsed anyone in their races yet. (The endorsement process is still ongoing.) With Rossi renting part of the space, she says, it seems unlikely that a Democrat will rent out the rest of the office in the future: “The walls in those units are super thin. If I was a Democratic candidate, I would not want to be sharing that space with a Republican.”

According to the state Public Disclosure Commission, the King County Democrats continued to pay rent on the space through at least April, but appear to have negotiated a better deal on their Internet service, which was costing the group more than $450 a month. (According the group’s treasurer, Stober signed the group up for the most expensive Internet service package Comcast offers, one better suited to a midsize e-commerce firm than a political organization which had, at its peak, one employee.) Donations that were withheld while the Democrats debated what to do with Stober, including $5,000 from King County Executive Dow Constantine and a couple thousand dollars from various district Democratic groups that refused to pay their dues as long as Stober remained in his position.

2. The Families and Education Levy, which funds programs to help kids from birth through 12th grade, and the Seattle preschool levy, which subsidizes preschool, will be on the ballot as a single, combined Families, Education, Preschool, and Promise (FEPP) levy in November. (The levy seems likely to share the ballot with what amounts to an anti-levy: A referendum to repeal the $275-per-employee head  tax, whose proceeds are earmarked for programs to address homelessness.) Among other changes, Mayor Jenny Durkan’s levy renewal plan proposes eliminating for a two-year home visitation literacy program for two- and three-year-olds called the Parent-Child Home Program (the plan assumes that future funding for the program will come from the city’s sweetened beverage tax); dramatically reducing funding for programs in elementary schools; and expanding or increasing subsidies for preschool and college to include the very highest-income families.

At a time when the income and wealth gap between Seattle’s wealthiest and poorest residents is increasing and parents who might be eligible for subsidized preschool are being forced to move outside city limits, it’s unclear why Durkan has proposed increasing tax subsidies for wealthy families to send their kids to preschool and college. Currently, the subsidy for preschool tuition declines with income on a sliding scale, from a total subsidy for people making up to 300 percent of the poverty level to a maximum of $535 a year for the highest-income families. Durkan’s proposal would set a minimum subsidy of $1,000 per student specifically for high-income families, for a total subsidy to wealthy families over the life of the program of about $3.6 million.

Meanwhile, the Seattle Promise program, which currently offers a year of free community college tuition to kids at three South Seattle high schools, would expand tuition subsidies to all public high-school graduates, regardless of their family income. Because higher-income students generally qualify for fewer tuition subsidy programs overall, the city would spend more subsidizing their tuition, on average—about $3,000 a student, or half again as much as the $2,000 the city spends on a typical Seattle Promise subsidy today.

On Wednesday, council members expressed concern at the idea of government subsidies for rich families to send their kids to preschool and college. Council member Rob Johnson, who noted that he recently paid preschool tuition for his daughters, said, “I think there is a value for us to provide opportunities for kids at all income levels to participate in the Seattle Preschool Program, but I’m not sure we should be subsidizing ev family that walks in the door.” Similarly, Johnson said he worried that if eligibility the Seattle Promise program is opened up to all students, “kids in my neck of the woods, in Roosevelt, whose parents are really on them to get on it and get their applications in on  time may take up those slots,” while kids with higher needs “who may benefit more form the Promise program may be shut out of it because all those Roosevelt kids got in first.”

Council president Bruce Harrell, who represents Southeast Seattle’s District 2 (where two of the three current Seattle Promise high schools are located) said he understood the argument for socially engineering preschools so they included kids from all over the income spectrum, but drew the line at expanding scholarship subsidies to wealthy families. “I have very little interest [in] subsidies for higher-income families. In fact, I would be opposed to that,” he said.

The committee will take up the levy proposal again at 11:00 on June 6 in council chambers.

3. A few hours after the levy discussion, council members had only positive things to say about an arguably similar proposal to subsidize transit passes for all Seattle public school students students, not just those who are low-income, at an additional cost of about $3 million a year. (The proposal is one of several changes to a sales tax and vehicle license fee measure voters approved in 2014, which was originally earmarked to expand Metro bus service. Because of driver and bus shortages, Metro has been unable to expand service as much as originally planned.) Currently, the city spends about $1 million a year on the youth ORCA program, which pays for free bus passes for low-income students; the change would add $3 million to the youth program and expand it to fund passes for all high school students, and some middle-school students, regardless of income.

Johnson, who originally proposed expanding the youth ORCA program, said yesterday that he would “like us to discuss more options than what the mayor has put on the table, because there might be things like reduced fare for all kids—as opposed to what we have right now, which is a proposal that would give free ORCA cards to all high school kids, some middle school kids, and no elementary school kids.” Discussing the options with staff after yesterday’s hearing, Johnson pointed out that elementary school kids who rely on the bus are most likely to be accompanied by parents (usually moms, often low-income) who rely on the bus to run errands and get their kids to school.

4. The Downtown Seattle Association is hosting a swank-sounding members-only event next week to solicit donations and hand out signature sheets for the effort to repeal the $275 employee hours tax, which is earmarked for housing and homeless services. The location: The Palace Ballroom in Belltown, owned by noted $15 minimum-wage Chicken Little and head-tax opponent Tom Douglas. Appetizers and drinks will be served.

