Morning Fizz: Happy to Serve
Caffeinated news and gossip featuring council giving, council questions, mayoral mysteries, and more.
1. Socialist city council member-elect Kshama Sawant's supporters have reportedly been calling council offices seeking to find out whether party affiliations can be listed on the city's web site (no; city council members are nonpartisan, although the other eight members are undeniably Democrats); what the process is for giving away a portion of her salary (unclear, although council members are allowed to donate any portion of their salary they want to charity, just like anyone), and how much money will be available for a district office.
That latter question has prompted speculation that Sawant wants to open an office in her district (the 3rd; she lives on Capitol Hill) immediately, rather than in two years when all nine council members have to run for reelection in the two at-large and seven new districted seats.
There's also a rumor (and it's definitely a rumor; Sawant hasn't responded to efforts to contact her through her campaign) that she doesn't want to head up a committee, as council members traditionally do. There's no city rule or law requiring council members to head a committee, and the council president didn't do so for many years, on the theory that council president is a big enough job on its own.
Sawant's supporters have also reportedly declined the help of the city's Customer Service Bureau fielding the many calls City Hall is getting about her (as the city's first socialist council member in many decades, she's become a national celebrity), directing them all to the official Sawant campaign email.
2. Speaking of giving your city council salary away to charity: Council member Sally Bagshaw mentioned, in an offhand but slightly pointed way, recently that she herself gives much of her own salary away. Bagshaw says she gave away about $55,000 last year to a combination of organizations (including the Plymouth Housing Group, Forterra, the Trust for Public Land, and the Mary's Place women's day shelter) and "an individual who was struggling.
"My goal when I ran for election was to be able to give between $40,000 and $50,000 a year away because I'm in a lovely position where I can [afford to]," Bagshaw says. Before running for council, Bagshaw was head of the civil division at the King County Prosecutor's office; her husband Brad is also an attorney.
Asked whether Sawant's much more public promises to give away most of her salary are unseemly, Bagshaw (sort of) demurred, saying, "Good for her. She is very passionate, someone who believes fully in what she’s doing, and I applaud people who very publicly live up to their words and walk their talk." But, she added, "I bite my lips at the same time as I’m telling you this—the role model I love so much is a guy who has a ton of dough and he would give a huge amount of money away anonymously, and there’s something wonderful about that some kind of understated generosity."
3. Fizz got an unexpected call yesterday from former city council member Peter Steinbrueck, the onetime mayoral challenger who's been rumored as a possible candidate for everything from head of the Department of Neighborhoods to a leading member of mayor-elect Ed Murray's staff. Fizz asked Steinbrueck about the rumors of his imminent return to city hall. His response, basically: I haven't talked to Murray about any job openings, but if asked, I'll be happy to serve.
"That's not a discussion I have had with anyone on Murray's team or Murray himself yet, so one step at a time here," Steinbrueck said. "I do know that there is a lot of interest in seeing some changes in leadership in the deaptments and new approaches and I think that’s why Ed was elected.
"I would make myself available and be a resource, if asked, to serve the city. I do believe I have experience and insights and knowledge."
Steinbrueck is a member of Murray's 43-member transition team, which meets (publicly, at Seattle Center) for the first time this coming Friday.
4. North Seattle state Sen. David Frockt (D-46) is sponsoring the senate version of state Rep. Sam Hunt's (D-22) effort to repeal the advisory-ballot portion of Tim Eyman's Initiative 960, which requires nonbinding advisory polls on every tax increase or tax-break repeal; this year, state voters cast advisory votes on five tax break repeals or tax increases, costing the state an estimated $130,000. Hunt and Frockt want to repeal the measures on the grounds that they're confusing and expensive.
Yesterday, Eyman sent out a typically scathing press release demanding that he be allowed to participate in a legislative work session to discuss the repeal proposal, saying that "The whining and gnashing of teeth by politicians about this year's five tax advisory votes is certainly entertaining."