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Morning Crank: If the Election Were Held Today

If you’re still wondering what to make of two polls that showed mayoral candidates Jenny Durkan, Bob Hasegawa, and Mike McGinn leading unless incumbent Mayor Ed Murray steps in as a write-in candidate, it’s helpful to remember two salient facts: 1) Polls that show nearly half of voters still undecided don’t reveal much (and are largely referenda on name recognition) and 2) robo-polls—polls that use computerized systems instead of human callers—tend to be less reliable than live surveys. Both the Washington State Wire poll, by Wilson Research, and the KING 5/KUOW poll, by Survey USA, relied wholly or in part on robo-polling. Survey USA used “the recorded voice of a professional announcer” for landline respondents and sent a written form to people they reached on their cell phones; Wilson Strategic’s robo-poll was limited to people with land line phones, who tend to skew older and more conservative.

The KING 5/KUOW poll found that McGinn was the frontrunner with 19 percent of voters saying they would likely choose the former mayor, followed by Durkan with 14 percent support. The Washington State Wire poll had Durkan in the lead with 30 percent support, followed by Hasegawa with just under 9 percent. (Hasegawa got 8 percent in the KING 5/KUOW poll and McGinn got just over 6 percent in the Washington State Wire poll.) A high percentage of respondents to both polls said they hadn’t made their mind up yet or didn’t choose a candidate—45 percent in the Washington State Wire poll, and 38 percent in the KING 5/KUOW poll.

Both polls asked some version of the question, “If Mayor Ed Murray was in the race, would you vote for him?” (Twenty-two percent of Washington State Wire respondents, and 33 percent of KING 5/KUOW respondents, said they would.) But, again, it’s worth pausing before interpreting those results. Mayor Murray is not going to be “on the ballot” (as the KING 5/KUOW poll put it) August, so that question misses the mark; a better question would be, “If Mayor Ed Murray reentered the race as a write-in candidate, would you write his name on your ballot?” Write-in campaigns  are tricky because they require voters to take an extra step: Ignore all 21 names that are actually on the ballot, and write in “Ed Murray” on the bottom line. I’d be very curious to see how that question played in a poll, robo- or otherwise. That said, 33 percent is more than a strong showing in a 22-way race—it’s practically a landslide. (In 2013, the incumbent, Mike McGinn, took 29 percent in the primary—and, of course, went on to lose to Murray).

At a press conference on Wednesday, Murray said he was putting a poll in the field next week and will decide whether he will run a write-in campaign after he sees the results.

If he doesn’t, the poll results could suggest something else—that Murray’s endorsement could provide a real boost to one of the frontrunners. Durkan has Murray’s former consultant and Sandeep Kaushik, as well as money from many of his donors, along with a sizeable fundraising lead; Murray’s endorsement could help push her from frontrunner to inevitable status, and his endorsement for another candidate (say, Jessyn Farrell, who worked with Murray briefly in Olympia, where they were both state legislators) could shake up the race.

2. Speaking of fundraising: As of last week, Durkan had raised $256,814, with $41,165 of that coming in last week alone. Cary Moon, with $88,912 ($770 last week), came i second in fundraising, although that number is somewhat misleading; $38,169 of it came from Moon’s personal funds. Nikkita Oliver is next with $57,365 ($6,576 of that last week), followed by Jessyn Farrell ($54,111, $10,472 last week), Mike McGinn ($29,269, $35 of it last week) and Bob Hasegawa, who has $6,279 in personal funds but is barred from fundraising while the state legislature is in session.

So other than the conventional wisdom that Durkan is the “establishment” frontrunner, what do those numbers tell us? First, they say something about momentum, which Durkan, Farrell, and Oliver (seem to) have, and McGinn and Moon (seem to) lack. Second, it confirms that—as she herself said when she got into the race—Moon, whose net worth is second only to Durkan’s among the mayoral candidates, will self-fund her own campaign if necessary.  And third, it suggests that McGinn may have less momentum, despite his high name recognition, than he did in the past. By this point in 2009, McGinn had raised more money ($38,775), and was receiving new contributions at a faster pace ($6,232 during the same period in 2009), than he has this year.


3. The 43rd District Democrats opted not to endorse for or against King County Proposition 1, which would provide science and arts education and access to cultural opportunities for low-income kids, after executive board vice chair Tara Gallagher rose, announced that “King County council member Larry Gossett couldn’t be here” to speak against the measure, and read a voter’s guide statement that was written by King County Council member Larry Gossett, a Democrat, and [mumble].” The mumbled part, which one person present said was inaudible, was “Dino Rossi”—the failed Republican gubernatorial candidate who is currently filling the 45th District state senate seat previously held by Republican Andy Hill, who died last year. The statement bears Gossett’s imprimatur—suggesting that arts are a frivolous expenditure when people are homeless—but also, undeniably, Rossi’s; it reads, in part, “An unelected board would control over half-a-billion dollars of taxes which lacks accountability.  King County’s arts community is already well funded.”

In another surprise move, the 43rd also not only declined to endorse incumbent King County Sheriff John Urquhart, as at least 16 other Democratic groups have done, but gave their sole endorsement to his opponent, Mitzi Johanknecht, a 32-year veteran of the department who has worked to break down barriers for women at the sheriff’s office.

King County recently settled a lawsuit by one current and two former deputies who say Urquhart retaliated against them for reporting gender and sexual harassment, including rape jokes and crotch-grabbing; the county settled a similar lawsuit for $1 million in 2013. A former deputy has accused Urquhart of raping her in 2002, and the lawsuit also accused him of ordering internal investigators not to document or investigate those charges.

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